Subscribe via RSS Feed

2009 Baseball Challenge Final Standings

[ 0 ] October 5, 2009 |

M. Ricci has won the 2009 LGM Baseball Challenge Tourney decisively, taking both segments. Congratulations are due; also, M. Ricci should contact me regarding prize info. E-mail available on the profile on the left sidebar.

1 Free Leonard, M. Ricci 4213 9420
2 O’Quendo’s Irish Rovers, J. Murray 4180 8132
3 Headless Thompson Gunners, S. Hickey 4080 8717
4 Glen Ellyn Stein Hoisters, T. Mohr 3856 8103
5 LawDawg, D. Howard 3813 8853
6 kodos423, k. crockett 3777 7829
7 Split Lip Rayfield, P. McLeod 3613 7583
8 Fanged Monkey, J. M 3577 7562
9 Theibault Moor Orioles, J. Theibault 3546 7771
10 Minneapolis Homebrewers, J. Kenny 3534 7137
11 Spikes’ Polish Warriors, B. Thomas 3533 7752
12 Cincinnati Bearded Ducks, R. Farley 3466 6776
13 NW USA All-Stars, N. Beaudrotq 3455 7374
14 Iowa City Spacemen, J. Austen 3437 7493
15 Austin Electric Chairs, E. Loomis 3410 7939
16 Ducking Minerva, M. Power 3403 6976
17 Smith, P. Smith 3329 7490
18 gj manatees, b. junge 3317 7312
19 TooMuchCoffee, P. Daley 3268 6929
20 Anarchist Sucklings, m. christman 3264 6955
21 Tizzod, T. Bennington 3245 6320
22 Unfounded Rumors, E. Udall 3205 7337
23 Evan, E. Robertson 3165 6633
24 SemiCanadianTough, K. Houghton 3111 6194
25 Amsterdam Rugmakers, D. Sparks 3090 7223

Sunday Book Review: By His Own Rules

[ 2 ] October 5, 2009 |

Bradley Graham’s extensive biography of Donald Rumsfeld runs 682 pages. About half of that length concerns Rumsfeld’s second tenure as Secretary of Defense. It’s this section that will be of greatest interest to most readers, but the rest of Rumsfeld’s career is also worth examining. Rumsfeld grew up in a middle class household, the son of an office manager who had held his position during the Great Depression. The Rumsfelds were by no means wealthy, but neither were they impoverished. Donald distinguished himself in high school both academically and athletically, winning a scholarship to Princeton (he also received NROTC support). Rumsfeld served as a pilot in the Navy (how many major conservative politicians have served as pilots?), then found his way into politics. In 1962, at the age of 30, he won election to the House of Representatives in a conservative Illinois district. He didn’t dominate the House by any means, but there’s no question that he punched above his weight. His record was moderate, and he demonstrated progressive views on issues of race. In 1968, ambitious for the Presidency, he left Congress and went to work in the Nixon administration.

Rumsfeld worked in the Nixon and then the Ford administration, eventually becoming the youngest ever Secretary of Defense. In 1977, he was still relatively young, and liked to consider himself a future contender for the GOP presidential nomination. However, Rumsfeld was not, at this point, a wealthy man. He decided to go into private industry, where he was able to make a considerable amount of money. There’s no question that Rumsfeld was talented, but his ability in private industry manifested mainly in his capacity for navigating governmental rules and regulations, and in using them to his company’s advantage. He also displayed a deft touch in intra-company battles. However, while private industry made him rich, it also left him out of the Reagan administration. He launched a brief, hopeless campaign for the 1988 GOP nomination, then found himself out of public service for another 13 years. When Rumsfeld was made SecDef again in 2001, he was the oldest person to hold the position.

Rumsfeld’s second tour as Secretary of Defense proved… eventful. He strongly believed in military transformation, the idea that the military services were organized and supplied along Cold War lines, and that a leaner, meaner, more lethal American military was both possible and necessary. The early portion of his tenure was rocky, and many thought it possible that he’d fall victim to an early reorganization. Then 9/11 happened, and everything changed.

Graham account is extremely detailed, contains interview with just about all of the principles (including Rumsfeld), and while not sympathetic to its subject is certainly fair. Here are some questions that it helped illuminate for me:

1. What was Rumsfeld’s role in pushing for the war in Iraq?
Graham makes the argument that Rumsfeld was more of a realist than a neocon, albeit with a certain form of appreciation for democracy. Rumsfeld was comfortable enough with the exercise of American power that he didn’t have any interest in pushing back against neoconservatives, either during the appointment process in 2001 or during the run up to war in 2002 and 2003. Rumsfeld was a war advocate, but not an advocate in the same terms as Paul Wolfowitz. The internal administration debate on the war included both Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz as players; strangely enough, this made it seem as if a diverse set of opinions all favored the war.

2. Did Rumsfeld’s administrative style make the war in Iraq worse?
Unquestionably. Rumsfeld was dismissive of both internal and external criticism, and spent little time in reflection. He contempt for the media helped make long term involvement a harder sell, even as the media fell over itself for his affection. Rumsfeld argues that he never turned down a request for additional troops or resources, but the reason he never had to turn down such a request is that his generals and deputies were terrified of him. DoD became dysfunctional under his watch, which meant that the war became even more dysfunctional than it needed to be. Moreover, Rumsfeld’s bureaucratic empire building meant that other bureaucracies couldn’t or wouldn’t pick up the slack.

3. Did Rumsfeld’s substantive focus make the war in Iraq worse?
Unquestionably. Rumsfeld remained focused like a laser on the idea of a light, intervention capable US military, the concept of which ran directly counter to the necessities of the war in Iraq. In a different administration his zest for an early drawdown of troops might have actually come off to his credit. In reality, however, he helped commit the US military to a project that could not be accomplished with available resources, then worked to constrain what resources existed. He was utterly uninterested in the COIN turn; indeed, he was deeply reluctant to admit that Iraq (then Afghanistan) could be characterized as an insurgency. Eventually, Graham argues, he simply lost interest in Iraq, preferring to focus on “transformation” goals that were increasingly anachronistic.

4. Did Rumsfeld’s administrative style and substantive focus make the war in Afghanistan worse?
Yes. Rumsfeld had little interest in the war in Afghanistan, seeing it as a sideshow. He devoted his attention to Iraq and to transformation, leaving the Afghan mission under-resourced and under-appreciated. Afghanistan did not, in Rumsfeld’s view, present a good case for the kind of war that Rumsfeld wanted to wage, even though the initial invasion and early occupation would represent a best case scenario for execution of a swift campaign of conquest and regime change. Rumsfeld also had contempt for most US allies, and devoted minimal attention to the development of a coalition to support either US operations or the Karzai government. Finally, Rumsfeld was uninterested in either nation or state building; these are difficult tasks in the best of times, and Rumsfeld’s hostility towards the notion of using American soldiers to construct Afghan institutions made the mission extremely difficult.

5. Would he have made a good peacetime Secretary of Defense?
Maybe. It’s odd, but the very characteristics that made a terrible wartime SecDef might hae made him a capable peacetime SecDef. Rumseld had no fear of the uniformed military, and was willing to cashier commanders who didn’t share his vision of warfare. He seemed to have been genuinely interested in a more efficient DoD, if not a smaller one. He was unimpressed with bureaucratic dogma from either the uniformed or the civilian sections of DoD. Moreover, he had the bureaucratic expertise to pursue the ends that he wanted. Of course, it’s not all about Rumsfeld; Graham reminds us that Rumsfeld was under fire from Congress, from industry groups, and (quietly) from the services prior to 9/11. In the absence of the attacks, Bush may not have been willing to stand with Rumsfeld, and he could have been either removed or left without substantial power. However, one of George W. Bush’s key characteristics is loyalty, and Rumsfeld had the support of the Vice President. Dubya might have been willing to stick with Rummy through a series of destructive battles with the bureaucracy, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that those battles would have left DoD in a healthier long term position. The problems that Rumsfeld identified were genuine; excessive deference to the uniformed military, Cold War mindset in procurement and doctrine, utterly broken system of procurement, and so forth. We’ll never know if Rummy could have punched his way through the system, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility. Had things been different, Rumsfeld might have gone down as a revolutionary SecDef.

A final, larger question involves Rumsfeld’s legacy as Secretary of Defense. Such lists can be pointless, but I think it’s difficult to argue that the Rumsfeld is anything but the worst Secretary of Defense in US history. McNamara is the obvious comparison, and there certainly are some interesting parallels. McNamara helped involve the United States in an ill-conceived war, and managed the war poorly. McNamara’s efforts to reform the Department of Defense largely failed, although it can’t quite be said that the reform effort had the opposite of its intended effect. In Rumsfeld’s case, the direction that the US military has gone since his tenure began is the precise opposite of what he wanted; an organization focused on COIN, on long-term occupations, and on state building is the last thing that he wanted. Moreover, he played a key role in the decisions that forced the US military to engage in this transformation. He allowed the United States to be humiliated through his insufficient attention to detainee policy, an inattention that can be characterized as either egregious oversight or intentional ignorance. Finally Rumsfeld helped slow the federal government’s response to Katrina through being slow on the trigger to allow the use of even non-military DoD assets.

Rumsfeld is, for the moment, held in contempt across the political spectrum. Everyone to the left of Dick Cheney (and many to his right) views Rumsfeld’s tenure as disastrous. By his own metrics, he failed at almost everything that he set out to do in 2001. Without 9/11, Rumsfeld would likely be judged to have led an honorable enough (as honorable as any long-term GOP operative) career as politician, businessman, and bureaucrat. 9/11 gave him the opportunity to fail on an epic scale, and he met the challenge.

Failure for thee, but not for me.

[ 0 ] October 4, 2009 |

Remember when An American Carol inspired conservatives to shout that its inevitable success would prove that Americans wanted patriotic films that mock liberals more than dour, realistic films about the realities on the ground in Iraq? I certainly do. “[I]t’ll change everything,” said one of its stars, Kelsey Grammer. Reiterating a prediction she made two weeks earlier, someone named Erin saidAn American Carol will be a success at the box office, because the American people are sick of the Damons and Afflecks.”

And succeed it did: after a concerted effort by the conservative media to let the market’s invisible hand work its magic, An American Carol took it in $3,656,000 in its first weekend, and was declared a success because it barely grossed more than Religulous despite being screened in a mere 1,137 more theaters nationwide. Using the same standards by which An American Carol was deemed a success, John Nolte gloats that Americans voted with their wallets and declared Michael Moore’s new film a failure:

[T]he biggest disappointment of the weekend is Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story (Overture). After a $57K per theatre average on 4 screens last weekend, the picture broke to a wider 962 locations with terrible results. The “documentary” only sold an estimated $1.3M in tickets to start the weekend, and it will finish at about $3.9M for a PTA of less than $4,000. That soft opening will almost certainly make Capitalism Moore’s weakest-grossing movie since 2002’s Bowling for Columbine ($21.5M domestic gross).

Did I say the same standards? Because this chart I carved by hand from the finest quality HTML (and Blogger promptly rejected) would seem to indicate otherwise:

I suppose numbers also have a liberal bias?

"For the Money" is, in Fact, a Motive

[ 0 ] October 3, 2009 |

I understand that you have to put the best face on things, but still…

According to documents filed in Stamford Superior Court in 2007, he made an annual salary of $214,000, but that salary, along with assets and debts, came up in a dispute over the amount of alimony he was paying to his ex-wife, Patty Montet, who lives with their two children.

Mr. Halderman’s lawyer, Gerald L. Shargel, said his client denied wrongdoing.

“He pled not guilty, and he stands by that plea,” Mr. Shargel said after the arraignment in a telephone interview. “My position is that, even upon a superficial glance, there is another side of this story and I’m working on it.”

He said that the prosecutor’s remarks in court about Mr. Halderman’s debts showed that “they’re obviously searching for a motive.”

He added, “If that were a motive, you’d have to supply new jails.”

No, they’re not “searching for a motive.” They have, in fact, found a motive, and it is, by and large, a pretty compelling one.

"Just saw the cover for her book, I’m super excited."*

[ 0 ] October 3, 2009 |

All the talk about how Sarah Palin’s magnum opus opera mictilis is already a bestseller flubs the basic math behind its “unprecedented sales.” Palin’s target audience already has a Bible, meaning Going Rogue will be the first book they’ve bought since 2007. If liberals want to wage ideological war via the bestseller list, we need to stop dividing our loyalties and only purchase one new book every two years. Our minds might atrophy, sure, but no one ever said talking points were cheap.

*What? Can you think of a better way to tell the world that you judge books by their covers than a comma splice? Didn’t think so.

On a dark night, all cats look grey

[ 0 ] October 2, 2009 |

Mike Potemra clearly wasn’t paying attention for a few years there…

Looking at the festival of Olympischenfreude on Drudge and elsewhere, I have to ask what this episode tells us about Obama’s character. Because the fix was clearly not in, we know that Obama went on a very public, very high-profile mission without any assurance of success, and with a possibility of the exact kind of humiliation his political opponents are enjoying so immensely today. But he went anyway. This says to me, Wow, what a secure guy. “I’ll try to make the three-pointer; if I miss, no big whoop, I’ll still be cool.” But here’s the thing: When George W. Bush had exactly the same sort of security — this sense of being comfortable in his own skin, with his views and intuitions — didn’t millions of the anti-Bush folks use it as dispositive evidence that the man was a) arrogant and b) delusional?

Yes. Yes. Yes they did.

This has been another edition of simple links as simple answers to simple questions.

Friday Cat Blogging

[ 0 ] October 2, 2009 |
From henry

I am sad to report that massive, twice-daily doses of fluoxetine have curbed Henry’s amour de plush. They’ve also, however, curbed his chronic need to piss all over the inside of our front door, which means that Henry — who literally had a date scheduled with the executioner’s needle in August — has been given a new lease on life.

But if Curious George wants to feel him up a little, he’s cool with that.

Friday Daddy Blogging

[ 0 ] October 2, 2009 |

Miriam and Elisha

Anne Applebaum, You’ve Got To Be Putting Me On

[ 0 ] October 2, 2009 |

In today’s edition, Anne Applebaum attempts to further explain the many complexities that make it “outrageous” that someone who raped a 13-year-old and fled the authorities after pleading guilty was arrested. Apparently, the slut had it coming because her mother permitted her to be alone in the same room with Polanski:

What apalled [sic] me about that story was the mother’s reaction, which should have been “I am coming to get you right now.” There is more than one adult who bears responsibility here, which is part of what makes the story so far from straightforward.

First of all, I am (to put it mildly) skeptical of the idea that any mother who doesn’t treat anyone who may interact with her daughter — including in a professional setting! — as a child molester is irresponsible. This is Grade A, or “Tim McCarver” level, second-guessing. But even if we assume that the victim’s mother should have had the wisdom that Applebaum so easily acquired decades after the fact knowing what happened, it should be obvious that from Polanski’s perspective this doesn’t provide the slightest mitigation or “complexity” whatsoever. Whether or not her mother acted wisely, the choice to drug and rape an adolescent* was Polanski’s alone, and he alone shares the moral and legal responsibility. It’s frankly amazing that it’s necessary to explain this to anyone, let alone a well-compensated national pundit.

And then, there’s this:

Yes, there is “evidence” that Polanski did not know the girls age – or that he was told but did not believe it: He has told people since that, anyway. Pictures of her from the time show a girl who could be anywhere from 12-25.

Given this standard — in which even actually being informed of a victim’s age doesn’t constitute evidence — I don’t see any reason to keep statutory rape laws on the books at all. But it’s worse: this is the young woman that Applebaum says could be 25. I don’t think further elaboration is necessary.

I’m not even sure what to say about someone who continues to invent new erroneous “facts” and transparently specious arguments to defend someone who rapes a 13 year-old, but I think Brad DeLong’s argument that “there is grave moral fault attached to everybody who pays the Washington Post company a cent for any purpose whatsoever” is a good start.

*Applebaum considers this characterization erroneous, but needless to say doesn’t explain which isn’t true. Since both elements were admitted by Polanski in his plea agreement, I’m sticking with them…

Opening Night!

[ 0 ] October 2, 2009 |

Friends coming over to watch the opening night Flames/Canucks tilt, so be out for a bit. For interested parties, some useful team-by-team previews here, although hopefully this is more accurate than this. For Berube’s Rangers, the analysis suggests that Glen Sather will be a good-looking GM again…if you spot him a pre-drinking age Gretzky, Messier, Anderson, Lowe, etc.

To return to the greatest game played in my hometown (with bonus Slats footage!), always remember: even Paul Coffey can play defense if he puts his mind to it, and always much in the corners like Tonelli…

Always something funny at Confederate Yankee…

[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

Displaying all the research and analytical skills that have made him a favorite at LGM and elsewhere, Bob Owens argues that John L. Perry — a regular columnist and former senior editor at NewsMax — is somehow a man of “the left.” When pushed by a commenter on the question of Perry’s actual ideological allegiances, Owens simply throws his hands in the air and forgets how to use the Googles:

I don’t claim to know the first thing about Mr. Perry. I can only relate what he states in his own bio, where he was very active in state and national politics as a Democrat for much of his adult life in politics, and also belonged to a left wing think tank. I don’t doubt that people can change, I just don’t see any solid evidence that he has radically shifted, simply because he strongly opposes President Obama’s continuing series of gaffes and missteps.

Um. Yeah. About that:

Despite the best efforts of the Eastern elitist press to ignore [Alan] Keyes into oblivion, Iowans have begun to take him seriously. He’s coming up fast there and elsewhere in America.

Here is the one candidate who stands for unadulterated, 200-proof Republican policies.

The man might as well have been one of the Founding Fathers, he’s such a throwback from Clintonism and the dogma that government is all-wise, all-powerful and the latest drug of choice.

And so on:

Withdrawing [Harriet Miers’] nomination to the Supreme Court, or accepting her withdrawal of it, would be the worst possible thing the president could do – for his political party, for himself, for the country.

Does anyone in a right mind think for one moment that if Bush tosses her overboard it would satisfy the sharks? All that would do is chum the water with her (and his) blood, and the insatiable sharks of both parties would leap voraciously into the boat with glee – and the whole country would go under.

It’s funny because it’s true!

As an added bonus, Perry’s thoughts about a military coup against the Twelfth Imam President Obama give Owens the opportunity to remind his readers once again about the Wilmington insurrection of 1898, when armed herrenvolkers over threw the fusionist government of North Carolina, replacing it with a Jim Crow regime to thwart the spread of “Negro Domination.” For some reason, Owens has always believed* that the events in Wilmington — because they were executed by white supremacist Democrats — should inspire some sort of enduring shame among contemporary liberals. Which is the sort of thing I suppose you’d have to believe if you also think that holding a pseudonymous torch for the Old South makes you a sincere Friend of the Black Man.

* The linked thread is a true masterwork in the Confederate Yankee oeuvre, including such gems as Owens’ claims that the Democratic Party is more than 300 years old and that Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond were the only Dixiecrats who ever migrated to the GOP. The conversation also features snark from all three of the LGM OG, as well as the obligatory thread-closure when Owens realizes that he could be out buggering his pigs again instead of arguing with people who, like, know stuff.

EU Report on South Ossetia War

[ 0 ] October 1, 2009 |

The EU report on the South Ossetia War has been released, and it apportions some blame to both sides. The Georgians started the war, but the Russians created the underlying tension in the area, and went too far in prosecuting the conflict.

There can be no question regarding the first element of the condemnation of Russia; Russian bad behavior enabled South Ossetian separatists to build their quasi-state, and created conditions under which tension between Russia and Georgia was inevitable. This doesn’t justify Saakashvili’s adventurism, but it does help to explain. On the second point I’m less convinced. It’s certainly true that by some construction of jus in bello Russian actions in Georgia were excessive. The invasion of Georgia was not strictly necessary, nor was the destruction of Georgia’s fleet, or the various air attacks across Georgia. At the same time, I think it has to be noted that the scope of Russia’s assault against Georgia was really trivial when compared to the scope of Israeli activity towards either Hezbollah or Hamas, or of US air attacks against Serbia during the Kosovo War. This is to say that the Russian attack looks positively restrained when compared with the intensity of the assaults against Serbia, Lebanon, or Iraq. Questions of moral equivalency aside, Georgia suffered far less, by any metric, in its war against Russia than Serbia suffered in its war against NATO. Now, it may be fairly argued that Russia is constrained by capabilities rather than intent; the Russian Air Force is simply not capable of carrying out a large scale assault of the same type that we saw in Kosovo or Lebanon, and as such Russia’s deserves no kudos for restraint. I’m not sure that I agree 100% with that, since it does seem that Russia was at least somewhat sensitive to international opinion during the war. Nevertheless, we’d do well to keep in mind that Russian “brutality” was in fact far less brutal in effect (if not intent) than has become the norm for military intervention in the last decade.

And no, I am not in the pay of the Russian government….