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Houston Nutt is a Lucky Moron

[ 26 ] November 23, 2007 |

Ace Rothstein:

The cardinal rule is to keep them playing and to keep them coming back. The longer they play, the more they lose, and in the end, we get it all.

I’m glad that Arkansas won, but when you have a chance to beat a plainly superior opponent on the road with one play from the 3 yard line, you take it. It was criminal of Nutt not to go for the two point conversion after the first overtime touchdown. Stupidity didn’t pay off this time, but it should have.

…and obviously, he also has a stupid name. Why didn’t his parents just name him “Brazil”?

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[ 0 ] November 23, 2007 |

The Thanksgiving feast was a total success. I followed much of Alton Brown’s (and your) advice. Lots of photos taken of the delicious maple-glazed turkey, sourdough & porcini mushroom stuffing, roasted taters, etc….

…but I can’t find the damn cable for my digital camera!

So, in the interim, you’ll just have to take my word for it. Thanks for all the advice.

Hope it was a joyous and thoughtful day for all.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

[ 5 ] November 22, 2007 |

Back from Canada, but off to bucolic New England to celebrate your phoney-baloney version of Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, I have to agree that while probably less destructive to political discourse Collins’s columns have even less content than Dowd’s…

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Let’s Get Some Political Science 101 for the Slate Folks…

[ 0 ] November 22, 2007 |

While we’re on the topic of Slate contrarians, here’s Mickey reacting to the Korb/Katulis/Podesta op-ed:

When you write a sentence like:
the progress being made at the local level often undermines the stated goal of creating a unified, stable, democratic Iraq

you have to come up with, you know, an example. Maybe in the next sentence! Podesta et al. argue that Iraqi national reconciliation–and “constructive” intervention by regional powers–will only come when America withdraws. That may be true (though it seems tendentiously optimistic). But we can always withdraw. In the meantime, how does “progress at the local level,” including “declines in the overall level of violence,” actually hurt? Without that argument, the piece looks like positioning. …

Alright, let’s go slow and use small words, so that Mickey can understand. The central government is one among many armed, collective actors in Iraq. In most modern nation-states (and in Iraq prior to 2003) the central government is the most powerful armed actor; indeed, Weber’s defines the state as an entity that holds a monopoly on the legitimate use of force within a given territory. Now, central governments don’t always have a complete monopoly, and they don’t hold that monopoly at all times, but at least the idea that the state should be the predominant armed actor in a given territorial space is pretty critical to how a modern-nation state functions. Indeed, it’s one of things that sets a modern-nation state apart from a feudal situation, in which multiple legitimate armed groups exist in society with a centralized, first among equals leader (the classic feudal monarchy), or a warlord society, in which multiple armed actors exist within a territory without necessarily agreeing on any unifying principle.

The problem with the strategy in Iraq (and it’s not the Surge; the tribal strategy precedes the Surge by about six months) is that we are both arming and legitimating non-state actors; in these conditions, it is very difficult for the central government to assert authority, and thus to do any of the things (organize for collective defense, collect taxes, provide services, etc.) that a modern nation-state does. Also, the tribes we’re enabling are among the most conservative, anti-democratic elements of Iraqi society. This is why so many people tend to think that the tribal strategy, whatever its merits in terms of a reduction of violence (and I think it does have merits on this score) is fundamentally at odds with the idea of a unified, democratic Iraq. And that too may be fine; the democratic Iraq idea gave up the ghost a while ago, anyway. But it’s best not to pretend that the tribal strategy is contributing to the goals that were set out four and a half years ago.

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Saletan’s Finale

[ 0 ] November 21, 2007 |

And after all that, nothing. Saletan writes two columns purporting to demonstrate not simply that African-Americans are inherently intellectually inferior to whites, but that liberals who question this finding are anti-science. In other words, the science is so compelling that any argument against the racial inferiority hypothesis must be generated by political, rather than scientific, considerations.

And so, now that we have this finding, what are the implications for public policy? Surely, demonstrating the intellectual inferiority of Africans should have a significant impact of various public policy choices. Our foreign aid strategy should change, because sending money to Africa based on the assumption that Africans are capable of understanding complex concepts like “economics” is surely a waste. The implications for immigration are clear; more Asians and Europeans, fewer Africans. While Saletan suggests that race mixing can bring blacks up to white intellectual levels, it would be irresponsible not to consider that the opposite might happen; miscegenation, on average, is going to result in a child intellectually inferior to its white counterparts. Family assistance and affirmative action will need to be radically restructured, if not eliminated entirely.

What? Saletan doesn’t propose any of that? Why not? Really, if the science is as compelling as Saletan claims, it would be absurd not to use the findings to guide public policy. Yet, Saletan specifically discounts the idea of using this race science to guide policy. Again, why? It’s almost as if Saletan doesn’t really believe everything that he’s just argued. It’s almost as if his grasp on the science is so shaky that he has no confidence in the claims that he’s supporting. Indeed, it’s almost as if he wrote the columns solely as an exercise in angering liberals.

Yglesias points out the genuine strangeness of all this:

Saletan and my bloggy colleagues seem to have convinced themselves that there’s overwhelming opposition in public opinion to the view that whites are intrinsically smarter than blacks and also that there’s strong scientific consensus in favor of that hypothesis. As best I can tell, however, neither is true. The “black genes make you dumb” crowd is siding with widely-held popular prejudice against what most researchers believe.

Right; the idea that African-Americans are intellectually inferior to whites is hardly new to the American political scene, and there’s every reason to think that it’s still widely held in many corners. Indeed, it was widely held well before the latest round of shoddy race science convinced Saletan, and was used to justify any number of political and social arrangements designed to guarantee that African-Americans didn’t escape their “genetic” inheritance.

But then, most of those folks don’t read Slate. And you don’t get to keep your card as a contrarian journalist if you always agree with one side. Of course, you also don’t get to keep your contrarian journalist card if you come out for anti-miscegenation laws; it’s a delicate balance, but Saletan manages to pull it off. I would like to think that a few good social science methodology courses would impress upon Saletan and his ilk the difficulties associated with this kind of science; the trouble operationalizing the dependent variable, the dangers of drawing inferences in the presence of bad variables, and the virtual impossibility of excluding environmental variables from the process. I’d like to think that Saletan would at least be more cautious about the kinds of claims he’s making if he were familiar with some basic philosophy of science question, but I don’t know that it’s true.

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Giving Thanks

[ 13 ] November 21, 2007 |

After scurrying around to file a document with a court before the holiday, I spent the afternoon attending to the last minute Thanksgiving food shopping. The greenmarket was truly impressive today — mushrooms, eggs, apples, turkeys, bison, root veggies . . . pretty much everything you could need for your holiday feast. After a crushingly busy few weeks, I was thankful to have an afternoon to just enjoy fall in the city. It’s just the first of many things for which I will give thanks tomorrow.

I’m taking tomorrow off to cook, overeat, and play scrabble with my parents and one of my brothers, but I’ll be back in action on Friday — hopefully, if I can get my dying digital camera to work — with pictures of the delicious turkey that you all helped me figure out how to cook.

Happy Turkey/Tofurkey day to all of you.

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[ 0 ] November 21, 2007 |

Gregg Easterbrook is, evidently, still alive and still writing, and he’s still a deranged lunatic. If you listen to right wing culture warriors, you know they are adept at concocting bizarre, brain-twisting accusations about the motives and character of popular entertainers who are also outspoken liberals. Easterbrook, in a brain fart in the midst of an interminable NFL column, may well have effortlessly outdone all of them:

You don’t have to be Dr. Freud to speculate that cinema stars, steeped in a Hollywood culture obsessed with personal power, subconsciously fantasize about actually being able to kill whomever they please.

Malkin? O’Reilly? The bar has been raised.

h/t The Poor Man.

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Global War on False Alarms, Strange Loners, and Juvenile Delinquents

[ 17 ] November 21, 2007 |

So these people are excited for some reason about this map, which claims to tracks “terrorism and suspicious activity” across the planet. For those who’ve forgotten that the world is a dangerous place,

[y]ou have to see it to believe it, and I really mean to believe it: The world is a very dangerous place.

There’s nothing I’ve ever experienced — short of actually experiencing war or terrorist incidents — that so brings the message home, literally, right to your computer, and so comprehensively, about the need to be vigilant.

Give thanks this Thanksgiving, and every day, and express the same wishes to your friends, that you’re not in those places abroad. But, also, note the incidents in the U.S.

Among the latest “events” that are supposed to have us scraping out our underpants:

This map would work well as a parody, but it appears to be quite serious. On the plus side of the ledger, it appears that non-state actors pose the greatest threat to civilization. If this hasn’t already been turned into the subject of a Glenn Beck special report, I’d start laying bets right about now.

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On Women in Public Life

[ 0 ] November 21, 2007 |

Yglesias reports on a survey that shows we are making progress.

This was the question asked in the survey: “Some people feel that women should have an equal role with men in running business, industry and government. Others feel that women’s place is in the home. Where would you place yourself on this scale or haven’t you thought much about this?”

I’ve got to disagree with Yglesias on this one. Sure, there’s been progress. But the fact that we’re still asking questions like this shows just how far we’ve got to go.

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The Second Amendment on Trial

[ 36 ] November 20, 2007 |

The Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal to the D.C. Circuit decision striking down D.C.’s handguns ban. I’ll have more discussion about this later, but to stimulate discussion in the interim I’ll say that 1)the most plausible interpretation of the 2nd Amendment, I think, confers an individual right to bear arms, although this is certainly not the only reasonable interpretation; 2)given this, D.C.’s draconian ban is (for better or worse) clearly unconstitutional, but 3)more reasonable gun control measures may be constitutional even if the right to bear arms is considered an individual right.

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Ignorance Is Bliss

[ 20 ] November 20, 2007 |

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Gainer The Gopher sez: Slappy Who?

One advantage to being in Canada right now is that sportswriters are much more preoccupied with such matters as the epochal Riders/Lions tilt and much less with the distressing news that A-Slappy will be back in pinstripes. Although I knew better, for a brief moment I allowed myself to think that some kind of irrationality had overtaken the Yankees and that they might have let Rodriguez walk, but they didn’t, and alas most other teams look at player salaries primarily as expenses rather than investments, which is why they are where they are and the Yankees are where they are. I’m sure the feats of illogic on behalf of American sportswriters have been spellbinding, but I’m trying to ignore it for the week; looking at bad political journalism is bad enough. I’ve got tickets tonight — go Flames! Lalalalala I can’t hear you!

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Worst American Birthdays, vol. 31

[ 0 ] November 20, 2007 |

While the age of his mustache remains a matter of state secrecy, John Robert Bolton turns 59 today.

In his many years of public service, Bolton has never met a nation whose threat to the United States he did not hysterically overstate, nor has he ever met an international organization he did not suspect of radically undermining his country’s sovereignty. His recess appointment as the American ambassador to the United Nations must rank among the greatest pranks of modern diplomatic history. With his permanent nomination facing Congressional rejections, his resignation from that same position represents one of the few moments of sanity during the Bush years.

A self-styled tough guy and master of the office hissy fit, Bolton’s reputation as a manager of people duplicates in miniature his sense of how the United States should act toward the rest of the world. On Bolton’s view, American interests can only be secured by assuming the absolute worst about its rivals; ignoring or suppressing competing interpretations of incomplete or ambiguous data; and dealing with limitations on its power by screaming and throwing heavy objects at recalcitrant colleagues. When John Bolton sleeps, he likely dreams of a world alight with American power, with righteous, unilateral wars raging against China, Syria, Cuba, North Korea and Iran. Described by his mentor Jesse Helms as “the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at the gates of Armageddon,” Bolton — given the appropriate means — would be only too eager to oblige his enfeebled friend.

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