Sunday, April 30, 2006

D(r)aft

Mario Williams, Sam Bowie. Sam Bowie, Mario Williams. Welcome to the Brien Taylor Memorial Draft Mistake Hall of Fame.

(Apparently, I'm not as original a thinker as I like to believe)

Wow (KB8 Edition)

Ok, so he's really quite good...

But they're you know trying to foul Nash. They in fact fouled him 3 times. AND he called timeout.

But still, the Lakers played with a ton of heart. Even Kwame Brown. And Luke Walton can play a bit, right Fletch?

. . .and having watched the replay about 10 times, my favorite part is Devean George's reaction. Everybody else loses their mind, he simply puts his hand up and walks away as if to say "what did y'all expect?"

Closed Circuit to RonB

Ron, I don't know if you get HBO in Korea, but if not, you need to find a video of last night's Bill Maher. One of his satellite interviews was the estimable V.D. Hanson. He was treated...skeptically. I'm not here to question Hanson's Hellenic scholarship, as I'm nowhere near qualified. I am here to question the applicability of the lessons he delivers to modern times. Salutory platitudes about Freedom and Democracy (did they have Ponies in ancient Greece? Freedom, Democracy & a Chariot!) are well and good, but the facts on the ground have to, you know, enter in to the analysis.

"If A, then B" requires proof of A before B can be declared. Too often, the VDH's of the world see "Not A" as equally good proof of B.

Back to Maher's interview, the most trenchant response came from panelists Barney Frank on Ian MacKellan, who noted that the causus belli in Iraq has, er, shifted over time.

Anyway, just wanted to point Ronnie to his methadone fix, since he's probably jonesing (especially after I agreed with Krauthammer the other day.)

I Guess That Answers That

For some time XWL has been musing over the question of whether Stephen Colbert is actually conservative. I think that after the White House Correspondent's Dinner, the answer is a conclusive sadly, no. (Sadly, Sadly, No! has more.)

The appropriate description of the speech is 'biting:'
Wow, wow, what an honor. The White House Correspondents’ Dinner. To just sit here, at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I’m dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what, I’m a pretty sound sleeper, that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face.
And that's just the intro...

In truth, I'm conflicted about this - as a card-carrying BDSer, I enjoy the eviscerative aspects of the bit: In comedy club, or on his show, I'd find it brilliant.

BUT, I'm old fashioned in some ways: respect the office if not the man, to a degree. I felt much the same when Cindy Sheehan got booted from the State of the Union Address: I could have cared less what her T-shirt said, it's the SOTU, have some class and dress appropriately. So for this reason, I'm a little discomforted by the 'in-your-face, Mr. President' aspect.

However, in the final calculus, the fact that Bush can't take a joke makes the joke all the more necessary.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Work

As in 'Putting In...'

My absolute number 1 favorite thing about being a basketball fan is watching a player getting into that perfect groove where it seems like they will never miss again. And their defender knows it, and starts buckling down. So they start attempting more and more difficult shots - the proverbial 'heat check' - and they continue to go in.

Thank you, Michael Redd.

In other thoughts, maybe this years Mavs team is different. Such outright thievery of road games is certainly an indication that it might be. I called "game time" on Dirk's three to put them up five before he even caught the ball. You watch enough of these, and there are certain shots that are reminiscent of the Double Dribble sweet spots.

And in the least necessary yet most predictable news department, ESPN passes along the following rumor:
Apr 28 - The New York Post reports the Knicks will again bid for Kenyon Martin this summer. . . According to the newspaper, Brown is desperate for Thomas to add an inside banger, a rugged rebounder and shot-blocker.
Besides the there are already too many headcases for team chemistry to possibly matter anyway, right? I mean not even Isiah is that stup...oh never mind. A starting lineup of Marbury, Franchise, Jalen Rose, K-Mart and Ed Curry? Seriously even if they win the lottery next year, can't you see the next 'savior,' Greg Oden pulling an Eli Manning and refusing to play for such a loser organization?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is It Time Already?

Apparently, yes, I am going to have to say it every three months. Oil companies make money because they are big and sell lots of a product that people buy. And there's nothing inherently wrong with that. (Though, ahem, why do they need subsidies, exactly?)

Let's put it this way, Atrios and Krauthammer seem to be in agreement. Which means either the world is in fact coming to an end (though I haven't seen the winged pigs which make up the second part of that prophecy), or it's all a bit overblown.

Atrios:

While I understand that high gas prices do in fact cause economic pain to people and I'm also generally happy for people to blame George Bush and Republicans for their woes, the media coverage of the gas issue is really getting silly.
Krauthammer:

If you thought the Dubai port deal marked a record high in Washington cynicism, think again. Nothing can match the spectacle of politicians scrambling for cover during a spike in gasoline prices. And this time the panderfest has gone all the way to the Oval Office. President Bush has joined the braying congressional hordes by ordering the Energy and Justice departments and the Federal Trade Commission to launch an investigation into possible gasoline price fixing.
Ahem, looking at you, Hastert.

Though Yglesias has a decent point here, (yes it's pandering, but it's smart pandering from the Dems with little downside.) I think there is mileage (har) to be had by viewing high gas prices as an both an outcome of our current energy policies (har har) and as necessary incentive to become less dependant on oil for both economic and security reasons.

And Kinsley makes a reasonable argument about taxing 'excess profits,' however you choose to define the term:
some or all of these profits are directly related to a situation that is imposing huge sacrifices -- financial and otherwise -- on others: that is, the Iraq war.

Because of the war, the government is adding hundreds of billions to the burden of debt that all taxpayers, including other businesses, will have to pay off. Because of the war, American soldiers by the hundreds, and Iraqis by the thousands, are paying the ultimate tax of death by government policy. And because of the war, American oil companies are raking in extra billions in profits.
It would certainly go a way to at eliminating at least certain...perceptions about corporate influence over policy, wouldn't it?

A final question, why do we view cheap gasoline and mammoth cars as birthrights, but not universal healthcare?

BMF: A Duel!

Apparently, I've been challenged to a brawl, (what are these Queensbury Rules of which you speak, Bob?) In order to prepare, this week's ten comes from my Eye of the Tiger, pre-fight, Pump (no, not the Aerosmith album) mix.

1. "London Calling" - The Clash. Man, if this is as fired up as I'm going to get, I'm in for an asswhuppin'. 5/10

2. "All Along the Watchtower" - Jimi. Is it me or is the now the standard "just found out my wife/gf is cheating on me with my best friend and I'm driving through the pooring rain to kill the bastard" soundtrack? It is, right? 8/10.

3. "Guildford Fall Demo" - Fugazi. And something like this song for when I actually do kill the bastard. Starts of all dark and jangly, then it gets a little funky and good to me. Slightly disconcering in the context of this list. 7/10.

4. "Closer" - Nine Inch Nails. Oh, it is SO ON. 10/10.

5. "What I Like About You" - The Romantics. Peaked to soon, I fear. (Man I have some crappy jock rock on my iPod...I'm shamed and chagrined). 4/10.

6. "Beautiful Day (Quincey & Sonance Mix)" - U2. Oonce oonce oonce oonce. Oonce oonce oonce oonce. Where's my glowstick? 5/10.

7. "Like a Stone" - Audioslave. Klosterman hates Audioslave. He also hates the blues. Therefore Audioslave is good...(or not, but I like their first album plenty) Not exactly TNT though as far as testosterone inducing...6/10

8. "Killing in the Name" - Rage Against the Machine. Oh it is SO ON AGAIN. 10/10.

9. "Good Ole Boys" - Me First & The Gimme Gimmes. 42 seconds. 42. That means something 9/10.

10. "Song 2" - Blur. Back in the day (i.e. college) we had a massive FIFA 98 World Cup tourney (with about 15 guys playing, going through qualifying and everything), and if my vidiot friends can remember, the soundtrack to the title sceen on the game was..."Song 2". WOO-HOO! (Game time. HUH!) 9/10.

7.3 average...Sideshow Bob brings it with...a forfeit? As my favorite character in Goldeneye for N64 might say "I'm invincible!"

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I Don't Even Have A Joke Here

I lie, I have many, many jokes. But none are better than telling it straight:
Lucy’s Love Shop employee Wanda Gillespie said she was flabbergasted that South Carolina’s Legislature is considering outlawing sex toys. But banning the sale of sex toys is actually quite common in some Southern states.

The South Carolina bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Ralph Davenport, would make it a felony to sell devices used primarily for sexual stimulation and allow law enforcement to seize sex toys from raided businesses.
A FELONY. And lest ye think that this is just some ridiculous wingnuttery, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama have already gone this rout. (Query, why is it always Texas, Mississippi and Alabama?)

Now, normally, this is the kind of story which would vie for AHW, but given the subject matter, I'm not sure that would be in good taste. Read the whole thing for some Grade A quality snark.

(Via Hit & Run)

Criminal Escapism - My Opiate (Thief)

Well, since the mood around here might need some lightening, let's talk about some gritty television-verite!

It's no secret that major studio films by-and-large suck these days. I've come around to the belief that it's the writing, stupid. And the reason that movie screen-writing has gotten worse is that the best are all doing episodic television. It's rather obvious, but in terms of creating and developing compelling characters and stories, would you rather have 120 minutes of movie time wherein you must fit 3 fights, a car chase and a sex-scene to ensure 'marketability' or would you rather have 20+ 42 minute+commercial installments?

And with the HBO-led rise of shows on cable, you aren't even impinged by the stultifying content regulation of the FCC. 7 years on, it's clear that the Sopranos has ushered in a new era. Of the ten best hour-long original shows on TV over that time, at most 3 would be network (Lost, West Wing and perhaps 24), whereas with HBO leading the way (Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome, Oz) cable makes up the lions share, with FX in particular getting in on the act (The Shield, Rescue Me, Nip/Tuck.)

It strikes me that even cable's failures are more ambitious than anything the focus-group drenched hacks at a network would try. (Would a network have even made the effort with Playmakers, Tilt or Over There?)

All this is a roundabout way of bringing me around to talking about FX's latest effort, Thief, and why it is disappointing to me. My expecatations are simply too high.



I mean, a gritty crime drama from the network that is 3.5 for 4 in my book (The Shield, Resue Me, and Nip/Tuck, which I don't watch for squeemishness reasons, but sister Pooh says is excellent. And Over There was at worst, certainly watchable.) Starring Andre Braugher, who'd I'd find compelling in a toothpaste commercial. What's not to like?

Well, it tries to do too much, that's what. The strongest part of the show, Braugher's relationship with his white step-daughter, is the most peripheral to the Thievary. The other members of his merry band are not really given much of a chance to develop beyond broad strokes- there's the family man, the playboy, and the nervously religious guy. They're all played by quality actors, but they don't get a chance to do much. Similarly, the involvement a corrupt local cop and Chinese gangsters on the rampage only serve to add further underdeveloped story points.

Did I mention that the show is based in post-Katrina New Orleans? Talk about an elephant in the room going unmentioned.

And the "big score" itself, which occured in this week's episode seemed rushed and poorly exposited. I strongly feel that the show would have been far superior had FX given it perhaps two more episodes to develop at a more leisurely pace.

All that said, a decent show, based largely on the strength of Braugher and Mae Whitman as the step-daughter. Probably worth netflixing when it is released, but certainly not essential.

Calmer Now

Once again, I feel better now that I got that off my chest. Like the masthead says, have polemic...

In any event, as I mused yesterday, 'what now?' is a monstrously difficult question. And finding the right answer is not aided by appeals to emotion or disregarding opposing viewpoints as unserious, or 'overly pessimistic,' or Bush Derrangement Syndrome or what have you. Cal might be right on the merits, but that determination necessarily involves calculation and analysis. Don't just tell me I'm wrong, show me where and how.

Tiresome (Part II in an Extensively Ongoing Series)

In a thinly veiled paen to 'killing them all and letting god sort them out', (using the father of a Flight 93 victim as an oracle, no less) Calimachus is again rather dismissive to the less bloodthirsty among us:

An enemy who will stop at nothing to achieve world domination and force a life devoid of freedom upon all. Their methods are inhumane and their targets are the innocent and unsuspecting. We call this conflict the “War on Terror.”
. . .We all do see the enemy for who he is and we read his own words and take them at their face value. Some of us recognize this as a Long War for Civilization, and think the obvious disparity in firepower and national economies masks a vulnerability in the West. The people we are fighting say certain things very clearly: we are infidels who have offended their religion, they are at war with us, and they want us to die. They may not have an air force, but they have other weapons, more intangible, perhaps more powerful. And we have weak spots. We could be brought down hard by a combination of lack of will and a few hard, well-timed terrorist strikes with the right volume.

To some of us, on the other hand, the Islamists are simply not a long-term threat worth the name of “enemy” or worth a serious reordering of American rights and priorities. They talk nasty and hurt when they can, but they should be taken no more seriously than a 5-year-old in a temper tantrum. 9/11 was something of a one-off, a combination of a few extraordinary individuals and good luck based on our lack of vigilance. A little more vigilance on our part will be sufficient to prevent a repeat performance. To involve American resources and lives in a major Middle Eastern “war” against this, with the inevitable bungles and unforeseen consequences, is doing more harm than good.
(my emphasis)

Look, how many times does one have to say "yes this is a threat, but you are doing it all wrong" and massively so on both strategic and tactical levels before 'Some People' stop offering tripe like "To some of us [read: you rabble], on the other hand, the Islamists are simply not a long-term threat worth the name of “enemy” or worth a serious reordering of American rights and priorities" as wisdom.

Yes, strangely the other 'Some People' do think the best response to an enemy who we are told "hate[s] us for our freedoms" is not to sacrifice said freedoms forthwith (especially in the name of ensuring success in an invasion of a far off land to instill the same freedoms. Clap Louder!) They cannot take what we have already freely given! Never go in against an American when internal coherance is on the line...

And who is being unserious when this is part of the premise?
I’m leaving out the figure of Bush, on both sides, because ultimately he doesn’t matter.
(emphasis mine)

So by beating the left over the head with his very partisan War-on-Terror stick, Bush doesn't matter? Let me turn again to what I feel are the best words written on the subject:

I found the idea of “patriotism” more compelling in the months after 9/11 than at any other time of my . . . life. Same deal with the ideas of duty and sacrifice. For a brief window of time, these concepts became vital again. Before Iraq, I think liberal intellectuals were in the process of forming and believing in new, intellectually-compelling versions of patriotism – a New Patriotism, based not on mindless nationalism but a shared sense of collectiveness and interdependence inspired by an external threat. It was a remarkable time – I’m glad I got to experience it.

But now it’s gone. And I suspect it won’t come back again in my lifetime. And that’s because Bush pissed it away and exploited it to go fight his war. That was his original sin and that’s the root of why people hate him. He betrayed our unity, and exploited our national tragedy for political purposes . . .

But he could have been great. More critically, he could have attracted a lot of young liberals for whom 9/11 was a formative event. He – a Republican – had a chance to create a New American Patriotism, one that was compelling to cynical Seinfeld liberals who were in deep introspection and were willing to give earnestness a second chance in the aftermath of the tragedy. In short, he had an opportunity to free us from the Tyranny of Irony. He could have given us something to truly believe in and get behind.

But he blew it, just like he blows everything else. What he has done is reaffirmed why we must remain ironic, even though we’re exhausted by irony. Bush has used these abstract concepts to support a political agenda and a war of choice that many of us see as wrong and potentially catastrophic. In a world where abstract notions of “freedom” and “patriotism” are used to support things like the Iraq War or torture, what choice do you have but irony and detachment from the concepts that make these things possible? Rejecting these simplified abstractions is not an exercise in immorality or amorality anymore, but one of conscious rejection, and even morality. That's why you can't expect us to get behind Bush's call for patriotism and freedom - he has shown again and again that his purpose for using these concepts is to further a polarizing political agenda. You may agree with that agenda, but don't insult my intelligence by challenging my lack of enthusiasm for Bush's abstractions as being insufficiently patriotic or supportive of freedom. Consider me twice shy.

And this was a year ago, consider me 4 or five times shy. In case it's not clear enough, let me tell you why Bush matters. We go to the Clash of Civilizations with the President we have, not the President we wish we had. And I'm supposed to trust the future of this massive campaign run by a fella who was shown a talent for being well-born and winning elections and precious little else?

Forgive me for not rushing to sign on with another Crusade (let's go ahead and call a spade a spade for once) which is a mere bulwark for a domestic agenda which I feel is disastrous on nearly every front at both the policy and implementation level. Forgive me for not signing up when everything done in the name of this Great Struggle is done with at least 1.5 eyes towards domestic political gain. If Freedom Democracy and a Pony for the Iraqi people was so damn important, why half-ass it? Why not try to build consensus instead of declaring that as the Decider-in-chief it's your way or the highway? I suggest that if this issue was as serious as all that Mr. Rove would have been politely informed that building the permanent Republican majority would have to wait until the future of the free world was no longer in doubt.

And yet this mammoth symbol of incompetence, cynicism and strangely calculated unreason doesn't matter? He matters to our enemies, some of whom do want a fiery conflagration, wherein we see whose god is indeed bigger, and see Bush as the perfect foil. He matters to those who are forced to choose between Salafist tyranny and the American indifference he embodies. It matters to the Europeans who think he is slightly loony and aren't especially happy about being silent partners in a regime of torture and secret prisons. It matters to China, who we have reason to truly fear now that their President has taken the measure of ours, and I suspect found him wanting.

So, I'll ask. If it is a Long War for Civilization, against Creeping Dhimmitude and the Global Caliphate (good band name, that...) what are we holding back for? Seriously, I'm asking, because I don't think Cal likes the logical extension of where that thinking leads us, so he cunningly elides the point with euphemism and codewords. Especially when it is suggested that said Crusade will have the exact opposite effect that we wish it to. But that's just me not taking the threat seriously. I am Some People.

Am I being unfair? No more so than one who syllogisticly declares

1. If you disagree with me as to the magnitude or nature of the threat you are unserious
2. You disagree...
3. Therefore your opinion doesn't matter because you are unserious.

A neat trick. Consider me dismissed, I suppose.

Update: Okay, I'm calmer now.

Grudging Admission


I cannot tell a lie, I enjoyed the Lakers victory last night. I enjoyed Kobe's leadership and willingness to step back and not have to be 'the man' on every possession (except when it was neccessary to teabag the reported MVP...see above.) I enjoyed Phil-Jax's strategic dominance and the way he took The Matrix out of the game by having Odom pound the ball down his throat all game.

And I'm not the only one to both feel this, and to feel conflicted by this. FSM help me, FSM help us all...

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

2 Nuggets, 1 About the Nuggets

First, some red meat for my man. Simmons chat on the Worldwide Leader:
Matt (Baltimore): Snakes on a Plane, Bill! You haven't given your thoughts yet on this phenomenon. What do you think?

Bill Simmons: My thoughts ... sheer delight ... overwhelming anticipation ... utter happiness ...


And speaking of Snakes! On The Court! Earlier, in the same chat:
Jason (Santa Monica): bill, are the clippers really that much better than the nuggets? should they re-sign sam cassell?

Bill Simmons: Yeah, they're that much better. The Nuggets stink. Any playoff team that has Earl Boykins playing more than 10 minutes stinks in my opinion. Plus, take out Carmelo and they're useless. They were even getting every call from the second quarter on in Game 2 (just a classic one-sided performance by Joey Crawford) and couldn't even come within 10. And now they have the whole Kenyon Martin fallout happening. They stink. Seriously, how far did you expect a team with three Cincinnati alums to go?

Well, since you got me started on the most overrated player in the NBA (or at least 1st team, along with Starbury, Baron Davis, AL Harrington and Zach Randolph.)



One of Pooh's Immutable Laws is that though dost not bitch about playing time during the playoffs. Violation of said law at the very least gets you put on permanent Pooh probation. Martin gets well more than the mandatory minimum. In fact, he's lucky that I had already decided on the AHW before I heard this news...

Even if I didn't think he was a posturing prick to begin with. And he didn't play for Cincy, post Nicky the Gangster he'd still be in trouble. But I guess I'm saying that K-Mart [a fitting nickname, since he is the bargain basement Amare Stoudamire] already had two strikes on him. So even though this occured in the first round, during a series that wasn't going more than 5 games under any circumstances anyway, several aggrevating factors are present. Which puts him on the same plane as the exceedinly mortal Vinny Askew, whose crime was made worse by the fact that his moaning occured during the NBA Finals.

But hey, you'll be able to get plenty of tee times, enjoy the summer there bud.

A Fair Question

Trevino at SwordsCrossed:

The anti-war left has convinced itself that supporting the war is equivalent to supporting the Bush Administration. This is untrue and unhealthy for the American polity. The right course of action is to separate the two, and recognize that one may support the one and oppose the other. The question for them, and for the Democratic Party at large, is: Can they? Can they start proposing ways to victory, rather than ways to retreat? Can they join the soldiers and officers who agree with them on the Bush Administration, but profoundly disagree with them on the goal in Iraq?
Aside from the not-so-subtle 'anti-war left' dig, this is a fair question. Though I think the 'noble sacrifice' rationale for staying in Iraq contains something of a gambler's fallacy, I also think Trevino is largely correct in that the optimal outcome would be maintaining a presence until a functional Iraq can exist without our presence (and without becoming an de facto province of Iran.)

Where he goes wrong is ignoring the realities of the choices that appear to be on the table. Which is curious considering he acknowledges the obvious:

There is no point in being a Pollyanna about the situation in that burnt-over country. The official line on the war is long since discredited, and those of us who were optimistic about the prospects there in 2003 now know better. Armando correctly notes my series of essays in which I acknowledge that those of us who believed in the competence of the Administration of George W. Bush to prosecute a war were grievously wrong. I could qualify this in any number of ways: for example, I wrote in fall 2002 (sadly, the website and link are defunct) that invading Iraq was essentially a hail Mary-style diversion, and a tremendous gamble to boot that if unsuccessful would be disastrous. But the bottom line remains the same as that of the staunchest believer in the Administration line — we were wrong.
From here, with the tools we have, including the leadership in place until at least this November and probably until 2009, how do we make the best of the situation? As Djerejian has been saying for a month, non-stop, hey-hey, ho-ho, Donald Rumsfeld's got to go...At a certain point, you lose your license no matter how strongly you cling to a claim of being an excellent driver. And yes, that only gets us partway there.

I also posit that Trevino overlooks the extent to which Bush has conflated opposition to him and his policies (both foreign and domestic) with opposition to the war and unpatriotism. Unilaterilism is largely responsible for the present mess, in my opinion, so more voices should be heard, not fewer.

But assuming those neccesary steps are taken, (and to some degree, in their absense), I too want to see the Democrats come up with another way. There may not be a surfeit of good choices, but governing well is hard, and if you want to say more than 'kick the bums out' what are you about? Any serious solution is going to be difficult, and look it. It will have costs. People don't like to hear about costs, but I for one am sick of 'bread and circuses' instead of meaningful governance, and it won't be especially satisfying if the only changes are in who gets the VIP seats at the chariot races.

I guess my real question is this: after we kick the bums out, what's next?

Our Long National Nightmare. With Cheese.

They're dancing (polkas) in the streets. Favruh returns. You're still an asshole, Brett. Is it just me, or would it be hillarious if the Pack turned around and cut him or named Aaron Rodgers the starter?

And the best news is that we can return to the important items, such as how Reggie Bush's parents getting a sweet rent arrangement will affect his draft status (because, you know, worries about the investigation might slow him down on Sundays), which overrated, injury prone wide receiver Detroit will draft in the first round and the architectural marvel that is Mel Kuiper's hair.



The only downside is that we now longer have Mike Tice to kick around.

Assholes of the Week: Taking Your Ball and Going Home

Ok, ok, I know, we live in difficult, intensely partisan, times. But, kids, come on:

Amid all the partisan rancor of congressional politics, the softball league has for 37 years been a rare case of bipartisan civility, an opportunity for Democratic and Republican aides to sneak out of work a bit early and take the field in the name of the lawmaker, committee or federal agency they work for.

This year, the league will be missing something: a lot of the Republicans.

During the off-season, a group of Republican teams seceded from the league after accusing its Democratic commissioner, Gary Caruso, of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship.

Now, I tend to be a pretty competitive guy myself (see the legendary/notorious Hat Toss), so I can understand how the juices get flowing and what not, but:

The congressional league is a relaxed affair: No umpires call balls and strikes, so batters don't have to swing until they get a pitch they like. Fields are open to the public, so most teams dispatch an intern or junior aide to reserve a field several hours before game time. And after games, teams often head to a bar to recap the game over chicken wings and pitchers of beer.
I wonder how the intern/junior aide puts that on the ressie. I mean if you want to talk about lack of perspective, try this:
The league "is all about Softball Welfare -- aiding the weak by punishing the strong," the pitcher of one Republican team told Mr. Caruso in an email. "The commissioner has a long-standing policy of punishing success and rewarding failure. He's a Democrat. Waddya' expect?" read another email, from Gary Mahmoud, the coach of BoehnerLand, a team from the office of Republican Majority Leader John Boehner.
It's fleeping rec league softball. If you want to practice your hidden ball tricks and take-out slide on the 2nd baseman to break up a double play, I'm pretty sure they have more appropriate outlets. These strike me as the same jackasses who held practices for their intramural basketball teams, and pressed for 40-minutes in a co-rec league.

And if you really want to get heavily involved in all this peen-waving, might I suggest something a little more formal and dare I say classy?



(via Digby)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why I Don't Like BSG 2.0

Gregg Easterbrook has returned to ESPN.com which is good news in and of itself. He also offers the perfect explanation why I had to stop watching the new Battlestar Galactica series about 8 episodes in:
TMQ's core problem with "Battlestar Galactica" is that the people of the show's imaginary space society are incredibly stupid. True, there are lots of stupid people on Earth, so presumably there would be stupid people on the opposite side of the galaxy. And folly is, inarguably, a grand theme of history. But practically everyone in "Galactica" is so astonishingly falling-down dumb, it's hard to care about their fates: And this is setting aside how, if they're so stupid, they were able to construct enormous faster-than-light starcruisers.
Just so - the so-called Idiot Plot is useful in certain situations, though they generally involve Adam Sandler portraying more or less of an idiot.

However, for sustaining dramatic tension that a reasonably intelligent audience will buy, I'd have to say ixnay on the diot-ay. Lost comes pretty close to the edge with the audience knowing that each character knows more than they are telling the others (though not The Others). But since there is a compelling backstory for each character which gives them plausible reasons to not pool information, we tend to play along. Who would believe Locke if he started telling everybody that he really couldn't walk until he came to Magic Island of the Sea?

In contrast, on BSG there was simply never any compelling rationale for the incuriousness of the decision makers. If ever a situation existed where 'trust but verify' would seem essential, times post-sabotage-induced-apocalypse would be it. But that's just me.

Net Neutrality Redux

A few months ago I awarded the TelCo giants the oh-so-coveted (quite openly by some one) Asshole of the Week Award for being greedy bastards and fighting against 'Net Neutrality'. Well, the issue is back in the news, and for a refresher see here for the superwonk version.

Or, for the quick and dirty on why Net Neutrality is important, see Ezra:
See, the telecoms don’t much like that there net neutrality standard and are hoping to overturn it and gain complete control and total discretion over the use of their pipes. And with 20 companies accounting for nearly 94 percent of broadband subscribers (and again, these aren’t necessarily your providers, but the phone and cable companies who control the physical infrastructure) – not to mention SBC and AT&T merging—there really will be no escape from their rules.

Here’s what that would look like: Right now, the net is best described by its ubiquitous pseudonym: the information superhighway. It is, essentially, an interstate, freely traveled by all cars, regardless of weight. What the telecoms want is to section it off into a series of toll roads, which will charge based on vehicle characteristics. So heavy travelers – sites like Google and AOL and Yahoo and YouTube – will be charged far more, at least at the beginning, than light travelers (say, local community bulletin boards). Fair’s fair, right?

Not quite. The next step would be for the telecoms to enter into content distribution deals with various providers. Think of the toll road operator partnering up with Toyota, and attempting to choke Toyota’s competition by making it prohibitively expensive for competing sedans. So assume SBC/AT&T partners with Google Video, the logical next step would be knocking down YouTube’s challenge by jacking up their connection rates or slowing down users who access them through the SBC/AT&T pipes. It’s easy enough, you don’t block their content, you just handicap it a bit, killing off competitors and heading off newcomers. You’re the Tonya Harding of the internet.
Typically, the usual suspects are spouting off about 'property rights' which is simply codeword for monopolistic price gouging and profiteering. Not to mention the possibilities for abuse if content distribution is tightly controlled by a small group of big businesses. I don't think you need to be a tinfoil hattress to think of reasons why that might be a bad idea, all things considered.

Not they you can neccesarily blame the TelCo bosses. If I were a CEO, I might want some of what this guy is getting, too.

Update 4/26/06: Matt Yglesias cuts to the point:
Basically, insofar as my home internet options become faster/better/cheaper, that's good for a company like Amazon or Google which benefits from people using the web a lot. Insofar as my home internet options get slower/expensive/worse, that's bad for those companies. It's not that, deep down, they have my best interests at heart. Rather, on this particular issue our interests seem to be aligned. . .

Maybe I've got this wrong. Maybe someone can point to Amazon's insidious hidden agenda here and if so I'd be interested in reading about it. But I can't see what that would be. It's easy to see why the telecom firms might have a motive for liking Barton-Rush that involves screwing me over; it's hard for me to see how Google's opposition to it could be grounded in some desire to screw me over. So that's where I stand unless someone has a debunking of this.
In a nutshell, yes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

A Bit Special

21-years old. First playoff game. Messed around and got a triple-double.



So yeah, LBJ can play a bit - the no-look to Flip Murray at the end of the 3rd got me out of my very plush chair (no mean feat, I might add.)

Since that's established, people are already starting to wonder what happens when his rookie contract is up after next season. Obviously, he gets a max deal anywhere, so the argument essentially becomes whether he can have more success (both on-court and endorsement wise. I can't even speculate as to the relative weight he'll give those two factors) in Cleveland then in some other town where they might have cap space. (To which Knicks fans say Thanks, Zeke for sparing us that possible headache.)

Many contend that for him to reach his full 'potential' he has to find a 'bigger market.' I question this wisdom. For one thing, bigger how? Would Nike be paying him more if he played for the Bulls?

But more than this, I think there are dynamics unique to the NBA which make such 'big market' concerns relatively unimportant. First, NBA players have a far more individualied fanbase than other sports. I'd suggest several reasons.
  • Built in admirers from college (and increasingly high school)
  • Inherent individuality of basketball
  • Increasing intimacy involved with sitting closer and the guys wearing shorts, t-shirts, and most importantly, no hats/helmets.
Relatedly, the sport is more 'national' than baseball or football - we all watch the same games on TNT, ESPN and (the lucky ones) League Pass. The game is much more global than MLB or the NFL. It doesn't matter where Yao is playing, because the technology and marketing allows the audience to find him.

Besides, LeBron is the hometown hero in Cleveland, if he somehow landed in NYC is it clear he'd be the alpha dog over Jeter or Eli Manning? So market size doesn't neccesarily mean much to him. (Unless Spago is that important to him...)

Further, I don't think it's especially important to the league for the big market teams to be good - style is much more important. If Phoenix were to play Miami in the finals this year (hey, a guy can dream, right) people would watch because the games would be exciting. In contrast if the Pistons were to play the Mavs, not so much. The league wants him (and other stars) on good teams, I don't think they particularly care where.

The Long Goodbye

It's sad that the wind-up of The West Wing is at times indistinguishable from that of Will & Grace. A commercial break features Will and, er, Grace hugging, and then we cut back to WW with Josh and Donna cuddling. I, too, like teddy bears and icecream, but only in designated times, such as during a chick flick or a particularly good episode of South Park.

(And to be difficult, I'll ask - is it a good idea for the President's chief of staff to be getting it on with the First Lady's chief of staff? Just a question to leave out there...)

I'm left comparing the end of the Wing with the last few episodes of NYPD Blue - which ended with an episode that could almost have served as a pilot for a new and completely watchable show - Sipowizc as a "Boss" breaking the young detectives in? Plus, no Medavoy? Sign me up...Bizarrely, the Wing seems to be having the same effect on my mother, despite my careful explanation that what she's just feeling is the residual affection built up over the first 3.9 years of the show (I'm not sure I've ever really forgiven them for having Zoe kidnapped and not bringing in Jack Bauer to get her back...) Which they are shamelessly preying on by tossing what must have been a boatload of cash at Rob Lowe.

Just to make myself unhappy, I watched last night's episode and followed up with the first episode of the second season (which they blatantly ripped off by having Josh barge into Sam's boring-ass-law-meeting.) Which mainly served to increase my anticipation for Studio 60, the new Sorkin/Schlamme show (apparently, the vastly underrated Sports Night meets SNL, hijinks ensue.)

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Screen Cap from the "Narnia" Sequel



Tyge does not approve of bootlegging, and did not authorize the release of this production still...

Scoldings, the Dentists Chair and Eating My Veggies

Calimachus tells the indecent (read: not the Euston "Decent" aka sub nom "GOP-lite") left that we are Bad Liberals for not being on board with the Crusade effort to bring Chicago-style democracy to a place-as-yet-untouched by deep-dish, among other absent preconditions. (And it's probably tough to get a good dog Over There as well.)
Principled wars are one of the major engines of progress in America, which is one reason it depressed me to see the progressives so utterly reject the bid to overthrow Middle Eastern tyranny, fend off terrorism, and bring democracy to Iraq.

That fight necessarily involves the Bush Administration with allies such as European homosexuals hounded by Islamists, feminist Muslims, persecuted black Africans in Darfur, and non-Christian religious minorities in Iran and elsewhere. It involves the White House in a core conflict against the very idea of theocracy and religious fundamentalism.

And holding the moral high ground in such a war will force us to straighten up and fly right at home. It offers progressives the leverage they need to effect changes that have waited years for their chance.
But holding all friendly snark aside for a moment, there's one phrase that bears repeating:
And holding the moral high ground in such a war
is he talking about us here? It's like someone referring to me as Mr. Pooh, I still reflexively look behind me to see if my dad just walked in.

But anyway let me take a shot at something here: And holding the moral high ground...will involve not using torture, no extraordinairy rendition, not manipulating (not to say fabricating) intelligence and definitely not saying "stuff happens." So we may or may not have missed that train by a few minutes. Not to worry, another will be along shortly.

Look, you can make all the arguments you want about the morality of this or that action, and I'm generally sympathetic. Yes, Saddam was an evil beast, and the Iraqi people will be better off without him. Liberal democracy sweeping the region would be a wondeful thing. And then the Israeli-Palestine issue practically solves itself! As The Poorman says, Freedom, Democracy and Pony.

(As a sidenote, I'm somewhat skeptical about a post facto assertion of a new rationale. FD&aP is nice, but I thought it was "mushroom cloud/smoking gun," or was it "fighting them there so we don't have to over hereinIran"? Hay confundido!)

But then we get to the sharp end, and ask who's actually doing the deed, and at that point you'll have to forgive me for cravenly calculating that such an endeavor is not likely to end well. Or, as people smarter than me said not much more than 3 years ago said, roughly "not this war, now, with these guys in charge." So we are left with the ugly choice of leaving now and it being FUBAR, or staying for who knows how long, where it will be FUBAR with us in the middle. Yes with the right leadership and initiative it could still end well, and if my Aunt had balls...

Which brings me inexorably to a final question for Cal: What on God's (rapidly becoming less) Green Earth leads you to believe that any of that good stuff is on the table? Principled war...
check. Allies such as homosexuals, feminsts and those persecuted in Darfur? [Crickets]

Or is this merely the seeds of a new rationale entirely? If so, I would like to christen it The Dentist/Vegatable rationale: you won't like doing it, but it's good for you and you'll thank us later.

Just a few more such scoldings and I'll be ready to eat asparagus all day long, blogging has done what 29 years of motherly advice could not.

The Quirk of Pooh

Your Quirk Factor: 73%

You're so quirky, it's hard for you to tell the difference between quirky and normal.
No doubt about it, there's little about you that's "normal" or "average."


If only I had tattoos and piercings and such, I would have approached quirk perfection, like a latter day Woody Allen, though with slightly more appropriate taste in women and a smaller (though no less devoted) pack cadre of hard-core devotees...

(Via)

Friday, April 21, 2006

BMF: Sounds of Motion Picture Science

Since Bill is talking about music in movies, this week's installment is music from soundtrack albums:

1. "When You're Good to Mama" - Queen Latifah from "Chicago". I'm not sure there's a pop culture figure that I like the idea of more than Latifah. The fact that a larger woman is a Cover Girl spokesmodel (and still stunning) is a Good Thing, I think. 7/10.

2. "Darshan" - B21 from "Bend It Like Beckham". What? I like soccer. I like Keira Knightley. And this soundtrack isn't half bad, even if it has at least 2 songs by former spice girls. In case you're wondering, this is the Punjabi-rap-over-Knight-Rider-theme track. 6/10.

3. "Jayne's Blue Wish" - Tom Waits from "Big Bad Love". I've never actually seen this movie, but the soundtrack is a phenomenal collection of blues/roots stuff (including the ridiculously good remixed version of "I Love You" by Asie Payton.) Tom Waits frightens me. 5/10.

4. "Hakuna Matata" - Timon and Puumba from "The Lion King". My first job ever was as a movie usher the summer "Lion King" came out, so I've seen the movie about 473 times. I'm a sucker, so 9/10.

5. "Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) - Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel from "The Full Monty". Pedestrian Brit-pop. 6/10.

6. "Stars and Stripes Forever" - Jellyroll Morton from "Deadwood". Even marching songs are better with a little swing. 7/10.

7. "18 With A Bullet" - Pete Wingfield from "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels". Guy Ritchie, what happened, man? Pretty much any song from the soundtrack of this or "Snatch" brings an immediate smile to my face. 7/10.

8. "Hands of Time" - Groove Armada featuring Ritchie Havens from "Collateral". Damn, this is a good song. If one would still make mixtapes in lieu of valentines, this would be an absolute staple for me. 10/10.

9. "Hooked on a Feeling" - Blue Suede from "Reservoir Dogs". Ooga-shaka, ooga-ooga-ooga-shaka, etc... 9/10.

10. "Tessie" - Dropkick Murphys from "Fever Pitch". I DO NOT condone this film. However, the soundtrack is rather essential for Sawx fandom: Tessie, Dirty Water, etc...

The Rooters gave the other team a dreadful fright
Boston's tenth man could not be wrong
Up from "Third Base" to Huntington
They'd sing another victory song

Two! Three! Four!

10/10, clearly.

Overall 7.6 (!), of course, limiting myself to soundtracks is a pretty strong selection bias.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Tiresome

Krauthammer demonstrates my point rather nicely:
Some of the complainers were on active duty when these decisions were made. If they felt so strongly about Rumsfeld's disregard of their advice, why didn't they resign at the time? Why did they wait to do so from the safety of retirement, with their pensions secured?
Why indeed!
These generals are no doubt correct in asserting that they have spoken to and speak on behalf of some retired and, even more important, some active-duty members of the military.

But that makes the generals' revolt all the more egregious. The civilian leadership of the Pentagon is decided on Election Day, not by the secret whispering of generals.

Oh, it would have been even worse had they spoken out while on duty.

Children, don't bother the decider your father, he's busy.

Disappointment

XWL mentions Sam Jackson, fails to follow through with my Snakes on a Plane update.

For shame.

#5: "Futebol"

Much like Bill, I love soccer. I find it especially interesting the way that a country's self-image is projected onto the 'style' of it's football: the English, honest, straight-forward and full-bore; the crafty, skillful, artistic-yet-Machievellian Italians; the metronomic precision of the Germans; and of course the flair individuality and joy of the Brazilians jogo bonito.

Amongst the knowledgable, Brazilian soccer is viewed with an admiration bordering on mysticism. (The only U.S. analogy I can think of is the way in which the Dream Team was viewed in the Barcelona Olympics.) There seems to be an endless supply of ludicrously talented, preposterously named (and mononymed) soccer artistes emigrating from the Amazon to Europes biggest (and middlest and smallest as well...) clubs. How can one country be so much better at this?

The answer usually given is that Brazillian soccer is its culture and its culture is its Futebol (pronounced roughly FU-chee-ball.) To try and gain a better understanding, I picked up Bellos' Futebol: Soccer the Brazilian Way.

While there is certainly a lot to like here, cultural/sociology/anthropology isn't always my thing (that would be PhD Mama Pooh's bag, baby) - give me the sports damnit! And there's plenty of that here, with my favorite bits unsurprisingly concerning the Brazilian National team.

First, there are the almost messianic expectations placed upon the squad. They must not only win, but to do so convingly and with suitable Samba flair to credit "the beautiful game". The extent to which there is a trade-off between "attractivness" and "winning" is greater in soccer than in any comparably popular American sport, with basketball being the only real comparison. Even there, there is an order of magnitude between the dour tactics of the early 90's Knicks, for example and with what current Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho once famously described as bringing the team bus and leaving it in front of the goal. Yet the Samba boys must do both. In fact, many were not satisfied with their 1994 World Cup triumph because of the perceived negativity of their tactics (embodied by tough-guy midfielder Dunga, who in any other national side would have been recognized as simply world class.)

And further, Bellos describes the manner in which the national team has been coopted as a marketing entity, both by sponsors such as Nike, and by domestic club teams, who rely on transfer fees from European and Asian squads for their best players. The second point was new to me, in the sheer number of players who get chosen to play for Brazil doesn't neccesarily indicate the depth of 'international class' talent, but rather a recognition of the increased marketability of appearing just once in the famed yellow shirt.

But my absolute favorite passages concern the contrast between Brazil's two great heros of the golden age of the 60's and 70's, Pele and Garrincha. Pele is of course a world-wide star, one of the few soccer players to have any sort of name recognition in the U.S. Garrincha to many is simply another name from the assembly line of Brazillian greats.

However, within Brazil, the story is much different: Pele is respected, though not greatly loved, while Garrincha is an absolute icon. Part of this is stylistic: Pele is Jordan, Garrincha is Hot Sauce. But part is also attitude: Pele is seen as a worldly, corporate sellout. Garrincha was a flawed, provincial, almost savant-like figure who seemed to care less about winning than about using the game as an exhibition for his skills. The explication of this dichotomy is the highlight of the piece.

Verdict: Perhaps a little too serious for what I was expecting, but a good read none the less.

A Demurrer

Just because we're angry doesn't mean that we're wrong.

(In case it is unclear, we are obviously on the "anger rising" side of the Pooh-Smash Hulkometer)

Pretzel Logic and the Figure-Four Leg-Lock

John at the 'Panda points to another little box, er, excuse me, stress-position to which John Yoo's powers of historical and legal interpretation have confined him:
But John Yoo has some surprising news: the anti-federalists were right! The Constitution does give the president, particularly in matters of war and peace, exactly the same powers of the British king circa 1787! The only difference is, Yoo thinks this is a good thing.

. . .

The best part is, Yoo is associated with the Federalist Society, the notorious [Pooh: I think notorious is a bit strong here...notoriously perhaps...] conservative legal organization. I guess one of the main tenets of the Federalist Society is that the anti-federalists were right all along.
Buy Yoo's book "Legalizing Torture for Fun and Profit" anywhere from Amazon to bondage.com now.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oh Boy...

Rolling Stone all but calls GWB the worst president ever. Somebody get the popcorn...

Asshole of the Week: Fish or Cut Bait, Brett

Speaking of resignationretirement:

Though it is no surprise, Packers quarterback Brett Favre will have more time to decide his future.

Favre and the Packers agreed to push back the April 15 trigger date for his $3 million roster bonus in September, according to his agent, Bus Cook. The due date for Brett Favre's $3 million roster bonus -- originally scheduled last month -- has been moved to July 27, The Associated Press reported.
Nothing like the favorite son holding the team hostage to do...what, exactly. What does Brett want to happen? Does he want more money? Does he want better teammates? Does he want a piece of the franchise? What is taking so damn long dude?

Let me break it down for you: Your teammates already hated you, because you are 36 and they are 23 and you're the substitute teacher whenever you come in the locker room. It also doesn't help that every time you say "I can't take another season like last one," you're telling them that they aren't worthy of you.

Which might be fine, if they weren't worthy of you. But here's the dirty, big, not-so-secret - you suck at this point in your career. I'm not sure the Lions would have switched QB's with the Pack. And they had Joey Harrington and his piano (and football fans are much like metal fans in their opinions of pianos). You've been living on reputation and shout-outs from John Madden (another probably well past his sell-by date, I might add) for about 3 years. So yes, maybe your teammates are terrible, but that, rather precisely, makes them worthy of you at this point.

The sad thing is that your defenders claim that this is about the fans. Well, Fav-ruh, you're basically sticking it to those fans by hanging on and not letting the team move forward. You're taking up a huge cap number, they're not sure whether or not Aaron Rodgers can play, and most importantly, the team doesn't know whether to go for young talent, or make some desperate "getting the band back together" free agency moves.

In contrast, consider the Titans treatment of Steve McNair. 'Steve McNair is no Brett Favre!' you exclame. Well, first he was damn good for a long time. Second, he was about 1 foot away in Super Bowl 34. But (ir)regardless, the Titans determined that he can't play anymore and it's time to move on. Most players don't get the luxury of setting their own timetable. You do, Brett, and you're abusing the priviledge.

Oh yeah, and just in case you were sypathetic with the difficulty of this Important Life Decision (Hallmark Movie of the Week coming soon, to be sure):
This marks the fourth time the date has been delayed.
How do I put this delicately...shit or get off the pot, you prima donna.

Though, as a Vikings fan, I do hope he sticks around for as long as possible.

My Point

My larger point here is that the article is nothing more than a slightly more urbane and even-toned attempt to deflect the discussion away from the merits of the Rumsfled 'should he stay or should he go' debate, and instead focus on the real, but tangential, issue of the critics rather than the criticism.

RIA asks what it would accomplish, while Djerejian reminds us that the failings are not just of policy but of execution as well. I think he should have been gone after Abu Ghraib, and not much since then has changed my mind, but I'm willing to have the discussion, and so should those who disagree - I think we can agree that at the least, the case for a new SecDef is colorable. (see here for more.)

[Update, 4/20/06: RIA would like it clear that though she thinks Rumsfeld should have resigned long ago, his departure should not be seen as a panacea - he is an instrument of policy rather than the crafter of said policy. A fair point, well made, read the whole thing. My thought is that there were failures of both policy and execution, and while the former likely won't change until 2009 at the earliest, a new figure could improve the latter.]

And this is not to say that the propriety of the General's actions should not be scrutinized. Kevin Drum makes good points here and here. I think in this day, we can engage in both discussions simultaneously and independantly.

Update: And a point I failed to mention is, that given the WaPo's point-counterpoint style, answering Holbrooke's call for resignation with the non-rebuttal rebuttal discussed below is telling to a degree. If your best defense of Rumsfeld is that the critics are meanies, you really don't have much of a defense.

3 General Monte (A Fisk with Feeling)

I saw the last paragraph of this op-ed piece first:
We do not advocate a silencing of debate on the war in Iraq. But care must be taken by those experienced officers who had their chance to speak up while on active duty. In speaking out now, they may think they are doing a service by adding to the reasoned debate. But the enemy does not understand or appreciate reasoned public debate. It is perceived as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.
I think it would be more accurate if the first sentence read "We have not advocating a silencing of debate on the war is Iraq as yet, but we will proceed to do so now."

Given this dizzying display of bait-and-switch, I was not conditioned to receive the rest of the article well. I admit, I am weak, my biases overcame me, and I did not in fact receive the rest of the arguments well. Though, in my own defense, I think that's largely because they suck so far as arguments go.

So like Vizzini said, we go back to the beginning:
The retired general officers who have recently called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld want to convince the public that civilian control has silenced military wisdom regarding the war in Iraq. They have chafed at Rumsfeld's authoritarian style and they may even have legitimate differences of opinion with his decisions. But, while their advice and the weight of their experience should be taken into account, the important time for them to weigh in was while they were on active duty.
Isn't the heart of their complaint that they did "weigh-in" and weren't heeded - which is of course Rumsfeld's perogative, but he turned out to be how-do-you-say wrong on many critical issues. To quote Drerejian quoting "Cobra II" (which I have just started myself):
They underestimated their opponent and failed to understand the welter of ethnic groups and tribes that is Iraq. They did not bring the right tools to the fight and put too much confidence in technology. They failed to adapt to developments on the ground and remained wedded to their prewar analysis even after Iraqis showed their penchant for guerrilla tactics in the first days of the war. They presided over a system in which differing military and political perspectives were discouraged. Finally, they turned their back on the nation-building lessons from the Balkans and other crisis zones and fashioned a plan that unrealistically sought to shift much of the burden onto a defeated and ethnically diverse population and allied nations that were enormously ambivalent about the invasion.
That's a whole lot of "oops" crammed into one paragraph. And of course at least one of the six did speak out while serving:
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."
(emphasis mine).

The alternative is that they weren't listened to at all, and were in fact discouraged from offering dissenting voices, either explicitly or by the example of General Shinseki in the build-up to the invasion.

And to engage in a little mind-reading here, what happens to these generals if they had spoken out against Rumsfeld, publicly, while on active duty? Somehow, I don't think the same crew now saying that that is what the Generals should have done would be applauding them for doing so. Just a guess on my part. Anyway, moving on.
The two of us have experienced many of the circumstances confronting Rumsfeld.
Back in the good old days when men were men and we killed commies dead.
Our experience and connections at the Defense Department tell us that these generals probably had numerous opportunities to advise and object while on active duty. For them to now imply otherwise is disingenuous and quite possibly harmful for our prospects in Iraq.
Not that we're trying to stifle dissent, mind you.

Also, Generals, I thought your instructions were clear. Clap Louder, damn you.
And it misrepresents the healthy give-and-take that we are confident is widespread between the civilian leadership at the Pentagon and the capable military hierarchy. A general officer is expected to follow orders, but he is also entitled to advise if he thinks those orders are flawed.
Shorter Laird and Pursley - "Did To!"
The ghost of Vietnam may be whispering to these retired generals, who understandably want to guarantee that military wisdom is never again trampled by political expediency. They make their point by implying that Rumsfeld has run amok and does not listen to his admirals and generals. Yet recently retired Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Richard Myers and his successor, Gen. Peter Pace (from the Air Force and Marine Corps, respectively), have rebutted the argument that the military was sidelined. Myers and Pace are in a position to know.
General Peter Pace, Rumsfeld's direct subordinate is publicly supportive of his boss. That is news.

As for Myers, I leave it to noted BDS-infested libby-lib-Liberal John McCain, who, after questioning Rumsfeld on troop levels had this to say: "I don't need General Myers' response. I know it will be exactly the same as yours. I would like the personal opinions--I would--and I don't mean that as in any way a criticism, General Myers. I would like the personal opinion of the other CINC's, if I could, since my time has expired."

So clearly, the opinions of Myers and Pace are independant and objective when it comes to judging Rumsfeld's job performance.
Rumsfeld respects the delicate balance between military expertise and civilian control, but in the end the decisions are his to make. Our democracy is designed to favor civilian control of defense decisions.
So our Decider-in-Chief so calmly assured us yesterday. As for Rumsfeld "respect[ing] the delicate balance," I believe that is the subject, rather than the premise of this particular debate. I simply refer you here for more.
The problem is that when military advice is considered and then rejected, officers are likely to feel sidelined. Sometimes we all must wait for hindsight to be able to make accurate judgments.

An example: In the early and mid-1970s as we were considering and eventually implementing the all-volunteer force to replace the draft, there were numerous people, uniformed and civilian, active duty and retired, predicting all manner of dire consequences. The criticisms were harsh. Yet the all-volunteer force has turned out to be an exceptionally valuable and effective innovation.
A fair point, so far as it goes. But sometimes we can make judgments much sooner. The Generals are saying this is that time, that what chance there is of succesfully bringing off the Iraqi Reconstruction Project requires qualities so far absent in the current Secretary. If we set the bar sufficiently low, no one should ever be fired, because in 10 years it may turn out to be ok. Somehow, I'm not convinced.
This is not to say that in hindsight Rumsfeld will be seen as infallible. No secretary of defense has made every decision correctly, and because lives are at stake, those decisions are critical. The appropriate opportunity for military officers to offer constructive criticism and to shape policy that helps avoid disastrous consequences is when those officers are still on active duty. But ultimately, and rightly, our system leaves the final decisions to the elected civilians and their appointees.
I think we've covered this just above, but if the first time was nice, why not make the point twice?
There are many avenues through which military ideas can be expressed. The uniformed service chiefs and civilian service secretaries meet frequently with the secretary of defense. We still have many friends and associates in the military and the Defense Department. We are confident that Rumsfeld does not limit those who meet with him to proffer advice.
But are you as confident as Generals Pace and Myers?
Access by the military through the Joint Chiefs of Staff structure and especially through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs is frequent and influential. The commanders in chief of the various commands have ready access to the secretary of defense. A little known or appreciated fact is that historically the uniformed military has been afforded more participation in the National Security Council than any other entity -- including the defense secretary. The secretary's office is populated with numerous uniformed personnel, presenting still another source of access for military input. Beyond the executive branch is the extensive exposure and opportunity to express military views before Congress.
Where if you express the wrong views, you get fired. Freedom isn't free!
For such widespread access to be effective there must be shared responsibility for aggressively moving information up the chain of command. Not all military advice makes it through the military channels. Senior officers tend to be sensitive when their subordinates germinate ideas. And there are those in each military department who tend to put their branch loyalties above that of the broader national security objectives. The result is that some advice comes with selfish motives attached and some never arrives at all.
And some arrives attached to book deals, and some arrives because the Generals all Liked Clinton Best...which neccesarily proves all criticism meritless. Follow the red card, red card, red card, pays 2-1 on the red card...
The retired officers who have criticized Rumsfeld have served their country with distinction. The military -- active duty and retired -- has a wealth of intelligent, articulate and motivated people. Their sense of duty, integrity and patriotism are of the highest order. But each of them speaks from his own copse of trees and may not have a view of the larger forest. In criticizing those with the broader view, they should be mindful of the risks and responsibilities inherent in their acts. The average U.S. citizen has high respect for the U.S. military. That respect is a valuable national security asset. Criticism, when carried too far, risks eroding it.
But of course, we do not advocate silencing of criticism. Only that criticism which is carried to far. It is carried too far when anyone else hears it. Thus, all of this criticism goes way to far.
We do not advocate a silencing of debate on the war in Iraq. But care must be taken by those experienced officers who had their chance to speak up while on active duty. In speaking out now, they may think they are doing a service by adding to the reasoned debate. But the enemy does not understand or appreciate reasoned public debate. It is perceived as a sign of weakness and lack of resolve.
Remember, it's also not the bombs themselves, but the damn media reporting on the bombs.
Melvin R. Laird was a Republican representative from Wisconsin before serving as secretary of defense from 1969 to 1973. Robert E. Pursley, a retired lieutenant general in the Air Force, was military assistant to three secretaries of defense.
Which goes a ways to explaining the "you damn kids don't know how good you have it these days" vibe of the whole piece, I suppose.

Update: Upon further reading, maybe Laird isn't the best authority on why we need to play nice with Rummy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"Strenous" Advocacy

Somehow, I don't think this is what is meant by going to the matt for your client:
COMES NOW counsel for Defendant, through his [sic] and respectfully requests this [c]ourt to Order a fistfight between [] . . . and [Defendant's counsel]
This was actually filed in court, though was later (wisely?) withdrawn. Link via Anderson with more (and darker) info here.

In other law-type news, I received my license today. It's smaller than I imagined it would be...

PoohsDay Blues: Clearing Cobwebs

After having glam metal stuck in my head for a few days, need some pallet cleansing. Hence the "Genres" playlist on the 'Pod:

1. "Hideaway" - Freddie King. Blues soloing by numbers. Revise and extend. Everyone from Clapton to Mayall has recorded this bad boy.

2. "Katy Mae Blues" - Tommy McClennan. Of the Robert Johnson/Skip James era of bluesman, not as well known as either, grittier singer than both. First heard about him from my former guitar instructor who almost refused to give me lessons after I expressed admiration for RJ. I believe his expression was "Eric Clapton, Greil Marcus inspired bullshit legend." Don't hold back on my account.

3. "Don't Go No Farther" - Muddy Waters. Whenever I do one of these and Muddy comes up, I sometimes wonder why I ever, ever listen to anything else.

4. "Darling Do You Remember Me" - David Johansen. That's right kids, Buster Poindexter sings the blues. Not altogether terribly...

5. "Ventilator Blues" - Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. Banjos and fiddles in a blues Rolling Stones cover? Wha?

6. "Mr. Downchild" - Sonny Boy Williamson. Blues, meet radio. Radio, blues.

7. "Cherry Red" - Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. Guitar and Harp are the standard blues lead instruments by practice, not by neccesity. Despite this, the 'what the hell is a saxophone doing on my blues' reaction is still somewhat natural. But this track is too rough to be jazz, too grimy to be big band, so blues it is.

8. "I Feel Good Again" - Junior Kimbrough and Charlier Feathers. Fat Possum Records seems to have a monopoly on a certain genre of lovable, crusty old blues bastards, what with Kimbrough, R.L. Burnside and Asie Payton.

9. "Crackin' Up" - Bo Diddley. Much like KISS, his image is much harder than his music, even though he does have a cobra snake for a necktie.

10. "Ed Heads' Boogie" - Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials. Anybody who's seen these guys live will recognize this as the number where Ed goes on a journey, duck walking on tables, dancing with pretty ladies, making his cookie monsterish eyes bulge and google more than usual. Good, good times.

Monday, April 17, 2006

BSA (Blogger Service Announcement)

Ahistoricality points to a handy list for improving logical argumentation skills, or at the very least, a cheat sheet to recognizing Logic Fouls on the parts of others:
I ask that the entire Blogosphere be required to at least skim the following links:

Propaganda Critic

Logical Fallacies and the Art of Debate

And, the most inclusive

A Handbook of Rhetorical Devices
Indeed, and I second.

Relatedly, Papa Pooh may remember the day I returned from summer camp, having taken a class in 'logic'. At dinner that night, I shot him down with "that's an ad hominem fallacy!" At the time, he did not regard the money as particularly well spent, and perhaps still does not.

Dwyane Wade: The Gambler

You never count your money
while you're sitting at the table
there'll be time enough for counting
when the dealing's done


-Kenny Rogers, "The Gambler"

One of the most interesting subtexts of this NBA season is the undercurrent of Dwyane Wade hating, coming from both aesthetes and partisan Gilbertophiles. I don't think I had a good handle on exactly where the reservoir of resenment comes from. At least not until I read the above linked Free Darko piece and the companion article.

The thesis is simple - Wade's game is so in-your-face, yet his demeanor does not match. There is no visible chip on his shoulder. There is very little shimmying, riding of motorcycles, finger waving, or roof-lowering (my personal favorite) involved. "Dude, you're freakin awesome. Live it up a little," they seem to say.

Indeed, they take it as an affront to the indviduality and stylishness that is the modern NBA that Wade does not engage in such on court bravura.


Me? I disagree. Just as I love Allen Iverson for playing hard all the time and refusing to 'soften' himself into corporate whoredom, so too I love Wade for playing hard all the time and declining to try and act 'hard' to earn 'street cred'.

As for the lack of histrionics, I think the quote I led with exemplifies D-Wade's attitude perfectly. He gets just as excited as anybody else when he makes a truly game changing play, (see his Cassel-like "Huge Marbles" strut after hitting the game winner against Detroit a few months back) but until that time, he's busy D-ing up rather than counting his chips.

Downside

As more people who actually know me discover my little sandbox, I admit the increasing readership is gratifying. But at the same time, it's going to become more difficult to make stuff up to make myself sound cool without being called on it.

Wily Less

Mark Loretta? Baseball Genius.

Wily Mo Pena? Not so much($). Rob Neyer sez:
If you're a Red Sox fan, you already know this, but if you're not, you might find this of interest: In the last week, Wily Mo Pena's "defense" has plainly cost the Red Sox nine bases. That's a lot. That's as many as you'll ever see. And even if the Boston Herald's Tony Massarotti weren't counting, we know the Red Sox would be. Because one of the things Bill James likes to count is defensive mistakes that do not get counted officially as errors.

I don't think I'm telling tales out of school. Bill has mentioned this in various interviews the last year or two. Anyway, now that the Red Sox are paying attention -- I mean really paying attention -- my guess is Pena's going to set some kind of team record for "clearly identifiable defensive mistakes" (although I think that's an old label that has been replaced by something more manageable). So many they'll realize his hitting doesn't (can't) balance his lousy fielding. At which point, the question for Theo Epstein becomes, "How do I convince some other team that Pena's really not as bad as we all know he is? Because there's not exactly an opening at DH."

Or maybe the Red Sox will simply limit his exposure. Let him start against left-handed pitchers, and yank him from the game as soon as the Sox are ahead by three runs or have a smaller lead in the late innings. But he simply won't be allowed to give away runs as regularly as he has been.
Somehow, the thought of a team where Manny Ramirez is the best defensive outfielder scares me. Lots.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Easter Sunday SawxBlog (With Obligatory Shot At Slappy)

A nice win. I have concerns. Without Coco and Trot, our lineup sucks. Papi's numbers are ok so far, but he doesn't seem quite up to speed yet. Manny...yikes. Maybe it's the cold-weather gear that everyone is wearing, but he looks...smaller this year. Cue innuendo, etc.

But my real worry is for the fate of the Wily Mo Era. Manny can be Manny, I'm just not sure I can handle Wily Mo being Wily Mo at the same time. In today's game, he got semi-booed for not running out a grounder he would have beat out because the guy bobbled it. Misplayed a single into a 'triple' costing Beckett (real deal, by the way. We don't miss you Hanley...imagine Manny being Manny, Wily Mo being Wily Mo and Hanley being Hanley at the same time. On second thought, don't. My co-rec softball time is better at fielding than that squad) the only two runs he gave up. Misplayed another ball from a double to a triple, and got a sardonic standing O for fielding a groundball single cleanly. And at least right now, he can't get around on the ball. I'm worried that not only did we give up the best pitched in that deal, but that Arroyo will turn out to be the best hitter as well...

But, in case I needed something to cheer me up, I just have to think of yesterday's Yankees choke. Oh yeah, and A-Job keeps giving me ammo. Mr. March, up 5 in the 7th, comes through in the oh-so-important anti-clutch with a 2-run jack. Back-to-back MVP's here we come...

"Fargo Rock City": Inclusion and Group Identity

I mentioned on Friday that I was in the middle of Fargo Rock City by Chuck Klosterman.

There is a lot to like about this book. First, Klosterman writes the way I think (and try, with considerably less success, to write). Second, I like popular music generally, and there is educational value in learning about glam metal from a true believer. Third, I'm convinced that the chapter about being campus Drunken Fun Guy was written about one of my roomates. (No, not this one, but the one who demanded to be given a breathalyzer when the cops broke up a kegger even though A) he wasn't driving, B) he was obviously, visibly and aggresively drunk. How he didn't get on the ground floor of this, I'll never know. But I digress.)

In the end, though, my favorite of the book's themes is how a band's fanbase is largely self-determined - it often has less to do with the music the band is playing then with who else is listening. I think KISS is crap, but metalheads of a certain era love them, largely because the metalheads of that era love them. Sound circular? Well in a way it is. Klosterman alludes to it thusly (emphasis mine):
The Keyboard Issue was like a secret handshake. People took it seriously (and sometimes to unjustified extremes), but disliking the concept of keyboards wasn't really about the bands or the music. It was actually about the fans. It was a sign of credibility for someone in the metal subculture. It seperated "metal fans" from people who were along for the ride. Keyboards strayed outside the metal ethic, just as long hair and self-indulgent guitar soloing were unacceptable in the punk and harcore scene
Integral to any group identity is the ability to exclude. And this dynamic is hardly confined to music. Consider the WaPo's rather headscratch-inducing article on "Angry Left Bloggers" from yesterday. RIA's response in part:
It's hard for me to imagine wanting to vote for anyone who would meet with the approval of O'Connor and her ilk; in fact, that might very well be a disqualifying factor in and of itself.
I'm not picking on RIA here: the individual blogger as portrayed in the article (the article really is something of a hachet job, down to the most unflattering photo they could find...) is, to say the least, lacking in personal charm and decorum. And it would quite rightly call into question the judgment of those who chose to associate with her, ergo...

But the really interesting thing to me is who serves as the gatekeeper. In my completely unscientific observation, those who do the most to police group membership are those closest to the boundry themselves. A subset is the 'excessive zeal of the convert. To quote Groucho, "I don't care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members."

Lest I give the impression that the book is all high-minded or something, let me reiterate, it's about glam metal. The treatment is at most semi-serious, and usually not even that. He even takes about 20 pages playing the "how much would you have to pay me" game, where he rates various albums by, wait for it, how much you'd have to pay him to never listen again. Most of those listed are shit, According to Pooh, and I might pay you for me to never have to listen, but it's not about me. Plus, he agrees that "Apetite For Destruction" is the bomb, so he has some sense.

Verdict: You'd have to pay me more to not read the book then you'd have to pay me to not listen to most of the records discussed. And I mean that in a good way...

note for the two of you counting, this is only #4 in my 50 in 52 resolution. Yes, I'm behind, but not by as much as it looks, since I have about 9 open right now. I lack attention span...