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Friday, August 31, 2007

fashionista policía


The Fashion Police are real, and they could be coming after your favorite baseball manager. Wednesday, during the 1st inning of a Red Sox-Yankee game, Boston manager Terry Francona was trying to decide whether his counterpart Joe Torre might order a bunt -- or perhaps a steal. The dangerous Derek Jeter had just hit a one out double.

Then, the unthinkable happened:
A security agent for Major League Baseball came into the Boston dugout and asked Francona if he was wearing his uniform top underneath his pullover fleece. Francona angrily showed the jersey top to the agent.

"I'm sure he was instructed," said Francona. "The timing was incredible. Unless this guy can put on a bunt play or something, he's got to stay ... out of the dugout. I've never seen anything like this before in my life. In the middle of the game, you have the fashion police. This is incredible. He made me show it. I was sort of in a hurry, because I thought Jeter was going to steal third. I was trying to go do my job."
As with so many personal stories in life, this one quickly led to Francona divulging too much private information in the public sphere:
"I don't want to get too personal. There are times when I get cold," Francona said. "There are times when I don't want to be tucked in. ... I don't want to get into sob stories, but all the stuff I wear underneath, I feel cooped up. I have two pair of tights. I get a little claustrophobic."
Is it any wonder that the Yanks swept the Red Sox and gained 3 games in the standings this week?

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Edwards on the use of force

John Edwards told the Council on Foreign Relations that he would revamp the Bush Doctrine (May 23, 2007):
We must be clear about when it is appropriate for a commander-in-chief to use force. As president, I will only use offensive force after all other options including diplomacy have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side. However, there are times when force is justified: to protect our vital national interests...to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and non-state actors...to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments...to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons...and to prevent or stop genocide.
The ellipses appear in the text -- I'm not editing his words.

In any case, Edwards seems to embrace just war principles.

Note that when asked how he would use force as President, candidate George W. Bush had a restrictive interpretation back in 2000. From the October 3 debate with Al Gore:
Well, if it's in our vital national interest, and that means whether our territory is threatened or people could be harmed, whether or not the alliances are -- our defense alliances are threatened, whether or not our friends in the Middle East are threatened. That would be a time to seriously consider the use of force.
Readers may recall that candidate Bush was opposed to some uses of force -- for humanitarian purposes, especially, including nation-building. Bush often repudiated the so-called Clinton Doctrine.

Edwards would apparently bring back the Clinton Doctrine.


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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Doomsday scenarios: put off investing?

OK, I'm not much of an investor, but time is money and I know how to waste the former by following increasingly paranoid internet links. Who doesn't enjoy a good conspiracy theory?

First, the background. Somebody is betting big bucks that the European stock market is about to tank. This news is from Smart Money, August 16 and apparently references a financial news piece owned by Dow Jones:
An anonymous investor has placed a bet on an index of Europe's top 50 stocks falling by a third by the end of September, as world equity markets plunged for a third day and volatility hit a three-year high.

The mystery investor has bought put option contracts on the DJ Eurostoxx 50 index that will result in a profit if it plunges to 2,800 or below by the end of September. Based on the 2,800 strike price, the position covers a notional EUR6.9 billion, and potentially even more using a market price of about 4,100 when the trades were done on Tuesday and Wednesday.
That's 245,000 put options for those keeping score.

And EUR6.9 is currently worth about 9.4 billion U.S. dollars.

To me, that seems like quite a lot to risk on the idea that the market is going to collapse by one-third in September.

August 27, CNBC reported a similar phenomenon in the U.S, though the amounts at stake are much smaller -- and the expected collapse is not as great:
So far, over $500 million in so-called put options have been purchased betting that the benchmark Standard and Poor's 500 index will tumble anywhere from 5% to 11% in September. Some investors are even buying put options calling for 52% decline.
The story says that this volume is on the high side:
Of course, there are always investors betting on big declines -- they're called bears. What's unusual is the amount of money being put up on such a doomsday scenario.

"The activity in those puts has been a lot more aggressive then we have seen in the past," said Bill Lefkowitz, options strategist at brokerage firm Finance Investments.
I've seen speculation about the same sort of large put option trading in Japanese markets too, but have been unable to confirm them with a more credible source.

In any event, what is causing this kind of pessimistic U.S. and European market speculation? Well, it could simply be a large hedge fund (and some copycats) trying to protect profits against a huge market "correction." These could simply be savvy investors who think the market is highly overvalued.

Or, if you believe what you read on the internets, it could be a forecast of "another 9/11 within 4 weeks."


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Saturday, August 25, 2007

PG-13: Too much coverage of Cheney

According to Mingle2, my blog is rated PG-13:

Mingle2

Here's the best part:
This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* suicide (3x)
* dick (2x)
* torture (1x)
OK, the blog is explicitly anti-torture, as the sidebar makes clear. So what's the problem?

I cover Vice President Cheney too much -- and solo Iraqi bombings -- and thus did not earn a PG.


Hat tip: Dan Drezner, who runs a less family-friendly blog.


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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sweltering heat

It is midnight in Louisville, Kentucky, and the outside temperature is 87 degrees Fahrenheit, with a heat index of 92 degrees.

Monday, the city set a new record -- 22 straight days with high temperatures of at least 90 degrees. Tuesday, thanks to a thunderstorm that made it incredibly muggy, the temperature was just under 90 (88). Wednesday, it was back up to 98 and temperatures are expected to top 100 degrees on Thursday and Friday.

I suppose it's good to have lived through the record heat wave since it appears I was not even alive for the record warmest year in U.S. history. A blogger skeptical of global warming has demonstrated that the hottest U.S. year on record was 1934, not 1998, as previously believed.

The new information really shook up the standings:
"Four of the top 10 are now from the 1930s: 1934, 1931, 1938 and 1939, while only 3 of the top 10 are from the last 10 years (1998, 2006, 1999)," he wrote.

"Several years (2000, 2002, 2003, 2004) fell well down the leaderboard, behind even 1900."
A British scientists explained the implications for the rest of the world:
"The figures have slight significance for US temperatures, but the US only covers two per cent of the world's surface, so there is very little significance globally."
Apparently, the new information changed the global data by one thousandth of a degree.


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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Regime change as quagmire


Senator Carl Levin of Michigan is calling for regime change in Iraq. Maybe he wants a do-over?

This is from today's Washington Post:
"I hope the parliament will vote the Maliki government out of office and will have the wisdom to replace it with a less sectarian and more unifying prime minister and government,"
As justification, Levin isn't pointing to Iraqi proliferation, governmental sponsorship of terrorism, or Iraqi ties to Iran. No, the chair of the Senate Armed Services committee has simply had it with Iraqi government's failure to make policy.

More specifically, Levin favors regime change if a scheduled summit among Iraq's various sectarian political factions fails to reach a compromise on issues like the distribution of oil resources and the ability of former Baath party members to serve in the government. This is what Levin said in a statement cosigned by Senator John Warner (R-VA):
"the Iraqi Council of Representatives and the Iraqi people need to judge the Government of Iraq's record and determine what actions should be taken -- consistent with the Iraqi Constitution -- to form a true unity government to meet those responsibilities."
This language is not exactly as forceful and menacing as the political rhetoric that Dick Cheney can muster on demand.

While Levin looks like a stereotypically friendly grandpa, Cheney himself proclaims that he's not a "touchy feely kinda guy."

Then again, on the issue of Iraq regime change, Cheney himself used to be less threatening. In retrospect, I guess this makes him a proven flip-flopper.
"Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place?

That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it - eastern Iraq - the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.

It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq."
If only the 1994 Cheney had been Veep in 2002.


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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ron Paul


Several times in the past, I've blogged about a couple of prominent political figures that I've briefly tagged as "my favorite Republican."

A few years ago, like many members of the news media, I had a brief infatuation with Senator John McCain. By 2005, with his persistent support of the Iraq war, McCain lost the title.

Then, more recently, Senator Chuck Hagel was the top choice. Hagel has been a critic of the Iraq war -- plus I shook his hand and appreciated his frankness back in '05.

If I had to limit my choice to the 2008 Republican candidates for President, it looks like Ron Paul wins the title. I base this both on his May appearance on Bill Maher's show and on this test.

And like Rob, who pointed me to the test, I was surprised at how much I apparently like Bill Richardson.


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Monday, August 13, 2007

Transactions

Rove waves good-bye.

The Bush organization administration has "decided to make a change." Today, former starting righty pitcher Karl Rove resigned from the team. CNN reports:
Karl Rove, perhaps the most powerful White House aide in recent history, called it quits Monday, provoking some to declare a symbolic end to the presidency of George W. Bush.

Known as "Bush's brain" by critics and "the architect" by Bush himself, Rove announced his resignation during a low point in the administration, with Democrats having taken control of Congress and after Bush's immigration and Social Security plans failed.

"This is the end of the Bush presidency, absolutely," said Wayne Slater co-author of a book on Rove titled "The Architect."
To fill Rove's roster spot, the Bush team has turned to former MVP and Hall of Fame infielder Cal Ripken. Voice of America:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has named retired baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. to be a U.S. public diplomacy special envoy. Ripken, inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame last month, will begin the non-paying diplomatic role with a trip to China in October.
Ripken denied that he would be taking Rove's place on the team: "This is not a political statement for me necessarily," he said. "This is about the kids and planning you know, using baseball for good reasons."

Is Cal the President's new brain?

Photos from whitehouse.gov

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

On the Duck

Earlier today, I blogged "Diversion dangers" over at the Duck of Minerva. The post discusses Anne-Marie Slaughter's concern that the Bush administration might attack Iran in part to help a Republican win the White House in 2008.

On Monday, August 6, I posted "Acting Chair" about my new role in the Political Science Department at University of Louisville.


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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

756


Baseball has a new home run king. A few minutes ago, Barry Bonds pulled a 3-2 pitch off Washington National pitcher Mike Bacsik into the right field stands.

I also saw Aaron hit #714 on April 8, 1974, and am glad I saw Bonds hit #756.

However, my viewing the famous dinger does not mean that I think that this is a good thing for baseball.

In fact, as I've expressed before, I'm quite ambivalent about the home run record.


Photo courtesy MacArthur fellows trip to Cuba.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Pakistan and the Presidential candidates


Barack Obama threatened to attack Pakistan on August 1, 2007:
As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.

I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.
To an AP reporter, Obama initially implied that nuclear weapons would not be used against Pakistan -- but he quickly clarified that he was not "going that far afield."

Allegedly, Hillary Clinton told the National Association of Pakistani Americans (NAPA) that she would not attack Pakistan unilaterally with U.S. troops. This is from Dawn (which calls itself "Pakistan's most widely circulated English language newspaper") on July 27:
US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has said if America sends its troops to the tribal region, they should go with Pakistani troops and not on their own.

At a fund-raising dinner arranged for her by the National Association of Pakistani-Americans, she rejected the suggestion by some US officials and lawmakers that the United States should conduct unilateral military operations in the tribal region to destroy alleged Al Qaeda and Taliban safe havens.

Such a move, she said, would not produce the desired results and would create new problems. Only a combined effort by the Pakistani and US troops could destroy militant hideouts in the area, she added.
NAPA does not seem to have a web presence and I cannot find the original source for this quote.

In fact, some sources are reporting that Clinton seems to agree with Obama. This is from the August 2 Des Moines Register.
"I've long believed that we needed tougher, smarter action against terrorists by deploying more troops to Afghanistan, and if we had actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden or other high-value targets were in Pakistan, I would ensure that they were targeted and killed or captured. And that will be my highest priority because they pose the highest threat to America," she said Wednesday in an interview with American Urban Radio News Networks.
Generally, the Democrat candidates appear to be united in this election cycle -- the real war on terror should be targeted at al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They want the US to withdraw from Iraq and change the focus of the fight.

What about the Republicans? What are they saying about Pakistan?

Mitt Romney, in the Boston Globe, August 5, specifically criticized Obama's widely quoted speech:
"We want as a civilized world to participate with other nations in this civilized effort to help those nations reject the extreme within them," Romney said. "That doesn't mean that our troops are going to go all over the world."

Romney said the remarks were not helpful to the American effort.

"I think his comments were ill-timed and ill-considered," Romney said.
"He’s gone from Jane Fonda to Dr Strangelove in one week," added Romney.

According to that last linked Reuters stiry, Rudy Giuliani seems to agree with Obama, while John McCain is critical.


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Friday, August 03, 2007

Pakistan & the Limits of the Bush Doctrine

U.S. government officials continue to limit the Bush Doctrine. Recently, some have pointed out that the U.S. would likely only attack Pakistan if the threat is nearly certain -- and if Islamabad agrees to the strike.

The Washington Post story of July 26 (by Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick) is illustrative:
R. Nicholas Burns, the State Department's undersecretary for political affairs, suggested that a unilateral strike would be a last resort.

"Given the primacy of the fight against al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, if we have in the future certainty of knowledge, then of course the United States would always have the option of taking action on its own," Burns said during questioning before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "But we prefer to work with the Pakistani forces, and we, in most situations -- nearly every situation -- do work with them."
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry continues to be strongly opposed to an American military strike:
"We have stated in the clearest terms that any attack inside our territory would be unacceptable," the ministry said in a formal statement released Tuesday in Islamabad.
In a separate story from the July 31 Post, David Ignatius finds a former CIA officer who wants the CIA to mount a covert effort against Pakistan -- just as it previously did in Afghanistan.
[Henry Crumpton argues that] The right model for a Waziristan campaign is the CIA-led operation in Afghanistan, not the U.S. military invasion of Iraq. Teams of CIA officers and Special Forces soldiers are best suited to work with tribal leaders, providing them weapons and money to fight an al-Qaeda network that has implanted itself brutally in Waziristan through the assassination of more than 100 tribal leaders during the past six years. It would be better to conduct such operations jointly with Pakistan, but if the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf can't or won't cooperate, the United States should be prepared to go it alone, Crumpton argues.

"The United States has an obligation to defend itself and its citizens," says Crumpton. "We either do it now, or we do it after the next attack."

Crumpton proposed a detailed plan last year for rolling up these sanctuaries, which he called the Regional Strategic Initiative. It would combine economic assistance and paramilitary operations in a broad counterinsurgency campaign. In Waziristan, U.S. and Pakistani operatives would give tribal warlords guns and money, to be sure, but they would coordinate this covert action with economic aid to help tribal leaders operate their local stone quarries more efficiently, say, or install windmills and solar panels to generate electricity for their remote mountain villages.
Ignatius wants to see a plan somewhat like JFK's "Alliance for Progress" in Latin America -- but he clearly wants to act now, rather than later.


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