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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Read the Duck

Virtually all of my recent blogging has been posted at Duck of Minerva:

Today, September 30, I posted Flashback: Afghanistan "Mission Accomplished." The post recalls something goofy Donald Rumsfeld said in May 2003.

Tuesday, September 28: Another war on terror outrage: asylum denied. Read about yet another way the U.S. has been screwing Iraqi civilians.

Thursday, September 16: The Latest in Mole Whacking. The post is about proposed escalation of the "war on terror" -- in Yemen.

Monday, September 6: "Debate Day." I reminisce about how Labor Day was traditionally an important work day for the University of Kansas debate team. The post takes note of recent articles and books by other former debaters.

Wednesday, September 1: "Preemption News." The Pentagon is gearing up to launch "preemptive" wars against potential cyber-attackers.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Rand Paul Update: Hypocrisy 101

Someone put a Rand Paul flyer on the billboard next to my office. When I read through it quickly yesterday, I noticed something odd that is apparently a point that he has been emphasizing in his latest ads. Fox News:
Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Rand Paul's latest ad is selling him as a Washington outsider. In a new 30-second commercial, the Bowling Green eye surgeon declares he's a "physician, not a career politician."
On his webpage, Paul takes this further, calling for term limits for "career politicians":
Long term incumbency leads to politicians who seem to care more about what is best for their career than what is best for their country.
These are kind of strange claims from someone known primarily as the son of a long-time politician, Ron Paul.

The elder Dr. Paul, Rand's father, has served in the U.S. Congress representing District 14 in Texas continuously since 1996. However, he has been in the House of Representatives much longer as Project Vote Smart clarifies:
Representative, United States House of Representatives, District 22, 1976-1977, 1979-1985
Ron Paul has been in the House for 22 years.

Additionally, Paul lost election for that House seat in 1974 and 1976, which is why he didn't serve consecutively in the period from 1975 to 1985. He also ran for the U.S. Senate and lost in 1984 and ran for President unsuccessfully in 1988 as a Libertarian.

Even if we posit that Paul wasn't a politician from 1989 through 1996, that still means about 30 years of politics as a career choice.

So, would Rand want Ron booted out of Washington?

University of Virginia Political Scientist Larry Sabato explains that Rand definitely benefits from his father's family business:
“As we know from almost every state, having a family member in politics can be very helpful. You gain contacts, experience, you understand what the job is all about, campaigning. It’s like the family business,” Sabato said. “When he ran for president, Ron Paul was very popular with a segment of students. They are fiercely anti establishment and perfectly happy to accept Rand Paul.”
That same Miami Herald story notes that the family connection "helped the political newcomer net a big boost in contributions - in part by relying heavily on his dad's donor list."

Always follow the money.

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Joydeep Sarkar, RIP

I never met Joydeep Sarkar face-to-face, but we've exchanged email for more than a decade as part of the Original Bitnet Fantasy Baseball League.

Very sadly, NY Streetsblog reports that Joydeep died in an auto accident earlier this week:
29-year-old Joydeep Sarkar was hit and killed yesterday at 2:22 a.m. on the northbound side of the FDR Drive, near 72nd Street, according to the NYPD. No criminality is suspected, despite a WPIX report that the crash was a hit-and-run.
Back in March, many of the 24 team owners were discussing the history of the league and Joydeep posted this to the rest of us:
I can't believe I've been with this league for so long...I still remember searching the internet for fantasy baseball leagues and somehow randomly stumbling on Jim's OBFLB page with all the history and all-time records. E-mailed Jim then to put my name in the hat as an AGM. If my memory serves me right, I came on sometime during high school as an AGM for the Fevers. I think I stayed an AGM for almost 2 years before taking over the team in '98a.

Was definitely the youngest owner at that point at 18. Now I'm 29...been with you all through some of high school & than all of college, post-baccalaureate, medical school and now as an emergency medicine resident. My only regret is not meeting any of you in person. Jim & I have tried to hook up for Yankee games from time to time but my schedule's always been insane. Tried to hook up with Burke on my trips to Boston to visit my nephews but I see them so infrequently that I never find any time to separate from them. it's been a blast though.

And I third the glad to see Randall's back sentiment! I remember trying to scrounge up money in the early days to buy Baseball Weeklies just so I could do all the weekly stats for the team. LOL, can't imagine what my parents would think if this all happened in this day and age. "You're what?! Playing fantasy baseball with 30 year olds. Why do you keep coming home late? Why are you being so quiet these days? I'm calling the police!"
AGM means assistant general manager.

Joydeep Sarkar's death is a great loss. I've been staggering around all day.

Not that it matters, particularly, but Joydeep was very good at fantasy baseball. His team (Bronx Bombers) won the league championship in 2004B (we play two half seasons per year) and finished second in 1999A, 2001A, 2002B, 2003A, 2009A, and 2009B.

As of today, with the final regular season week of 2010B ending on Sunday, his team has a shot of making the playoffs as the wild card team.

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Save the whales?

In the July/August 2010 Washington Monthly, Phillip Longman makes a case for moving freight by ship rather than truck. Put simply, he writes that "we’ll use less oil, emit less carbon, [and] cut highway traffic."

Longman writes that less than 5% of U.S. freight moves by ship, but significant increases would have meaningful consequences:
If only 30 percent of the freight that currently goes by truck went by barge instead, it would result in a reduction in diesel fuel consumption of roughly 4.7 billion gallons. This is equivalent to conserving more than 6 percent of the total end-use energy consumed by U.S. households, including heating, cooling, and lighting.
Later, Longman writes that "10 percent of U.S. gross domestic product [is] involved in freight logistics."

While Longman writes of using all sorts of domestic waterways, including inland lakes and rivers, many of the examples he employs involve coastal and blue water transportation.

I wonder if Longman saw the September issue of the Atlantic Monthly? In the September 2010 issue, Melissa Gaskill had a short piece noting that whales are threatened by the type of ocean traffic Longman promotes:
When a container ship strikes a 60-ton right whale, no one on board usually notices. The whale, however, may die from massive trauma, hemorrhage, and broken bones. Ship propellers slice whales up “like a loaf of bread,” says Michael Moore of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

North Atlantic right whales—one of the world’s most endangered species, with only about 400 living in the wild—are particularly vulnerable. They feed, breed, and migrate along the Eastern Seaboard, where, as the map at right shows, they encounter increasingly heavy ship traffic.

...According to the New England Aquarium, ship strikes and fishing-gear entanglement until recently were killing the whales faster than they could reproduce.
Gaskill does point out that reducing vessel speed saves whales, though the shipping industry is opposed.

This is one of those cases where one environmental value seems to conflict with another. I've often argued in class, without hard evidence, that environmental organizations believe that "poster animals" like whales help attract attention and resources that make their other missions possible. This is an interesting test of the implications, I suppose.

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Top 10 List: "Most Intellectual" College Environments

As my oldest daughter continues to think about her college choices, I'll point readers to Unigo's top 10 list of the "most intellectual" campus environments:
University of Chicago
She visited 5 of those 10 and thought seriously about looking at 2 others. Several were rejected primarily because of geographical preferences.

Meanwhile, 3 of these 10 "new Ivies" are also still under consideration:
Carnegie Mellon
Johns Hopkins
Washington (St. Louis)
Unsurprisingly, you'll find no overlap from those two compilations with this list.

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Sunday, September 05, 2010

Iraq post-mortem

Combat operations have ended in Iraq and all but 50,000 troops have withdrawn (so long as you don't ask about the private security contractors who remain).

How did the U.S. do? Did "we" win?

Former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) isn't kind in this interview:
Hagel flatly rejects the notion — now conventional wisdom among many Americans — that the war in Iraq has been a success. “Did you see today’s paper?” he asked, holding up a front-page story in the Washington Post that described vast swaths of the country as being plagued by electricity outages.

“Look at the facts: No government, less electricity and people want us out,” Hagel pointed out. “Anyway you measure Iraq today I think you’re pretty hard pressed to find how people are better off than they were before we invaded. I think history is going to be very harsh in its judgment — very, very harsh.
Hagel stills says the Iraq war was the worst foreign policy decision since the Vietnam war and one of the five worst in U.S. history.

Hagel is no fan of nation-building, which is why he also says "I think we’re headed for a similar outcome in Afghanistan if we don’t do some things differently.”

Hat tip: Steve Clemons.

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Friday, September 03, 2010

Ripley; Believe It or Not

I just finished Ripley Under Ground, written by Patricia Highsmith and published in 1970. It's the second novel in a series of five. The first book was creepy, but well-done.

This story was fairly implausible; thus, I read it as a cold war allegory -- published prior to the Pentagon papers (1971) and the Church committee hearings (1975).

Highsmith was simply ahead of her time describing unbelievable tales of American dastardly behavior abroad.

In this book, Ripley, the amoral American-in-residence among Europeans, rides roughshod over the region. His self-interested murders and lies are open secrets among those in his closest circle, even though the public officials he evades cannot nail him for the crimes. While Ripley originally went abroad to seek adventure (and perhaps to provide assistance and earn some cash), he is now a man of leisure living in the shadows off a former victim's inheritance, his own criminal activities, and his European wife's allowance. And his wife knows about many of his past and present misdeeds.

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