Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Duke v Ohio State

It was like the Arizona game in last year's NCAA tournament. They are more athletic than us and that gave us problems on offense. Curry, Dawkins, and Kelly were basically invisible. They couldn't get their shots off and when they did they weren't going in. I'm not sure that is the sole reason Coach K benched them for most of the second half. But that was a big reason we lost.

The only two starters that played fairly well were Rivers and Mason Plumlee. Rivers was his usual self, getting into the lane when he wanted and making a few contested layups. It was a typical game for Rivers. But he scored more because he took more shots. He still needs to develop a better jump shot and make better decisions. Mason did a decent job on Sullinger. He wasn't great defensively and he didn't convert the shots he got on the offensive end. The rest of the team, which consisted of a lot of bench players, didn't really add much. It was mostly Rivers and Plumlee. And they weren't nearly enough to keep up with OSU.

And it wasn't just Sullinger that made it difficult for Duke to keep up with. The rest of the team shot lights out. They moved the ball well and knocked down their open looks. Combine that with the good defense they played and that is why the margin of victory was so large. OSU is probably the better team. I'd give them a slight edge on a neutral court. But like Arizona, they combined a good matchup with a really good performance. Luckily for Duke this wasn't the tournament. They have time to learn from this and figure out what to do next time.

On a side note, Coach K actually went to a zone for a few possessions. This is something I always call for when we play more athletic teams. But because we play man about 99% of the time, we looked really uncomfortable playing zone and it didn't have the intended effect. I don't know how much time they spend practicing zone defenses. But I think it would be smart to try and implement it in games more often. We are extremely likely to see a more athletic team in the tournament at some point. And it would be nice to be able to counteract them if they have a great shooting night like OSU did tonight.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Congressional oversight

Ezra Klein has a nice chart up showing how, since the 80s, the number of hearings in Congress has steadily declined. Ezra interprets this as a decline in Congressional oversight of federal agencies.

The political science research that I'm familiar with says that Congress generally takes a non-aggressive approach to oversight. Attention is called to an agency and a hearing is called when something grabs their attention, such as a big mistake or a scandal. So we might assume, like Ezra does, that because Congress isn't calling as many hearings they aren't overseeing agencies as much as they should be.

Given the conservatives in charge during big chunks of this period, I think that's probably correct. But I'm not sure simply the number of committee hearings shows that point. I want to point out other political science research regarding the nature of committee hearings in Congress. The data shows that most hearings feature people who agree with the majority party that makes up the committee. So if most hearings are telling a majority party what they already agree with, is this really a form of Congressional oversight?

In instances like the gulf oil spill or the solar panel company that recently went bankrupt, I think its safe to say that hearings are a form of Congressional oversight. But I think its less the case that other types of hearings really qualify as oversight, or at least the most effective way to provide oversight. And I think the drop in the number of hearings could be due to reasons other than lack of oversight.

With advanced communications, it could be possible that hearings are not as necessary in order for interest groups to provide Congress with information and for Congress to know what kind of policies interest groups want. So those types of hearings could be in decline because they just aren't as necessary. In order to find out if that is the case someone would have to sort out the nature of the hearings and label them according to whether they were for oversight purposes or others. Then I think we could get a more clear answer as to whether Congress was engaging in less oversight.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Poor Dee. She really gets the emotional shaft throughout the series. First Billy is killed right in front of her. Then she marries the guy she was kind of cheating on Billy with and he proceeds to go from a ripped, good looking guy to a overweight guy who isn't the soldier he once was. Now we find out that Lee cheated on Dee with Starbuck when they were on New Caprica. And now that they are back on Galactica and blowing off steam during a boxing tournament, we find out that Lee and Starbuck still have feelings for each other. Emotions can be complicated enough under normal circumstances. Being on Galactica must make them even more complicated. I hope Dee finds some stability. And I hope Lee and Starbuck finally sort out their feelings for each other.

Speaking of the boxing tourney, Adama uses it to send a message to the crew, which basically sounded like he got soft on them and didn't want it to happen again. This was played out by showing a lot of flashbacks to the crew on New Caprica before the Cylon occupation. I really like the show's use of flashbacks. I think, if handled correctly, flashbacks are a good and efficient way of giving us important backstory and developing characters. And as I think about it, most of my favorite shows use the technique to varying extents: Buffy, Angel, Firefly, West Wing. Many of the best episodes from those series involve flashbacks. In fact, I just watched "Out of Gas" from Firefly over the weekend. Its great, and mainly because we see Wash with a mustache.

The biggest thing that happened during the two episodes this weekend was the black ops mission that Adama led before the Cylons attacked. It turns out that the mission ventured across the armistice line set up with the Cylons. And to try and cover up that fact, Adama blew up the ship that his pilot was in. That pilot was captured by the Cylons and held for three years until he escaped and found Galactica. Adama admits that he had a hand in provoking the Cylon attack, something that for two and a half seasons we were led to believe was an unprovoked attack. This was very surprising. I'm not really sure what to think. I've come to admire Adama and think of him as a great leader. But now we see that he was just as susceptible to bad decisions made by the top of a hierarchy. And that decision not only betrayed a soldier's life, but very likely led the the near destruction of the human race on Caprica. Perhaps I'm having a hard time reacting to this because they didn't spend a lot of time with it. So I hope they address it more in the near future.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Firefly: the Tams

I touched on this on twitter but I wanted to flesh it out a little more. I was watching the episode "Safe". The crew is taking some cattle to a far off planet. They get there and the non-muscle part of the crew go into town so Mal and the muscle part of the crew can make a deal for the cattle. Shepard Book gets shot and Simon and River get kidnapped. Mal decides to leave so that they can get Book some help, leaving Simon and River for the time being.

Throughout the episode we are shown flashbacks of Simon and River. In one they are kids. Simon is doing his homework. River is correcting the math in the textbook. Their dad gives Simon some computer type thing in exchange for him becoming a brilliant doctor. Another one is Simon telling his parents something is wrong with River. They brush it off as River playing a game and warn Simon about hurting his career by interfering. Basically they want to show how much Simon has given up in order to save River.

I'm not sure if it was this episode or another one. But there is also a scene where Simon's father has to give up something in order to get him out of jail. The Tams are high society people who have reputations. So this was part of why their parents were hesitant to help. But seeing these scenes with their parents made me wonder what happened to them after Simon broke River out of the "school" she was in and went on the run.

It seems well known that Simon and River are wanted fugitives throughout the 'verse. So I think its reasonable to assume their parents know this. At the very least they know Simon is gone and he left because of River. So they should be pretty worried. If they know their kids are fugitives wanted by the Alliance they should extremely worried. And given their wealth you would think they would be searching for them. Surely they trust that their kids aren't criminals and think the Alliance is doing something wrong. So perhaps they could use their status to find some information or to lobby their case to important officials within the gov't.

Perhaps the show didn't have enough time to touch on this issue with the parents. Or maybe they just forgot. I'd lean towards not having enough time. And Serenity wasn't really the place for it. Though since the events in Serenity, you would think their parents could play an important role in using their wealth and influence for gathering support for overthrowing the Alliance.

Another angle I wanted to touch on was how the Alliance would use their parents. Once they knew Simon took River, would they bring in the parents for questioning? It would be reasonable for them to think they had something to do with Simon getting access to their facilities. And beyond questioning their role in it all, it would be smart to try and find out if they knew where their children are hiding. They could either blackmail them or negotiate a deal that would bring Simon and River back safely. Or being the evil gov't entity it is, the Alliance could just throw the Tams in prison and somehow let Simon and River know that they will be left there/tortured/killed unless they turn themselves in.

Like I said, there probably just wasn't enough time to address these issues. And after Serenity, Simon and River seem fairly content to be part of Mal's crew. Not to mention they could still be in danger. I think that's all I have. If you have anything else post it in the comments.

Obama's Thanksgiving speech

I didn't see it because who really cares. But someone saw it and is mad:

Critics of President Obama felt little holiday cheer after the president did not thank God in his Thanksgiving-themed weekly Internet address. They immediately took to Twitter and the Internet to voice anger and disbelief.

"Somebody ought to remind Obama (and his speechwriter) that when Americans sit down around a meal today and give thanks, they give thanks to God."

Someone ought to remind that person that not all Americans sit down and give thanks to god. Millions don't for one reason or another; whether they don't believe in a god or don't have the means to eat a nice Thanksgiving meal. And the president is under no obligation to acknowledge god in a speech. In fact, I'd argue that if he is obliged to do anything, he is obliged to leave religion out of the political arena.

What we, the president and these critics, ought to be thankful for is that we all live in a free country where we aren't forced to believe certain things. We are free to think what we want and to largely do what we want. That is what in part makes America great. It has nothing to do with thanking god. And its not the presidents job to do that for you if you believe we should. You are free to do that on your own. So stop trying to force it on the rest of us.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why people don't like Obama

Andrew Sullivan ponders that question today. I'm feeling link lazy. So go to the Beast if you want to read it in full. Basically he makes the reasonable points that he helped keep the economy from being worse than it was, passed a form of universal healthcare, oversaw the ousting of bin Laden and Qadaffi, and has conducted himself in a more or less presidential manner. That's all true. And of course that hasn't prevented the right from completely freaking out over everything he has done.

But more than the outrage from the right, Andrew has a harder time pinning down why liberals aren't happy with Obama. I think a big part of the problem for liberals were our expectations for Obama coming into office. We had just suffered through 8 years of the ridiculous Bush administration. And at the end of that we suffered a big recession. On top of that Obama came in with the uplifting and hopeful rhetoric that suggested that he wanted to change things and implement strongly liberal policies. And after the election, he looked to have enough votes in congress that would allow him to do that.

But starting with the very first thing he did, the stimulus, we didn't get exactly what we wanted. Looking at the data now, we know that things were much worse than we thought and we were therefore expecting unreasonable results. We also saw the beginnings of slight dissent from moderate Dems who, even if Obama would have pushed for more stimulus, would have been hesitant. When Obama took on his next issue, we saw those moderate Dems gum up the works again when it came to things like the public option in the ACA. Then you had the failure of a carbon tax and an extension of all the Bush tax cuts.

Maybe Andrew is right that its a bit unfair to be mad at Obama for not getting all of that. But that is only part of the problem. Andrew doesn't even mention national security and foreign policy. At least for me, this is the biggest reason liberals have been mad or disappointed with Obama. He has ended the torture policies of the Bush administration. But he didn't hold any of them accountable for what they did. He hasn't shut down Gitmo, balked at trying terrorists in the US, killed American citizens without due process, and to my knowledge done nothing about warrantless surveillance or the bloated anti-terrorism bureaucracy. Plus he escalated things in Afghanistan, hasn't done much in Iraq, and started a war with Libya without going to congress and trying to say it wasn't actually a war.

For the most part he has been barely distinguishable from Bush on the foreign policy and national security fronts. And up until the great recession, those issues were the most important for liberals. By not changing the course Bush set out Obama has made it more difficult for future presidents to do the right things.

I think Andrew is probably hearing from the loudest and most boisterous opinions from liberals. Most of us are a bit disappointed. But we aren't all that angry with Obama. And certainly nowhere close to how the right feels about him. What I hope these past few years will teach liberals is that we have to temper our expectations for presidents. Much of what they do is tied to the situation with congress and other structural factors throughout the country. And because of that, we need to spend more time focussing on congress and how we can positively affect those forces.

Devils and Dolphins

I was kind of looking forward to Duke playing Memphis in the Maui Invitational. Duke held up its end of the bargain by beating Tennessee fairly handily tonight. But Memphis lost to Michigan. I didn't see that game. But it looked like Michigan beat Memphis at its own game, using their athleticism to play up tempo. That could be a problem for Duke because we aren't that athletic at guard and struggle to keep athletic teams out of the lane, which happened tonight against UT.

The Dolphins put a beating on the Bills Sunday. The defense has been playing like I thought they could before the season. They haven't allowed a TD in 3 games and they are finally forcing turnovers. They did such a good job against the Bills that the offense didn't have to do much in order to score. But unlike the first seven games of the year, the offense took advantage of being in the red zone and scored more than enough to win.

Basically everyone is playing better. Both lines are doing well. Dansby and Burnett are playing well at LB. And the secondary is actually catching the ball when its dropped in its lap. Reggie Bush has been good. Brandon Marshall is catching more passes. And Matt Moore is playing very well. I'm also fairly impressed that the team hasn't quit on Sparano. Its just a shame they couldn't play this well at the beginning of the year. Hopefully they keep it up agains Dallas on Thanksgiving. And I'd like to see Duke get a chance to play Georgetown in the Maui finals. I want revenge from a few years ago.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The super committee: I called it, kind of

It appears the 'super committee' didn't reach a deal for deficit reduction. So now the spending cuts are supposed to be triggered. And the Dems seem to be on board with letting them go through. Here is what I said when they cut this deal:

So the more I think through this the more inclined I am to agree with Kevin Drum (who I cited in my previous post) that its unlikely whatever comes out of the committee will be agreed upon. The interests competing against each other are strong and have leverage within this divided gov't. Given that and an already agreed upon solution if they don't sign off on the committee's plan, I think it will be very difficult to avoid the trigger. And because Obama and Democrats didn't do too bad of a job in the debt ceiling deal, that trigger will actually cut stuff that needs to be cut.

I wasn't completely right. A lot of people have come out since then and said that it will be difficult to really cut certain things in the automatic trigger. And I thought there was a chance that the committee would actually agree on a plan and present it to congress. They couldn't even get that far. And its obviously all about taxes. Republicans continue to propose massive spending cuts and basically no revenue increases. Same old story.

Matt Yglesias, now at Slate instead of ThinkProgress, has been reminding people on Twitter that all congress has to do is sit back and do nothing in order to make substantial progress on deficit reduction. As a reminder, that means letting the Bush tax cuts expire. They have to hold a vote in order to extend them. So it will be up to Dems in the Senate and Obama to actually do something to decrease the deficit, which would be to do nothing.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Authority in the US

What is the deal with authority in this country? It seems like across the country there are people in power who are using force to try and harm the Occupy movements. Here is one example that seems to be similar to others I've heard reported:

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.

What was the need for that? What was the need for Bloomberg to break up the OWS movement in the park near WS? These people are just sitting/standing around and peacefully (for the most part) protesting. Its not like they are doing what Penn State students did and rioted. That was against the law. What OWS and other Occupy movements are doing is legal. Yet they are being punished for it.

I have to agree with Glenn Greenwald that this is a systematic thing going on with this country. Politicians, apparently even Deans of colleges, and the police forces they control have little regard for normal people who want to exercise their rights to speech and assembly. Those are fundamental rights for a democracy. And ours shouldn't be any different. Yet it is. Just imagine if the same things would have happened to tea party protests. The right would have completely flipped their shit. Why? Because well off, older, white people would have been the victims. Not younger people and those who range from fairly well off to poor.

I think those characteristics of the people of the Occupy movements is the reason these things are happening. These are people who don't have much political clout. If they did they wouldn't need to be protesting. And since their only real political power is to use their numbers advantage, the politicians are threatened and try to put it down because they know if they can get rid of it there are few other course of action for the people to exert political influence. But if it were people like the tea partiers, they are hesitant because they rely on their campaign donations. Though with Bloomberg that doesn't even matter because of his vast wealth, which is probably another reason he ordered the police to shake things up.

I hope the protesters are strengthened by these acts of violence against themselves. Because those acts are just another example of how backwards our justice system is and how our entire system is geared towards a few at the expense of the many. And we won't change that unless the protestors stick together and people like us support them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Balanced Budget nonsense

The House debated the Republican proposed Balance Budget amendment to the Constitution. And I had to listen to the nonsense for most of the day. Basically, its a bad idea because it would require ridiculous majorities in order to increase taxes. So bringing in the proper amount of revenue in order to balance the budget would be very difficult and would force huge cuts in spending. And they are trying to implement this while arguing for more tax cuts.

That's ridiculous in its own right. But even more so is the fact that Republicans believe they have to change the Constitution, that sacred document they value and claim we must strictly adhere to, in order to get the budget under control. Putting aside the merits of balancing the budget, why do they feel its necessary to amend the Constitution to do it? For most of the post war period the budget hasn't been balanced. Even during the great conservative utopia that was the Reagan administration there was a big deficit. Yet there was also decent economic growth. During the entire Bush administration there was a huge deficit which we are still dealing with. Yet they did nothing about it.

And at the end of the Clinton administration the budget was balanced. There was even a surplus for a while. And it didn't require amending the Constitution in order to do it. It just required good economic growth, higher taxes, and a Congress that acted responsibly. So what Republicans are doing by introducing this amendment is acknowledging that they don't trust themselves to act responsibly. And even though they are trying to force responsible budget making, they are doing a really crappy job of trying to force it. This thankfully won't pass the Senate. But it just continues to show how completely uninterested Republicans are in seriously governing.


In case you haven't heard, NBC has left Community off its spring schedule. Apparently that doesn't mean its cancelled. Its just getting some time off. Still, that doesn't seem like a good thing. I understand it doesn't get good ratings. For some reason mass audiences don't like smart tv. That or NBC hasn't used Alison Brie enough in its advertising. Suffice to say, I'm extremely disappointed by this news. I love the show. Despite its uneven season thus far, its still my favorite show on tv. I hope it gets a chance to continue its run.

On to tonight's episode. This episode was right up the show's alley. They have Abed do another documentary, this time in the mold of Heart of Darkness, which is the documentary of the filming of Apocalypse Now. Jim Rash (the Dean) and Joel McHale were really great. The Dean takes on the role of directing a commercial for the school. And Jeff plays the Dean. I've heard a lot of people complain that Jeff never grows. And I echo many of those criticisms. So I was glad to see him not completely blow off the Dean and actually embrace him.

The only other characters that had a seemingly meaningful and forward looking plot were Britta and Troy. They are acting really uncomfortable around each other, which usually means there is sexual tension between the two. And the show has previously hinted at something there between them. But you can't assume Dan Harmon will bring them closer together. He likes to dangle relationships out there and buck the conventional Sam and Diane thing. Though the other characters didn't have significant plots they were still pretty funny. There were a lot of funny one liners.

Overall I liked the episode. I think this makes three in a row, which is a nice run for this season. I'm not sure how many episodes are left until the show "takes a break". But hopefully we get at least of few more of this quality. And as a quick aside, I haven't posted much on Parks and Recreation. But I've started watching it recently and I'm enjoying it. It had my favorite line of the night when Ron Swanson said to a woman's studies professor, "For what its worth, you would look great as a brunette, Ron Swanson." The delivery was awesome. If you watch Community stick around right after and give Parks and Rec a shot.

Congress' unpopularity

A lot of posts are making the rounds on blogs regarding the extremely low approval rating for Congress. This one in particular from Ezra Klein is amusing. The polls are telling us something important. But I'm not sure its as simple as Congress is doing a really crappy job right now.

Though that is true. Congress is at a very partisan and deadlocked point. The Republicans in the House are really far out to the right. Thus the Democrats in the Senate won't pass their extreme bills. And the Republicans in the Senate are taking advantage of the rules of the Senate in order to prevent anything Democrats wants from getting passed. This is certainly part of why its doing a bad job and thus why people don't approve.

But Congressional approval ratings are rarely very high. I think its important to keep that context in mind because I think it helps explain whey they are so pathetically low right now. Even if the economy was growing quickly and we were clearly on track almost half the country still wouldn't approve. Why? Because almost half the country is of the opposing party and they don't like to see members of Congress from the other party doing well. When you add that constant to the bad economic situation you are almost assured nearly every Republican will disapprove of Congress.

You also have a substantial number of people disliking almost everything the minority party is doing based on their partisanship. Democrats don't like the Republicans members of Congress because they think they are blocking Democrats from solving problems. Even during good times when a person's party is doing things they aren't going to like the minority party because they are still trying to block things.

Basically, I think when people are asked if they approve of Congress they are thinking of a few things: Is the economy doing well? Are we at war, and how well is it going? Is my party in power? Is the other party keeping them from passing things? And is my party doing enough to pass things? The reason Congressional approval ratings are so low is because people have a negative response to all of those questions.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Life has meaning because its meaningless

Andrew Sullivan recently posted something from a reader who was a former atheist who converted to christianity. Most of the time I enjoy when Andrew posts things along these lines. He makes it no secret that he is a catholic. But he also presents all different kinds of opinions. One such opinion in response to the converted person was this from Will Wilkinson. First the person's reason for converting:

If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it's all destined to be extinguished at death. And considering that the entire span of homo sapiens' existence on earth wouldn't even amount to a blip on the radar screen of a 5-billion-year-old universe, it seemed silly to pretend like the 60-odd-year life of some random organism on one of trillions of planets was something special. (I was a blast at parties.) By simply living my life, I felt like I was living a lie. I acknowledged the truth that life was meaningless, and yet I kept acting as if my own life had meaning, as if all the hope and love and joy I'd experienced was something real, something more than a mirage produced by the chemicals in my brain.

Will's response:

If you ask me, the best reason to think "life is meaningful" is because one's life seems meaningful. If you can't stop "acting as if my own life had meaning," it's probably because it does have meaning. Indeed, not being able to stop acting as if one's life is meaningful is probably what it means for life to be meaningful. But why think this has any logical or causal relationship to the scientific facts about our brains or lifespans? The truth of the proposition "life has meaning" is more evident and secure than any proposition about what must be true if life is to have meaning. Epistemic best practices recommend treating "life has meaning" as a more-or-less self-evident, non-conditional proposition. Once we've got that squared away, we can go ahead and take the facts about the world as they come. It turns out our lives are infinitesimally short on the scale of cosmic time. We know that to be true. Interesting! So now we know two things: that life has meaning and that our lives are just a blip in the history of the universe.

Another way to put it is how Angel does when he uses the Wolfram and Hart elevator to go to hell and it takes him right back to the spot he was on earth. I can't remember exactly how he puts it. But after some typical Angel brooding, he comes to the conclusion that if nothing we do matters, then all that matters are the things we do. I think that is basically that is what Will is saying.

We don't have any evidence that there is a god and a heaven and thus what we do will have meaning beyond our lives and our universe. And what we do know is that we are just a bunch of electrons bouncing around. But the fact that we know this and are self aware is why we seek meaning. And the fact that we want our lives to have meaning bestows meaning onto them. If that person who converted is more at peace with herself that's great. But a belief in god is not necessary in order to find meaning in life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A serious conversation about Iran

That's what John Johns wants from Republican presidential candidates. Here are some of the issues he raises:

The problem with these arguments is that they flatly ignore or reject outright the best advice of America’s national security leadership. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, former congressman Admiral Joe Sestak and former CENTCOM Commander General Anthony Zinni are only a few of the many who have warned us to think carefully about the repercussions of attacking Iran. Two months ago, Sestak put it bluntly: “A military strike, whether it’s by land or air, against Iran would make the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion look like a cakewalk with regard to the impact on the United States’ national security.”

Meir Dagan, the recently retired chief of Israel’s Mossad, shares the assessment of the Americans cited above. He noted earlier this year that attacking Iran “would mean regional war” and went on to say that arguments for military strikes were “the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”

I've posted quite a bit on this issue before. But I just wanted to highlight this because he actually quotes officials confirming some of the arguments against striking Iran. I also wanted to point out a question that doesn't get asked of these candidates, which is simply, why.

Why is it "unacceptable" that Iran obtain nuclear weapons? I mostly agree that it would be a bad thing if they did. But I want them to spell out exactly why they think it would be unacceptable. Just claiming it is doesn't make you right. You actually have to give a reason why you support a certain position. You especially need to give reasons when you are proposing that we should bomb a country. You need to be able to give a response to a military official who says that could create huge blow back in the region and possibly to our national security.

I haven't heard any serious answers to these questions. And I highly doubt many of the Republican candidates have serious answers. That's a problem when they are trying to be commander in chief. The lack of knowledge they have displayed is similar to that of the Bush administration. And that didn't work out well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Coach K on Paterno

As a Duke fan I obviously love Coach K. He is kind of the Paterno of basketball, or was until the whole Penn St thing blew up. But while I think his talents can be applied outside of basketball, I don't worship the guy as a person and think he is some Ghandi-like human being. Here is proof that he has his own biases and shouldn't be worshiped as someone above the rest of us:

“Well, I think, unless you’re there, it’s tough to comment about everything,’’ Krzyzewski said. “I just feel badly for him and whatever he is responsible for, it’ll come out and hopefully it’ll come out from him.

“I think one thing you have to understand is that Coach Paterno’s 84 years old. I’m not saying that for an excuse or whatever. The cultures that he’s been involved in both football-wise and socially, have been immense changes and how social issues are handled in those generations are quite different.

“But as we judge, remember that there’s just a lot there. There’s a lot,lot there. I think he’s a great man and it’s a horrific situation.”

Technically, he has a point. We probably don't know every single fact. But there seems to be a lot of evidence. And as for Paterno specifically, which is what he is talking about, we certainly can and should comment.

What is there to feel badly about Paterno for? I assume he is saying this as a friend who feels bad for him. But who gives a shit about how a rich and powerful man feels when numerous children are claiming they were raped? I get you would feel bad for your friend. But that doesn't really matter in a situation like this, especially when his inaction is part of the problem.

He's right that the culture is different. And again, that is a big part of the problem. When you put yourself at the top of a hierarchy whose purpose is to, in part, establish morals for a group of young adults, you become morally responsible for what goes on within that hierarchy to some degree. And regardless of the specifics or how old he was, Paterno doesn't seem to have fulfilled his obligations as the leader.

He may have been a great man in every facet other than the Sandusky situation. But that's a pretty big fuck up. And I think it seriously calls into question his "great" status. In fact, I think it automatically disqualifies him from that status. And I think Coach K might realize that if he stepped away from the situation and looked at it from a perspective not so focused on his friend.

I"m disappointed in these remarks. They are too deferential to a friend while not being mindful enough of how badly Paterno likely fucked up. Yes we don't have every shred of evidence available. And Coach K has a point there. But we seem to have a lot to go on. And it wouldn't have been difficult to make that point while not appearing insensitive to the victims. Confirmation bias exists everywhere. But my love of Duke and Coach K isn't enough to cloud my judgement on this situation.


Its a little weird how relevant this show still is to current politics. I just watched the scene where they are about to execute Gaida for helping the cylons but found out at the last second that he was actually helping the rebels on New Caprica. The small group that was putting people on "trial" let him go. And the next scene was Adama and Roslin being told about the group and objecting because everyone has the right to a trial with representation.

That was just minutes after I posted on Michele Bachmann, many in the GOP, and Obama not upholding the rule of law in much the same way they weren't on BSG. What I didn't mention that was said during the debate by some candidates was that they supported Obama's death panels and their decision to kill an American citizen living in Yemen, not to mention his 16 year old child. This is basically what they were doing on the show. On the show they are literally fighting for their survival. And even then it isn't right.

On a lighter note, it was great to see Col. Tigh and the rest of the people that were on New Caprica back on Galactica. The show is always filled with tension. But they recognize that you need to break that tension and give the audience some emotionally satisfying breaks from that tension. And when they decide to do that they deliver. Not many shows outside of the Whedonverse can get me teary-eyed. But BSG can, and on a fairly consistent basis. That's part of why I've come to love the show.

Just making things up

Not that I would have expected anything less from Michele Bachmann. But its still something to behold when a person running for president just flat out lies, or is so delusional that they can convince themselves of this kind of crap:

"[Obama] is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA" Bachmann asserted. "We have decided we are going to lose the war on terror under Obama." The ACLU, which issued a scathing report on Obama's civil liberties record earlier this year, would probably disagree. The ACLU concluded that "most [Bush-era] policies...remain core elements of our national security strategy today." Bachmann also said the CIA was no longer interrogating anyone, which is false. The CIA is part of the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Also, prior to 9/11, the CIA didn't actually have an interrogation program.

As Adam Serwer points out, if the ACLU really ran the CIA things would be a lot different. The ACLU actually values the rule of law, the law set out in the Bill of Rights. And its purpose is to fight to uphold those laws. What Obama has done is continue the Bush policies of ignoring the law or having their cronies draw up bullshit legal advice to justify their actions.

What this is really about is the hatred of the ACLU from the right. I'm not sure when it started. But for as long as I can remember they have not liked the fact that the ACLU fights to uphold the Bill of Rights. Criticizing an organization that does so is a bit crazy, especially when the party doing the criticizing claims to value the Constitution. So all Bachmann was doing was playing on this irrational hatred of the ACLU in order to score cheap political points. If she or most of the GOP cared at all about the Constitution and keeping this country safe they would be begging for the ACLU to run the CIA and would themselves be card carrying members. But they have no idea what it means to uphold the Constitution. And I'm sorry to say that the president doesn't seem to fully comprehend that either.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Duke vs Belmont

That was a lot closer than I would have liked. But everyone insists Belmont is a good team. And for the most part I agree. Not many teams can go into Cameron and consistently come back from double digit deficits and make it a single FG possession at the end. Not only that, they did so with Duke playing fairly well. So I think its safe to say that Belmont isn't just a cake walk of a team. We'll see that more definitively when they play Memphis next.

As for Duke, I think everyone expected things to be a bit rough. Finding a new point guard is tough. Seth Curry is naturally a two guard, or a scoring point guard. Now he has to balance running the offense for the benefit of everyone else and finding ways to get his own shot. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith had to make this transition the past two years. I'm not sure Seth is quite as good as they are. But given time I think he can make it work. He did so fairly well tonight.

Perhaps the biggest question mark coming into the season was freshman Austin Rivers. In preseason games overseas he looked very raw. He would either jack up difficult shots or drive recklessly to the goal. And he would get frustrated easily. Tonight he looked pretty good. He was under control for the most part. And he showed why he was regarded as such a high recruit with his explosive athletic ability. I've said he is kind of a poor man's Dwayne Wade. And I maintain that with the way he can beat someone off the dribble and get to the basket. Coach K said his biggest problem tonight was not passing when he got into the lane. Hopefully he matures to the point where he can balance getting his shot and creating for others. So far I like what I see.

Mason Plumlee might have had the best game. He was aggressive, too aggressive sometimes. And he played tough. I'm not sure he can average 14 rebounds a night. But we need him to provide the inside presence that he did tonight. Miles started but didn't play much. Kelly, who was great during the preseason, was ok. Even though Dawkins hit the big shot he didn't play very well. The big surprise was how well Tyler Thorton played. He shot the ball well and played very good defense. Not even counting Thorton, I thought we had too many guards. Now with him playing well, we have even more. I guess that's better than not having enough. Hopefully we can work out a consistent rotation before we start playing ranked teams.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Tonight's episode, Annie's Move, continued the somewhat seesaw tendencies of this season. The previous episode, Advanced Gay, fell a bit flat. But just like Remedial Chaos Theory, this episode got things back on track in an awesome way. I'll try not to give away spoilers by recapping everything that happened.

The focus is Annie's move to live with Troy and Abed. Its hard to go wrong with those three. Annie was her typical sweet and adorable self. Troy and Abed were slightly less awesome than usual, but effective. The rest of the characters were used effectively, specifically the Dean and Jeff. They were the funniest parts of the episode. And after Advanced Gay it was nice to see the show move away from lazy stereotypes (which Dan Harmon apologized for) when doing a story about a gay person.

It was also nice to see Britta provide a counterpoint to Shirley's religious evangelization, which she didn't do last week. One thing I miss from the first season is Britta playing a bigger role. I understand they have moved past the Sam and Diane thing with Jeff and Britta. And that's fine. I just wish Britta was used in more ways than as a punch line, which admittedly is pretty funny most of the time. All in all, I really enjoyed this episode. It was funny, sweet, and had a plot that went somewhere. Nice bounce back. Hopefully we can string together a few really good episodes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The ACA gotcha question

Adam Serwer spells it out:

What the law's critics will seize on, however, is Silberman's observation that although the government argues that "the Government does stress that the health care market is factually unique," it "concedes the novelty of the mandate and the lack of any doctrinal limiting principles."

While "novelty" isn't inherently an issue when it comes to the constitutionality of a given law, the "lack of any doctrinal limiting principles" is the most powerful argument critics of the ACA have, the idea that if the government can force you to buy health care, it can force you to do anything. Silberman describes this argument as "troubling, but not fatal," because of prior legal precedent supporting the ACA. The law's defenders unquestionably have legal precedent on their side. But its opponents have an incredibly effective political argument based on constitutional first principles.

More importantly, although the Supreme Court has only rarely favored those seeking to limit the government's power under the Commerce Clause, it has done so recently when government lawyers were unable to articulate any "doctrinal limiting principles" on the government's authority. UCLA Law Professor Adam Winkler refers to this as the "gotcha question," essentially arguing that the government's inability to "articulate meaningful limits on Congress' power" may prove to be the law's undoing.

I'm not sure there is a gotcha question. The only thing the ACA is mandating is that people buy health insurance. That's power that is being questioned. No one is questioning whether Congress can force insurers to cover people pre-existing conditions. And despite what some conservatives want to argue, Congress is not trying to force anyone to eat broccoli.

Congress is merely trying to regulate the health insurance market. Its not trying to force people to be healthy. Its acknowledging that regardless of ones health, at some point they will need to enter the health care market. And given the high costs of health care and the fact that the law requires the uninsured to be given medical treatment, not insuring yourself affects the market. So the ACA is saying that in order to try and solve a problem with the health insurance market, which is part of interstate commerce, it can force people to buy health insurance. That's it. What more is it mandating?

If that's all its mandating why is there a question of doctrinal limiting principles? Perhaps since I'm not a lawyer I'm missing something or not understanding doctrinal limiting principles. But if all the argument for the ACA is that Congress can mandate that people buy health insurance why is it necessary that the ACA supporters spell out other things Congress might or might not have the power to mandate?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Israel, Iran and nuclear weapons

Andrew Sullivan has a post on the argument for and against Israel attacking Iran. There is sufficient reason for Israel to feel threatened by Iran, and Iran's allies that border Israel. And for some reason, Iran feels threatened, or maybe just doesn't like Iran. Israel has nuclear weapons and the support of the biggest military in the world. So it never made sense that Iran would directly attack Israel.

But Iran seems dedicated to obtain nuclear weapons. And Israel seems to be firm in the belief that it would be very bad if Iran did so, which is why there is so much speculation on whether Israel will attack them. But is Israel correct to assume that it would be a bad thing? I don't think the answer is clear.

If you side with Israel, your thinking is either that Iran will use nuclear weapons or they will use the increase of power the weapons would give them in order to be more aggressive in the region. If you think Iran will actually use its nuclear weapons, give them to terrorists, or not guard them enough so as to keep them away from terrorists, you basically think Iran is so fanatic that it doesn't care about its own wellbeing and will commit suicide. Israel probably has a sufficient stockpile in order to ensure mutually assured destruction. And the US would surely retaliate if something happened. I don't think Iran is that crazy. So I think the latter is more likely.

Though even then I don't think its certain Iran would become more aggressive and seek to start destructive conflicts. I think it could be just as easily the case that obtaining nuclear weapons moderates Iran's militaristic efforts. If they aren't willing to use their nuclear weapons to directly strike Israel, then that suggests they don't want to risk being attacked themselves. The same logic of not wanting to risk nuclear destruction would arise if Iran started a conventional war with Israel. And the political science literature shows that when two nuclear powers engage in conflict with each other they are very cautious to escalate things. Two examples off the top of my head are the US/Soviet conflict and the India/Pakistan conflict.

Andrew does a good job of pointing out the likely problems with Israel preemptively striking Iran in order to prevent them from obtaining nukes. What he doesn't mention is that I think a Israeli strike would further embolden Iran and make them want nuclear weapons even more. What better way to keep Israel at bay than to get nukes? All in all, I don't think a preemptive strike would be a completely terrible deal. If it worked, and that's a big if, it could keep Iran from getting nukes for quite a while. But it could probably just as easily backfire. And I think other options could work just as well.

Rick Santorum on gay marriage

I normally wouldn't give Santorum the time of day. But he was on CSPAN for a while today and I had no choice but to hear some of it. And while his position is not surprising, I wanted to talk about his logic. When asked about his opposition to gay marriage, he talked about how its best to raise kids in a traditional male/female household. So because its probably favorable to raise a kid in a heterosexual household, Santorum wants to deny marriage to gay people.

The topic of what type of household environment is best for children is a separate issue from gay marriage. I've talked about this before but I wanted to drive home the point again. Marriage is simply a social contract between two adults. And aside from the declaration the contract entails, there are some fairly minor legal implications that go along with it. That's all marriage is. It has nothing to do with having and raising kids. You don't have to get married in order to have kids. Nor do you have to have kids if you get married.

So Santorum's point is meaningless. It only belongs in the debate about whether gay people should be allowed to adopt kids. And as far as I know, they on a pretty extensive basis. And I'm sure there are at least a few studies out there that show its not a problem for the child having homosexual parents. In fact, I would guess that even if that isn't ideal, its better than having kids in foster homes. I don't think there is a good argument against gay marriage. But if Santorum is going to be against it he needs to come up with a reason that actually has something to do with the issue.


I haven't posted on the show since the end of season 2 and the beginning of the cylon occupation on New Caprica. As always, the show tackled difficult issues head on. They went from abortion to voter fraud. Baltar goes against his scientific opinion and calls to occupy New Caprica for the sake of getting public opinion on his side and thus win the election. Roslin sticks to her principles and doesn't pander to the masses.

Baltar gains in the polls and looks to have won the election. Roslin calls her contacts within the military, which is an odd choice to oversee an election (which is addressed), and gets them to alter votes. Roslin then tells Odama what she did and explains that she thinks Baltar is working for the cylons. Oddly its Odama who rejects the fraud for the sake of democratic principles. I forget his exact reason, though do remember that he doesn't want Baltar to win. Perhaps his experience and endearment to Roslin has shaped his views and values the importance of politics with regard to sustaining the human race. What's funny is that a few episodes into season 3, which jumps a year into the future, Baltar's political advisor (the accused terrorist in the first season) says that he wishes Roslin would have stuck to the fraud.

Baltar's decision to lead the people to New Caprica has lead to a really crappy existence on the cylon run planet. As if Baltar wasn't a little off his rocker before, he has fallen even deeper over the edge as a result of the guilt he feels for his part in this situation. The situation is so bad that the chief and the guy Starbuck was dating are the leaders of a resistance that is resorting to terrorism. The show has previously shown a terrorist in poor light. But now that the humans are basically being held captive, the terrorists are viewed more as freedom fighters, though not without dissenting views (notably from Roslin).

The main point regarding terrorism seems to be that it depends on the cause and the circumstances. If you hold a minority view within a stable political system that guarantees you essentially the same freedoms as everyone else, its not a good moral decisions to kill innocent people in order to advance your cause. And its probably not a good strategical decision either. But when faced with the situation the humans have on New Caprica, its probably a better strategical decision and is slightly more morally acceptable. Though even then, I don't think its right to kill innocent people, even those humans who have joined the cylon police force.

Aside from the main plot, the sub plots have been interesting. Starbuck might be getting the worse of the cylon occupation by being forced to stay with the cylon that she interrogated earlier in the show. He loves her and has now introduced a child that he claims is Starbuck's in order to gain her favor. Starbuck denies the girl, but then seems to take to her after the girl injures herself by falling down stairs. Though I wonder, was it really an accident or was that part of the child's programming? And does Starbuck really care or is she doing it to gain the cylon's favor?

Apollo and Dee got married at some point between seasons 2 and 3. But apparently without any life and death circumstances to worry about, Apollo has gained a bunch of weight and isn't the fighter he used to be. And that's a shame because Dee still looks great. I feel bad for her. Admiral Odama is still being friendly with Sharon. He even sends her on the rescue mission to New Caprica. But that friendship along with his decision to fake her baby's death may backfire if Sharon keeps questioning what happened. In relation to that, its weird how the woman cylon had a dream that led her to someone who knew Sharon's baby was still alive. I guess this is to drive home the point that cylons have a similar type consciousness that humans have. I think that speaks to why the cylons believe in god. Though its also odd that they seem to believe in a god, which humans believe in multiple gods. I'm still not sure what the show is trying to get across with that. But its interesting.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dolphins vs Chiefs

We can't even suck properly. Instead of staying on pace to get the first pick we destroyed the Chiefs. After giving up the most sacks in the league up to today, Matt Moore was barely touched and was therefore able to sit back in the pocket and have a good day throwing the ball. Brandon Marshall even won his battle with the sideline, the endzone, and apparently Vontae Davis and caught a TD pass to cap off a good game.

Reggie Bush had his second straight good game. He is finally comfortable and Brian Daboll has finally seemed to learn how to use him properly. Daboll and Nolan had really good days calling plays. Daboll dialed up the right routes at the right times. And Nolan used the blitz to get to Cassell a lot. It all finally came together and led to a great game.

I still want us to lose enough to get the first pick. Even with the win today we basically have no shot at the playoffs. In fact, even if we win the rest of our games we would only be 9-7, which would make us very unlikely to make the playoffs. But it felt good to see the team play so well. And if we are going to win and mess up the suck for Luck thing, we might as well do it in style.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

South Park

One of the good things about the show is that they can stay up to date with what is going on with the world. In tonight's episode they played off the Occupy Wall Street movement. But they mostly used it as a way in which to tell a story about Cartman. Though my problem with that is I don't know if they were being serious when they injected politics into the story.

My biggest problem is that I didn't really find much in this episode to be funny. I can handle and even enjoy some of the nihilism and conservative leanings if they make it funny. That's not to say this episode contains those aspects. The reason I don't think this episode worked is because I'm not sure if there was some sort of message I was supposed to get or if they were just using the OWS and the 99% thing to make it completely about Cartman and his need for stuffed animals.

If it was just about Cartman growing up then I think its not a bad episode. But even then they never let the characters grow and always let Cartman get away with things. So if they are trying to say he is growing up by killing his stuffed animals I just don't buy it. What's the point if they don't follow through? If there was some message, possibly about how OWS and the 99% should put more blame on Obama, I think it was muddled and off base.

The more I look back on older episodes, the more I see conservative or nihilist principles coming through. Their episodes about religion are almost always really funny and smart, often some of their best episodes of the entire series. But as with many issues, they tend to try to come off as down the middle as possible. For instance, they poke fun at Catholic priests for sexually abusing young boys. But they also have atheists crapping out of their mouth when talking about why they gave up being christians. They criticize mormons for believing ridiculous shit. But then they make them out to be such nice people that it doesn't matter to them what they believe. And in the episode I'm watching right now, they have some environmentalists brainwashing people into believing global warming and doing something about it. They even have one of the kids say there is no evidence for it and the environmentalist do the jedi mind trick to convince the kid there is.

The thing I sometimes find frustrating with the show is what I had a problem with tonight, which is trying to figure out what they are really saying. If they aren't straddling the fence they are being nihilistic. Nihilism is fine when they are saying something shouldn't be taken so seriously. But when you go back and forth between that and trying to take a stance on an issue it can be hard to know when to take what they are saying seriously and when we should just laugh at the jokes. I think this could be a downside of them doing the show the way they do, which is that they don't have enough time to let an idea roll around in their heads and get fleshed out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. So far this season I think it hasn't really worked for the most part.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The hype around Andrew Luck

Luck is widely acknowledged as the top prospect in the upcoming draft class. Not only that, he is widely claimed to be the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning. I've even heard some people say he is the best since John Elway. Widely is being conservative. I haven't heard anyone state anything different, until Phil Simms.

Unlike Phil Simms, I don't have access to radio and tv shows. So the only people that get to hear my opinion are you fine people that read my blog and whoever I run into at work. But if I had the media access Simms does, you would have heard me say the same thing Simms said, which is that I don't think Luck has elite arm strength. Or, at least I haven't seen him display elite arm strength (and when I say arm strength, I mean how hard he throws the ball, not how far he can throw it).

Simms has seen more of Luck than I have. So he working from a bigger data set. But from what I have seen of Luck, he doesn't throw the ball very hard. That's not to say that the ball doesn't get to his receivers on time and in an accurate manner. Nor does it say that he isn't a very good QB who can't translate into a very good NFL QB. But Simms' point is that if you are going to compare someone to John Elway and generally claim that he is an all time great prospect, he needs to display elite skills across the board. And he simply doesn't show the kind of arm strength that supremely talented QBs have; QBs like Elway, Marino, and Favre.

Arm strength isn't the most important skill for a QB. Its more important to be able to see the field clearly, process information quickly, and be fundamentally sound with your feet and delivery. What arm strength does is give you a little more wiggle room in terms of how quickly you have to get rid of the ball and how much you have to use your feet and lower body in order to throw the ball. In other words, you might be able to be half a second slower reading a defense if you throw the ball a little harder than most QBs. And if you have defenders right in front of you and can't step into a throw, you might be able to throw the ball more effectively than someone who needs their lower body to generate velocity on their throw.

I'm not sure if scouts and everyone don't see what Simms and I are seeing or if they do and don't think it matters. If they don't see it I'm not sure why. If they see it and don't think it matters I can understand that. But I think they should temper how they speak of him as a prospect, or at least add the addendum that he doesn't have elite arm strength. As for my endorsement of the Suck for Luck campaign, I'm still on board, just because having the first pick is good in and of itself aside from the presence of Luck. But I won't blindly believe the hype.

Should we trust god with our money?

The office tv was on msnbc today. The phone was answering during most of the segment. But I did see a few seconds of a Congressman talking about a vote on whether to keep the phrase "In God We Trust" on our paper currency. I liked that the Congressman, who I think was from NY, said that we shouldn't have that phrase on our currency. But his argument wasn't that great. As I said, I couldn't really hear all of what he said. But what I heard was pretty watered down and not fleshed out.

This is a violation of the first amendment, specially the establishment clause. And I think its pretty clear cut. The federal gov't is explicitly endorsing a religious belief. It is basically saying that in financial terms, we as a nation endorse a belief in god, and think that belief will bring us good fortune. That's de facto establishing the US gov't as a theistic gov't.

Aside from the constitutional question, I think its weird and arrogant to have that phrase on our currency. Why is it on there to begin with? What does god have to do with our money? What does trusting in god have to do with our money or our finances in general? I don't see the connection other than the fact that a lot of religious people in the US see god in everything, or think it should be present in everything. Otherwise, I see no practical reason for it, nor do I see why Congress was voting on this other than to pander to those people I just mentioned.

Putting aside whether the phrase is meant to have a direct connection with money or finance, lets assume it is supposed to have some related meaning and ask the question I ask in the title of the post. I don't recall the god of the old testament talking much about money. But I do recall a times in which Jesus encountered money and didn't have a glowing endorsement of it. I believe there is a story about a rich man and his prospects of getting into heaven. And there is one about Jesus giving his advice to someone with a lot of possessions. The overall gist for Jesus seemed to be that money isn't all that important. Also, why should we assume god is looking out for our best interests? Just look at the past few years and ask yourself how much you are willing to trust anyone when it comes to money, finances, or the economy.

So again, for christians in the US, I just don't see a practical purpose in invoking god on our currency. The real reason is rather that many christian's religious beliefs are very intertwined with cultural and political beliefs. Therefore they want politics and culture to reflect their religious views, never mind the rather blatant conflict with the constitution.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The latest Herman Cain story

It was reported the other day that Cain was accused of sexual assault while he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association. As far as I can tell, that is the extent of the story, that he was accused of sexual assault and that he settled out of court. No one has reported what he allegedly did. And I haven't heard anyone assuming he did something wrong and then proceed to bash him.

Yet predictably, some people on the right have been complaining that this story is racist and another instance of the liberal media conspiring against conservatives. I'm not going to mention the names of some of the popular people making those accusations because they are moronic assholes who are attention whores. But as usual, I'm sure their basic sentiment is echoed by at least some conservatives.

Looking at this through a logical point of view, it doesn't make any sense to say that simply reporting on something that happened in Cain's past is an act of racism or a demonstration of media bias against him in and of itself. This man is running for president. And sexual harassment is a serious charge that could speak to his character and his merits for holding public office. Surely these same conservatives were eager to get the facts regarding Bill Clinton's history of sexual mishaps. So why not now with Cain?

The critiques of reporting the Cain story are obviously about blindly partisan politics. But looking at their argument on the merits, just to give them the benefit of the doubt for a second, I don't see the problem with the reporting. And unless I've missed it, I think most people have been careful to classify him as being "accused" of a crime, not of having committed it. Though what I worry about now is that when Cain loses or drops out, conservatives (especially the moronic pundits that won't be named) will blame this reporting instead of the fact that Cain is a joke that isn't fit to hold any public office, much less the presidency.

Reassessing Libya

Spencer Ackerman says he got it wrong:

Lots of questions remain about the future of Libya. Will an insurgency develop? Will Gadhafi’s loose missiles be recovered? Will the U.S. keep a CIA presence in Libya, even as it says there aren’t any boots on Libyan soil? Will the security contractors seek more bids to augment the new government’s forces? Do the Qatari commandos who helped the rebels march to Tripoli head home?

And so, in the spirit of intellectual honesty, I need to concede that I got the Libya war wrong. Several Danger Room pieces under my byline ran this year predicting that Libya was an open-ended mission, lacked a clear plan for victory, and could lead to NATO peacekeepers battling post-Gadhafi insurgents. While reasonable people can disagree about whether the war was in the U.S. interest (or even legal), or whether President Obama portrayed it honestly, the fact is that the war successfully ended after eight months, contrary to consistent predictions on display here.

I was also skeptical about our intervention, especially how Obama handled the procedure in which he decided to intervene. But it seems to have worked out pretty well so far. So like Spencer, I'm happy to admit that I seem to have been wrong about how well this thing would go. But I do still embrace those questions Spencer brings up. Because the political science research finds that transitions from autocracies to democracies can be very unstable. And it is possible for a country to slip back into an autocracy if its people can't work things out. Hopefully they maintain stability and democracy can start building on a solid foundation.