Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Journalism in the age of Bush and Obama

The Frum bruhaha is in fact only a small part of a wider clustershag happening all over the world of journalism over intellectual freedom, dissent, and the proper role of journalists vis-a-vis their subjects.

We have three major leak stories:

  1. Wired Magazine reported on the exposure and arrest of Bradley Manning, an Army intelligence analyst who supplied several thousand documents including a controversial video of a helicopter strike on Iraqi civilians to the whistleblowing website Wikileaks. See Greenwald's excellence coverage of the matter for details.

  2. Rolling Stone writer Michael Hastings published a humdinger of an article exposing disparaging comments made by General Stanley McChrystal and his staff about civilian leaders that ultimately led to his resignation. CBS News' Lara Logan slams Hastings in response, denigrating his journalistic ethics and his patriotism for daring to publish the remarks because there's an unspoken agreement that you don't publish anything that will embarrass the troops. "Michael Hastings has never served his country the way McChrystal has," she says at one point.

  3. FishbowlDC published remarks disparaging prominent conservatives made by Washington Post blogger Dave Weigel, whose beat is the conservative movement, on the liberal journalist listserv Journolist. The WaPo freaked out, and accepted Weigel's resignation. Conservative Atlantic blogger Jeffrey Goldberg says they were right to can him, that only conservatives should report on the conservative movement, and that he would gladly publish remarks from the listserv if they suited his purposes. Greenwald pwns him on it, and Joe Klein comes to Goldberg's defense by questioning Greenwald's patriotism and calling him a lawyer over and over (that may sound unfair, but seriously read it. One wonders if it was really written by John Boehner, as overloaded with sophomoric, Republican innuendo as it is).

There are numerous similarities between some of the stories, such as the question of whether anything you say in front of a journalist is unpublishable. What I find more interesting is the response from establishment journalists on these issues. We have Lara Logan and Joe Klein, neither one known as a conservative and one known as an out and out liberal, not only not taking the journalist's side but impugning people's patriotism. Meanwhile, in the first story, one involving an actual, bonafide whistleblower, the print press has already apparently lost interest, with coverage of the story now occurring almost exclusively online. To test this argument, I mentioned this story to a friend of mine who pays close attention to national news but doesn't read blogs, and he had never heard of this story, or even of Wikileaks!

In the first two stories there's the similar thread of establishment media personalities being uninterested in whistleblowing and hostile to reporting that is unfavorable toward the government. They show how the press has become more deferential toward the government in recent years and perhaps no longer claim the civil libertarian mantle they once did.

In the third story we see a similar argument that reporters should not be adversarial toward their beats, though this time it's an ideological beat. The argument from the WaPo and Goldberg is essentially that reporters should agree with those they're covering, that someone covering conservatives should be a fellow traveler (nevermind for now the issue that the WaPo doesn't have anyone covering the liberal side!). Also, what constitutes lack of "toilet training" in journalism is whether you say ugly things about your subjects and use naughty language, rather than whether you write things that are later proven to be utterly false, refuse to retract them, and use your column to let your friends insult your enemies anonymously.

Interesting and scary to see what's happening to that profession. And they wonder at their credibility problem.

professional conservatism

Don't look now, but there's a really interested bruhaha going on right now in the conservative community about ideological orthodoxy. Some of you may remember a post I linked from David Frum called "Waterloo" about the GOP's historic defeat when the healthcare bill passed. Frum is a big name conservative who served in the Dubya White House but who, on occasion, has been able to have honest conversations about the state of the Republican party.

As you can guess, he was promptly ostracized after his post. Among other things, his request to have his blog added to the conservative blogads network was denied. According to the manager of that network, John Hawkins, his was only one of two blogs that have been denied, the other being the dreadful Little Green Footballs which actually shifted from a Bush-loving conservative blog to a Rachel Maddow-loving liberal one.

Frum's response is very interesting. Here's one bit that resonated with me:
Hawkins seems to be suggesting that we go on TV not as individuals, to express our own ideas as best we can, to offer the most useful information we can discover. No – people should appear as representatives of pre-existing tribes: conservatives, liberals, blacks, whatever, to engage in a ritual of synchronized repetition of pre-existing phrases. You are a conservative? You must say THIS – and never that. You must approve THIS – and never admit to doubts about that.

Hawkins asks: “What’s the point of putting Frum on TV?” Take him seriously though and you have to wonder: What’s the point of putting ANYONE on TV when the job could be so easily automated?

This is similar to the point I've been trying to make for a long time when I talk about "professional conservatives." Hawkins ascribes to the same view of punditry as that of many TV news shows: when you bring on a guy that's a conservative (which you're always supposed to do, of course), he isn't supposed to be an expert with an expert's individual opinion. Rather, he's merely the representative of the conservative movement that they're for some reason entitled to in every single news segment, and thus his job is to present the conservative line. His role is to counter the expert and represent the Right.

Frum, however, has the temerity to suggest that the conservative should also be an expert bringing his expert opinion, rather than a medium for GOP talking points.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ireland's economy in the toilet because of austerity

Clearly the problem is that they didn't fire enough teachers. Bond investors feed on their tears.

the GOP's Elena Kagen clown show

Just finished watching Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III of Alabama accuse the late Justice Thurgood Marshall of having "used [his] power to redefine the meaning of our constitution."

You don't have to be Ralph Ellison to read between those lines.

Monday, June 28, 2010

more on war, or moron war

We have a lot to learn.

In the NYT Ross Douthat argues for permanent war in Afghanistan ... I mean, staying until we "succeed," which in the context of his article just means until the Taliban are guaranteed never, ever to rule again, Al Qaeda are eradicated in Pakistan, and the Middle East is no longer volatile. Then we can go home!

Maybe we can hope to be as successful there as we were in its sister-warzone, Iraq, where after 4000 soldiers' lives and hundreds of billions of dollars we have "succeeded" in finally establishing the Islamist state with strong ties to Iran that we've always dreamed of.

And look here! Here's Joe Klein in TIME, one of the major liberal voices in the press, referring to the antiwar base of the Democratic party as "vestigial," as in a useless, degenerate extra part inherited from a prior age. It is notable that those who are considered "antiwar" are considered deserving of such open contempt -- by a liberal pundit!

Just as with Iraq, however, we can at least take heart that the people are smarter than their chickenhawk pundits.

the corrosive effects of war

A great piece in the Post today from Andrew Bacevich on the increasing mistrust and alienation our professional army feels toward the rest of the populace. The opening two sentences are much broader, however, and I'm glad to see someone saying it:
Long wars are antithetical to democracy. Protracted conflict introduces toxins that inexorably corrode the values of popular government.

I hope that we get at least one great benefit from the war in Afghanistan, since it looks like we'll get little else: the lesson that even "good" wars are bad. Aside from the trite costs "in blood and treasure," war creates new enemies even when it vanquishes the old ones, damages our reputation abroad, desensitizes our people to violence (which carries its own attendant degradations of character), and breeds resentment of our democratic values and civil rights among both the military and civilian populations. It makes us coarser and more authoritarian as a people.

Monday, June 21, 2010

diving in soccer

(image c/o Shrunken Mind)

Yeah, it bugs me. In World Cup, and in futbol leagues around the world, guys take comically fake dives in order to draw a foul whenever they can, as incredulously gawked at here by the New York Times today. Supposedly it's a major turn-off for many American viewers because it comes across as unsportsmanlike and an affront to masculinity to feign injury to tug at the heart strings of the refs. John Doyle at The Globe brushes off those complaints by making an argument about how the need for moral uprightness in sports is a distinctly Anglo thing, but he opens himself to the same Anglo-centric charge of which he accuses American viewers.

The real problem with American "tut-tutting" over soccer dives and the Times' treatment of it as some strange, foreign ritual is that -- news flash! -- it happens in American sports all the time. Anyone watched a basketball game in the last, I don't know, 30 years? At both the college and NBA levels, your average hoops game is filled with foul-drawing theatrics to rival Ronaldo's finest performances. How about a football game (yes, even the hallowed sport of manliness and sportsmanlike conduct!) where a defensive end got anywhere within 5 yards of the kicker? Christ, at least in FIFA you can get yellow-carded for diving; in football and basketball there is no penalty for make-believe.

In America as in other countries, the culture of sports dictates that teams play to win by any means at their disposal, despite all the lip service paid to sportsmanship. Anything not explicitly against the rules is fair game, and anything that is explicitly against the games is still done if there's a decent chance you won't get caught.

Death to the Death Penalty

A beautiful ad from Amnesty International:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

the Big 12 survives

Amazing. Texas is staying, and the Big 12 moves on with a new TV contract.

So now the Big 10 has 12 teams, the Big 12 has 10 teams, and the Pac 10 has 11 teams (for the moment; they're likely to pick off Utah to make an even 12). All that's left to see now is whether the Pac 10 takes Utah and what the look of the Big 10's divisions and championship game will be.

Bummer. I was rooting for mass chaos.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Nebraska officially applying to the Big 10

That loud pop you heard? That's the sound of Nebraska putting the Big 12 out of its misery. Sports Illustrated:
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- University of Nebraska officials said Friday that they will apply for membership in the Big Ten Conference and expect to be accepted.

Chancellor Harvey Perlman disclosed the plan during a meeting of the university's Board of Regents, proposing that play in the new conference begin in 2011 after one more year in the Big 12. He said he believed Nebraska is more "aligned" with the Big Ten when it comes to academics, culture and athletics.

He also said the move offered stability "that the Big 12 simply cannot offer." The regents approved a resolution supporting the move to the Big Ten.

Of course, that's all bullshit for the papers. This was about the Big 10 Network, perhaps along with a little frustration at Texas becoming the center of gravity of the conference.

Speaking of Texas, UT already said there is no Big 12 without Nebraska. I guess it will be on Kansas to turn off the lights on the way out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

the empathic civilization

Jeremy Rifkin argues that capacity for empathy is not only wired into our cerebrum, and that this capacity extends to animals as well, and is exhibited by animals, but that our capacity is growing due to technological advances. It is a bold and hopeful challenge to the cynicism that is in vogue today, typified by things like the monkeysphere.

David Mitchell's Soapbox

I had no idea Mitchell was doing these. Here's the latest:

Sources: Nebraska to the Big Ten, Colorado to the Pac 10

(All this c/o the most excellent Dr. Saturday)

So the disintegration begins. The Chicago Tribune:
The Big Red will be joining the Big Ten.

A source with knowledge of the expansion talks has confirmed to the Tribune that Nebraska will be invited to apply for Big Ten membership, a mere formality in the process. An announcement is expected Friday.

The league has not determined, the source said, whether it will remain at 12 schools or expand to 14.

For every action, there is more grist for the San Jose Mercury News' Jon Wilner:
Just got off the phone with a source familiar with the negotiations between the Pac-10 and Big 12 schools, who said:

* Colorado “is likely to formally accept” an invitation to join the Pac-10 on Thursday.

Repeat: Colorado to the Pac-10 on Thursday.

At that moment, it will become the Pac-11.

* Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State are committed to joining the Pac-10 if Nebraska joins the Big Ten … and they might do it even if Nebraska doesn’t join the Big Ten.

On the home front, here's Red
When Nebraska leaves the Big 12 Conference this week, so too will Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M, a high-ranking Tech official confirmed Wednesday.

The official said those three Texas universities have vowed to stick together through any major conference upheaval, which — according to multiple reports from reputable newspapers across the country — Nebraska will trigger this week.

The University of Texas, along with Tech and A&M, should soon be leaving the conference to join the Pacific-10 Conference, according to the source.

Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle says that Texas and A&M may actually go their separate ways, with the Aggies going to the SEC.

UPDATE: edited out statement by Captain Obvious that, if Nebraska gets the 12th Big 10 invite, then Mizzou isn't. It was early in the morning.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Notre Dame and the Big 10 in talks

Amazing stuff happening in college football as we speak:
According to sources, the Big Ten officials and Notre Dame officials have entered into talks that could drastically alter the realignment talk which has dominated headlines in recent days. One insider told FanHouse on Tuesday that the two sides are talking about the nation's biggest independent joining one of the most influential conferences to give the Big Ten its desired 12 members.

The source said the talks "could not necessarily" be described as negotiations but said if Notre Dame can be convinced to give up its long standing independence that things could move rather quickly. Another source familiar with the back-and-forth between Notre Dame and the Big Ten over the years believes all of the Big Ten expansion talk which began with commissioner Jim Delany's announcement last December has always been aimed at getting the Irish to join the conference.

That last comment is interesting. The idea behind it is that the conditions that allowed ND to remain independent rather than joining the Big 10 a decade ago have been deteriorating, so the Big 10 decided last year to try its hand with Notre Dame. Notre Dame said no because the Big 10 still has little to offer; the Irish already have a sweetheart TV deal (though not quite as lucrative) and the Big East for all their non-cash-cow sports.

The Big 10 Network is the conference's ace in the hole. Because it brings in so much money, the Big 10 is more attractive than any other conference to any school out there. So the Big 10 made its move: "either you come with us, or we pull all the pillars out from under the Big East and leave you truly independent."

Checkmate? Let's hope so. With a far less favorable BCS deal than what we once had, the likely impending doom of our NBC TV deal in 2015, consistently shittier scheduling than we had even five years ago (Western Michigan and Tulsa? seriously?), and a commitment to our non-football varsity sports, many of which we just spent millions of dollars building fields and stadiums for, the Big 10 makes a lot of sense.

Let's look at scheduling for a moment. The complaint from Irish alumni about joining the Big 10 is that we'd have to fill our schedule with their shite teams. Here's the ND 2010 schedule:
Sept. 4 PURDUE
Sept. 18 at Michigan State
Oct. 2 at Boston College
Oct. 23 at Navy (at Meadowlands - East Rutherford, N.J.)
Oct. 30 TULSA
Nov. 6 Open Date
Nov. 13 UTAH
Nov. 20 ARMY (at Yankee Stadium - Bronx, N.Y.)
Nov. 27 at USC

Here's Michigan's schedule:
Sat, Sep 4 Connecticut 3:30 pm
Sat, Sep 11 at Notre Dame 3:30 pm
Sat, Sep 18 Massachusetts 12:00 pm
Sat, Sep 25 Bowling Green TBA
Sat, Oct 2 at Indiana TBA
Sat, Oct 9 Michigan State TBA
Sat, Oct 16 (7) Iowa 3:30 pm
Sat, Oct 30 at (9) Penn State 8:00 pm
Sat, Nov 6 Illinois TBA
Sat, Nov 13 at Purdue TBA
Sat, Nov 20 (16) Wisconsin TBA
Sat, Nov 27 at (5) Ohio State TBA

Which one has more crappy games?

Big 10 teams have eight conference games per season. That means the Irish can keep their annual games with Navy and USC, have two cupcake games (or even better, rotate in real teams that we play now like Pitt, Boston College, and UCLA) and still get their requisite 8 conference games.

As far as conference games go, the Big 10 would likely split into 2 divisions roughly divided by geography. The three Indiana schools, Ohio St. and Penn St. + 1 other team would form the eastern division. A Notre Dame Big 10 schedule, then, could conceivably look like this:
Sept. 4 PURDUE
Sept. 18 at Michigan State
Oct. 2 at Boston College
Oct. 23 at Navy (at Meadowlands - East Rutherford, N.J.)
Nov. 6 Open Date
Nov. 27 at USC

Tough schedule. Me likey. The problem with it is Notre Dame doesn't get any cupcakes while other Big 10 teams still do. The only teams we can take out to make room are BC and Stanford, meaning we've lost the ability to have new quality out-of-conference teams come play. Thus one of the sticking points may be limiting the Big 10 to fewer conference games or fewer cupcakes so we can still bring Boston College to town once in a while.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Classical Education

Stanley Fish in the NYT on the need for a return to the old model of secondary school curricula. Like most people, I've been struggling with pinpointing the problem with current practices in education, other than "teaching to the test" which I find vague and unhelpful by itself. Unpacking it a bit, there's the problem of students learning strategies of test-taking rather than the content of their classes, which Fish mentions, but the failings of the educational system extend much further than that. Many, many students arrive at college campuses and are woefully unprepared, so unprepared, in fact, that colleges are having to increase the size and number of remedial classes available to make up the slack. There are problems with testing, as many allege, and problems with the curriculum, as Fish argues, as well as problems with overexperimentation, social promotion, imbalanced funding, and other problems.

There is also the problem of the internet. Nicholas Carr talks about the difference between reading books and reading on the internet in his book The Shallows, where he alleges that the easily distracted, multitasking nature of internet reading doesn't train the mind in reflection and in holding attention and ideas for extended periods of time that book reading does. Consequently, students get to college and have great difficulty reading more than 10-20 pages at a time, and are virtually incapable of the abstract thought necessary for philosophy and literary theory. The frequent reading of internet drivel instead of books combined with neglect in teaching grammar also means students get to college and cannot write. They have no sense of spelling or punctuation on the one hand, and cannot sustain an argument through multiple pages on the other. This may be another byproduct of "teaching to the test" if, as some allege, the need to spend more time on test stuff has cut into reading assignments.

I'm not sure if returning to a classical education is a panacea, but I do agree with its proponents that students may not be doing anywhere near enough reading and writing, and that may lie at the core of the problem.

Monday, June 07, 2010

SEC expansion?

There are also interesting questions in this expansion matter for the SEC. Despite their tremendous success in football, huge payouts from the BCS, and lucrative TV deal, they've been blown off thus far by schools in favor of the Big 10 and Pac 10 because of their low academic reputation. After the Texas schools (A&M is the only one that's shown any interest), their most obvious targets for expansion to a 16 team format similar to the coming Big and Pac behemoths are the Florida contingent of the ACC, Miami and Florida State, as well as North Carolina, Duke, UVA, and VA Tech. NC, Duke and UVA are likely not part of SEC for a reason, the same reason, in fact, that likely explains why Texas is uninterested in the SEC's overtures -- North Carolina, Virginia and Texas are the three most academically esteemed public universities in the Old South. Like the Texas 3, the Tar Heels and Blue Devils are likely a package deal as well as UVA and VA Tech.

It's an interesting point of the current state of conferences that none of the schools in Virginia and North Carolina belong to the SEC. In fact, every school in the ACC except Boston College is located in the South. Yet so far there is no discussion that I know of involving a mass flight from the ACC to the SEC. It seems more likely, in fact, that the ACC will become the 4 major conference by absorbing the Big East!

It's an interesting mimicry of political culture, where Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida have gradually become better educated and more alienated from the rest of the South.

"the timeline could be affected"

From Matt Hinton:
Saturday, Pac-10 commissioner Larry Scott reportedly presented a handful of options to conference presidents, chancellors and athletic directors for pursuing expansion. Today, Scott said he'd been granted authority by the membership to pursue any and all of them...

To recap, according to both ESPN Los Angeles and, the four options Scott laid on the table on Saturday ran as follows, from least to most dramatic:

• Retaining the current 10-team structure, unchanged since Arizona and Arizona State joined the Pac-8 in 1978;
• Adding Colorado and Utah to form a 12-team conference with two six-team divisions and a championship game, a la the SEC, Big 12 and ACC;
• Brokering a merger with six Big 12 schools, as reported by Orangebloods on Thursday, as long as one of those schools is Texas; or
• Brokering a full merger with the entire Big 12, creating an unwieldy, 22-team behemoth that would completely redefine the concept of a "conference" in college sports.
While "by the end of the year" is certainly technically correct, and in keeping with the conference's initial 6-to-12-month timeline for considering expansion options, every indication over the last 72 hours suggests the strike is bound to come by the end of the month, if not by the end of the week.

Reacting to this news (and to contact from the Pac 10 assuring them that there will be an invitation incoming), the Big 12 has presented an ultimatum to Nebraska and Missouri to declare their intentions to stay in the Big 12 or listen to the Big 10's siren song by the end of the week.

For the Big 10, who had been planning on settling on a plan in November or so, "the timeline could be affected," as Big 10 commish Jim Delany put it.

If you remember, the Big 10 is not only courting the Tigers and Huskers, but also still has its designs on Texas, though the Texas legislature's insistence that any conference who wants the 'Horns also take A&M and Tech is a problem for the Big 10. Thus, if Delany wants Mizzou and Big Red, he's got to give them assurance of invites this week, and if he wants even a shot at Texas, he needs to send them an invite this week as well, which means clearing the way for Texas Tech through Big 10 presidents that don't think the Red Raiders meet the Big 10's academic standards.

So my thought: where is Notre Dame in all this? Do we have a plan of action in case the Big 12 falls apart this week? If the Pac 10 becomes the Pac 16, the Big 10 will become the Big 16. You can take that to the bank. I'm guessing we don't want to be left out of that?

Doug Gillett had a great post on why ND is independent several months ago, and it's worth looking at again. Of course, alumni cares aside, it's a money thing, specifically our sweetheart BCS deal and our even sweeter NBC deal. Gillett shows, however, that conference schools in the SEC and Big 10 have done comparably well with conference TV contracts, and actually gotten a much better payout from the BCS than ND overall (like 10 to 20 times as much).

Plus, of course, that sweetheart deal with NBC is increasingly unlikely to be renewed in 2015 as ND continues to stagnate in football and NBC struggles with, well, everything. Sure, Brian Kelly may pull off the great Return to Glory, but when your master plan for maintaining current revenue includes "winning a national championship" as a prerequisite, you don't have a good plan.

If Delany gets the Texas schools, ND is screwed. The Big 10 is actually 11 schools, plus the Texas 3 plus Mizzou and Nebraska = Big 16, with no room for the Irish. I don't think this is going to happen, though, because there are too many hurdles for Delany to clear with too many people to get those invites out this week. He's been outmaneuvered by the Pac 10.

There's a pretty good chance, I think, that the Pac 10 will raid the Big 12 South and the Big 10 will make off with Mizzou and Nebraska, leaving 3 schools left for the Big 10 to grow into the Big 16. Supposedly Syracuse, Rutgers, and UConn are being courted to become the last 3.

Again I ask: do we have a plan?

Friday, June 04, 2010


This article from the Charleston, SC NBC affiliate is amazing in so many ways, for the offensiveness of the story itself, the inaccuracy of the guy's comments, for the choice of title, for the apology. South Carolina is a crazy place.

No, wait, this may be better. The money quote:
“She’s a f#!king raghead,” Knotts said.

He later clarified his statement. He did not mean to use the F-word.

in the NCAA inter-conference cold war, the first shot is fired

And it's fired by ... the Pac 10:
According to "multiple sources close to the situation," the Pac-10 plans to offer conference membership to six Big 12 teams at its conference meeting in San Francisco, forming a 16-team behemoth that spans the entire Western half of the country and encompasses seven of the nation's top-20 television markets.

Those six teams: Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Colorado. Let the denials begin.

The vastly restructured league will reportedly feature two eight-team divisions with an East-West divide: The new newcomers will join Arizona and Arizona State in the "Inland" division, with the original "Pac-8" schools – California, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, USC, UCLA, Washington and Washington State – holding in the "Pacific" division.

That's the entire Big 12 South, switching Baylor with Colorado. Colorado's AD confirmed it last night.

It's funny, I was just thinking about this possibility over the weekend, considering the likelihood that, now that the Big 10 has put massive expansion on the table, one of the other big time conferences (i.e., the SEC or Pac 10) would attempt a pre-emptive strike to keep from being left out in the cold.

So the big question: will they jump? I think they might. Missouri has all but admitted that they would accept an invitation from the Big 10 if offered, and Nebraska has made some noises that they would consider such an offer as well. In the increasingly likely event that the Big 10 plunders the Big 12 North, the southern teams only have two options: the Pac 10 and the SEC. The Big 12 South has cultivated strong rivalries and academic relationships between its schools that now gain national attention, and this deal is probably the only one they'll get that preserves them (the SEC has supposedly expressed interest in Texas and Texas A&M, but not in Tech, Oklahoma, or OK St.).

Plus, conferences are also very much about academic relationships, and the SEC is laughably deficient in that respect. There are really only two high caliber public universities in the Old South, North Carolina and Virginia, and they're both in the ACC! Add Clemson and Duke to the ACC milieu, and you're left with an SEC that counts Vanderbilt as pretty much its only school with serious academic credentials. Meanwhile, the Pac 10 includes Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, and Southern Cal.

And finally, there's the money question. The Big 10 Network has been a financial success beyond the most optimistic expectations, bringing millions to every school in the conference. In an expanded Pac 10, a network along the lines of the Big 10 Network would lock up the media markets in the two most populous states in the Union (California and Texas), plus Seattle, Phoenix, and Denver. The SEC just can't compete with that. The Big 12, by the way, has the fewest quality TV markets of all, claiming only the Texas markets plus Denver and St. Louis.

If it's a decent deal, I think they should accept the invitations. It's the smart play given the circumstances, especially for Red Raider fans who have a serious concern that Tech be in a conference that is:

  • viable and profitable

  • includes Texas and A&M

  • will further Tech's goal of becoming a Tier 1 research university

Long live the Pac 16!

Incidentally, this may constitute one of Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick's "seismic" changes that "forces our hand."

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Tough break. Personally, I feel worst for the umpire, Jim Joyce, who admitted after the game that he'd blown the call and felt horrible about it. We bitch about blind refs all the time, but of course they do an incredibly difficult job (interpreting split-second events in real time) and make dozens of calls per game. They're going to botch one on occasion. What can you do?

What can you do, indeed. ESPN has technology to show you instantly where a ball was vis-a-vis the strike zone when it crossed a plate and where the runner was when the first baseman caught the ball. Computers don't make mistakes. If the technology is there to take the mistakes out of refereeing, why not use it?

Having humans there to "eyeball" it is what you do when you lack the precision of modern technology. Umpires are for little league at the local park, not for the Majors. If the fans really would prefer to leave the authority with an umpire making their best guess in close calls, that's fine I guess, but you can't complain when they blow one.

On the other hand, Matt Hinton notes that even the Galarraga incident pales in comparison to the bizarro, "Kafkaesque" call that robbed Oklahoma of victory in the Holiday Bowl several years ago, which has to be the worst call ever made in the history of sports:

And that call was deemed to have been confirmed by video evidence!

Of course, this is not to say that refs + instant replay isn't significantly less error-prone than just refs. Instant replay is going to catch some of the refs' mistakes, and thus it's certainly worth implementing. Leagues that continue to refuse to do so are asking for trouble.

CJ's returning in July/August

Important news for Benders.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

the gold standard: nugget of idiocy

Apropos of my apparently ongoing diatribe against libertarianism is this wonderful refutation of the gold standard argument by Matt Steinglass posted in, of all places, the comment section of one of his blog posts.

The upshot: value is intangible, and therefore money is intangible. It is no more inherent to gold nuggets than it is to nickel currency or electronic pulses in an online stock exchange. There is no more of an imperative on people to admit the value of a gold nugget than to agree to the value of a government-backed sheet of denim with George Washington's face printed on it. To insist that one must always be equal to another just adds a pointless level of complexity while tying the value of the dollar to the vagaries of the gold market.

This quote from Paul Krugman at the link Steinglass provides is absolutely brilliant:
The legend of King Midas has been generally misunderstood. Most people think the curse that turned everything the old miser touched into gold, leaving him unable to eat or drink, was a lesson in the perils of avarice. But Midas' true sin was his failure to understand monetary economics. What the gods were really telling him is that gold is just a metal. If it sometimes seems to be more, that is only because society has found it convenient to use gold as a medium of exchange--a bridge between other, truly desirable, objects. There are other possible mediums of exchange, and it is silly to imagine that this pretty, but only moderately useful, substance has some irreplaceable significance.

The rest of the Krugman article, while dated, is also very useful.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Intellectual Freedom and Natural Rights

I came across an interesting fault line in liberal politics today that I thought I'd share and compare with y'all.

It happened in my intellectual freedom class. Someone posted a discussion about Haystack. Haystack is a program developed in the United States that allows the user to bypass the state censors in Iran, providing Iranians with unfettered internet access.

Me, I think it's awesome. I think undermining oppressive governments' bans on intellectual freedom should be our national pastime. I believe that all human beings have a natural right to intellectual freedom, and the more a government tries to curtail it, the less legitimate that government becomes.

There was a surprising near-consensus among the people in my class that generally identified as "liberal," though, that this was an arrogant imposition of our cultural values onto others, and that we could be negligently engendering the lives of people who use it.

Is this a generational thing, with my beliefs being a relic of Cold War-era liberalism? Is the classic liberal belief in natural rights in decline? Is it war fatigue? Are you "furt" or "agin't?"