Thursday, September 28, 2006

Hotlanta Bound

Blogging may be light in the next few days, as I am heading to Atlanta for a conference. I'll write as I can. I'll also see Tootle and several other good friends and will enjoy southern hospitality at its finest. Hopefully Gladys & Ron's Chicken and Waffles, the Varsity, and many shenanigans lie in my immediate future. I'll be back in full capacity on Monday.


I was pleased to see that the New York Times gave The Last King of Scotland a generally favorable review. LKoS is one of three movies I am still very much looking forward to seeing (I will still see All The King's Men, but too many shoddy reviews, even with a few decent ones tossed in, have made me wary), along with Borat which by all accounts is South Park-level in its brilliance, and The Departed, which, given the cast, director, theme, and locale, ought to be a knockout.

The Zambian Election

Zambians are queuing at the polling stations today to elect a new president, parliament, and municipal councils. The presidential race is tight, but so far peace has prevailed and the sitting President, Levy Mwanawasa, who is running for a second and constitutionally-mandated final five-year term, has promised to stand down if he is defeated at the hands of his only other serious competitor in the multi-candidate race, Michael Sate, a firebrand populist who has promised to put more control in the hands of working-class Zambians. Observers are predicting the closest election since Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) achieved its independence in 1964.

An Invaluable Discovery

Currie Ballard, an Oklahoma historian, has discovered (be sure to click on the excerpts) 29 cans of film dating to the 1920s depicting African-American life in what American heritage calls "some remarkably successful black communities." Ballard's next responsibility, he says, is to find an institution capable of transferring this rich resource on to disc to preserve and distribute it for scholars and others to see.

Big thumbs up to Tom for the feed.

Will This Work?

The Republicans have chosen the Twin Cities as the site of their 2008 National Convention. One of their motivations? To try to lure voters in the midwest. I quite like the Twin Cities, but can the site of a convention possibly have the sort of ripple effect that will cause voters in Iowa to say "I was on the fence, but now that they are meeting in Minnesota, I must vote Republican!"? I lived 75 miles south of the cities for two years and can say with reasonable assurance that the impact will be minimal, so color me dubious. The Democrats had narrowed their choices to Minneapolis-St. Paul as well, in addition to New York and Denver. Don't be surprised if the Dems don't follow the same faulty logic and match the GOP's move with the decision to hold their dog and pony show in Colorado (which from an image perspective might be better than New York for them anyway, even if it will be unlikely to win any voters in the Plains or Mountain states.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Screech Gets It On

From the Thunderstick:

"You know, despite how much fun they are, I was never really sure if blogs
served a useful purpose in our society until I realized today that they can
be used to get stories like this out to a larger audience. If this isn't
DCat material, I don't know what is": Porn star's name may ring a 'Bell'
Let's just put it this way: The phrase "Dirty Sanchez features.

I live to serve my readers.

Allen, Racist, Etc. Cont.

Ryan Lizza has yet more on the rapidly snowballing story over at the Plank in a post titles "N-Word Accuser of the Day." Ellen G. Hawkins, a housewife from rural manquin, Virginia, has a very specific story about Allen using racist epithets against black washington redskins players at a 1976 election party.

I'll let Lizza Take it from here:

I truly don't mean to pile on, but it's worth summarizing what we now know about Allen's history on matters of race:

-He wore or displayed Confederate memorabilia from high school (late 1960s) until 1993, including on himself, his car, in his living room, and in a campaign ad.

-In high school he allegedly sprayed racist graffiti on his school's walls.

-In college he allegedly stuffed the head of a deer in a black family's mailbox.

-According to the accounts of three independent, on the record sources and two anonymous sources, in college and law school in the 1970s and as an attorney starting a political career in the early 1980s, Allen regularly and casually used the word "nigger" to describe African Americans.

There are two possibilities: Allen is the victim of a massive conspiracy to paint him as a racist, a plot that involves numerous high school and college classmates, a Virginia housewife, an Alabama anthropologist, and a North Carolina radiologist. Or, George Allen was a racist.

And since George Allen in recent weeks referred to someone by what he knew from both his knowledge of French and his mother's North African roots to be a racist slur (and compounded his xenophobia by welcoming the native Virginian to America) one can seriously question the use of the past tense. And unlike Lizza, I actually do mean to pile on. George Allen is running for reelection to his seat as one of Virginia's United States Senators and he has eyes on the presidency. We need to pile on early and often.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pictures From Iran

One of my colleagues from my China program this past summer just returned from a trip to Iran. Here are two of the pictures he took. They may serve as a useful reminder of what we are up against. I am very reluctant to support any sort of military action in Iran, though someday it might be necessary, but I think we ought not to be under any illusions either.

This is only a small sample of the pictures he sent me. Iran is obviously a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and a long history. Jonathan had some eye-opening experiences (for good and for ill) and met some wonderful people and he wants to be hopeful. I too sincerely harbor hope. But my approach is to hope but also to prepare for the possibility that some of those hopes may come up short.

Silas Simmons and Baseball's Mixed Legacy

The New York Times has a nice feature on Silas Simmons, a former Negro Leagues player and quite likely the oldest living former professional. It's remarkable how sketchy much of our undrstanding is of some aspects of professional, and especially black baseball in the decades surrounding the turn of the last century. Si Simmons is a living connection to those times. Even more remarkable, and to most of us almost alien, is the very idea of a sports landscape in which any group, and especially African Americans, could be forbidden from participating because of race. And yet in April fans and historians will celebrate only the sixtieth anniversary of Jackie Robinson's integration of the Major Leagues. To put it differently, for almost half of his life, Si Simmons knew only of segregaton even on the playing fields where we preach the virtue of true equality. Imagine what the historical landscape of baseball would look like had an unwritten ban not kept huge numbers of truly great players from competing. Also keep it in mind when trying to compare players across eras. I'll forever remain undersold on Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson and myriad other great players who nonetheless did not have to compete against some of the best and brightest of their age.

NFL = Chinese Autocrats

It is just incomprehensible enough that I cannot be sure, but this atrociously bad editorial in today's Boston Globe appears to compare the National Football League with the autocrats who run China. It appears to compare the Chinese autocrats favorably. I just tried to re-read it, but my brain started to hurt too much, so I welcome reader interpretations.

George Allen: Racist, Even if it Makes Him Feel Bad

It is generally considered not nice among racists to call them racists. It hurts their feelings and their self-esteem. But it also allows them to embrace one of the peculiarities of the anti-PC backlash inasmuch as it allows actual racists to hide behind a patina of hurt feelings even in the face of the facts.

On the other hand, there are some on the left who toss the accusation of racism out with such frequency that it allows real racists to seek cover under the cynical but effective anti-PC backlash. If racists are everywhere, some racists have discovered, one can plausibly deny that they are anywhere. Such goes the logic amidst a peculiar and unintended convergence of the racist right and domogogic left, with each representing a very small but visible slice of their side of the political spectrum.

So with this surface analysis out of the way, let's get to the heart of the matter: I'm sorry to hurt his feelings, and I'm sorry that so many dopey multi-culti caricatures have turned it into a no-no, but George Allen is a racist. No qualifiers. No tip-toeing. George Allen is a racist, he was a racist, and he will continue to be a racist. With each passing week a new incident occurs, new evidence emerges. And each week the evidence seems more damning. The newest allegations are that while a student at the University of Virginia, Allen knew the business end of using the N-bomb. As the story builds, more revelations emerge. Now to be sure, these are unproven allegations, but at a certain point, when you have enough allegations from enough independent sources, many of whom clearly were reluctant to come forward and speak, a reasonable person is going to come to the concusion that there is something to them. This is especially so when one sees enough Confederate Flag lapel pins and pictures of meetings with neo-Confederate organizations, when one hears enough racial slurs from the candidate's mouth, and when one sees enough outrage on the part of the candidate when he is asked about the possibility of having Jewish heritage (ok, so maybe I am blurring anti-Semitism and racism -- debate freely; is this really the ideal Allen talking point? In any case, as events in the past week or so reveal, Allen apparently was against being Jewish before he was for it).

So far the Allen campaign has taken one of the three most obvious approaches available to it. Naturally Allen has denied ever having used the racial slur in question. How could he not, at least in the first phase of spin. But is there any serious person who believes him?

The second approach that, while patently absurd, would be the one I would take were I a GOP operative, would be for Allen to try to claim that he is being Swift Boated. Of course this could backfire -- after all, the problem with the loathsome Swift Boating approach is that virtually all of the people who actually served with and under John Kerry supported him and spoke to his courage and bravery. The Swift Boat vets who went after him never actually served with him. They were ideological hatchet men who concocted stories and cynically blurred lines between truth and lies. In the case of Allen's accusers, they all knew him, in some cases well, and all had direct experiences with his racism. Nonetheless, in a cynical age, I would be surprised if Allen does not take the cynical tack -- though another problem is that he cannot use the term "Swift Boating" without revealing the loathsome GOP tactic for what it was.

The third possible option, which may end up being Allen's last and most risky gambit, is to acknowledge being a racist young man in a racist period in a racist state. Then he could repentantly throw himself on the mercy of Virginians who, in all honesty, may not much care, or at least may not care so much that it makes the election a, um, Lost Cause. This is not ideal, and is any strategist's nightmare, but it would at least have the ancillary effect of being honest.

Of course there is a fourth option that my imagination never would have summoned. And that is to concoct an argument so silly, so absurd, so ridiculous, that some people actually buy it. The Big Lie is the approach Allen and his support staff have taken. Apperently Allen cannot be a racist, he argues, because he played football, and, (believe it or not he actually implies this) because he has black friends! That's right. By Allen's logic if you play football, you cannot be a racist. Because playing on a team with someone apparently confers magical powers off the field that make men live in brotherhood. Yes, on the field, race may not matter. But unfortunately, Allen apparently is unaware that most of life is lived off of the great rainbow gridiron of his dreams.

And so this brings me back to the dilemma of accusing someone of racism in a postmodern age. And I have a simple and very modernist response: A racist is someone who does and says racist things. And if pointing out to someone that they have said and done racist things hurts their feelings, that is beside the point. George Allen, whatever he feels about it, and whatever he tells us now, has spent most of his life as a racist. Let us hope that the voters of Virginia, white and black, Indian and Jewish, send him a message in November that he and his kind are not welcome in their ideological neighborhoods.

Lieberman-Lamont Gets Ugly

Over at The New Republic Jason Zengerle has the details of how the Joe Lieberman-Ned Lamont race has grown increasingly ugly. The blame for this falls directly on the shoulders of top political operatives for the candidates, Lamont's David Sirota and Lieberman's Dan Gerstein.

Probably the most bothersome aspect of the whole ongoing imbroglio (beyond the further diminishment of the civic dialogue, I mean) is the fact that Zengerle uses as an example of Sirota's no-holds-barred style the fact the he once called an opponent a "No Talent Ass Clown" without telling TNR's readers that the insult was not even original. Sirota stole it directly from an insult aimed at the singer Michael Bolton by a character who unfortunately carried the same name in the cult movie classic Office Space.

The issue of insult plagiarism aside, the Connecticut race is destined to grow uglier as the day of reckoning approaches. polls indicate that the race is tight, with Lieberman leading but within the margin or error according to Rasmussen, and with a slightly more comfortable margin according to the generally more respected Quinnipiac poll. Strap yourselves in -- the run-up to the elections is going to be a bumpy ride.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Satan Analogy

We have come to a general consensus at dcat: The Nazi/Fascist/Hitler analogy is bad and wrong and deserves our contempt; ditto the Communist/Stalinist analogy. And we're wary of the new tendency to equate people with whom you disagree with Osama/al Qaeda or with being a friend of Osama/al Qaeda. So can we agree that comparing people (unfavorably) to the devil, as Jerry Falwell did this weekend with Hillary Clinton on the receiving end, is probably a bad idea? Let us go further: Any organization tied to the Value Voters Summit, however peripherally, needs to have its tax exempt status revisited and eventually revoked.

Fortunately, since dcat has not yet passed judgment on all ad hominem attacks on individuals who have demonstrably earned them (just on those comparing people to evil and murderous dictators and regimes, and to the Prince of Darkness): Jerry Falwell is a jackass. (So are you, Hugo Chavez.)

What Were They Thinking?

I don't even know where to start, so I'll just let the lede to this article speak for itself:
A car commercial proclaiming a jihad on the U.S. auto market and offering "Fatwa Fridays" with free swords for the kids is offensive and should not be aired, Muslim leaders said on Sunday.

The party responsible for this cavalcade of idiocy is Dennis Mitsubishi car dealership in Columbus, Ohio. What is remarkable is how many different ways this thankfully aborted plan slices off great big hunks of dumb. There is the obvious fact that the proposed ad campaign is incredibly insensitive to American Muslims. There is the fact that this may not play especially well in the rest of the world -- Muslim and non-Muslim alike. But what about the feelings of the victims of Jihad? What about the families and friends and colleagues of those who died on 9-11? What about the victims of the USS Cole, or the Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, or the hundreds dead as the result of the Jihads in Israel and the occupied territories, or the victims of the 7 July bombings in London or the bombings in Madrid?

Outrage is easy to muster and just as easy to trumpet. But it is difficult to get a sense of what sentient being could possibly have thought this was either clever or savvy. Dennis Mistubishi deserves your scorn no matter your political or ideological perspective. If you live in Ohio, it certainly does not deserve your custom.
(Thanks to Homz for the heads up.)

Schizophrenic Browns Fan Alert! (With Patriots Fodder)

Over at Cleveland '64 Tom adds another layer of schizophrenia to his weekly Browns madness. We did not get the Browns-Ravens game here in West Texas, so my conclusion is based on what I've read and what I saw in the highlights, but what I would suggest is that while some of the problem may be with coacing, as Tom suggests, there is also an element of learning how to win. The further from Cuyohoga County one gets, the more one is likely to agree with the following statement: the baltimore Ravens are a better football team than the Cleveland browns. Yet to their credit, the Browns paid such talk no mind. They found themselves in a slugfest with Baltimore, and in the end, as much as anything, a lack of experience at being in a position to win that kind of game did them in. No shame in that. And they get to face the execrable Raiders next week.

As for the Patriots, what is there to say? The offense was misfiring on all cylinders last night. Brady, heretofore the most composed football player I have ever seen, has looked nonplussed all season. He has thrown a better deep ball than I have seen him throw in his career, yet not one of those deep balls ever seems to be within five yards of the intended wide receiver. The running game has been inconsistent, though Maroney is clearly the real deal. The defense has been fine -- when you hold a team to 17 points in the NFL and you have Tom Brady at quarterback you should win, period -- but they seem to give up score at inopportune times and they have not been the turnover-forcing factory of recent years.

This week the Pats get Cincinnati in Cincitucky. Cincinnati beat Pittsburgh yesterday in one of the best games of the season so far, but did not exactly look dominant in so doing. Still, the Bengals will and should be favored. The Patriots are in real danger of going to 2-2. But the reality is that this may be the toughest stretch of their schedule, and if they can defeat the Dolphins (has a bandwagon ever emptied so quickly? You know who you are) they will be 3-0 in division with a bye week coming up. And during a bye week, Patriots fans can take solace in one fact: We have Bill Belichick and everyone else does not.

Unintended Consequences

Violence in Gaza and the problems Israel has faced in Southern Lebanon have caused Israel to rethink withdrawing from territories in the West Bank. The situation Israel faces would be endlessly fascinating were it not deadly disturbing. Israel pulls out of the Gaza Strip, which one would have assumed, based on the Palestinian demands of the last four decades, would have constituted progress. Instead, Israel faces criticism for engaging in the desired pullout unilaterally, despite the fact that no viable multilateral partner(s) are anywhere to be found. More to the point, it faces increased violence from the very people in Gaza who get all of the benefits of Palestinian rule. Israel attacks a force dedicated to its destruction and sitting directly across its northern border, the sadly predictable outcry follows, Israel disengages, and yet again it is no safer than before.

The purported leaders of the Palestinian people have a geopolitical agenda -- the destruction of Israel -- that they will never accomplish, but rather than pursue truly ameliorative steps, they prefer to foment violence. No matter what Israel does, unless it sacrifices all sanity by engaging in inevitably fruitless negotiations with those who do not recognize Israel's legitimacy in the first place, it will face criticism not only from those who actively pursue its destruction, but also from those who passively would acquiesce to it.

So Israel once again appears to be trapped. If it withdraws unilaterally, Israel is condemned, the Palestinians see the Jews as weak, and Jews die. If Israel engages in negotiations, Israel is condemned, is perceived as weak, and Jews die. If Israel builds a wall, Israel is condemned. The unfortunate question is, if Israel builds a wall and ceases all unilateral withdrawal, a wall that can be torn down if an honest broker and legitimate partner emerges, do more Jews die? Does perceived weakness promote intensified attacks? If the answer to either or both of these questions is "no," then which policy would seem the wisest and safest for Israel to pursue, at least in the short run?

Go to Hell, Notre Dame!

Let me just say it straight out: I hate Notre Dame football. I hate the mythology and supposed mystique. I hate its privileged positioning -- its NBC contract, its status as automatic-BCS team if they just get themselves artificially inflated into the rankings. I hate its academic pretenses (Notre Dame is a good school; by listening to its supporters you would think it was the only school in Division I with academic standards -- Stanford says hello, and wants to pass its regards along to Tony Rice as well.). I hate that it thinks it is the only Catholic university with a sports pedigree in the country (BC too says hello and wonders how Notre Dame basketball is and if anyone has noticed which team has dominated the football series between the two schools lately).

As you might imagine, then, I was very pleased to see Jonathan Chait's TNR online article, Irish Lore, which explores the "mythology of Notre Dame football." (The article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.) Chait argues that much of the mythology is based on lies and half truths. Again, no one can deny Notre Dame its place in college football history, but one would think that there would be no need to overinflate that greatness.

When I am king of the world, and someday it will happen, one of my first pronouncements will be that Notre Dame, and all other independents, must join a conference. If they do not want to do so, fine, but they also will not be eligible for the 16-team postseason tournament that I will also mandate. Everyone likes to discuss how Notre Dame always schedules such tough opponents, but they do so only because they are not in a conference that forces them to play a slate of teams that may not always be great, but that is always tough by the histoey and rivalry inherent in conference play. Ohio State may also be a loathsome agglomeration, but at least the football program doesn't get to pick and choose whether or when to play Wisconsin. Year-in and year-out, the conference schedule in the Big Ten, or SEC, or even the Pac-10, Big 12 or the ACC with its recent changes is more grueling than Notre Dame's schedule irrespective of the aggregate record of opponents by the very nature of conference play.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

David Ball, Meet Jerry Rice

Today's Boston Globe had a nice feature on University of New Hampshire wide receiver David Ball, who tied Jerry Rice's Division I-AA career touchdown record today in a UNH romp over in-state rival Dartmouth. UNH looks poised to make a run at a national championship this year, and the play of Ball (who is also a high jumper on the Wildcat track team, which may provide another reason for why I am such a big fan) and standout quarterback Ricky Santos will be crucial in their accomplishing that goal.

Harvard Can't Handle the Truth!

Before its opening game every season Harvard's football team holds its traditional Skit Night. Harvard is not alone in this sort of tradition (We had one on the track team at Williams, for example, as did several other vrsity teams), and participants and viewers learn quickly what to expect: Not much actual talent, a lot of broad humor, and more than a little ribaldry. Some players and coaches will come in for abuse. It is all in a spirit of good fun, and if someone crosses a line, well, that's sort of the nature of the beast. There are lines, of course, that cannot be breached -- racism would be a prime example -- but otherwise, everyone involved knows that hypersensitivity won't serve you well if you attend one of these affairs. They are intended for a very select audience involving the team and its inner sanctum.

Apparently no one told Harvard head football coach Tim Murphy, despite that fact that he has been Harvard's head coach for 13 seasons. At this year's Skit Night, Keegan Toci, a twenty-one-year-old senior wide receiver from Tucson, Arizona, performed a skit in which he gave twenty reasons why Harvard will never make the jump from Division I-AA to I-A (a pemise that, far from being offensive, is irrefutably true). Several players who were there have acknowledged that several other skits were more offensive -- including one that more than implied that a player had orally serviced Murphy.

How did Murphy reply to Toci's skit? By dismissing the wide receiver from the team. According to the Boston Globe srtory:

Harvard players have long believed they enjoyed immunity from discipline for their performances on Skit Night, an irreverent, sometimes raunchy, ritual that was considered part of their social bonding during the run-up to the season opener. But this year's event ended like no other, with Murphy later announcing he would abolish the Skit Night tradition because of Toci's performance and a number of racy, off-color acts such as the one portraying Dawson and the coach.

Murphy declined to state publicly why he believed Toci should be ousted from the team while players who engaged in suggestively lewd performances should not be disciplined, other than to characterize Toci's remarks as unacceptably malicious.

Efforts to reach Harvard athletic director Robert Scalise last night were unsuccessful.

After Murphy announced Toci's dismissal, he asked the 110-member team whether it supported his position. An uneasy silence ensued, then one player after another rose from his seat until about 20 stood in protest, with others apparently poised to follow, before Murphy abruptly ended the meeting and left the room, according to one witness.

Another witness said Murphy departed only after determining that a vast majority of the team supported his decision.

This last assertion seems highly unlikely. It is clear that Toci had the support of a number of his teammates -- otherwise why would Murphy have cut short the meeting at just the moment when players were starting to exercise their protest? -- and that Murphy was surprised and taken aback by the opposition to his stance. Furthermore, his capriciousness is stunning. Harvard has already had a rash of disciplinary suspensions this season. The latest ought not to have happened. The coach's thin skin will scuttle a longstanding tradition and Harvard's reputation for taking itself far too seriously will remain intact.

Toci has appealed to the university's administration, which I'm sure was the last thing the solons at Harvard needed and which is put in a rather uncomfortable situation: Reinstate Toci, who almost certainly will never see the field again and whose reinstatement will fuel dissension, or else back Murphy despite the demonstrably erroneous nature of his decision. I would not be surprised if Murphy does not find himself on a short leash at Harvard, where football should be seen and not heard, and where athletics should enhance and never detract from the mission of the university.

In the Boston area people sometimes refer to Harvard as the World's Greatest University (or "WGU"), usually with equal parts irony and admiration and always in a tone acknowledging Harvard's self importance. But the fact is that Harvard probably is the WGU, or at least holds a place of prominence in any discussion of the world's greatest universities, and it is beneath the university to have to deal with this sort of nonsense simply because the football coach is a bit too touchy. The administration should reinstate Toci forthwith with a clear message to Murphy: This is the end of this tempest in a teacup. There should be no more ramifications for Toci, and the season should go on as if it had never happened, as if Murphy had never let his own ego and weirdly delicate sensitivities get in the way of good judgment. Harvard does not need to be in the business of metaphorically fellating the coach, even if he believes that to be the job of his players.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy Rosh Hashanah

I wish for my Jewish friends and readers a happy new year and want to share with you a blessing I just received:
שתהיה לכם שנה חדשה עם רימון ותפו
May you have a new year filled with apples and pomegranates

שתישא אותנו השנה על כנפי היונה
Which will carry us on the wings of the dove

לעבר המתיקות שבאופק ושבלב
Towards the sweetness in the horizon and in the heart
And may we be written in the book of life.

Oho River Ramble

Follow the Washington Post on its interactive Ohio River Ramble. The Post believes that several elections in the states bordering the mighty Ohio will have a huge say in how the 2006 midterm elections turn out. As usual, WaPo sets the standard for newspaper coverage of American politics.

Seb Takes off the Gloves

He's heard all he can hear, and he can't hear no more. Over at Seb's Blag, Seb brings some serious thunder aimed toward the Muslim community. Here is just a taste:
I am, quite frankly, sick and tired of Islamic extremism and increasingly, I am saddened to say, of Islam itself. For too long now, like a spoilt child stamping its feet, Islam has been demanding that the rest of the world succumb to its every whim. Islam dominates the news agenda like no other issue or ideology. Its adherents revel in the abhorrent brutality and bloodshed which it both propagates and feeds upon. Islam is now viewed the world over as a religion of violence, of intolerance, of extremism, and of hatred. At present, my contempt for Islam is almost inexpressible.

When rightly and reasonably accused, in measured tones and from many quarters, of crimes against humanity, Islam screams 'Death to the Infidels!' and promises, and then delivers, yet more bloodshed. While followers of other faiths take the indignity of satire in their stride, and laugh at their own oddness and idiosyncrasies, Islam demands, quite literally upon pain of death, to be respected and pussy-footed around, even beyond what is required by the law. Islam demands an extraordinary level of sensitivity on the part of the followers other faiths, while brutalizing them both verbally and physically in return. Islam, extreme and unreasonable at every opportunity, demands an unequal equality.

First, let me say that I don't embrace everything Seb has written here. I'd prefer, for one thing, that he not couch his objections to radical Islam in such generalized terms that they impugn all Muslims. But it is also telling that this tirade (I'm pretty sure he would not mind me calling his entry a tirade. I do not know Seb, but I know his self-deprecating approach to blogging, and I think he is fairly clear that he intended this entry to be a rant) comes from a denizen of the UK who is not a supporter of Tony Blair or of the Iraq War. Someone who abhors violence. Someone who is a strong advocate of human rights (and who holds contests at his blog, or "blag" as he prefers to term it, in which the winners have money donated in their names to charities, usually involving human rights in Africa). In other words, Seb would ordinarily be the sort who would bend over backward to be tolerant and understanding of the untolerated and the misunderstood. But he is beginning to question just how misunderstood too many Islamists are. His recent entries, and the sentiments of others like him on the left, are for Muslims the rough equivalent of when LBJ knew he was losing Middle America because he had lost Walter Cronkite.

All The King's Men

The reviews are beginning to pour in and they are not all that good. I've been looking forward to two movies above all this fall, The Last King of Scotand, which is based (loosely) on Uganda's murderous 1970s despot, Idi Amin, and All The King's Men another adaptation of Robert Penn Warren's masterpiece. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be coming up short.

Ty Burr's review in the Boston Globe and A.O. Scott's in the New York Times are among many that identify the same flaws -- overacting (especially on the part of Sean Penn), directionless direction, poor casting. I've used Warren's book in class before and Huey Long is one of my favorite figures to teach. I'll likely still see the movie (I'll consider it a professional imperative) but this loooks likely to be one of those times when hope does not meet reality -- a trend that seems increasingly common with the movies these days. Hollywood makes a hell of a trailer and can build buzz like no other industry. Unfortunately, the consummation does not often match the anticipation. Hollywood increasingly is in the sizzle industry, and we keep buying the gristle.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Ongoing Shame of the NCAA

The Boston Globe has a disturbing feature today on the paucity of African American college football head coaches at all NCAA levels. The dearth is especially clear in New England, which not only has no black head coaches at the Division I or I-AA levels, but where there has only been one black coach at those divisions in the region's history. What is shocking is thatthese trends are pervasive across the NCAA. According to the Globe report:
The statistics are staggering, both nationally and in New England. Of 616 football teams affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, only 16, or 2.6 percent, are guided by African-American head coaches, even though an estimated 19,667, or 32.7 percent, of the players last year were black, according to an NCAA survey (the figures exclude historically black colleges and universities).

The landscape is even grimmer in New England, where all but one of the 54 head coaches for NCAA football teams are white, according to a Globe survey. The lone minority is Mel Mills, a former Arena Football League player who has taken over a fledgling Division 3 team at Becker College in Leicester that went winless last year in its inaugural season.

Back in December 2003 I wrote an article about this issue after mississippi State hired Sylvester Croom as its new head coach. Things seem not to be improving, and might be getting worse. I hate the idea of mandating change in this arena and would like to think that universities, of all places, would place a premium on seeking out good black coaches, of which there are many working at the assistant ranks and many more among former players who would love a shot at coaching. but the situation is not changing quickly enough if it is changing at all.

Judis on Ohio Politics

John Judis has a perceptive article at TNR online on the political terrain in Ohio. Given that a number of my readers have Ohio roots, this might be especially worthwhile.

Once in a Lifetime

Tonight I watched Once in a Lifetime: The Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos on ESPN 2. The title is a bit misleading, as this compelling documentary actually uses the New York Cosmos to show the rise and fall of the North American Soccer League in the US in the period from the mid-60s to the mid-80s. The Cosmos story has all of the elements of great Americana -- sex, interpersonal rivalries, lavish and sometimes rash expenditures of cash, American trend-jumping, sports, petty jealousies, a spectacular rise, an equally spectacular fall, competence juxtaposed with incompetence, and an unforced encapsulation of an era, or overlapping eras. Once in a Lifetime was a recent release in several cities, and one can assume that it will soon be available on dvd (it is not yet). I would strongly encourage sports fans, historians, and those interested in cultural change to find this documentary in a theater near you, to see if it will show again on the ESPN family of networks, or to wait for the dvd.

[And by the way, while Pele is one of the heroes of this story, he refused to be interviewed. The filmmakers take a very discrete but clear jab at him during the closing credits. As they encapsulate the lives of each of the main players since their Cosmos tenure, Pele is shown and we are told simple that he is a "football ambassador" (they may use the Americanized "soccer" appellation. I don't recall.) Then on the screen appears the phrase "refused to be interviewed," with the distinct sound of a cash register "cha-ching!" I would surmise that to interview Pele may carry with it a cost that the filmmakers either could not or would not pay. But otherwise the footage from the era, especially the 70s heyday of the team and the league, is incredible stuff. the film is a reminder of how central New York was, for good and for ill, in forging the zeitgeist of the era. I know someone writing a book on the 1970s who will want to get hold of a copy of this video post-haste.]

An Innovative Approach to USA Hoops

One of my favorite writers, Chuck Klosterman, has an intriguing proposal for USA Basketball that he laid out over at a couple of weeks ago. Here is the gist: Rather than use professionals to try to win in international competition, he argues that the United States should try that vast number of guys who do not want to or cannot qualify to play in college but who are not yet able to try to turn professional. It is a provocative idea and one I would love to see the solons at the head of our national basketball program consider.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A New Patrick's Day in Massachusetts

If you just read the headline you might think it was just another case of Irish-American dominance in Massachusetts politics. "Patrick Roars to Nomination," announces the Boston Globe, referring to the Democratic gubernatorial primary in the Bay State that wrapped up yesterday. But Deval Patrick is not your standard Boston Irish-Catholic pol. For one thing he is not Irish-Catholic. He is African American. And by winning the Democratic primary and garnering more than 50% of the vote against two better-known white candidates, Patrick may just represent the ushering in of a new age in Massachusetts politics. Patrick is the first black nominee of either major party in the state's history (Edit for clarity: he is the first black gubernatorial nominee). Massachusetts is a bastion of liberalism and a cradle of America's rights tradition. But it also has an unseemly history of vicious racism, embodied most chillingly in the anti-busing protests that hit areas such as Charlestown and South Boston in the 1970s.

Yesterday's results in the GOP primary resulted in a first as well: Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey is the first woman that the state's Republicans have nominated for governor. (She ran unopposed, perhaps a reflection on the perceived strengths of Mitt Romney, a GOP presidential hopeful.) If Healey wins she will become the state's first elected woman governor. Either way, history is unfolding in Massachusetts, and while it is unlikely to provide any sort of national bellwether, that state that is so passionate about politics should provide another fascinating political campaign.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Belichick-Mangini Handshake

Much has been made of the fact that Patriots coach Bill Belichick barely acknowledged his Jets counterpart Eric Mangini after the Patriots-Jets game on Sunday. Mangini was once a close friend with Belichick, but that personal relationship cooled even as Mangini remained one of Belichick's trusted lieutenants and rose to become the Patriots' defensive coordinator last season. Belichick had a great line to address the alleged snub. Saying it was not a big deal, he asked the assembled throng of sportswriters dying to create a story out of nothing to ``Let me know the next time you see two coaches kiss out there at midfield."

I love Bill Belichick.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Browns Fans and Sadness

Over at Cleveland '64 Tom detects a hint of sadness on the part of Browns fans after yet another desultory performance by their beloved team:
there still is a lot of anger out there toward the Browns, but the anger is not nearly as scary for the Browns and their fandom as another emotion: sadness. Browns fans, at least from my perspective, have just become sad. Not depressed, exactly, but sad.

That sadness is an indication of a growing trend--many Browns fans find themselves not caring anymore. I'm even talking about hardcore fans, people with season tickets and Browns gear from throughout the years. They can feel themselves letting go, not investing the energy in hoping that their team will pull it together. The Browns have lost too often and for too long. That losing has worn on dedicated fans. You can't do it. You can't let your whole life be crushed by what happens on sixteen Sundays stretched out over a large chunk of the year for seven years in a row without getting tired of putting yourself in that situation.

So you start to let go. It happens a little bit at a time. First you start to expect to lose while hoping to win. Then you just expect to lose, without any hope. You realize that you don't care about the players, how well they represent the team and the city, or how much national respect they get when they perform well. If you live outside of your team's region, you find yourself making the conscious decision not to wear your team's gear anymore, just so you don't have to have that conversation. You find yourself caring less and less that you see every play of every game live, so the recorder goes on while you take care of other things. You find that visiting teams, even your rivals, have huge numbers of boisterous fans at your home games.

And that is why Browns fans are sad. Not because the Browns are losing, but because they realize they just don't care that much anymore. To have something so passionate and so special, and then have it fade away....

It occured to me while I was talking to my best friend Ryan after the game that until yesterday, I never understood the whole lovable losers thing that the Chicago Cubs have going. How can you be a happy-go-lucky fan for a team that constantly loses? How lame and pathetic is it that your teams futility is the exact reason why they have so much support? Well, that's what happens when the choice is either enjoy losing or don't watch at all. Browns fans are rapidly approaching that choice. Sad.

Tom sums it up pretty well, I think. Boston fans have been lucky in the past few years, and especially in the past few decades. Even prior to 2004 the Red Sox were almost always good, even if they could never get over the hump. Being a Red Sox fan was always fundamentally different from being a fan of the Cubbies. The Sox always took us oh-so-close to nirvana without getting there. Obviously the Patriots have been a source of unalloyed joy for us, and even before the three championships in four years, the Pats could be relied on to be competetive with a few notable and nauseating exceptions. The Celtics are, not to put too fine a point on it, the most successful franchise in the history of the NBA. And the Bruins, well, the Bruins used to be good. But even then, I think that the failures of the Red Sox to win it all, the snakebitten history of the pre-2001 Patriots, the post-Len Bias/Reggie Lewis Celtics hangover, and the more than three decades the Bruins have spent wandering aimlessly in the desert gave Red Sox fans an insight to the array of emotions that sports fans can face, including the specific kind of sadness that Tom pinpoints.

It would, however, be a shame to see Browns fans relent to the malaise. They are, without a doubt, one of the greatest fan bases in all of sports. But they cannot be asked to be both patient and passionate forever. At some point, the team will have to carry its share of the weight. I doubt that even has to mean simply winning. But it does have to involve a certain way of playing, visible passion and commitment, a sense of a forward trajectory. Cleveland fans have not asked for much, and they have given a lot. I think the city's teams owe them something more than what they have been giving.

Derek Does Dallas

I've been absent as your humble scribe for a few days now because I went up to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex for the weekend with friend and colleague Jaime for what he appropriately described at Cyber Hacienda thusly (and do stay over at his blog to check out today's post on the stupid "hotblooded Latino/a" cliche):
[The weekend was] a win-win for the sport enthusiast/history geek. It's almost a fantasy weekend for us, especially since he is getting married soon and I have a second child on the way. Such trips will be fewer and farther in between.

The weekend was a lot of fun, if a bit exhausting. We flew in Friday night, and after getting ourselves a bit lost in Denton, Texas (we found our bearings after stopping at a Jack in the Box, which can really solve any problem) but eventually settled in to our Radisson directly across from the football stadium at the University of North Texas. Odds are you've not heard of it (It is Mean Joe Greene's alma mater, and as a consequence the nickname of the sports teams is the "Mean Green") and yet just to show that Texas is simply bigger than most places, UNT has 31,000+ students who attend school on campus. It has several PhD programs, including one in history. And of course UNT is far from Texas' largest university. In any case, we stayed in Denton, about 45 miles or so north of Dallas, because we had a day-long conference on teaching history through biography at the university on Saturday.

The highlights of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon and evening, when we went to the Rangers-Angels game, saw the home team win by a half dozen (12-6) on a night when the Angels' Chone Figgins hit for the cycle. We arrived early enough to catch some batting practice, to wander the stadium thoruoughly, and to get a few pictures with a mariachi band that showed up for Hispanic Celebration Day at the Ballpark at Arlington. From there we enjoyed some North Texas shenanigans.

Sunday was geared toward the nationally-televised Cowboys-Redskins night game at Texas Stadium. Redskins-Cowboys is one of the great rivalries in the NFL, a league with a dispropotionate amount of great rivalries, so I will not drink the "best rivalry in football" Kool Aid that fans of both teams were selling last night. (Cleveland-Pittsburgh and Green Bay-Chicago are at least two that I would argue are as intense.) But it is true that 'Boys-'Skins is a serious event, especially when both teams believe themselves to be playoff-worthy, as both teams do this year. It is increasingly clear that the NFC East was vastly overrated coming into the season, but it will be a competitive conference because all four teams are similarly mediocre.

I hate the Redskins and am a big fan of Drew Bledsoe based on his Patriots years and how he handled the potentially divisive situation with Tom Brady in 2001, so I appropriated the Cowboys last night. ("When in Rome . . .") The Cowboys kicked the Redskins all over the turf last night, which did not show a lot of signs of the saturation that it faced in the hours leading up to the game as a result of torrential rains that wreaked havoc throughout the Metroplex. Bledsoe looked great (There are a lot of good Cowboys fans; there are also a lot of morons. Every time Bledsoe threw -- wisely -- a pass out of bounds rather than force something, and every time his receivers dropped the ball -- something that happened a lot -- some morons behind me would call out for Tony Romo, a savior in the mind of many despite the inconvenient fact that Romo has never thrown a pass in a game that counted.) and despite enough penalties, drops, and general screups to make Bill Parcells say after the game that his team's performance made him "sick," the Cowboys simply pounded the Redskins, who scored their only touchdown on a Rock Cartwright 100-yard kickoff return. Meanwhile, Terrell Owens' (mis)adventures continue, as he dropped three passes, though we later discovered that he broke his hand early on. (Broken hand or no, you have to think that the dropped passes, and especially the dropped touchdown in the first quarter, buy Bledsoe a little bit of insulation from Owens' notoriously sour treatment toward quarterbacks whom he perceives as having failed him. It will be awfully tough for Owens to exercise his petulence against Bledsoe this season after that performance last night.) The fans in the stands had fun with the Redskins loyalists who braved ramshackle Texas Stadium, particularly in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys opened up the 17-point lead that proved the margin of victory.

5:30 this morning came awfully early, but the upside was that I somehow managed to get back in time (well, five minutes late) for my 9:00 class this morning. I am dragging now and have to survive a graduate seminar tonight. I think I need a weekend to recover from my weekend, but it was well worth it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Conservatives Who Think the GOP Should Lose

The latest Washington monthly has a series of articles under the penumbral title "Why We Should Go" giving arguments as to why it would be best for the GOP to lose the midterm elections. The contributors include Christopher Buckley, Bruce Bartlett, Joe Scarborough, William A. Niskanen, Bruce Fein, Jeffrey Hart and Richard A. Viguerie. The justifications run a gamut and some of the explanatons may surprise you.

Peace in Uganda?

Another brutal war in Africa hinges its hopes on another potentially illusory cease fire that largely depends upon the caprice of another ruthless rebel leader. This time the backdrop is Uganda, which not so long ago was terrorized by Idi Amin and his minions. (And yes, I am very much looking forward to the new movie on Amin, The Last King of Scotland even if the filmmakers have apparently taken their story from a fictionalized account.) Today's New York Times has a solid story on what its author Jeffrey Gettleman appropriately calls "one of Africa’s most grotesque and bizarre wars," and which has endured for two decades and cost tens of thousands of lives.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Survivor Controversy

Shouldn't I care about the fact that Survivor has decided to break teams up by race and ethnicity this season? I write about race in the US and in Africa. Racism is still among the most salient issues facing not only Americans, but the world. But I have to admit: I really cannot work up the energy to get myself exercised by what seems like a crass ratings grab and little more. I don't regularly watch Survivor, and the episodes I've seen have been perfectly entertaining and nothing more. The show is utterly substanceless, but lots of people seem to love it, so more power to them. If you want to read a worthwhile piece on this issue I would suggest Sacha Zimmerman's "Jungle Fever" at TNR online. I suspect that unless the producers handle this oafishly the controversy will prove to be much ado about very little, free advertising for the doyen of reality television. And I'll continue not to care.


Warren St. John of Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer fame, whom I have gotten to know since we were panelists together at this year's Virginia Festival for the Book, has a blog, Fanopticon, devoted overwhelmingly to college football. I have duly added it to the blogroll.

Politics Quick Hits

A bunch of items have caught my eye today:

Conspiracy theorists, this is your lucky day! It has often been said, perhaps most famously by Axl Rose, that just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not after you. A team of computer scientists at Princeton have created a vote-stealing program for the Diebold AccuVote-TS, one of the most common electronic-voting machines. I can see it now: A call for an investigation by a most bizarre pairing. My money is on Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Pat Buchanan.

Over at Radar they have an entertaining feature on the worst trends in Congressional hairstyles. Don't worry -- it includes pictures. As a general rule, dcat does not support these sorts of shallow, fluffy distractions (!). But in this case, we'll have to make an exception. (Courtesy of the good folks over at TNR's Plank.)

On a more somber note, flags began flying at half-mast in Texas yesterday, because former Governor Ann Richards lost her fight with cancer in Austin. Richards was able to win out in the rough and tumble good old boys political climate that is Texas. I was once a member of a bipartisan commission here in Odessa that put together a debate among local college students on the eve of the 2004 elections. Two little old ladies from Midland who were both active in the area's Republican politics spoke in hushed tones about Richards, as if just saying her name ran them the risk of God's wrath. they spoke of how she had a "filthy mouth" and acted just as bad as most of the men. But that was sort of the point. Politics, especially here, is not for the dainty. Richards won by playing politics at the highest levels as well as anyone. Local GOP double standards aside, I always admired Ann Richards, and even though I knew she had been battling cancer for quite some time, it was still a shock to hear of her passing.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cowboys Game the System

The public's right to know versus the public's right to be safe. Err on the side of caution or preserve civil liberties at all costs. These questions, honestly asked, with both sides having a worthwhile and legitimate case, are at the heart of our debates over how best to preserve both our safety and our liberties. An ideal test case for these questions is playing out here in Texas where the Dallas Cowboys are trying to fight requests (that have entered the legal system and are fast becoming demands) to see the plans for their new $650 million stadium in Arlington. Their rationale? Both security and business concerns. The problem? At least $325 million, and likely a lot more, is coming out of taxpayer pockets. Plus the city used eminent domain to force homeowners to sell their property to make way for the new stadium. Whoever has their name on the lease, the stadium will at best be only nominally the Cowboys' property.

The Cowboys and their lawyers have presented the argument that, according to team spokesman Brett Daniels, "it's premature to release the documents because of proprietary business practice information as well as issues with security." My view is that the Cowboys sacrificed their proprietary business claims as soon as they stuffed their snouts in the public trough. In fact, this claim so reeks of arrogance that it almost overwhelms all of the other arguments. It is increasingly common for professional sports teams to suckle at the public teat and then turn around and pretend that they owe the public nothing because they are fundamentally engaged in private enterprise. In the future one hopes that sports teams are subject to more, not less, public scrutiny. Even those teams that build new stadia with their own funds almost always receive tax breaks worth millions. Billionaire owners want to have the public pay for their opulent facilities in which they will charge exorbitant prices for tickets and concessions. They are learning, just like the poor guy who stands in line at halftime to spend $60 for a wretched gelatinous pile of food and drinks, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Or half-billion dollar stadium.

But the other claims, those tied to security, give pause. I've said for years, even before 9/11, that stadiums on game day or concert night were among the most vulnerable targets for terrorist attacks. Tens of thousands of people in a celebratory mood unwary and focused on something else. Screaming crowds. Public address announcers. Amps at rock shows. Lots of drunk people. Showy but largely perfunctory security. Providing diagrams and blue prints to terrorists, whether Islamist or of the home grown variety (the President seems to have forgotten about the Eric Rudolph, Ku Klux Klan, Tim McVeigh, Unabomber, Charles Whitman types; His defenders share in his selective amnesia; some of us do not) seems shortsighted. Clearly the public does not have the right to know everything.

Then again, someone with malice aforethought can take plenty of time to plan an attack upon an open stadium. Once a stadium opens, it is usually fairly clearly laid out -- section one to section 26 or so all the way around a lower bowl, above that 101 to 126, and so forth. Football and multipurpose stadia, as well as basketball/hockey arenas are the most predictable, baseball facilities only somewhat less so. Providing diagrams that once a stadium opens will be available anyway hardly seems like a serious breach of either public safety or security. The danger will not come from simply knowing a stadium's layout, however essential that might be to a planned attack.

Prevention of a terrorist attack (or murderous rampage, which almost assuredly poses a greater and more likely danger in the long run) will come in the form of vigilance, intelligence and competence. A little sanity would also go a long way in bringing a level of reasonableness to our discussions as well. When you enter a stadium on a hot day and are drinking a bottle of water, recent news stories notwithstanding, the odds that the water will become a deadly weapon are almost nil. It is hard not to be cynical about a policy that happens to profit the concession stands significantly without demonstrably (or even plausibly) increasing safety. It also inspires less, not more, confidence among those of us who try to pay attention to these matters that the biggest concern at security gates always reflects the latest news cycle so that the only concern officials at the UT game this past weekend seemed to have was whether or not those entering the stadium had liquids. Meanwhile, if I had hidden a gun in my waistband there would have been no way of them noticing because they clearly did not bother to try to notice. In terms of odds, I would surmise that an attack at a big game will more likely come from someone wielding a gun that someone wielding a half-empty bottle of Crystal Geyser or Moland Spring.

Tom Bruscino's Diary Blog

Apparently Tom is our star of the day here at dcat. he is shifting gears a bit, will be contributing less to Big Tent and more to his new "Diary Blog" which is also now on the blogroll. He's already started wreiting, and as you would expect, it's good stuff.

Chafee Wins! (The GOP Says "Hooray?")

I wrote about the Lincoln Chafee-Stephen Laffey primary race the other day, pointing out the bizarre situation in which the GOP found themselves -- forced to root against someone who was far closer to the party's values and to support someone who has been nothing but a thorn in the party's hind end. The GOP can move on now. Sort of. Chafee has won, meaning that the GOP got what it wanted -- the candidate that it did not really want.

In November Chafee will square off against a former state attorney general and US attorney for the state, Sheldon Whitehouse who yesterday easily won the Democratic Senate nomination yesterday against two lesder candidates. As Rhode Island goes, so may go the Senate.

One wonders how Whitehouse will gain traction, however. Chafee, largely because of the enduring popularity of his late father, John, has a great deal of support in the otherwise overwhelmingly Democratic state. Whitehouse's war opposition won't win him many points given that Chafee became persona non grata in his party largely because of his vocal opposition to the war. Chafee is enough of a social liberal to make Whitehouse seem like little more than a cipher or an opportunist. Perhaps the discontentment with the national GOP will create a riptide that will pull Chafee under, but for now, it looks as if the GOP can breathe easily, even if most within the party are holding their noses.

Good News: "Out of Bounds" Edition

Tom has published a "Global War on Terrorism Occasional Paper, " Out of Bounds: Transnational Sanctuary in Irregular Warfare through his place of employment, the Combat Studies Institute. For now it is available for downloading at the CSI website. We will let you know when the hard copy is available. Congratulations to Tom on this great accomplishment and on what is an important contribution to our understanding of insurgencies and guerrilla warfare.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Most Boorish Fans in Sports: An Interactive Exercise

I had been thinking about doing something like this for a while, and the Thunderstick has provided the impetus: What is your list of the top five worst groups of fans in terms of utter prickishness? Thunderstick gets us started:

"My top 5 biggest assholio sports fans -- 1. Yankees 2. Maryland 3. Any Philly sport aside from baseball (because there are only 4 Phillies fans) 4. Ohio State 5. UConn"

Obviously this is a great idea for a list, and I hope we get lots of contributors in the comments. Although there may be some universals (I would suspect Yankees fans will get a lot of votes) I am also curious about regional variation -- I know Tom has nothing good to say about Denver Broncos fans, for example, and Brian, if he weighs in, will have his opinions on Texas A&M, and I hope we get a Jaime appearance on San Francisco or Arizona fans.

This list is not for those who are bad fans because of apathy (can't we just give those dishonors to fans of just about any pro sport in Miami, Atlanta, and LA?) but rather because of boorishness, obnoxiousness, and loathesomeness. Think of this list as the sports equivalent of coyote ugly -- you'd rather gnaw off your arm than be trapped in a room with these people. Here is my list, always subject to change:

1) Yankees fans. Just simply the worst. New York fans tend to forget that for all but a small percentage, sports fandom is fungible -- 70% of Yankees fans are also fans of other New York teams, the others jump from bandwagon to bandwagon -- part of their evil. Other New York teams suck. Yet this does not temper the obnoxiousness of the entire Yankees fan subculture. Hey, Yankees, fan -- who are your favorite football, basketball, and college teams? Yeah, I thought so.

2) Ohio State fans. And this is not simply the function of this past weekend, though before the game I was shocked and dismayed that Texas fans are such good hosts -- outnumbered outside of the stadium by roughly 20-1, had those OSU fans acted like they did in the northeast or rust belt midwest they would have ended up as bloodied stumps. I couldn't help but notice that they were a lot more quiet on the way out of the stadium after seeing a slew of of big, hostile Texas fans full of tailgating juice. Twenty beers has a way of moderating hospitality. But beyond that, my freshman college roommate was a diehard Ohio State fan, and that is usually enough to push anyone over the edge. But then I lived in Ohio for a few years. I learned quickly why the Fabulous Sports Babe, who used to have a nationally syndicated radio show, would not take calls from Columbus. They are odds-on favorites to win this year's national championship. This is not good. In my book mOhio State fans are closer to Yankees fans than you might imagine. I at least know some tolerable diehard Yankees fans, and I know a lot of smart Yankees fans. I honestly cannot say as much for many Buckeye boosters.

3) Eagles fans. Passion is the most important aspect to being a fan. But by having as a key part of their identity a pridefulness in being reactionary jerks, Philadelphia fans have sort of forgotten the key to it all. Sports real are supposed to be fun, and while anger sometimes is part of being a fan, when it is your whole shtick, well, that makes you both an unpleasant lout and a crappy fan. Philadelphia fans (and the national media, which fuels the average Philadelphian's idiocy) have confused prickishness with passion. I know you love to tell it all the time, Philly fan, but we really are not impressed that you once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game. You realize that it wasn't the real Santa Claus, right?

4) Buffalo fans. I know this one may not register for most people. Buffalo? Really? Really. I've only known obnoxious Buffalo fans. And when the Bills were good they were insufferable. Even losing Super Bowls four years in a row did not shut them up. A Buffalo guy lived on my floor freshman ear of college. We went up to the AFC Championship game in 1991, which was Bo Jackson's last game in uniform and which the Bills won 51-0. before the game, the tailgating was fun, but Bills fans threw beer bottles at anyone wearing Raiders gear. I'm all about making the opposing fans miserable, but throwing bottles at them before the game? Back to the Suck for you. These, by the way, are my favorite kinds of awful fans. They arise seemingly out of nowhere, enjoy a brief period in which they have no idea how to handle themselves, and then they slink back to their holes. But you always know they are there. the fact that Buffalo will always suck is solace enough for those of us who had to put up with them at their absolute apex, which was still a place in all-time sporting ignominy. Four Super Bowl losses in a row, two of them among the worst blowouts in the history of the game, another a gag job in which they were favored heavily. Good work.

5) Redskins fans. These egregious frontrunners tend to be so dopey that they rub things in your face before they have actually won anything. I lived in DC when the Skins hired Spurrier. You would have thought that the redskins had acbieved a return to greatness right then and there. So that falls apart, and Redskins fans manage to accomplish the seemingly impossible -- maintain their obnoxiousness while jumping en masse off the bandwagon. So of cousrse chastened by the Spurrier debacle (and by the way, I have always been of the belief that given enough time Spurrier may have succeeded in the NFL) what do Redskins fans do when the team hires Joe Gibbs back? Yup -- taunting galore. I derived great schadenfreude over reading the Washington Post on Mondays after Redskin losses, which was rather often.

I welcome your contributions.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Hook 'Em Horns! (Post-OSU Loss Edition)

It was a great, great, great weekend. Yeah, UT's loss was a pisser -- they simply did not have it, and even then were really just 1-2 plays away from it being a very different game. They had a red zone fumble in the first half was just a killer. They went from nearly scoring a touchdown to giving up the ball and having Ohio State score instead. OSU got themselves in a position to be able to run the ball down Texas' throats at the end, and their success at that was demoralizing. Got to give it to them -- came into a huge game and faced a hostile away crowd and they came through. They deserve that #1 slot (don't get me started about Notre Dame being ranked 2nd ahead of Auburn, Southern Cal, and other teams that won this weekend and were ranked ahead of the Golden Domers. One win is all it requires for Notre Dame to be in the thick of things, which is ridiculous.) and may well hold on to it until the BCS championship.

Austin is a fantastic city from what I saw (this was my first trip), UT has a great campus, and the people we were with (my friend, colleague, and reader Brian's parents) have had season tickets for something like two decades, and they said they have never seen it quite like that on campus before. Tailgating was mad, there was a sea of burnt orange, and although OSU fans may be assholes (they have always been in my bottom five, not as bad as Yankee fans, but maybe the worst outside of the Bronx), but they were out in force. They travel very, very well. The rumors are that there were anywhere between 40,000 and 60,000 who showed up in Austin, and I'd guess that at least 5,000 got into the game at rates that were as high as $1600 apiece if rumors and reports are to be believed.

When we first arrived we had an hour or more to kill, so we just wandered, found some AT&T tent and watched the afternoon games (The Oklahoma and Notre Dame games were both on) and then headed to this new performance facility where the UT president had a reception and Brian's parents had managed to get four spaces. When we walked in the door, there was Texas coaching legend Darrell Royal. Put it this way -- the Stadium at UT is named after him. I cannot even convey to you how good the food was -- Tex Mex, with three kinds of enchiladas (my favorites, in a close race, were the tamales, taco salad, refried beans, rice, and desserts. Booze was free too, but since I was dying -- I did not get in until 4 saturday morning from a poker game the night before -- I scarcely partook. Anyway, after an hour or so about 30 members of the UT marching band came in to the foyer on the ground floor -- we were on the fifth floor, but it was open and overlooked the foyer -- and played all of their traditional songs: the Yellow Rose of Texas, the Eyes of Texas, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and so forth. I eat that folderol up, and it was pretty awesome.

We got into the stadium about 45 minutes before kickoff and there was just a slow build. UT traditionally has pretty sedate, genteel fans -- that is the reputation, anyway. UT fans are upscale where Texas A&M fans are supposedly the sane ones. Until ten years ago or so, everyone did not even always wear orange to the games. But Mack Brown came in and introduced a "be loud, be proud" ad campaign and now the fans are just nuts. The only analogy I could make, and it was a poor one since I've never been, but was to the half hour before a heavyweight championship fight is supposed to feel like. The band was there and out in full effect, and I got to dig in to some of the big time traditions that they have with the band and the times when you are supposed to Hook 'Em horns and the lyrics to the songs. I have to say, I think I'm hooked. I'll always be a BC fan, but I've been looking to adopt a big time team for quite a while, and I work in the UT system, and obviously live in Texas, so I'm thinking that jumping on the UT bandwagon is a huge possibility. (Keep in mind that I grew up in New hampshire which has no major DI sports, except for UNH hockey, which has just become big in the last decade -- though I was thrilled to see them beat Northwestern in football on Saturday; I went to a DIII school, which I love, but it leaves room for bigger college football loyalties; I went to a then-Conference USA basketball school with no football program for my MA and to a MAC school for my PhD. BC is still my favorite DI team, but I'd like to develop a regional loyalty. The one problem with my UT plans is that my fiancee went to A&M for her undergrad and to Tech for her PhD. But she hates sports, which I figure gives me some leeway.)

The game was what it was. UT had their chances. They oftentimes stopped themselves. OSU showed no ability to stop the Texas running game, but UT insisted on trying to pass, which OSU could stop. I thought the Longhorns just should have gone with the 2-headed running monster until OSU stopped it, wore them down, and when they were dragging, then started opening up the passing game. Instead with no rhyme nor reason, Texas had this bizarre offensive flow to the game. They wanted to get Colt McCoy into the game, so they pursued these ineffectual dinks and dunks that supplemented the running game but that developed too slowly against a team with Ohio State's quickness. The first half was still great fun, and while OSU was leading the whole way, they never really looked dominant until that last drive.

Halftime was great--I have to admit, I usually could care less one way or the other about bands, but you knew it was a national game -- OSU brought their band and did a full show, finishing off with Script Ohio, which I had never seen. The Texas band did a traditional halftime show with all of their standards, but then had worked up a giant "Script Texas" while the OSU band watched and cheered. The OSU band's presence reaffirmed the big-game nature of the weekend and halftime was a spectacle worth seeing.

All in all it was a great weekend. Seeing a #1 versus #2 matchup is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The only drawback was the result, but Austin seemed pretty committed to winning the party Saturday night even if they lost the game. And to think, this coming weekend I'll be in Dallas, where on saturday I'll catch the Rangers-Angels game and on Sunday night the nationally televised Cowboys-Redskins clash at Texas Stadium. I love sports.

Extra! Extra! Republicans Support Lincoln!

It's a strange political year. In Rhode Island, the national GOP finds itself in the position of supporting an apostate -- Lincoln Chafee, who opposes tax cuts, opposed the Iraq war, and who deviates with his party's center on a host of social issues -- at the expense of someone far more in tune with the party's mainstream -- Stephen Laffey, the conservative mayor of Cranston. The reason? If Chafee, one of only two Republican Senators to be elected from Rhode Island since the Depression (the other was his late father, John Chafee) loses, the odds are that he will be waxed by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. Republican officials are so sure about Laffey's impending destruction if he wins that the party will pull out of Rhode Island to devote scarce resources to other races. If someone had said four years ago that the party would have put its weight behind Chafee in a primary battle against a more conservative member of the party, members on both sides of the aisle would have laughed. Chafee is unpopular within his own party and is largely seen as an affable lightweight by Democrats. These are not good times for the Republican Party, especially in states where it has struggled and gained a toehold in the decades since Ronald Reagan declared Morning in America.

Say This Tongue Twister Or Else . . .

Gentlemen: cross your legs while watching this.

Branch to Seattle

The ongoing saga of Deion Branch and the Patriots has reached endgame, as the Pats have traded the disgruntled MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX to Seattlefor a first round draft pick in 2007. This seems about right. The Patriots were not going to give Branch away for a second round pick, and they were not about to pay him the money he was asking. In recent weeks the acrimony became irreconcilable. Branch filed a grievance, and though I doubt that Branch would have won, it is better that the arbitration never reached its conclusion. Meanwhile Seattle's putrid offensive showing yesterday surely tipped them over the edge to commit the first rounder (but not the additional midrounder the Pats had coveted). None of this solves the Patriots' wide receiver riddle for this year, however, unless rookie second-round pick Chad Jackson is reday to contribute right away once his balky hamstring heals. Relying on a rookie receiver is always tough (ask Detroit) but better that the Pats cut their losses. In an ideal (read: non salary cap) world Branch probably deserved more money than the Patriots offered, but the Patriots could not afford more money than they offered him. The Patriots way is to stick within a financial framework and maximize player development within that framework. They play the NFL's equivalent of Moneyball in an era in which salary cap realities reward such an approach. They will win without Deion Branch just as they won without Lawyer Malloy. Unfortunately, the NFL does not have much room for sentimentalism.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Cleveland '64: Rose Colored Glasses Edition

Tom has a new post over at Cleveland '64 in which he previews his beloved Browns. It's cheery stuff. How's this for an introduction?:
Imagine you were scheduled to be executed, for whatever reason, by hanging. Now imagine that you went and spent your own money to buy a big pile of wood. Now imagine that out of that pile of wood you build the scaffold from which you will hang. Get the rope (again with your own money), tie the noose, and attach it to the scaffold. Now, ahead of the scheduled execution time, imagine voluntarily walking up the scaffold and voluntarily putting on the noose. That's kind of how I felt yesterday when I ordered the NFL Ticket from DirecTV so I could watch all sixteen games of my 2006 Cleveland Browns.

Tom mentions one of my favorite college players of the last couple of decades, Eric Metcalf, who I liked less for his football skills than because of the fact that he was NCAA long jump champion when he was at Texas. As a long jumper, I always was a fan.

I was planning on writing my own NFL preview, but just got so darned busy, (and did I mention that I have tickets for tomorrow's Texas-Ohio State game at Memorial Stadium in Austin?) but here it is in a nutshell: The Patriots are going to be very good, and will be better if they get Deion Branch back in the fold. The Dolphins are tremendously overrated. Pittsburgh will not repeat. Cleveland will be better but Tom will still have plenty of reason to scream epithets at the television set. Indy will be there as always. Indy will choke. As always. The NFC East is enormously overrated but is balanced, and year one of the Bledsoe to TO experiment will work out just fine. The Panthers are everyone's chic pick. They will be a good football team, will win ten games, and will lose in their second playoff game. Everyone's new darlings, Arizona, will be much improved but will win nine games and miss the playoffs with Matt Leinart getting five starts and making several of the teams who drafted from positions one to nine regret their decision (this will not count Houston, who already regrets their decision.) The Pats will win their fourth Super Bowl in six seasons. All the experts will be scratching their heads and wondering how they overlooked Tom Brady and Bill Belichick in favor of the Dolphins, who will have gone 9-7 again.

Friday Time Waster

Want a lot of useless information about the day you were born? Want to know how many minutes you have been alive? How many ounces of water the candles on your next birthday cake will burn? Of course you do. Go here. It'll kill a few minutes on a Friday.

Hat Tip to LJ.

Race, Republicans and George Allen

Over at TNR online, Noam Scheiber has another piece on eeveryone's favorite neo-Confederate, obscure North African racial slurring, xenophobic Senatorial candidate, George Allen.:
George Allen's macaca riff may have exposed him as a racist bully. But the reason it caused such an uproar probably has less to do with Allen himself than with today's GOP. To put it bluntly, the GOP doesn't really do race-baiting any more, at least nothing like it used to. Republicans more or less stopped bashing Democrats as the party of welfare queens and violent criminals some time in the mid-'90s, just before they started attacking Democrats as the party of adulterous presidents and monogamous gays.

Obviously, most blacks still don't vote Republican. But the whites who do have more or less soured on race-baiting. That's why George W. Bush never missed a chance to pose with cute little black children during the 2000 campaign. And it's why watching an aspiring presidential candidate try to score points with a crude racist appeal is so jarring today. In addition to being offensive, Allen's comments recall a political strategy that has been out of style for nearly a decade.

Scheiber's point is a good one. His observations also represent a sign of progress in American race relations. America's racial conservatives (oftentimes but not always racists) are almost overwhelmingly Republicans. But the Republican Party is not a racist party. This is a distinction that makes an enormous difference.

Good Bush; Bad Bush

The President's critics (of which I am one) will be inclined to jump all over him for his call for Congress to grant him the power to expand his wiretapping power to help him to combat terrorism. But the critics need to be clear as to what they are criticizing.

If we want to debate the need for and efficacy of broader wiretapping capacity, by all means, criticize away. At a certain point it becomes nearly impossible to place faith in the administration. They need to make a case beyond mere platitudes. Yes, we get it, you want to protect the Homeland. Now please show us concrete evidence of how this will help you do so, of where our wiretapping is lacking, and of how you will use the intelligence to make us safer. Also, let's see the safeguards against excess. So on the merits, criticize. But also at least be thankful that the President, perhaps chastened, perhaps merely cynical, has chosen to utilize Congress this time around. Whether he is trying to shore up support among GOP members of the House and Senate, or if instead he sees the writing on the wall that indicates that he might be in for a long couple of years in his dealings with Capital Hill, it is hard to imagine the President Bush of 2005 being this up-front in his desire to get Congress to support programs that heretofore he seems to have believed to have been the domain of the executive.

But what also rings clear is that the President has already entered lame duck status. He appears to be almost a nonentity in terms of the way in which Congress goes about its business. Republicans as much as Democrats seem content either to criticize, or perhaps more ominously for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, to ignore or dismiss president Bush. The next two years might represent the political equivalent of trench warfare in which a scorned and irrelevant president faces off against an opponent deeply dug-in and unmovable. Whether it will lead to a reluctant bipartisanship of necessity or gridlock, we cannot know. We can hope for the former, but we may want to prepare for the latter.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

It's Torture, And We've Been Lied To

The President lied to us about torture yesterday. Or, I should say, he has been lying to us about torture all along. He just made it more clear yesterday. President Bush gave a speech in which he announced that the last fourteen detainees being held in secret CIA prisons will be sent to Guantanamo Bay and will be tried. The secret CIA prisons are themselves cause for alarm and Guantanamo is hardly a symbol of righteousness and virtue these days. But as David Sanger argues in the New York Times, the trials mark something of a gamble for the President. He is relying on the fact that his Democratic opposition and wobbly Republicans will not oppose the move. And while the President will face sniping, this seems a reasonable bet. The issue, for now, is not secret CIA prisons or the nefariousness of Guantanamo.

But there is more, and it does not redound to the President's benefit. The President continues to deny that Americans have engaged in torture. Andrew Sullivan calls him out on this patent lie and then some.

In the cases the president cites, he authorized torture as plainly stated in U.S. law and common English. Moreover, he says he has set up an elite group trained specifically for torture, the kind of elite torture-squads once dear to South American dictators. They have, he reassures us, 250 extra hours of torture-training over regular CIA interrogators. The president is asking the Congress to establish this in law. Yes, this is America. It just no longer seems like it.

Sullivan is not alone. Spencer Ackermann decries the duplicity here and here. And apparently even the Pentagon has grown squeamish. Otherwise, why would officials there have outlawed the use of "harsh interrogation tactics"? Why would Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, have to argue that the new policy:
"unambiguously articulates the values and traditions of our nation, values that John Adams called 'the policy of humanity,' which has been the cornerstone of the American ethos of warfare. More importantly, it provides our forces in the field the policy guidance needed to ensure the safe, secure and humane detention during armed conflicts, however those are characterized."

As opposed to? Well, obviously as opposed to the pre-revision policy.

Torture goes against every ideal we should hold dear. It is of dubious efficacy -- people being tortured will say whatever they think their torturers want to hear. people who legitimately know nothing will say that they know something, adding to bad intelligence, to make the torture stop. People who know something will purport to know more than they do in order to get the toruture to stop. the self-fulfilling prophecy of torture will then encourage the toruturer to believe that the one being tortured knows more. Furthermore, it has been shown in case after case that much torture develops a life of its own so that the infliction of pain and suffering becomes a goal in and of itself irrespective of whether or not the pain and suffering actually brings about actionable intelligence. (And let's recall that this is an administration for which warnings of Osama bin Laden making plans to hijack planes and fly them into buildings did not qualify as actionable. They set that bar. Not me.) Finally, our use of torture means that if our enemies were to have any qualms about torturing captured Americans, we can feel pretty confident that those have dissipated.

Some will try to parse definitions of torture to decide if waterboarding qualifies. In my mind, a pretty good rule of thumb is that if a form of inquisition is hauntingly akin to a favored technique of the apartheid police, we probably ought to err on the side of calling it torture. Our policies have been wrong, and the administration has consistently lied to us about them. That, and not the president's announcement about trials that was far too late in coming, is the problem.

Kazin on Herf, et al

While we are over at Open University, Michael Kazin, in a post titled "Liberals, Terrorism, Iraq," makes mention of a statement largely authored by dcat friend and mentor Jeffrey Herf, who is, Kazin understates, "a smart historian from the University of Maryland." The signatories, Kazin points out, are divided over the war in Iraq, which he argues makes their ultimate efficacy as a unified group questionable. I think Kazin is wrong here. One can support the larger struggles we face while disagreeing on the merits of Iraq, especially if agreement can be reached on the broad contours of the desired outcomes for Iraq.

Line of the Day: Speaking Truths Edition

The following line, in an Eric Rauchway post on conspiracy theories over at Open University, made me giggle.:
On my way to work I bicycle past a car that bears the bumper sticker, 9/11 was an inside job. I disagree, if only on the grounds of incompetence; if this administration had targeted the Twin Towers, we'd be grieving today for the meaningless tragedy that befell the Minnesota Twins.

This administration really might be that incompetent.

Hook 'Em Horns!!!!! (Live!)

Guess who just had unbelievably sweet tickets for Saturday's epic Texas-Ohio State game fall into his lap courtesy of Brian, a friend and colleague (and occasional reader of dcat)?

That's right. This guy! The giddy one who probably won't get any work done between now and Saturday. #1 versus #2. Under the lights at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

Eat it, Ohio State.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Marion Jones: Cleared?

According to a breaking story on Fox Sports, sprinter Marion Jones, who tested positive for the banned endurance enhancer EPO on June 23, has been cleared after her "B" urine sample came back negative. In all of the rush to judgment of athletes for real and alleged drug transgressions, let's keep in mind the hoary old principle of innocence until guilt has been proven. Jones has for years been the object of rampant speculation. She has always denied all allegations. The sporting media thus seemed especially pleased to have captured her pelt after the test result was announced, which, many seasoned observers thought, sounded dubious. Now I hope they devote as much time to clearing her name as they have spent in recent years trying to smear it. Somehow I imagine my hope will go unfulfilled.

Sportsguy's NFL Preview

Over at Page 2 Sportsguy has his NFL Preview column. The NBA is his pronounced area of expertise, but his football stuff is usually worthwhile, and this preview is great. My favorite part might be when he calls out the prevailing conventional wisdom that the NFC East is going to be the toughest division in football this season. Plus he picks the Pats to win it all.

Over at The Fix

There is lots of great stuff over at WaPo's The Fix, including winners and losers from the Florida primaries, the now twice-weekly Line on the fall's races, and more. Chris Cilizza provides the equivalent of crack to the political junkie.

An Athlete Dying Young

Mark Graham, a former Canadian Olympian and track star at Nebraska has been killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. he was serving with the Canadian military. There were five others seriously injured in the incident in which two NATO warplanes mistakenly shot on Graham's platoon during an operation in Kandahar province. Graham was 33, the oldest of three brothers, and he had a daughter.

Hat Tip to Holmes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Winning: Not the Only Thing

From the "Be Careful What You Wish For" department, WaPo heavy hitters Dan Balz and David Broder report that potential GOP House losses in this fall's elections might be twice as bad as previously anticipated. this certainly seems like good news for Democrats. And in many ways if the GOP collapse transpires, which I would not yet assume, it will be a good thing for America.

But the question that I hope Democratic strategists are considering even as they plot the path to victory: Then what? It is one thing to run as disgruntled outsiders in the face of arrogance and incompetence. It is quite another to have partial power in a divided government in the face of an executive branch that has somehow managed to try to cast blame on your party even when it has been utterly out of power. If things go (further) awry in the next two years, even if as the result of ongoing administrative incompetence, the feel-good effect of winning in November might well be short-lived. In politics, unlike in sports, the goal should not be just to win. Winning is, or at least ought to be, the first step toward governing. I hope that, even in the heat of battle, Democrats understand the difference.

Open University

The New Republic has introduced a new blog, Open University, that brings together a powerhouse list of academics with public profiles to comment both on contemporary events and on issues in the academy. TNR has always provided one of the most important bridges between academia and the broader intellectual life of the polity, and Open University should continue this relationship.

Open University explains its mission statement thusly:

To the best of our knowledge, this blog is unlike any other out there. It's dedicated to thinking about not just the news of the day but also the news from the academy: Controversies in campus politics that warrant thoughtful discussion. Scholarship from our various disciplines that we think deserves a broader hearing. Ideas we had in doing our research that seem eerily relevant to something we read in The New York Times today. Our bloggers range widely over the political spectrum. They include both novices and old hands . . .

TNR's newest blog should be a welcome addition to online commentary and will hopefully provide a model of public intellectualism.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Democracy, Yes, But That's Not All

Recently in the American Prospect Spencer Ackerman made the case that simply wishing for democracy in Iraq (or by extension anyplace where tyranny or chaos reigns)is insufficient. He made this case in response to an AmPro argument that Shadi Hamid had recently put forth. (Part II of the Hamid article can be found here). Hamid argued:
A progressive foreign policy would elevate democracy promotion as its primary component -- not only because it is right, but because it is necessary. For a movement and a political party that continue to grope for “big ideas,” a focus on democracy would transform a set of seemingly unrelated policies into a cohesive vision that can inspire and reassure Americans.

Ackerman disagrees:
His argument was as sincere as it was misguided. As with much talk about democracy promotion, it mistook the world that American liberals would like to live in for the actual one that American liberals must confront. Hamid conflates a liberalism of good intentions with a liberalism of good results. But American liberals have a responsibility when acting abroad to advance a liberalism of good results -- good for America, and good for liberalism. [. . .]
What liberal democracy-promoters want to see in foreign closed societies is more precisely located in the advance of human rights: the protection of basic human dignity, freedom, and justice. Indeed, liberal democracy-promoters frequently criticize their neoconservative cousins for their lack of concern with the social protections of civil and legal rights. But it's time to uncouple human rights from democracy, and recognize that democracy has value only to the degree to which it safeguards human rights -- which is to say the degree to which democracy is liberal. Democracy in that respect is a fine and worthy thing, but the emphasis for the United States and for liberalism should be on the end, not the means.

At the risk of turning our audience off by going to the same piece again and again, I am going to refer to the recent op-ed piece that Tom and I penned. The reason I want to suggest that you look at this article for the first time if you have not is because I believe that it fits into the Ackerman-Hamid discussion. Here is the money excerpt for this conversation:
If you focus too much on security and the mere appearance of democracy and do not work toward fostering the development of the full panoply of liberal institutions, strongmen will take over, as has happened in Africa. Security and elections are necessary but not sufficient conditions for Iraq's ultimate success. Winning hearts and minds is fine, but creating a vibrant civil society and stable institutions enables true democracy to flourish.

I would argue (and I am speaking only for me, and not for Tom, though I will use the royal "we" since the piece is both of ours) that fundamentally, we dovetail with Ackerman inasmuch as we believe that liberal institutions fuel human rights. Unlike Ackerman, and perhaps closer to Hamid, we do believe that democracy is necessary. Indeed, we believe that human right require democratic institutions. But this is an important discussion that I believe we ought to be having, as Iraq is simply the latest grappling with what it means to reform a once-authoritarian state. In the past we have not always done so well. But that does not mean that we do not work for the future.