Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Richard Jewell: The Strangest Hero

I have always been fascinated by the strange story of Richard Jewell. In 1996, Jewell noticed a suspicious package outside a stadium in Atlanta during the Summer Olympics. Acting on years of public and private law enforcement experience, Jewell cleared the area just before the package exploded (the bomb still killed one person). He was a genuine hero.

For all of two days. Not long after the world hailed his efforts, anonymous law enforcement officials suggested to various media outlets that Jewell was a suspect in the bombing; he was accused of being a loser, someone who might have planted the bomb -- and then prevented it from exploding -- to gain notoriety for himself. He went from hero to scourge overnight.

It wasn't true of course. The real bomber was Eric Rudolph, the radical anti-abortion terrorist. Yet Jewell's moment -- which should have won him national, if not international, acclaim -- passed, and he was stuck trying to recover from the various media outlets that slandered him.

We should all admire and remember Richard Jewell, who died early today. He deserves as much.

Gay Republicans

Writing on, Dale Carpenter describes in pitch-perfect detail the GOP's confused relationship with gay Republicans. Read it, and ye shall be illuminated.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Christopher Hitchens' Alternative Universe

I must have missed it when Christopher Hitchens announced he could see the future. Here he is today in Slate, writing about the War in Iraq -- in his view, really three wars, two of which we are winning -- and why he rejects the idea of partition:

This subconflict—or these subconflicts—makes it hard to accept the proposal made by some U.S. politicians and pundits to the effect that the country should be partitioned along ethnic and religious lines. In that event, we would quite probably not end up with three neatly demarcated mini-states, one each in a three-way split among Sunni Arab, Shiite, and Kurd. Instead, there could be partitions within the partition, with Iran and Saudi Arabia becoming patrons of their favorite proxies and, in the meantime, a huge impetus given to the "cleansing" of hitherto-mixed cities and provinces. (This, by the way, as I never tire of saying, is what would have happened to Iraq when Saddam's regime collapsed and the country became prey to neighboring states and to the consequences of 30 years of "divide and rule" politics.)

There's a reason Hitch never tires of saying this: it's unfalsifiable. You can't disprove an unknowable hypothesis about a future we will never experience because of choices we've made today. Perhaps more importantly, the implied premise underlying this "defense" of the Iraq War is that we've somehow saved it from this fate. We haven't. As soon as we leave, you can bet Iraq will become prey to neighboring states and the consequences of 30 years of divide-and-rule politics. The only difference is that the lives of 3,732 American soldiers, and $450 billion in U.S. dollars, have been spent in a futile attempt to prevent Iraq from collapsing.

In the absence of anything interesting to say about politics, football, or philosophy, enjoy these fishing pictures

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Football Outsiders linkage

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

World Music Mania!

This is cool: my friend Michael Kelly (aka the Worker), who I've known since 8th freakin' grade, is "blowing up" on the dj'ing and music scene. Here's a write up in what-will-be tomorrow's San Francisco Chronicle, profiling his world electronic music night "Stateless." Money quote:

"I hate those kinds of labels," says Kelly of "trip-hop" and "down-tempo" tags. "We want it to be a slam and dance music kind of night. It's not showcased as a typical club night. It's supposed to be about dancing."


Monday, August 20, 2007

Read this

Seven U.S. soldiers, having served 18 months in Iraq, calling for an end to the occupation:

Things we learned this weekend from the Hawks-Packers game

1. Tom Ashworth should be cut.

2. David Greene should be cut.

3. Floyd Pork Chop Womack should be cut.

4. Leonard Weaver isn't very good.

5. Our special teams are a mess.

6. Oh, our new long snapper, Derek Rackley, sucks.

7. Seneca Wallace isn't really a viable option at quarterback.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fish Fisked on Slate -- Slate 1, Fish 0.

Oh man, do I wish I had written this piece by Ron Rosenblum "deconstructing" Stanley Fish's clueless broadside against Starbucks.

Hilarious -- and perhaps telling, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

So I guess Karl Rove's not an atheist

A few months ago, Chris Hitchens claimed in New York magazine that Karl Rove was a closeted atheist (story is here). I found this bit of information, in a word, "unsettling" -- I just couldn't believe the architect of the GOP's modern religious jihad was a (closeted) atheist.

Well, he's not. From Rove's resignation speech today:

At month’s end, I will join those whom you meet in your travels — the ordinary Americans who tell you they are praying for you. Like them, I will ask for God’s continued gifts of strength and wisdom for you and your work, your vital work for our country and the world and for the Almighty’s continued blessing of our great country.

So, Hitchens wrong, Rove still an asshole. Par for the course lately.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Things to watch for in the Sunday Seahawks-Chargers preseason game

With my new gig moonlighting for the Football Outsiders, I've had less time to blog here -- so thanks to those of you who have stuck around. I'm pondering the future of this blog during NFL season, so I can't promise things are going to get any better. In any event, here's some quick thoughts for the Hawks first preseason game:

1. Watch Brandon Mebane, our new DT from Cal. He's shredding people in training camp. Can he function in the Marcus Tubbs run-clogging role we so desperately need on the d-line to free up Lofa, J-Pete and L-Hill? Let's hope so.

2. Leonard Weaver. You heard it here first: this guy is going to seriously eat into Shaun Alexander's carries this year. He usually lays out a vicious stiff arm in preseason too, so keep your eyes on him.

3. David Greene. Who dat? He be our third QB. Most everyone agrees he sucks in practice, but can turn it on during games. That'd be real nice to see on Sunday, because Coach Walrus has said that this might free up Seneca Wallace to play WR. Which would be sweet.

4. Marcus Pollard, our ancient TE -- will he catch more than 10 passes this year? The smart money says no but let's see how he does against the Chargers.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Weekly self-promotional plug

Read the quotes! Comment too!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Prejudice against atheism

Gregg Easterbrook of Tuesday Morning Quarterback fame recently spewed some anti-atheist diatribe in one of his NFL columns for

In Easterbrook's twisted view, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris are "anti-faith jihadis: they don't just want to argue against the many faults of Christianity, they want faith forbidden." Note the lack of supporting quotes in his piece for that claim -- that's because there aren't any. Both Dawkins and Harris argue for atheism, and against religious belief, but not once have they -- or any other prominent atheist I'm aware of -- ever claimed faith should be forbidden by government. Note too how TMQ calls atheists "jihadis," even though that term applies to a specific form of faith-based war. Oooh, clever.

Oh, and he also manages to sneak in another anti-atheist dig by noting that Europe's "worship-service attendance figures are troubling" -- right after spending a paragraph praising Europe for personal freedom and self-expression equal to America's, prosperity that is nearly as high, daily stress that is lower, cultural institutions equal to or superior to ours, and for being "more open-minded than most of America about enjoyment of our one brief chance at life." The fact that there may be a connection between those qualities and Europe's "troubling" worship attendance seems to have eluded him.

For bonus points, in the same column he also manages to offer some facile criticism of people who enjoy The Sopranos and spoil the ending to Harry Potter.

I used to enjoy reading TMQ. A few years ago, he got in trouble for railing against "Michael Eisner, a Jew" for allowing Disney to make violent movies, but I didn't hold it against him -- maybe because I'm an atheist. Now that I've been tarred too, I think I'm done with him.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Blogging about pedophilia

No, not me. I refer instead to Jack McClellan, a blogger in LA who writes about his sexual attraction to children and where he goes to look and photograph them. The NY Times ran this fascinating-and-disturbing profile of McClellan last week.

An outrage, right? Surely we all agree: He must be stopped, at any cost! But wait -- there's a problem. You see, it's not a crime to lust after children. Nor is it a crime to write about your lust for children. Nor is it even a crime to photograph children in public you lust after (provided you don't do so in a stalking, obsessive fashion). Acting on your sexual attraction for kids is very much a crime, of course, but as far as anyone knows, McClellan has never done so.

Despite that being so, a court in Los Angeles just issued a restraining order that prohibits McClellan from basically getting anywhere near children again, or writing about children he'd like to have sex with. Over to you, Prof. Volokh (who first alerted me to this story):

You can't restrict people's movement, and their ability to take photographs in public places (even of children, something that is routinely done by the media and others and that is presumptively protected by the First Amendment), simply because of their ideology and expressed sexual desire, even when one understandably worries that at some point this ideology plus desire will turn into actual molestation. The premise of our legal system is that restraints on where you can go on in public (and broader freedom, including the freedom to photograph and to post photographs) can only be instituted after some showing of concrete evidence that someone has committed or is planning to commit a crime.

This is one of those interesting examples that makes think about the normative, behavior-shaping function that "law" serves in liberal society. Virtually everyone agrees that sex with minors is wrong, but punishing the desire to have sex with minors raises problems of a philosophic and pragmatic sort. Jack McClellan is treated as an outcast, a leper -- yet Britney Spears made hundreds of millions of dollars marketing to that same "disgusting" urge that McClellan blogs openly about. He is now being punished for his thoughtcrime in ways that are almost certainly unconstitutional. It will be interesting to see how his appeal plays out (ACLU?)

Go read the quotes on Football Outsiders

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The biggest nonsurprising news of the day

The collapsed bridge in Minneapolis? Two years ago, it was rated "structurally deficient" and given a score of 50 -- on a scale of 100 (story here). But the state of Minnesota seems to have fiddled while its roads collapsed.

Sad, and infuriating.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Who said this?

"I know the liberal media. Heck, I was the darling of the liberal media. They're my friends, many of them. I like them. But I think I was only their friend as long as they thought I would undermine the President. When I defended the president, when I refused to surrender in Iraq and supported the surge that is only now bearing fruit--they turned on me like a pack of jackals. That's the way it is.

I could do no wrong before--when I blew my stack they said I was passionate, when I disagreed with them they said I was admirably principled. Now when I disagree with them they just say I'm wrong, I'm stubborn, I've lost. It's August and their idea of in-depth reporting is coming up with new ways of asking me when I'm going to give up my campaign. I think they're about to call in Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton to negotiate my withdrawal.

You know what? I don't care what they think. I like good press. I admit. But they can take a hike. I've made mistakes in this campaign--lots--but I'm going to say what I think. I'm not going to accept defeat in Iraq when victory is possible. And if Tim Russert and George Stephanopoulos don't like it, that's life. They're two votes. And they're ... there's a word for it. They're Democrats. I'm a Republican. I don't expect the Democratic media to love me. It was fun while it lasted. But the Democratic media isn't going to pick the Republican nominee."

-- An imaginary John McCain (as described by Mickey Kaus on Slate)

Kaus is proposing that McCain resuscitate his moribund campaign by savaging the press. Whatever you think about McCain, this strikes me as a brilliant political strategy. I say that because the speech above rekindles my nascent love of McCain. There was a time not so long ago I envisioned voting for McCain. Then he married himself to the war in Iraq and started to sound delusional about the dangers of street shopping in Baghdad. If McCain could somehow spin that into a contrarian-but-optimistic position on the war, well, he just might inject himself back into the thick of this political race.