Friday, August 25, 2006
As some of you may know, I'm working on a project with Gavin M. of Sadly, No! called "Ultimate Wingnut Fantasy Wankball". It's a contest modelled on the various fantasy sports games out there, where you are given pretend money to draft various wingnuts like Glenn Reynolds or John Hinderaker to form a team under a salary cap.
There's a bunch of rules for how wingnuts in various positions ("Wankerback", "Eliminationist", "Jesus Lady" etc.) can score points for your team. At the end of the season, the team owner with the most points wins. Pretty simple, possibly pretty entertaining.
And the true beauty of Ultimate Wingnut Fantasy Wankball is that, unlike in other fantasy games where you merely tabulate the sporting exploits of distant, deified figures ... in UWFW, you, the owner, get to actively goad your players into scoring points for you by any means possible.
So. At this point we've got the scoring system laid out, a list of draftable wingnuts and some server space on which to create the website. Gav is doing the graphic design. We should be ready to launch fairly soon, but ...
I've hit a bit of a wall compiling the player profiles, stats and set salaries of the available wingnuts. I need some help. It's, shall we say, creative work ... basically, you get to make funny shit up to describe the wingnuts you know and love.
If anybody is interested in helping out with this aspect of the project, please email me at dpoeter-at-earthlink-dawt-net ...
For all of you who are interested in baseball and hometown loyalty, I'd like to invite you to participate in a little project.
About a year ago, I put together an All-Time All-Star team from the Bay Area for the Gilroy Dispatch. Click here to see it.
Now I happen to believe that this team would kick the ass of any All-Time All-Star team from any other part of the country. So here's a challenge for you ice-fishing Minnesotans, insufferable Bostonians and lapsed worshippers of the Archangel Moroni (yes, PP, I'm looking at you):
Put together your own local All-Star teams, let's plug 'em in to a tournament on Whatifsports.com, and let's see who gets to claim that their area produced the very best Major Leaguers that ever was.
The rules are simple: You only get to pick players who were either born in your area or spent their formative years there. Thus, both Chicago and the Bay Area can claim Rickey Henderson.
That's just my way of avoiding the pitfalls of the old "nature vs. nurture" argument.
If nothing else, participating in this contest should distract Brad R. from his slumping Red Sox. As a special bonus offer, if Almost Infamous wants to build a team from the best players from Eurasia/Australia, he has my blessing. Other people can claim South America, and the Caribbean/Mexico/Central America if they wish. We'll cede Canada to David Frum. I'm not sure if anybody from Africa ever played in the Majors.
Oh, and here's a tip: To get started on building your team, go here.
If you're interested, leave your thoughts in comments to this post. On the Ultimate Wingnut Fantasy Wankball stuff, email me.
UPDATE: Here is my All-Time All-Star team of baseball players born "on a ship in the Atlantic": Ed Porray. Hey, he hits and he pitches!
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
The Dave Barry of sports writing, but dumber
More of teh silly, courtesy of ESPN's 'The Sports Guy':
SG: Glad you brought up Big Mac -- I stumbled across some highlight of him and Sammy doing their complicated/awkward handshake thingie and found myself thinking, "Was that really only eight years ago?" That's the fastest a sports moment has ever become dated. Seriously, it's like staring at a picture of a Negro League baseball team. Only eight years ago, not only were these guys humongous heroes, not only were they widely credited for helping to save baseball, but nobody had a clue that something fishy was potentially going on. It's crazy. It's like being a 13-year-old kid and remembering when you were 5 and still thought Santa Claus was real. What a bummer.Yeah. Sort of like how Enron completely blindsided us. Futures-trading corporate sleazeballs were cooking the books?!?! Professional athletes were using steroids?!?!? Sausage is made ... how?!?!??!?!1112lk3j2l1k11!!!!tobeornottobe!!@#!!!!???? Is there one person in the entire history of everything who could have possibly known this???!???!
Anyway, he continues:
In a way, I can understand why Giants fans still defend Bonds so rigorously. It goes much deeper than being in denial -- by admitting what happened, they would be admitting that every good memory he brought them over the last eight years was a complete sham. They HAVE to defend him. They HAVE to support them. I feel bad for the Giants fans. For instance, let's say someone reported tomorrow that Big Papi had been using HGH for the last three years. Know what I would do? Pooh-pooh the report. "No way. Couldn't be. They're full of crap." That's what I'd say. How else can you react? I'm getting depressed. ...No, Sports Guy, Giants fans do not defend Bonds because we are five-year-olds in denial over him using performance enhancing drugs. It's obvious he did, though it would be nice if somebody could get either a piss test or a court ruling that proved he did PEDs that were either against the stated rules of baseball at the time he did them or purchased/used illegally in the United States at the time he did them, or both.
Giants fans, or at least the ones I am familiar with, defend Bonds against being made Public Enemy No. 1 and Grand Mugwump and Official Lightning Rod of the Dastardly Order of Steroid Scapegoats. Which is actually a different thing.
Which brings us back to the ridiculous assertion that "nobody had a clue that something fishy was potentially going on" during the Big Mac-Sammy Summer of '98. Lots of people had a clue. Especially people who were involved in making money off baseball, from all the other players besides McGwire and Sosa (and Bonds) who also used PEDs to the owners of baseball teams to knowledgeable media types who generated lots of ad-friendly product from baseball.
McGwire had a giant bottle of andro prominently displayed in his locker, fer crissake! Ben Johnson got busted a full ten years earlier! Steve Courson blew the lid off the NFL's dirty little secret in 1991!
The point being, Bonds did not invent PEDs and was not the first athlete to use them. What's more, when he was using them from 1999 to whenever he presumably stopped, he almost assuredly faced competition more saturated with PED use than at any other time in baseball history ... thus rendering a trifle overblown all of the clutching of pearls over his approaching the home run record as if he alone possessed the Atom Bomb of steroids while those he played against got by on oatmeal, tossing around a medicine ball and good old-fashioned grit.
So, yeah, we defend Bonds, but not because his obvious PED use somehow makes "every good memory ... over the last eight years was a complete sham". Why would we consider those memories a complete sham when the sport at the time didn't give a shit about steroid use? Ben Johnson knew he was going to have to piss in a cup after every race, whereas baseball players were given a wink and a nudge by the very arbiters of their sport.
That's got to count for something in our assessment of Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and the rest of them. Consider the options of an athlete over the past couple decades: a. Do steroids, stonewall about it and get branded a scumbag by the self-righteous; b. Fess up about your steroid use and get blackballed as a stoolie by your sport; or c. Don't do steroids and resign yourself to life as a career minor leaguer.*
Then again, the Sports Guy liked it better when he still believed a magical fat man in a red suit delivered him toys. That's some pretty remarkable devotion to being ignorant. I'm not sure if he'll ever get any of this.**
*I almost forgot d. Don't do steroids*** and be a complete asshole about it (see: Schilling, Curt)
**Lest anyone think I'm so cynical as to demean the loss of innocence ... I'm not. It's just that I think it's kind of pitiful that the Sports Guy equates finding out that yes, Virginia, people are human, with the unmasking of various supernatural bunnies and fairies and elves who inexplicably give you crap.
Whereas, for me, it was only the fifth or
sixth most nauseating 30 seconds I've
spent reading a blog post ...
Hail to the ChiefFor once, words fail me. Must be the chunks I just threw up in my mouth.
I had the opportunity this afternoon to be part of a relatively small group who heard President Bush talk, extemporaneously, for around forty minutes. It was an absolutely riveting experience. It was the best I've ever seen him. Not only that; it may have been the best I've ever seen any politician. If I summarized what he said, it would all sound familiar: the difficult times we live in; the threat from Islamic fascism--the phrase drew an enthusiastic round of applause--the universal yearning for freedom; the need to confront evil now, with all the tools at our disposal, so that our children and grandchildren can live in a better and safer world. ...
The conventional wisdom is that Bush is not a very good speaker. But up close, he is a great communicator, in a way that, in my opinion, Ronald Reagan was not. He was by turns instructive, persuasive, and funny. His persona is very much that of the big brother. Above all, he was impassioned. I have never seen a politician speak so evidently from the heart, about big issues--freedom, most of all. ...
It was, in short, the most inspiring forty minutes I've experienced in politics.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Hey! What if hitting myself in the head with this hammer makes me smarter? It'd be great!
Via Retardo via Wolcott via Hersh, comes this telling passage:
Cheney’s office supported the Israeli plan, as did Elliott Abrams, a deputy national-security adviser, according to several former and current officials. (A spokesman for the N.S.C. denied that Abrams had done so.) They believed that Israel should move quickly in its air war against Hezbollah. A former intelligence officer said, “We told Israel, ‘Look, if you guys have to go, we’re behind you all the way. But we think it should be sooner rather than later—the longer you wait, the less time we have to evaluate and plan for Iran before Bush gets out of office.’ ”
Cheney’s point, the former senior intelligence official said, was “What if the Israelis execute their part of this first, and it’s really successful? It’d be great. We can learn what to do in Iran by watching what the Israelis do in Lebanon.”
Leaving aside trivial matters like, you know, morality, one can only conclude that these bozos really, really, really suck at war. If there were fancy sabermetric stats for being competent at war, Cheney would have an OPS of, like, -1.543, and your buddies would all snicker if you picked Abrams earlier than the 650th round of your fantasy draft. Rumsfeld? Well, let's just say that even Joe Morgan would have long ago stopped touting his "intangibles" and put a fork in him.
And it's like their suckiness at war is rubbing off on the Israelis or something. Say what you will about decades-long military occupations, ethnic cleansing and whatnot, but generally speaking, Israel has been pretty decent at the whole war thing from your basic "achieving objectives" metric. Until this latest invasion of Lebanon, that is. Which we now learn from Hersh was embarked upon with all the careful strategerizing of Johnny Knoxville sticking his nutsack in a toaster oven "to see what happens".
Now this is very interesting, because the Bush Administration has been called out on a lot things, from mongering equal parts fear and power, to leaving no corporate crony executively unblown. But one thing this crew always had going for it was the widespread perception that, yeah, so maybe they don't care about black people, maybe they're hurtling us into unprecedented debt, maybe they're losing us allies like Bill Bennett hemorrhaging $100 chips in Atlantic City ... maybe so, but at least they know how to - in the words of Toby Keith - "put a boot in your ass".
And make no mistake, there are a lot of people who think like Toby Keith in these'm hair Yoo-Nighted States'm Erika. And to those voting folks, for the longest time, it didn't really matter if ass or asses unknown being injected with said boot weren't in fact the particular ass or asses that perhaps deserved the insertion of our brand of footwear. It was good enough to know that somewhere out there, some theoretical ass was being rudely and painfully alerted to the sudden, violent presence of an uninvited houseguest, shape of: boot ... form of: in your ass.
Again, it didn't really matter if the Bushies picked the right ass or "exaggerated" the threat of that ass to hinder our God-given right to put our boot in it. It didn't matter, as long as - and here's the crux of it all - we were in fact, actually and in reality, "putting", not-entirely-metaphorically, that oh-so-state-of-the-art "boot" in that isn't-it-all-just-the-height-of-heterosexuality "ass".
But now the facts are in. Or, I should say, they've been in for some time (from at least the revelation of the piss-poor planning for post-war Iraq, if not with the escape of the al-Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan), but it is only now, as we awake from our slumbering-giant-awakening-induced slumber, that a majority of us are finally getting that the facts are in.
And the facts are these: The Bush Administration fucking blows at putting boots in your ass. Despite having the most powerful military the world has ever known, they are 1-for-2 in hot wars against Third World nations. And the "1" - Afghanistan - is pretty much a broken-bat blooper, to give the administration more credit than it deserves.
That's just a really bad boot-putting-in-your-ass record. It should also be noted that on the colder fronts of the Great War on Terror - Iran and North Korea - the Bushies are similarly crap. Let's call it "putting a carrot-and-stick in your ass" and consult the statistical record to discover that, surprise! They totally blow at that, too!
Learning now from Hersh that the neocons in the administration are actively exporting Cheney Brand Military Incompetence - Now With More Bumbling! to Israel? Well, it's not exactly surprising that they would be offering such un-sage advice. That's just how these nitwits roll. Even though them counseling Israel on what fights to enter is like Jacquie Mackie Po-Packie advising people on pick-up lines.
But it is somewhat baffling that Olmert seems to have valued the Bushies' input. I mean what could Cheney and Abrams have possibly said? "Jump right in, Ehud! The quagmire's great!" ... ???
At any rate, lest we get too lost in typical Parrotline tangentery, let's revisit the main point: These guys suck at war. The upside is, enough Americans are waking up to this truth to possibly shift the balance of power in this country this fall, so maybe, hopefuly, pray with me here - the other boot will finally drop and all of our collective asses will be that much safer.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
'Beware that you are ready before you pass this seal'? Oh, Jesus, we've got a live one
It’s not like this is a new thing. From Victor Davis Hansen’s gentleman farmer posturing to the mealy resolve of John Podhoretz, bemoaning Judeo-Christendom’s supposed lack of ruthlessness is a staid tradition in Wingnutopia.
Indeed, it is difficult to recount the number of times a Tacitus or a Pamela Atlas or an Adam Yoshida has reworked the lyrics to that infectious, mid-1990s novelty hit by Skee-Lo, i.e.:
I wish we were a little bit crueler
I wish I was our ruler
I wish we had the will to nuke Mecca
I would ‘do’ her
I wish I had a Muslim in a room like in ‘Doom’
And my graphic card was newer
… So it is hardly surprising that yet another call for all good Christians to ‘Level thy Enemy’ is making the rounds in the Right Blogosphere. And true to form, it is being welcomed to much acclaim and grave harrumphing, meeting as it does the stern, faux gloomy approval of the many dedicated fabulists who are invariably “pained” and “saddened” to concur that, indeed, our love for innocent life is so great that we must now steel ourselves to rending far more of it limb-from-limb.
That this is just another in a long line of clumsy, desperate attempts to discover the mythical lever that engages the built-in obsolescence of evolved human morality means little. That it is entitled “On the Virtues of Killing Children” merits some attention. But leaving aside, for the moment, the oh-so-shocking title, it is fitting that the essay’s author calls himself “Grim”. For it is in this guise that the most pretentious wingnuts so love to cloak themselves – as “grim realists” who bravely struggle with their inner Col. Jessups to remain patient with those of us who cannot yet “handle the truth”.
Despite the outpouring of tough-minded, strictly heterosexual praise for “On the Virtues of Killing Children”, Grim’s little foray into amorality is hardly novel or earth-shattering. As an argument for a particular course of action it is, in fact, derivative, utopian, linguistically stilted, structurally incoherent, riddled with strawmen, devoid of answers to common rebuttals of similar arguments, dependent upon improbable sea changes in common attitudes towards conduct in war, lacking in evidence to support its conclusions, blind to the very predictable negative externalities that would result from its being put into practice, and, in a word: dumb as fuck.
As such, the best possible response to “On the Virtues of Killing Children” is simple mockery. To wit: The essay is piffle, the author is ignorant and/or insane, the audience which lapped it up is not to be trusted with sharp objects. Which, of course, was indeed the most common reaction in the comment thread to the post and elsewhere.
The reaction to that reaction was equally predictable: “Why will no liberal present a serious counterargument to this post?” Those who ask that question seem to believe that the absence of such a response means no response is possible, thus validating the author’s presentation of his argument via the construction of a resistant (and only coincidentally female, really) interlocutor who is deflowered by his own superior logic and manly resolve.
Never mind the existence of thousands of years of philosophical debate over these very ideas … not to mention that such rightwing claptrap is dealt with daily in the Left Blogosphere. And, in fact, several people have made perfectly fine rebuttals to the specifics of “On the Virtues of Killing Children” in the very comments accompanying the essay.
At any rate, seeing as how I haven’t posted in, like, a week or something, and in the spirit of reaching out that Mrs. Robinson over at Orcinus has so ably encouraged recently, here’s this liberal’s rebuttal to the argument that we need to give even less of a shit than we already do about bleeding, concussed children dying in fear and pain:
That’s fucking insane. And barbaric. And the opposite of what we’re supposed to be fighting.
Now to be fair (I’m not sure why I should be, but still), Grim and his supporters want everybody to know that “On the Virtues of Killing Children” is just an ordinary utilitarian argument, and how could anyone serious possibly read anything more into it than that, just because of the title?!?
(Which is sort of like calling your line of clown apparel the “John Wayne Gacy Collection” and then wondering why everybody thinks you’re a creep … but never mind.)
At any rate, the utilitarian argument. Grim posits that “not caring if children die” when we attack will cause our enemies who use innocents as shields to stop doing so, because it would cease to be effective protection for them, thus ultimately saving more children.
There is a host of problems with this idea, not least of which are the various counters to utilitarianism itself. It should also be noted that conservative philosophy is very much at odds with utilitarianism, so whatever those who applaud Grim’s thesis consider themselves to be philosophically, they are deluded if they think they are “conservative”.
But even if we accept a utilitarian framework as basically good, it doesn’t necessarily follow that more good results than bad would come from following Grim’s recommendation. Here is part of his exchange with the pliable strawlady of his fevered imagination:
Her eyes grow wide. "You are mad," she says.Damn! The strawlady gave up way too soon, and just when I was starting to like her. Shut up, strawlady, just shut up! You had me at “You are mad”!
"Not so," I answer. "Consider: when the enemy seeks to kill our child to motivate us to surrender to his will, is it not because he believes that the danger to the children will move our hearts?"
"It is," she must agree.
"And when he hides among children," I add, "why? Children do little to deflect artillery. Must it not be because he knows that we -- we ourselves -- fear for the children, even his children?"
She nods, silently.
"Then it is proven," I say. "It is our love of these innocents that endangers them. If we did not care if children died, they would be in little danger."
Anyway, the strawlady’s gormlessness aside, how do we know that “the enemy” – terrorists, insurgents, Hezbollah, et. al. – “hides himself among children” for the sole purpose of guilt-tripping us into not firing on them? Grim doesn't offer any evidence that this is so.
Isn’t it likely that the more mundane requirement for survival as a guerrilla fighter – hiding from one’s more powerful enemy – is at least as much a reason for this practice? Does Grim really believe that eliminating, through some collective decision to be merciless, our avoidance of civilian casualties … would somehow cause Iraqi insurgents to suddenly don uniforms and form into neat little lines, the better to sportingly square off against our Blackhawk helicopters, tanks and howitzers with their rifles and IEDs?
Puh-fucking-leeze. And with that, out the window goes the argument. Because if it is possible to raise serious doubts about the effectiveness of his prescription on its most basic level - militarily - then all the other counterarguments to do with predictable negative externalities, social mores, etc. are merely icing on the cake.
Which isn't to say that icing ain't good eatin'. There are a zillion more reasons to scoff at Grim’s fairy tale. Here are a few troubling questions for him, just off the top of my head:
- When we openly declare ourselves to be callous child-killers, how exactly is this going to play as propaganda in the Muslim world and elsewhere? Is the assuredly negative reaction something we should factor into this decision? Or does it seem more likely that our allies and would-be allies in this struggle will be swayed, strawlady-like, by the impeccable logic of “On the Virtues of Killing Children” … if only we could get them all to read it?
- Seeing as how the Iraqis that we’re fighting, and the Iranians we propose to fight, haven’t actually killed any of our children … isn’t it kinda sorta putting the cart before the horse to be complaining that we haven’t killed enough of theirs yet? I mean, obviously motives trump everything – and ours are always pure and noble, while theirs are always debased and savage – but don’t results count a tiny bit, too? To put it in baseball terms, isn’t deciding which enemies to fight sort of like drafting players for a team? And isn’t Iran sort of like a high school pitcher? You know, love the “tools”, the upside’s out of this world … but we just can’t risk an invasion on such an unproven quantity? Maybe better, you think, to go with an enemy out of college, like an al Qaeda, that’s got at least four solid years of “actually attacking us” under its belt?
- Admit it … isn’t it just a little bit embarrassing to be so scared of a group of people that your country’s military has completely fucking outgunned and surrounded, that you stay up nights worrying about whether we’re killing enough of them? With sufficiently hardened hearts?
- Did the whole “With great power comes great responsibility” bit in Spider-Man just go completely over your head?
- Is our concern about innocent life even something we can turn off and on? And if we can turn it off, how easy is it to turn back on?
- Is “bigger hammer” really the only tool we have available in the foreign policy shed? Did our needy neighbor borrow all the economic levels and diplomatic lubricants we used to have, and not return them or something? Because, what a dick!
P.S. To everybody who wondered about my positively Gallic holiday from blogging in the comment thread below:
First of all, thanks for checking in regularly to see if I had come out of hibernation. I apologize for not letting you know if or when I would be posting again. You all deserved some sort explanation for my absence long before now. So here it is:
I stopped posting for a couple of reasons. The DSL thing really happened. But when I got my service back I found myself pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed not having to monitor insane wingnuts every day to collect material for this blog. (There’s a frequent comment that appears on blogs like this one, it goes something like: “Thank you for reading the crazy people so I don’t have to.” Sometimes it’s just good to take a break from teh crazy.)
There were also some personal issues, which I won’t describe in too much detail. Nothing to do with health; nothing to do with fear of getting “outed” by the likes of Pasty & Pattycakes, Attorneys at BWAHAHA*; somewhat to do with finances; a lot to do with marriage. I’ll only say that most of the turmoil is winding down, there is light at the end of the tunnel and leave it at that.
Finally, I hope I will be posting regularly again. Don’t want to make any promises, but that’s the plan.
*Good guess, though, Bas.