Posted by Brad @ 9:55 am on June 30th 2010

Music Video of the RIP Senator Robert Byrd

Y’all know he was a mountain fiddler, right?

Senator Robert Byrd – Roving Gambler

Posted by Rojas @ 10:28 pm on June 29th 2010

Pennies from heaven

Two days ago, I recieved an envelope in the mail from the US Treasury Department. Opening the envelope with shaking fingers, I was confronted with…a check for $400.75. (more…)

Posted by Jerrod @ 9:43 pm on June 29th 2010

Petraeus is not the answer

I’ve surprised myself over the years by opposing the war in Iraq before it started but then supporting the post-war efforts of President Bush. I never really opposed the initial incursion into Afghanistan but also found myself siding with those who argued that to leave Afghanistan would only serve to make the problem worse. I trusted policy makers, both civilian and military, especially General Petraeus, and believed that we’d learned enough from our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and were distanced enough from 9/11 to make appropriate decisions based on accurate analysis of the situation and solutions. We need someone who will take us out of Afghanistan. Petraeus is good, even great, but he’s there for COIN and that’s no longer what we need.

Looking at it now, it’s quite shocking that we’ve only had 2 national reviews of the war in Afghanistan. The first came in the first few weeks after 9/11 and consisted mainly of “Which targets? All of them!” and then again in 2009 with a change in national leadership. The resignation of McChrystal is another opportunity for revisiting the issue but it’s clear that President Obama is not going to do that. We’re changing personnel, not policy, he says. This is very unfortunate.

I no longer believe that the current policy is either feasible nor appropriate for the United States and Afghanistan. As I understand it, our policy is designed around two pillars. The first is to eradicate Islamic terrorist activity in Afghanistan and the second is to stamp down on the Taliban (an indigenous Afghani movement) long enough for a national government to do the stamping down on its own. The former objective is essentially complete; Al Qaeda remnants probably can be found in Afghanistan but functionally the “group” (Al Qaeda is more of a widespread ideology inspiring distinct groups rather than a monolithic organization like Hezbollah or the Weather Underground) operates outside of Afghanistan (Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia). Most of what is called Al Qaeda or terrorism in Afghanistan these days is actually Taliban activity. While the Taliban and Al Qaeda do share a lot of the Salafi/Wahhabi Islamic ideology about how to live their lives and run their societies, the Taliban has no apparent aims outside of Afghanistan. They are vehemently anti-non-Afghani, an attitude shared by most non-Taliban as well.

The second function of our mission in Afghanistan, namely the suppression of the Taliban in favor of nation building, has thus become almost the entirety of our mission. Essentially we are in Afghanistan fighting one group of Afghanis who’s political beliefs we abhor in favor of another group of Afghanis who otherwise wouldn’t be able to stand on their own. I really hate to jump to Vietnam comparisons, but it has to be said. Yes, there are major differences, the least of which is that the Taliban are hugely supported by Pakistan. At best, though, this point only can be used to argue against painting with the Vietnam brush, as it is further evidence of the futility of our anti-Taliban mission.

I can’t support the anti-Taliban mission any more because I no longer am convinced that it is any kind of threat to the United States. The only threat that the Taliban ever posed to use was when they provided a haven to Al Qaeda for training. That isn’t happening any more and is unlikely to now that our operation to remove the tumor has led to a metastasis with pockets of Al Qaeda all over the region now. We should continue to monitor Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and be prepared to perhaps re-enter the country if needed to attack such camps. It’s even arguable that it would be better if Al Qaeda re-established itself in Afghanistan since its politically easier (albeit logistically harder) for the U.S. to violate Afghani state sovereignty to take out some camps than it is to do so in Pakistan or Yemen (neighbor of Saudi Arabia). It should be possible to develop humint sources that would keep a lid on AQ; Pakistan supports the Taliban but has no love for Al Qaeda. I’m willing to bet that Taliban/ISI would be willing to work with the U.S. to keep Al Qaeda down.

Staying in Afghanistan is pushing the problem into Pakistan and destabilizing that nation. Getting out of Afghanistan would hinder our actions in Pakistan but would likely allow Pakistan to make strides in reducing the Al Qaeda presence there, relocating them back to Afghanistan as I said. Even better, though, would be to withdraw from Afghanistan in a way that legitimates the Taliban (who have moderated many of their more extreme and disgusting policies, even though most Americans still would find them repugnant). There’s been a worldwide backlash to Al Qaeda and its very plausible that a new Taliban regime would no longer be able to justify cooperation or tolerate Al Qaeda as they did pre-9/11.

Afghanistan isn’t suited to become the nation we’re trying to make it into and even if it was, the Karzai clan isn’t capable of creating a stable government. The diversity of identities in Afghanistan fundamentally require a more transparent and inclusive form of government than we’ve got (or are anywhere near getting), but even if we had that, most Afghanis don’t want central government. And really, why should we care? I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t care about the plight of Afghanis or that we should “break it but not buy it” or just shirk responsibility entirely. I’m saying that the form of government in Afghanistan is not of consequence to the US.

Afghanistan needs peace and its true that Taliban may pose a threat to that if they seek to retake the capitol and attempt to consolidate control as they did in the mid-1990s. But a regional organization that includes Pakistan, India, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Kyrgistan, Uzbekistan, and the world community as a whole ought to be able to come together on it. Yeah, yeah, some of you just choked on your coffee, but it really is that simple. Takes real leadership and some serious diplomacy is all.

I’ll close with an extended quote from a note posted by Thomas Ricks from inside Afghanistan that suggests a way forward and out:

I read and see news about reconciliation, etc but at the tactical level that is not the case. There is no question that the TB has embedded itself in the countryside and shadow governance is at its best.

My take on this is that the TB see their position as one of strength and are reinforcing that strength in certain areas. Why? In my opinion, it is a race for strength to come to the negotiations table. It is Negotiations 101 in college.

We must get away from the verbiage of central governance and openly accept that Afghanistan is quintessentially a decentralized society that is further fractured by decades of conflict, complex tribal relationships and geographic terrain that prevents strong central governance — particularly when there was never strong central governance in the past. Under the TB, past dynasties, and the Russians, there was never strong governance. Tribal justice reigned and the people were content.

However, we need to openly communicate to ‘our world’ that we must fight and gain control of the key roads to Kabul in order to open commerce and transportation and in parallel build the capacity and capability of the ANSF to secure and control those key arteries — and let the rest of the country lie in rest. To uproot traditionalist and isolationist communities and extend governance outwards to harsh terrain can only shift focus away from what we can control — the roads to Kabul.

A really big problem is the Pashtu belt which lies astride the PAK-AFG border. If we can get to the negotiations table in a position of strength with acceptable political parties (to include some or a lot of TB), we might then find ourselves in a stronger position with AFG and PAK to target extremists/AQ in the Fatah, etc and destroy them — we would be the stronger coalition. Remember that the Pashtuns make up 50 percent of Afghanistan and 100 percent of the insurgency — and the Taliban. That should help put it in perspective. The Pashtu is not really the enemy. They do not want foreigners and extremists among their tribes — nor do they want us here.

It is the extremist that wants to destroy the Pakistan current state as well as U.S. and other western interests outside of Pakistan and Afghanistan. This terrain provides the safe haven and opportunity for foreign fighters outside of the Pashtu and Afghanistan and Pakistan to target the U.S. as well as Pakistan, which extremists consider a U.S. ally, or puppet. Reaching an acceptable solution among the TB and Pashtu will allow us and Pakistan to target and rid the Pashtu belt of AQ and other extremists — our Commander-in-Chief’s main objective.

Again, it is violent and I strongly believe we are in a phase that requires bargaining from a position of strength — and that strength lies in those key lines of commerce or roads, not in the countryside. In the end, the lessons must be drawn from the 11 Soviet-U.S. Geneva negotiations in the Sov-AFG war that only ended in failure for the Soviets. Soon, we must gain the position of strength and initiate a compromise and enforcement negotiations approach. And we cannot gain a position of strength under a planned timeline. Ask the former President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and when he said, “we are out in 9 months and we will not be linked to the stability of Kabul.” That did not work out. Look where we are now.

Posted by Brad @ 9:44 am on June 28th 2010

FIFA Finally Gets Serious About Oversight of its Officiating

By disallowing it.

JOHANNESBURG — FIFA will censor World Cup match action being shown on giant screens inside the stadium after replays of Argentina’s disputed first goal against Mexico fueled arguments on the pitch.

Angry Mexico players protested to referee Roberto Rosetti after the screens in Johannesburg’s Soccer City showed Argentina forward Carlos Tevez was offside before he scored the opening goal in a 3-1 victory on Sunday.

FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said Monday that replaying the incident was “a clear mistake.”

Posted by Rojas @ 5:12 pm on June 27th 2010

The stripy-est blasphemers

Do they know no shame? Humanity’s swarming enemy now descends to mockery of our religious iconography:

If there’s anything worse than a bee, it’s a bee with an NEA grant.

h/t: Sullivan

Posted by Brad @ 12:07 pm on June 26th 2010

Ghana-USA Open Thread

Sadly, I won’t be here – I’ll be at a baseball game, tickets bought before it would have occurred to me that the World Cup Round of 16 USA game would be today. (Although, it’s a cool game, an AL home gome for the Blue Jays, at Citizens Bank Park). But, on the off-chance anybody is about, have at it.

Posted by Brad @ 1:45 pm on June 25th 2010

In Other Journalism News

To me, the most interesting aspect of the McChrystal business is how it lays bare the failings of modern journalism. You think General McChrystal and his team have never conducted themselves that way in front of a reporter before? I doubt it. You think a whole lot of reporters on that beat didn’t know what Hastings was the first to directly report? BS. The only difference was, this was the first time when the reporter involved didn’t give a shit.

Andrew Sullivan’s got a great post that cuts to the quick of it. Quoting David Morris:

I think McChrystal and his buddies didn’t expect that Hastings would actually write down everything they said and put it into print. It’s an unfortunate staple of Beltway journalism that has bled over into war reporting that most reporters are loathe to burn their sources by writing derogatory things about them. To be blunt, most reporters are as career-obsessed as the officers they’re interviewing and they don’t want to poison the well. This is doubly true if the officer being interviewed is a four-star general. There is a simple reciprocity involved: if you want to be invited back to ride on The Boss’s helicopter, if you want continued access, you’d better not write about his soft spot for strippers and gin.

And as Sully adds:

That sums up so much of Washington journalism. Which is why every expert defense reporter and every established journalist treated Stanley McChrystal as if he were God until they were scooped by a free-lancer who didn’t give a shit about his Washington “reputation”.

On the heels of the water fight between Rahm and Biden and the press pool, could there be a more distinct contrast? If Rahm Emmanuel were to stand in front of Sullivan’s colleague Marc Ambinder and blast away at what a dickhead Biden is, think we’d hear about it? Does Sullivan?

Not to pick on Ambinder, who merely aspires to be as cozy as guys like David Gregory already are, but Rojas earlier thought that there must have been some ulterior motive behind McChrystal’s comments, that surely he’s preparing a run for the GOP nomination because that’s the only logical explanation for how somebody could engage in behavior that patently insane.

Except, I don’t think his behavior was insane at all, because in his circles, it’s taken as a given that random patter of that sort doesn’t make the sheet. Ever wonder why so many politicians get caught in embarrassing hot mike moments? It’s because that’s how they’re talking constantly before the mikes ever get put on. I guarantee Dick Cheney said plenty worse shit in front of reporters on a regular basis. Think Chris Wallace is going to bring that to you? Most of them just wet their pants to be in the same room as someone that close to power. And the subjects damn well know it, and also know that simply adding them to the brush-off list can screw their entire careers. So, politicians and reporters have a sort of mutually assured destruction pact going on, and it locks us, the simp readers and viewers, out of the process entirely.

Posted by Brad @ 1:20 pm on June 25th 2010

When Off the Record No Longer Exists

I.e., when you write in the internet age.

Dave Weigel, who for my money is the smartest reporter on the conservative beat, belongs to an off-the-record listserv started by Ezra Klein. Weigel has been the target of a lot of people lately, it seems. Liberals don’t like him because A. the Washington Post hired him, and not a liberal blogger, and B. Weigel has a lot of sympathy for conservatives, and in particular has been defending a lot of aspects of Rand Paul and Tea Partiers generally. I’ve thought, in fact, that he’s been very fair when covering the Tea Party, but then I would, and why the WaPo would hire Greg Sargant to cover the conservative grassroots, I’ve no idea. Sadly for Dave, however, he also annoys a lot of Republicans, because he’s if not openly contemptuous of at least very cynical about social conservatives (no big secret) and Bush-era Republicans. Which, again, makes him a good fit for the beat.

In any case, on a bad day, Weigel posted a bunch of venting messages to said off-the-record listserv, and of course at the first opportunity, they’ve been made public. Weigel apologies for them (and excerpts them) here. Andrew Sullivan has a good roundup/defense here.

For my money, I don’t think anything he said was beyond the pale at all — heck, if he had openly blogged those same things I’m not sure it would be as big a deal. But I do think there’s an interesting wrinkle to it, and that’s the new fusion of blogging and journalism. If Dave were, say, Sullivan, nobody would care – he’s paid for his opinions. If he were a straight up reporter, this might be a bigger deal, but Weigel has always been both something more and something less than a traditional journalist. He wasn’t hired from, say, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch because of his years spent paying his dues as a reporter. He was hired from Reason, or, just as accurately, Reason.com. He comes from the same school as, say, Josh Marshall (who, incidentally, was a bright light for blogger-journalism, but has lately devolved into something of an oppo research outlet for liberalism – the side-by-side comparison of Weigel and Marshall on Rand Paul is fascinating).

Point being, I think this is less a legitimate controversy and more a lot of people really not sure how to take the next generation of journalists. It’s a lesson for everybody, too. At some point, MOST of our opinions, rants, vents, and what have you will be enshrined on some server somewhere into perpetuity. Do we then try to maintain the polite fiction that, say, reporters don’t have their own opinions, or job applicants don’t have social lives that are perfectly appropriate for social lives but weird in an employment context, or judges don’t post stupid funny cartoons to their friends that may, in the cold light of a newspaper print copy, seem obscene? Or do we, you know, grow up?

Posted by Jack @ 8:39 pm on June 24th 2010

World Cup Groups G and H Discussion

Remember how yesterday’s E & F post featured one group with clear cut paths to qualification, and the other was a muddled mass of possible outcomes with third and fourth order tie breaker criteria? More of that, but with added confusion today:

Group G: Ah “The Group of Death.” Or at least “The Group of Death for Non Portuguese Speaking Teams” especially if they are from a fascist slave state. Favored Brazil faces their mother country, Portugal in a battle for the top spot, while the loser will advance as well. The only possible disruption, and by possible I mean possible in the most remotely scenario one can imagine, to this near predetermined advancement scenario, would be if Ivory Coast can overcome a ridiculous nine goal differential against Portugal. In other words, Brazil would have to crush Portugal and Ivory Coast molest North Korea, with the combined goal differential having to exceed nine. It’s just not gonna happen.

Group H: A deceptively confusing group. On initial blush, Chile looks cleanly atop the group with six points, Honduras cleanly at the bottom with zero, so the only battle should be a Swiss-Spain (three points each) contest for the two spot, that since they are not playing each other, would at worst case devolve into tie breaker criteria between those two teams, right? No, it is far more complicated than that. A Chilean team in top form faces a pre-Cup, heavily favored but struggling Spanish side, while the Swiss battle the beleaguered Hondurans.

First, let us imagine that Chile defeats Spain, in which case Chile obviously wins top honors, but the second spot? Well, we could be facing our first three way tie for second position. In this Chilean victory scenario, a Swiss win or draw means they take second place. But a Honduran win leaves Honduras, Switzerland, and Spain all tied at three points. Goal differential criteria would come down to how badly did Spain and Switzerland lose. Spain enters with a plus one goal differential, the Swiss even, and Honduras at minus three. So if Honduras can crush Switzerland, combined with a decisive Chilean win, then it is still possible for them to take the second spot. Even with a loss, the Swiss could also take the second spot if they lose by say one goal and Spain gets thrashed. If we end up with a tie on total play tiebreaker criteria then, as I read the rules, we go to head to head play between the tied teams, which I take to mean you recalculate goal differentials based only on games played between Honduras, Switzerland, and Spain. Just weird.

Now let’s picture a Spain – Chile draw. In this case, Chile wins the group, and the second spot goes to Switzerland if they win, else Spain takes it (due to tie breaker criteria in the case of a Swiss draw).

If Spain gets their shit together and defeats Chile, then we could face a different three way tie at six points, if Switzerland were to also beat Honduras. Chile starts with an advantage in tie breaker criteria by entering the third round play with a two goal diff, Spain is plus one, and the Swiss even. If Spain wins and the Swiss – Honduras match draws or Honduras wins, then only Spain and Chile are tied, both clinch a knock off round spot, and tie breaker criteria will probably favor Spain because, by winning they have shifted the goal differential to at least even, goals for they would now lead, and head to head they obviously win.

I just reread that, and I´m still a little confused.

Posted by Rojas @ 6:16 pm on June 24th 2010

Why we are going to lose to Ghana

Sorry to be a killjoy, but the analyst in me is thinking about this match in very different terms than the fan in me.

1. HISTORY. We don’t really have to wonder about how these teams will perform on the biggest stage of them all with everything on the line, because it happened just four years ago. We met Ghana in the final game of the group stage with the winner assured of advancement. Ghana did not dominate the match, but I think any neutral observer would say they outplayed us and deserved the victory. The US team is more seasoned this time out, but the roster is largely the same in several key positions.

2. WE AREN’T AS GOOD AS WE’RE TELLING OURSELVES WE ARE AT THE MOMENT. Lost in all the euphoria over Donovan’s dramatic goal is that we have not been playing well in this World Cup. England controlled a solid 70 minutes of the match against us and fully deserved their early goal; we stumbled into a draw through a goalie mistake and tenacious late defense. We then went down two goals to an inferior team through atrocious marking and earned a draw with a strong offensive half. And finally, in the biggest pressure game, we were held to an unlucky draw through regulation by another inferior team because we could not finish; were lucky not to give up ANOTHER early goal; and were bailed out when the best offensive play of the game was turned in by our goalkeeper. The media is yelping about “tenaciousness” and “mental toughness”, but what I see is a team that thinks it can show up unready and turn it on when it matters. We’re not anywhere near that talented. Ghana is in a whole other class, technically, than Slovenia and Algeria.

3. OFFICIATING. FIFA has lost their host country in the group stage for the first time ever and is desperate to see at least one African side perform well–it simply will not do to have the first African World Cup be the first one in the last several in which an African side doesn’t make the quarters. The bracket is open for a possible semis run and there is no team among the three with a political constituency soccer-wise to raise hell if they get screwed. I think Ghana has what it takes to beat us on the field, but let me put it this way: I will be staggered if we benefit from a controversial penalty in this game, and quite impressed if we get any meaningful close calls while the game is competitive.

Ghana 3:1 USA. :(

Posted by Brad @ 3:47 pm on June 24th 2010

The State of American Soccer

Your absolutely awesome link of the day.

I had a very similar experience for the US-England game in a shady bar I randomly walked into in Philadelphia.

Posted by Brad @ 2:27 pm on June 24th 2010

The End of Anti-Gay Culture Watch

Before the games start, an interesting thing to take note of in the ever-evolving (for good and ill) GOP.

I noted yesterday that Club for Growth has seen its stock rise the most in the Tea Party era, currently batting a thousand in contested primaries. Orgs like Family Research Council, on the other hand, are in disarray and barely evident.

Well, also this week, we hear tell that Grover Norquist is joining the advisory board for GOProud, the gay Republican group.

“GOProud is an important part of the conservative movement,” said Norquist. “I am proud to join GOProud’s Board of Advisors and to help in advancing their common-sense conservative agenda of limited government, lower taxes and individual liberty.”

GOProud, you’ll remember, was the group that got berated from the CPAC stage this year, and it was the Campaign for Liberty that stood up for them and got in people’s faces about it.

FRC, for their part, aren’t happy, leading to a catfight between the two groups.

Still, in the debate over what the Tea Party represents, add this as a further data point to “not social conservatism”.

Posted by Brad @ 1:27 pm on June 24th 2010

Dear Internet Meme Makers

I’d really like to see this one take off.

Posted by Brad @ 12:59 pm on June 24th 2010

In Other Soccer News…

(more…)

Posted by Brad @ 12:57 pm on June 24th 2010

Thank the MLS For America’s World Cup

The Guardian has a good take on the US league, and its pivotal role not as a world class league in its own right, but as a springboard mid-step allowing American players a place to go, and to develop, between collegiate success and European club play.

Posted by Jack @ 8:25 pm on June 23rd 2010

World Cup Groups E and F Discussion

Continuing a series of posts…

Group E: Finally! Finally we have a set of matches where the outcome is clearly determined merely by winning or loosing, rather multiple possible paths based upon complex scenarios involving games in which you are not even playing. This is a group where one team (Netherlands) has already locked in a spot in the knock off round, and another (Cameroon) is already eliminated. Making this group even simpler, those two will face each other in a largely pointless match whose primary purpose will be to establish if Clockwork Orange’s dominating performance to date is a true pattern and sign of things to come. Are they the best European team in the Cup? Cameroon plays for pride, I guess. The real game to watch is for second place, where the winner between Japan and Denmark advances and the looser goes home. In the event of a tie, Japan takes the two spot on goal differential criteria.

Group F: For every ounce of clarity in Group E, we find a pound of confusion in F, with nearly any combinaton of advancers possible, a strong likelyhood that qualification will be determined by dipping deep into the well of tertiary and beyond tie breaker criteria, and perhaps the highest possiblity in the tournement of invocation of the “pull it out of a hat” method to determine the number two position. Seriously. I have trouble understanding how this could be an actual rule, it seems so amatuerish. Breaking it down: Paraguay leads with four points, Italy and New Zealand have two, and Slovakia brings up the rear with one.
Paraguay: They face the All Whites, a team performing above expectations but still hardly a powerhouse. If Paraguay wins, they advance with the top position in the group. If they draw, they still qualify, but position will depend on the outcome of the Italy-Slovakia match, i.e, an Italian win would put them tied with Paraguay on points, though Paraguay has a two goal advantage in goal differential leading in for the tie breaker. If Paraguay looses then they are hoping for the two spot with an Italy – Slovakia draw, or a Slovakia win but not by enough to make up Paraguay’s goal differential advantage.
Italy: Another underperforming European team. If they win, they qualify. If they loose, they are out. If they tie, then their fate rests with the outcome of the other game: Paraguay wins, they are in, New Zealand wins, they are out, Paraguay New Zealand also tie, then I think, if I read the rules correctly, then we would we would be at the “draw it out of a hat” point to determine if Italy or New Zealand takes the second spot.
New Zeland: The All Whites need a win to qualify, or a tie with an Italy Slovakia tie as well, and then luck with the hat drawing.
Slovakia must win to stay in, but even that might not do it if New Zealand pulls an upset victory against Paraguay. In this case, goal differential would determine if Slovakia or Paraguay earns the number two position, and Paraguay enters the matches with a four goal advantage on this criteria.
There: Clear as mud.

Posted by Brad @ 4:30 pm on June 23rd 2010

Teabagger or U.S. Soccer Fan?

A site apparently coded by an eight year old nevertheless asks a great question.

Posted by Rojas @ 2:36 pm on June 23rd 2010

Top trending Twitter topics as of noon CST today

Hello, fans of El Tri! Good luck in your octofinal against Argentina.

Hat tip.

Posted by Brad @ 2:10 pm on June 23rd 2010

Who is Batting a Thousand So Far in Primary Races?

And what does that say about the whole Tea Party / Republican base thing?

Club for Growth: Has any outside group had a better election cycle than the Club? On Tuesday, South Carolina state Reps. Tim Scott (in the 1st district) and Jeff Duncan (in the 3rd) — both of whom the Club bundled tens of thousands for — won contested Republicans runoffs. Those victories prove, yet again, that the Club’s support — in the form of bundled donations and spending on ads and direct mail — matters in a real way in contested Republican primaries. “Welcome to Generation Club,” said Chris Chocola, the group’s president, in a release this morning touting its successes.

Posted by Brad @ 1:43 pm on June 23rd 2010

McChrystal Out

By the way, apparently there’s been some other shit going on besides soccer.

It’s being reported that, following a disastrous Rolling Stone interview that prompted a personal meeting with the President this morning, General Stanley McChrystal is out as commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. Obama is about to speak to announce it. Gen. David Petraeus will take over – not sure if that just rolls McChrystal’s responsibilities into CENTCOM or if someone takes Petraeus’ place there.

Two thoughts: First: With Petraues in, that means this probably won’t signify any change in strategy. The big question is whether McChrystal’s push for more troops will now be softened, or if Obama will have a freer hand in drawing down now that Team America is out.

Second: Not sorry to see McChrystal go. Between torture, Tillman, and his reputed personality defects, he sounds like a Grade-A asshole to me. That said, I’m still not clear why this was such an earth-shattering moment. Nothing he said to Rolling Stone was particularly surprising or out-of-character, at least I didn’t think so. Why this was a resignation moment, I’ve no idea.

Obama on now.

Posted by Brad @ 1:34 pm on June 23rd 2010

Meanwhile, in North Korea

After a startlingly good game against Brazil, their match against Portugal was the first live broadcast of an international soccer game ever for them. The North Koreans then got scored on six times in the second half. How’d that go over?

Money quote:

“The Portuguese won the game and now have four points. We are ending our live broadcast now.”

Posted by Rojas @ 12:20 pm on June 23rd 2010

Meanwhile, at Wimbledon

Check out Isner-Mahut in men’s singles.

Posted by Rojas @ 3:13 am on June 23rd 2010

Algeria-USA liveblog

2:10 AM and I can’t sleep for worrying about this game. Perhaps staking out the liveblog in advance will prove soporific.

I smell catastrophe upon the wind.

Posted by Jack @ 8:26 pm on June 22nd 2010

World Cup Group C and D third round matches

Continuing in the same vein as yesterday’s Group A and B discussion post, here is one for Wednesday’s Group C and D matches:

Group C: For The Crossed Pond, this is the key group, the one with both USA and England, locked in desperate battle for knock off round qualification, but not really against each other. To date this has been an utterly disappointing group. No one is dominating, no one has qualified, no one has been eliminated, and thus anything can happen. Arguably, the US has the easiest path to qualification: Beat Algeria. That’s it. No confusing tie breaker criteria, simply win and they are through. Maybe they even win the group if England manages a draw against Slovenia, or England wins by no more goals than the Americans defeat Algeria. Where it gets interesting is if the US draws. In this case, they would need Slovenia to beat or draw England. For England, the situation is the same, though they face a tougher opponent, and one who may be inclined to play defensively. If England wins they qualify, and perhaps win the group depending on score. If they draw, they need the US to loose. For Slovenia, a win or a draw secures a spot in the knock off round. Even currently last place Algeria has a reasonable path to qualification: beat the US, hope for a Slovenian win or draw against England, and failing the latter, surpass the two goal differential they currently have against Slovenia to steal the number two spot. Predictions: US defeats Algeria and wins the group. England rallies from their disappointing performance in their first and (especially) second matches to beat Slovenia by one goal, clinching the number two position in the group.

Group D: What an odd group, though unsurprising given the nature of this World Cup: none of the Group D teams have clinched or been precluded from the knock off round. Country by country: For Ghana, the best (perhaps over) performing African team in the tourney, a win against Germany means they win the group. A tie clinches qualification to the next round. A loss means the ubiquitous tie breaker criteria comes into play: they would have to hope for an Australian victory, though an Ausie-Serb tie might due it too if Ghana only lost by one goal. For Germany: Win and they qualify, maybe leading the group. Tie and they will need Australia to defeat or draw Serbia. Lose and they are out. Serbia: if they win, they are in. If they draw, then they need Ghana to defeat, not merely draw, Germany. Australia, yes they still have a chance. They would need to defeat Serbia and hope for a Ghana victory over Germany. Predictions: Germany defeats Ghana clinching the group top slot. Australia draws Serbia, leaving Ghana in the number two position.

Posted by Jack @ 8:25 pm on June 21st 2010

World Cup Group A and B third round matches

Our other two active World Cup threads may have run their courses, so here is a format for discussion of Tuesday’s round three matches for Groups A and B.

Group A: Though not one of these four countries has secured a spot in the knock off round, Uruguay and Mexico sit firmly at the top of the group, and it will take special circumstances for France or, far less likely, South Africa to sneak past either of them into the number two spot. Whoever wins the Uruguay-Mexico match wins the group, a tie means Uruguay wins and Mexico takes second, and it is likely that even the loser of this match will still qualify. Which is pretty awesome, because due to the nature of tie breaker criteria, in order for France to qualify they will need an unlikely, though not impossible, set of events to occur. Namely, they will need a big win against SA, and for the other match to be decisive as well. For example: French and Uruguay victories would leave France and Mexico tied on points, but France has to make up more than a four goal differential (group play goals for minus goals against) against Mexico to take the number two qualifying spot. If, for instance, Uruguay beats Mexico 2-0, and France beats South Africa 3-0, then France will gain the number two spot. It is even theoretically possible for South Africa to qualify, but they would need to decimate France in something approaching a Portugal vs North Korea fashion. Predictions: Uruguay beats Mexico, France defeats South Africa, but Mexico retains the number two group position.

Group B:
Argentina is one of the few top teams consistently playing up to expectations. They sit at the top of Group B, one of only four teams with two wins, and while it is theoretically possible for them to be eliminated, it would take a rather extraordinary set of events to even knock them out of the Group B champion spot. The real battle is for the number two spot, and Korea has the distinct advantage of… not having to play Argentina again. For Greece to take the two spot from Korea, they will have to beat Argentina, unlikely enough as it is, and hope for Nigeria to beat or tie Korea. If both Greece and Korea win, then Greece has to win by a goal more than Korea. Odd as it sounds, despite sitting at the bottom of the group with zero points, Nigeria has an easier path to the knock off round qualification than Greece. If they win, and Argentina beats Greece, then surprise! Nigeria wins the three way, 3 point tie for second place on tie breaker criteria. Which would be kinda awesome. Predictions: Argentina unsurprisingly bests Greece, and Korea rebounds from their crushing defeat against Argentina to draws or beat Nigeria and secure the number two position.

Posted by Brad @ 3:11 pm on June 21st 2010

Senator Charlie Crist, I-FL

Don’t look now, but Charlie Crist is starting to look in command in the Florida Senate race.

Posted by Brad @ 1:43 pm on June 21st 2010

The Second Dumbest Thing Anybody Has Said About the World Cup

John Doyle: people bitching about diving are racist because they don’t understand that brown people are theatrical and diving is thus integral to their cultural idiom, so we should view it with understanding and embrace as we would any cultural difference.

Posted by Rojas @ 5:30 pm on June 18th 2010

The dumbest thing anyone has said about the World Cup, and possibly ever in any context.

Guess what? Goal.com is reporting that four North Korean players have gone missing. Shocking, I know.

Now, the North Korean spin on the situation is amusing enough, and sufficient reason to read the article. But what absolutely blew me away was the closing line in the linked article, from a fan blogger writing under the AOL impritur:

But until FIFA or North Korea officially confirm or deny anything, it’s unfair to make any sort of assumption: the preferred outcome of this situation is that all four members of the team are back on the sheet when North Korea plays its next game. Regardless of anyone’s political preferences or convictions, there’s no need for “outside” issues to impact a wonderful event taking place in South Africa right now.

The preferred outcome. Have you got that? It is to be wished that these four human beings be repatriated to a slave state in which malnutrition is epidemic so that the rest of us can enjoy their efforts while sitting in our recliners.

Somehow the word douchebag doesn’t quite capture it.

Run, you four. And don’t stop running until you reach a friendly consulate.

Posted by Brad @ 1:38 pm on June 18th 2010

The Strange Case of the WikiLeaks Arrest

Glenn Greenwald digs deep on the story of PFC Bradley Manning being arrested for leaking to WikiLeaks, and in particular he hones in on hacker-self-promoted Adrian Lamo, and the enabling role of Wired and Kevin Poulsen. This is really really specific journalism, but worth the read, I think.

Any rational person would have to acknowledge that government secrecy in rare cases is justifiable and that it’s possible for leaks of legitimate secrets to result in serious harm. I’m not aware of a single instance where any leak from WikiLeaks has done so, but it’s certainly possible that, at some point, it might. But right now, the scales are tipped so far in the other direction — toward excessive, all-consuming secrecy — that the far greater danger comes from allowing that to fester and grow even more. It’s not even a close call. Any efforts to subvert that secrecy cult are commendable in the extreme.

Posted by Rojas @ 12:38 pm on June 18th 2010

Regarding “The Call”

1. The official word we’re getting at this hour is that the call was made for “a tug in the box”. Exactly which US player was responsible for this “tug” is unclear, as is the question of how the “tug” was caught and the full-body embrace on Michael Bradley was somehow missed.

2. There IS a scenario in play in which the call makes sense: the referee screwed up the initial call on the foul on Altidore, was told so by his linesman, and had made up his mind before the kick to disallow any ensuing US advantage as a result. A classic “makeup call.” This would also explain why there has been no reasonable attempt at an explanation, as this is one of those things that every sport’s governing body knows happens, but never acknowledges. Reviewing the initial call for the foul leading to the free kick, I can see it going either way. I’m just the messenger, folks.

3. I suspect that FIFA will attempt to “make good” by upholding a challenge to the yellow card for the nonexistent first-half handball on Findlay, thereby allowing him to play against Algeria.

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