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Monday, July 28, 2014

At least he didn't mention Munich....

A few days ago, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Martin E. Dempsey said the following at the Aspen Security Forum (full text here):
“You’ve got a Russian government that has made the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives -- first time, I think, probably, since 1939 or so that that’s been the case,”
To some readers, the remark fails the laugh test even though no one in the room apparently laughed.

In that last link, former Reagan Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts is hot and bothered that the United States is demonizing Russia and Vlad Putin in apparent preparation for war -- and he means World War III, all caps and Roman numerals. The title of his post (which I received somehow in my email) is "The World Is Doomed By Western Insouciance; don’t expect to live much longer."

That title didn't fail the laugh test as I chuckled when reading it. That's why I put it in bold.

Anyway, Roberts notes that the U.S. has been using its military force inside of other countries a great deal just in the post-cold war era. Think Bush in Iraq or Obama's drone war in "Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen." Thus, how could anyone say this is the first time a country has used its military inside another since 1939?

Is that what Dempsey meant? Was he saying that no state since 1939 had militarily intervened in another state like Putin's Russia has in Ukraine? If so, that would be profoundly stupid.

However, it's pretty clear that Dempsey was saying Russia hadn't intervened in this way since 1939.

In context, his statement was in a Q&A conducted by Lesley Stahl of CBS News. She had asked Dempsey about ISIS in the question before and then said:
MS. STAHL:  OK, let’s switch to Ukraine and Russia.  There were reports today that the Russians were firing from Russian territory into Ukraine.  How does that change the situation, if it does? 
GEN. DEMPSEY:  Well, I think it -- I think it does change the situation.  I mean, you’ve got -- you know, you’ve got a Russian government that has made the conscious decision to use its military force inside of another sovereign nation to achieve its objectives -- first time, I think, probably, since 1939 or so that that’s been the case.  So you’ve got -- you’ve got -- in my view, you’ve got a very different security environment inside of Eastern Europe. 
The problem for Dempsey is that even by more generous reading, the claim is still pretty stupid.

Just Russia now: Hungary 1956. Czechoslovakia 1968. Afghanistan 1979.

AFGHANISTAN 1979 until 1989.

Georgia 2008.

So maybe Roberts has a point about the laugh test.


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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Racial injustice

If you haven't read it yet, then I recommend you give some time to "The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which was the cover story in The Atlantic in June.

On the same theme, here's the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members, the Staple Singers performing "When Will We Be Paid (For the Work We've Done)?" live in 1971.




In 3 minutes, the song effectively communicates a similar message. Lyrics.

And since it's baseball Hall of  Fame induction day, you might also check out "42" on DVD. It's the story of Jackie Robinson -- and to some extent, Branch Rickey. It focuses on real events from 1946 and 1947 when Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball.

I had put off watching the film for at least a year because I was afraid that the story would be Disney-fied and therefore gloss over the injustices faced by Robinson. It was almost certainly softened a bit for contemporary mass audiences, but the film does reveal a sample of the disgusting overt racism prevalent at the time. Movie critic Richard Roeper wrote a thoughtful review explaining the film's value even with these limitations. Roeper gave it 3 of 4 stars and that sounds about right to me. Here's the Metacritic summary.




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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

15 years ago...

July 23, 1999, an old friend and I attended a game in Yankee Stadium. New York beat Cleveland 9-8 that night in just over 4 and a half hours. Long game.

Photo credit: Paul Parker

This might be a good time to mention Hardball Passport.  If you save old baseball tickets stubs from games you attended (they also have a basketball site, with football coming soon), you can easily retrieve details of the games you attended. Here is my list. I attended some games in the early 1970s that are not yet covered by the website and many, many minor league games that are not in their database -- many from the late 1990s and early- to mid-2000s. Oh, I've also apparently lost some tickets stubs from college. They don't seem to have exhibition games either, at least not from 1987 when I saw 8 games in 7 days in Spring Training in Florida.

The website likewise doesn't show that I attended the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies two days after that Yankee game in Cooperstown, New York. I went because of George Brett, though Nolan Ryan and Robin Yount were also inducted that weekend (along with four others nominated by the Veterans Committee: Orlando Cepeda, Nestor Chylak, Frank Selee, and Joe Williams).


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Friday, July 04, 2014

Dave Alvin - "4th of July"







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American History Through Family Ties

I believe that this is the headstone of my great, great, great grandfather, buried in Clear Run Cemetery Bridgeton, Indiana.  That's about 150 miles from where I live. If correct, his descendants made their way to Kansas just before the Civil War began.



As you may notice, James Payne died on July 4, 1884.

That was exactly 130 years ago today.

If the information at a grave site website is accurate (James Payne (1799 - 1884) - Find A Grave Memorial), then I'm descended from a Payne family from colonial-era Virginia. James's father Augustine fought in the Revolutionary War and also moved to Indiana (in 1835).

I'm definitely descended from George Daily Payne, who is supposed to be James's son, but George (my great grandfather) was born when James was 58 years old. That's 5 years older than I am now and is difficult to imagine. Moreover, the gravestone says that James's wife's name was Sarah Webster (married 1829), but the alleged son's webpage says that his mother was Maria Daily Payne. Given that George was born 28 years after the marriage between James and Sarah....then Maria could have been a second wife. Why is Sarah on the gravestone, but not Maria?

I think someone has made an error.

The accurate information seems to be that James Young Payne, married to Sarah Webster, is actually George's grandfather and his father was James Webster Payne, who married Maria Daly. George was in Kansas by the 1860 census, but the record indicates that he was born in Indiana, apparently in 1857. That would have been a violent time to be in Kansas, actually.

Kansas became a state in January 1861.

So there's some history.






Friday, June 20, 2014

World Cup Fever

Hans Beinholtz, Germany's Ambassador to the United Nations, is "smitten with the terrible disease of nationalism and competition, the twin seeds of war."



This was originally broadcast on June 12, 2014.

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Friday, June 13, 2014

Iraq, ISIS, Iran and Instagram

Not the actual ISIS problem

The latest news from Iraq is very bad. A militia group called ISIS, which stands for Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, is now in control of two major Iraqi cities in the north -- Tikrit (Saddam Hussein's hometown) and Mosul (Iraq's second largest city). These urban centers, incidentally, are located very near major Iraqi oil infrastructure, though not the major oil fields in the south.

The group vows that Baghdad is their next target.

ISIS is the successor group to al Qaeda of Iraq and is led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who:
took over the leadership of Islamic State of Iraq after its founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a targeted strike by a US Air Force F16 jet north of Baghdad in June 2006. Zarqawi had earned a reputation as the most brutal of al-Qaeda's emirs, promoting a strategy of mass suicide bombings and highly publicised beheadings, videoed and posted online, and Baghdadi seems to have taken up the methodology with enthusiasm.
How brutal is ISIS? Well, for starters, the group claims to have executed 1700 Shia soldiers in Iraq. Photographic and video evidence of their executions are readily found on the web. 

Incidentally, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, of course, accounted for the current situation back in April 2003:
"It's untidy, and freedom's untidy," he said, jabbing his hand in the air. "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things."
Meanwhile, the American embassy in Baghdad remains open, with 1000s of Americans in Baghdad or consulates in Basra and Irbil. Only a few hundred U.S. military personnel remain in Iraq, though there are an unknown number of civilian contractors protecting State Department employees. Reportedly, Americans who have been involved in ongoing training missions are leaving an airbase near Balad. And Senator Lindsey Graham is calling for the U.S. to shutter its enormous Baghdad embassy before it suffers "another Benghazi."

International relations colleagues Dan Drezner and Marc Lynch are discussing a number of policy options for the United States. None are particularly good. The U.S. certainly does not want to send ground troops in great numbers. Air strikes could begin tomorrow, literally, but the Air Force wants basing rights that Iraq previously refused to grant and many experts are concerned about the lack of viable targets

Drezner called his piece "Thinking the unthinkable in Iraq" as it outlines the possibility of the U.S. working with Iran to stop ISIS. Iran is motivated, nearby, and potentially willing to act. For an idea of the problem with this picture, imagine this headline: "Iranian forces save U.S. Embassy in Baghdad." As Drezner notes, many U.S. allies and their DC supporters consider Iran a much bigger threat than ISIS.

What would happen if ISIS captured Baghdad? Some journalists are already comparing the situation to Saigon 1975 and predicting that this fall's elections could be framed around the question, "Who lost Iraq?"

That's the wrong question, of course. I've argued for more than 10 years that the U.S. should never have attacked Iraq in the first place.


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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

OK

I just returned from a long weekend in the Tulsa area. My mother is selling her house in Owasso, which is a northeastern suburb that has experienced incredible growth in the ~25 years she lived there.

This sign is a relatively new addition as I didn't notice it in my December visit:

Media preview


I investigated and found that back in 2002 the city government voted for a "character initiative." They apparently pick a trait of the month and the one for May 2014 is discretion.

A friend of mine from college used to paraphrase Shakespeare by saying "discretion is the better part of valor." However, the typical usage misses the irony the Bard intended:
In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I when Prince Hal finds the cowardly Falstaff pretending to be dead on the battlefield, the prince assumes he has been killed. After the prince leaves the stage, Falstaff rationalizes “The better part of Valour, is Discretion; in the which better part, I haue saued my life” (spelling and punctuation from the First Folio, Act 5, Scene 3, lines 3085–3086). 
Falstaff is saying that the best part of courage is caution, which we are to take as a joke. Truly courageous people may be cautious, but caution is not the most important characteristic of courage. 
This passage is loosely alluded to in the saying “discretion is the better part of valor,” which is usually taken to mean that caution is better than rash courage or that discretion is the best kind of courage. Only Shakespeare scholars are likely to be annoyed by this usage. 


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Thursday, May 15, 2014

More Gendered IR

Somehow, I missed this comment from General Stanley McChrystal, from an interview in Foreign Affairs in the March/April 2013 issue:
If you look at the role I had in Iraq, it is sexy, it is satisfying, it is manly, it scratches an itch in the American culture that people like.
The interviewer, Gideon Rose, had just asked the General to respond to people who say "I like the Iraq Stan McChrystal of raids and drones and targeted strikes, but I don't like the Afghanistan Stan McChrystal of clear, hold, and build and counterinsurgency. I want to deploy the first but avoid the costs and difficulties of the second."

The headline for the interview is "Generation Kill," which was also the title of an HBO miniseries in 2008. That show was about the 2003 American experience in Iraq.

I didn't watch the show, but this video seems to get at the gendered message:




This is a follow-up to last week's post.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Strangelove, indeed

Photo credit: NASA
Nothing phallic here, right?
Back in September 2001, Dan Lindley published a teaching guide to "Dr. Strangelove" that covered much of the familiar ground about the film's treatment of nuclear deterrence strategy.
The most important theme of the film is that it makes fun of the sad, perverse, and absurd reality that the U.S. and the Soviet Union could destroy each other within 30 minutes.
I use "Dr. Strangelove" in my film class, primarily as a critique of nuclear deterrence strategy. Many former civilian and military leaders around the world now argue for abolition of nuclear weapons and they repeatedly insist that nuclear deterrence strategy is absurd. Ridiculous. I've been working on this theme for a chapter in my comedy book. 

The first time I ever showed the film in a class was while I was a term/visiting professor at Northwestern. To fulfill part of my overload teaching assignment, the department chair had allowed me to teach a small seminar on nuclear deterrence. The handful of students and I watched a video of the film very late in the term after everyone had a strong feel for deterrence theory and the class had read many original declassified documents about nuclear planning, threats, etc.. Back in those days -- around 1990 -- the film did not replay regularly on cable television. Streaming media was not ubiquitous and it was a real treat to be able to see Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece.

Did I mention that every student in that small seminar was male? No women had signed up.

In more recent years, I've adapted the film class to a wider audience of political science students. The course still focuses on "Global Politics Through Film," but it is now regularly taught as one of our senior capstone seminars, a "culminating undergraduate experience." To capture a wider range of ideas from the discipline, I have been addressing some of the other prevalent themes of the film:
Indeed, the gender politics in the film are obviously quite provocative, essentially equating male sexual fantasies with war and nuclear planning. The latest Planning Guidance for Response to a Nuclear Detonation suggests that absurd nuclear fantasies continue to influence today’s security policymakers.
I was reminded about this today when I happened across a magazine article about the politics of the Pentagon's F-35 aircraft, also known as the most expensive weapon the U.S. has ever attempted to build. Needless to say, it has been a controversial weapon given those costs, plus various setbacks, delays, and uncertainties about the piloted weapon's purpose in an age of drone warfare. Still, one alleged impetus for the new fighter echoes a theme that Stanley Kubrick emphasizes in "Dr. Strangelove":
"There's always this sexual drive for a new airplane on the part of each service," says Tom Christie, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester from 2001 to 2005. "Persistent, urgent and natural."
That's a gendered lesson about "Dr. Strangelove" that Lindley does not overtly discuss in his film teaching guide. Perhaps it is what he had in mind when he calls nuclear exchange scenarios "sad, perverse, and absurd."


P.S. Coincidentally, I also recently read a book review by Akemi Johnson that discussed What Soldiers Do; Sex and the American GI in World War II France by Mary Louise Roberts. This paragraph gives you an idea of that book's thesis about gender and IR:
“The history of war,” Roberts writes, “cannot be separated from the history of the body.” Beyond combat, the bodies involved—the ones that physically connect, flesh upon flesh—are usually those of male soldiers, arrived from a foreign land to liberate, destroy or occupy, and those of female civilians, attracted or yanked into the military world. The interactions between them are intimate yet iconic, private yet political. A rape by an American soldier threatens to expose harsh realities about American hegemony; another GI’s part in an international romance suggests an entire country’s willing deference to benevolent US control. Harnessed for propaganda and protest, tangled in injustices like institutional lynching, these sexual relationships are essential to understanding war and its aftermath. 



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Monday, May 05, 2014

Spending Reallocations at University of Louisville

A few days ago,  University of Louisville President James Ramsey sent the following message to the campus community:
It was another disappointing legislative session given the cut in our recurring state appropriation, but we appreciate the funding in FY15 for the new classroom building for the Belknap Campus.

You are aware that we as a campus community have been discussing the 2014-15 University of Louisville operating budget for several months.  I appreciate deeply Susan Ingram Howarth’s efforts on behalf of our campus.  Susan has had meetings with Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, Student Government, deans, vice presidents and other campus groups.  Susan conducted several forums, particularly on proposed tuition increases.  A week ago I conducted a campus-wide budget forum.

Any way we slice it, it’s another bad budget – a $2.2 million cut in state appropriation; the need to again increase tuition; and lack of funds that we need for critical investment in faculty, staff and students.

After a month of deliberations and feedback we will recommend to the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville at its May 8th meeting a budget that provides a 2% salary increase for both faculty and staff; a 5% tuition  increase for in-state undergraduates (other proposed tuition increases are attached); and a .65 percent unit budget cut.  We worked hard to not pass on the entire state budget cut to the units and understand the pressure the unit budget cut places on the campus.

I have appreciated your input and, more importantly, your efforts to keep the University of Louisville moving forward in these continued difficult fiscal times. 
Jim Ramsey
I attended a briefing offered by Susan Howarth some months ago. At the time, the information I received showed that a 5% tuition increase would generate $11.1 million. Financial aid increases with tuition, so some of this is returned (reallocated) to students. Unfortunately, the spreadsheet I was provided only lists new spending like that in the catch-all category "strategic initiatives." Salary increases are in that pool too, as are health care cost increases.

Still, because different tuition and salary options were presented, I can make educated guesses about how this breaks down. It appears that each 1% increase in salary costs just over $2.4 million. So a 2% increase is roughly $4.9 million in new expenses.

It appears the new financial aid amounts to roughly $500,000 per 1% increase in tuition. Thus, a 5% increase in tuition costs $2.5 million in new financial aid.

Total those together and that adds up to about $7.5 million of new spending from the $11.1 million in tuition revenue. 

The 0.65% unit cut is out of a 1.5% overall cut in state funding to the University of Louisville. Put differently, units are being asked to finance 43.3% of the total cut even as their personnel will enjoy a 2% salary increase. They'll need to find $950,000 in cuts to earn $4.9 million in salary. 

If the salary increase was only about 1.63%, no new spending cuts would be needed.



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Saturday, April 19, 2014

2014 Bolts from the Blue

For the 26th consecutive year, I'm competing in the Hardy House fantasy baseball league. Our auction draft was held two Saturdays ago, April 5, in Washington DC. Two owners participated by phone and we welcomed one new owner even as we missed a long-time participant who had said goodbye. As I previously blogged, nearly the entire group took in a Nats game after the auction, which included a first-class meal and some free local beer. The Friday night before the draft, many of us ate BBQ and drank some other local beer.

As a reminder: the league has 12 teams and uses American League players exclusively to accumulate statistics in various hitting and pitching categories. For 22 years, we tabulated results in the traditional 8 categories (HR, RBI, SBs, Batting Average, Wins, Saves, Earned Run Average and ratio/Walks-plus-Hits per Inning Pitched), but in the hot stove period prior to the 2011 season we voted to dump BA in favor of On Base Average. Also, we added runs scored (R) for hitters and strikeouts (K) for pitchers.

My 2013 team again finished second, 4.5 points behind the championship squad (Repeat Offenders). Last year's Bolts from the Blue squad led the league in saves, but got most of its points from the league's best offense. It finished first in steals, 2nd in runs, third in OBA and RBI, and 4th in home runs. The team was middle of the pack in most pitching categories (5th in wins and ERA, lower in the other two).

I always mention another roster quirk now in its seventh year: we use 10 man pitching staffs, but only 4 outfielders -- one fewer than the "normal" roto squad. We continue to believe that this better reflects roster management decisions that real major league baseball teams have made over the past 20 years. However, the owners discussed dropping the traditional second catcher in favor of a utility player. Some owners want this hitter to qualify at a position, while others think this will serve as an avenue to acquiring two designated hitters. It will likely be decided prior to next year's competition.

As usual, we allowed the purchase of any player on an American League 40 man roster. After the auction, only players on 25 man active rosters or the major league Disabled List (DL) can be obtained. We now allow teams to retain ownership of players sent packing to the National League -- but only for the remainer of the current season. The league uses a salary cap, but it expires after the trade deadline. This means contending teams can spend their free agent cash in September.

The 2014 Bolts from the Blue (7 retained players in blue):

C Jason Castro (HOU) $11
C Dioner Navarro (TOR) $7
1B Logan Morrison (SEA) $8 **
2B Jose Altuve (HOU) $25
3B Mike Moustakas (KC) $11
SS Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) $16
MI Jurickson Profar (TEX) $10 (DL)
CR David Freese (LAA) $11
OF Alex Gordon (KC) $23
OF Josh Reddick (OAK) $19
OF Adam Eaton (CHX) $14
OF Oswaldo Arcia (MIN) $8 **
DH David Ortiz (BOS) $19

Hitting $182 (down $19 from last season, which was planned)

P Chris Sale (CHX) $28
P Matt Moore (TB) $17 **
P Alex Cobb (TB) $5 **
P Erasmo Ramirez (SEA) $3

P Casey Janssen (TOR) $7 (DL)
P Ryan Cook (OAK) $
P Edward Mujica (BOS) $5
P Wade Davis (KC) $3
P Nate Jones (CHX) $3 (DL)
P Neftali Feliz (TEX) $1 (AAA)

Pitching $78 ($22 more than last year, also planned)

Several teams mismanaged their cash throughout the auction, which meant inflation was quite a bit lower than it might have been. Indeed, these teams never found a way to spend $90! Individual teams finished with enough money ($22 and $23) to purchase two star players and other teams finished with $16, $10 and $9. The Bolts spent every dollar this year, but I cringed at some of the big bargains that were available at the end of the auction. Because of positional scarcity and roster mismatches, the teams with money could not find places to spend it all and many outfielders sold for a fraction of their auction value.


Pre-auction, my team was hurt by the fact that I could not retain relatively inexpensive starting pitcher Ervin Santana, who toiled for KC last year, but now pitches in the NL in Atlanta. He would have cost me $9 if he had remained in the AL. Additionally, I decided not to retain the highly touted Profar because of his spring training shoulder injury. The injury is supposed to sideline the middle infielder for 10 to 12 weeks. He would have cost $11 in 2014, but by buying him for just $10, I saved $1 this year and added a third potential year to his contract. Under our rules he will cost $13 next year and $16 in 2016. Had I retained him, Profar would have cost $14 in 2015 and been a free agent in 2016. 

I kept Jones because he was deemed the favorite for the White Sox closer job in the spring. His injury came to light after our freeze lists were due. Indeed, he pitched during the first week of the season -- he just didn't get anyone out. Literally, he surrendered 2 hits, 3 walks and four earned runs in 2 early April appearances, giving him an ERA and WHIP of infinity. To compensate for the lost job, I bought Mujica, Feliz, and Cook because they have each served as closers in the recent past and are on teams with old or iffy guys in front of them.
 
Actually, my team has its share of old and iffy guys. My "reliable" closer Janssen also started the season on the DL and his minor injury has now yielded exactly one inning in a minor league rehab appearance. Afterwards, he was shut down and will not come back for at least a couple more weeks. 

Obviously, my team has even more badly damaged when Moore injured his elbow in his second start. He's now out for the year with Tommy John surgery in his near future. Rays teammate Alex Cobb pitched very well in his first 3 starts, but injured his oblique and is out 6 to 8 weeks. Several other Bolts have now been injured (marked with ** above) and the team currently has 7 players on the major league DL (and 2 others who are day-to-day with minor injuries). Unfortunately, Hardy House rules allow only 5 reserve or injured players. 

As usual, I bought several players from the KC Royals (3), the hometown-favorite team of my youth. I've got mixed feelings about Moustakas, but he had very good performance in the winter league and in spring training. Gordon has been a solid hitter for several seasons now. Davis has always pitched much better in his career out of the bullpen than as a starter. Indeed, his ERA pitching in relief is about half of his ERA as a starter. I could not buy long-time Bolt Billy Butler because DH Ortiz was retained.  

Altuve, Moustakas, and Profar were on my 2013 team and I bought them again for lower salaries than they would have cost as retained players. 

In addition to those 3 Royals, I have players from most AL teams, including 3 White Sox, 2 Mariners, 2 A's, 2 Rangers, 2 Red Sox, 2 Rays, 2 Jays, and 2 Astros, plus 1 Indian, an Angel and a Twin. 

To replace initially injured players Profar, Feliz, and Jones on my active roster, I bought MI Ryan Flaherty (BAL), P Dustin McGowan (TOR) and P Dan Otero (OAK) for $1 each.  I also nabbed OF Craig Gentry (OAK) and hard throwing P Michael Tonkin (MIN) (during the second week) for $1 to replace the injured Arcia and Moore. The Bolts are going to need a quality starting pitcher to replace Moore and Cobb, but the free agent pool is currently lacking in that regard. 

You can find posts about the 20052007 2008200920102011, 2012 and 2013 auctions elsewhere on this blog.


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Hardy House in DC

As I've often noted over the years, I've competed in a 12-team American League fantasy baseball league with the same basic group of guys for 26 years. This year, we conducted our annual player auction in Washington DC at a hotel a couple of blocks from the Washington Nationals ballpark. The auction was held last Saturday, April 5. We began at 9 am and finished by about 4 pm (which is early for us).  Unfortunately, two guys fad to purchase players via long distance teleconferencing.

I'll post my roster soon. This post is actually about the baseball game we attended that evening -- a Nats game versus the Atlanta Braves, featuring young aces Stephen Strasburg and Julio Teheren. The Braves won 6-2. It was kind of a chilly evening with a pretty strong wing blowing mostly left to right, but sometimes in towards home plate.

One of the league members played host and he managed to get a fairly significant discount on President's Club seats for our group. Full price for these seats is $225, so I felt like a member of the 1% for an evening. Here's my ticket stub:



These Club seats are located in the closest sections directly behind home plate. I was sitting in about the 7th row very slightly on the Nationals' side of the infield. I took these two photos during the first inning. On the left is Braves leadoff hitter Jason Heyward walking to the plate to face Strasburg. On the right is Bryce Harper in the on-deck area :


The tickets included a pre-game meal that was simply delicious. Granted, the meal featured gourmet food that one does not ordinarily associate with a ballpark, such as prime rib, swordfish, kale salad, plantains, garlic mashed potatoes, etc. The tickets also included free wine or beer (Flying Dog Doggie Style was my ale of choice that evening), plus traditional ballpark snacks and more drinks throughout the game. That's right, open bar and individualized seat service all evening!




During the meal, seven members of our group sat next to the press conference room, pictured at left. Around the corner, fans in the Club could watch Nationals players hitting in a batting cage.

The Club bar provided temporary warmth on a chilly evening so I went back inside several times to catch bits of the NCAA Final Four games that were contested that night. Oh, and the dessert bar had gelato!









Here are some pics of most of the members of our group at the game, including last year's champion Bill Z. receiving his bobblehead trophy.
Gordon S., Rich, and Barry
Terry, Bill Z. Mike, and Bill Mc.



It was a terrific night after a fun day.



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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

NDT 2014

As planned, I dropped by the National Debate Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana, on Saturday, March 29, and watched the constructive speeches for a Kansas versus Northwestern match of two 4-0 teams. NU won that round and proved to be the Copeland Award winning team in 2014.

Both Kansas teams advanced to the elimination rounds and were defeated in the round of 32.

Georgetown won the tournament, as the same debaters impressively repeated their 2012 victory.

Between rounds, I met Kevin Kuswa, a Georgetown debater on the NDT champion in 1992. I coached Georgetown in 1984-1985. Kuswa is now coaching at Whitman College.

Photo credit: Joel Rollins


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Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day 2014

Baseball's opening day should be a personal holiday. This is "Joe Dimaggio Done It Again" by Billy Bragg and Wilco:





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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Zombie Comedy at ISA 2014



This morning at 8:15, I participated in an Active Learning panel at the 2014 International Studies Association  Annual Meeting. Specifically, I presented a paper on "Using Zombie Comedies to Teach Critical International Relations Theory." That link takes you to my academia.edu page, where you can also find previous papers from my "Comedy of Global Politics" project, including a couple on teaching.

Feedback welcome. Basically, I argue that zombie comedies undermine the standard narrative employed in the genre. The stories are not dominated by survival under anarchy. Rather, the characters in Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, and Warm Bodies seek stronger family and communal ties and deal with zombie threats rather easily (and cooperatively, as in a security community). Elite lifestyles turn out to be unsustainable.



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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

2014 NCAA Tourney

I'll post my bracket here in the next 48 hours. Meanwhile, I encourage readers to join me in the Yahoo! Sports Tournament Pick'em group, "Payne Twitter-Blog Followers": http://y.ahoo.it/YvNzyGof

I'm not sure if I have to provide more detailed sign-in information or not. The name of the private group is "Payne Twitter-Blog Followers" and the group slogan is "Who will defeat Wichita State?" The group, which uses the standard Yahoo! scoring system, can be found among the various groups associated with Kansas. Rock chalk!

Again, I don't know if you need a password to join.  You can apparently sign in with your Facebook or Twitter account -- without a password for the group.

Update: This is my bracket for the blog. In most competitions, I picked Florida to win:



Watch to watch Kansas play? First-round watch-party for Jayhawk fans:

KU vs Eastern Kentucky
Friday, March 21st at 4:10pm ET
Buckhead Bar & Grill
3020 Bardstown Rd
Louisville, KY 40245
502/456-6680

I intend to be there, but I may not arrive until 4:30 to 4:45.

http://www.eatatbuckheads.com/ for directions


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Monday, March 17, 2014

"Peace Through Strength"

Senator Kelly Ayotte

This morning, I attended a McConnell Center event featuring Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire. Though she recently sponsored popular bipartisan legislation, Ayotte delivered a highly partisan attack on the Obama administration's policy towards Russia.

Basically, Ayotte argued that the Obama's administration's "reset" policy toward Russia has been too conciliatory. Indeed, she said that this policy has failed and caused Vladimir Putin to take advantage of American weakness -- primarily in Ukraine. She emphasized these points as evidence of Barack Obama's weakness:
• "His decision in 2009 not to place NATO missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic. 
• Obama’s choice in 2010 to “brush aside” the Russian invasion of Georgia, which happened during the George W. Bush administration, by pushing through a trade agreement with Russia.
• And Obama overlooking violations of one nuclear arms agreement at the same time the two countries were negotiating a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty."
She noted that despite American overtures to Russia, it has not been helpful in regard to the "humanitarian tragedy" in Syria or Iran's nuclear and missile programs. Plus, Russia has "a horrible record" on human rights.

In the question and answer session, Ayotte agreed with an audience member who claimed that the $17 trillion dollar national debt is America's number one concern. Indeed, Ayotte referenced Joint Chiefs Chair Admiral Mullen who said that the "biggest threat to our national security is our debt." Notably, the Senator's website has a debt meter on the front page.

Ayotte praised Ronald Reagan throughout her speech, but she definitely didn't emphasize either of the Bush presidencies.

Indeed, the partisan nature of the speech was as much about what Ayotte did not say as what she did say. Her attacks were pointed at the Obama administration, but she very carefully overlooked some pertinent details:
1. While Russia's attacks on Ukraine are a clear violation of international norms protecting state sovereignty, she did not mention the difficult rhetorical position the U.S. faces because of the Bush administration's adventure in Iraq. This has long been a problem, as I noted in 2008 in regard to Georgia.
2. Ayotte made passing reference to Georgia, but did not explain whether this Bush-era conflict should be tied to her overall argument about Russian adventurism, which she linked to American weakness. Was America weakened by more than a decade of fighting insurgents and terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan? She didn't say.
3. Oh, about that debt. Ayotte didn't mention that Bush's tax cuts (which, granted, are mostly now Obama's as well), plus the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, played a huge role in the accumulation of the $17 trillion debt -- and will play an even bigger role in the accumulation of future debt. Did that weaken the US and embolden Putin in 2008? 
4.  About those missile defenses and the alleged INF arms control violation, Ayotte didn't mention that the Bush administration unilaterally killed the anti-ballistic missile defense treaty with Russia in 2002. Would anyone want Russia to do that with the INF or START treaties? No. All signs suggest both the US and Russia are implementing the new START accord. The INF allegation is new and the Obama team is attempting to sort out the details via diplomacy -- much like the Reagan administration did with an alleged violation of the ABM treaty in the 1980s. 
By the way, Western European states favored the decision to scrap the missile defense system she mentions, primarily because the U.S. is aiming to deploy instead an alternative technology that many defense experts believe will be superior technology (Aegis on land).
5. Ayotte also didn't mention Russia's help in getting Syria to agree to eliminate its chemical arsenal. Or the role it plays in trying to prevent Iran nuclear weapons. Russia doesn't want a nuclear-armed Iran. 
Finally, Ayotte's policy suggestions didn't really offer new ideas to the debate -- or even ideas that are significantly different from the status quo. Today was all about carping about alleged weakness, not suggesting actual policy that would provide new leverage over Russia:
In response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, Ayotte stopped short of calling for military intervention, but she urged Obama to order a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions sanctions on Russia.
Ayotte called for the U.S. and the world community to “alienate” Putin, to increase natural gas production in an effort to cut off Russia economically and to “revisit” the decision not to put missile defense systems in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Ayotte also backed freezing bank accounts and blocking visas for Putin’s top aides — which Obama had done earlier in the day.
The G-8, a group of the top industrialized nations, also may expel Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
Ayotte did call for more American military assistance to Ukraine, so that the country could defend itself -- and opposed the proposed defense cuts that are under discussion in Washington as part of planned deficit reduction.

The Senator openly agreed with many policies already taken -- she would not take military action, approves of some US signals with its military, etc. Indeed, the links I included above in her proposals point to policies the U.S. is already taking or considering.

Really, the conclusion was very bland given the "peace through strength" vision of Reagan she offered throughout the speech. It was as if an '80s defense hawk had ended a talk on the "window of vulnerability" by emphasizing that the U.S. should build bomber aircraft and nuclear submarines to supplement its arsenal....Oh wait, we already had those, so land-based missile vulnerability probably wouldn't cause world war III. .



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