17 April 2013

Bits and pieces of the weeks past, and future.

1) Watching the Final Four, I was rather disappointed with the talent level. Michigan had maybe 3 first rounders (Burke, Robinson, McGeary), Louisville had maybe 2 (Dieng, although he's old, and Smith, as a second rounder), and that's it. That was at least a quality final until about the last 3 minutes (and Burke's 3rd foul was bullshit, that was a clean block). I would say the officiating was really weird.

2) Mike D'Antoni is still a terrible coach. Took him months to figure out his roster had two excellent post players and use them together, and still didn't trust that option to give Kobe any rest, so he was run aground with enormous minutes use for his age and experience (several games down the stretch at 47-48). Or alternatively, he had no power to make Kobe rest. Which is absurd, because clearly every other coach in the league rests even their best players extensively (Rivers and Popovich and Carlisle are among the best at this).

3) 42 was a decent sports movie, which is to say it's not a great film. I think it relies too much on the "we who are enlightened now find this behavior repugnant" problem of how Americans think about (our) history, rather than as placing the context. That said, at least they included the repugnant behavior as something being overcome and confronted. I was also pleased to see Robinson's actual dynamic play being pushed to the front as part of the "legend".

4) I don't have anything new to offer as commentary or consolation for the Boston marathon bombing. I will say that I have been (very) impressed by the reaction of Boston in the face of a horrific event, and marginally impressed (tentatively) with the rest of the country not panicking and overreacting, as it is wont to do. With a few exceptions. 

5) We tortured. Semi-officially this time. (That calls for its own post).

A note on this: I write about torture occasionally for a variety of reasons. But foremost is that while I am a "realist" in foreign policy, much of that basis is pragmatic approaches to the reality of chaotic international relationships. One way realists may approach this chaotic environment is to establish and practice and try to enforce reliable norms upon the international stage, like "not torturing prisoners" (among others like "don't spread weapons of mass destruction to other states"). Not torturing prisoners has a number of practical benefits in international relationships, among which that other states which adhere to it will more readily cooperate in any necessary warfare operations with the other states which do not, and that states which rely more easily upon diplomatic methods rather than open warfare where their subjects are not subjected to abuse and detention without appropriate legal protections. Since the variety of non-torturing states is largely American allies in our hegemonic operations, it's immensely practical not to violate the norms which we agreed to and have often attempted to impose. It's also immensely practical not to start fighting wars with everyone out there who might have harboured or hosted enemies of the international order or even mere American interests (such as terrorists or accused terrorists), as wars are rather costly of blood and treasure for all sides and should be reserved for essential purposes and interests (such as self-defence or perhaps punishing very poor international actors, such as those who invade or terrorize their neighbours).

This is true even before considering the moral basis of permissive regimes of aggressive or cruelty in interrogation (including torture), or in evaluating the efficacy of those regimes vis a vis standard interrogation techniques, the ability of American courts to prosecute or adjudicate claims of guilt or association with terrorist organisations and plans upon verifiable evidence and proper legal treatment, and so on.

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