FIFA Realignment

Recently, Australia left the Oceania Conference to join the Asian Conference. This means that in an Asian Cup or World Cup qualifying, the Socceroos could be flying 8700 miles to Amman, Jordan for a game.

So, while watching the CONCACAF Gold Cup, it seems to me that it’s silly to that Mexico and the US are in the same conference as Antigua. Mexico seems like a naturally good fit for the South American CONMEBOL conference. What about the US? Well, UEFA actually makes sense. It’s just about the same length of flight from New York to LA as it is from New York to London and most US players that play abroad play in Europe, not South America.

Given that Russia is part of UEFA, games could conceivably be as far apart as 5,000 miles in Valdivostok—say, if the club team there made the Champions League for the Russian federation wanted to be dicks and host a game there.

Do this and leave CONCACAF with 1.5 World Cup slots and Oceania with 1.5 and I think you’ve got a great solution that would elevate the level of play everywhere.

Chris Hayes The Twilight of the Elites

This is probably the best book on politics I’ve read in a long time. I’d love to see an edition updated to include what Hayes has to say about the effect of the 2012 elections on his thinking.

Basically, Hayes has a new framework for American politics where people are divided not so much by left and right as they are by whether they are pro- or anti-institution. His case is brilliant showing that the massive failures of government (Iraq, Katrina), business (Enron, mortgage bubble), and cultural institutions (baseball steroids, catholic sex abuse) has made so many people distrustful of institutions and of consensus, both on the left and right.

I think this is brilliant and I think it expresses something I’ve been trying to put into a shorter capsule about why I’m mostly OK with things like drones, FISA, and so on and people just a few years younger than me are not having it, both right and left. Those people have no memory of a time when institutions were mostly trustworthy.

But I think that the answer is to fix the institutions and apply extreme force in doing so rather than simply erasing them. The latter path breeds chaos, and chaos breeds an knee-jerk craving for order. And then you have the coup/revolution cycle of so much of the rest of the world.

I think Hayes’s work is a great piece of writing and I think that even while it’s totally liberal it may be accessible to a broader audience since he “feels” the Tea Party impulse in the failure of institutions. I agree with all of his diagnoses.

Part of the difficulty of seeing this is that it’s easy to think that the right is the reactionary element in this country. That’s not entirely correct. They don’t want things “back the way they were”—some of them may think that, but there is no historical precedent in reality. They are a radical, revolutionary element that wants to subvert and destroy most of our institutions, especially in government.

Liberals, on the other hand, while “reactionary” sounds a bit odd, are, in fact, trying to repair a status quo ante. The radical left, which is a very small element in this country, does want to destroy our existing institutions and replace them, but the difference is that they have close to zero real power in the political world.

In this topsy turvy world, it’s somewhat hard to reconcile one’s activist liberal youth with the reality of needing to preserve institutions for the greater good and that actually being the activist thing to do.


The Real Cost of Military Fuckups

On the occasion of having watched The Killing Fields again, I looked into what happened in Cambodia a little more. Samantha Power claims that the genocide there fell into the same old pattern of disbelief, denial, failure to act, and then saying what’s done is done.

That’s true to an extent, but with the Armenian genocides and The Holocaust the United States was not the party that was in the position to step up. In the first instance, I’m not sure who was. In the second instance, the US was just becoming a world power and shares responsibility for not having done more on the one hand, but shares credit for having stopped Hitler on the other.

I digress.

What made Cambodia and the slaughter of at least 2 million people there different was that not long before that we might have done something whereas there were realpolitik reasons that kept us from intervening in Iraq in the 80s: Vietnam.

There was just no way on earth the US had the political will to do anything in Cambodia after the Vietnam War. In 2013, when everything is amplified and muted, sped up and slowed down, we’ve entered an era where the general consensus was that Bush sold us a false war, but the rehabilitation of the man continues apace and so does the general “yeah it was a mistake, but whatevs” vibe. Vietnam may actually still be more psychologically important!

But when discussions of the problems in Syria arose, it was pretty clear that almost no matter what happened there we weren’t going in. As it turns out, caution was smart because the rebels aren’t our friends and it was they who were using chemical weapons.

But it doesn’t always have to be a genocide that w should be ready for. Sometimes other stuff happens. But if we’ve spent a decade on a mistake, as in Iraq or Vietnam, it’s hard to buck everyone up for the next thing.

It could be Syria; probably not. Maybe not even the Middle East. But whenever there is a cruel alignment of head-in-the-sand pacifism and isolationism ascendant in the US and Europe, look out if your an ethnic minority in the wrong place.

John Kerry, FTW

Part of me thinks that the resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine has more to do with Hamas being totally isolated with the coup in Egypt and the sort of general breakdown of everyone’s wet dreams for what the “Arab Spring” would be.

But it sure seems like John Kerry busting his ass back and forth seemed to help too.

I’d love to see some kind of final resolution, but, as always I caution people who see this as some sort of epoch making thing to understand that the New Antisemitism in Europe isn’t going to go away—Palestine and Palestinians having been just the latest useful tool for ancient feelings—isn’t going to stabilize most of the neighboring countries, isn’t going to make dogs and cats live together, isn’t going to make us all sing cumbaya and so on.

Odds are, Palestine will be a shithole that represses people just enough to keep the tourist dollars flowing, whose merchant class does business with Israelis, but whose “street” is virulently antisemitic and who will continue to blame Israel and Israelis for everything that ever happens to them, regardless of their having their own independent state.

Having said all of that, it would be nice if a final deal could happen so all of this could be exposed. Also, it probably will improve the security situation somewhat.

Nate Silver Says Fuck You, NYT

Nate Silver is leaving for ESPN and ABC. I hope they aren’t shocked. After all, they won’t let Krugman call bullshit on Friedman and Brooks in his columns even if he indirectly does on his blog. But they let Brooks go after Silver in his column, and Silver ended up being right.

I would have left too.

Now think about this: would the NYT be better off with Silver and without Brooks? (Duh.)

Of course it's going to work.

It’s not going to be the best possible system, and there will be hiccups when employers start telling people to go to the exchanges (not that their plans will get worse, but just that people hate change), but it’s going to work.

Or else why would the Republicans care so much? I mean, they made the Dems pass it on a party line vote. If it doesn’t work, the Dems will get destroyed in 2016 and the evil fascist/communist/whatever law will get repealed.

But if it does work, it’s going to do permanent damage to the GOP and their theory of the world. This is why the famous Bill Kristol memo of the HillaryCare era was so telling. At least Kristol was honest. They knew it would completely reverse the Goldwater-Reagan-Gingrich-Teaparty anti-New Deal revanchism that is the core of their being.

What’s going to make it worse for them is that by letting states vary how it works, some states are going to do it better. Vermont will have single payer, for example. California and New York appear to be set for huge savings. States that are just trying to sabotage the system are going to look stupid next to those where it succeeds.

Also, eventually, some enterprising state will put a public plan on the market that rivals the private plans. Maybe California. And it should automatically be about 20% less than the private companies who are allowed by law to get a 20% “non-medical” expense ratio. (Medicare is about 3%). Even if that works out to about 10% less for the state platinum plan, it would still put pressure on prices.

And what’s ironic is that this is the conservative think tank, “market-based,” Romneycare model.

I Have a Feeling…..

That we may, at long last, be witnessing a left-wing Goldwaterian win-by-losing sort of moment in Texas. Yes, the absurdist the-only-thing-the-many-tribes-of-conservatron-can-agree-on-is-abortion thing will come to pass in Texas, but just by being opposed Wendy Davis and the Texocrats will be setting themselves up. Not necessarily because the law is stupid (although it is), but because it is irrelevant to everyone but the people it hurts.

This calls to mind the high water mark of the Conservatron counter-strike. The precipice of the reactionary tendency in American politics that became fundamentally victorious in 1968 but was relegated to Loserdom in 2006. The Iraq War redux? No. That was the most consequential representation of reactionary conservatism, but not the most pure. The most pure was Terry Schiavo. Remember her? In so much that what happened to her is meaningless from a practical perspective for everyone that is not Terry Schiavo or actually knows her, then you may not. She was the gal with the brain damage that a bunch of religious folk felt was important to keep alive because of a bunch of shit that has nothing to do with the price of gas and food, and whether or not I’ll get paid next week. Pretty stupid, yeah. But the Conservatrons fought a war of choice over this and turned it into a national issue. The barnacles in the media filter fed it and it dominated the news.

Most people did not care for the government inserting itself into something private and, generally, meaningless. The Conservatrons have been in retreat since. These last few weeks may have been their Alamo in Texas.