Making progress in Iraq

I don’t know what to make of the claims that we’re finally making progress in Iraq, because we’ve been lied to so many times already. So this is significant:

U.S. Rep. Brian Baird said Thursday that his recent trip to Iraq convinced him the military needs more time in the region, and that a hasty pullout would cause chaos that helps Iran and harms U.S. security.

“I believe that the decision to invade Iraq and the post-invasion management of that country were among the largest foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. I voted against them, and I still think they were the right votes,” Baird said in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C.

“But we’re on the ground now. We have a responsibility to the Iraqi people and a strategic interest in making this work.”

…Baird said he would not say this if he didn’t believe two things:

• “One, I think we’re making real progress.”

• “Secondly, I think the consequences of pulling back precipitously would be potentially catastrophic for the Iraqi people themselves, to whom we have a tremendous responsibility … and in the long run chaotic for the region as a whole and for our own security.”

Baird was my Congressman when I lived in Washington, and I’ve been getting his constituent e-mails for years. If he believes we’re finally making progress in Iraq, then so do I. It’s one thing for invasion-boosters (as I was) to claim progress, as they’ve pretty much been doing that all along, but when invasion-bashers make these claims, it’s news.

Link via Protein Wisdom.

Blogger manages Mariners’ pitching staff

This is quite an interesting example of how blogs, the Internet, and new technology are improving our world, our culture, and our American way of life. Major League Baseball has installed cameras in 20 ballparks or so that allow MLB’s Gameday to chart the speed and trajectory of every pitch thrown in a ballgame, and the results are archived (click on the Gameday link). USS Mariner blogging dude Dave Cameron studied the data for the Mariners’ ace pitcher, young Felix Hernandez, and found he’s been throwing too many fastballs in the first inning. So he sends the pitching coach an e-mail, which he passes on to Felix, and things change:

This team needs Felix to be better in 2007 than he has been. Since it’s unlikely that you can fix his command before his next start, there has to be another way you can help Felix get over his first inning struggles. Thankfully, I believe there is. It’s pitch selection.

Last night (6/26), Felix threw 10 straight fastballs to start the game. Coco Crisp singled on an 0-2 fastball. Dustin Pedroia singled on the first pitch he saw, a pitch he knew was going to be a fastball. David Ortiz drew a four pitch walk, all on fastballs. The bases were loaded with nobody out after 8 pitches, all fastballs.

In his previous start against the Pirates (6/21), Felix threw 13 consecutive fastballs to start the game. Those 13 pitches turned into 5 outs, as the Pirates hitters aren’t very good.

Of course, this could go too far, as we certainly don’t want Mike Lascioscia taking Matt Welch’s lineup and batting order suggestions.

Anyhow, computers are cool, and so is baseball. Link via Slate.

Frum gets the Rove thing

David Frum isn’t one of my favorite people, or even one of my favorite Republicans, but he understands Karl Rove better than anyone:

Mr. Rove often reminded me of a miner extracting the last nuggets from an exhausted seam. His attempts to prospect a new motherlode have led the Republican party into the immigration debacle…

Building coalitions is essential to political success. But it is not the same thing as political success. The point of politics is to elect governments, and political organizations are ultimately judged by the quality of government they deliver. Paradoxically, the antigovernment conservatives of the 1980s took the problems of government far more seriously than the pro-government conservatives of the 2000s.

The outlook is not, however, entirely bleak for Republicans. I notice that much of the Democratic party, and especially its activist netroots, has decided that the way to beat Rove Republicanism is by emulating it. They are practicing the politics of polarization; they are elevating “framing” above policy; they have decided that winning the next election by any means is all that matters — and never mind what happens on the day after that.

There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Karl Rove and Markos Moulitsas. They’re both in the business of exploiting emotional weakness and creating division, and they’ve both profited handsomely from this ability.

The Democrats will most likely elect the next president since Bush has made such a hash of things that he’s given them a free pass to the White House. But, to the extent that netroots fanaticism is instrumental in picking the Party’s champion, the nation and the Party will suffer.

Maybe that’s the secret to Rove’s search for a “permanent Republican majority:” get the Democrats to blow themselves up by embracing extremism and hysteria. If it’s a long-term strategy, it’s working, now all that has to happen is for the Republicans to abandon their irrational roots. I’m not holding my breath waiting for that to happen.

Valleywag goes all profound

You don’t normally associate Valleywag with profundity, but damned if they didn’t go there today:

This is why geeks shouldn’t try to change the world. Nor should they be held accountable, as Scoble’s trying to do to Kaplan, for not changing the world. They aren’t equipped to. They are ignorant of the real world. They live narrow, insular lives defined by their monitor screen, a reality that has very little to do with the outside world. It’s a world that they cannot learn about by searching Google, and a world they can’t change by writing a blog post.

I’d have to agree with that. Geeks (and other sheltered, middle-class children) don’t have the knowledge of the real world to effectively change it. That’s the problem with things like political blogs and idealistic blogger conferences. Bloggers gravitate to causes with snappy labels on them, like “net neutrality”, not to causes they understand.

And you really can’t help until you know what you’re dealing with.

Roaming the afterlife

A dead Malaysian ran up a $218 trillion cell phone bill and people are mystified:

A Malaysian man who paid off a $23 wireless bill and disconnected his late father’s cell phone back in January has been stiffed for subsequent charges on the closed account, MSNBC has reported. Telekom Malaysia sent Yahaya Wahab a bill for 806,400,000,000,000.01 ringgit, or about $218 trillion, for charges to the account, along with a demand from the company’s debt collection agency that he settle the alleged debt within 10 days, or get a lawyer.

It’s actually very simple. Dead people can communicate with the living through the simple mechanism of Electronic Voice Phenomena, documented in the movie White Noise, by leaving recored messages. They’ve apparently figured out that cell phones are way cooler than voice recorders, and they’ve all been having a ball calling living friends and relatives and shooting the breeze. As these calls come from an area with exceptionally high roaming charges, the bill seems high, by living human standards. Which is just another example of what a limited perspective we have on stuff.

Two Degrees of Douglas Adams

Richard Dawkins dedicated The God Delusion to Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams introduced Dawkins to Lalla Ward, the former actress to whom Dawkins is now married. Adams and Ward knew each other from working together at Doctor Who, where Adams was a script editor and writer and Ward was the magic princess of the planet Atrios and the second incarnation of Time Lord Romana.

Adams also co-wrote a sketch for Monty Python’s Flying Circus (episode 42, A Party Political Broadcast on Behalf of the Liberal Party.) Go forth and impress others with your grasp of trivia.

For extra credit, Ward was briefly married to Doctor Who number four Tom Baker, hence Doctor Who and Dawkins are spiritually connected three different ways.

What is Wikipedia?

I hope this clears things up:

Wikipedia is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) in which participants play editors of a hypothetical online encyclopedia, where they try to insert misinformation that they are randomly assigned when they create their accounts, while preventing contrary information from being entered by others. Players with similar misinformation to promote will generally form “guilds” in order to aid each other.

The source is a very rude little wiki, the Encyclopedia Dramatica.