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Change We Can Believe In, XXVIII

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Change We Can Believe In: Illegal Drone Killings

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism , based at City University in London, released a report yesterday on our country’s covert drone war in Pakistan. The investigation, done for the Sunday Times, reveals that

since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children. A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners.

As noted earlier in the report, “Obama claimed last week [drones strikes] are used strictly to target terrorists, rejecting what he called ‘this perception we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly’.” The meaning of the word “terrorist” stretches further with each passing year, but calling rescuers and mourners “terrorists” is a new low.

Glenn Greenwald followed up the report with some useful commentary, observing that

the Bureau is extremely scrupulous, perhaps to a fault, in the claims it makes about civilian drone fatalities. Its findings here about deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral attendees are supported by ample verified witness testimony, field research and public reports, all of which the Bureau has documented in full. As [Bureau member Chris] Woods said by email: “We have been working for months with field researchers in Waziristan to independently verify the original reports. In 12 cases we are able to confirm that rescuers and mourners were indeed attacked.”

We can’t have an open discussion of our drone war because it is secret and Obama won’t provide details. Not that there’s evidence that Congress welcomes such a discussion. And the Republican candidates (other than Ron Paul) criticize Obama for not doing even more. American exceptionalism indeed.

Categories: Politics, War

Cambridge Hoops

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Jeremy Lin going up against Deron Williams yesterday

[Bill Kostroun/Associated Press]

That hotbed of college basketball, Cambridge, Massachusetts, is having quite a year, what with Harvard ranked #23 in the ESPN/USA Today poll, #26 in the AP poll, and likely to move up after a pair of league wins this weekend, while MIT is ranked #5 among Division III schools. Exciting times for Cantabrigians, as well as former Cantabs like me.

The best basketball player in Cambridge during my decade in residence (and my two subsequent years in Boston) didn’t play for Harvard or MIT. He starred at Cambridge Rindge and Latin, right next to Harvard: Patrick Ewing, locally famous long before he headed off to greater fame with Georgetown and the Knicks.

Second best? Maybe James Brown, a college classmate of mine who had been hotly recruited out of DC’s national basketball powerhouse, DeMatha. He passed up the big-time schools for Harvard, where he was all-Ivy in his three varsity years but couldn’t lead Harvard to a league title. He would go on to a different sort of fame, becoming the sports broadcaster and TV personality better known as JB.

And now Harvard has become the Ivy power JB couldn’t make them forty years ago. They tied Princeton for the league championship last year, narrowly losing a painful playoff game for the automatic NCAA tournament bid and being passed over for an at-large slot. This year, undefeated in league play and with an overall 20-2 record, Harvard has a good shot at an at-large bid if it fails to win the Ivy title.

Plus, recent Harvard alum Jeremy Lin may be at the start of a successful NBA career, in his second season, after last night’s breakout performance with the Knicks. Howard Beck explained in today’s NYT:

At some point in this frantic and peculiar season, a less likely, less expected story may arise from the chaos. But it will be difficult to beat a night when an undrafted prospect from Harvard took over Madison Square Garden, outshined three of the N.B.A.’s biggest stars and ignited an instant love affair with New York.

It happened Saturday night, although even the 17,763 in attendance might still doubt what they saw.

Jeremy Lin, whose unusual résumé is more well known than his game, emerged as the Knicks’ momentary savior, packing the box score with career highs and leading his team to a stress-relieving 99-92 victory over the Nets.

Lin scored 25 points, nearly doubling his previous career high, and finished with 7 assists and 5 rebounds, energizing a Knicks offense that desperately needed a boost. He outscored his celebrity teammates, Carmelo Anthony (11 points) and Amar’e Stoudemire (17 points), and outdueled Deron Williams (21 points), the Nets’ All-Star point guard.

Rapturous chants of “Je-re-my!” filled the arena. Every fourth-quarter basket was met with a booming, “Jeremy Linnnnn!” from the public-address announcer, Mike Walczewski. When the final buzzer sounded, Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” blasted from the arena sound system in tribute.

Don’t forget MIT. Alex Wolff wrote at SI Friday of their unlikely emergence as a D-III power.

Noel Hollingsworth, a 6-9 computer science and electrical engineering major, plays the role of immovable force. Recruited to Brown by First Brother-in-Law Craig Robinson, Hollingsworth transferred to MIT after Robinson left for Oregon State. His presence ensures that teammates Mitchell Kates, Jamie Karraker and Billy Bender get good looks. “The defense has to make a choice,” says Karraker, who leads the nation with 4.5 three-pointers per game. “If they double down on Noel, one of our shooters will get open. If they faceguard the shooters, Noel or Will [Tashman, the other frontcourt starter] will get loose.”

MIT held off Springfield* yesterday, 69-67, for their 20th win against a single loss, marking their fourth consecutive season of 20 wins or more.

The Beanpot hockey tournament — the best of all Boston college sporting traditions — starts tomorrow. BU vs. Harvard in the opening game, BC vs. Northeastern immediately after. For a change, local basketball may be getting more attention.

*Need I point out that Springfield College is the site of basketball’s creation, the one-time home of James Naismith? There’s a reason the Basketball Hall of Fame is in Springfield. See here for some of the history.

Categories: Sports

Quotes of the Week

February 5, 2012 Leave a comment

[Recent post from Dogs Against Romney]

Thanks to Joel, I’ve been a regular reader of Robert Paul Wolff’s blog, The Philosopher’s Stone. Two days ago, in one of his occasional notes on the Republican presidential race, Wolff took a brief look at Mormonism, suggesting that it is no odder than any other religion. Wolff concluded by wishing that the religious aspect of Romney’s life be looked at more closely as a clue to Romney’s essence, rather than Romney’s financial dealings or penchant for strapping the family dog to the roof of the station wagon: “As the political season unfolds, I am looking forward to some searching examinations of the [religion] that constitutes the essence of Romney’s most deeply held beliefs.”

But this isn’t my quote of the week. The quote is the preceding passage, in which Wolff suggests that the focus on Romney’s work with Bain Capital and his tax status is mis-placed. After all, Wolff observes,

Who ever doubted that the super-rich get super-rich by writing favorable tax laws for themselves? What good is capitalism if it cannot even protect the 1%!

A healthy dose of reality, for sure, and a reminder that nothing about the economic policies of the Republican candidates should surprise us.

As it turns out, I had a quote of the week lined up for last week as well, but never got around to it. It was from Victoria Azarenka, the tennis player from Belarus who won the Australian Open last weekend for her first victory in a major. She has been one of the bright young stars of the women’s tour for a few years (still only 22), but also the worst offender among the corps of screamers that populates the tour.

What am I talking about? Have a look, or listen:

I was enjoying the ability to watch some of the matches live in the evenings during week two of the Open, thanks to the time difference between here and Australia. For example, two Tuesdays ago, I caught the end of the much-anticipated quarter-final between Kim Clijsters and Caroline Wozniacki. But when it came to watching Azarenka against Agnieszka Radwanska, forget it. The semi-final pairings were a disaster, with Azarenka against Clijsters in one and runner-up-for-biggest-screamer Maria Sharapova in the other against Petra Kvitova. The pity is, these were both interesting matchups, ones I would have liked to see, in principle. But no way was I going to subject myself to the screaming.

And the screamers both won! What a pity! Azarenka-Sharapova was an intriguing matchup (though Azarenka would go on to win easily), but unwatchable.

In the NYT two Wednesdays ago, just after Azarenka beat Clijsters in the quarter-finals, Ben Rothenberg wrote about the grunting. When asked, Sharapova responded, “You’ve watched me grow up, you’ve watched me play tennis. I’ve been the same over the course of my career. No one important enough has told me to change or do something different.” She makes an important point: Until the tennis authorities decide to do something about this, nothing will change.

Meanwhile, Azarenka wins the award for quote of the week:

It’s the way I am, the way I play, the way I used to play when I was a kid. As a child I was really weak, so I had to give that little extra power there. It kind of stuck with me, so that’s it.

Power? What do her shrieks have to do with power? What possible purpose do they serve other than distracting the opponent. And annoying all of us who might otherwise have an interest in supporting women’s tennis.

Categories: Politics
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