Wednesday, June 22

Marchand Chronicles: Senator Durbin's Comments

Tortured Logic
Mike Marchand
The Marchand Chronicles
June 20, 2005

Godwin's Law: As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.

If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime —Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.
— Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), June 14, 2005

Not only did Senator Durbin breach the real-world version of Godwin's Law, he hit a trifecta.

Since Durbin made his remarks last week, much of the controversy has surrounded what should be done to him: should he be censured? Should he be stripped of his leadership position as Democratic Party Whip? Should he resign from the Senate? Should he be forced to host some of the Gitmo detainees at his home?

To be perfectly honest, I couldn't care less. Dick Durbin was an irrelevant nobody beforehand, and as his words echoed throughout the world, he continued to shrink in irrelevance. What's important now is that this meme of Americans-as-Nazis has now gained some legitimacy. It needs to be countered.

Durbin's statement is wrong even on its own merits. The Nazis, Soviets, or Khmer Rouge were not known for their propensities to bombard prisoners with rap music until they soiled themselves; they earned their places in the dark annals of history for actions far, far worse. Even on their kindest days, their actions are no analogy to what's going on in Camp X-Ray. If Pol Pot popped seventeen Zoloft, guzzled a chai latte, lit some aromatherapy candles and listened to an Enya CD, he still was far more brutal than Gitmo interrogators, on a scale so far beyond in orders of magnitude that the comparison is ridiculous. It's not comparing apples to oranges; it's comparing apples to asteroids.

Most of the time someone attempts to force a crude moral equivalency between the United States and some barbaric regime, they base it on some other equivalency. For example, there was a school of thought during the early days of the War On Terror that if it ever reached a point where more innocent civilians were killed through "collateral damage" than there were victims on 9/11, then the war had lost its moral legitimacy. This was a ludicrous suggestion, but even that outranks this current fallacious argument: sensory deprivation and poor climate control equal three despotic tyrannies that have extinguished more than twenty million human lives between them.

Repulsive as this line of reasoning is, even if we grant that premise, the U.S. still comes out ahead because of context. The palace of human skulls Pol Pot stacked up weren't all of terrorists. The Nazis didn't march six million Jews to the gas chambers at Auschwitz and elsewhere because they threatened to destroy the Third Reich. And while dissident freethinkers like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn represented a threat to the gulags in the Soviet Union, it certainly was not a violent one. But that matters not to the moral titans who seem to earnestly believe that how Americans treat hardcore terrorists is in any way comparable to how repressive dictators murder innocents. Making jihadis poop themselves is now analogous to making lampshades from the skin of slaughtered victims. Gotcha.

Worse yet is the undeniable propaganda victory people like Senator Durbin has handed to our enemies. As much as the culture of the jihadi is stunted and backward, they themselves are savvy and clever. Al-Jazeera picked up on the Durbin flap on June 16, with a full account of Durbin's criticism. Thanks to that, any shrewd terrorist, no matter what he does that lands him at Guantanamo Bay, now knows that even a sitting U.S. Senator will rush to his defense if his treatment is in any way insensitive, and liken his captors to the most vile oppressors in all of human history.

Durbin's defenders have risen to state that while his comments might have been over-the-top (and I emphasize "might" — many have lent Durbin their full backing on his entire jeremiad), it is unbecoming of the U.S. military to engage in systematic torture. That is a debate worth having — but it's marred whenever some unhinged loon attempts to spraypaint the swastika on the American flag. The purpose of Godwin's Law (or, more specifically, its corollaries which state that anyone who invokes the Nazis automatically loses the argument) is precisely to discourage foolish and illegitimate comparisons to Hitler so that when the argument is legitimately made, it carries all the weight and gravity that it should.

The U.S. military is NOT behaving like the Nazis, Soviets, or Khmer Rouge. To assert so undermines our cause and slanders our troops — no matter how the asserter might justify his remarks.


Saturday, June 18

Big Slick In Action

Another Damn Poker Post

Jaxia of Steal The Blinds was kind enough to usher readers here during a small hiatus. Unfortunately, she neglected to inform her readers that I was in the midst of an even larger hiatus. If you've arrived here from her site, I apologize for, well, everything.

I promise that I'll make up for my extended vacations and my lack of posts about relevant topics very very soon. Until then, here's another headscratcher for you online tourney afficionadoes:

Unlike my last minisatellite experience, where I was merely grinding and surviving just to try to qualify, on this night I was doing exceptionally well. The top 5 players would receive the $535 superbig satellite buy-in, with the next three finishers cashing for a slight profit. Through solid play and some luck, I'd been dancing in the Top 5 for most of the tourney; however, the cards had been running pretty thin, and I lost about a third of my chips on a blind steal gone awry.

I was unconcerned, though, knowing I was overdue for a big hand, and I got it in the form of Aª/Kª, at the cutoff position. There were 16 players left. The player two seats to my right, the shortest stack at the table, went all-in immediately. I figured him for a small pocket pair and just hoping to double up; I intended to oblige him, except that the player on my immediate right went all in himself. He had exactly 55 chips more than me. This is trouble.

BUT: if either one of them had A/A or K/K, chances are they would have played it slower. At this point in the tourney, nearly every hand was an attempted blind steal, so if either one of them got their hands on bullets or cowboys, odds are they would have slowplayed pre-flop just to get action. Therefore, the player on my immediate right had, at best, queens. Far more likely was that he had two big cards, just as I did, and was staking his claim to busting Short-Stack by pushing all his chips in and forcing everyone else to fold.

No matter what, I'm around a 37% favorite to double up plus half again. I didn't know this exactly at the time; I'm running the scenarios through a hand simulator. But I did know that I almost certainly had better than a one-in-three chance of winning; this gave me what poker nerds call a pot equity advantage, meaning that mathematically, getting all my chips in was the correct play.

Unfortunately, poker isn't played on paper; this meant my entire tournament, my best chance thus far of qualifying for a WSOP satellite on the supercheap, was riding on the line if I called all-in.

What's your move? Decide quickly! You only have 15 seconds. My play and the results of the hand are in invisible type below. Click and scroll to read:

When in doubt, put it out: I called.

Short-Stack had pocket sixes, as I expected. Claim-Staker had pocket queens, again not really a surprise. One of them was a spade, though, decreasing my odds slightly because one of my flush cards was out of play.

His queens held up: the board had two 8's, a queen, and two blanks. IGHN, in 15th place, with diddly squat for a prize.

If there's one thing that I am relieved about, it's that the river queen gave Claim-Staker the second nuts with queens full. Even if I had aces or kings, I would have lost the hand; the only hand that would have beat queens full was pocket 8's, and I certainly wouldn't have called holding that hand, with two all-ins in front of me.

How will I do next time? Stay tuned: same loser-time, same loser-channel!


Monday, June 6

More Poker

Poker? I Don't Even Know Her!

I've abandoned my attempt to get into Full Tilt Poker's WSOP Freeroll. I need to rack up 10,000 points by Saturday, and I have just over 600. Don't think I'm going to make that one.

So I'm focused on winning their satellite tournaments, and since I'm obsessed with doing things on the cheap, I've discovered that the satellites actually have minisatellites, which in turn have miniminisatellites. Conceivably, I could get into the Series for as little as $4.40. There's a big satellite that runs every week with a $216 buy-in, and a super-big one on June 19 that will send at least 30 people to Vegas for a $535 buy-in.

I made it a step and a half last night, winning the minimini (despite intermittent server issues in a raging thunderstorm that caused me to miss several hands at a time) and getting oh-so-close to qualifying in the mini before being dealt a crippling blow when my A/10 lost to a suited A/8 because he made his flush.

After that, I settled at the 25¢/50¢ ring tables. I got humiliated at the $1/$2 level and figured pounding on some really terrible players at the quarter-half level would be just what the doctor ordered. I sat down with $10 and logged off two hours later with almost $25. Six of those dollars came from this hand:

I was in middle position with 9¨/8¨ and limped in to see the flop with three other players.

I don't trust suited connectors; all things being equal I'd rather play big cards. But when the flop came 10¨/7©/Q©, I had an open-ended straight draw. I bet with it and got two callers, one player immediately on my left and the player in the small blind.

The turn was 7¨. This paired the board but gave me an open-ended straight-flush draw. I've never had a straight flush. The thought gave me chills. I bet, the player on my right called, and the small blind raised. I immediately figured him for a 7, and, giddy over the prospect of a straight flush, reraised.

This was profoundly stupid. If I was right and he did have a 7, I'd need to hit the straight or the flush to win. If I still underestimated him and he already had a full house, I'd need the straight flush. All things considered, my odds were less than 30% to win, and there I went idiotically dumping more money on this hand — a good draw, yes, but as of that moment it was only nine high.

The poker gods, however, often reward the moronic, and after the player on my right folded and the small blind called, the river was 6¨. The heavenly chorus rumbled up, lions laid down with lambs, and unicorns and fairies reigned over all the universe, for I had a straight flush. He checked. I bet. He called.

He had 3©/7ª.

I told you they were really terrible.


Wednesday, June 1

Cubs Not Dead Yet

Now Slightly Better Than Average

Even though Mark "The Franchise" Prior landed on the DL, the Cubs have finally figured things out. They've won five straight and eight of their last ten. Derrek Lee continues to sizzle; his .363-16-46 season leads the Triple Crown race.

Three reasons explain their current rise, in increasing order of importance:

1. Better hitting.

Last 5 games: .309 BA, 11.2 hits/game, 6.6 runs/game
Before: .261, 8.9, 4.2

The Cubs have unlocked the secret loophole to baseball: whichever team scores more runs at the end of nine innings automatically wins. They never had a huge problem with the pitching side, but the hitting has been frustrating. Granted, these robust numbers have been against the woeful Rockies and the sinking Dodgers, but you have to start somewhere.

2. Good karma.

You can give me billy goats, black cats, and Steve Bartman, but if the Cubs had a curse, its name was LaTroy Hawkins. Even when he pitched somewhat well, he lost. The Cubs invented ways to blow the game with two outs in the 9th with Hawkins on the hill. Last week the Cubs shipped him to San Francisco for two starters. Although I have no personal animosity towards Hawkins, the Cubs got a steal; I would have traded him for Barry Bonds' rookie card and a large pepperoni pizza.

3. Heavy threats.

Ignore both of the above. The real reason for the Cubs' recent success? Management said that if they lose again, they'll bring back Jeff Gordon to sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." Man, that was awful. (cheesehead salute: The Catholic Packer Fan)

UPDATE: Make that six straight victories, after the 9-5 win tonight polished off the three-game sweep of the Dodgers. Triple Crown leader Derrek Lee went 5-5 with a key late-inning three-run homer to keep the Cubs up for good.

Oh, and LaTroy Hawkins loaded the bases in the 8th inning while pitching for San Francisco against the Phillies; he then gave up a pinch-hit grand slam to Chase Utley. The Phillies won, 10-6.

Jeff Gordon is said to be in-studio working on an album with William Hung. -- MJM 6/2 3:05 AM

UPDATE II: The winning streak ended on Friday night, but the Cubs won the two weekenders to finish their West Coast road swing a robust 6-1. In their last ten games, they had more than 10 hits nine times, and won all of those games. Interleague matchups return this week, with a who-cares series with Toronto preceding the Red Sox-Cubs Curse-A-Palooza over the weekend. All billy goats get in for half-price. -- MJM 6/6 4:05 PM


The Real Reason It Took So Long To Post These Pictures

I Had To Finish Off The Roll With Her

This is my goddaughter, Phoenix. She's 10 months old, and already she's thrilled to have her picture taken.

If you've ever wondered why I don't post pictures of myself here . . . that's me in the blue jeans.


PHOTO ALBUM: April 18, 2005, LaPorte, Indiana

I Would Have Posted Them Sooner If I Had A Digital Camera

I'm not sure if all the messages are still there, but when I was in LaPorte, you didn't have to go far to find well-wishes for Jeff Ake:

(click any for full-size)

This was the first hotel on U.S. 35, well north of downtown.

Other businesses displayed the sign created by the Greater LaPorte Chamber Of Commerce:

I don't like this sign because it addresses Jeff, as if he had any power to "come home safe." I think my version was more to the point.

Other homemade banners seemed to be more on-target:

But the best tributes didn't have words:

The latter was at a house just a few blocks away from the Ake family home, which has since been sold.


PHOTO ALBUM: April 17, 2005, Lebanon, Indiana

Hey, They Took A Long Time To Get Developed

(click any for full-size)

In my essay from Lebanon, Indiana, I said that the city "looked like it just fell out of a John Cougar Mellencamp music video." Here's the proof. This building is City Hall, the Police Department, and the smallish doohickey there says "Night Depository" on it, so it's either the library or the utility department, too.

You know you're in the heart of a red state when there's a tank on the street corner. This is the Indiana National Guard Armory for the 2nd Batallion, 150th Field Artillery, Charlie Battery. If Syria tried to invade and occupy Lebanon, Indiana, they'd never make it to the city limits.

Memorial Park takes up an entire square block. This is at the entrance, and I presume it's left at half-staff all year.

This is the magnificent Boone County Courthouse, erected in 1909. You know it's built sturdily when a "FALLOUT SHELTER" sign remains on one of the pillars:


Location: Mishawaka, Indiana, United States

I graduated with an English degree from the University Of Notre Dame in 2001, and in 2008 I have a day job that has nothing to do with my degree but gets the bills paid in a semi-regular fashion. (I have running water five days a week!) The idea is that once I get turned around on my bills, I go to grad school. I also have an idea for cold fusion. Anyone's guess which will be feasible first. In non-work mode, I'm usually reading columns by famous and well-read thinkers, blogs by critically praised writers, or sometimes blogs by overzealous cranks who make me laugh. I yearn to be all three at once; until then I'll settle for being the third. I also have an undying love for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. Praise them and I'll buy you a beer; curse them and I'll dump it over your head. If that's not enough, I'm becoming quite the fan of no-limit Texas Hold'em. My games have one of two results: I either win all the money or whine because I didn't win all the money.

marchandchronicles -at-

Fair warning: I reserve the right to post any and all criticisms and flames, in their entirety. Seriously. Just ask this guy.

July 2006
May 2006
April 2006
January 2006

January | February | March | April
May | June | July | August
September | October | November | December

Essays on whatever I feel like writing about.

August 8, 2005: High Gas Prices
August 1, 2005: Judge Roberts' Hearings
June 20, 2005: Senator Durbin's Comments
May 23, 2005: Newsweek & Pepsi
May 2, 2005: Al Gore's MoveOn Speech
April 25, 2005: Lebanon
April 18, 2005: The Nuclear Option
April 11, 2005: Pope John Paul II
March 5, 2005: The Domino Effect
January 31, 2005: Iraqi Elections
January 24, 2005: Bush's Inaugural
January 17, 2005: Roemer, Dean & The DNC

WARNING: links, comments & trackbacks may contain profanities or other items of unscruples. marchand chronicles does not endorse any comment/opinion expressed in any such addendum.

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marchand chronicles has such massive readership and influence that it makes me weep.
—Glenn Reynolds


Damn right.


What's Your Line?


I absolutely love the name of your site.

Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson, Power Line
Just the name? Not the content? . . . I'll take it.

You have something in common with Dave Barry, Hemingway, and Mark Steyn: I'm not linking to them, either.


That's good stuff there Mark.

Dean Barnett, Soxblog
Psst, it's "Mike."

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All text and original images © MMVI by Mike Marchand/Marchand Chronicles.

Okay, so I don't really have a copyright. But I still don't want you ripping me off. Reprint it all over the Internet if you like, but give me proper credit and link back to me. Besides, if you're going to plagiarize, steal from someone with some talent.

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