"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 30, 2002
WAR/POLITICS: Who Will Vote No?
Michael Barone argues that Paul Wellstone is nearly the only endangered incumbent Democrat who's likely to vote against the war. My guess is, that will kill him in Minnesota - not a real conservative state, to put it mildly, but one where it will be easy to bring out the 'swing' voters who voted for The Body and Ross Perot, who aren't easy to get to the polls but might rise in anger at a senator who's on the wrong side of the war issue. And you know what? Wellstone's just the type of "I'd rather be right than president" politician who might welcome the opportunity to spend the rest of his life getting applause from little crowds of embittered Leftists with his tale of how his principled opposition to war cost him his Senate seat (better that, than having to wonder if it was breaking the two-terms pledge that did it).
BLOG/WAR: The Financial Center
If you haven't guessed yet, I'm facing another crisis-filled week at the office, and need to guard scarce free time for the playoffs. Result: very little bloggage this week. But I'll leave you with this: I was down at the World Financial Center for meetings this morning. The Winter Garden, the beautiful glass-roofed atrium between two of the Financial Center's towers that was crushed by falling debris, has been rebuilt and reopened. They had to fix the part with the bridge to the Trade Center, so it's now a big panoramic window on the construction site at "Ground Zero." I walked by some streets down there that I hadn't crossed since . . . well, if you're in the neighborhood, it doesn't take that much to bring it all back.
WAR: The International Rule Book
My running comments on an article from the front page of today's Washington Post (I'm excerpting here):
"The mixture of containment and establishing an international rule book by
ISN'T IT JUST POSSIBLE THAT THE "INTERNATIONAL RULE BOOK" DOESN'T WORK WITH PEOPLE WHO DON'T ACCEPT IT?
Rallies by tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators in London and Rome on Saturday were reminiscent of the protests of the early 1980s in favor of
YES, AND THOSE ENDED NATO AND DESTROYED THE UN, RIGHT? IN FACT, REAGAN DID JUST WHAT HE WANTED, AND NOW NATO HAS A BUNCH OF NEW DEMOCRACIES ASKING TO JOIN. EVEN RUSSIA WANTS IN.
But here in Brussels, opposition to what is seen as the administration's emerging unilateralism comes not just from the left but from across the board, and includes the highest levels of the EU.
ARE WE TO BELIEVE THAT "THE LEFT" AND "THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF THE EU" ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS?
Officials concede that one of their problems is that they do not speak with
"We have no influence because we have no common European approach."
Although the European Union is a baroque collection of institutions,
SOUNDS LIKE THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS TO ME
feelings still count -- and European feelings have been badly bruised in recent months
NEW YORK'S FEELINGS WERE HURT TOO
The Europeans say the administration views them as "Euro wimps" who don't pull their weight militarily, and who prefer prevarication to plain-speaking and appeasement to action.
NOTE THAT NOBODY OFFERS ANY EVIDENCE TO CONTRADICT THIS
WHO DON'T HAVE THE STONES TO GO ON THE RECORD
regret that Schroeder took his stance, which helped him win a
Europeans also resent U.S. predictions that they will inevitably go along
IN OTHER WORDS, NOBODY IS DISAGREEING THAT THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT WILL HAPPEN
(At this point, the usual whining about Kyoto and the International Criminal Court . . . I don't even have the heart to go after those canards, but they also cite U.S. support for Sharon's policies in Israel, without explaining how this could possibly injure the Europeans)
The terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon momentarily overshadowed those disputes and created a wave of sympathy and support for the United States. "We're All Americans Now," declared the front page of Le Monde, the left-of-center Paris daily that usually takes pleasure in America-bashing.
But that sentiment quickly faded. European officials now concede that they
THE AMERICANS MEAN IT WHEN THEY SAY "WAR"! WE THOUGHT THEY'D JUST BUILD SOME MORE GIANT MULTINATIONAL BUREAUCRACIES AND GO HOME!
Europeans, who have experienced terrorism in such places as Northern Ireland and the Basque region of Spain
NOTE "EXPERIENCED" NOT "SUCCESSFULLY ERADICATED"
resent being dictated to
AREN'T THEY GLAD, THEN, THAT AMERICAN TROOPS KEEP GETTING RID OF THEIR DICTATORS?
Many people contend that the Americans have put too much emphasis on a military approach to attacking terrorism
AH, THAT JOURNALIST'S FRIEND, "MANY PEOPLE"
and not enough on dealing with what they identify as root causes, such as poverty and lack of freedoms.
SO, THE SOLUTION TO "LACK OF FREEDOMS" IS TO LEAVE SADDAM, THE IRANIAN MULLAHS, ETC. IN PLACE AS THEY ARE? AND TO BE NEUTRAL BETWEEN ARAFAT AND ISRAEL?
"None of this in any way justifies or explains what happened on September 11th," Patten said, "but perhaps it means we have a slightly more nuanced idea of how you deal with terrorism."
I.E., DON'T ROCK THE BOAT AND HOPE THEY GO AFTER SOMEBODY ELSE
Worse, many believe that Washington has adopted a militarized foreign policy
THAT WOULD BE KNOWN, IN AMERICAN CIRCLES, AS A "WAR"
that divides the world too simply into friends and enemies. Bush's "Axis of
WE'VE BEEN TRYING THAT SINCE THE REAGAN YEARS, AND LOOK WHERE IT GOT US
The conflict over Iraq has crystallized many European fears. After the
WHICH WOULD BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE WAY TO "DISARM IRAQ OF WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION," NO?
While they welcomed Bush's decision to seek a new U.N. Security Council resolution on weapons inspections -- and give Britain's Blair credit for helping guide Bush in that direction -- they fear that the administration is only using the council as justification for military action, and will go ahead even without U.N. assent.
"It was wholly legitimate for President Bush to go to the United Nations and
DID I MISS SOMETHING? HAVE WE STOPPED WORK ON THE RESOLUTION?
Bush's new strategic doctrine formalizes some of the trends Europeans find
NOW WHO'S BEING SIMPLISTIC? IT'S NOT ABOUT FEAR OF "CAPABILITIES" - HECK, AT THE BEGINNING OF THE ARTICLE THEY WERE COMPLAINING ABOUT US TELLING EUROPE TO GET MORE OF THOSE. IT'S NOT ENGLAND OR EVEN INDIA WE'RE ATTACKING HERE FOR WANTING THE BOMB
Another official said the doctrine set a bad precedent -- if it is all right for the United States to attack another country preemptively for supporting terrorism, he asked, then what is to prevent India from dropping a nuclear
THAT WOULD BE "PAKISTAN'S NUCLEAR ARSENAL," THANK YOU
European officials search for signs that the American public is less hard-line than the administration. Every one of a half-dozen officials interviewed last week cited the recent opinion survey sponsored by the U.S. German Marshall Fund and Chicago Council of Foreign Relations indicating a convergence in views on security issues between Americans and Europeans and a solid American majority in favor of obtaining Security Council support for any attack on Iraq. Most cited with approval former vice president Al Gore's attack on administration policy last week, although one official added, "If we'd said that here, we'd be immediately branded as anti-American."
AND GORE . . . ?
U.S. diplomats contend European fears are overwrought. "Part of it [their fear] is European old-think -- the old balance of power instincts," said a senior U.S. diplomat, referring to the Cold War model in which strong nations balanced each other and effectively maintained world stability. "And I think part of it is that the Europeans see lots of reasons to interpret America's terrorism war as America trying to bend Europe to its own will."
Some Europeans agree that officials need to calm themselves and remember what they have in common with the United States. "There are so many areas where we have joint interests and so many similarities between us," said Pascal Lamy, the EU's trade commissioner. "Any good negotiator will tell you that Lesson One is having a clear view of each side's starting positions.
UNLESS THE TERRORISTS KILL US, THAT IS. BUT DON'T WORRY, THE AMERICANS ARE TAKING CARE OF THAT
September 27, 2002
WAR: No Blood for Trees
Barbra Streisand says that "such special interests as the oil industry, the chemical companies, the logging industry, the defense contractors, the mining industry, and the automobile industry . . . clearly have much to gain if we go to war against Iraq" and commands Dick Gephardt "to publicly convey this message to the American people." As one blogger ("Ranting Screeds") notes, perhaps the Anti-War Left's new slogan will be "No Blood For Trees."
BASEBALL: 1916 Giants Column
The first half of my Projo column on the 1916 Giants is finally up; the second half is in as well and will run next week.
LAW: Legal Fees
A federal judge here in NY has ordered the defendant in a lawsuit over the terms of a surety bond to pay Brazil's state-owned oil company $37 million in legal fees.
WAR/POLITICS: Not Fooling Anyone
If you're a Democrat looking for a reason to abandon Al Gore, here's another one: he's tipping his pitches. I was thinking the other day that I can't remember a speech that triggered so much well-written, dead-on-target commentary - from friends, not just foes - in such a short span. OK, there have been some big targets, like Clinton's August 17, 1998 non-apology, Gore's 2000 convention speech or Pat Buchanan's speech to the 1992 GOP Convention. But like a pitcher who's seen the same team too much lately, Gore is now facing a united front of politicos, pundits, editorialists, and bloggers who know his whole routine and his characteristic failings so well that they can see them coming a mile away when he launches into a speech. People know what notes to take, and they come away with an endless bag of put-downs for the man. Put another way: everybody knows by now how to hit Gore.
I've already linked to a ton of these; just check out Jonah Goldberg and Charles Krauthammer and you will see what I mean. Even The New Republic, a neophyte at Gore-bashing, had this to say: "And so you're back from outer space. I just walked in to find you here, with that sad look upon your face. I should have changed that stupid lock. I should have made you leave your key. If I had known for just one second you'd be back to bother me." Oops, what Gore's longest-suffering supporters said was that his "speech . . . consisted of neither honest criticism nor honest opposition. Rather, it sounded like a political broadside against a president who Gore no doubt feels occupies a post that he himself deserves. But bitterness is not a policy position."
Get off the stage, and bring on a new guy so everyone can say, "what's his angle?" and the optimists can project upon him their earnest hopes for the Party, and us right-wing nut cases have to go fill a new clippings file. Instead, Gore winds up, and everyone in the park knows the eephus pitch is coming. Or, in this case, the spitter.
BASEBALL: Smells Like Cy
24-5, 334 K, an ERA under 2.40. Randy Johnson, Cy Young. Cy Young, Randy Johnson. Yahoo! reports that the Unit is 28-1 in September over the last decade. How's that for an exclamation point on the regular season?
September 26, 2002
LAW/POLITICS: Gray Davis SLAPPdown
I haven't seen this anywhere else - a California court yesterday vacated an injunction issued by a lower court and threw out a lawsuit filed by Gray Davis' campaign committee against the American Taxpayers' Alliance, which had alleged that ATA violated California's campaign finance laws by running an advertisement that "has no other purpose than to denigrate Governor Davis." What kind of country would let just anyone denigrate the Governor, on television no less? The court found that the lawsuit ran afoul of a California statute prohibiting "SLAPP" (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation") and the First Amendment because the ad, while critical of The Governor, did not expressly advocate his defeat in an election. (Of course, campaign finance 'reformers' may take heart from the court's distinction of other cases on the grounds that the ad ran in June 2001 when "no election was imminent . . . [t]he primary and general gubernatorial elections in 2002 were 8 months and 18 months away, respectively."
WAR: I Ran So Far Away
I heard this bombshell on Imus this morning (because I was too lazy to change radio stations in my car) - Al Qaeda is back in business, and guess where they have training camps? (Hint: think "axis of evil." Hint, hint: First up on Michael Ledeen's hit list). Clearly, we need to go in and get rid of them, ASAP, regardless of the war on Iraq. It shouldn't slow us down militarily - if we can't take on Iran and Iraq at the same time, we have more serious problems than we think - and it wouldn't necessarily require an immediate effort at regime change, although once we're done with Saddam that should be at the top of the priority list. Diplomatically, it may upset the applecart, but Bush has already established a fairly ironclad precedent of chasing Al Qaeda wherever they may be, and he can't plausibly find a reason here not to do so sooner or later, preferably sooner.
BASEBALL: Wait 'Til Next Year
Well, so much for the Red Sox. Pedro will now by cryogenically frozen until April.
BASEBALL: Barry Bonds Walk Streak
Barry Bonds has tied a National League record by drawing a walk in his 16th consecutive game. According to Dan Lewis, the record was set by Jack Clark in 1987, and the Major League Record is 22, by Roy Cullenbine.
Saw the TV tape of Tom Daschle flipping his lid on the Senate floor yesterday. So, OK, it's dirty pool for the GOP to accuse the Democrats of being unconcerned about national security for blocking the new Homeland Security Department until the Dems can force the department to keep civil service protections that make it insanely difficult to discipline or fire people and thus hold them accountable for their performance? Well, somebody with a search engine and a few hours to spare should check on what the Democrats and their friends at the NY Times and elsewhere were saying last October and November about Republican opposition to their plan to federalize airport security. Betcha betcha betcha find a whole mother load of accusations of Republicans putting profits over national security and the like. How soon we forget.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan thinks Daschle just lost his cool from being pushed by both sides on the war when he wants to talk about other issues. I wonder if the Tom Harkin scandal is a factor too - one more bit of bad news that could undermine Daschle's strategy for keeping the Senate.
Speaking of Homeland Job Security, Mickey Kaus suggests a 50/50 plan: give 50% of the employees job security. What an office-politics nightmare that would be - don't you think the civil service employees, by their permanence, would acquire great influence over whether the other half get fired? -- and you'd just be committing to have half the people do most of the work. Instead, how about a 10% rule - say, in each sector of the Department (Coast Guard, INS, Border Patrol, etc.) you could only terminate the employment of 10% of the work force each year without triggering notice and hearing protections. Many times you wouldn't need to go that far, and if you had an incident big and ugly enough to require a bigger purge, you'd probably be able to handle the hearings by aggregating the proceedings somehow. But the 10% rule would solve the principal problems Kaus points to, i.e., the return of a spoils system of political patronage and the loss of institutional memory from excessive turnover. Some corporations have adopted plans to evaluate employee performance and regularly weed out the bottom 10 or 15%, and this plan would have a similar effect on productivity and morale by discouraging people from being perceived as being the bottom of the barrel.
HOW'S THIS HEADLINE for 'unilateralism'?
BASEBALL: 110/110 Club
If Todd Helton scores 4 runs and drives in 3 this weekend, he'll have his 4th consecutive season of 110 runs and 110 RBI. How hard is this? Let's look at the guys who have done it, ranked by consecutive seasons (I compiled this list from baseball-reference.com, so it's possible I missed somebody):
13 Lou Gehrig
*-1939-42 and 1946-49. So sue me for giving him credit for the World War II gap.
Three observations: (1) wow, 13 years in a row. (2) How's this for fast company for A-Rod? (3) All these guys are either active or played in the 1930s. Also, consider the names who don't appear here to see how exclusive this club is, like Mays, Cobb, Hornsby, and Musial.
I'm not sure how many guys did it three times; here's the list of guys I found after looking all over: besides Helton, there's Mel Ott, Duke Snider, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Medwick, Hank Aaron, and Vern Stephens.
LAW: Justice Douglas' Fears
Speaking of "Bugs" Harkin, the story brings back memories of one of the more bizarre Supreme Court opinions I've ever read - one that speaks both to the climate of hysteria in the early 1970s and to Justice Douglas' paranoia: his opinion dissenting from the denial of certiorari in Heutsche v. United States, which includes the following passage:
Mr. Justice Holmes in Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 470 (dissenting), called wire-tapping 'dirty business.' That decision was rendered in 1928. Since that time 'dirty business' has become the apt phrase describing the regime under which we now live. . . . We who live in the District of Columbia know that electronic surveillance is commonplace. I am indeed morally certain that the Conference Room of this Court has been 'bugged'; and President Johnson during his term in the White House asserted to me that even his phone was tapped.
We deal with a disease that has permeated our society. . . . The conversation of one's lawyer over the telephone may be as helpful to Big Brother as the conversation of the accused herself. . . . If electronic surveillance were strictly employed by the Executive Branch, we might be chary in enlarging its duties as requested here. But since we live in a regime where the 'dirty business' of wiretapping runs rampant, I would apply the statute liberally to check the disease which almost every newspaper tells us has poisoned out body politic.
* * *
In a country where the Government overhears over 500,000 conversations a year pursuant to court authorized wiretaps alone, it is difficult to gainsay anyone's fear of the intrusion of Big Brother's ear. The daily news brings fresh evidence to make a reality of Chief Justice Warren's warning that the 'fantastic advances in the field of electronic communication constitute a great danger to the privacy of the individual. . . .' In such circumstances the Government's claim that it should not be put to the task of searching its files for evidence of specific surveillance cannot be treated lightly. I take cognizance of the fact that the mass of aggregate data on the citizenry yielded in this Orwellian era may indeed make the task a difficult one.
WAR/POLITICS: Lileks on Daschle
Read today's Lileks, which has an intriguing discourse on storming the beaches at Normandy in a computer game -- "this really happened, and no one got a second chance. Some didn’t even get a first one" -- Lileks sets the point up well enough to make you think, without really connecting all the dots on this one. Then, he does an abbreviated version of the Full Lileks on Tom Daschle; as usual the whole thing is worth reading, but the conclusion is lethal:
"It’s telling that Daschle finally showed “passion” when he felt the Senate was being attacked. . . .Zell [Miller] made a speech as equally impassioned as Daschle, but the subject was the injuries of the nation, not the tender sensibilities of the Senate. I was walking Jasper when he ran down the litany of horrors that might make people look back and wonder why the Senate dragged its heels. 'Will it take a smallpox outbreak that wipes out the twin cites of Minneapolis and St. Paul?' he asked.
For a moment I had a vision of queuing at the clinic, Gnat in my arms, waiting for the prick and the hiss, wondering if we’d be among the ones who reacted badly to the vaccine, wondering if the disease would spread to Mexico, and how many there would die, and how many more would pour north in search of a shot.
Two Democrats, two views. Senator Miller’s comments focussed my mind the nation, on a future I’d like to avoid.
Senator Daschle’s comments focussed my mind on Senator Daschle."
BUSINESS/SCIENCE: Spam Spam Spam
A study tries to estimate the cost of spam to businesses, but I think it overestimates - I can spot and delete spam (which has started to spill over my law firm's firewall in droves lately; we used to get it from legal publishers and the like but now it's the really nasty stuff too) at a rate of probably one every 5-7 seconds, not 30 seconds as estimated in this article.
September 25, 2002
WAR: Go Dersh Go!
Prof. Dershowitz also continues on his warpath, with this Crimson piece; you might also find his earlier attack on Noam Chomsky (from May) interesting on this point. Dershowitz has always been pro-Israel to the core, and hasn't abandoned that view even as his friends on the Left have abandoned that position. It may be a rare occasion, but I'm with him on this one.
WAR: Not The Problem
Michael Barone, counting noses as usual, says China won't waste the weapon of a Security Council veto on a case where we are going to act anyway - after all, that would dilute the Security Council's influence and hence the value of the veto threat for some later adventure (he doesn't say it, but I'm guessing North Korea comes to mind) where our mandate is weaker and China's interest is stronger.
POLITICS/WAR: This NY Times story
"But Bush's comments of late about Senate Democrats and national security have come in the context of the fight over legislation for the proposed Department of Homeland Security . The Bush comment about the Senate not being "interested" in national security came at a campaign event Monday in New Jersey when the president was talking about the legislation -- not Iraq."
The egregious bias in the Times piece is to toss in the Bob Dole remark about 'Democrat wars,' which is only relevant if you are trying to say that Republicans and only Republicans politicize war. The Democrats would never do that - never, oh, say, run a TV commercial with a mushroom cloud to suggest that the GOP Presidential nominee would drag us into nuclear war.
WAR: Contempt For Gore
Contempt for the Gore speech is still pouring in from the conservative quarters of the blogosphere; Andrew Sullivan's take was almost identical to my own, and OxBlog has a good roundup including Michael Kelly's just slightly over the top assault on Gore (Kelly writes, "If there is a more reprehensible piece of bloody shirt-waving in American political history than this attempt by a man on the sidelines to position himself as the hero of 3,000 unavenged dead, I am not aware of it." -- well, I think I might start with using Oklahoma City to bash Newt Gingrich, for one, and there are certainly others.)
I noted yesterday Gore's contention that if the U.S. disregards international institutions by declaring pre-emptive war on Iraq, other nations will follow suit and invade whoever they want. There's a fundamental fallacy in this -- they won't because we will stop them. If some regional-power yahoo, like Bashar Assad or that Turkmen idiot, feels like invading one of his neighbors, the mental picture of 250,000 Iraqi soldiers getting carpet-bombed and buried under sand dunes and running for their lives out of Kuwait ten years ago may come to mind. So may the fact that the Taliban was put to the mountains in a matter of weeks by an angry superpower. But in Al Gore's world, the only thing holding back the deluge is U.N. resolutions, and nobody would dare violate those, nosiree Bob!
I'll let The Wall Street Journal sink the final dagger here:
Some of our Democratic friends have said to us since the trauma of 9/11 that any U.S. President would have had to respond the way Mr. Bush has. A President Gore would have been just as determined and shown the same moral clarity. Mr. Gore has just told the country what he thinks about that argument.
Gore's defenders have a choice: admit that he would not have been as steadfast as Bush - or worse, admit that his position while out of office is not the same one he would have had in office.
WAR/POLITICS: No Excuses
I'm just in a war & politics mood today . . .
Howard Kurtz has a great column today with all sorts of fun tidbits, including Tom Harkin's Watergate, which is welcome news in the tight Senate balance. I loved this quote:
"U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa apologized yesterday for his campaign's role in passing along a transcript of a secretly taped meeting involving his election opponent. The aide who released the transcript acted independently, without the approval of Harkin or his campaign manager, the senator said. "'I make no excuses,' Harkin said in an interview with The Des Moines Register. 'I am the captain of the ship, and I take responsibility, and I apologize for it. These things shouldn't happen like that.'"
Yup, no excuses, except he acted alone, he didn't tell us, it was a junior staffer, . . .
WAR: Maureen Dowd Self-Parody
I'd parody Maureen Dowd, but it can't be done. Read today's column and see if you can come up with anything shallower, snider or more blinkered or petulant than this. "Maybe the Bush policy on Empire & Pre-emption allows us to decide not only who can run a country, but what are the proper issues for other nations' election debates." That sounds like something you'd see posted on some far-out message board, not a newspaper with editors. "Only the Saudis get away with disobliging the administration on Iraq without being frozen out. They're like the spoiled, foreign princesses in high school, dripping in Dolce & Gabbana and Asprey, who drive their Mercedes convertibles into the magic alpha circle." Yeah, that sounds just like my high school. Never mind that part of the point of going after Iraq is to make the Saudis both less indispensable and less comfortable . . .
LAW: Scalia on Impartial Judges
As Chuck Schumer gears up his crusade against judges who have ideas and convictions (other than his own), it is an appropriate moment to quote Justice Scalia, from a case this past spring striking down regulations of speech by judicial candidates:
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"A judge’s lack of predisposition regarding the relevant legal issues in a case has never been thought a necessary component of equal justice, and with good reason. For one thing, it is virtually impossible to find a judge who does not have preconceptions about the law. As then-Justice Rehnquist observed of our own Court: “Since most Justices come to this bench no earlier than their middle years, it would be unusual if they had not by that time formulated at least some tentative notions that would influence them in their interpretation of the sweeping clauses of the Constitution and their interaction with one another. It would be not merely unusual, but extraordinary, if they had not at least given opinions as to constitutional issues in their previous legal careers.” Laird v. Tatum, 409 U.S. 824, 835 (1972) (memorandum opinion). Indeed, even if it were possible to select judges who did not have preconceived views on legal issues, it would hardly be desirable to do so. “Proof that a Justice’s mind at the time he joined the Court was a complete tabula rasa in the area of constitutional adjudication would be evidence of lack of qualification, not lack of bias.” Ibid. The Minnesota Constitution positively forbids the selection to courts of general jurisdiction of judges who are impartial in the sense of having no views on the law. Minn. Const., Art. VI, §5 (“Judges of the supreme court, the court of appeals and the district court shall be learned in the law”). And since avoiding judicial preconceptions on legal issues is neither possible nor desirable, pretending otherwise by attempting to preserve the “appearance” of that type of impartiality can hardly be a compelling state interest either."
Â« Close It
September 24, 2002
BLOG/BUSINESS: LOOK OUT NEXIS, STEP ASIDE YAHOO!
BASEBALL: Simmons vs. Buckley
Our old friend Bill Simmons fleshes out his email riff on Steve Buckley into an ESPN column concluding, basically, that the Red Sox were good this year, just not good enough and got a few bad breaks, and there's not much else to say about them. A sober assessment, and a grim view of the panicky, bomb-throwing Boston media. I tend to agree with some of Bill's diagnosis, although I still maintain that the acquisitions of Tony Clark and John Burkett were worthwhile gambles; as I've noted, Burkett was pitching well until the end of July and has pitched well of late, he just tanked so badly in August that he killed the Red Sox' season. Frankly, Mike Mussina and Roger Clemens haven't been a whole heck of a lot better, let alone the Twins' big three starters. Pitchers can be like that. The only fair ground for ripping the Clark move is if you think the Sox either (1) ignored medical evidence or (2) ignored something in his fine but injury-limited play the last two years that suggested he was going to hit the wall at age 30.
LAW/WAR: Alan Dershowitz, Prosecutor
Alan Dershowitz, prosecutor: My Criminal Law professor wants to try Yasser Arafat for first degree murder.
LAW: Campaign Finance Complexity
Speaking of campaign finance laws, Clinton-era figure Maria Hsia is asking the US Supreme Court to throw out her false statement conviction on the grounds that she didn't know the campaign finance laws she was accused of violating. The Solicitor General's office says that they don't have to prove that and the Court shouldn't take the case. The Court's docket sheet says the petition will be reviewed (to see if the Court takes it) at the end of September. Granted that the statute at issue isn't the only way to skin this prosecutorial cat, such a requirement, if adopted, would underline the enforcement problem with having insanely complicated laws in the first place. A simpler scheme would say, "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . "
POLITICS: Armey In Retreat
Dick Armey is reported to have said that Jews who are liberals are dumb. Pressed for clarification, he now says he thinks all liberals are dumb. Armey has always had an awfully big mouth, which is one of his assets, but can also be quite a pain.
WAR: To The Ivory Coast
George W. Bush is not going to wait for an Iranian-style hostage crisis to develop in the Ivory Coast. The cavalry is on the way.
BASEBALL: Why Joe Morgan Says Dumb Things
Baseballjunkie.net piles on another idiotic column by Joe Morgan. I'm convinced that Morgan says the things he says just to tick people off. Also, as I've written before, every time I hear Morgan and Tony Perez attacking statistics, I keep wondering if it's really a veiled attack on their stat-obsessed former teammate, Pete Rose.
BASEBALL: Doomed Diamondbacks?
There are reasons why teams that are not expected to win it all -- and do -- often come up short the next time around. When your margin of error is slim, losing your best hitter - as with the Luis Gonzalez injury - can be lethal. That said, the rest of the D-Backs' offense is stronger this year than last, so if the bullpen doesn't implode, maybe they hang in there. The other problem is, if Johnson and Schilling aren't perfect again, they're dead meat.
WAR: Frightened Old Folks
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY, and I may run with this one some more when I have more time to write: is Continental Europe's timidity in foreign affairs linked to demographics? Yes, Muslim immigration, but more fundamentally I'm talking about an aging and shrinking population, with fewer young men and more old women. Think on it.
WAR/POLITICS: Anti-War Gore
Somebody forgot to upgrade Al Gore's program; he's still running Anti-War 3.0, the August 2002 version, when most of the Democrats have moved on to limiting the President's mandate and then quickly changing the subject. Both Gore and (you guessed it) Jimmy Carter are still spitting out cliches that no serious person could value. Gore does nicely encapsulate the theory of the "only with the UN" crowd, when he "accused Bush of abandoning the goal of a world where nations follow laws. 'That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the president of the United States,' he said. 'If other nations assert the same right, then the rule of law will quickly be replaced by the reign of fear,' and any nation that perceives itself threatened would feel justified in starting wars, he said."
Of course, the rule of law is also undermined when people who break the law suffer no consequences, as would happen here with Saddam. In that sense, Gore fits neatly in David Brooks' box: he's so caught up with Bush that he has nothing to say about Saddam after having argued in campaign 2000 that he would push for Saddam's overthrow (hey, wouldn't that violate the law?) But the failure to enforce international law runs to a deeper failing: the all-too-common Left/liberal view that having laws is the important thing, as opposed to enforcing them. Thus, one can push for more complex and all-consuming campaign finance laws but then complain that there is "no controlling legal authority" when caught violating one of them, and hey, everybody does it! (We won't even get into sexual harrassment law, but you remember that one too).
There's a legitimate argument here that some of Bush's preemption principles would shatter the already tissue-thin fabric of international institutions, but as the President has amply demonstrated, this specific case is one where those institutions are under an even greater threat from inaction than action. Any serious person in the governments of reluctant allies like Germany or Saudi Arabia surely, privately, knows this. Perhaps Al Gore does too. If so, shame on him.
I always thought that Gore was a more serious threat to democracy than Clinton, because Gore at least seemed to be an honest man who adopted lying as a deliberate and cynical strategy, premised upon a contempt for the intelligence and attention spans of the voters, in the belief that it had been proven successful, whereas Clinton may well be so steeped in his own deceptions that he really can't see that what he's doing is wrong. Here we have another example: Anti-War Gore is no more convincing than Semi-Hawk Al was during the Cold War, or Last Minute Convert To The War Gore was in 1991. They all smell like carefully calibrated examples of opportunism. Except this time, the stakes of opportunism are unacceptably high.
BASEBALL: Red Sox Last Stand
Red Sox are still down to their last strike against Anaheim . . . it doesn't exactly look like 1995 or 1986 or 1978 (when the Sox staged a late September rally to force the 1-game playoff), but I suppose where there is life there is hope.
September 23, 2002
WAR: Eye On Middle Eastern Studies
Stanley Kurtz at NRO is once again stumping for free speech in the academy, this time lauding Daniel Pipes' attempt to create a MEMRI-like organization dedicated to exposing the biases of Middle Eastern Studies faculties and their efforts to stamp out any, well, actual studies of the Middle East. My lawyer's heart just loves organizations like this that get specific with people who attack with broad, false generalities and hate to be confronted with reality.
WAR: David Brooks on the anti-war Left
David Brooks of The Weekly Standard has the definitive account of the anti-war Left's critical flaw -- its total abdication of responsibility for dealing with the actual threats at hand. There are too many gems in this piece to excerpt; here are just a few:
"When you read through the vast literature of the peace camp, you get the impression that Saddam Hussein is some distant, off-stage figure not immediately germane to matters at hand."
On the "Not In Our Names" advertisement taken out by a bunch of what Brooks charitably calls 'peaceniks':
"In the text of the ad, which runs to 15 paragraphs, Saddam Hussein is not mentioned. Weapons of mass destruction are not mentioned. The risks posed by terrorists and terror organizations are not mentioned. Instead there are vague sentiments . . . The entire exercise is a picture perfect example of moral exhibitionism, by a group of people decadently refusing even to acknowledge the difficulties and tradeoffs that confront those who actually have to make decisions about policy."
On Chomsky and his ilk: "Their supposed demons--Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Doug Feith, Donald Rumsfeld, and company--occupy their entire field of vision, so that there is no room for analysis of anything beyond, such as what is happening in the world. For the peace camp, all foreign affairs is local; contempt for and opposition to Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, et al. is the driving passion. When they write about these figures it is with a burning zeal. But on the rare occasions when they write about Saddam, suddenly all passion drains away. Saddam is boring, but Wolfowitz tears at their soul. . . This is the dictionary definition of parochialism--the inability to consider the larger global threats because one is consumed by one's immediate domestic hatreds. This parochialism takes many forms, but all the branches of the opposition to the war in Iraq have one thing in common: Iraq is never the issue. Something else is always the issue."
One more, on the Dems: "Among some Democrats in Washington, a second form of parochialism has emerged. They see the Iraq conflict as a subplot within the midterm election campaigns. . . .What's fascinating about this wag-the-dog theory is what it reveals about the mentality of the people who float it. These are politicians (far from all of them Democrats) who have never cared about foreign affairs, have no history with the Cold War, have no interest in America's superpower role. One sometimes gets the sense that these people can't imagine how anybody could genuinely be more interested in matters of war and peace than in such issues as prescription drugs, Social Security, and Enron. If the president does pretend to care more about nuclear weapons and such, surely it must be a political tactic. For them, the important task is to get the discussion back to the subjects they care about, and which they think are politically advantageous. . . . The president must "make the case," many Democrats say, as if they are incapable of informing themselves about what is potentially one of the greatest threats to the United States. "
Read the whole thing. It's more than worth it.
WAR/RELIGION: Hide and Go Mosque
Anyone who thinks that the abuse of mosques to hide terrorists is new should read Murder at the Harlem Mosque, an account of how Black Muslims in the early 1970s used a mosque to shield the murder of a New York City cop. It's a terrible thing when the government starts zeroing in on houses of worship; we are all less free for the precedent. But separation of church and crime is at least as important as separation of church and state. People of faith do themselves and their devotions no favors by granting sanctuary to those who spread violence, nor by inciting the hatred that feuls such violence. The best way, after all, to stop people from killing in the name of God is for leaders of the faith to make clear that He will grant no favor to those who do so.
BASEBALL: Old-Time Zito
Another link from the Baseball Primer: Barry Zito is apparently a throwback to the days of early 20th century pitchers who grew up throwing constantly with no fear of hurting himself. For now, consider him a data point in favor of that approach. And stay tuned to see if he holds up long term.
But could Barry Zito throw 300 innings in a season? We'll probably never get to find out.
FOOTBALL: CROW, ANYONE?
Mike Francesa on WFAN was berating some fan who called in yesterday, predicting a 31-21 Jets loss, with the Dolphins jumping out to a 31-7 lead and the Jets saving face with some garbage time TDs. Francesa told the guy he'd be embarrassing himself by 6pm. How's that crow taste? Football prognosticating can be a damn humbling business.
BASEBALL: Grant Roberts
The now-infamous Grant Roberts photo, if you missed it. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not getting my shorts in a knot over pitchers smoking pot. I mean, there's a basic social norm that says we can't have people openly admit to being pot-heads unless they're rock stars or something (and thus expected to lead self-destructively dissolute lives), but the main concern with pot is that it saps agressiveness and, well, reliability. I suppose that is problem if you've got concerns about a guy's conditioning, but pitching is a crazy business, and what a guy does off the field to deal with the stress shouldn't be a big concern unless he gets arrested.
Everyday players are another matter entirely - there's a much greater need to keep guys focused and aggressive (maybe there's a reason Tony Tarasco has never been able to develop enough to hold an everyday job), and far lesser concerns over people stressing themselves out to the point of being unable to function, which is a big problem with pitchers. (If I'm the Mets, of course, I'd be looking desperately for evidence that some of my big underachievers are doing anything that could be characterized as a breach of their contractual obligations, or at least that they're doing something that's more easily corrected than just getting old).
Look, I've never smoked the stuff and wouldn't, and maybe somebody who knows more about pot would disagree with me. My general reaction on the legalize-marijuana crowd has long been that I might be open to persuasion, but I've yet to be convinced that letting Phillip Morris market bongs to 14-year-olds is a good idea (don't kid yourself: you can't advocate legalization if you aren't willing to accept big corporations selling the stuff). The biggest problem with the pot aspect of the war on drugs is its rank hypocrisy, i.e., the fact that everybody knows that the law is widely violated and can't help but be selectively enforced. But as long as the world is as it is, I'm not going into a tizzy over this whole Roberts thing.
WAR/POLITICS: Senate News
Bob Novak's Saturday column has some nuggets: The Republicans could gain a critical Senate seat in South Dakota by making the war on Iraq a campaign issue; among the fights on homeland security, "[u]nions are insisting on strict seniority, without regard to language capability, for Customs personnel sent abroad for pre-screening"; highly-regarded Tennessee Senator Dr. Bill Frist is contemplating retirement in 2006.
BASEBALL: Too Little Too Late
Put in your votes now between Jeromy Burnitz and John Burkett for the "NOW he's playing well" award. (Ben Sheets would be a contender too, but his team would have been miserable anyway).
WAR/POLITICS: German Shell Games
People complain about the timing and completeness of corporate disclosures in the U.S., but check out this doozy: Germany's peacenik Social Democrat prime minister Gerhard Schroeder finishes in essentially a tie with his opponent, each garnering 38.5% of the vote (remember this when some Euro-snob pundit gripes about Bush not having an electoral mandate), and Schroder wins the tiebreaker because another team in his division (the Greens) won more games in the NFC . . . anyway, notice this item buried at the end of UPI's report:
"Even more challenging than repairing the rift with Washington is the looming crisis with Germany's partners in the euro, Europe's new single currency. Germany delayed publishing its budget deficit figures until after the election, fearing it would breach the maximum level allowed under the rules of the eurozone's Stability Pact. If budget deficits exceed 3 percent of gross domestic product, an offending country faces fines of up to 0.5 percent of GDP. In Germany's case, that means fines of up to $10 billion.
The German economy is heading back into recession, and the higher spending on paying for more and more unemployed. Combined with lower tax revenues, this spending means the Stability Pact is almost certain to be breached. And even though France is also seeking some relaxation from the pact's tight rules, other members of the euro currency have said they refuse to change it, fearing a loss of credibility in world currency markets."
(Emphasis added). In other words -- leaving aside the fact that the EU apparently operates under something very similar to Major League Baseball's collective bargaining agreement ("Ach, General von Schroedergrabber, you spent too much on your bureaucrats, we must fine you for breaching the luxury tax!") -- the German ruling party has been hiding the government's finances to pull the wool over the world's currency markets, at least until after the election. Say what you will about American politics, even Gray Davis couldn't pull off something like this.
September 22, 2002
WAR: Thought for the Day
"Germany must be beaten; Germany must feel like she is beaten. No compromise with the main purpose, no peace till victory, no pact with unrepentant wrong."
--Winston Churchill, July 1917.
September 21, 2002
BASEBALL/RELIGION: Muslims in Major League
Muslims in Major League Baseball? There have been many in the NFL and NBA, but I'm not so sure about baseball. The one guy I remember is former Pirates shortstop (from the mid-1980s) Sammy Khalifa, who this popup-infested tribute website describes grandiosely as "the Arab Jackie Robinson." Khalifa may actually be both the only MLB player of Arab descent and of Muslim faith; if he's not, I'd love to hear who else fills the bill. I seem to recall that his father was an imam, although I could be wrong on that.
(I remember having this baseball card too).
WAR: O'Rourke in Cairo
Haven't read this one from the Atlantic all the way through yet, but it looks promising (NRO had the link yesterday): PJ O'Rourke on Egypt. O'Rourke, of course, has the gift of convincing the reader that his life was in constant danger every time he leaves the U.S. Here's a classic from this one, on driving in Cairo:
"[M]ost foreign driving has the advantage of either brevity, in its breakneck pace, or safe if sorry periods of complete rest, in jam-ups. Cairenes achieve the prolonged bravado of NASCAR drivers while also turning any direction they want, in congestion worse than L.A.'s during an O.J. freeway chase.
When I could bear to peek, I saw traffic cops—not in ones or twos but in committees, set up at intersections and acting with the efficiency and decisiveness usual to committees. And I saw a driving school. What could the instruction be like? 'No, no, Anwar, faster through the stop sign, and make your left from the far-right lane.' Surely John Kifner, Chris Matthews, and NBC News are kidding when they use 'Arab street' as a metaphor for anything in the Middle East. Or, considering the history of the Middle East, maybe they aren't."
POP CULTURE: Next Potter
This was in yesterday's Wall Street Journal: JK Rowling has finished a 700+ page manuscript of the next Harry Potter book, she thinks she can have it cleaned up enough to go to the publisher in 3-6 months, she's four months pregnant (I'm guessing she'll want the book out of her hair before the baby comes, assuming the pregnancy goes smoothly), and the desperate publishers plan to turn it around in about 2-3 months. Net result: the book should be out some time around April or May 2003.
BASEBALL: TOP TEN LIST
TOP TEN REASONS those two guys ran on the field at Comiskey Park to assault Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa:
10. Man, we were hammered.
9. Confused him with lazy, underachieving good-for-nothing Frank Thomas. Man, we were hammered.
8. Wanted to impress Linda Cohen.
7. Enraged after security guards confiscated our beers for having too much pine tar.
6. Wanted to free Royals from malign influence of Gamboa crime family.
5. Our revenue sharing checks were late.
4. Mark Corey sold us some bad weed.
3. Didn't they ever tell you that the South Side of Chicago is the baddest part of town?
2. The Curse of the Bambino. (As reported by Dan Shaughnessy)
AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON . . .
1. We were nostalgic for Disco Demolition Night!
September 20, 2002
POLITICS: Does Anybody Want To Beat Gray Davis?
How low has the California governor's race sunk? While Mickey Kaus has been beating the drum on speculation that Ah-nold will jump in the race as a write-in at the last possible minute (maybe late October), the American Prowler says Gray Davis is worried about the Green candidate.
WAR: Root Causes
Michael Kinsley writes a disingenuously simplistic column claiming that people who call the terrorists evil haven't been willing to look at the causes of their hatred of the U.S. Note to Kinsley: pick up the National Review or the Wall Street Journal now and then and see how many articles you find seeking to diagnose the phychosis of Islamofacism and its roots in the dysfunctional politics and societies of the Arab world. My guess is you won't last three days without reading one. (Hint: look for David Pryce-Jones, Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson or Ralph Peters.)
BASEBALL: 1914-17 Giants, Part One
I generally don't post my Projo columns here, least of all before they are up on Projo, but since the readership here is small yet and there have been some transmission problems with getting the first half posted over there (plus the Projo folks are all tied up with the start of football season), here's a treat for y'all - Part One of my column on the 1914-17 New York Giants:
The recent 20-game winning streak of the Oakland A's brought back mention of the 1916 Giants, with their 26-game winning streak, and some debate over whether the Giants should fairly be considered the record-holders when they had a tie in the middle of the streak. Fair enough. Most people who followed the story or know their history can tell you that, amazingly, the Giants finished fourth that year. Some could even point out the more astonishing fact: the Giants were in fourth place when the streak started, and were still stuck in fourth when the streak ended.
But what these pieces of trivia don't tell you is that those Giants were part of a bigger story, one of baseball's great turnaround stories and all-around roller coaster rides -- the story of the 1914-17 New York Giants.
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A little history is in order. The Giants became one of the National League's perennial powerhouse franchises shortly after the turn of the 20th century when, in short succession, three significant things happened: In 1900 they traded their burned-out superstar pitcher, Amos Rusie, to the Reds for 19-year-old Christy Mathewson; Andrew Freedman, the penurious megalomaniac whose salary disputes with Rusie had ruined the previous decade, sold the team to John T. Brush; and in 1902, John J. McGraw abandoned the Baltimore Orioles of the American League (who would move to New York to become the predecessor of the Yankees the following year) to manage the Giants, bringing with him Joe McGinnity, Roger Bresnahan and a few other players. By 1904-05, the Giants had seized control of the National League.
Perhaps McGraw's best team, and certainly his favorite, was the Giants team that won three straight pennants from 1911-13 and lost three straight World Serieses, at least one of them (1912) in exceptionally heartbreaking fashion. That team was built around a fast, agressive young lineup, plus hard-hitting veteran catcher John 'Chief' Meyers, with the pitching staff balanced between two young stars (Rube Marquard and Jeff Tesreau) and three veterans (Mathewson, still one of the league's premier pitchers, and Hooks Wiltse and Red Ames).
If the Giants thought they had heartbreak in 1908 (the Fred Merkle incident) and 1912, though, they were in for even more in 1914, when the team was 52-33 on July 29, and 58-40 with a 6 1/2 game lead on August 12, and in sole possession of first place as late as September 4, but went 32-37 down the stretch while the Boston Braves (who had been in last place in the 8-team NL as late as July 18) finished the season on a 68-19 tear to become the "Miracle Braves," the first real 'Cinderella' team in the history of pro sports, and run off with the pennant by 10.5 games.
The Giants' collapse was partially just bad performances in close games: over the team's last 71 games, in which they went 32-37 with 2 ties, the Giants actually outscored their opponents 272-248, which should have been expected to produce 38 or 39 wins. But a six-game swing wouldn't have been enough to make the difference anyway, and wasn't enough to explain an 84-win season by a team that had won 99, 103 and 101 games in 1911, 1912 and 1913. The Giants' offense dropped off from 4.7 runs/game to 3.8 runs/game over those last 71 games, and while they still led the league in scoring, McGraw must have seen that he needed more sock. So, in January 1915, he made a disastrous panic move: he dealt the team's weakest hitter, 20-year-old third baseman Milt Stock, to the sixth-place Phillies along with underachieving pitcher Al Demaree, age 28 (13-4, 2.21 ERA in 1913, 10-17, 3.09 ERA in 1914) and 24-year-old backup catcher Bert Adams for 33-year-old third baseman Hans Lobert, who had batted .327 in 1912, .300 in 1913, and .275 in 1914. You can see where this was headed, but uncharacteristically, McGraw didn't. Lobert would hit a punchless .251 in 1915 on the way to losing his job, while Stock and Demaree would play small roles in the Phillies' leap to the 1915 pennant and Stock would eventually mature into a solid player, hitting over .300 five times between 1919 and 1925.
The bigger problem was the pitching, which had fallen in 1914 to sixth in the league in ERA. At age 33, Mathewson's ERA had jumped a full run to 3.00 in 1914 (above the league average) after having ERAs ranging from 1.14 to 2.12 every year for the prior 7 seasons, he allowed more than a hit per inning, allowed twice as many homers as his career high, and struck out just 80 men in 312 innings. Marquard saw his ERA also rise above 3.00, and he went 12-22 after three seasons of 24-7, 26-11 and 23-10. While Tesreau had another fine season, the decline in the team's two stars combined with Demaree's slide left the Giants' staff weak. McGraw responded with his other, wiser offseason move, buying 22-year-old Pol Perrit from the financially strapped Cardinals, for whom he'd posted a 2.36 ERA in 286 IP the prior year.
That brings us to the other bit of context that would become significant later on: the Federal League, a third major league that put severe competitive pressure on the established NL and AL in its two years of existence in 1914-15, before the Feds folded under the strain. The Giants were under a financial crunch like other teams, but when the Feds went under, the checkbook would open again with important results.
In the meantime, 1915 brought a new and unfamiliar form of humiliation to the team that had fallen just short of glory so many times in the prior 7 years: a last place finish. The Giants' mainstays through the pennant years showed the severest decay: Chief Meyers, now 34, hit .232. Mathewson, finally sore-armed after all those 300+ inning years dating back to his early 20s, was 8-14 with a 3.58 ERA. Marquard was worse. With bad pitching and bad defense, the team allowed more runs than anyone else in the NL, and while the offense could still score (3.75 runs/game, third in the league), it wasn't enough to make up.
Once it became apparent that the veterans weren't making a run back to glory, McGraw was merciless in cleaning house. Red Murray, a regular for the three pennant winners but now 31 and hitting .220, was cut loose in mid season, as was backup catcher Red Dooin. In August, McGraw sold Fred Snodgrass -- only 27 but hitting .194 and never to recover as an everyday player -- to the Braves, sold the sore-armed Marquard to the Dodgers for the waiver price, and bought the 28-year-old Rube Benton from the Reds to shore up the rotation. After the season, Meyers would also be sold to the Dodgers for the waiver price. McGraw was also looking down the road, carrying rarely used teenager George Kelly (later the Giants' star first baseman in the 1920s and now in Cooperstown) and pitcher Ferdie Schupp, age 24 and severely ineffective in limited use for the second straight season. Schupp must have been used for mopup work: between 1913 and 1915, he pitched 36 times but with just one decision.
A long, slow rebuilding process was underway, but McGraw had other plans in the meantime. When the Federal League went under, McGraw came out swinging: on December 23, 1915, he bought 2-time Federal League batting champ Benny Kauff (the "Ty Cobb of the Federal League") from the Brooklyn franchise and catcher Bill Rariden (to replace Meyers) and slick-fielding third baseman Bill McKechnie from the Newark franchise. The Kauff acquisition alone cost $35,000, a huge price tag for 1915. In February, McGraw bought starting pitcher Fred Anderson from the Buffalo franchise the same day that he sold Meyers. McGraw also bought future Hall of Famer Edd Roush from Newark. The 1916 team now looked like this on paper:
C Bill Rariden (age 28)
SP Jeff Tesreau (27)*
* - Players remaining who had major roles in the 1912 team.
IN PART TWO, to follow soon (hopefully; I haven't written the second half yet): McGraw's late summer purge, and the aftermath.
Â« Close It
BASKETBALL: More Dele
More on the Dele saga: his brother was found comatose and arrested. Did they read him his rights?
BASEBALL: Attacking The Coach
Why would anyone attack the Royals' first base coach? It's not like Tom Gamboa has a controversial history (now, crazed Red Sox fans attacking Mets first base coach Mookie Wilson, I could understand). Man, those guys were skeevy looking. ESPN's link says he was "violently assaulted," as opposed to peacefully assaulted, I guess.
LAW: Investor Responsibility
The Second Circuit throws out a $111.5 million (plus interest) jury verdict and strikes a blow for individual responsibility, holding that a billionaire currency trader couldn't sue his brokers for negligence over trades he authorized on the theory that he should have been given more warnings. One of the people whose advice was at issue in the case was former Bear Stearns chief economist Lawrence Kudlow, now the chief financial writer for National Review Online and co-host of CNBC's Kudlow & Cramer.
I got half the column in to Projo earlier this week, but it never got posted and I got sidetracked at work and didn't finish the second half, so the blog may be the only word for now.
RELIGION: Jesus the Carnivore
Yesterday's Best of the Web included this link to an item in which PETA claims that Jesus was an "ethical vegetarian." Now, if you aren't into red meat, pork or chicken, maybe there's room for speculation, since as far as I recall Jesus isn't mentioned one way or another with those foods -- as a Jew, it's unlikely He ate pork, regardless of His other assertions about the need to move on to the New Covenant. I don't think they mention what was served at Cana or the Last Supper other than bread and wine (yes, alcohol - He even made some for the wedding feast). But I'm certain that PETA's definition of a vegetarian includes not eating fish, and there are clearly several instances in the Gospels of Jesus eating fish and sharing it with others. And besides, I doubt that many of the PETA folks are big Christians - they're more likely atheists or pantheists trying to score debating points with people who undoubtedly know their New Testament far better than PETA.
WAR: Young Hickory
Tim Blair noted this one earlier this week: a fun piece in the Washington Post comparing Bush to Andrew Jackson.
September 19, 2002
LAW: No Claim on Harry Potter
Harry Potter has been cleared of copyright infringement! It gets better - an author who sued J.K. Rowling for copying her ideas (principally, a book using the term "muggles") has been sanctioned (to the tune of a $50,000 fine) by a federal court in New York. "The judge noted seven instances of false evidence, including an advertisement that was modified to include a trademark symbol, altered paragraphs that allegedly refer to a book titled "Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly," and forged sales invoices."
BASEBALL/OTHER SPORTS: Sportsjournalists.com
Sportsjournalists.com, the gossipy website for anonymous chitchat by sportswriters about their trade that had its big moment in the sun during the whole Piazza-Travis-Matthews controversy, has gone on to the Big Server In The Sky. There's probably a good inside story here, but I'm not the guy to get it. I'll say this: in any business, anonymous backbiting on a public website will be unpopular with management. Are such sites a good thing? Is it hazardous to your career, or legally dangerous, to post there? I'll leave that to the reader.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Other Sports | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Sex, Drugs and Communism
This Reuters story doesn't quite live up to its headline, "German Ex-Communists Lure Votes with Sex and Drugs." More like a case of how Communists are still in the false advertising business. But doesn't it speak volumes about German humor when the Social Democrats' satirical website is called "www.nichtregierungsfaehig.de?" I mean, I guess in German that's catchy and memorable . . .
BASEBALL: I Win
Go to posts ##20, 33 & 35 . . . I think Robert Dudek owes me my due on this one:
Here are Adam Dunn's stats for last year and this year, with a week to go:
2001: .262 Avg, .578 Slg, .371 OBP, 949 OPS
2002: .250 Avg, .457 Slg, .403 OBP, 860 OPS
I'm still a big fan - Dunn's improved plate discipline suggests an even brighter future than a year ago, if anything - but like I said before the season, guys who are very young, very tall and have a big uppercut tend to have big slumps, like hitting .186/.345/.338 since the All-Star break. Dunn wasn't immune to the growing pains after all.
Scientists are studying what is sure to be a controversial, and as yet unproven, thesis: that multiple sclerosis may be sexually transmitted.
September 18, 2002
BASEBALL: Angels In The Clutch
This Primer item (scroll up from the comments) has some good insights about how clutch hitting has been key to the Angels' resurgance this year.
WAR: Truth Outstrips Fiction
POLITICS: Butting In
BASEBALL: Nasty Buckley
Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald wrote a vicious column attacking Nomar for not hustling. What's that? No, not for that. For not working hard and not being mentally prepared to play, then. What? Not that either. How about for not being willing to play hurt? Nope. For not taking it seriously when the Sox lose? Quite the contrary. Basically, Buckley ripped Nomar for not being more appreciative of the acid-tongued Boston media and the atmosphere they labor to build among the fans. Anyway, Bill Simmons has the goods on Buckley in his latest newsletter, excerpted on the Projo boards, and some of the regular Projo posters have some interesting comments as well, speculating among other things about whether the Sox owners may be scheming to dump Manny Ramirez' salary (link requires registration). Boston Sports Media Watch also does a number on Buckley.
WAR: Stranger Than Fiction
Instapundit led me to two great links I just had to pass along: a piece in the Onion detailing Al Qaeda's latest atrocity (the report quotes the CIA director as commenting, "it seems the full scope of their depravity had barely been imagined"), and one that should have been satire: an item picked up by Little Green Footballs about unemployed members of the Palestinian security service who, in a bid to get their jobs back, took some "international peace activists" hostage.
BASKETBALL: More Dele
ESPN has more on the Bison Dele story.
BLOG: Quiet Period
There's much to blog about, from the revival of Jeromy Burnitz to the retirement of Patrick Ewing to the endgame of the propaganda war in Iraq, but I've just got to finish my long-overdue next Projo column, and with a busy week at work, writing time is in short supply. Expect the blog to go quiet most of the rest of this week.
WAR: Heroes Too
Well, a quick link to one good one, from this morning's paper: Michael Daly on the heroism of four Pakistani cops wounded while capturing Ramzi Binalshibh. Maybe many of our allies are fickle, but we should nonetheless honor the heroes in every nation who will risk their lives, and sometimes give them, for the war on terror.
September 17, 2002
WAR: Fair Weather Allies
Nobody should be so unilateralist that they refuse help when it is offered, so we can look forward to more PR shots like this one. But what we have to condition ourselves to instead is being ingrates, accepting help with one hand while slapping around uncooperative 'allies' with the other. It sounds nasty, but what it boils down to is this: the United States is a good friend to democracies -- but our friendships with tyrants are always fair-weather. They should never get comfortable. Treat them as the cops treat an informant -- cut good-for-today deals, no guarantees that we won't kick your door in later. Because we're two-faced? No, because you're a crook.
LAW/POLITICS: Tobacco War Profiteers
Dave Barry is back to one of his favorite targets, the War on Tobacco:
"[L]et's review how the War On Tobacco works. The underlying principle, of course, is: Tobacco Is Bad. It kills many people, and it causes many others to smell like ashtrays in a poorly janitored bus station.
So a while ago, politicians from a bunch of states were scratching their heads, trying to figure out what to do about the tobacco problem. One option, of course, was to say: ''Hey, if people want to be stupid, it's none of our business.'' But of course that was out of the question. Politicians believe EVERYTHING is their business, which is why -- to pick one of many examples -- most states have elaborate regulations governing who may, and who may not, give manicures.
Another option was to simply make selling cigarettes illegal, just like other evil activities, such as selling heroin, or giving unlicensed manicures, or operating lotteries (except, of course, for lotteries operated by states). But the politicians immediately saw a major flaw with this approach: It did not provide any way for money to be funneled to politicians.
And so they went with option three, which was to file lawsuits against the tobacco companies. The underlying moral principle of these lawsuits was: ``You are knowingly selling a product that kills tens of thousands of our citizens each year. We want a piece of that action!''"
Mark Steyn is in the zone again, mocking Canadian P.M. Cretien and the whole monotonous 'root cause' crowd, including a certain former President:
"Call me an "arrogant cowboy" but I honestly think I am blameless for the First Crusade. It was 1095. That's 907 years. Even Paula Jones would have settled. By comparison, the Japanese fought a filthy war, beheading the 22 British watchkeepers on Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands and burning their bodies in a pit, but less than 60 years later, Britain and Japan sit side by side at G8 meetings. If ever there was an occasion for the great Clintonian invocation that "we need to move on," a grudge over 1095 is surely it."
Read the whole thing, it's a hoot.
POP CULTURE: Monk Will Return
ABC is bring back "Monk," the quirky whodunit starring Tony Shahloub of "Wings" and "Men in Black" as a detective with a severely advanced obsessive/compulsive disorder. I've seen it a few times, and it's a good show; it also fills a niche, for the lighter mystery show of the "Murder, She Wrote" or "Columbo" variety, a genre that's not that big with 18-24-year-old TV viewers, but that should draw good ratings nonetheless. Kudos to the network both for correcting a mistaken decision to pass on the show and for putting something on the air that's neither tailored to the under-25 crowd nor a sop to the Emmy voters, but is just good entertainment.
Interesting theological debate between Mike Potemra at NRO's Corner and Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe over whether Christians can or should forgive the unrepentant. Ignore Jacoby's rhetorical flourish about the heinous nature of terrorism; Christians are all on common ground that no matter how bad the sin, it can be forgiven by the grace of God. Ignore Jacoby's references to Dennis Prager, who argues persuasively that forgiveness comes only after repentance. Prager is on solid secular ethical ground, and I'm not in position to judge his references to Jewish law, but Prager is not a Christian and not speaking as one. The core question is a fascinating one; Potemra is probably right, but every instinct of our human nature fights against this conclusion. At the minimum, even if we try to forgive, we must contiune to pray that sinners see and abandon the error of their ways.
BASEBALL: Dodger Blues
Things are looking fairly grim for the Dodgers with the loss of both Kevin Brown & Kaz Ishii for the season.
BASKETBALL: Bison Dele
French authorities are searching for Bison Dele, the emotionally troubled center formerly known as Brian Williams (no relation to the NBC anchor); Dele and his girlfriend haven't been heard from since early July and were last seen aboard his sailboat, the "Hakuna Matata," whcih has resurfaced without a trace of the two or of the boat's skipper. The authorities are apparently searching for Dele's brother for questioning and suspect foul play.
WAR: Victory or Doom?
The Wall Street Jounal hosts a lively debate about how the war is going; yesterday, Mark Helprin argued that Bush has failed to identify the enemy, build up the military, and use it before our enemies could regroup; today, Victor Davis Hanson argues that "the first year of the present war has been a spectacular success--one rarely paralleled in military history." I'm sympathetic to both views, and both have their partisans on the Right. Helprin has been arguing for many years that we are dangerously disarmed, unable to sustain repeated or extensive military operations; Hanson has argued since the outset last September that our cultural and technological advantages would overwhelm our enemies as Western societies have done to non-Western societies since the dawn of war.
On one level, Helprin's view grates on me because I don't buy into the idea, which has much currency on the Left as well, that war is not war unless the whole of society is conscripted and asked to sacrifice. The logical end point is Orwell's argument that onlt a socialist society can fight effectively. (It is true that we need to make some sacrifices at the airport, but that's another issue). A society should sacrifice only so much liberty as is essential to the war effort. Even his argument that we should measure our commitment to the military by percentages of GNP or GDP (I'm skeptical because he switches between the two in mid-analogy) makes some assumptions that need to be justified. After all, as the wealth of our society has increased dramatically over the past 22 years, we have had to spend a smaller percentage of that wealth on certain necessities, like food and shelter and clothing and energy; why should it require a fixed percentage to keep our forces strong and vigilant? I'm not saying Helprin's wrong; the rise in the nation's wealth has not even kept pace with other costs, like health care and education, and maybe the same is true of the military. But the percentages alone don't prove the point (for a more detailed version of Helprin's argument, and one that occasioned much debate at the time, see his April 22 cover story in the National Review).
At any rate, it is entirely legitimate to ask why Bush seems to think that the force we need to subdue Iraq is only a fifth of the size of the Gulf War forces, which after all had a more limited objective than unconditional surrender and regime change. Let's go down the list:
1. Saddam's forces are a shell of their former selves. This is certainly true; beyond the average Iraqi's hatred of the regime there is the simple fact that we killed something on the order of a quarter of a million of his best men last time around, taking with them much in equipment, and we have since impoverished his country. Saddam's pursuit of WMD means that we're not the only ones skimping on conventional forces.
2. We have grown stronger. This, too, risks arrogance, but American technology has made gigantic strides since 1991, as we saw in Afghanistan.
3. Bush prizes speed and surprise over massed forces. This is the Israeli lesson; Arab armies are most vulnerable to surprise and maneuver because they are poorly organized and poorly led. A big force requires a big buildup; a smaller one can move faster, requiring Saddam to either abandon most of the country or try to defend every possible avenue at once.
4. Diplomatic and internal political obstacles prevented us from massing the forces we wanted, where we wanted. In other words, it's the Saudis' fault. I hope this is not true, but suspect it was part of the calculation.
5. Saddam's WMD capacity is sufficiently worrisome that we want to keep our forces dispersed and not establish basis close to Iraq. The Saudis may also, not unreasonably, take this view. If it's true, though, that only strengthens the case for war.
September 16, 2002
WAR: Buzzflash Goes Over The Edge
Buzzflash.com is selling "Bush Knew" bumperstickers. I kid you not. Sadly, the site reminds you that the price is not tax-deductible. I guess those should go with the "McKinney for Congress" ones.
WAR: Speak at Your Own Risk
InstaPundit thinks the CIA is putting Al-Jazeera in an untenable position by using contacts between terrorists and the network to catch the terrorists. Good for them.
WAR: The Game Starts Anew
The Iraqis are now ready to accept weapons inspectors, who would be starting completely from scratch now that Saddam has had 4 years to hide stuff. This is all part of the charade, designed to peel off at least the reluctant U.S. allies like the Saudis or at least create more delay and discord.
POLITICS: Mitt Romney vs. The GOP
Mitt Romney, running for Massachusetts governor, is in a strange position: he's fighting in his own party primary to get his pick of running mates against an extremely well-financed challenger who has won the GOP nomination for statewide office once before (both Ronmey and Rapaport have run unsuccessful campaigns for the Senate). Here's one columnist arguing that Romney will be better off if his choice loses.
POLITICS/SCIENCE: Further Inquiry May Be Required
A column on Tech Central Station says the pro-life movement's latest grasp at scientific support, a study purporting to show a link between women having abortions and suffering death from various causes (homicide, suicide) within the following year has too many holes to prove much. The point is well-taken, but two caveats here: (1) like most findings favorable to the pro-life movement, this one was barely reported in the mainstream press, so it didn't do the kind of damage we see from left-wing junk science, which often results in blaring headlines, new government regulations, and waves of litigation driving substantial companies into bankruptcy; and (2) the author doesn't show that the study is wrong, just that it's inconclusive. Further inquiry may be required, which is basically the conclusion of most stories about science anyway (in fact, that could be a good motto for science generally).
LAW: Late Breaking News
Late breaking news here in Manhattan: a shooting at an office building on 40th Street near Broadway.
WAR: Saudis Tagging Along
The Saudis are grudgingly agreeing to go along with the war on Iraq if the UN agrees. Score another victory for Bush outwitting people who are supposed to be far more schooled at intrigue.
POLITICS/WAR: Voting On The Welfare Continent
Gerhard Schroeder is looking to buy votes with taxpayer money. His opponents have decided to make the welfare state's support for immigrant religious fanatics an issue. But the Swedes are sticking to their beloved welfare state.
POP CULTURE: Graduated From Show Business
Jerry Seinfeld tells the Sunday NY Times, in a long profile, that "I've kind of graduated from show business. I have no further need of this business. It's not about money any more, and it's not about fame. Now, it's just about maintaining a creative arc."
WAR/SCIENCE: Anthrax Survivors
For all its many faults, the NY Times still has the depth and resources to do stories of real importance. In this one, the Times asks what happened to the people who got anthrax and lived to tell about it.
BASEBALL: The Smoking Gun
Well, to give one of the main answers to my question about the Red Sox:
John Burkett, April-July (Red Sox 13-5 in his 18 starts):
10-3, 3.77 ERA, 6.24 IP/G, 1.2 HR/9, 2.48 BB/9, 6.49 K/9, .299 balls in play avg.*
August-September (Red Sox 2-7 in his 9 starts):
1-5, 7.86 ERA, 4.96 IP/G, 1.81 HR/9, 2.82 BB/9, 6.04 K/9, .362 balls in play avg.*
*-((H) - (HR))/(Balls in Play). Number of Balls in Play approximated from ((IP*3) + (H)) - ((HR) + (K)).
In other words, Burkett's game has deteriorated in every respect since August 1, but most dramatically in the area where he has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball history throughout his career: frequency of balls in play becoming hits.
POLITICS: LABELS, ANYONE?
CNN describes conservative critics of Bill O'Reilly as "the same ideologues who helped make the Fox News Channel personality one of the most popular figures on cable television." Would Donahue's fan be described the same way? And Kausfiles catches the NY Times calling Pete Domenici, practically the paradigm of the Old Bull Republican who's often at odds with party conservatives, a "hard line conservative." Kaus shoots back by calling the NYT editors "blindered Upper West Side rube[s]."
BASEBALL: A Class By Themselves
Only 9 pitchers in the AL have ERAs below 3.67, and only 3 below 3.01. That puts Pedro, Zito and Lowe on a different plane from everyone else. Tell me again how you miss the playoffs with two of those three, and Manny Ramirez hitting .340, and Nomaaaah healthy all year?
And honestly, when you were talking about hot rookies before the season, who do you know that said "watch out for Rodrigo Lopez?"
Yes, in my last Projo column, I forgot to mention the Phillies as a team that has been utterly eviscerated by their bullpen.
WAR: Six Degrees
Turns out that Tim McVeigh's home town is crawling with Muslim fanatics linked to Al Qaeda. What's the sound of one shoe dropping?
WAR: Unasked Questions
Mark Steyn tells tales from the urban legend that Muslim kids in New York knew in advance about the World Trade Center attacks, and asks why the media hasn't followed up. Among other things, he implies that the Rockland/Westchester Journal News fired or demoted a reporter for a story showing that at least one Brooklyn student told his teacher a week earlier that "See those two buildings? They won't be standing there next week." This strikes me as odd - Rockland County (where I grew up) is heavily Jewish, even heavily Hasidic (its congressman, House International Relations Chairman Benjamin Gilman, is fiercely pro-Israel). Granted, the Journal News is owned by the national Gannett chain, which may be more susceptible to pressure groups . . . there's got to be more to the story.
September 15, 2002
POLITICS: Shifting Control
The indispensable Bob Novak reports that Missouri Republicans are plotting some legal hijinks as payback for the shenanigans that got Jean Carhanan into the Senate and John Ashcroft into the Justice Department, and the result could make Trent Lott the majority leader again before Christmas and force a flurry of votes on judicial nominees:
"If Republican Jim Talent defeats appointive Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan Nov. 5 in Missouri, the GOP is determined to seat him immediately -- restoring a Republican majority for a post-election "lame duck" session. Present polls show former Rep. Talent has overtaken Carnahan, the widow of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan who posthumously defeated Sen. John Ashcroft in 2000. Secretary of State Matt Blunt (son of House Chief Deputy Whip Roy Blunt) would immediately certify Talent as U.S. senator. It is considered unlikely that Democratic Gov. Bob Holden, who narrowly defeated Talent for the governorship in 2000, would block the certification from reaching Washington. That would produce a bitter Senate confrontation, particularly if Democrats retain Senate control for the regular session beginning in 2003. A lame duck session is probable because Congress will not approve funding for the government before the election."
Novak's last item also shows why New York's splintered multi-party ballots are so malleable as to be susceptible to all sorts of tricks.
WAR: The Big Connection
The British may be ready to make the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection:
"A draft version of the dossier, due to be presented to Parliament by Prime Minister Tony Blair on Sept 24, allegedly claims that Abu Zubair, believed to be in custody in the United States, and Rafid Fatah, still at large, were trained in Iraq and sent to work with al Qaida in Afghanistan. The dossier also reportedly discloses satellite evidence that Saddam has reconstructed three plants to manufacture biological and chemical weapons together with 'worrying activity" at them, according to the Sunday Telegraph report."
An Instapundit reader has a great Noam Chomsky joke.
More traffic comes in from a link by David Pinto over at his Baseball Musings blog. I'll add Pinto to the blogs on the left next time I'm doing a big update.
BASEBALL: So Much For The School System
Ken Rosenthal notices that Mike Hampton, "who cited the strength of Denver-area schools when he signed with the Rockies in December 2000, is selling his home in Evergreen, Co., and his family has returned to Houston." Rosenthal speculates that Hampton could be dealt to the Astros, Cubs or maybe Cardinals.
LAW: Shine On You . . .
NY Daily News picks up a bizarre and explosive allegation. Justice Marylin Diamond, a New York State Supreme Court justice (in NY, that's the primary trial court), has had 24-hour police protection for 3 years due to threatening letters. The News claims that a law enforcement source says that a 'profiler' has analyzed the letters and concluded that Justice Diamond wrote them herself. You should read the story yourself; as a lawyer practicing in Manhattan, I'm not going to characterize it any further myself.
September 13, 2002
WAR: High Standards
On the plus side, charging our own soldiers with crimes for friendly fire deaths on the battlefield shows how the U.S. is, well, not at all like our enemies. On the minus side, this sort of thing shouldn't be done lightly. Frankly, I'm not sure from the wire report whether this is egregious enough to justify charges, since a lot depends on whether the men were under any sort of a reasonable belief that it was impossible to safely follow the rules of engagement.
POLITICS: WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES
That was the Election-Day headline that sank Senator Bedfellow in the comic strip Bloom County. Will the jury verdit in favor of a convicted drug trafficker who sued Bill Simon's investment firm -- a verdict that's now been reversed after Gray Davis used it to paint Simon as a crook? Unlike Senator Bedfellow, Simon now has two months to set the record straight, although doing so keeps him on the defensive and perpetuates Davis' campaign to run from his own record. I'd still like to know more about this case, which, just from press accounts, sounds like a run-of-the-mill second-guessing-an-investment-gone-bad suit that, if anything, highlights the need for tort reform in plaintiff-friendly California.
BASEBALL: Mel Rojas
Watching Expos reliever TJ Tucker get pounded by the bottom of the Mets' order last night -- towering homer by .212-hitting Jeromy Burnitz, followed by the first career homer by Jason Phillips, followed by a double by Rey Ordonez, followed by a double by .164-hitting Brady Clark -- had Howie Rose bringing back memories of Mel Rojas. My favorite Rojas moment was the outing, on his way out of the majors, when Rojas managed to give up 9 earned runs in an outing where he threw just 11 pitches. But it also had Frank Robinson wearing a look on his face that said "two more weeks and I'm never having anything to do with this ballclub again." Robinson's still a fine manager as far as tactics and the like, and on the whole he will bring Montreal in with a better record than anyone expected this season. But you definitely got the sense this season that he didn't have the fire in the belly to keep up his old intensity -- which was much on display during the Expos' early season surge -- for a full season.
WAR: CASE CLOSED
There's been an unreal quality about the whole Iraq debate, arising from the gulf between the real, practical considerations for going to war and the legal arguments, under international and U.S. law, for doing so in a way that will bring Congress and the U.N. with us. The real reasons include Saddam's motive to use terrorist proxies and weapons of mass destruction against us, his opportunity to do so, the interconnection between Saddam's tyranny and aggressiveness and the general cesspool of government in the Muslim and Arab worlds and the positive example of fear we set by taking out our #1 declared enemy among nation-states. The legal arguments, by contrast, include the pre-existing Congressional and U.N. resolutions authorizing force, the legal and practical fact that we remain at war with him by virtue of his violation of cease-fire conditions and the unabated hostilities over the no-fly zone, and specifically Saddam's noncompliance with weapons inspections. Eventually, as with all fictions, this fiction will collapse under its own weight; international law will have to be brought up to date with the post-Cold War world, in recognition of the changed nature of force and threats.
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BUT THE ALARMISTS who say that Bush is trampling the old order now are missing a criticial point: even under the old rules, we've got the goods on Saddam. The people, domestically and otherwise, calling on Bush to "make the case" have fallen into four groups. Group One is the people like McCain and Lieberman, and some conservative commentators, who think that Bush's underlings have already laid out a persuasive case for war but think that the President needs to put his own prestige behind the argument to make sure the nation and the world are really with us. Group Two are the people who are open to persusasion but think there hasn't been enough evidence laid out yet. Tony Blair started out in this group but is now almost out in front of Bush. Group Three are the weathervanes -- people who will go along if and only if they are convinced that Bush has popular and world opinion behind him. Many congressional Democrats are in this boat, and Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin are as well (although Putin may be more interested in horse-trading for practical concessions than in international popular opinion, which has never been a big factor in Russian foreign policy). Group Four are the people, like the New York Times, who are simply immune to persuasion but prefer to couch their opposition in terms of a failure by the President.
Bush will get Groups One and Three, particularly since the general popoulation here in the U.S. seems largely to be in either Group One or the enough-talking-already-let's-start-bombing crowd. Hopefully yesterday he started winning over Group Two. But to do so without changing the way principles of international relations are viewed, he needs to convince them, as he began doing with his masterful closing argument before the U.N., that the question is not whether we can meet the heavy burden of developing a casus belli from scratch. Bush is not a prosecutor overcoming the presumption of innocence; he's the exasperated parole officer of a guy who's violated all the conditions of his probation. And he made it quite plain that the international community has to understand that if Saddam gets away with this, the U.N. will never be able to put anyone on probation again.
Of course, if you believe that the real mistake of the Gulf War was leaving Saddam in power, maybe that's not such a bad conclusion, either. In essence, Bush turned the "bad precedent" argument -- the idea that war against Saddam means unilateral U.S. authority to attack anybody who hates us -- on its head: If you want the U.S. to keep playing by the old rules, you have to enforce them. If not, we're taking your gun and your badge.
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BASEBALL: Zumsteg v. Selig
Derek Zumsteg can't write a column without blaming Bud Selig.
RELIGION: St. Ned
FoxNews says serious Christians are so desperate for TV role models that they've adopted Ned Flanders.
POLITICS: Liar, Liar
Alberto Gonzales calls Chuck Schumer a liar. Not a good way for a Supreme Court hopeful to ingratiate himself with a prominent member of the majority on the Judiciary Committee.
POLITICS: Florida Forever
Janet Reno "has refused to concede" . . . this story just cracks me up.
BASEBALL: Bill James on the AL MVP
Bill James says A-Rod should be AL MVP. I agree with this, although James doesn't really have much analysis here so much as folksy wisdom. His description of his thought process is a nice one:
"What I do for a living, basically, is to pick up issues like this, and shake them violently until two things fall out:
1. The essential question embodied in the issue, and ...
Unfortunately, there's not much of that in this James column. I was actually surprised that this piece didn't generate more ire from some of the regular commenters at Baseball Primer, many of whom often try to build themselves up by chopping at the great man's comments. The eighth commenter here expands well on one of James' distinctions, with which I completely agree:
"I think what James is trying to articulate (even if he isn't 100% clear on this) is that there is a difference between value and ability. Many of us here would argue that Bret Boone's performance in 2001 had more to do with luck than ability, but there shouldn't be any debate that the results of his performance had exceptional value to the Mariners. To pick another recent example: in 1999, Chipper Jones more or less buried the Mets in late September with a stunning performance in three games. That performance greatly increased the Braves chances of winning the division, and Chipper deserved to be recognized for that performance, regardless of whether it indicated a special ability.
Anyway, the point is that Tejada has had value beyond what his "true" ability may be, but there's no way he can make up the gap in performance between him and A-Rod. I doubt any of us would argue with that."
September 12, 2002
WAR: I Remember
Just back from out of town & catching up. I wasn't going to watch any of the commemorations last night, but I was watching waiting for the President to come on, and wound up getting sucked in to a special on the WTC part of the attacks Channel 11 in DC (not sure what station) built around interviews with Rudy and his aides . . . it all came back. I was so angry I couldn't speak. They showed all the bad stuff - the people jumping, the planes hitting the towers, the collapses, the cloud of debris, and the ultimately futile rescue effort from every angle. What came through most strongly was how completely unjustified it all was, how innocent the targets, and how rotten to the core you would have to be to contemplate this. AND, how in many ways even more rotten you'd have to be to see it unfold and celebrate. Remember, remember who our enemies are. They tried to kill me once, they may try again. Or next time, they may be after you.
September 11, 2002
September 10, 2002
WAR: Remembering Tomorrow
I'll be traveling tomorrow (such a great day to travel, too!) and Thursday, so the blog may be quiet for a spell. I'll repost the link here to my September 14, 2001 Projo column, which told my September 11 story while it was still fresh:
BASEBALL: THIS DAY IN 1994
THIS DAY IN 1994, there was no baseball for the 30th consecutive day. Tell me again why the lastest labor agreement is worse than the alternative?
WAR: Ledeen's Credibility
The New York Sun , a paper that is still finding its voice, has an interesting qualifier about the hawk di tutti hawks and archenemy of the Iranian mullahs, Michael Ledeen: in the 1980s, he worked for the Reagan Administration, helping trade arms to Iran for hostages. I agree with the Sun, however, that Ledeen's analysis remains sound. But there are times I wonder about his sources. In his latest on NRO, Ledeen argues that "Tehran has made contingency plans to attack us if we were to invade Iraq (as have the Syrians, by the way, and all have been promised assistance from the Saudis)." Is this really a matter of public record? I don't exactly expect that the Syrian military has Ledeen on its speed dial. He may be right, but he is so often alone in his reports that I wonder where his information comes from.
WAR: The Conspiracy Punts
The conspiracy theorists will be crushed at Osama bin Laden's failure to get this job.
WAR: Who Do They Hate?
I just can't agree with the thesis of this NRO analysis and similar pieces to the effect that our enemies are likely to expend much energy (in the near term) attacking other nations. Nobody else sticks in their craw the way the U.S. does, and the parroting of the Euroweenie line on so many issues by Arab despots and their media/religious mouthpieces suggests that they may understand that the best long-run strategy is to divide the West and demoralize its fighting spirit, rather than turn Paris into Columbia, South Carolina with cheese. Many of our allies can be seduced into inaction, including by political opportunism. A terror campaign in Europe might change that.
HISTORY: Buried Valor
On the subject of the French, if you wanted a reason for the cultural decline of the martial spirit in France, think about the military families and veterans organizations, even in such a demilitarized culture as the U.S., that helps keep that spirit alive. Then think about the wholesale slaughter of France's best fighting men in several wars, stretching from the decimation of Napoleon's Grand Armee (Paul Johnson's biography tells of how his best troops were massacred by close-quarters cannon fire at Waterloo) to Verdun. I'm not going to get all Social Darwinist here, but the loss of so many men of any inclination to soldier had to have a depressing impact on the culture's tolerance for battle, one that Americans (even given the bloodletting of the Civil War) can scarcely imagine.
Anyway, that's one thought that came to mind in this fascinating Newsweek/MSNBC story on the discovery of a mass grave of Napoleon's army in Vilnius, in Lithuania. And there's a modern touch, too: the Lithuanians, bless their hearts, want to exploit the grave to further their campaign to get into the EU. Commercialism is the best revenge.
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Look Who Came To Visit
The Hall of Fame's admission standards are really dropping, aren't they? OK, forget that stuff about moving on.
Speaking of the Clintons, Eugene Volokh and Instapundit have blown the whistle on what really should be a big story: Viacom's doctoring of the tapes of the September 11 tribute concert last fall to make it appear that my state's junior Senator was cheered rather than jeered by the families of the cops and firemen.
WAR: Obsessive Clinton-Bashing
Martin Peretz still blames Slick Willie for all the Middle East's ills. We Republicans have moved on.
POLITICS: Blame . . . uh. . .
I picked up this story about Florida's continuing voter woes from The Corner - of course, something like this would never have happened when Janet Reno was Attorney General.
POLITICS: Ideas, Anyone?
Speaking of TAP's political content, this analysis of Cynthia McKinney's loss is typical TAP stuff -- lots of innuendo and a reluctant conclusion that maybe things are as they seem after all -- but what dismays me is the tendency, in discussions of politics in the African-American community (I don't know if this is driven by the media, the grass roots, or just the people disaffected enough to talk to the papers) to look solely at who a candidate's friends are and a few bellwether issues, and not have any kind of debate about ideas and their consequences.
SCIENCE: Gould and His Critics
The American Prospect has an interesting article on the brilliant and controversial (and recently departed) evolutionary biologist Steven Jay Gould and his critics in the sciences. Stuff like this helps fill out a quality magazine, although the nature of TAP's political content makes it an improbable candidate to carry quality writing on a consistent basis.
BASEBALL: Most Valuable?
C'mon, how hard is this really?
Gun enthusiasts take a moment of silence: Uzi is dead. The AP's obit comments dryly: "The 9-mm weapon has became [sic] a mainstay of armies and secret services from Jerusalem to Washington. It has also proven very popular among criminals in many countries and has appeared in many action movies."
BASEBALL: Defensive Tear
Glove work is usually thought of as a constant in baseball, and certainly not something a team can turn around in mid-season -- but Baseballjunkie.net points out that the A's have done just that, rocketing from 12th to 2nd in the AL in team defense since mid-June.
WAR: International Opinion
Cal Thomas points out that "An opinion poll conducted by the League of Nations in the late 1930s found over 90 percent of the British people favored international disarmament." Of course, disarmament should have been redundant, what with the Kellogg-Briand Pact having outlawed war . . .
LAW: Federalism's Edge, Part II
Following up on my point about Federalism's Edge -- the tipping point at which a state's assertion of power threatens other states' autonomy -- take a look at this Michael Barone piece on the Supreme Court's upcoming look at punitive damage awards, as well as another case trying to swim upstream to get certiorari granted (in any individual civil case, the odds are extremely long, in the 100-to-1 neighborhood if I remember right) to prevent a West Virginia court from using what Barone describes as a coercive procedure to force settlement of nationwide asbestos claims. The main federalism aspect here, which seems like one that may intrigue the current Court if it wishes to make more explicit the extraterritoriality analysis of BMW v. Gore, is the notion that a state is overreaching if it allows punitive awards calculated on the basis of a defendant's nationwide/worldwide operations rather than its operations in the state.
If you think about it, this was also at least a subtext in one of the Warren Court's most famous decisions, New York Times v. Sullivan, the case that imposed a constitutional requirement that a libel suit against a public figure must show "malice" (generally, knowledge of the falsity of the libelous statement). As any First Amendment afficionado can tell you, one of the egregious things about the Sullivan case was that an Alabama jury (like the one in BMW v. Gore) imposed liability exceeding the Times' operating revenues from sales in Alabama. It was this disproportion that presented the factual setting of Sullivan as being so threatening to free expression: the idea that a national newspaper could be silenced from speaking on the civil rights movement by a single Southern state. It was, in short, a state action that passed over Federalism's Edge.
You thought the A's 20-game win streak was big? This blogger, in a long, detailed piece, says you should take a gander at baseball's first openly professional team, the 1869-70 Cincinnati Red Stockings, which tore through their semi-pro and amateur competition to the Harlem Globetrotter-like tune of 75 wins in a row, ultimately laying the foundation for Organized Base Ball to be founded in earnest with the National Association of 1871. He even has stats!
SCIENCE: Fuel Cell Caveats
The history books are littered with people who said "can't be done" or, oh, say, "there will never be a market for personal computers." But this report on fuel cell technology as an alternative to the Nectar of the Sauds suggests that, until a big breakthrough no one can presently envision comes down the pike, we're stuck living in the present.
WAR: McCain Makes The Case
Not everyone who's been calling for the President to "make the case" -- which to me, really just means getting on national TV to repeat a lot of what Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice have said already, plus presenting some classified info to key Congresspersons to make them feel important -- is against widening the war in Iraq. John McCain manages to lay out pro-war arguments side by side with a call for Bush to get out in front and get Congress behind him. In fact, McCain's vision of "the armies and ideals of the righteous" fighting for "a love that is invincible" is more radical in some respects than what the President has (publicly) endorsed; his logic would seem to lead even to Beijing, although I'm sure he's too prudent to follow it that far. A few excerpts (emphasis mine):
"Our enemies have as their cause the spread of a political-religious empire based on a perverted interpretation of Islam that substitutes a lust for violence for a love of peace."
"Terrorism's appeal will endure where people have no experience with the fruits of self-government. We cannot counter it by advocating freedom only where it couldn't unsettle economic and security relationships with undemocratic regimes. Until all the world's remaining despotic regimes--be they profoundly cruel or in some respects more benevolent--are replaced by democratically committed regimes, terrorism will always find new adherents, and the threat to America's security and ideals will persist. Change has come to Afghanistan. It must be protected there. But change must also come to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Iran, the Palestinian Authority and wherever nations are ordered to exalt the few at the expense of the many."
"Our regional allies who oppose using force against Saddam Hussein warn of uncontrollable popular hostility to an American attack on Iraq. But what would really be the effect on Arab populations of seeing other Arabs liberated from oppression? Far from fighting to the last Iraqi, the people of that tortured society will surely dance on the regime's grave. . . Perhaps that is what truly concerns some of our Gulf War allies: that among the consequences of regime change in Iraq might be a stronger demand for self-determination from their own people."
BASEBALL: The Crawl of Progress
Ooooh, some people will be very excited by this: On tonight's radio broadcast, Mets broadcasters Ted Robinson and Gary Cohen were arguing about lineup construction, and Robinson actually used the word "sabermetricians" on air and cited studies -- and Cohen responded by talking about OPS. The mainstream media is catching on, bit by bit.
WAR: O'Reilly and Saudi Shenanigans
I don't have a lot to say myself on this dispute, but Bill O'Reilly tells his side, and the Wall Street Journal tells its side, of the flap over the recent O'Reilly show on a woman whose daughters (then children, now adults) were taken to Saudi Arabia. While it does sound like O'Reilly was used, my gut level instinct here is that now that these women are adults, there are simply better fights to make an international incident over. I'd hate to tell the mother to 'get over it,' but this really isn't the right place to draw our line in the Rub al Khali. (Neither is the preponderance of Saudis among the hijackers. Don't follow the foot soldiers. Follow the money, and the newspapers and imams it pays for).
WAR: Opening Salvo
Jonah Goldberg has a great suggestion for how Bush should begin his speech to the UN on Thursday: "Let me explain why we bombed Iraq yesterday...."
September 9, 2002
LAW: Truth? What Truth?
This gossipy New York Law Journal article contains this brilliant one-sentence summary of the pitfalls of being sued for defamation:
"Of course, truth is a defense, but nobody wants to litigate a case to the point where truth matters."
WAR: 9/11 IS NO JOKE IN OUR TOWN
People say things are back to normal, but it's easy to say; it was also not unusual on Friday when I overheard people on the train platform talking about what would be a likely terrorist target this past weekend. Yeah, and how 'bout those Mets, and isn't it great weather we're having? My brain still can't process that September 11 is a Wednesday; it seems like it just has to be a Tuesday, especially since this Tuesday is Primary Day once again, and it was the primary last year that kept me from being at my desk at my office in the World Trade Center -- or worse yet, in the lobby where the jet fuel sent balls of fire careening around shortly after impact -- on that day. The new "normal" may not look so different from the old, and on the surface it doesn't feel so terribly different, except that I still turn to news of the war before I turn to the sports pages in the morning. But make no mistake: we are still at war, and here in New York, everyone (except maybe a few zealots in Times Square) knows it.
WAR: I'M STILL STANDING
I got my hair cut over the weekend, and the barber shop shares space with a nail salon (yeah, Italian barbers and Korean nail ladies under the same roof - that's New York). The nail salon, for several years, has had a big cheesy mirror on the wall in the shape of a skyline, with the Twin Towers dominating the set. All over New York, we see the same thing: businesses big and small, from Time Warner cable trucks to small businesses with awnings and window stencils with the New York skyline, the unmistakable silouhette of the Towers standing at silent attention, going about their business as if nothing had changed. It pleases me, even, to see the towers holding up one end of the Chock Full O'Nuts coffee can.
Now, as big a fan of Rudy as I am, I have to disagree with him and with the victims' families who want nothing big built on the Trade Center site. Those towers were New York's signature, the most distinctive feature of the skyline; Manhattan today looks as if it had its front teeth knocked in, which essentially it did. You can't always tell just from looking at film footage now that it's New York. And they were also a booming hub of finance and commerce, providing more than 50,000 jobs and supporting many others. Both the symbolism of hieght and distinctiveness and the practical power of the Trade Center's role in the economy are what was targeted. I may be far down the list of victims -- all I really lost was my office and everything in it -- but it kills me to think that the City will let all those jobs float away, and will content itself to re-writing its John Hancock in tiny, meek letters.
Hundreds of people died at the Pentagon, and people there went back to work the next day. Not out of a lack of respect, but out of necessity -- there was a war to plan -- and a sense of duty. The dead at the Pentagon have not thereby been disrespected. New York is not the command center of this war, but its symbolic and financial importance should not be neglected. People here are doing their part just by coming back to work, gabbing idly about the big bullseye on the City's back. Rebuilding the Trade Center as something both distinctive and economically productive is part of the war effort, too.
BASEBALL: Hot Streak To Nowhere
The Mets are hot, in the true sense of "too little too late." The rookies and youngsters -- Ty Wigginton, Raul Gonzalez, Vance Wilson -- are playing well, but none of these guys is really that much of a long-term prospect. This would be the moment for excoriating the team for trading away the gems of the system, but really, there never were any. Still, looking at the laundry list of guys with high numbers on their odometers and untradeable contracts, unless the Rangers get a sudden urge to dump the $252 Million Man for way less than market value (i.e., a package built around Alomar and Ordonez -- and I'd take A-Rod and Wigginton over Alomar and Ordonez any day of the week), the Mets are staring down a long, darkening hall of their own creation, with no glimmer of recovery on the horizon.
BLOG: Talk Like A Pirate
Dave Barry wrote a bizarre (even for him) column Saturday on "Talk Like A Pirate Day." It got me wondering: were there ever actual pirates who talked anything like this, used any expressions like "avast, ye mateys?" If so, how did they wind up talking like that? If not, where did the theatrical stereotype of 'pirate talk' come from? Without having read the book or studied the issue, I'm guessing Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," but I could be wrong.
BLOG: For Your Reading Pleasure
As you may have noticed, I've started putting categories before each post. I know some of you come for the baseball stuff and some for the politics and war stuff, so this should make it easier to find the content you want.
September 8, 2002
LAW/POLITICS: Federalism's Edge, Part I
FEDERALISM is often thought of -- principally by its critics on the Left, but by some fairly zealous conservatives as well -- as synonymous with "States' Rights" as against a powerful federal government. That's a big part of the picture, of course, but it's not the whole story. There's also what I call "Federalism's Edge" - the right of the states to be free of overweening influence by other state governments that seek to impose their public policies on the rest of the nation. After all, a distant and intrusive setter of national policy is no less obnoxious if it's set in Montgomery' Alabama than inside the Beltway. More so, since at least there are SOME mechanisms for controlling Washington.
Federalism's Edge, as much as States' Rights, has been one of the hottest issues of the past decade or so. Whatever you think of the merits, can one state cram gay marriage down the throats of the country? Can one state's Supreme Court decide who gets to be President of the rest of us? Can one or a handful of State Attorneys General, or juries in a few tiny jurisdictions, prescribe codes of conduct for nationwide businesses?
Liberals have long bemoaned what they see as the opposite problem, the "race to the bottom" where states compete to LOWER regulatory burdens, although at least there there's market forces at work rather than ironclad mandates. This is where Jonathan Chait's assault on Delaware, after the fashion of Jonah Goldberg's French-bashing columns, comes in. Personally, from my experience as a business and securities litigator, I think Chait doesn't know much about Delaware's court system if he thinks it's apt to be lax in imposing liability on corporations and their management. But there's an interesting point here: is it inconsistent with Our Federalism for one state to create conditions for what is effectively a national corporate governance regime? And does it say something that corporations seem to WANT the efficiency and stability provided by such a regime?
PART II of this comment to follow later.
WAR: Was Peshawar Warned?
UPI says an ex-Taliban aide is claiming that he warned the US consulate in Peshawar in July 2001 about the coming attacks. What this guy's motives and credibility are is not clear from the wire report. Stay tuned.
September 7, 2002
POLITICS: Too Much Race
Another blog link - check out this item on OxBlog, noticing that even the NAACP is sick of racialist politics when it comes to races between two African-American candidates.
WAR: To High Heaven
I found this one in Instapundit's September 2001 archives: you could see the horrors of September 11 from space.
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Attack Of The Soysage
This priceless item supports OpinionJournal's James Taranto's theory that groups like PETA are actually run by Right-Wing double agents obsessed with getting the worst possible press for their causes. To me, it's just a desperate cry for help. But I can also imagine the bottomless mirth generated for a crowd of your typical brat-and-brew Wisconsin sports fans of watching the "Soysage" get repeatedly pummelled by the, er, meatier sausages like something from the chariot race in Ben-Hur.
BASEBALL: Sue The Expos
Plans to move the Expos are still stalled by litigation. These types of disputes tend to end in monetary settlements (see Doubleday v. Wilpon), but for now the threat is out there.
BASEBALL: Bad News Bobby
Murray Chass has been reading the tea leaves and sees bad things ahead for Bobby Valentine.
September 6, 2002
BLOG: MY FIRST BIG-TIME LINK
It's always fun to get some recognition (and traffic - welcome to all the new visitors). Uber-blogger Andrew Sullivan links to my excerpt from the Second Bush-Gore debate.
BLOG: What's New
My latest column is up over at Projo, on why 2002 is The Year of The Bullpen.
Busy day today at home and at work, so the blog will be pretty quiet for the rest of the day unless I see something that demands a quick link.
BASEBALL: 2002 The Year Of The Bullpen
Originally posted on Projo.com
With the threat of Baseball Armageddon behind us, 2002 will not now be known as The Year Of The Third Strike. Instead, it should be known as The Year Of The Bullpen. Nearly every one of baseball's major stories this season, at a team level, have turned on the bullpen.
Some of the Major Leagues' best bullpens, of course, are no surprise: both the Yankees and Mariners entered the season stocked with well-known, well-paid relievers with extensive track records of success. Both have made good use of those resources. But around the majors, there are teams that have been better (or worse) than expected, and in nearly every case the bullpen has been a critical factor. Let's look at the teams that have been the biggest surprises of 2002:
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1. The Braves
While many people (myself included) predicted the Braves to hang on to their NL East crown, you would have to have looked long and hard before this season to find anyone picking them to have the best record in baseball, cruise to 100+ victories, and run away with the division. Yet, there they are. With at bats being wasted on the likes of Vinny Castilla, Keith Lockhart, Wes Helms, and Henry Blanco, plus Rafael Furcal underachieving and Javy Lopez and Marcus Giles failing to hit, Atlanta is in the bottom half of the National League in scoring. Yes, their starting pitching has been more outstanding even than usual with the revival of Glavine and Millwood and the emergence of Damian Moss (the fifth slot has been unreliable but less so than most teams'), and their defense has been the best in the league at converting balls in play into outs , but neither of these is a big shock. What has transformed the Braves from an ordinary low-scoring pitching team into a juggernaut has been the emergence of a killer bullpen populated largely by guys with (1) no major league track record of success or (2) a long recent record of failure. Here are the combined numbers on the 7 Braves relievers with 40 or more relief appearances this season - John Smoltz, Mike Remlinger, Chris Hammond, Darren Holmes, Kerry Lightenberg, Kevin Gryboski and Tim Spooneybarger:
(All stats through Wednesday's action)
For perspective, the average NL reliever has a 3.83 ERA and has allowed 1.36 baserunners/IP; the average AL reliever has a 4.24 ERA and has allowed 1.41 baserunners/IP. In each league, relievers have thrown approximately a third of their team's innings (oddly, last season NL relievers had a higher ERA than AL, 4.10 to 4.09) . . . also, bear in mind that relievers issue a lot of intentional walks.
2. The Twins
Here we have a classic example of a team where the bullpen -- a perceived weakness of the team before the season -- has made a huge difference. The Twins' have exceeded their Pythagorean W-L record (i.e., the number of games they should mathematically be expected to have won given the number of runs they have scored and allowed) by more than 5 games this season, the second-largest margin in baseball (I'll get to the biggest one below), always a sure sign of a team winning a lot of close games and a lot of games in the late innings. The Twins don't have a terrifying offense; they are ninth in the AL in scoring, they don't have a single hitter who can compete with, say, Manny Ramirez or Nomar as far as season-to-season production, and they've been heavily dependent on unexpected development of outfielders Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones and Bobby Kielty. The team's strength was supposed to be the starting pitching, but beset by injuries, the big three of Brad Radke, Eric Milton and Joe Mays has won just 22 games with a 5.11 ERA. So, how have the Twinkies cruised to such a huge lead in the AL Central that even a recent slump leaves them 12 games ahead in the loss column?
Well, previously unknown J.C. Romero has been one of baseball's most devastatingly effective pitchers, Everyday Eddie Guardado has put a hammerlock on what has been a revolving door closer's job since the departure of Rick Aguilera, and even LaTroy "Line Drive" Hawkins has showcased pinpoint control in the best season he's ever had (although the Players Union's website went a mite far when it said he had "recapture[d] his dominating form"). Bob Wells has had a terrible year (5.66 ERA, 65 hits and 7 HR in 47.2 IP), but otherwise, here once again are the combined numbers on the other 5 Twins relievers to make at least 39 relief appearances this season - Romero, Guardado, Hawkins, Mike Jackson (if there were a Hall of Fame just for setup men . . . ) and Tony Fiore:
(and only 2 unearned runs!)
(It may be objected that I'm skewing the numbers here by picking different samples from different teams, but of course as the season goes on, bullpen roles change, and I'm looking at who has emerged as the key guys on each team).
3. The Angels
The Angels' success has been in the details: the way that four of the five starters (everyone but Aaron Sele) has pitched well; the best defense in the AL at turning balls in play into outs; a career year by Adam Kennedy, a revival by Tim Salmon, and production from several other lineup slots. But this is a team that was not expected to hang with a tough division, the team's putative ace (Sele) has struggled, and of the top 3 hitters on the team (Salmon, Troy Glaus and Darin Erstad), one (Glaus) has had a major off year and another (Erstad) has been very unproductive, with a .319 OBP and has had a complete power outage. But the bullpen, mostly consisting of steady journeymen plus a closer who has been off his game more often than on in recent years, has filled the breach. Here are the combined numbers on the 7 Angels relievers with 20 or more relief appearances this season without making a start (Scott Schoenweis has made 15 starts and 27 relief appearances, with a 5.00 ERA) - Ben Weber, Troy Percival, Al Levine, Dennis Cook, Brendan Donnelly, Lou Pote and Scot Shields (Mike Scioscia has spread out their workloads; none of the 7 has pitched more than 50 times, due also partly to Percival's and Cook's injuries):
4. The Dodgers
Eleventh in the NL in scoring; fourth even in their own division. Their ace starting pitcher reduced to 3-3 with a 4.53 ERA, having started just nine games. Some wonderful starting pitching, led by Odalis Perez, has been a big factor; so has the second-most-effective defense in the NL (see the Baseball Prospectus link above). But the big story has been Eric Gagne, a talented but underachieving starter (in his first two go-rounds) who has set the ninth inning ablaze, saving 47 games with an 8-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio and more than 12 whiffs per 9 innings; Gagne has struck out 98 batters and allowed just 55 baserunners. Combined with two other guys who overcame disaster as starting pitchers, one of them during the Carter Administration (Jesse Orosco and Paul Quantrill) and unheralded if gopher-prone Giovanni Carrara, the Dodgers have improved on what was already a strong bullpen in 2001 to have their best pen since Tommy Lasorda retired. Gagne, Orosco, Quantrill and Carrara have been the only Dodger relievers to appear in 40 or more games (although Guillermo Mota hasn't been terrible in 32 appearances, despite his ugly ERA, and Orosco has tossed just 25 innings in 49 games); here's the combined line for those four:
THEN, there are the underachievers:
1. The Red Sox
I think most of you know this story, which involves the second-biggest shortfall in baseball between the Bosox' Pythagorean expected record and their actual record - an underachievement of 7 games. Art hit on the bullpen's role in this back on August 9.
It's a little hard to separate Boston's main relievers because of the instability in the bullpen; only 4 pitchers have made as many as 25 relief appearances for the Sox this year, and 2 of them (Wakefield and Fossum) have pitched a substantial amount of their innings as starters (Castillo and Arrojo have also split time). That leaves just Ugueth Urbina, whose numbers aren't terrible (5 blown saves in 35 tries), although he's been a bit more hittable than you'd like, and Rich Garces, a mainstay of recent Sox bullpens who imploded this year under the force of his own gravitational pull, being charged with 20 runs in 21.1 innings.
Here are the combined relief numbers for the three relievers (Urbina, Wakefield and Fossum) with 30 appearances, excluding Wakefield's and Fossum's numbers as a starter, followed by the totals for the other 11 pitchers to grace the Boston pen (also as relievers):
As you can see, the good part of the bullpen has been OK - it just doesn't stack up to teams like Minnesota and Anaheim, not to mention Seattle, Oakland and the Yankees. One thing that sticks out here: the Red Sox bullpen has only won 13 games all year. Get ahead early, or it's over. And with guys in the back of the rotation who don't go deep into games (Burkett's averaging just 5.85 IP/start, Castillo 5.63, Wakefield 6.1, Fossum 5.47, Arrojo 4.92), it should come as no surprise that it's been Pedro and Lowe and pray for snow.
2. The Cubs
I said the Red Sox were the second-biggest underachievers this year relative to their runs scored and allowed; the Cubs are worse. The Cubs' offense has been bad, but not this bad - they HAVE managed to score more runs than the Braves, Reds or Dodgers. And despite the recent injuries to Jon Lieber and Mark Prior, they've gotten some surprisingly good starting pitching from those two, Kerry Wood, Matt Clement and Carlos Zambrano. But the key to last season's 88-win Great Leap Forward was the bullpen under the tutelage of pitching coach Oscar Acosta and anchored by Jeff Fassero, Kyle Farnsworth, Todd Van Poppel and Tom Gordon, who among other things combined to whiff an astounding 343 batters in 276 innings.
This year, Gordon has been hurt and Acosta and Van Poppel have gone on to less distinguished seasons in Texas, leaving four pitchers to anchor the pen - Farnsworth, Fassero, Joe Borowski and Antonio Alfonseca. All four have logged 40 or more appearances without a start, while no other Cubs pitcher has made more than 27 relief appearances. Here are the grim results:
That's right, the GOOD part of the Cubbies' bullpen has been as bad as the BAD part of the Red Sox' bullpen.
3. The Mets
The Mets' bizarre collapse this year -- not a totally unexpected result but shocking in its scope -- has come from every cause you could have dreamed up before the season and then some. The pivotal moment, though, was a blown save by Armando Benitez on a Craig Counsell home run in the first game of a doubleheader with Arizona on August 3, leading to the second of the Mets' record-setting 15-game home losing streak. Between them, Benitez and Scott Strickland have been tagged for 15 home runs in 117.1 IP, an unacceptably high rate for a team's top late-inning relievers, and the great majority of them game-breaking.
Let us speak no more here of the Mets. They have gone on to a better place.
Of course, no theory explains everything, but even the less dramatic cases offer some support. The White Sox have struggled from a myriad of causes, and the loss of confidence in Keith Foulke isn't really at the top of that list, but it has been a factor. The Cardinals, in true LaRussa fashion, have used 6 different relievers with 40 or more games pitched, with varying results. But the triumvirate of closer Jason Isringhausen and setup men Mike Timlin (since traded) and Mike Crudale (ERAs of 2.47, 2.51 and 1.80, respectively) have been devastating. Another partial example is the A's. The red-hot A's, who have exceeded their Pythagorean W-L record by nearly 6 full games this season, the largest margin in baseball. The A's have gotten brilliant setup work from Chad Bradford (a 2.82 ERA, 69 baserunners allowed and just 1 home run in 67 innings) and a solid year from closer Billy Koch (9-2, 37 saves in 43 tries, 2.93 ERA), plus recent additions Ricardo Rincon (acquired the day before the trade deadline, a 2.13 ERA and just 6 hits and 3 walks in 12.2 IP over 16 appearances) and Micah Bowie (called up July 29, 2-0 with a 1.00 ERA in 9 games) have been big factors in the recent hot streak. Arizona has three top relievers with ERAs in the ones and a combined 14-3 record - Byun-Hyung Kim, Mike Koplove and Mike Fetters - although the bullpen's overall numbers are scarred by Eddie Oropesa (30 games, 11.03 ERA) and Bret Prinz (17 games, 10.45 ERA), and it's hard to say that the bullpen has been the key factor in the D-Backs' pitching staff.
In the modern (post-Eckersley) game, a bullpen invariably involves anywhere from 4 to 7 pitchers who are expected to pitch regularly, each with a small role in terms of total innings, but collectively having a large impact on a team's ability to win close games. (Some managers always used these types of committees rather than individuals with huge workloads - Earl Weaver comes to mind, as well as Sparky Anderson in his Reds years and Chuck Tanner, who always went several deep around workhorse Kent Tekulve). There are a few steady setup men out there of the Arthur Rhodes/Jeff Nelson/Mike Jackson variety, but by and large, the individual relievers tend to be erratic from year to year; they are often drawn from the scrap heap; and many managers have to largely rebuild the pen every year. Handling patterns, who has what role and who warms up when can all have a big impact. That's why I regard the bullpen as the critical test of any manager in this day and age, the part that separates the men from the boys.
Bobby Cox is the master, and Tony Muser was the worst at it, becoming the first, then the second manager ever to have a team with more blown saves than saves. (Do you doubt that most of the guys in the Atlanta pen would have ERAs over 5.50 pitching for Muser?) Many managers fall in between. The success of many of his bullpens is a big reason I've been a convert to Bobby Valentine, although this season even that has finally gone sour. The newer managers? Give me Ron Gardenhire, Jim Tracy, and Mike Scioscia. And I haven't seen enough Sox games to connect all the dots, but - for now, I'll pass on Grady Little.
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OK, I've been nagged enough now by other websites (Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, The Corner, etc.) to read today's Lileks. There, I did it. You should too. It starts slowly, and you can kind of skim until he gets to his signature move, which is grabbing some piece of nonsense off the Op-Ed pages and pulling so many chunks of idiocy out of it that you feel ashamed for the poor fool who wrote it. In this case, United States Senator Mark Dayton (D-Minn.)
Just some highlights:
"I wouldn’t vote for him if you held a bandsaw to my carotid artery, but if it was a choice between Wellstone and Trent Lott to watch my house while I was on vacation, I’d chose Paul; Trent would be likely to express the need to work together with the burglars and move the process forward in a collegial way."
"I cannot think of another time in American history when our Senators were so damned worried about the opinions of French bureaucrats, English editorialists, German soccer enthusiasts, and Lebanese hummus wholesalers. Once upon a time this nation had Senators who railed against the government from dusk to dawn, but when told that the Germans agreed with him, hissed “piss off, Fritz.” Now it’s different. It’s as if people of Dayton’s ilk believe they’re really Senators in some transnational body that represents the world, not a weirdly-shaped state with its head jammed up against the broad flat butt of Canada. I’m starting to think they’re all Senators from the United Federation of Planets, and soon the Temporal Police will show up and take them back to the future."
But I'm stopping you from reading the whole thing.
Inspired by The Simpsons, Albequerque is getting a new minor league team called the Albequerque Isotopes. But will the new team name have a long half-life?
WAR: IS CONDI RICE A CHICKEN HAWK?
I've been promising a look at the whole "chicken hawk" canard, but some mainstream articles have made many of my points for me, from this Eliot Cohen piece in the Washington Post to this Jonathan Foreman piece in the New York Post. They hit on the insanity, generally, of giving exclusive weight in decisions about war to people with military experience.
In general, whether somebody who's talking about war has served is certainly relevant, but it shouldn't be an argument stopper. To me, it mostly matters whether you served if your opponents can credibly argue that you are underestimating, say, the horrors of war or the hardships on our troops. But in the case of Iraq, the main arguments trotted out by the opponents of war have little to do with the condition of the rank and file soldiers entering battle, and everything to do with geopolitics. After all, guys like Chuck Hagel, for example, aren't saying we shouldn't or couldn't go to war with Saddam, just that we haven't met the standard yet (whatever it is) or haven't adequately considered the regional consequences. And none of those things has anything to do with the soldier's job.
(I'm leaving out the New York Times, which has so little regard for the public's grip on reality that it recently considered it front page news that, if the U.S. attacks Iraq with the intention of toppling the regime, the regime is planning to fight back)
A few additional thoughts, though:
1. Is Condi Rice a chicken hawk? When they list the administration's hawks generally, she makes the list; when they list the ones without combat experience, they usually fail to mention her (as well as Don Rumsfeld, who I believe was a Navy pilot). Do the people (mostly on the Left) who trot out this argument really mean to tell the womenfolk to stay home and mind their knittin' and keep their dainty noses out of the whole war business?
2. Conversely, before September 11, there had been an endless series of debates about changing the culture of the military, from the whole don't ask/don't tell brouhaha to DACOWITS. The people who supported remaking the military in the image of their vision of civilian life invariably argued that no deference should be given to the views of the generals on the proper maintenance of good order and discipline in the military. NOW, who's being inconsistent?
3. If the Democrats, in particular, think the views of the soldiers are so important, shouldn't they be doing more to make sure their votes get counted?
4. Remember not long ago, when Bush spoke to the type of troops who actually WOULD be in the first wave going into Baghdad, and somebody yelled "let's go get Saddam," and Bush had to pause while the troops cheered? Those hawks ain't chicken, that's for sure.
BASEBALL: Phelps All-Star
Is the Blue Jays' rebuilding process working? Well, we've got one piece of evidence, even if he hasn't been seen behind the plate where his bat would be more valuable. Josh Phelps has 37 RBI in the last 29 games.
WAR: Playing With Fire
Ann Coulter apparently thinks she's been too easy on Islam in the past. Salman Rushdie gets a fatwa, but not Coulter? I guess she's safe because the enemy is afraid to look at her un-veiled face (to say nothing of short skirts). In all seriousness, this is way too far, and a few more columns like this and she's gonna get assassinated. For a more sober, but no less hostile assessment of Islam, there's this online Catholic encyclopedia.
WAR: WHERE WERE YOU ON OCTOBER 11, 2000?
Well, I was in the middle of a trial and working late at the office, so I never did get to see the second Bush-Gore debate. All anyone seems to remember is that Gore was too quiet and agreeable and Bush didn't like nation-building. But I looked back, to see what was said in that foreign-policy-dominated debate about terrorism and about Iraq.
On the first: zip. zilch. nada. Never came up. In fact, in the three presidential debates and the vice presidential debate, terrorism was never discussed - the only times "terrorists" or "terrorism" appear in the transcripts are in brief laundry lists by Gore and Lieberman (once each) of Gore's and the Clinton Administration's accomplishments. Amazing.
But moving to Iraq, there are some interesting things in this exchange, in terms of the thinking at the time on both sides:
"MR. LEHRER: -- how you would handle Middle East policy. Is there any difference?
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September 5, 2002
Kilroy was here.
WAR: The Dinosaur
This finely argued, if somewhat conventional, analysis of the stakes in this war contains one of my all-time favorite quotes, from the controversial architect of the Cold War doctrine of "containment," George Kennan, comparing America to a dinosaur:
“He pays little attention to his environment; he is slow to wrath—in fact, you practically have to whack his tail off to make him aware that his interests are being disturbed. But once he grasps this, he lays about him with such blind determination that he not only destroys his adversary but largely wrecks his native habitat.”
WAR: Steyn Overdrive
TWO Mark Steyn columns in one day - can I keep up? Although chunks of this one , which is highlighted by an ode to Flight 93, sound suspiciously similar to Charles Krauthammer's cover story in the latest Weekly Standard. Judge for yourself.
WAR: ...THAT OUR FLAG WAS (NOT) STILL THERE
The famous flag raised by the firemen at Ground Zero has disappeared.
BASEBALL: Why The Long Faces?
The good folks over at the Baseball Prospectus sound awfully bitter about the new Collective Bargaining Agreement - in fact, they sound frighteningly like the annual editorial in The Wall Street Journal after the Republicans agree to yet another bloated federal budget. First of all, I'm flattered that Derek Zumsteg refers to "the matching funds idea," since as far as I know I'm the only one to have proposed it (maybe my incessant emails to the BP crew on this topic have made an impression). But I wonder if some of the BP contributors have crossed the line from (a) complaining about how the owners' claims to be looking out for competitive balance are a sham designed to cover their self-interest to (b) actually rooting for the players. Me, I don't care about either side, I just want to see the games go on, although I tend to agree in general with the BP view that MLB is best served by getting the players and owners out of zero-sum-game brinksmanship and refocusing on (1) fixing the incentives so every team has the same incentive to spend dollars on winning baseball and (2) stopping what Joe Sheehan always called the "anti-marketing" of baseball (i.e., constant poor-mouthing of the product in an attempt to beg for taxpayer dollars and public sympathy in labor fights). As for the criticism that the public doesn't understand . . . the public has no voice and no leverage in these disputes. Why should the average fan take the time to learn a complex bunch of economic figures and concepts, to the end result of forming an opinion about something he has no control over?
WAR: Saddam and Terror In America
I haven't had time to read it yet, but the Wall Street Journal's crack muckraker Micah Morrison - the king of circumstantial evidence - has a massive story reviewing the evidence for tying Saddam Hussein to various of the major terrorist acts on U.S. soil.
WAR: On Second Thought, . . .
The best war criticism that Bob Novak can come up with is rising oil prices. "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. . . . Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. . . but since responding militarily might raise oil prices, we'll just let this one slide."
WAR: Steyn On
When Mark Steyn is on his game - which is nearly every time he writes a straight-ahead column rather than one of his Maureen Dowd-type fictional-dialogue things - it's downright irresponsible to maintain a website without linking to him.
So, click here. My civic duty is fulfilled.
POLITICS: IS SILENCE ON RACE GOOD?
WARD CONNERLY'S RACIAL PRIVACY INITIATIVE, which would ban the government from collecting data on race/ethnicity or labelling people by their race/ethnicity, is set (if I have my facts straight) to face the California voters this fall. Is it just me, or does it appear that this piece , by a friend of former Harvard Law School professor Derrick Bell, is supportive of the goals of the Racial Privacy Initiative (to wit, getting people to stop identifying themselves and others by color), while this piece by National Review Online culture warrior Stanley Kurtz can be read as an eloquent attack on Connerly's initiative as disarming conservatives of one of the few weapons they have for exposing discrimination?
UPDATE: The Racial Privacy Initiative won't be on the ballot until March 2004. Lesson: I don't understand California politics.
WAR: The Summer Wind
NY Post leads with the giga-bombshell headline: "9/11 Attacks: IRAQ KNEW." The story - based on a lawsuit quoting reports in the Iraqi media in the summer of 2001 - doesn't quite seem to have the goods, although it does have some intriguing details that I hadn't seen before:
"The suit cites an Iraqi newspaper columnist, who wrote on July 21, 2001, that bin Laden was thinking with the "seriousness of the Bedouin in the desert" about bombing the Pentagon and the White House, the suit claims. The author of the article, Naeem Abd Muhalhal, has been connected with Iraqi intelligence since the early 1980s, according to an associate. Muhalhal wrote that bin Laden was "insisting very convincingly that he will strike America on the arm that is already hurting" a possible reference to the 1993 WTC attack. The column, published in a newspaper based outside Baghdad, also said that bin Laden curses "the memory of Frank Sinatra every time he hears his songs" - presumably because of Sinatra’s classic "New York, New York." Saddam, who controls the Iraqi press with an iron fist, later congratulated the author for his "documentation of important events," according to Kreindler & Kreindler, a Manhattan law firm specializing in aviation-disaster litigation, which filed the suit."
Maybe bin Laden just didn't like "My Way."
WAR: Wartime Apostrophes
Not to sound too much like Ira Stoll here, but today's lead story in the NY Times is headlined, in big, bold letters, "PRESIDENT TO SEEK CONGRESS'S ASSENT OVER IRAQ ACTION". Shouldn't it be "Congress' Assent"?
POLITICS: The Torch
Great quote from today's George Will column: ``Why do people take an instant dislike to Sen. Robert Torricelli? To save time.''
It's official: I'm the Marv Levy of WhatIfSports. Season after season, the best record in the league, 100+ wins . . . and a flameout in the playoffs. Damn.
BASEBALL: Pythagoras Says . . .
Just a little reminder that, by Pythagoras' calculations (the formula is explained here, for the uninitiated), the teams playing furthest over their heads this season are, yup, the A's and Twins, and the biggest underachievers are - no surprise - the Cubs and Red Sox.
September 4, 2002
WAR: Goldberg Backs Big Government
Jonah Goldberg argues that war can be a good thing in part because it creates big government programs to develop technology and medicine, and gives the young people something better to do than hanging around doing jobs in the private sector. OK, I'm oversimplifying, but doesn't this column contain big chunks that read like a press release for the "National Greatness" movement?
WAR: Blame America
Our Friends the Europeans are still blaming America first, according to a recent poll.
WAR: Peace Breaks Out
And here I didn't even know that Denmark and the Palestinian Authority were at war.
POLITICS: NEWSFLASH! BAD CANDIDATES LOSE!
Howard Fineman discovers the shocking truth: candidates have trouble winning elections based on the family name - if the candidate himself stinks and he's running in a state that ran Dad out of town on a rail! (Of course, the rule may not matter if it's a Kennedy in New England). But then again, politics is still full of family connections, from Elizabeth Dole to Dick Armey's son, just as baseball is full of players using an unfair genetic advantage. Cuomo's whining speech about presenting "too many issues" essentially blamed the electorate for being too dumb to understand him, but there's a point there: a successful candidate has to meet Winston Churchill's famous definition of a fanatic: someone who won't change his mind and won't change the subject.
WAR: Bill Clinton Is Full of It
Bill Clinton is full of it, he tells Larry King. A few telling points:
1. Clinton's gut reaction on September 11, as he tells it: "'Bin Laden did this.' . . . I said, 'Because only bin Laden and the Iranians could set up the network to do this, and they (the Iranians) wouldn't do it because they have a country and targets. Bin Laden did it.'" (emphasis added). Remember, Clinton had 8 years of the best intelligence briefings our government can provide. Need more evidence for the mullahs in the "axis of evil"?
2. Clinton refers to "my virtual obsession with" bin Laden. As our friend Larry puts it, "The permanent campaign continues in full stride." Here's a challenge to somebody with the ability to search Nexis or a similar source: see how many times Clinton mentioned Osama bin Laden in his public statements in 1998, 1999 and 2000, and compare to how many times he mentioned, oh, say, Ken Starr.
3. Clinton tells Larry King that "question is not whether to attack Iraq, but how, and under what circumstances." I didn't see the show and this isn't a direct quote, but . . . does this make Clinton a "hawk"? He does qualify as a prominent Democrat, no? SOMEBODY CALL THE NEW YORK TIMES!
WAR: Regime Change Policy
"I will seek congressional support for U.S. action to do whatever is necessary to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime . . . My Administration remains committed to the regime change policy enshrined in the  Iraq Liberation Act. The world must address how the Iraqi people can be liberated from the bondage in which the regime holds them . . . the civilized world must come together to deal with the threat posed by the Iraqi regime."
WAR: Identifying The Enemy
NOBODY lays out the conservative battle plan in the present war better than Michael Ledeen. Ledeen is keenly focused on the huge propaganda victory to be had by toppling the Iranian regime, and he's been a lone voice for months predicting that regime's demise.
As I see it, the enemy really is aptly described as an "axis of evil," a loose confederation of state and non-state actors with varying motivations but the same enemy in our free-elections, free-expression, free-markets, rule-of-law system. That's why we have had so much trouble identifying the enemy (besides timidity in offending 'friends' like the Saudis and in transgressing PC by declaring a non-Christian religious movement as our enemy): because they are defined not by their goals, which range from nihilist rage to regional ambition to messianic fervor, and not by their race, religion, ideology or tactics, but by their common aversion to the ideals (and not just the practice) of the American Revolution.
OUR ADVERSARIES ARE: America-hatred (and its fellow-traveler, Jew-hatred) under the banner of radical Islam in Iran and (formerly) Taliban Afghanistan and under secular regimes in Iraq and Syria; its spiritual and monetary benefactors in Saudi Arabia and Saudi-funded mosques and madrasses the world over; its cheerleaders in the Egyptian and other Arab media (and to a lesser extent in sectors of the American and European academies); its Communist collaborators in North Korea and Cuba; its localized terrorist clients, from Arafat's Al Aqsa Brigades and Hamas to the IRA, Abu Sayyaf and various other insurgents (possibly, we are still not certain, including Timothy McVeigh types in the U.S.); and the vanguard, the international terrorist clients like Al Qaeda, the late Abu Nidal, and Hezbollah (yes, it's a bit artificial to spilt Hamas and Hezbollah when both are principally local terrorist groups with fits of international activity).
By contrast, while it's useful as far as it goes on how to contain our enemies and gradually provide counter-examples, Ralph Peters' analysis of how we should build up moderate forms of Islam in places like Indonesia are really just a sideshow. We got into this mess, after all, by giving up on the Middle East, and we can only get out by fixing it. The fact that Islam in Indonesia is moderate is useless to us in the most critical breeding grounds for hate, because the Indonesians are never going to export their vision of Islam to Saudi Arabia or Egypt or France. We ignore the Indonesians or the Pakistanis at our peril, but those are the frontiers; they are not the heartland.
BASEBALL: Rocket's Trajectory
Interesting item by the notorious Dan Shaughnessy in the Boston Globe suggesting that the Red Sox bring back Roger Clemens. Unsurprisingly, this has touched off a spirited debate over on the Projo boards (registration required), including one poster's suggestion that the Sox convert Clemens into a closer. I was talking about this over the weekend with my older brother; here's my two cents: (1) Clemens will probably leave NY, since they are paying him next season regardless of where he pitches, and Boss George will probably gag at getting double-billed by the Rocket. (2) Clemens is a mercenary. If the Sox make the best offer, he will come, particularly with the Duke gone. I'm with Shaughnessy on that one. If the money is close, he'll be home in Houston or Texas next season. Of course, I've been predicting for years (before Cooperstown changed the hat rule in response to the rent-a-Winfield fiasco) that Clemens would go in the Hall wearing a Devil Rays cap. (3) Clemens might be an effective closer, but he's probably still more useful as a just-above-league-average starter, and his Benitez-like temperment and hypersensitive leg muscles are unsuited to closing.
Bottom line: Clemens will still probably want more $$ than the Sox will want to pay, and he'll wind up with Tom Hicks, following Ryan's footsteps.
BASEBALL: Phil Rogers Discovers Roy Oswalt
I got quite a laugh out of the premise of this piece - who hasn't heard about Roy Oswalt?
WAR: Powell vs. Mugabe
Colin Powell, always the good soldier, endured the type of heckling that passes for debate among the flat-earthers in Johannesburg. For all of Powell's . . . well, diplomacy, it was refreshing to see him joining the lonely voice of the New Zealanders in standing up to evil in the person of Robert Mugabe. And kudos to Dave Kopel of the National Review Online, who raised the alarm back in March (well before it hit the radar screen of the Secretary of State and CNN that Zimbabwe was on the path to genocide.
September 3, 2002
I'd say the percentage of students in the classes of 2002, 2003, 2004 & 2005 at Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School - an ultra-selective public school situated right near the World Trade Center - whose college essays were or will be about September 11 is pretty close to 100%.
POLITICS: Race Amok
Tech Central Station blows the whistle on the worst kind of racial stereotyping by a liberal think tank.
BASEBALL: Wallace Matthews Tells His Side
A fuller telling of Wallace Matthews' part of the Piazza-Travis-Champion-Matthews saga. Matthews is no hero, and Travis has gone on to the Big Scandal Sheet In The Sky, but on this one, as I wrote at the time, Matthews was right.
WAR: DON'T TREAD ON MY BUDGET
Best of the Web Today is back, and today's edition has loads of goodies, some of them a week or two old if you're just returning from vacation yourself. Here's one from TIME magazine: the Navy is bringing back the "Dont Tread On Me" battle flag. That's wonderful symbolic news, but one suspects that its derivation is the Navy's need for good press in the war on terror, in which air power, the Marines and Special Forces have gotten most of the glory. Whose sensibilities would this likely appeal to? Well, Don Rumsfeld comes to mind . . .
BASEBALL: The New Deal
The latest analysis of baseball's new contract. (1) Thank Heaven someone stepped in to save those small-market Chicago White Sox! (2) conspiracy theorists will note that the new numbers, as estimated by Michael McHenry, insulate Bud Selig from criticism for being self-serving - the Brewers are the one team that neither gains nor loses anything in this deal.
POP CULTURE: Death to Free Willy!
BASEBALL: More Of The Big Vu
I think I hear Anthony Young warming up in the Mets' bullpen.
POLITICS: Cuomo Go Home
Maybe it was Papa Mario, maybe it was our distinguished 42nd President, and maybe it was Uncle Ted, but somebody must have sat down with Andrew Cuomo and told him not to be Freddy Ferrer or Liz Holtzman. I'm no fan of Cuomo, but good for him.
WAR: DID YOU HEAR IT HERE FIRST?
Probably not, but President Bush is going to address the nation September 11. I say he starts to make the case for war with Iraq.
WAR: Probation Nation
Kofi Annan hands a huge propaganda victory to Iraq, although even this report concedes that an unconditional acceptance of weapons inspectors is not forthcoming. This sort of thing is a classic example of the folly of the whole regime of weapons inspections and economic embargoes in the first place; it's really not feasible to police a nation. Either Iraq's government is an outlaw regime that can not be trusted with the prospect of weapons of mass destruction and must be toppled, or it is a sovereign state with every right to defend itself. There is no workable middle ground between war and peace; there wasn't when the European powers tried to disarm Germany in the 1920s without the will to invade if Germany re-armed, and there isn't now. I'm for war with Iraq; but if you are at peace with the current regime and wish to stay that way, why even go through this stupid, pointless charade?
BASEBALL: THOUGHT-PROVOKING STAT LINES
Pitcher A: 110 starts, 745 IP (6.77/G), 3.76 ERA, 7.92 H/9, 0.8 HR/9, 3.67 BB/9, 8.66 K/9
Pitcher B: 119 starts, 762 IP (6.40/G), 4.02 ERA, 8.49 H/9, 0.9 HR/9, 3.53 BB/9, 8.55 K/9
Pitcher A: Roger Clemens, Boston Red Sox, 1993-96. W/L Record: 40-39
Pitcher B: Roger Clemens, New York Yankees, 1999-today. W/L Record: 58-26.
BUSINESS: Options as a Contingent Liability
Academics REUVEN BRENNER and DONALD LUSKIN argue in today's Wall Street Journal that when stock options are issued, they should be treated for accounting purposes, not as nothing (the traditional method) nor as an immediate but estimated expense (the current "reform" proposal), but as a contingent future liability that becomes an expense when exercised. (The article is available online only for subscribers). Their argument makes sense, and for another reason they don't mention: expensing options when exercised means that a company's income statement will take a hit (and be expected to take a hit) immediately after any big run-up in the stock that causes options to be exercised in large numbers. That should provide something of a check to excess enthusiasm, because big-time inside selling will trigger an instant dip. (The downsides: (1) until management absorbs this lesson, there would be more spike-and-drop patterns leading to more lawsuits, and (2) some execs could be legally trapped from selling by insider trading laws, because their decision to exercise options could, itself, be material nonpublic information about the future financial results of the company).
UPDATES: First of all, I mistakenly identified Donald Luskin as an academic, which he isn't. Second, Prof. Brenner was kind enough to email me to point out that he had considered the "hit to the income statement" point in his original draft of this article, which had to be shortened to fit the WSJ's space constraints.
WAR: WHO SAYS THE EU DOESN'T CARE ABOUT IMMIGRATION?
Most European states are fearful of objecting to Muslim immigration, but the EU has pressured Poland into building a wall along its eastern frontier that is mainly targeted at immigration and crime, rather than being intended as a new Maginot Line against Poland's historic enemies to the east. Of course, I'd want to wall off my border with Belarus, too.
WAR: BLAIR. ANTHONY BLAIR.
Precious few of our 'allies' want to get out in front on the Iraq war, although I suspect that most of them will join quietly in the rearguard when the shooting starts. But Tony Blair has taken to the battlements with his readiness to prove that Saddam is driving for WMD, once again proving that his bouts of Clintonism should not be mistaken for unseriousness in foreign affairs.
BASEBALL: Box Score of the Day
BASEBALL: Deja Boo
At Shea Stadium, it's 1991-92 all over again. This is how humbling it gets. But don't forget that it can get worse from here. In 1993, the Mets lost 103 games.
WAR: JOHN McCAIN AIN'T NO CHICKEN HAWK
I'll hopefully be getting later this week to the ridiculous argument trotted out by opponents of the Iraq war to the effect that the opinions of those who haven't served in the military should be discounted. The Bull Moose has a good rebuttal in today's column, and he quotes John McCain, from a piece in The Weekly Standard, taking on this line from Gen. Anthony Zinni:
Zinni's comments "are a direct contradiction of Clemenceau's statement that 'war is too important to be left to the generals,'" says Senator John McCain, veteran of the Hanoi Hilton. "If civilians can't contribute to the debate, then Lincoln, Roosevelt, Reagan--they all would have been excluded from sharing their views." General Zinni "has a right to give his views," McCain continues, "and I respect those views even though I don't agree with them. But to dismiss opposing views just because some of those who hold them haven't served, frankly, that just should never be a part of the debate." Why? "It's a way that people use to close off debate when they may be losing it. And they're losing this one."
I only just recently picked up on this character assassination piece against a Bush appointee to the Department of Agriculture by Will Saletan on Slate. It sounds like there may be no smoking gun legally, but without hearing the other side, Saletan has a pretty good case that this guy shouldn't be trusted to combat the endemic corruption at Ag. Of course, as Saletan rightly notes, that endemic corruption not only isn't illegal, it's virtually the entire point of the Agriculture Department. Yet another example of how Bush is soft on corporate welfare, big spending, and their friends in Congress (i.e., probably about 90-95% of all Members of both Houses).
WAR: No Google For You!
POLITICS: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Annoy 'Em
Debra Saunders has an intriguing suggestion for California Republicans frustrated by their inability to dump Gray Davis: elect a Republican lieutenant governor who can do things like appoint judges whenever Davis leaves the state. Of course, her argument is largely premised upon Davis' White House ambitions, which you have to figure are temporarily in the trash can (I'm betting he waits until 2008 - even Davis has to know his stock is low now and he's too late starting for 2004).
September 1, 2002
POP CULTURE: DEAD MAN SHILLING
Turned on Channel 5 (WNYW-TV) this morning and saw an infomercial. Nothing unusual there, except that the beaming visage of the down-on-his luck celebrity hawking some tooth cleaning system to people who appered to have been drinking PaperMate ink was none other than Robert Urich - who, if you recall, has been dead for several months, clean teeth or no.
In a similar vein, I was at the Bronx Zoo recently, where they have signs informing the visitor of helpful facts such as that, among other countries, "the USSR has outlawed the hunting of polar bears." Well, if it's good enough for the Soviets, it must be good enough for us, right?
POP CULTURE: The Eye
Click on this link. Go to "M.I. Lounge." Run your mouse over the clock and you can download an extremely creepy screensaver: it's from the animated movie "Monsters, Inc.," which has a character (voiced by Billy Crystal) with one gigantic eye. The screensaver is just this huge blinking eye.