"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 30, 2002
The Red Sox pick up Ryan Rupe as Theo Epstein's first pickup; I imagine we'll see Rupe, who has a good arm and little success at the major league level, in long relief.
POLITICS: Letting It Rip
Speaking of Ricky West, he has a link to an article from Jeff Jacoby, noticing that the "new, spontaneous" Al Gore who's supposed to "let it rip" is not only a song we heard before, but even the same lyrics. As West puts it, "So, we've been mistaken: the new, new, new, new, new Al Gore is really the new, new Al Gore. Please update your registries accordingly."
POLITICS: LET'S NOT DO THE TIME WARP AGAIN
Bob Novak has the DLC's response to the word from Democrats who want the party to step to the left . . .
November 29, 2002
BASEBALL: Voros Revisited
Preseason predictions, even well-thought-out ones, are always good for entertainment after the season. Here are Voros McCracken's, with the Mets first, the Angels last, the Twins under .500 and the Astros winning the World Series. Just a reminder that predicting players is an inexact science, picking teams is closer to a crapshoot, and baseball can still be an unpredictable game. I relied heavily on McCracken's Defense Independent Pitching Stats calculations from 2001 to pick my rotisserie baseball starting rotation this year, and wound up with Mike Mussina, John Burkett, Steve Sparks, Doug Davis, and Jeff Weaver. Not that I'm bitter.
Nick Daum thinks there's something strange about a site with nostalgia for Youppi!
POP CULTURE: The Magic Garden
I was watching TV with the kids yesterday, and what should come on WPIX but an old episode of "The Magic Garden," in all its Seventies glory, from bell-bottom trousers to the wacky pastel colors everywhere. The show, for those of you who never saw it, was a preschool show, with two women (Carol and Paula) who sang songs, acted out stories, interacted with puppets, the usual kids' show stuff. My kids, 3 and 5, loved it. What amazed me was how quickly something like that can take you back, bring back all the little details of the show that have sat dormant in your memory all these years. I'm quite certain I haven't seen the show since I was about 6 years old (I'm 31 now), but the gimmicks (the Chuckle Patch, daisies that tell corny jokes, to the Storybox with its low-budget costumes for storytime playacting) and the jingles ("you don't need a key, so follow me, there are no locks on storybox, on story box"; "see ya see ya, hope you had a good good time . . . ") all came piling out of the recesses of my brain.
It was also a reminder - today's kids' shows are quite good, some of them, and so were the shows I used to watch, but they're different now - shows like Blues' Clues and Dora the Explorer are just busier, more crowded with THINGS TO SEE AND LEARN!!! than the shows I used to watch as a preschooler. Better? Worse? Just that the world keeps moving faster and getting more complicated, and times never stand still. It's the reality we all deal with, either way, and the world my kids have to prepare for will already be different than the one I live in now, which is plenty modern enough for my tastes.
This weblog, maintained by Ricky West, has a hilarious continuous counter counting down the days, minutes, etc. until Bill Clinton's suspension from the practice of law in Arkansas expires.
WAR: All About Oil
Jonah Goldberg made fun of the UN Security Council a few weeks back by noting the likelihood that countries like Cameroon were just selling us their votes in return for whatever concession they happened to be looking for. Turns out that, in the specific case of Cameroon, that would be - surprise! - oil. Cameroon and Nigeria are locked in a dispute over oil-rich territory just off their coastlines, are appealing to international organizations to settle the issue.
POLITICS: General Wesley Clark
General Wesley Clark has been making presidential-candidate type noises. The National Review's John Miller is on the case, and thinks the Democrats should give serious thought to whether Clark should be on the vice presidential ticket in 2004. Meanwhile, check out this blog for the latest on Vermont Governor Howard Dean's uphill bid to recreate Jimmy Carter's 1976 outsider campaign for the Democratic nomination.
POLITICS: Indymedia vs. Tha Po-lice
Bill Clinton's Oklahoma City opportunism notwithstanding, you can't blame a movement for the existence of a few crazies in its midst or spouting its dogmas. Still, this story of a leftist ideologue murdering a police officer in California to protest the power of corporations doesn't reflect well on the type.
BASKETBALL: Out of Air
Is Michael Jordan really retiring this time?
POLITICS: Cash It Out
Mickey Kaus likes Robert Reich's Nixonesque solution of expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and eliminating all other wealth transfer/income assistance programs. This is basically similar in design to the Jane Galt Tax Plan.
November 28, 2002
BLOG: HAPPY AND HEALTHY
HAVE A HAPPY AND HEALTHY THANKSGIVING!
POLITICS/WAR: Steyn Is Online
I had planned not to blog today, but some news is too big to wait: Mark Steyn now has his own website, marksteyn.com ("The One Man Global Content Provider"), with links to his commentary in outlets the world over. including his latest, on George W. Bush's Achilles heel: his refusal to recognize the Saudis as our sworn enemies. The sun truly never sets on Steyn's empire of warmongering good sense. (Thanks to Tim Blair for pointing this out).
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November 27, 2002
BASEBALL: Discounting the Mets
The Mets plan to vary ticket prices in 2003 based on things like the quality of the opponent, the weather, etc. Of course, the biggest variable is the quality of the home team - if the Mets are serious about adjusting prices for demand, we should see prices drop sharply throughout the season as the prospect of contention becomes ever more distant. On the other hand, I can't wait to see the headline "Ordonez Goes On Disabled List, Mets Raise Ticket Prices 50%."
POLITICS: The Silencers
Mr. Instantaneous points to a column by Neal Boortz suggesting that Daschle's and Gore's assaults on the media may be part of a long-run campaign to outlaw talk radio, perhaps through the campaign finance laws. I don't think the Democrats would go that far (I've been wrong on that score before), but they may be hoping to 'shame' the mainstream media outlets into tilting further to the left. Unfortunately for the Democrats, money talks, and the competitors of Fox News, for example, seem to have figured out that their target audience - people who are interested in news - includes an awful lot of people who think the media is too liberal and want to hear at least a semblance of objective reporting, respectful treatment of conservative ideas as such, and opinion commentary by conservative voices. Thus, NBC had Rush Limbaugh doing commentary on Election Night, which is probably one of the things that set so many Democrats off.
POLITICS: Stress Relief
BASEBALL: DWI Roger
Add drunk driving to the list of Roger Cedeno's woes. I'm starting to suspect that the Mets really do need Art Howe to start telling some people that they need to get clean and sober and in shape to play for next season.
It's the emptiest .300 career batting averages in major league history! Guys who hit .300 lifetime but could muster neither a .350 OBP nor slug .400.
BASEBALL: Neyer on Glavine
Rob Neyer identifies a comparison group to Tom Glavine at the same age, and the news is unsurprisingly not that encouraging, although a few more numbers would have been instructive. I'm not that upset by the NY Daily News report that while the Mets expect to outbid Atlanta, they think the Phillies might blow away their offer.
WAR: Sharia in Nigeria
The Sunday Washington Post with more on sharia law in Nigeria.
Looks like the truth is seeping in after all. The three main articles on the New York Times editorial page today - and the three most e-mailed by readers - are columns by Tom Friedman and Maureen Dowd and an op-ed by Salman Rushdie, all denouncing in uncompromising terms the evils of radical islamism and its Saudi benefactors. Dowd's is somewhat incoherent as usual, but if she sticks to her theme and does at least one Saudi-bashing column a week (a la Michael Ledeen's drumbeat on Iran), she'll be doing the nation a valuable service.
The Islamic world today is being held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be a tough war to win. But in the end, or so we must hope, someone will kick down that prison door.
Over to you, George.
POLITICS: Emily's Blacklist
One sign of a party losing its discipline and focus is when moderates in critical elections get abandoned by activists over a single issue. A good party has to purge the occasional extreme apostate in a primary, but dumping Mary Landrieu will almost guarantee that the GOP holds the Senate for the next four years. Yet, the American Prowler reports that Emily's List is doing precisely that, over a single vote to ban partial-birth abortion. The Prowler even quotes Paul Begala ripping the group for its extremism.
Just don't hold your breath for the New York Times to bellow that divisions over abortion are splitting the Democratic party.
LAW/POP CULTURE: The Christmas Party
Slate's Dear Prudence advice column tells a guy to break up with his girlfriend rather than let her go to an office Christmas party at her law firm where spouses and 'significant others' are not invited. Leave aside the general asininity of this advice, although it may be harmless; the fact that the guy has written to an internet advice columnist to say he doesn't trust his girlfriend suggests that this particular relationship is doomed anyway. But consider Prudence's first reaction: "Office Christmas parties are famous occasions for drunken women lurching at the boss ... or the other way around." Am I naive, or is this a totally outdated stereotype? I mean, my law firm has an annual Christmas party, and people are generally too uptight about the possibility of making fools of themselves to dance, for crying out loud. I mean, not that extramarital affairs and the like don't happen in the business world, but I really can't see the office Christmas party as a major culprit in that kind of thing, especially at a party full of lawyers in these days of hair-trigger sexual harassment litigation. Get a grip!
WAR: Why They Hate Us
Terror on a flight from Italy to France. Were the French targeted for their strident pro-Americanism?
POLITICS: This is Rich
Al Gore is mad at right-wing dominance of the newsmedia, as an example of which he cites . . . Frank Rich! Glenn Reynolds notes that at least Gore is also willing to demonize postmodernism as well.
WAR: The Truth Comes Out
As usual in controversies between Israel and the UN, evidence supports the Israeli view of the shooting death of a UN official by Israeli troops.
WAR: News From Germany, and Turkey
Good news, and so much for worries about 'unilateralism'? Germany will cooperate with the war on Iraq after all. But Reuters takes a more negative view.
WAR: Kathleen Parker on the Miss World Riots
The wise and always even-tempered Kathleen Parker (she's the anti-Coulter) perfectly captures the Miss World riots in Nigeria. The lunacy gripping northern Nigeria at the moment is fairly persuasive evidence for those who argue that the real problem we face is not principally one of Arab culture but of Islam, and it likewise supports Ralph Peters' theory that we should be most concerned about attacking radical Islam from the outside in, i.e., starting with non-Arab Muslims in places like Indonesia, Nigeria, etc.
Of course, Nigeria is a hugely strategically important place in its own right, partially because it has massive reserves of oil, partially because it is making fitful steps towards restoring a fully functioning democracy, partially because it's nearly the only sub-Saharan African nation (other than South Africa) with any chance of both modest prosperity and democracy, and that's something we should encourage. The central government has been critical of the Islamic extremists, and I believe that the nation as a whole is more Catholic than Muslim. It's one place the United States should be watching carefully.
POLITICS: Even Conason Has His Limits
Andrew Sullivan notes that Joe Conason (or, actually, a reader he cites with approval and interestingly placed elipses) cites a bunch of examples of why voters are supposedly motivated solely by a preference for the nicer, friendlier guy in a presidential race. Significantly omitted from his list is Bill Clinton. Wassamatta Joe, couldn't bear to apply this particular chestnut to the Prophet WJC?
November 26, 2002
POLITICS: Al Gingrich
Leaving aside the usual Times spin, this poll has very, very bad news for Democrats, and is consistent with the conventional wisdom that the 2002 election was principally a battle between a popular and trusted president and an opposition party stuck badly in reverse. The two big findings are the rising number of people with an unfavorable impression of the Democratic Party generally, and the horrific numbers for Al Gore: a 19% favorable rating vs. 43% unfavorable. Those are Gingrich-like numbers, or worse, and suggest that Gore would have an enormous task ahead of him just trying to hold onto the votes he got two years ago. If Gore's own polls show similar results, he will really have to be consumed by his own obsessions to run again. Is he really that far gone?
BLOG: Bill Simmons Leaves Home
Bill Simmons goes down memory lane as he says goodbye to that little town in Massachusetts he's called home the last 10 years.
OTHER SPORTS: QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"I'm tired of being stupid." - Mike Tyson
BASEBALL/BASKETBALL: Straw Jr.
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BASEBALL: Tom Glavine
Tom Glavine for two years: for a contender, a good gamble. Tom Glavine for three years: Buyer Beware! Tom Glavine for four years: RUN AWAY!
Glavine from July 1 through the postseason: 7-10, 5.22 ERA, 108.2 IP (5.43/start), 129 H (10.68 per 9IP), 14 HR (1.16 per 9IP), 53 BB (4.39 per 9IP), 58 K (4.80 per 9IP).
I've been linked by another page - War Liberal. Welcome, strange bedfellow.
BASEBALL: Baseball Search Engine
At some point, I have to add to the links on the side this site, "godofthemachine.com," which has an unusual search engine for sorting baseball stats. For example, this search result shows all pitchers who threw 60 or more innings in a season without allowing a home run, ranked by IP.
November 25, 2002
POLITICS: The First Step
Alec Baldwin is seeing an "anger management therapist" in London. I guess Henry Hyde can sleep easier now. Maybe there'll be a 12-step program where he has to go on TV and annouce that he's over the Florida recount . . .
POLITICS: If You Can't Beat 'Em
SCIENCE: GREAT MOMENTS IN BUSINESS MEETINGS
POP CULTURE: Beard
Mark Steyn, who once wrote an extended and not entirely tongue in cheek attack on 'barbophobia,' would love these guys.
POLITICS: Bogus Issue of the Week
GOP Senate candidate Suzie Terrell says Mary Landrieu "threatened me" by saying, after a debate, "This is your last campaign." There's always been a higher standard for candidates running against women, and apparently it even applies to how a woman Senator speaks to a female challenger. Then again, as Glenn Reynolds points out, this sort of thing is fair game for Republicans under Daschle's Rules of Debate.
WAR: Moore Idiocy
The most breathtakingly idiotic segment of his show came toward the end, when he turned to the subject of the September 11 hijackings. Mr. Moore had already let us know that he had doubts as to whether Osama Bin Laden actually organized the attacks. If that were not bizarre enough, he went a step further. Brandishing a box-cutter, he wondered how the terrorists managed to subdue the passengers on the airliners using such modest weapons.
I would have thought the answer was obvious. Yet you can rely on Mr. Moore's fertile imagination to come up with a different response: The people on the airplanes allowed themselves to be intimidated because they belonged to a pampered, privileged class which had grown used to allowing other people to do the dirty work for them. What is more, Mr. Moore would have us believe that if the planes had been carrying 90 poor people or 90 black people or 90 skinheads, the outcome would have been very different. I am glad to report that even Mr. Moore's loyal audience fell silent at that point. There are, it seems, limits even to their gullibility.
UPDATE: Our good friend Larry points out that mocking Americans for being too soft and pampered to defend themselves is a particularly ridiculous argument coming from a guy who's promoting a movie that claims that Americans are too violent and trigger-happy and too in love with their guns: "The NRA, a target of Moore's idiocy, is the epitome of a group that believes, if necessary, people might have to do their own dirty work."
POP CULTURE: Visions of . . .
The appearance of the phrase "Spinach McNuggets" in Saturday's kausfiles suggests that Mickey Kaus has spent too much time on the road.
LAW: Rehnquist Falls
The urgency of the scenarios outlined in Stuart Taylor's much-discussed article handicapping the next Supreme Court vacancy are underlined as Chief Justice Rehnquist slips and falls at his home.
LAW: To Take The Case?
BIG decisions on deck at tomorrow's conference about what cases the Supreme Court will take, including the Michigan affirmative action case (which presents squarely the issue of whether schools can use "diversity" as code for racial preferences) and a challenge to the 1986 decision finding no constitutional obstacle to sodomy laws (a debatable decision, but expect much enthusiasm for re-visiting this issue from corners of the profession that swooned with ecstasy over the 1992 decision that held that Roe v. Wade had been on the books too long to be reconsidered). The Court's decisions on whether to take the cases may be available as early as December 2.
So a guy 28 years old will be the new Red Sox GM. I'm in the wrong line of work . . .
WAR: Ledeen and Steyn on Iran and Islam
[T]his is the Islamists' great innovation -- an essentially political project piggybacking on an ancient religion. In the last year, we've seen the advantages of such a strategy: You can't even identify your enemy without being accused of bigotry and intolerance. What we still can only guess at is the overlap between the ideology and the religion. It seems unlikely that many Muslims in, say, Newark or Calgary or Singapore would wish to be suicide bombers themselves, but what seems clear is that in these and other places there is -- to put it at its most delicate -- a widespread lack of revulsion at the things done in Islam's name. On the one hand, Muslims deny it's anything to do with them: A year ago, in The Ottawa Citizen's coast-to-coast survey of Canadian imams, all but two refused to accept Muslims had been involved in the September 11th attacks. On the other hand, even though it's nothing to do with them, they party: In Copenhagen as in Ramallah, Muslims cheered 9/11; in Keighley, Yorkshire, you couldn't get a taxi that night because the drivers were whooping it up.
BASKETBALL: Stunning News
Rasheed Wallace, smoking pot? Shocking, truly shocking. What is this world coming to?
BASEBALL: The Guru's Grievances
I hope you caught Peter Gammons' Saturday column on Things Wrong With Baseball. Not that I agree with all his diagnoses, but it was a well-thought-out piece (combining, apparently, the Guru's own thinking with that of his sources). I part company on griping about guys like Francisco Rodriguez being on the postseason roster, but it's true that the Angels were able to make mock of the rules requiring the roster to be set by September 1. Many of these points are familiar ones to any reader of Bill James.
POLITICS: The Skinny
BASEBALL: Pricey Bell
As I've mentioned before, I'm intrigued to see if, like his father before him, David Bell will be a better player in his 30s than in his 20s, and Bell does fit pretty well with the profile of guys who have shown unaccountable power development past 30 in recent years. Nonetheless, I can't shake the feeling that four years and $17 million for Bell is a sign that the Phillies don't really know what to do with their newfound commitment to spending money on free agents. Bell isn't a big improvement on Placido Polanco, although the Phils say that they intend to move Polanco to second and ditch Marlon Anderson (Bell can also play second). That makes the deal a little more sensible in the short run - Anderson's been just awful 3 of the past 4 years, and the one exception (2001), he was only so-so and only because he batted .293. Inasmuch as Philadelphia has suffered grievously in recent years from the failure to surround the team's talented core with decent role players rather than disasters like Anderson, Doug Glanville, Travis Lee and Ricky Blowtallico.
POLITICS: Those People
This piece on the EU's rejoicing over the collapse of Austria's government just drips with establishment EU thinking: "The great era of right-wing populism appears to be over," said Gernot Erler, deputy whip of German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats. Haider's government did indeed appear to be a bunch of nuts, but the sentiment clearly extends to anyone who would oppose the undemocratic establishment in Brussels.
POLITICS: Playing Different Thune
George Will with early thoughts on the 2004 Senate races; Bob Novak with news that John Thune may not be the candidate in line to challenge Tom Daschle (or seek Daschle's seat if he steps down); the Washington Post with news that Thune might wind up in the Cabinet, plus more "Cabinet chess."
POLITICS: Mirror Image
Nothing provides a mirror image of government power better than lobbyists, who are hired principally for the likelihood that they will persuade powerful people to do things. That's what makes it such a sign of the times that the ACLU has hired Georgia's departing bomb-throwing Republican Congressman Bob Barr. Barr, you remember, called for Bill Clinton's impeachment even before anyone had heard of Monica Lewinsky; he was for years an icon of the Far Right, such as it is within the Beltway. But he's also an outspoken libertarian who has made privacy issues (real privacy issues, not privacy-as-a-code-word-for-abortion) his signature in Congress, which is apparently what he will focus on for the ACLU. The message here is that the ACLU understands that sending these types of people to Capitol Hill these days will get them nowhere.
POP CULTURE: Wacko
Personally, I think it's about time to get someone to Smacko Wacko Jacko. Heck, maybe if we ask him real nice, we can even get Shaqo to Smacko Wacko Jacko until he's Backo to Blacko. And the obscenity laws ought to prevent newspapers from putting photos of Mr. Jacko on the front page . . .
November 21, 2002
POLITICS: The Nasties
If Tom Daschle is looking for examples of vicious, unfair, and overwrought and overly emotional personal attacks on politicians, he should look here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here. And here (last line). And here. And here.
But hey, that's just a few weeks' work . . .
OTHER SPORTS: Crickety
I guess I don't really understand cricket, but you would think that one man scoring 177 runs in a single day would be a mite tiring.
POLITICS: Screwing Jeffords
With rumors in the air that Jim Jeffords might want to be a Republican again, Dr. Weevil has a devious plan to double-cross and humiliate Jeffords, with the added bonus that the GOP could do so in precisely the way he stuck it to Republicans, rather than by means of some form of revenge that would wind up looking petty by sticking it to the people of Vermont (leave aside the Northeast Dairy Compact, which is corrupt special-interest legislation and deserves its doom even more than Jeffords does). I don't think Trent Lott is nearly this mean or petty, but it's an amusing suggestion.
POLITICS/SCIENCE: Axis of Smog
Remember stories like this next time you hear the Western world blamed for pollution.
WAR: Give Him Back
The Saudis better give this guy back.
LAW: The Poverty Line
It just doesn't get more "only in America" than a lawsuit against a restaurant filed by someone who got fat . . . while living in a homeless shelter.
BASEBALL: Walker, Arizona Diamondback
From Arizona's perspective, you have to love the Larry Walker deal, even in spite of Walker's age (36), durability (he's had 500 at bats in a season just once in the past decade), big (3-year, $38.5 million) contract and the Coors effect on his stats. Walker hit .312/.530/.387 on the road last season, and .292/.505/.395 from 1999 to 2001; adjusting for his advancing age, that seems like a very fair estimate of what the Diamondbacks can expect from him, and as long as Schilling and Johnson are healthy and at the top of their game, the D-Backs are in a situation where it's entirely reasonable to win now and to heck with the future. Even so, by dealing Matt Williams and letting Steve Finley walk, they are getting out from under some of the big-money veterans who are on the downhill slope (Jay Bell ought to be next).
I can sympathize with Williams' worries about leaving Arizona and his kids, but he's only got a year left on his contract, and it's a fair enough request to ask a man to spend a summer away from his children for $10 million. Were I him, I'd take the money and retire after the 2003 season.
For Colorado, the deal makes sense only as a move to escape the long-term contracts they'd signed with Walker together with Mike Hampton (off to Atlanta) and Denny Neagle (probably soon to depart as well) and head back to the drawing board. The best player in the deal may be Durazo, considering his age compared to Walker's, although Durazo can't seem to stay healthy and is a natural 1B, where the Rox are set for the next decade. If they're smart, they'll turn around and send Durazo to an AL team that can DH him (Oakland?) and bring back some help in another area.
BASEBALL: The San Juan Expos?
The San Juan Expos? Well, it beats playing to seats full of empty Canadians, or whatever. Actually, despite the disclocation, this may help the Expos sign free agents this winter - there have to be some players who would just love to get three weeks near home in Puerto Rico during the season. (I'm not sure how tax rates work for ballplayers, but if this means more paychecks in U.S. dollars and without paying Canadian taxes, then the Expos players just got a raise).
BASEBALL: Starting Kim
I also like the idea of making Byun-Hyung Kim a starter; I've long been enamored of sidearmers (ever since the Mets came up with Terry Leach in 1981), and they are generally pretty durable. The success of Derek Lowe may be encouraging teams to think of young relief stars as potential starters, which won't work in every case (Gossage, Bedrosian, Myers, Charlton) but an open mind on the question can yield huge dividends (think Wilbur Wood and Charlie Hough). Keith Foulke is another guy who deserves a shot at starting, and the Dodgers should eventually revisit which role will work best for Eric Gagne. In the long run, the Eckersley model may yet bring us back to the old (1950s and earlier) conception of the bullpen as the natural home for elderly starting pitchers who can't go 7 innings a pop anymore; John Smoltz has moved us another step in that direction.
November 20, 2002
WAR: Tough On Iran
WAR: Two Hands and a Flashlight
Ambrose Bierce once said that "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Check out this CNN report on the dismal grasp of geography on the part of a sampling of American 18-to-24-year-olds, and you may doubt that even war can accomplish this Herculean task. In a way, the scariest one is that half of all 18-24 year olds can't find New York on a map with both hands and a flashlight. New York has been, you know, in the news and stuff. More importantly, MTV is based here. Granted its where we live, but my son knows where New York is, and he's five.
Am I the only one who's disturbed that Hans Blix sounds exactly like Herbert Lom's Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther movies?
POLITICS: So, Gore is back
So, Gore is back. The 'new' Al Gore, again. Let's review where we've been:
When the 2000 election ended with Gore losing by a few hundred votes in Florida, he didn't have to demand a manual recount. If he'd conceded with dignity after the (statutorily required) machine recount, he could have placed himself above the fray while his surrogates blasted the voting 'irregularities' and demanded a Senate investigation. Instead of disappearing for most of 2001, he could simply have vanished in mid-November 2000, and re-emerged in February 2001, having allowed a decent interval for Bush to assemble his team. Gore's dignified refusal to drag the nation through a recount would have given him standing, as the wounded party in the election and the man who got the most votes, to announce that he was going to consider himself the leader of the loyal opposition, declare himself immediately to be a candidate in 2004, and make regular public speeches criticizing Bush and explaining his own agenda.
He didn't. He spent much of his credibility and his remaining good will with the American people in the recount, including his stubborn insistence on a recount strategy that was selective and inconsistent, proclaiming the need to "count every vote" while asking only for recounts in the most Democratic parts of the state and where they would be conducted by Democratic local officials, while aggressively challenging the counting of absentee ballots by members of the Armed Forces. Then, having committed himself to a full-fledged assault on the legitimacy of the Bush presidency, Gore went into hiding for many months, leaving the Democrats leaderless. Partly this was necessary to heal the wounds his recount strategy had inflicted. But it was also, by his own admission, because Gore needed to get away after the crushing end to his presidential hopes.
In short, both Gore's recount strategy and his subsequent withdrawal from public life were poor strategic decisions driven by Gore's tendency to let his emotional needs and his overweening personal ambition get the better of his judgment under pressure. Ditto for his unqualified sycophancy to Clinton during the impeachment crisis; ditto for his decision to take the agressive posture pushed by his daughter that there was "no controlling legal authority" in his violation of an unambiguous century-old federal statute; ditto for his inability to control his audible sighs during the first debate, which he now admits was a mistake but says was the result of his exasperation with Bush. For all the portrayals of Gore as a robot without a pulse, the real Al is a guy whose decisionmaking ability and judgment under pressure is apt to be overcome and compromised by his emotions.
In times of a complex and frustrating war against a shadowy enemy, when we need to constantly demonstrate both unbreaking resolve and thoughtful restraint; when we must place tremendous pressure on our allies while making a show of our respect for their independence (you don't sigh and roll your eyes when dealing with evasive French bureaucrats); when the American people need reassurance that the president's bearings are unshakeable; when we can easily find ourselves dealing all at once with an elusive renegade in bin Laden, a potential revolution in Iran, and a nuclear-armed lunaticocracy in North Korea while trying to hold together the coalition for war with Iraq; is that the kind of man we want at the helm?
POLITICS: A Day At The Beach
Sometimes it's the little things that are telling:
"Everyone is sick of the election rehash, and sicker still of the Wellstone memorial story, but: one detail needs relating. Got it first hand the other day from someone who attended. As they were waiting for the event to begin, they noticed a big beach ball bouncing around the crowd, traveling up the stands and down, back, forth. A beach ball.
Who brings a beach ball to a memorial for a dead man? Can you imagine standing in the garage, keys in hand, patting your pockets for wallet and sunglasses, thinking have I forgotten anything for this somber event? Oh, right! An inflatable sphere the crowd can bat around for fun. It's not a memorial service without one.
I'm surprised no one dove from the stage after their eulogy, and surfed the crowd to the concession stand."
November 19, 2002
WAR/LAW: Ivy League Follies
I guess it's Ivy League Day here . . . if you went to Yale, OxBlog has links and info on how to sign a petition opposing a petition calling for divestment of the university's interests in the State of Israel (I signed the Harvard anti-divestment petition myself some months back). Meanwhile, Stuart Buck, Instapundit, Eugene Volokh, and Howard Bashman all have links and commentary on the Harvard Law School race-speech controversy, including a battle between Dershowitz and proponents of a speech code.
POP CULTURE: Na Na Na Na Na I'm Not Listening
I don't have HBO, but my wife and I got hooked over the summer on renting "The Sopranos" on video. We are, at this writing, halfway through the third season. So, it was with extreme consternation that last week's major plot development on the show was mentioned in prominent links on Slate (not the articles, the links on the front page), in a large picture and appropriate captions in the NY Daily News, in Letterman's monologue, and even in Peggy Noonan's column, for crying out loud! In today's Bleat, Lileks feels my pain.
BASEBALL: Royals Waive Neifi Perez
Royals waive Neifi Perez. Slowly, the light dawns. Of course, this is a reminder that if the Mets can move Rey Ordonez and his $6.25 million contract, they can get Rey 2.1 for a fraction of the price. Perez is better suited as a defensive replacement, though.
Also, rumored that the Red Sox are talking to Billerica's own Tom Glavine. If there's one team that could benefit from Glavine, it's the Sox. Yes, he's a gamble, given his age and the way he tailed off in the second half, but Glavine would bring some serious credibility to the Sox rotation beyond Pedro and Lowe, moving Wakefield to the 4 slot, and some much-needed relief to their bullpen.
LAW: The Forum
A Bahamas-flagged oil tanker captained by a Greek skipper sinks off the coast of Spain, prompting criticism of Britain and Latvia.
Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that all of this will wind up in court here in New York?
LAW: Nesson and Rosenberg
Either things have changed quite a lot since I graduated in 1996, or Dorothy Rabinowitz is entirely overwrought in her conclusion that "At Harvard Law today, skill in hard combative argument is no longer prized, nor even considered quite respectable. Indeed, first-year law students can hardly fail to notice the pall of official disapproval now settled over everything smacking of conflict and argument." True, with the death of Philip Areeda, HLS is down to just one agressive practitioner of the Socratic method (Arthur Miller), and the school no longer flunks a lot of students. But I'd invite her to attend one of Alan Dershowitz's classes, or any Con Law section, if she thinks that argument and intellectual combat have given way to holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya.'
The real, and more substantial charge in her article is that the administration caved in too easily to demands from the Black Law Students Association for punishments for Professors Charles Nesson and David Rosenberg for alleged racial insensitivity. Now, you have to get the background here. Nesson is a strange, strange man (some of you may remember his protrayal as 'Billion-Dollar Charlie' in the book A Civil Action, or as one of the moderators of Fred Friendly's 'Ethics' series on CBS in the 1980s, which brought together congresspersons, network anchors, priests, generals and judges to discuss difficult hypothetical questions of ethics), who has spoken publicly about his drug use and generally worked hard to be seen as an eccentric who's not afraid to force people to look at things from different directions. Indeed, Nesson's favorite illustration in his Evidence casebook is the 'Necker cube," the box of lines that seems to change directions depending how you look at it. I personally didn't find his "Introduction to Lawyering" class exceptionally useful, but he did give us some real-world examples of things like obstructive conduct in the defense of depositions that are rarely seen in the law school environment but all too often displayed in the real legal profession. Nesson's attempt to put the user of a racial slur on trial, with himself as defense counsel, is of a piece with this; maybe (as Dershowitz did when my Criminal Law class discussed rape), he should have warned people that if they'd be too upset to listen to this discussion, they should leave the room and come back in a few days (then again, now that I think of it, Dershowitz also devoted a third of the final exam to rape shield law, so maybe that's a bad example). But it's really sad if law students think that some things are so upsetting they can not even be put on trial and opened to debate.
As for the other accused professor, I suppose some people just don't like Professor Rosenberg. I had Rosenberg for first-year torts, and he presented himself as an outsized caricature of the politically incorrect professor. He threw a casebook at the wall the first day of class and argued that most of the 'law' of torts was useless and meaningless in the real world; when anyone would get too far into actual doctrine he would snap, "when you graduate you can hire people from Yale to make dumb arguments like that." He claimed to hand out grades via a roulette wheel in his office. He also made an obviously tongue-in-cheek show of being politically incorrect, like claiming to enjoy clubbing baby seals for sport. One guy in my torts class did nothing but take down funny sayings of Rosenberg (and he got an A+, so who am I to argue?). Anyway, taking a stray remark from David Rosenberg as the cause for theatrical outrage seems to be an obvious case of a complete failure of the irony detector.
It's been a tough year for Dean Clark, who may have felt pressure to throw a bone to perennially dissatisfied campus Leftists after the Solomon Amendment compelled him to go back on HLS' policy of discriminating against military recruiters. Law students are never a happy bunch; we used to joke about the fact that the business students all cheer their dean at graduation, while law students are always in the middle of some mass protest. And giving people permission to cut class is no great revolution; some people don't go to class at all, ever, anyway (some of the school's urban legends suggest that Nesson was one of these in his student days). I can't necessarily fault Dean Clark for letting Nesson step down voluntarily, since Nesson has come under disciplinary scrutiny before, and his voluntary withdrawal may actually serve as a bit of a lesson here itself.
In other words, I don't entirely fault the administration here; far harsher measures were available, and I'm sure the BLSA is deeply dissatisfied with the response anyway. Nor do I suspect that open and contentious debate generally is endangered at HLS; the more likely result is simply that debate on race is stifled. But even that seems overstated; you can still take a class on race relations with Randall Kennedy, who's just written an entire book on the N-word. Another tempest in a teapot, but life will go on.
November 18, 2002
WAR: North Korea, in a Nutshell
Reams of Serious Newsmagazine Profiles could be written about North Korea, and none would capture the regime quite like this ScrappleFace dispatch.
POLITICS: Same Old Phil
If you want a perfect picture of where the Left is today, look at Phil Donahue. Donahue's the same Donahue he was as a media and ratings darling in the 70s and early 80s. His opinions haven't changed, his hectoring style hasn't changed, even his hair hasn't changed. The difference is, his act has worn out, nobody's watching anymore, and the plug is about to be pulled. Yes, it's true that the evening time slot wasn't friendly to Phil, whose core late-morning audience was stay-at-home moms who wished they worked outside the home (hint: twenty years later, they do). But Donahue was supposed to compete with two-fisted Bill O'Reilly as the Next Great Left-Wing Talk Show Hope. Instead, his philosophical rigidity, condescension and old-Left ideas couldn't compete with O'Reilly's populism. The Right today has the Left surrounded on four sides: new ideas, intellectual honesty, optimism, and the ability to identify with normal human beings. All that's left to sell is didactic, inflexible academic theory and bile. That may sell in book form (see Moore, Michael), but who wants to sit down to an hour of it every night, or listen to three hours on the radio in the afternoon?
WAR: Theocrats or Just Theocons?
The threat of Islamists seizing power is never anything to dismiss lightly, but so far at least, the heads of Turkey's new governing party sound mostly like nothing more menacing than American Republicans. Now, if you're Bill Moyers, that may be enough to convict them of attempted theocracy, but I'm willing to reserve judgment for now.
WAR: "'Gotta take Saddam out and figure it out afterwards!"
Tim Blair notes an item in Tina Brown's latest column, quoting Robert De Niro, yet another liberal Manhattanite who gets it after September 11:
"Robert De Niro, a Democrat like most of his Hollywood brethren, suddenly broke his usual mordant reserve at a dinner party this week to declare: 'Gotta take Saddam out and figure it out afterwards! Saddam is history and the world will have America to thank for it!'" Picture this in your head being delivered in the style of your favorite De Niro line for a little entertainment. ("I want this guy dead! I want his family dead! I want his house burned to the ground! I want to go there in the middle of the night and piss on his ashes!")
WAR: Fair Weather Warmongers
One of the New York Times' big crusades of late has been to bash Saudi Arabia, North Korea, and Pakistan, among others, to suggest (1) that the theory of war against Iraq is too broad because it leads us to conflict with all these other states or (2) that America is hypocritical for having friends like the Pakistanis and Saudis and then criticizing Iraq for the same things. Maureeen Dowd's latest, on Saudi Arabia, and Nicholas Kristof's solumn on Pakistan are classics of the genre. All I ask is, when the time comes to confront that North Koreans and the Saudis - and if we ever reach the point where we need to take a harder line with Islamabad - will these columnists still be in the trenches with us? I doubt it. Suddenly, all the "we can live with Saddam" cliches will be transmuted to the Saudis or whoever. In fact, the proof of Bush's sober approach and willingness to work with our allies is in the fact that he is taking on one fight at a time, and starting with the clearest case for international cooperation. Why is that so hard to understand?
BASEBALL: Art on Bill James
Projo sports editor Art Martone on the Red Sox' hiring of Bill James; James basically tries to make the case for himself as a non-controversial guy who will fit right in in a major league organization. It's largely spin, but it's what James has to do to get baseball people to listen to him: convince them that he's not telling them anything they don't already know. I wish him luck. It's also interesting to note that Rob Neyer was instrumental in getting James hired.
BASEBALL: The Hampton Test, Neagle and Lidle
How smart is Leo Mazzone? We're going to put it to the test. Mike Hampton's problems the past two years were partly the direct result of moving to Coors, but he pitched badly even when you adjust for the Coors factor. Yet, there seemed to be nothing physically wrong with him. Hampton's real problem seemed to be that he let Coors psych him out, rather than just sticking to his usual game plan and letting the park take its lumps. (Dan O'Dowd will presumably be looking for new theories of what type of pitcher succeeds at Coors after the Hampton and Neagle fiascos. The answer should probably be, "inexpensive ones," unless there's a Pedro or Randy Johnson level superstar available.).
Incidentally, I'm intrigued by one swap I saw rumored this weekend, of Jeromy Burnitz and Rey Ordonez for Neagle. Neagle over the last 2 seasons has struck out 250 batters while walking 126 in 335 innings - not great numbers, but an indication that he, unlike Hampton, has stuck to his own game in Colorado and still has some stuff left. Of course, he's also been tagged for 54 home runs, and his road ERA has been over 5.00 both seasons with the Rockies, but at least Neagle has a chance of contributing, while Ordonez is just killing the team (Burnitz should bounce back next year as well, but how far?). The downside is, Ordonez and Burnitz are both gone - their contracts are up - after 2003, so the long-range plan (if the Mets had one) should be to get to 2004 with as few commitments as possible. Neagle's deal runs an extra year, if I remember right.
Buy low, sell high. Not sure if the A's got good value for Corey Lidle, but they weren't going to pay him good money. What's interesting is that they made the deal with Billy Beane disciple J.P. Ricciardi, who probably has a similar view of Lidle but more money to spend. Long term, that bodes well for the Jays.
November 16, 2002
POLITICS: Voter Fraud
POLITICS: Reality Therapy
If you missed it, this anecdote from a Bulgarian blogger, quoted on Instapundit, is a beautiful example of culture clash between blinkered American leftists and the real world. As our friend Larry observed, "sounds like a Baldwin."
November 15, 2002
BASEBALL: This Will Draw Attention
A woman in Boston arranges to have a pond dredged searching for Babe Ruth's piano. She says she believes that raising the piano will break the Curse of the Bambino. She also says "she hoped to use the piano's discovery to draw attention to mental illness." Uh, yeah . . .
WAR: Iran? Never Heard Of It
As Iran boils, only America and Canada speak out; the rest of the West stays silent. Worse, even, than the failure to offer material support is Europe's abdication of the field of ideas. The situation in Iran is as critical as anything in the war on terror right now, and the Europeans are home with their heads in the sand.
BASEBALL: Projo Column Up
My Projo column is up, arguing that the AL MVP voters are asking the wrong question.
BASEBALL: Hampton Digs In
Apparently, Mike Hampton still loves that Colorado school system. If he says no, the Rockies should start demanding he mow the grass or something. Is there anything worse than a pitcher who sucks, and you can't bench him, and you can't cut him, and now he refuses to let you trade him when you find a taker for his ridiculous contract? "Mr. Hampton, don't bother reporting with the pitchers and catchers. And bring an infielder's glove. We think you can at least keep out-hitting Todd Ziele." The Hampton-Johnson part of the deal is fair enough, but why would either side want to swap Preston Wilson for Juan Pierre? Both are talented young players coming off lousy years, but Pierre is one of the best in the game at the very thing Wilson is the worst at - making contact and putting the ball in play. And that's a hugely important skill in Coors, where balls in play are more likely to become hits than anywhere else. OK, Pierre's younger and cheaper and Wilson's better, but it still seems like a wierd deal.
WAR/POLITICS: The Democrats' Blind Spot
Instapundit had the link to this devastating critique of Democratic apathy about military and defense policy, from Washington Monthly:
"[T]here's been plenty of hand-wringing among the leadership and rank-and-file Democrats about how politically inept the party appeared in the face of Bush's saber rattling. But that's the problem. Democrats are in this position precisely because we respond to matters of war politically, tactically. We worry about how to position ourselves so as not to look weak, rather than thinking through realistic, sensible Democratic principles on how and when to employ military force, and arguing particular cases, such as Iraq, from those principles."
Among the problems: Democrats don't have think tanks and opinion magazines devoted to serious thought on these issues (although the omission of the New Republic from the list is curious). Telling detail:
"When it comes to military service, Democratic lawmakers have nothing to be embarrassed about; of the Senate's 38 veterans, 17 are Democrats (including Daschle). Still, one indication that Democratic lawmakers spend relatively less time focused on military affairs is the people they hire: Two-thirds of veterans on the Senate Armed Services Committee staff are Republicans."
I'm less convinced than the author about whether there is or can be a military policy that Democrats can line up behind (remember the "peace dividend"?), but at least she's trying.
The comparison to Republican approaches to race and inner-city issues is a bit off, I think - a better comparison would be health care or the environment, both of which are complex issues that many Republicans (myself included) have tended to treat as an annoyance or worse. The GOP has grown much savvier on health care over the last 5 or 6 years, and Republicans from Western states often bring a zeal to land-use issues that carries with it a comprehensive outlook on the environment. But the enthusiasm gap is still there. (Incidentally, that's one reason I think the GOP will benefit so greatly from enacting a prescription drug plan for Medicare, along its own reformist model, with little help from the Democrats - it will establish credibility and start to burrow the conservative imprint into the functioning of government on healthcare policy).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:23 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Dunn on the Run
Something tells me that, ten years from now, we're going to look back at Adam Dunn stealing 19 bases this season as an unthinkable event, kind of like nobody anymore can imagine Jim Thome playing third base.
BASEBALL: Box Score of the Day
Box score of the day: June 18, 1975, Tiger Stadium, Red Sox at Tigers. Red Sox win 15-1. Fred Lynn's coming-out party, when he drove in 10 runs in a single game. Note that Lynn drove in 7 runs with two homers and a triple in the first three innings.
POLITICS: Pelosi On The Brain
Somebody at Townhall.com should declare a Pelosi-free zone for a few weeks. Just look at all the Pelosi columns. All the best ammunition's being spent in the first few rounds. Save some for later, folks.
POLITICS: Cigarette Puritans
Peggy Noonan notes that famously tolerant liberals unveil their puritanical streak when it comes to smokers:
I think it is an insufficiently commented-upon irony that cigarette prohibition and the public shaming it entails is the work of modern liberals. They're supposed to be the ones who are nonjudgmental, who live and let live, but they approach smoking like Carry Nation with her ax. Conservatives on the other hand let you smoke. They acknowledge sin and accept imperfection. Also most of them are culturally inclined toward courtesy of the old-fashioned sort.
I hate, hate, hate smoking, and I think the cigarette companies brought a lot of their troubles on themselves over the years by their legal tactics and lies. But I tend to side with the pro-smoking forces on fights like the one Noonan cites, where Mayor Bloomberg is trying to drive smoking out of bars.
If Clinton had smoked that cigar, he would have been in more trouble . . .
November 14, 2002
POP CULTURE/WAR: George W. Potter
Instapundit thinks Harry Potter is like George W. Bush - which explains why Slate's staff hates Potter as much as it hates and hates Bush.
Andrew Sullivan on Saddam Hussein's letter 'accepting' UN inspections: "If you got a letter like this in the mail, you'd call the cops."
POLITICS: Pelosi and Ford
Chris Suellentrop at Slate starts off defending Nancy Pelosi against charges that she's too liberal, but winds up with faint praise more damning than anything her critics on the Right have written: "While it's true that Pelosi's views, particularly on war and foreign policy, are out of step with much of the American public's, they're right in the mainstream of what House Democrats believe."
Suellentrop's comparison to Tom DeLay is a fair one, but the GOP has the president too; what Pelosi does as well is get the GOP off the hook for DeLay's unapologetic conservatism.
Meanwhile, Harold Ford intends to go down fighting.
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If the goal is to set himself up as the alternative if Pelosi's a disaster, this may not be a bad move; if he's gunning for higher office outside the House (which is likely), Ford's quixotic campaign is a brilliant piece of triangulation: "It is our responsibility to articulate a coherent governing agenda. . . In the short term, we would take immediate action to stimulate our economy. We would shift the tax cuts that do not take effect for several years into immediate tax relief for all Americans and businesses. In the long term, we would steer our nation toward fiscal responsibility and broad economic growth. Although Democrats have traditionally sought the upper hand on domestic issues, we now live in a post-9/11 world. If we want the American people to trust us to govern, we cannot take a dismissive or defeatist attitude toward issues of national security. . . Many Americans may be apprehensive about the president's national security strategy, but they understand that he has one, and that the Democrats don't."
Coming from a black man, Ford's challenge to the Democratic party is almost ominous: "I would also take a different approach politically. Our party has focused on turning out groups that vote reliably for our ticket, but it has failed to reach the majority of Americans who are independent or who do not vote at all. These disaffected Americans present an opportunity to any party willing to reach out to them. . . . I would bring new faces onto the leadership team. Many members, especially junior members, have long felt marginalized within the Democratic Caucus." Translation: take us for granted and we walk. And there are voters out there we can reach if we do. It's the McCain/Perot/Ventura card and the race card all in one, and it should scare the bejabbers out of anyone in the Democratic party who thinks that the agenda of the liberal elite can ascend to power unmolested.
Â« Close It
BASEBALL: The Jerk Store Called
Slate carries a piece on why Barry Bonds chooses to be a jerk to get more media attention. I'm not sure I entirely buy the thesis - I think Bonds abuses reporters because it's a power trip, because he knows that the ruder he is to them, the more they will be forced to come back and ask for more. But it's an interesting argument. I agree, at least, that Bonds is probably smart enough to know that he could get the reporters to go away if he was just bland and full of cliches. Darryl Strawberry took this approach to new levels in about the 1984-86 period, when he would spout the SAME cliche in every interview ("I just want to live up to my potential and contribute to the team.") I think he probably memorized an index card Jay Horowitz gave him or something.
The other thing is, Bonds was not only a jerk but quotably a jerk as a young player with a chip on his shoulder, a guy with high expectations, a lot to prove, and most likely a grudge at some of the hard knocks his oft-traded dad took at the hands of the media. Some of his current stance may just be something he backed himself into as a loud-mouthed youngster, and he really appears to think he'd lose face if he got nice now.
POLITICS: "We've got Trent surrounded."
Ramesh Ponnuru over at NRO is drooling over the team of conservatives in the new Senate leadership (other than Trent Lott, of course). Says one source: there's no need to worry: "We've got Trent surrounded." One of the more radical changes is Don Nickels replacing Pete Domenici at the Budget Committee. Ponnuru also lists possible challengers to Barbara Boxer; one is Congressman Darrell Issa. God help us. Issa is one of the handful of Republicans who is reflexively pro-Arab.
POLITICS: "No compromise with the electorate"
Tired of conservative columnists pouring hot pitchers of boiling scorn down on the Democrats? Then you won't, I suppose, want to read George Will's latest column, which is scathing:
After Britain's Labour Party was demolished by Margaret Thatcher in the 1983 general election, an undaunted Labourite vowed, ``No compromise with the electorate." That can be the rallying cry of Pelosi Democrats.
POLITICS/BUSINESS: The Treasury Job
More inside-the-Beltway stuff in Bob Novak's column on the impending doom of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, which will leave the Bush Administration looking to fill the Treasury and SEC jobs as well as Larry Lindsey's economic-adviser job all at once.
While there are several candidates, all have their shortcomings:
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Zell Miller, a decidedly Bentsenish choice, seems happy to serve out his term as a contrarian Democratic Senator, although joining the Administration seems likelier than switching sides in the Senate.
Rudy Giuliani's been mentioned for the SEC job, but he could have any job he wants; except for the vice presidency or Attorney General, neither of which is available, the only one I could maybe see him taking is the new Secretary of Homeland Security.
Phil Gramm would be great, but I assume if Gramm wanted to stay in government he'd have stayed a Senator.
Jack Kemp has the name recognition but probably too much of a reputation on issues like tax cuts and the gold standard.
Steve Forbes is absorbed with his magazine and easily caricatured as a rabid right-winger.
James Baker's been Treasury Secretary before, isn't a tax cutter (on a similar level, Dick Darman is probably even below Michael Moore on Bush's list of economic advisers) and probably doesn't need the headache of the SEC.
If Bill Simon had run well in California he might be an option for one of the jobs - his dad was Treasury secretary - but his disastrously tone-deaf campaign and the (unfair) ethical questions about him make him unattractive.
On a larger level, there are few Republicans out there who ran good campaigns and lost, the way Ashcroft and Spence Abraham did in 2000 (John Thune comes to mind, but he hasn't made a name on economic issues, or maybe Steve Largent).
I liked Christie Whitman as a Treasury choice two years ago, but the last thing Bush wants right now is to find a new EPA chief, when the environment is one of the Democrats' few enduring strengths (John Engler? again, a guy who has some tax-cutting experience but isn't the type to inspire confidence in financial markets).
A CEO looks like a bad pick these days, although some Wall Streeters have been bounced around for at least one of the jobs.
Other GOP veterans seem to be settled outside government, like Vin Weber and John Kasich and the recently-retired, although Kasich is a guy with real political experience, TV skills and conservative credentials.
In other words, Bush may wind up looking more to businessmen types with low political profiles, because the likely former officeholders are mostly unavailable or unlikely. And he has to do this while running the war . . . it's a tough job.
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November 13, 2002
POLITICS: Thune Takes The High Road
Forced to choose between taking the high road in the footsteps of John Ashcroft or . . . well, following the footsteps of Al Gore, John Thune picks the high road. That leaves us, for the session starting in January, with 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, 1 Louisiana election, and a partridge in a pear tree (I-Vt).
POLITICS: Line of Succession
Line of succession, if anything happens to George W. Bush, now runs Dick Cheney-Denny Hastert-Ted Stevens.
BASEBALL: Wear and Tear in Japan
I'm always concerned about the innings thrown by guys who go to Japan after the season (for example, Derek Lowe went after the 2000 season after back-to-back seasons of 100+ relief innings, and had a forgettable 2001), but as yet I haven't been able to locate box scores or a roster on the web for the touring team (Bartolo Colon's there, as are Mark Buerhle and Tomo Okha, and Brad Penny (!), and Rodrigo Lopez).
BASEBALL: IT WASN'T HIS DEFENSE
WAR: Justice Delayed
I was starting to suspect that Saddam had his legislature defy the UN resolution precisely so that he could make the magnanimous theatrical gesture of accepting. We all know this is a trap and a fraud, but we will be obliged to play along for a decent interval . . .
Is war with Saddam a Just War? It seems to me that if a war is Just, and it is settled by treaties, and one party violates those treaties in important ways . . . I mean, if that doesn't make a renewal of hostilities itself a Just War, then the Church has essentially accepted a doctrine that tells nations that the only rational and moral way to end a Just War is by a Carthaginian peace. I think this is not what the theologians who initially expounded the theory had in mind, although the inspections charade may yet prove that this is precisely the answer. Clearly, it should be a very long time before we again agree to put a misbehaving tyrant on probation - the occupation of Japan didn't take as long as, and probably cost less money and certainly fewer lives than, the post-Gulf War stalemate with Saddam.
OTHER SPORTS: Manute on Ice
Hockey. Yes, hockey. It's Manute Bol on ice! No punchline is necessary.
WAR: The Dissident
I picked this up from NRO: Reuters calls Osama bin Laden a "Saudi-born dissident." Yeah, and Jeffrey Dahmer was a Milwaukee-based gourmand. I'm not sure whether Reuters pulls this kind of crap because it wants to suck up to the authorities in Muslim/Arab dictatorships to get news, or because it is actually run and staffed by people who are blinded by their hatred of Western Civilization. Vegas isn't even taking odds that James Taranto at Best of the Web will be all over this one.
Bill Simmons waxes nostalgic for the days when being a sports fan sucked. Simmons is perhaps more bitter than I'd be, but he has a point. We lose our individual innocence and wonderment as we age, and the world discovers new ways to be cynical; the combination makes us think the past was a Golden Age. We can always identify ways it really was, but we're selective (Gustave Flaubert: "Our ignorance of history makes us libel our own times. People have always been like this." Bill James (paraphrased): "When people tell me they'd like to have lived in the 18th century, I ask them whether they'd have enjoyed having their teeth pulled without anasthesia."). In the 1930s, fans said, "I remember before all this home run craziness, when scoring a run was a team effort and really meant something." They didn't say, "I remember when I was a kid and the White Sox threw the World Series."
James had a better point in the 80s when he said he wished somebody had told him in the sixties and early seventies to enjoy all the great power pitchers, that they wouldn't always be around. He was writing then about the generation of great leadoff men headed by Rickey Henderson and Tim Raines, and it says something about what followed that generation that both men lasted into the 21st century. Every generation does have its glories that we will not see the like of again. Enjoy Pedro and Randy Johnson; admire Barry Bonds; tip your hat to Shaq. They may not pass this way any time soon.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:27 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Basketball | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
The perfect Christmas gift for the litigator on your list!
POLITICS: Run Away!
November 5 - Republicans take the Senate.
Could it be - is Maureen Dowd taking the bold step that Alec Baldwin only dreamed of, and leaving the country for the duration of GOP dominance?
POP CULTURE: LILEKS on DirecTV
Hooked it up, called DirecTV, went through the procedure to activate it - and here we enter mumbojumbo land. I chanted the magic numbers into the phone; the shaman on the other end moved his fingers, and the birds in the sky and the snakes on the land woke as one, and yea: the picture appeared on the wall, and seemed to move; the words appeared as if writ by an invisible hand, and I fell on my knees and said I will order the NFL Total Access Game Package, O my liege. I will! I am not worthy of this package but I shall accept it nonetheless. Blessed be unto you.
BASEBALL: Zumsteg v. James
I took an open and skeptical mind into Derek Zumsteg's lengthy defense of the Dowd Report against Bill James' critique in the New Historical Abstract (Zumsteg doesn't reference the longer attack in The Baseball Book 1990), and while I still haven't plowed through the evidence myself in any detail, I came away persuaded. While Zumsteg overstates his case on a few points, the overall picture is about as damning as it's likely to get as evidence that Pete Rose not only bet on baseball while managing the Reds, but bet on his own team. Zumsteg's analysis suggests that James' thesis - that Paul Janszen skillfully conned others into taking his baseball bets by using Rose's name, while Rose was betting on other sports - is highly tenuous and would require that three or four people be conspiring in a rather elaborate lie. This isn't impossible, but it's unlikely. Of course, there things about the Dowd Report that are worth questioning: it's not clear that any of the witnesses were subject to cross-examination (if not, their stories deserve a little skepticism), and as I've noted, Dowd has gone rather overboard since then in making a public argument against Rose, apparently against the wishes of his former client.
My general argument for why Rose still belongs in Cooperstown still stands. But to me, at least, Zumsteg has connected the dots.
November 12, 2002
BASEBALL: Pudge For Sale
Perhaps the most interesting of the free agents is Pudge Rodriguez. Were it not for Mo, I sort of liked the idea of the Mets signing him (assuming they were competitive, which they're not) and using him about 100 games behind the plate and Piazza the rest, with the two sharing 1B on their off days, the way the Yankees did with Yogi and Elston Howard for several years. Rodriguez needs to cut back the catching or he'll break down completely very soon; if the Cubs sign him he could be Todd Hundley Part 2. It would be a gutsy move for the Red Sox to snap him up and try a C/DH shuffle with him, Varitek and another bat. Would Bill James, who once wrote that nobody should give up anything of value to get a catcher with more than 1200 games under his belt, go along? Seattle might be an even better bet.
WAR: The Legacy of Versailles
Mark Steyn's Veterans Day remembrance has it right, as usual - we are still living with the residue of World War I. I spent a good deal of my high school and college career (I was a history major) poring over the manifold disasters and missed opportunities that followed the Great War. There's hardly been a conflict in the world these last 84 years that can't be traced to the botched peace treaties and other follies of that era - in Russia, in Germany, in Yugoslavia, in Palestine/Israel, in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Ireland.
WAR: Sunlight On The Arab News
The Sun also has a pointed piece on a panel discussion featuring the editor of the Arab News:
The editor of the Saudi-based Arab News, . . . Khaled Al-Maeena, was a speaker. He defended his newspaper’s publishing of a recent article that referred to the “subhuman Zionist lobby.”
“The Zionist lobby is a lobby that is working against the interest of peace in the Middle East. It is working against the interests of Israel and against the interests of Palestinians,” Mr. Al-Maeena told The New York Sun. “The Zionist lobby is negating all the good characteristics of the Israeli people.”
When the Sun asked if that makes them “subhuman,” he said: “as a human being, your interests should be peace and prosperity in Israel and in all the lands…I believe there should be peace in the Middle East, but to go on and create problems and trouble is really upsetting me…Israel was made so that the Jews would live in peace. Jews everywhere around the world are living in peace except in Israel.”
BASEBALL: Davenport Projects Matsui
Until I found the link on Baseball Primer today, I'd been looking for Clay Davenport's breakdowns of Japanese hitters, including Hideki Matsui (not to be confused with Kazuo Matsui, who's a shortstop). "Godzilla" projects, in Davenoprt's system, as a hitter on par with Carlos Delgado. Reports that Matsui is a free swinger seem inconsistent with the picture of patience in the numbers here.
POLITICS: Hollings Retiring?
I noted in my 2004 Senate breakdown last week that one of the toughest Senate seats for the Democrats to defend will be Fritz Hollings in South Carolina - Roll Call, the Congressional newspaper, now reports that Hollings may retire and there's no likely successor. (Link via Drudge)
BASEBALL: ESPN Ranks The Free Agents
Here's ESPN's ranking of the top 50 Free Agents, with likely destinations. Projecting Greg Maddux to the D-Backs is frightening, but makes perfect sense with their team; they could use him as a third starter (!!), and thus afford to rest him now and then to stay fresh for October. . . I'd love to see the Mets get John Olerud back, but Mo's going nowhere. The Red Sox should make a run at him . . . the Rangers signing Steve Finley would be an advertisement that rebuilding (and success) won't happen until A-Rod's contract is up (8 years to go!) . . . Todd Zeile hit .273 with 18 home runs in Coors; "buyer beware" is putting it mildly, more like buying a car with no wheels . . . an awful lot of old guys straining the limits of credibility before they run out of gas, including Lofton, Chuck Finley, David Justice and Fred McGriff; McGriff's likely the best bet, but he has to wear down eventually . . . I'd probably take Greg Colbrunn, particularly for the price he;'ll command, than Zeile and maybe even McGriff . . . Ramiro Mendoza is a fine swingman, but at this stage a leap to the rotation could be ugly . . if the Mets spend money on Jimmy Haynes, they are really fools . . . Ismael Valdes is ready to make the leap to the bullpen - if Mike Remlinger and Chris Hammond can do it . . . Dodgers would do well to bring back Terry Adams . . . guy I'd like to see the Mets take a flier on is Jon Lieber, who's a fine pitcher but has a long rehab road ahead after surgery.
BASEBALL: The Ballot Narrows
I was way too late getting in my Projo column on the AL MVP race; I had hoped to get it up before the vote was announced. It's Tejada, the second-best shortstop in the AL.
What's interesting is the narrowing of the scope of candidates. To justify the 2000 vote, the writers had to take the position that a starting pitcher can't win, throwing out years of history in the process. Now, the writers have said: players on losing teams can NEVER win the award, not even if they play the same position as the guy who wins, and are better at just about everything. Goodbye Ernie, farewell Andre; players from non-contending teams need never apply again.
WAR: World Media
And reporters think American politicians are tough on them . . . (Link via Drudge)
BASEBALL: 2002 AL MVP Ballot
So, Barry Bonds wins the NL MVP again - there really wasn't another choice. The guy gets on base 58% of the time and slugs .799 and his teams squeaks into the playoffs again with an unimpressive-looking supporting cast - who else are you gonna give the thing to?
But the AL MVP award, handed out this afternoon (undecided as I write this) is another story. The numbers, again, are clear: the three best hitters in the AL were Jim Thome, Jason Giambi, and Alex Rodriguez (in that order; Manny Ramirez was also more productive per at bat than Rodriguez, but you can't give the MVP to a guy who missed a ton of time for a team that missed the playoffs by a handful of games). The offensive differences were not huge, but when you consider that Thome and Giambi are first basemen who run like apartment houses and are mediocre (Thome) to poor (Giambi) with the glove, while Rodriguez runs well and is a good fielding shortstop, the answer - on paper - is quite obvious.
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I could explain why at length, but I don't really have the time. Here are a few highlights from the numbers:
+Rodriguez led the league in total bases; only one player (Alfonso Soriano) was within 35.
+He led the league in homers and RBI (20 more RBI than Giambi) and was second to Soriano in runs scored (24 more than Thome, 17 more than Miguel Tejada).
OK, some of this is credit for just showing up, since his totals were huge, but then if your shorstop slugs .623, I think you'd like him to be in the lineup every day, and the falloff to using a backup shortstop is fairly steep when he doesn't.
+On the percentage side, he was third in slugging (behind Thome and Ramirez but more than 100 points ahead of Tejada), 8th in OBP (Tejada was 30th, Soriano 48th), fourth in on base plus slugging, and fifth in Runs Created/27 outs (1st in total Runs Created, by the formula).
+He was caught stealing just 4 times and hit into 14 double plays (Giambi hit into 18, Tejada 21, but the fly-ball-or-whiff Thome hit into just 5).
The usual argument, then, erupts over whether you can give the award to Rodriguez, who played for a last place team, as opposed to Thome - no, scratch that, as opposed to Giambi or Miguel Tejada, both of whose teams made the playoffs, despite the obvious fact that neither of them was the best player in the league at his position. Some people have also mentioned Soriano as a candidate, but while Soriano was clearly among the top 10 players in the league, he wasn't on the same elite level as the others offensively (because he was just a point above the league on base percentage) and didn't compensate with especially dazzling glove work (Soriano is no better than, at his best, an average defensive second baseman, and probably less than that).
(Ironically, as Mel Antonen of USAToday notes, it's often the players who prefer to look at the numbers and the writers who go with the argument that "intangibles" that make "winners" are an important factor.)
I've been around the block with this argument before, but it seems like the argument of "most valuable" vs. "best player" is two sides talking past each other; what we really need to start with is asking: most valuable to what? What, exactly, is a baseball team trying to accomplish?
The simple answers are, "win championships," "win baseball games," and "make
So in a close race, it's entirely valid for the number one question to be, which player did the most to push his team towards a championship? Which player played the most games in pennant race conditions, the most close games, and did the best? Not because it's harder to play well under pressure - you could just as easily argue that it's harder to concentrate in blowouts, or harder to hit without adequate protection in your lineup - but because those players were most often in a position to do something that would have value to their teams. On the other hand, the same logic would count out some of the contributions of a player whose team walks off with the pennant, like the Twins; how much did Torii Hunter's contributions in the second half really matter to the AL Central race?
On the other hand, it's silly to just write entirely out of the picture a guy who plays for a bad team. People are still paying to come to the park, and they still want to root, root root for the home team. Baseball doesn't work if we don't ask the cellar-dwellers to keep fighting the good fight; indeed, the integrity of the pennant races depends upon that fact. Even a player on a bad team can have an impact on the pennant race.
If we look at it that way, we have to ask the two questions:
1. Who did the most to help his team win a championship?
This is actually a tough question, because the best player in the league on a competitive team was probably Giambi, who was far and away the better hitter than Tejada. On the other hand, the Yankees also pulled away from the race in the season's last six weeks, while Tejada was still pushing the A's towards the postseason until the very end. I think I'd have to say Giambi, since he was so superior with the bat, but it's close.
2. Who did the most to help his team win baseball games?
Like I said before, this has to be A-Rod. This isn't the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134) we're talking about here; the Rangers won 72 games, including 20 victories against their division rivals, each of whom fought to the finish for a playoff spot. Rodriguez was instrumental in the victories the Rangers did have, and he hit well against the contenders: .290/.650/.412 against the rest of the AL West, including 21 homers, 50 runs and 50 RBI in 58 games, and .291/.663/.378 against the Yankees, Red Sox and Twins.
Where do I come out? Regular readers won't be surprised that, on this one, I still come out for Rodriguez, who's been repeatedly shafted in the MVP voting in years past. Yes, he spent his season just trying to win games, not pennants. But I just don't see the race for "best player" as even close enough to swing the balance to Giambi or Tejada on the basis of having played in more meaningful games. It's not even remotely plausible, for example, to argue that the A's were better with Tejada than they would have been with Rodriguez, and if the MVP can't pass that laugh test at his own position, you really can't get carried away with the extra credit he gets for playing in more situations where he can push his team towards a championship.
My ballot would be:
1. Alex Rodriguez
(No starting pitchers this year - nobody stood out far enough or worked enough innings).
Â« Close It
The New York Sun has a review of the Gores' new book, but frankly even a review of the thing seemed too boring to read.
WAR: The News Knows
The NY Daily News gets what some of the wire services don't. Headline on the deliberations of Iraq's "Parliament": "Saddam stooges dithering"
November 11, 2002
WAR: Permits for Terror
Meryl Yourish blows her stack over a report noting that EU officials are in talks with Hamas about restricting terrorist attacks to areas where the zoning ordinances permit the wanton slaughter of civilians.
WAR: Going To The Roots
Christopher Hitchens argues that Saddam is going to topple sooner or later anyway, so we might as well be around to hasten the end and stanch the bleeding. This is part of Hitchens' continuing campaign to prove that, right now, we are all objectively either pro-war or pro-fascism; as he also notes, the really radical thing post-September 11 has been the fact that conservatives have been the ones looking for root causes of terrorism, tracing the money and the ideology back to regimes that support terror as well as those whose repression breeds hatreds, while the crowd that blathers on about "root causes" is actually uninterested in looking that deep.
POLITICS: Scandal at the SEC?
Did the SEC fire an employee for leaking sensitive information to China? Bill Gertz of the Washington Times has the story. (Link via Drudge).
BASEBALL: Bonds, Hands Down
Baseballjunkie.net with the goods on why Bonds had to be the unanimous MVP.
WAR: Bad News
WAR: Before Christmas
WAR: Fisk Faces Facts
Robert Fisk reports from the League of Impotent Arabs. Even Fisk has to call the Iraqi parliament "only slightly less democratic than the Roman Senate during the reign of the Emperor Nero."
Blog will be quieter as my work schedule gets very busy the next few weeks. I'll try to post some thoughts, but I can't promise regular content. Plus, I'm overdue for another Projo column.
POLITICS: It's Connie Chung's Party
Connie Chung's interview with New Mexico's Democratic Governor-elect Bill Richardson the day after the election rankled me. Here's the part that did it:
CHUNG: Ambassador Richardson, outgoing Majority Leader Tom Daschle said that the reason why the Republicans did so well was in part because the Democrats' message on the economy did not get out.
Do you really believe that the Democrats had an economic plan? And I know you're going to say that Daschle presented it on the floor of the Senate, but I don't know that anybody really got that message.
RICHARDSON: Well, Connie, I think two reasons were responsible for Democrats not doing well.
One was President Bush's frenetic campaigning. He was good at it. And he made a difference. He went to one county in New Mexico. Although I won in a landslide, the one county he went to, I didn't do well.
The second reason is, I think the majority leader is doing a good job, but I don't think the Democrats had an economic message. I was able, here in New Mexico, just at the local level, to talk about economic growth, competitive tax reform, even tax cuts to make our state more competitive. People care about bread-and-butter issues, putting more money in their pockets, economic growth, entrepreneurship. And I just don't see nationally the Democrats talking about that.
CHUNG: Yes. I know. But don't you think, in this election, basically the people were concerned about terrorism? They were concerned about having the country support the president if he invades Iraq. Those were the concerns. The economy, of course, was important, but, apparently, they weren't voting that way.
The transcript doesn't quite capture her indignation that a Democrat, a Clinton Democrat, was daring to disagree with her analysis that any Republican victory had to be only about terrorism, and couldn't possibly be even partly based on people preferring Republican solutions on economic growth issues. But Connie Chung wasn't going to be denied; she moved on to a more congenial subject, Robert Reich, who was all too happy to argue that nobody could have voted Republican based on economic issues because "the Democrats have a very strong record on the economy. . . Look at what happened. In the Clinton administration, you had a great economy. In the Bush administration, you have a lousy economy." So, she asked him, "Robert Reich, tell us, what do you think? Is 2004 going to be a tough one for the Democrats, because we can't see the light right now today?" And, "But what happened? I mean, do we blame Daschle? Do we blame Gephardt? Was it the leadership?"
Whaddya mean, we?
BASEBALL: Posnanski On Bill James, Red Sox Fan
The always-interesting Joe Posnanski sheds eloquent tears for the Royals' victory in their long campaign to make Bill James, the nation's most famous Royals fan, root for another team. (Link via Baseball Primer). Of course, the advancement of Jamesophiles like Posnanski and Art Martone in the ranks of mainstream journalism is another sign that we are gradually entering the 21st Century in baseball fandom.
BASEBALL: Dowd Talks Out Of School
Dowd Report defenders would do well to note this exchange of letters in the New York Times: a letter from former Major League Baseball attorney John Dowd (third letter down) claiming, among other things, that "Rose has never applied for reinstatement in the game during the 13 years" drew a sharp rebuke from the general counsel (the chief lawyer in the company) of Dowd's former client (also third letter down, here) disputing Dowd's view of the rules and pointedly noting:
Dowd attempts to chronicle the history of Rose's ineligibility since 1989 and makes the sweeping statement that Rose has never applied for reinstatement during the last 13 years. It is difficult to understand how a person whose services were terminated by Major League Baseball more than 10 years ago has any idea what communications have occurred between Rose and this office during that time.
In other words, Dowd is speaking without knowledge of the present facts, and without authority from his former client to do so. Dowd's conduct since 1989 has done little to inspire confidence in the objectivity of his work.
November 10, 2002
BASEBALL: Beane to Red Sox?
Should we have seen this coming? First Bill James, then Billy Beane. Will the Red Sox be hiring Neyer soon?
BLOG: BANNED IN NEW YORK
I just finally visited (on my home PC) Eric Raymond's "Armed and Dangerous" blog, which in the past I've clicked on from links at Instapundit, only to be told that my law firm's software bars me from visiting this site. This has never happened with any other blog. I'm still not sure exactly why, but I suppose I could guess.
November 9, 2002
How would the Jimmy Carters of the world handle Saddam? And, for that matter, how do they intend to react to the outrage of the U.N. Security Council pursuing a 'unilateral' confrontation with Saddam?
I think this sums it up pretty well:
"Fletcher: You scratched my car!!!
Motorpool Guy: Where?
Fletcher: (indicating with his hands) Right there!
Motorpool Guy: That was already there.
Fletcher: You---LIAR! You know what I am going to do about this?
Motorpool Guy: what?
Fletcher: Absolutely nothing. Because if I take it to court, it will just drain 8 hours out of my life; you probably won't show up and once I do get the judgment, you'll just stiff me anyway; so what I am going to do is piss and moan like an impotent jerk, then bend over and take it up the tailpipe!!"
BLOG: DON'T BUY THIS USED
I don't think this will be on my Christmas list . . . the part that says "I THINK . . . THAT THIS ITEM WAS USED" is enough for me.
November 8, 2002
BASEBALL: Greater Fools
For the record, signing Tom Glavine for a two-year deal isn't a terrible idea, if the team is one that intends to contend or (in the case of the Mets) has painted itself into a corner and has no choice but to keep trying. I tend to think the Yankees get into things like this just to bid Glavine up so the Mets won't get him, but they are thin in starting pitching and loaded on offense, so making a bid for a veteran lefty (always welcome at the House That Steinbrenner Remodeled) is a pretty good move.
For anyone but the Yankees - who can afford the writeoff - signing Glavine to more than two years is suicidal. He's one step removed from being Kevin Appier, and two steps from being Charles Nagy.
The NY Daily News also says the Mets are thinking about dealing Rey Ordonez. This is either wishful thinking by the News, or by the Mets; even if the Mets finally figure out that Ordonez stinks, what are the odds that they'll find someone else who doesn't know this, and to the tune of $6.25 million?
WAR: No Oil For Blood?
This post on nowarblog, making the blood-for-oil argument, misses an important distinction: there's no inconsistency in saying we're not going to war over oil, but at the same time arguing that we can use some of Iraq's oil revenues to defray the cost of a post-war occupation. Rumsfeld isn't suggesting that the war be a profit-making enterprise, just that unlike the dirt-poor Afghanis, Iraq has some sources of wealth that we can partially tap to help offset the extensive cost to us of liberating its people. I don't see anything so terribly wrong with that. We pay policemen, don't we?
BASEBALL: Sheehan For Hire
WAR: BE IT RESOLVED, LET'S ROLL
The UN Security Council unanimously approves this resolution. Note that the Security Council finds that "the Government of Iraq has failed to comply with its commitments pursuant to resolution 687 (1991) with regard to terrorism," that it "demands that Iraq confirm within seven days . . . its intention to comply fully with this resolution; and demands further that Iraq cooperate immediately, unconditionally, and actively with UNMOVIC and the IAEA," and that "the Council has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations." (emphasis added). The only question is whether Saddam will try to agree to this whole thing now, with the hope of lying and delay later; if he agrees, he may suffer a fatal loss of face with his people; if he doesn't agree, war will probably follow by the end of November. All things considered, the latter is probably better for the U.S., since it will clearly and unequivocally give the green light to end this charade, kill the SOB, and set his people free.
POLITICS: The Dems' Demise
How low has the Democratic Party's leadership sunk in the eyes of the party faithful? Well, a great many Democrats believe that Bush is an imbecile. They also believe that Bush outwitted their party's leaders. You do the math. I wouldn't be printing up those "Put Dick In The Oval Office" Buttons just yet.
Also, Jane Galt on the Democrats' response to the elections, on Wednesday:
Walk me through the logic here: you just got routed in an election in which voters specifically expressed a desire to hand control of the Senate over to the other party. The main factor in your defeat seems to have been the opposing party's overwhelmingly popular president. So the problem, say Democratic pundits, is that the party didn't "stand up to the president", and need to either
a) Move to the left
I'm afraid I'm not following the logical leap from
1) The voters dissed us because they like the President
2) We must therefore vigorously oppose the President by any means necessary.
Can someone fill me in?
Stuart Buck, linking to the same piece, on Thursday: Democratic pundits are arguing that "Democrats lost because President Bush is so popular, and therefore Democrats would have done better if they had more staunchly opposed him"
The Wall Street Journal, this morning (link for subscribers only): "Let's see: Republicans won because their voters were fired up to defend Mr. Bush's policies. So Democrats should have been even more vociferous in assailing those policies. No doubt Americans everywhere would have embraced a party that positioned itself as soft on the war on terror. (Look how it helped Max Cleland in Georgia!) And if that didn't do it, then surely they would have flooded to the polls to endorse . . . a tax increase."
Great minds think alike?
POLITICS: Handicapping the 2004 Senate Race: The GOP Seats
Let's pick up where we left off yesterday, with the early prognosis for the 2004 Senate races. Once again, you can check the 1998 results for these seats here. This will probably about conclude this week's bout of election-related blogorrhea.
1. RETIREMENTS: Just one, a prominent one in a state that could go either way (I haven't checked lately, but last I heard the governors' race was still unsettled): John McCain in Arizona. You have to count that as a possible Democratic pickup.
2. THE NEWCOMER: Frank Murkowski in Alaska is supposed to be up for re-election, but he was just elected governor, and his appointed replacement will stand for re-election in 2004. That's a guarantee that there will at least be a contested election, but Alaska has been GOP territory for some time, and the ANWR controversy has exacerbated that. The main risk may well be that if Murkowski is a disaster as the governor, voters might take it out on his hand-picked replacement.
3. SAFE SEATS IN SAFE STATES: Republicans have a bunch of these, guys who are well set in their seats and won handily last time - Don Nickles in Oklahoma, Richard Shelby in Alabama, Judd Gregg in New Hampshire, Mike Crapo in Idaho, Sam Brownback in Kansas, Robert Bennett in Utah. I may also put Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado along with fellow former Democrat Shelby in this category.
4. SWING STATES: Republicans Charles Grassley in Iowa, Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania and George Voinovich in Ohio seem safe - Specter faced a still challenge after the Clarence Thomas hearings, but he's tacked far enough to the left that it's tough for Democrats to outflank him now - but all three are in states that will be heated battlegrounds for the presidential race, and any one of them could find himself facing a formidable opponent. Iowa, for example, has a popular Democratic governor, Tom Vilsack, who won re-election handily Tuesday and, with Tom Harkin in the other Senate seat, has nowhere else to go but challenge Grassley or run for the White House (although Vilsack is also sometimes mentioned as vice presidential material, the Democrats' trend in the last few elections has been to look for veep candidates who will generate some national buzz). Put Campbell in this category - Colorado has been a swing state in recent presidential years, although it went GOP in a big way on Tuesday - if not in the one above.
5. ENDANGERED SPECIES: Three GOP incumbents won with less than 53% in 1998. One, Kit Bond of Missouri, is in a swing state, but I suspect he will do fine even if he's facing Dick Gephardt. Righty Jim Bunning of Kentucky will probably be helped hugely by the presidential race - Bunning barely won re-election with 49.75% of the vote last time, but Kentucky's a pretty conservative state these days nationally.
That leaves us the most endangered Republican of all, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois, who slid into office on the trail of slime left by outgoing Senator Carol Mosely Braun. With Illinois' Democratic governor and Clinton aide Rahm Emanuel both newly elected, I can't immediately think who will be the favorite to take on Fitzgerald (the way things are going these days, I'd have to guess Paul Simon). But the Democrats will push very hard for this seat and have to be favored to reclaim it.
THE PROGNOSIS: I'd rate the Democrats as having two good shots at pickups here - Illinois and Arizona - with maybe about three other races winding up contested. With the Democrats themselves defending about three or four hot races, they will need a great string of luck to pick up two seats and go to 51 - and that's assuming they hang on to Louisiana and South Dakota this month. In other words, if the GOP can squeeze out one more seat in the Louisiana race or from South Dakota in the event of a recount, the odds will get prohibitively high against Democrats recapturing the Senate before 2006.
POLITICS: Have You Stopped?
A judge in Kansas beats his wife - with the voters' approval.
This picture should warm the hearts of gun enthusiasts . .
November 7, 2002
POLITICS: 2004 Senate Predictions: The Democrat-Held Seats
It's not too soon for political junkies to start looking ahead to the 2004 Senate elections. There's a reason why: strategy for those elections, as well as the presidential election, will do much to drive the parties' calculations of how long the Republican window of likely White House-Senate control is (the landscape of House elections doesn't change much from year to year; one House election raises concerns in both parties pretty much the same as any other). Let's take a look. The Democrats, who will likely enter the elections needing to gain between 2 and 4 seats to regain control (you can't predict deaths or resignations or party switches, but we'll have a better idea after Louisiana and South Dakota are settled), but they will face an uphill battle: defending 19 seats to the GOP's 15. (You can go to the FEC's website for the results of the 1998 Senate elections for these same 34 seats.) I'm also figuring that there's a better than even chance that a popular Bush is facing either Gore again or someone like John Kerry, running on a basically populist, anti-war and generally left-leaning campaign after the fashion of Gore's post-convention strategy; obviously, if Bush falters badly, the whole calculus changes.
1. RETIREMENTS: The only one I know of so far is Zell Miller in Georgia, which in a presidential election year could be a GOP pickup. Miller's replacement on the Democratic ticket is likely to be more liberal than he, although the best bet is moderate Roy Barnes, who just lost his bid for re-election as governor. Daniel Inouye in Hawaii and Fritz Hollings in South Carolina also seem like potential retirees given their age and seniority. It's also possible that Tom Daschle in South Dakota or John Edwards in North Carolina could step down if one of them wins the presidential nomination; in this climate, I doubt anybody would quit a race just to be a vice presidential candidate.
2. SAFE SEATS IN SAFE STATES: I'd tentatively list as safe bets Chris Dodd in Connecticut (unless John Rowland, just re-elected as governor, runs); Inouye (probably a safe seat even if Inouye, who's held the seat since Hawaii got statehood, dies or retires); Barbara Mikulski in Maryland; Patrick Leahy in Vermont; Daschle (his popularity may be taking a hit at the moment, but SD voters seem unlikely to dump him entirely unless the presidential race is such a gigantic blowout that it massively skews turnout); Chuck Schumer in NY (unless Giuliani runs against him). Barbara Boxer is also fairly safe unless the Republicans can really drive a wedge between her and California's left-leaning electorate on the war, but high turnout for the presidential race is likely to help Boxer.
3. THE GREEN STATES: Three Democratic Senators are running in states where strong Green Party showings made the Bush-Gore race extremely close last time; these seem like fairly safe seats but they could become contested races if the GOP finds a strong, moderate-sounding candidate on the Norm Coleman model: Russ Feingold of Wisconsin (who I would think of as the safest of the three, although he actually won narrowly last time while the others cruised); Patty Murray in Washington; and Ron Wyden in Oregon. Given that the 2000 Senate race in Washington was so close and the GOP's Gordon Smith just cruised to victory in Oregon on Tuesday, you have to figure the Republicans will target at least one of these races with a real challenger.
4. THE SOUTH: Here's where the President's popularity will be key, as it was this year. Defending a Democratic Senate seat in the South while a popular Republican president is heading the ticket. The Democrats will be defending five seats: Edwards, Hollings, Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, John Breaux in Louisiana, and Bob Graham in Florida. Hollings is the most endangered; he and Edwards are the only two who got less than 55% of the vote in 1998, and Edwards was running against an incumbent. Breaux, a noted moderate, seems the safest, although Graham has been fairly solid on the war, which will be particularly necessary if that's the lead issue in the presidential campaign.
5. THE REST: That leaves three swing seats. One is held by a popular senator, Evan Bayh, in conservative Indiana. He doesn't look like much to worry about for the Democrats. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota also cruised last time. The third is Harry Reid in Nevada; in 1998, Reid won by less than 500 votes, and in 2000, Bush won the state by a razor-thin margin. This is likely to be a nail-biter, although as usual the issue of the nuclear dump at Yucca Mountain will figure prominently.
THE PROGNOSIS: The Democrats will fight many and expensive battles in 2004, but only a handful really look scary right now if you're a Democrat - Reid, Hollings, Miller and maybe some of the other southerners. Still, having at least three seriously endangered seats makes the job of assembling a net gain of 2 or more seats a daunting one.
(I'll take on the 15 GOP seats later.)
POLITICS: Plan For The Democrats
An entertaining piece on the Democrats' formation of a circular firing squad after Teusday night's debacle; among other things, Washington Post reporter Kevin Merida uses the occasion as an excuse to interview Red Auerbach (“You show me a guy who loses an election and he’s happy, he’s an idiot. If you lose, you have to go out and say, ‘I’m the unhappiest person in the world.’ When you lose, I want you to be unhappy, I want you to be miserable.”) Great quote, only partially tongue in cheek, from James Carville, who proves to be a much more graceful in defeat than in victory: “I kind of enjoy the second-guessing and recriminations and finger-pointing . . . I enjoy observing the pettiness that defeat brings out in people."
What I also find very entertaining is the large number of Democratic pooh-bahs coming out of the woodwork to argue that the Democrats' two biggest problems were:
1. Failure to politicize the war. (How quickly we forget that being the big no-no way back in the old days of September 2002)
2. Failure to take a firm position in favor of raising taxes.
They can compare Bush to something out of Orwell all day long, but look who's trying to run like it's 1984 . . .
Look, this is like arguing that the best way to beat the Lakers is to turn the game into a one-on-one battle in the paint. It's insane, it's exactly the game (we) Republicans want. To win, the Democrats needed the election to be about something other than taxes and the war. They needed it to be about healthcare, corporate corruption, and a million little small-bore how-can-we-give-the-voters-some-of-other-people's-money issues.
The other funny thing is the fact that Democrats are now all claiming to be in favor of "investors." Of course, the Democratic message has always been that anybody with money to invest is "the rich" who want to rip off "working families." In the 80s, for example, Democrats loved to trash "corporate raiders," who were basically pro-investor in battles against labor and management, and guys like Michael Moore thought all the world's problems were caused by shareholder-wealth-maximizing corporations. Hint: unless you are talking about corporate disclosures (which is a hot issue these days), being opposed to corporations making money is, ipso facto, being opposed to their investors seeing their retirement accounts prosper.
My own suspicion is that the Democratic leadership should do the following on taxes and the war -
1. Support the war with Iraq. It's the right thing to do, and they haven't a prayer of winning the White House as an echo chamber for the nation's critics. And argue for a big UN role in nation-building after the war.
2. Argue for more defense spending, and that more tax revenue is needed for a bigger military. Guess what? You can rip Republicans for selling out the nation's defenses for tax cuts. And military contracts and bases are big-time pork, and will provide lots of good-paying jobs for skilled blue-collar workers. Invoke FDR and the "Arsenal of Democracy."
3. Propose broader tax reform - including tax simplification and loophole-closing - and try to smuggle in higher rates on the dreaded "top 1%" or whatever as part of an overall package. This was how bipartisan support was built for the 1986 tax reform bill that lowered income tax rates and raised the capital gains tax.
4. Propose indexing capital gains, or exempting individuals over age 60 or 65, as an alternative to GOP plans to cut the tax. Argue that the Democratic plan is more "targeted" at seniors.
Yes, these moves would involve moving to the Right, but like Republican plans about prescription drugs, they would give Democrats the opportunity to join the debate, appear moderate, and shape the solutions in a way that warms their big-government, tax-the-rich hearts.
The good news? They'll never do it.
WAR: ScrappleFace Does It Again
David Pinto had the link to this short, time-wasting questionnaire; here's how I scored:
Guess I'll be brushing up on my dueling and my New York Post . . .
BASEBALL: ESPN AL Cy Roundup
ESPN has some good analyses of the AL Cy Young race here and here. I disagree with Szefc's conclusion that Zito gets extra points for facing more good teams, since the numbers show Pedro was much more effective against the better teams. Quality-wise, Pedro was once again the best. On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for giving Zito credit for throwing the most innings; Pedro didn't quite make it to 200. I might agree with Wolverton that Lowe was probably the best overall, but it's really a toss-up; I can't disagree with the writers for voting for Zito. When it's that close, there's only so much you can argue with giving it to the guy with the most wins and innings of the three.
WAR: Has Rall Made A Point?
If I read this cartoon right, it's a spoof of the knee-jerk reactions all around to stories in the war on terror. If so, it marks a milestone: a Ted Rall cartoon that's actually perceptive and mildly funny.
BASEBALL: Bill James In The Arena
There's a gradual buildup of baseball news to write about once I get the 2002 elections out of my system and get back to baseball. This glowing writeup of the Bill-James-goes-to-Boston story, by our good friend Art Martone, is a good place to start.
My take: James has done everything you could hope to do as a theorist. It will be exciting to see at least a part of his imprint on an actual franchise.
This is bad news for Shea Hillenbrand.
WAR/LAW: Closer than a blade!!!
Closer than a blade!!! Of course, one moral of this story may be, if you find a mechanical or electronic device in a McDonald's bathroom, don't bring it home and plug it in.
POLITICS: What Bush Will Do With His Mandate
Mandate fresh in hand, President Bush unveils his new legislative agenda.
POLITICS: The Terrell Campaign
Click here to check up on the campaign of Suzie Terrell, the GOP candidate to unseat Mary Landrieu as U.S. Senator from Louisiana.
November 6, 2002
POLITICS: Ripples of the Georgia Primaries
I wonder: would Max Cleland have done better if Cynthia McKinney and Bob Barr were still on the ballot in their congressional districts? McKinney's
POLITICS: Senate Standoff
So, last I heard, the new Senate will be 51 Republicans (48 returning Senators or retained seats plus Jim Talent, Norm Coleman and Saxby Chambliss, with the loss of only Tim Hutchinson's seat), 46 Democrats (45 returning Senators or retained seats plus Mark Pryor, with the loss of seats held by Jean Carnahan, Paul Wellstone, and Max Cleland), and Jim Jeffords, with the South Dakota race still unsettled and Mary Landrieu still running to lock up her seat. In other words, if Tim Johnson hangs onto his slim lead in any recount, the GOP will still be just the loss of one vote away from needing Dick Cheney to break deadlocks. Hopefully, Lincoln Chafee will stay put, and maybe the GOP will even take one of the two remaining seats somehow. If there's one lesson we learned from Florida in 2000 and the long string of bizarre ocurrences the past two years with the Senate, it's that it really isn't healthy - psychologically or procedurally - to have the presidency or a house of Congress hanging by such a slim thread between two evenly divided parties. Frequent turnover can be healthy, yes; but too much 50/50 drives politicians and their supporters to a state of overanxiety, paranoia and animosity that's deeply counterproductive. Let's hope that nothing else happens to throw the GOP's control into question between now and November 2004. Then, after two years of real responsibility, the party can be judged on what it hath wrought, and the Democrats can be judged on the alternative vision the party has laid out to the People. In the meantime, there will still be plenty of bickering to do, but maybe we can all save the long knives for the enemies who really deserve them.
POLITICS: The Democrats' Syndromes
Byron York at NRO has the full story on why the Democrats' obsession with Florida 2000 led them down a blind alley. But there's a flip side to the likely demise of Terry McAuliffe: for all the bitterness, all the demagoguery and all the sleaze -- in fact, as a direct result of the bitterness, the demagoguery and the sleaze -- McAuliffe has been an incredible raiser of money. The Republicans always have a structural advantage in fundraising because they don't have to sell out their principles to particular special interests - Republican views of the general national interest are often quite congenial to big donors. Democrats, on the other hand, are always walking a tightrope between hating the rich (definition: everyone who makes over $50,000 a year) and needing their financial support. Without McAuliffe at the helm, that job will get harder.
PS: another NRO piece suggests that Hillary might be the bigger winner than Gore. I think this may be true, although Hillary appears to be wisely sitting out 2004, plotting for the more opportune moment. And she voted for war with Iraq.
POLITICS: Avoid The Void
I think it means that the Democrats have to be the loyal opposition in fact and not just in name. . . . Democrats should not mistake the magnitude of this loss, there has to be a major regrouping. . . . I mean taking a hard look at how we can talk about the real life concerns that families in this country are wrestling with every day and present a very forceful alternative, supporting the president when the president is right, but offering a constructive alternative and presenting it boldly when we think we have a better approach.
Well, Gore certainly seems to agree with pundits who think that the leadership void in the Democratic Party right now is an opportunity that's knocking on his door [Ed. - a void is knocking? Hello, mixed metaphor alert?][Hey, it's Al Gore's house, where else would voids hang out?] The real challenge will be the latter part - "offering a constructive alternative." Will the "New Al Gore" be able to articulate one? The "I have a secret plan to fix the economy" approach isn't selling too well these days.
We'll be doing politics and more politics today - back to baseball in a day or so. Some thoughts on the big Election Night:
2. How far has the modern conservative movement come when Rush Limbaugh can sit next to Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert on NBC on Election Night? Of course, Russert loves a good argument, which is why he hits it off so well with Limbaugh (if you've ever seen Russert interview him). Several of the more incendiary commentators were actually somewhat restrained last night - Election Night can be humbling - including Rush, Carville (I wish I'd videotaped Carville with his head in the garbage pail) and Begala. The main exception was Pat Caddell, who was breathing fire over on MSNBC (by the way, we lost the TV remote, so last night was an agony of standing next to the TV flipping from Channel 2 to 4 to 10 to 43 to 46).
3. The Republicans basically won all the close ones, and won every way they could. Republicans won with incuumbents (Allard), with challengers (Chambliss, Talent), they won open seats (Sununu, Dole, Graham), they won blue states (Ehrlich, Coleman, Romney, Pataki), red states (Chambliss leading the Georgia sweep, Perry and Cornyn leading the Texas sweep), they won with conservatives (Bush, Allard, Chambliss, Ehrlich, Talent), moderates (Dole, Coleman, Romney) and liberals (Pataki), they won with fresh faces (Chambliss, Ehrlich), with veterans of the Clinton years (Graham), with family ties (Bush, Dole, Sununu) with former failed presidential candidates (Dole, Alexander) and former failed statewide candidates (Talent, Coleman, Romney), with executives seeking the legislature (Janklow, Coleman) and legislators seeking the executive job (Ehrlich). Where they lost, there were good and obvious reasons: Bill Simon ran an awful campaign, Tim Hutchinson was (justly) done in by a sex scandal, the Illinois and Michigan governors' mansions had been Republican too long and governors in places like Tennessee screwed the party by raising taxes, Doug Forrester was squashed by a deus ex machina intervention. The only one the party can really kick itself about is Simon, who ran well enough even in the face of an overwhelming onslaught -- Gray Davis still managed just 48% of the vote in the last tally I saw -- that a decent campaign could have unseated him.
4. The Green Party was not a factor - nearly all the victorious GOP incumbents polled 50% or better.
5. One pundit (I lost track of who said what) suggested that Bill Frist may have burnished his credentials as a 2004 VP candidate if Cheney retires, by engineering the Senate campaign. I doubt it, because the loss of the Tennessee statehouse means Frist would be replaced in the still-tenuous Senate by a Democrat.
6. Defending all these Senate seats in 2008 will be a beast, but that's then and this is now. I also think the GOP will lose the House in 2004, but then you never know.
7. The Democrats ran to the center this time, which now looks like a mistake (all the Democratic moderates got crushed), and they may compound the error by reacting and running to the Left in 2004. Repeat after me: run to your base in the off years, run to the middle in Presidential years. Bill Kristol (I think it was) probably had it right: Al Gore will be the big Democratic winner here because he'll argue that the Democrats need to have a clear voice of full-throated opposition to Bush. The problem is, Gore still doesn't have a program of his own, just bitterness, and as either NR or the Weekly Standard (I forget) was pointing out recently, all the candidates Gore stumped for got killed.
8. Everyone was asking, what turned things to the GOP in the closing days? The common wisdom is, people decided to unite behind Bush in wartime, especially in the South. I have two theories. Number one, Larry Kudlow was right: the reappearance of Fritz Mondale reminded many voters why they started voting for Republicans in the first place. Number two is the point made often lately and best by Jonathan Last: forget Democratic ire over Florida, it was the Republican base that was fired through the roof by a series of dirty tricks, classless stunts and threatened lawsuits that reminded everyone of the worst excesses of Clinton years and of the raw ambition of Gore's ham-handed, sore-headed Florida recount strategy. With the exception of California and New Jersey, the voters essentially sent the message Republicans got after Watergate: that the party needs to finally let go of its clinging-by-fingernails to every last bit of power it could clutch, and go off somewhere and reflect a little on what public service is supposed to be about. For the GOP, that was a critical factor in the transformation of the party into one that valued ideas above compromises, and the Republicans have benefitted from the resulting blossoming of the party's intellectual and spiritual base ever since.
WAR/POLITICS: What The Election Means Abroad
Unsurprisingly, the limited anecdotal evidence marshalled by the Washington Post (the Post talked to a "Saudi political analyst," who I assume must have a day job) suggests the election is being interpreted by overseas observers solely as a referendum on Iraq. With distance, they may be seeing more clearly than we do. If I were Colin Powell, I'd call up the French foreign minister today and politely point out that President Bush will be huddling with legislators to hammer out the agenda for the next 4 or 5 days, and that once he's done with that, the train will be leaving the station for Baghdad, with or without France and the UN Security Council.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Louisiana Lightning In A Bottle
I hadn't realized at first that the GOP candidates in Louisiana really did out-poll Landrieu. The big strategic question of the day: if Bush and Rove are such genuises for risking the president's popularity in all these local races, will they double down and send George W. to the bayou? (Or will he want to be seen back in DC signing bills and running the war?) And what other national figures from the two parties will weigh in? Six years of Senate consequences could ride on the answer.
POLITICS: Tough Job
The busiest lobbiest in Washington over the next few months? It may be Jim Douglas, the new Republican governor of Vermont. You know, Vermont, who voted overwhelmingly for Al Gore in 2000 (and, if I remember right, for John McCain in the Republican primaries); whose lone Congressman is a socialist; who has one Senator who tied up and slimed Bush's judicial nominees as Judiciary Committee chairman, and another who gave the Democrats the Senate by switching parties; and whose outgoing Democratic governor wants to run for President in 2004. Douglas is going to have to do some real groveling to get Vermont's interests heard by anybody in the new Republican Washington.
POLITICS: IS JOHN McCAIN AN EVIL GENIUS?
The McCain-Feingold bill, which goes into effect today, imposes yet more restrictions on the arduous fundraising burden of challengers -- just in time for an election cycle where the GOP is holding the advantage of incumbency in the White House and both houses of Congress. Yes, purge us of the evil influence of money, please!
I'm eagerly awaiting the imminent appointment of Vermont Senators Jim Jeffords and Patrick Leahy to the Senate Select Committee on Dishes Best Served Cold.
November 5, 2002
POLITICS/LAW/BUSINESS: Pitt Resigns
Slipping his resignation letter over the transom on a busy news day: people I work with know and respect Harvey Pitt, and everyone seems to agree that he deserved better than this.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 PM | Business | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Last Prediction of the Day
Last prediction of the day is the Arizona race; I've got Johnson over Schilling. The Baseball Primer noted this very cool article from USAToday about a woman from Ohio who grew up on a farm with Cy Young, and still remembers Young and Honus Wagner as kindly old men.
POLITICS: More Predictions
This is implied below, but I'm also predicting Senate victories for Lamar! in Tennessee and Harkin in Iowa. I'm not so sure the GOP will take the Senate, just feeling my way race by race. Kaus is picking a good deal more chaos than I am, with defeats for incumbents Hutchinson, Allard, Cleland and Carnahan (I'm with him on the last one).
One thing that will be interesting in the results is how successful the GOP was in turning this into an election about taxes (well, except that the endangered Democrat incumbents mostly voted for Bush on the tax cut). I would never have predicted that taxes would be such a big issue, but if it was, the Democrats have nobody but themselves to blame for blocking votes on everything else; the votes everyone remembers from this Congress are the tax cut and the war, not shining moments for Democratic focus groups.
The GOP has, however, lost ground on taxes in one Senate race: New Jersey. Bob Torricelli was generally fairly favorable to at least some tax cuts, particularly capital gains. Lautenberg, assuming he wins, won't be. Also, on social and foreign policy issues, it's obviously a big loss to see Elizabeth Dole replace Jesse Helms, although of course Helms has his downsides as well.
Another thought: Mid-term elections are supposed to expose vulnerable incumbents who rode to office on the president's coattails - but Johnson, Landrieu and Cleland were all elected on Clinton's coattails in 1996.
If Cornyn loses by one vote, blame the Constitution for making Dick Cheney re-register in Wyoming.
WAR: UN Tea Leaves
It certainly seems that the UN will be either brought into line or shoved aside as soon as the election's out of the way. This does seem suspicious in the timing, although it's really the decision of the French that has kept us hung up. One possibility: Bush told the "allies" that if they don't fall into line by Election Day, he'll go it alone afterwords and brave the short-term political storm.
POLITICS: Indecision 2002
It's the first day of Election Month!
POLITICS: My Predictions For The Corner
For the NRO predictions contest, I'll have to commit:
1) The Senate split - 50 Republicans, 49 Democrats, 1 "Independent"
Predictions: I'm not predicting the House races, although I suspect the House will be pretty close to a wash. Governors? Of the races I've followed, I'd say Pataki, Rowland, Bush and Gray Davis all get re-elected and the Dems hold Maryland (Townsend over Ehrlich), the GOP candidates win in Texas, and Massachusetts (Romney over O'Brien), but the Democrats pick up seats elsewhere.
The Senate? I say the Democrats hang on in South Dakota (Johnson over Thune), Georgia (Cleland over Chambliss), New Jersey (Lautenberg over Forrester) and cruise in Montana (Baucus) and Illinois (Durbin over Durkin). The Republicans hang on in Texas, North Carolina (Dole over Bowles), Colorado (Allard) and Arkansas (Hutchinson over Pryor) and cruise in South Carolina (Graham).
Changing hands: I see a GOP pickup in Missouri (Talent over Carnahan) and, yes, Norm Coleman over Fritz in Minnesota, but the Democrats gain a seat in New Hampshire (Shaheen over Sununu). That leaves a 1-seat GOP advantage with two seats: Mary Landrieau in a runoff in Louisiana, and Lincoln Chafee playing Hamlet in Rhode Island.
POLITICS: My Vote
I voted this morning. Maybe it's just the options in New York, but the people leaving the polls all looked like they'd just done something they were ashamed of, like they were seen leaving a peep show or something. I actually pulled the lever for my liberal Democrat congressman, Gary Ackerman. It helped that he didn't have a Republican opponent, but under normal circumstances I would have registered a protest vote for the Conservative candidate. But Ackerman voted for war with Iraq - that alone earned a (symbolic) vote in his column.
Don't mess with our troops, THEY'VE GOT SANDWICHES OLDER THAN AL QAEDA'S COMMAND STRUCTURE!
WAR: The New Turks
I haven't absorbed it all yet, but clearly the biggest news of the last few days is the victory of an Islamist party in Turkish elections. This could be awful news, if it fractures our critical military alliance with Turkey, and alliance that is far more strategically important than our alliances with France or Germany, or if it leads the Turkish army - by tradition, the guardians of secular order in modern Turkey - to stage a military coup and oust nearly the only democratically elected government in the Muslim world. But it could also be wonderful news, if the Turks set an example of how a party that is faithful to Islam can be integrated into a secular democracy, after the fashion of the American "Religious Right."
POLITICS: Racial Fireworks
Saw an ad last night run by GOP rep Felix Grucci (of the famous fireworks-making family) against opponent Tim Bishop, attacking Bishop's call for debt relief for the Third World, arguing that it would "cost Long Island taxpayers millions": "Tell Tim Bishop to stop putting Liberia ahead of Long Island." First time I'd seen that issue used by an opponent of debt relief. The pictures in the ad were just a grainy photo of Bishop and some maps.
Question: was Grucci playing the race card? If Bishop made this an issue, he can't well complain that it should be off limits for criticism, but the reference to Liberia, specifically, does seem gratuitous.
WAR: Marking The Time
I went to measure the kids over the weekend, which was long overdue. How overdue? I noticed that the last entry on each of their growth charts was Sunday, September 9, 2001. If things had worked out just a little differently - if I didn't vote, if I got in to work just a few minutes earlier and was in the lobby of the Trade Center with the fireballs instead of a few blocks away - that could have been the last thing I wrote down in our house. It makes you think . . .
November 4, 2002
POLITICS: Steyn on Wellstone
Mark Steyn on the Wellstone memorial. I tend to agree with Kaus on this one - I can forgive the Democrats for the crassness of the memorial, since they were plainly upset and people react to grief in funny ways. But both Steyn and Jonah Goldberg hit on the really cynical bit here, which is the Dems' use of Wellstone's still-warm corpse as a club to beat the Republicans for having the effrontery to do or say anything about the election, as all the while, the Democrats were holding a get-out-the-vote rally, filing lawsuits and having Tom Daschle rip Norm Coleman.
WAR: Where's The Glory?
I love this picture of what little remains of the car carrying an Al Qaeda operative that was blasted by a CIA drone in Yemen. It looks like the Jawas' camp after it was vaporized by the stormtroopers in Star Wars. I forget now who wrote it, but it reminds me of a point one commentator made months ago - that it must be particularly dispiriting to our enemies, but is particularly just, that they be put to death in the most impersonal manner possible, preferably by some guy operating a drone from a comfortable office somewhere, making mock of their pretensions to glory.
BASEBALL: The Guy Nobody Loves To Hate
Frank Deford has a great point: not only don't people like Barry Bonds, they don't even want to watch him. Bonds is nobody's hero, but he also hasn't stirred the blood as a popular villain.
BASEBALL: Wanna Feel Old?
I just noticed that Fred Lynn turned Fifty in February.
WAR: ROOT CAUSES?
President Bush on how to stop the terrorists: "I've come to the conclusion, and I hope you have, that therapy is not going to work. So we're chasing them down."
WAR: Selective CAIRing
CAIR is targeting Jonah Goldberg again. This time, at least, once you click on the link (as opposed to the headline) they didn't quote him out of context (although this action alert repeats the quote-out-of-context on the whole nuking-Mecca-in-retaliation-for-a-nuclear-attack-on-an-American city flap from March). What the alert doesn't say is precisely what is wrong with defiling the corpses of terrorists. It's not as if they argue that Goldberg is calling people terrorists who aren't terrorists - there's nothing there to argue that point. The assumption seems to be that it's "incitement" to suggest that terrorists' corpses not be treated with reverence. Not all Muslims, by any means: just terrorists.
Hey, CAIR: it's a free country. You can exercise your freedom of speech here. C'mon, join the fray. Explain why terrorists who take civilian hostages and blow up innocent civilians deserve a decent burial.
BASKETBALL: The Nugget
More mascot news: the Denver Nugget has been arrested! Do you think this guy lists his occupation as "Nugget"?
Howard Bashman on a very unusual Eighth Circuit opinion in which the en banc court defends itself against an implicit charge of racism made by the district judge.
LAW: Idiot Box 1, Devil's Workshop 0
The Second Circuit vacates a sentence that barred the defendant from watching TV while under home confinement, rejecting the District Court's conclusion that the defendant should be forced to spend some time with himself:
"[L]acking [in the record] is a sufficient relationship between the television restriction and the abatement of Bello's criminality. Even if contemplation is deemed somehow more beneficial for this defendant than for most others (for reasons not clear from the record), we are inclined to agree with Bello that because other amusements are available to him at home, there is no reason to assume that in the absence of televised entertainment he will tend to his conscience. Bello cites radio and the Internet as ways he might spend his time at home without resort to silent introspection. He could add crosswords and jigsaw puzzles, not to mention light reading. For all the record shows or the district court has found, Bello is as likely to occupy his mind by planning his next crime as anything else"
POLITICS: BEDFELLOW AWARD WATCH
Remember in the comic strip "Bloom County," when Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES"? Well, I'm watching this year's election news for the winner of this year's Bedfellow Award for the latest-arriving scandal to hit a candidate (the 2000 winner, of course, was George W. Bush's drunk driving flap). Right now, the Arkansas Senate race is in the lead! But give us time - the polls don't close until tomorrow evening!
BASEBALL: Zumsteg v. Rose
I'm still plowing through Derek Zumsteg's extensive analysis of Bill James' critiques of the case against Pete Rose; more on that later. But what floored me is Zumsteg's contention in a companion article that "I wouldn't vote for Pete Rose as a Hall of Famer if he was eligible and I had a vote, and I might not if he'd never acted badly, though it's hard to separate my arguments about his performance from talking about Pete Rose the package." (emphasis added). This is a breathtaking statement, and it makes you wonder about Zumsteg's loss of perspective on this subject. Just to use Baseball Prospectus' own analytical estimate of "WARP-3," a measure of wins above replacement level averaged over a 162 game season, Rose was worth 108.7 extra wins to his teams over the 12-year span from 1965 to 1976 (9.06/year), and 126.4 wins over the 15 years from 1965 to 1979 (8.43 wins/year).
George Brett: 132.8 over 17 years (7.81 wins/year).
I'd say Pete stacks up just fine, over the decade-and-a-half that comprised his prime, against this list of no-questions-asked Hall of Famers, all of whom were at least rough contemporaries (granted, these are just the offensive numbers). And I have to wonder what sport Zumsteg was watching if he thinks that, on performance alone, there's a case for keeping out of Cooperstown a man who sustained a .375 on base percentage over nearly 16,000 plate appearances in a pitcher's era.
POLITICS: Burying Florida
The American Prowler has some harsh words (as you would expect) for Al Gore's "Florida Forever" campaign. Me, I'd say if Jeb Bush gets re-elected, that's a real good sign that the political winds have changed since December of 2000, and it's time for the Democrats to look for a party leader who wants to win the 2004 election, not one who wants to win the 2000 election.
BASEBALL: Billy the Marlin
Billy the Marlin is threatening a lawsuit! Better not lose his head over this one . . .
POLITICS: Kaus on More Floridas
A smooth election with winners and losers -- there's your Man Bites Dog story! .. Possible Floridas include 1) the Minnesota Hand Count; 2) the Landrieu Lacuna, in which the decisive Senate seat goes unfilled while Louisiana holds a runoff; and 3) the Talent Temporary Turnover, in which James Talent beats Jean Carnahan to fill the Missouri Senate seat to which Carnahan was appointed, takes office immediately, and temporarily gives the GOP a Senate majority with consequences (for Bush's judges, in particular) that are somewhat unclear. .... The person who sends in the most accurate disaster scenario wins a discount-bin copy of Jeffrey Toobin's unread Florida recount book. Scenarios involving litigation, high crimes, and misdemeanors accepted. Tie goes to the prediction with the most telling novelistic detail.
POLITICS: Taking Sides
The Washington Times notes a split among the leaders of the African-American Left on Harry Belafonte's smear of Colin Powell: Charles Rangel and Al Sharpton (!) come to Powell's defense, while John Conyers signs on to the slur.
BLOG: To Blog or Not To Blog
Stuart Buck isn't sure he can find time to blog in addition to his job as a lawyer. Amen, brother! I ask the same question myself. For now, I'm still blogging.
POLITICS: Lileks on The Body
Lileks is, well, Lileks, with an ode to Jesse Ventura and some thoughts on why negative campaigning isn't such a turrrrrible thing.
BASEBALL: More on The STATS Handbook
November 2, 2002
WAR: The Centers Of The Civilized World
Thought for the day: the most frustrating nations to deal with are those that have a self-image as the center, or natural leader, of the civilzed world (which can vary based on what you think defines civilzation). Obviously, the U.S. is one: Americans call their president, without irony, the "Leader of the Free World," and are justly proud of operating under the world's oldest continuous constitutional government, to say nothing of many other forms of world leadership. The Chinese are another - the "Middle Kingdom," vast in people, ancient in civilization. So, too, the French, who see themselves as the epitome of culture and who continue to judge all other nations by their adherence to French notions, which these days run to bureaucratic multilateralism; and the Saudis, who view themselves as the natural center of the Muslim world, its bithplace and home to its holiest shrines.
November 1, 2002
WAR: Not Imminent?
Is war against Iraq 'no longer imminent,' or are the Israelis spreading strategic disinformation?
BLOG: Sports Guy News
Yes, our good friend Bill Simmons is trading in his Celtics season tickets for a Ralley Monkey headband and a Kareem jersey. Well, maybe not. Through the magic of the internet, he'll still be the LA-based Boston Sports Guy, just like I keep writing in Queens and publishing in Providence.
POLITICS: New Jersey Muck
Are New Jersey Democrats bringing back Willie Horton?
BASEBALL: Projo Column
My Projo column is up, on the fleeting nature of postseason pitching heroics. (I was writing in a hurry, so forgive the numerous spelling errors).
BASEBALL: Livan's Luck Runs Out
Originally posted on Projo.com
Sometimes, your luck runs out. People who study baseball statistics have come to one clear conclusion: there's just no evidence that anybody consistently hits well in the clutch. Over time, nearly every hitter will perform, in clutch situations - however defined - about as well as you would expect, compared to his overall performance. As we saw this postseason, this applies as well to guys who have historically underachieved in key situations, like Barry Bonds - his luck turned.
Is there such a thing as clutch pitching? There's no reason there couldn't be, given that pitchers have a greater ability to change their approach in different situations than hitters do -- different deliveries and pitch selections, maybe a little extra velocity, maybe a few more of that pitch that kills your elbow to throw too often -- but the jury's still out on that one too.
This we know: one of the key things that slew the Giants in this World Series was the decision to rely on clutch pitching by starting Livan Hernandez in Games 3 and 7, while having Kirk Reuter start just once (Game 4) in the series. Now, this wasn't the most disastrous pitching lineup of the postseason - that honor goes to Art Howe, who started Tim Hudson twice and Barry Zito just once against the Twins, only to watch his lefthanded starters chew up the Twins (as lefties had all year) while they ate Hudson for lunch. But it did cost Baker the World Series, and it's worth asking: is it always a good idea to pick your startes based on their postseason experience?
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Hernandez wasn't the Giants' best pitcher this season; in fact, he was the worst, just the fourth pitcher with a losing record to start a deciding Game 7 (after Hal Gregg in 1947, John Matlack in 1973, and most famously Johnny Podres in 1955 - only Podres won). Reuter, meanwhile, posted a 3.23 ERA this season, best on the team and 9th in the National League (actually, neither pitcher was as good as his ERA, but Reuter was clearly the better of the two in the regular season). Why did Dusty Baker do this? The answer is obvious: because Hernandez had a great career postseason record, 6-0 with a 2.84 ERA entering the series. (Reuter has a good postseason record too, but not nearly as long). The problem, as Joe Buck pointed out after the wheels came off in Game 7, was that Hernandez compiled the bulk of that record in 1997. Hernandez has carried an appallingly heavy workload in the 5 years since then, and unlike his brother, he hasn't exactly stayed in the greatest of physical condition. As a result, his effectiveness has diminished steadily since he entered the league.
I haven't studied this scientifically, but even before 2002, the history of postseason baseball was just littered with examples of great postseason pitchers who were asked to go out and recapture the magic, and found out that it was gone. Some were just guys who couldn't stay unbeaten, but others, like Hernandez, were guys who were asked to take the hill, in place of better pitchers, and failed misreably:
1911-13: Christy Mathewson established himself as the first World Series legend in 1905, throwing three complete-game shutouts in six days. He pitched very well in the 1911-13 World Serieses as well -- a 1.44 ERA -- but just didn't get the run support, and wound up 2-5 for the rest of his World Series career.
1914: Chief Bender was the great clutch pitcher of Connie Mack's "$100,000 infield" A's in the early teens, 6-3 with a 1.92 ERA in four Serieses. In 1914, Bender got bombed for six runs (a ton in those dead-ball era days) on the way to a shocking sweep by the "Miracle" Boston Braves.
1925: Stan Coveleski dominated the 1920 World Series, winning three starts with an 0.67 ERA. He couldn't repeat the trick in 1925, losing both of his starts.
1928: Grover Alexander made one of the World Series' most enduring memories when, after throwing a masterful complete game victory in Game 6, he came out of the bullpen the next day to strike out Tony Lazzeri in a key situation in the seventh inning of Game 7, and went on to finish off the game. Two years later, the 41-year-old Alexander got hammered by the Yankees in a Game Two start and Game Four relief appearance, to the tune of 10 hits and 11 earned runs in 5 innings of work.
1932: Burleigh Grimes was 17-9 at age 37 in 1931, and capped the season by throwing a pair of well-pitched victories to help the Cardinals upset the mighty A's in the World Series. The following year, Grimes suffered through a dismal regular season - 6-11, 4.78 ERA - but was the first man out of the bullpen in Game One of the series, while it was still close. Grimes got pulverized by the Yankees in Game One and to finish off the deciding Game 5, tagged for 7 runs in 2.2 innings.
1938: Dizzy Dean was THE story of the 1934 season, winning 30 games, and in the World Series he was masterful, winning Games One and Seven and posting a 1.73 ERA. Four years later, the Cubs asked a sore-armed Dean (who had been spectacular when healthy that season) to start Game Two and relieve in Game Four. The Yankees reached him for 6 runs in 8.1 innings; like Alexander and Grimes, he was all but finished after that.
1940: Schoolboy Rowe was no Series legend, but he pitched well in the Tigers' 1934 and 1935 World Series appearances, posting a 2.79 ERA and completing all four of his starts. In 1940, he was effective in the regular season, but horrendous in the World Series, gatting chased after 3 innings in Game Two and not even lasting the first inning in Game Six. The damage: 3.2 IP, 12 hits, 7 earned runs.
1947: Dodgers manager Burt Shotton gives the Game 7 ball to Gregg, 4-5 with a 5.87 ERA that season, almost entirely because he was the only Dodger pitcher (other than relief ace Hugh Casey) to pitch effectively in the 1947 Series. Gregg is chased in the fourth inning.
1948: Not a postseason moment, but one of the most controversial pitching selections in the game's history came when Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy asked journeyman Denny Galehouse (8-8, 4.00 ERA that season, counting the final start) to start a one-game playoff against the Indians with the season on the line, in preference to the younger, less experienced but more talented Mel Parnell (15-8, 3.14 ERA; Parnell would win 25 games the next season). McCarthy may have been influenced by Galehouse's heroics in the 1944 World Series against the vaunted Cardinals, baseball's only real intact team during the war years. Galehouse threw a complete game 2-1 victory in Game 1 and lost a 2-0 squeaker (going the distance again) in Game 5 that fall, striking out 15.
1957-58: Casey Stengel gives the Game Seven ball to Don Larsen, hardly the Yankees' ace, two years running, no doubt in part due to Larsen's 1956 perfect game. In 1957, Larsen gets chased in the third inning. He also doesn't make the fourth inning in 1958, although I don't have the box score handy, and it appears he was pitching well and Casey pinch hit for him. Lew Burdette, the hero of the 1957 series, starts three times in 1958, and walks away with 7-0 and 6-2 losses in Games Five and Seven.
1959: The Dogers start Podres in Games One and Six; he doesn't lose, but is roughed up for 5 runs and 13 baserunners in 9.1 innings (Podres would pitch well again in 1963).
1963-64: 0-3 and a 5.71 ERA in three starts for Whitey Ford, who had pitched brilliantly in numerous prior World Serieses, winning 10 games.
1968: Hardly a blowout, but Bob Gibson, after dominating opponents in seven straight World Series victories, loses 4-1 in the deciding Game 7.
1977-78: Catfish Hunter goes 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in the postseason, including surrendering 3 homers in one game to George Brett.
1988: Ron Darling pitched wonderfully in many big pennant race games for the Mets in 1984, 1985 and 1987, and in the 1986 World Series. Given the ball in Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS, Darling gets chased in the second inning.
1990, 1992, 1993, 1996: Danny Jackson was one of the heroes of the 1985 Royals, winning Game Five of the ALCS with the team down 3-1, and again winning Game Five of the World Series with the team down 3-1. Jackson's postseason record was ugly after that, including thrashings in the 1990 and 1993 World Series and in Game Two of the 1992 NLCS. In several of those cases, he was picked to start over pitchers with better regular season records. Dave Stewart, who recovered from the nightmare of losing the first two games of the NLDS in 1981 to become a big-time "money pitcher," also gets shelled in the 1993 World Series.
1992: Was there a better big-game pitcher than Jack Morris in 1984 and 1991? Only the fourth-best starter on the Blue Jays in the regular season, Morris is nonetheless picked by Cito Gaston as Game One starter in both the ALCS and the World Series, and walks away 0-3 with a 7.43 ERA.
1996-97: Orel Hershiser dominated the postseason as he had dominated the regular season in 1988, and after his sterling performance in the 1995 postseason, Hershiser's reputation as a big-game ace was cemented. But Hershiser was ineffective in the 1996 ALDS, and then on the big stage of the 1997 World Series, he was terrible, pounded for 13 earned runs in 10 innings in starts in Games One and Five (Hershiser would pitch better in 1999 for the Mets out of the bullpen).
There are plenty of more recent examples of guys who had their highs and their lows in the postseason - Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Randy Johnson, David Wells, John Smoltz. Postseason success can be a fleeting thing. In the end, your best pitcher is usually your best bet.
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BASEBALL: The Rich Talk About Not Getting Richer
It's sort of good to see the Yankees, for once, talking about having to cut payroll, although it saddens me any time a team has to get rid of a valued player solely for financial reasons. I'll believe it when I see it, anyhow. Despite his subpar defense, almost any team in the majors would be improved by adding Jorge Posada.
BASEBALL: STATS Handbook Has Been Murdered
Got an ad for this in my emailbox the other day - it appears from the STATS, Inc. website that the STATS Major League Handbook, the stat-head's annual bible for the past decade, has bitten the dust, or more precisely has been merged with the annual Sporting News Baseball Register, also a fine publication but a radically different one. Here's hoping that the new hybrid keeps around the best of both, but I'm not optimistic. This year, I'm waiting until I can flip through the book in a bookstore to buy it instead of ordering blind over the internet.
POLITICS/WAR: Mondale, Fisked
"I found the text of an upcoming Mondale ad. It accused Norm Coleman of giving public money to two companies that had laid off 750 workers last year.
Oh, that’s rich. Coleman did indeed lend public money to Lawson Software to lure them to build a big new office building in St. Paul - an $84 million loan made possible by tax-increment financing. I abhor outright gifts to companies just to convince them to build pretty buildings, but using TIF to revitalize downtown St. Paul is a defensible position. Reasonable people can argue about it. And when they’re tired of arguing about it, because it’s boring, they can chew on this:
Northwest Airlines received $230 million from the Federal Government in bailout money after 9/11.
Northwest has cut 10,000 jobs since 9/11.
Walter Mondale is on the Board of Directors of Northwest Airlines.
Oh: and Walter Mondale gets 24K in free airline travel a year from NWA.
DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THIS MEANS? Mechanics, laid off! Flight attendants, laid off! Baggage handlers, sent into the snow and forced to sell matches to buy a withered beet for supper, while Mondale sits in first class and has steak and pays nothing! Nothing!"
It gets better, as he takes apart Mondale's speech:
"'Iraq is dangerous, but going it alone is dangerous, too.'
Here he equates a nuke-armed Saddam with the consequences of deposing Saddam without a hall pass from France. They’re both ”Dangerous.” The first part, yes. That’s dangerous. The second part is “Dangerous” in the sense that Michael Jackson was “Bad.”"
I'll be quiet here for a while (check back later to see if my latest Projo column gets posted today). Go read Lileks' whole column, there's lots more there.