"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
April 30, 2003
WAR: Mailer's Masculinity
The always-marvelous Jane Galt just nails the problem with Norman Mailer's claim that war with Iraq was all about the threatened masculinity of that vile and unpopular creature, the American white male:
This . . . is metaphor abused, used as if a metaphor could itself create a link between two things, rather than illuminating one that already exists in the phenomenal world. This is war described as if the most important thing about it were the description.
In other words, it's idiotic. And it's symptomatic. There is something about our literary culture that has caused its prominent members to believe that words are the same thing as facts, more important than the objects they describe. They seem to think that one can make up any theory, no matter how ridiculous, and unless it is dramatically falsifiable, it's just as valid as a theory that starts with known facts and basic truisms about human behavior and builds from them. They think style is more important than substance.
And for some reason, they're mad because the rest of us don't take them seriously.
WAR: Outta Saudi
This report on the U.S. military withdrawal from Saudi Arabia seems to confirm precisely what the more ambitious conservative commentators have argued all along: that the U.S. presence in the country was having an impact on domestic Saudi politics, and a bad effect at that because the military presence supported inertia in favor of the status quo. In the end, better to leave the Saudis to stew in their own juices - it's the only way the regime will gain enough sense of responsibility to start dealing with domestic conditions.
WAR: The Truth About Syria
BASEBALL: Are the Red Sox Quietly Good??
I've been noticing lately that the Red Sox are off to a good start. With last night's win over the Royals, I figured it was time for a post. It sure doesn't feel like they are playing all that well -- the typical Boston fan over-hyping is lacking this year, maybe because the Yankees are off to a tremendous start. Nevertheless, consider this: their bullpen has blown three games flat-out. If they had won those games, the Sox would have the same record as the Yankees. Of course (a) they are playing a soft part of their schedule, (b) they got off to a great start last year and started fading in mid-June and (c) well, it is the Red Sox. So, let's give credit where it is due, but I'm glad to see the fans aren't yet harboring unrealistic expectations. Who knows, though, the Yankees can't keep this pace up, can they??
BASEBALL: Knight-Davis Fight
I was quite disappointed recently when ESPN's Page 2 ran a list of baseball's greatest fights and left off the Mets-Reds brawl of July 22, 1986.
The thing about that fight is, it was one of those games - typical for the Mets in those days - where nothing much happened until the ninth inning, other than Darryl Strawberry getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes. (Note: some of the play-by-play here is from Retrosheet, but sadly they seem to have changed the site layout so you can't link to individual box scores).
UPDATE: Per Jason Steffens' comments, here's the direct link.
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Anyway, the game was going nowhere, 3-1 Reds with two outs in the ninth, when the Mets got two runners on against John Franco and Dave Parker proceeded to drop a routine fly ball by Keith Hernandez (it just popped out of his glove), the game was tied, and off to extra innings.
In the 10th inning, with Jesse Orosco on the mound, Pete Rose singled with one out, and put in Eric Davis to pinch run for himself. Blessed with incredible physical talents, the 24-year-old Davis had only just started playing regularly in June; maybe he was trying to impress his famously aggressive manager, who after all was despised by Mets fans for years after his own fight with Buddy Harrelson in the 1973 NLCS.
So Davis steals second and third (he'd wind up with 80 steals on the season), and at third he goes hard into Ray Knight, and when Knight jaws at him, Davis gives him a shove. Now, baseball players are not really known as good fighters; most of them just throw wild roundhouse Popeye the Sailor Man punches that don't do much damage. But Knight wasn't just any ballplayer; he was a Golden Gloves boxer in high school, and he knew how to throw a punch. He cocked his right arm quickly back and cracked Davis square in the jaw with a punch. You could tell he landed a good one when Davis' head snapped back like a bobblehead.
That's when it really got wild. Besides Knight, high on the list of guys you'd want on your side in a baseball fight was Gary Carter, the only guy I ever saw fight John Stearns to a draw. Carter had great presence of mind; as the dugouts started spilling out, he ran out from behind the plate, whipped off his mask, and almost in one motion, stuck the mask in front of Davis' stomach and just fell on him. Davis, the wind completely knocked out of him by landing on the mask, was out of the fight.
Too many others weren't; this was a baseball fight where it seemed like everyone was actually fighting. The worst of it involved the Reds' starting rotation, which for whatever reason decided to gang up on Kevin Mitchell, the Mets rookie who'd been through more than his share of actual gang fights as a kid in San Diego (he had the scars on his back from chain-whippings to prove it). The pitchers were taking turns holding Mitchell down and pummeling his face; even John Denny, who was on the disabled list, got in the act.
(The brawl also helped cement the end of the line for George Foster, the only Met to stay on the bench; he was released not long after).
When the smoke cleared, so many players were ejected (in the case of Mitchell and Davis, they were also physically unable to keep playing) that the Mets wound up the rest of the game with a ridiculous defensive alignment with Orosco and Roger McDowell alternating between the mound and the outfield (the Mets broadcast showed Pete Rose throwing the rule book in frustration - not the last time, I suspect - when he couldn't find a rule against this) and Carter at third base (Howard Johnson was at short). McDowell avoided fielding anything, but Orosco did catch a fly ball, and Carter started a double play from his new position; only in 1986 would things like this work out for the Mets. In the 14th, Ed Hearn doubled, Orosco (the triple threat!) walked, and Johnson -- then known more for clutch hitting and less as a productive everyday player - blasted a 3-run homer off Ted Power. In the end, it was one of the most memorable regular season games of that whole era.
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I don't know what's stranger, the fact that an alligator turned up in Alley Pond Park in Queens, which is practically in my back yard, or the fact that I first noticed the story in a report from an Alabama newspaper on Mac Thomason's site.
April 29, 2003
WAR: On towards Paris?
Well, if the French can't apologize for consistently appeasing a ruthless dictator, at least they have a bit of a sense of humor.
WAR/FOOTBALL: Pat Tillman Update
Remember Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal who walked away from a multi-million dollar contract shortly after 9/11 in order to enlist in the Army? Such an admirable act requires the occasional update. Read about him here. I wish him and his brother luck in rendering their service to our country.
BASEBALL: D'Angelo Jimenez
One of this season's early surprises is former Yankee prospect D'Angelo Jimenez. At one time, if you recall, many analysts rated Jimenez higher than Alfonso Soriano, before the car wreck that left Jimenez with a broken neck. He's been frustratingly inconsistent ever since, but this season, leading off for the White Sox (with whom he finished well last year) he's off to his best start, thumping the ball with great authority, with 6 doubles, 4 triples and 3 homers adding up to a .549 slugging percentage. Combine that with good plate patience and you've got quite a player, especially if he can sustain his .297 batting average.
If you're looking for a symbol of the Mets' struggles, there's no shortage of choices. One that's been on my mind lately is Roberto Alomar's batting average. As Alomar heated up over the past few weeks, I kept telling myself that I wouldn't get my hopes up for a return of the old Alomar until he got to .300 - a symbolic target, yes, but not so long ago, .300 in late April was no accomplishment for Alomar. His average went as high as .296 on April 24, but then the bottom dropped out: 0 for 13 in the 3-game set with Arizona. At the start of today's action, he's hitting .255.
I'm still waiting.
April 28, 2003
So much for the Democrats' faith in the tolerance of their own primary voters:
A senior advisor to another campaign scoffs at the idea that Lieberman will appeal to the largely rural voters who go to the polls then: "Lieberman's got endorsements in Oklahoma, but, when it comes to Oklahoma voters--." There is a long pause. "Enough said."
(From The New Republic; registration required).
WAR: And They Complain of Media Bias in Favor of the U.S.??!
I've read this article a few times now, and I'm still struggling with its implications. (1) Why isn't this a much bigger story??; (2) Why does Howard Kurtz lamely limit his conclusion to "we in the media are brave"??; (3) If these reporters reported the truth (admittedly at great risk to themselves), would we have gone to war sooner and would the war effort have even more support (I can be optimistic, can't I?)?; (4) What is the NYTimes' obligations regarding an apology for past articles now that this has come to light?; and (5) Isn't it time for Tim Robbins et. al to shut up now that we can point them towards actual, meaningful restrictions on free speech? An excerpt:
Burns says plenty of correspondents didn't report everything they knew. In a lengthy Times piece eight days ago, he says many visiting journalists had "a tacit understanding . . . that there were aspects of Mr. Hussein's Iraq that could be mentioned only obliquely." These included the fact that Hussein "was widely despised and feared by Iraqis. . . . The terror that was the most pervasive aspect of society under Mr. Hussein was another topic that was largely taboo."
Its worth a full read. Kurtz' column also interestingly points out that the recent Rick Santorum story was first broken by a reporter who happens to be the wife of Sen. John Kerry's campaign manager.
BASEBALL: Yankees' Amazing Start
As a Mets' fan, I reluctantly mention this article that points out some amazing stats of the Yankees' recent tear. I take some comfort that its from a Boston paper; thus, Red Sox fans also have to share the pain. Some examples:
Entering play [Saturday], they'd hit more home runs (45) than the Tigers had scored runs (43). Their on-base percentage of .388 was 34 points better than the team with the second-best OBP, the Red Sox (.354). The starters' ERA of 2.72 was nearly two full runs lower than that of the Sox starters (10-6, 4.62 ERA). The pitching staff had allowed a league-low seven home runs -- while three teams, the Blue Jays, Devil Rays, and Angels, have allowed 30 or more. They'd walked a league-low 54 batters, 50 fewer than the league-worst Rangers (104). Their defense had allowed just one unearned run in 23 games.
WAR: Banfield's Folly
The Ombudsgod has a report on a speech by NBC News correspondent Ashleigh Banfield, criticizing cable news war coverage:
"We didn't see what happen when Marines fired M-16s," Banfield said during a Landon lecture appearance today at Kansas State University. "We didn't see what happened after mortars landed, only the puff of smoke. There were horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism? Or was this coverage?"
On the other hand, she said, many U.S. television viewers were treated to a non-stop flow of images presented by "cable news operators who wrap themselves in the American flag and go after a certain target demographic."
"It was a grand and glorious picture that had a lot of people watching," Banfield said, "and a lot of advertisers excited about cable TV news. But it wasn't journalism, because I'm not sure Americans are hesitant to do this again -- to fight another war, because it looked to them like a courageous and terrific endeavor."
Um, doesn't Banfield work for one of those cable networks? And didn't the network's point man for the coverage of Iraq from the front give his life to bring that coverage into America's living rooms? I mean, leave aside the substance; this is just tacky, and doubly tacky coming from an MSNBC darling who got shoved aside as the war coverage heated up. Can you say, "sour grapes?"
WAR: Terrorist Caught Smuggling Anthrax
It sounds like a preliminary report with all the usual caveats, but shouldn't this be a really big story if it pans out?
WAR: Times Denounces Tarring, Feathering of Tories
Well, something like that.
I spent a frustrating afternoon at Shea yesterday, watching the Mets make rookie Brandon Webb look like Greg Maddux in his first major league start (with two small children, we couldn't stick around for the nightcap); they wound up with 8 errors and 27 strikeouts on the day. Mo Vaughn made a horrible error at first in the game we saw; it was hard to tell if the fans were yelling 'Mo,' 'Boo,' or 'Moo.' Roger Cedeno is now booed whenever he emerges from the dugout. The only highlight was when I turned to my son (age 5) to tell him to watch carefully when the count went 2-2 on Tony Clark, and sure enough he smacked a line drive home run to left center. This is a weak division, but the Mets sure don't look like the team to take it.
POLITICS: Santorum and the Church
OK, one more post on Santorum to wrap up. To recap, there are three things that are controversial about the substance of Santorum's remarks:
1. His legal argument that the Constitution does not provide a "right of privacy" that prevents the government from regulating sex between consenting adults in a private place.
2. His political argument that sodomy laws are good public policy.
3. His moral argument that homosexual acts are immoral.
There are two additional controversies about his remarks:
4. Questions about whether Santorum acted offensively even by raising the subject.
5. Questions about whether Santorum expressed his opinions in a way that was offensive.
I've covered a few of these already (I'm with Santorum on the legal argument but against him on the political argument); I'd like to focus mainly on the moral argument.
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A number of people have argued that, by making a moral argument against homosexual acts, Santorum has shown himself to be 'hateful' or a 'bigot'. John Scalzi's argument (linked by Instapundit) is perhaps the clearest distillation of this. Andrew Sullivan makes a similar argument, although Sullivan leans more heavily on the political argument and the nature of Santorum's remarks about the Church scandals.
Matthew Yglesias makes the argument (to be fair, he does seem to grasp the important distinction here) that Santorum's sincerity of belief is not a defense. Well, if you are arguing that his views are bad policy or that they are hateful and dangerous in and of themselves, that's true enough. We don't let radical Islamists off the hook for their sincerity.
But Santorum went quite out of his way to explain that he had no problem with people being gay as a matter of orientation; he simply argued that gay sexual activity is immoral. But saying that you disapprove of people's activities of a particular type merely makes you a person with a conscience; it has nothing to do with 'hatred' or 'bigotry.' Like I said in a prior post, I deal with people all the time (gay and straight) whose sex lives I either disapprove of or likely would disapprove of if I knew more about them. I don't have a problem with that; it's a big world.
Sullivan makes a comparison to religious animus . . . but let's say for the sake of argument that I believed that all Jews and Muslims are going to Hell for rejecting Jesus - indeed, let's say for the sake of the analogy that I believed the same of all Protestants as well. (I don't think this is the Catholic Church's position anymore, but I think it effectively was at one time). That might be a view associated with intolerance, as in the real world it often was, but it can just as easily be associated simply with the idea that I, as a Catholic, am right and you are not. The fact that you disagree profoundly with someone else's moral or religious choices does not mean you hate them.
To make 'hatred' of people out of the moral argument alone, you have to essentially argue that the moral argument is just a cover for some deeper bias, and if you are going to do that, as Scalzi does, it then becomes extremely relevant that Santorum's position is precisely the same as the teachings of the Catholic Church.
One final moral point: Sullivan, in particular, argues that gay sex must be moral because it is so essential to his identity as a gay man; that the Catholic Church's position ultimately leaves him with no recourse to express his deepest desires. I'm sympathetic to this position, but by itself it is not a moral argument; it's the precise mirror image of the argument that gay sex is immoral because it's 'unnatural.' In either case, one is arguing morality from biology, and that's not enough. While I can understand why the analogy of consensual adult sex to pedohilia offends people, the illustration in this instance (like Yglesias' Hitler analogy) is a useful one: the pedophile's acts are not moral simply because they are the result of deeply held desires. Moral argumentation demands more.
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April 27, 2003
Back on March 4, I noted that (on the previous day, I believe) the site meter had passed 10,000 page views from August to March. This past Thursday, April 24, we cleared 15,000, meaning half as many visits in seven weeks as in the first 5 1/2 months. And the Hosting Matters stats say we've had just under 600 unique visitors in the last 13 days.
One of the really frustrating things about Armando Benitez' early struggles is that the Mets would be in first place now (in spite of all their other problems) if he'd converted those 4 save chances he's blown. What's harder to tell is what's really wrong, and whether it's more than just a bad run for a good pitcher. The main problems -- control trouble, lack of durability beyond 1 inning, lack of movement on his fastball, the fact that he only has two pitches and he's afraid to throw one (the splitter) on a 3-ball count, poor temperment -- are things that have been true for years. The only suggestion I've heard that's new is that he isn't throwing inside enough.
WAR: Smoking Yet?
A direct link between Iraq and Al Qaeda? Stay tuned.
April 26, 2003
POLITICS: Marshall on Santorum
I'm about ready to wrap up the Santorum issue shortly; one or two more posts to go. I was wondering when Josh Marshall would finally weigh in - seeing as he was the leader of the pack on the Lott fiasco -- and here he is:
Now you have the President supporting Santorum and calling him an "inclusive man." For the reasons Eleanor Clift sets forth here, I guess the president doesn't feel it's possible to criticize Santorum -- which tells you a lot. But "inclusive"? I can think of a number of words he could have used. 'Principled'? Maybe they're bad principles, but he's principled. 'Deeply religious'? Okay. But 'inclusive'?
One thing that hurts politicians more than anything is saying things that make them sound ridiculous. Calling Rick Santorum 'inclusive' makes the president sound ridiculous.
I have to agree. Bush had trouble avoiding being ridiculous during the 2000 primaries, but he's been much improved since then. I think his response here was along the lines of when he said Putin had a good heart.
JON STEWART: Continuing on.
Read that Jon Stewart just signed a new contract with Comedy Central that will have him continuing to do his show through the 2004 election. Although not good news for George W., this is good news for those looking for nightly political humor. Although my politics are much more in line with Dennis Miller, I do enjoy watching Jon Stewart. Although liberal, he does try to play it fair, which results in him skewering both sides.
POLITICS: The Boston Globe
In the vein of smartertimes.com, this blog does a great job pointing out the biases and idiocies of the Boston Globe. For those in the Boston area, check it out -- its worth a look.
INTRODUCTION: KINER'S KORNER
I'd like to thank the Crank for the chance to add to this terrific blog. Hopefully, he'll find my postings to be almost as entertaining and enjoyable as I find his.
First, the name: Mets fans will recognize it immediately. As to the rest of the readers, Kiner's Korner was a post-Mets-game interview show hosted, at times with great difficulty, by Ralph Kiner in which he interviewed one of the stars of the day's ballgame. Given that this was during the mid-to-late 1970s, a dark era for the franchise, it was frequently discouraging. I still remember John Stearns stating after an August ballgame that, "If each of us goes out there each game and gives it his all, we have a chance to play .500 baseball for the rest of the season." As I said, those were dark days.
Second, I probably won't add much diversification with my postings. I, too, am a Patriot League-educated, politically-conservative lawyer and Mets fan. I currently live in New England, however, so I might add an occasional bashing of the Boston Globe.
POLITICS: Goldberg and Santorum
I largely agree with Jonah Goldberg on the outcome on sodomy laws: they should be repealed, but they aren't unconstitutional. One quibble; Goldberg says:
Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign -a leading gay rights organization, led a chorus of liberal critics saying in response: "When Trent Lott made similar comments, he lost his position as majority leader, and it is time for the Republican Party to consider similar steps with Senator Santorum."
First, let's cover a little history. The Civil War was America's bloodiest conflict. It cost nearly 1,100,000 casualties, claimed 620,000 lives in perhaps more than 10,000 armed clashes. The war divided the nation for generations after it ended.
The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s didn't claim nearly as many lives, but it, too, transformed American life, rearranging institutions, public and private, and rewriting the language of the nation. And, you know what? None of it had anything to do with gay people.
Brother didn't fight brother over gay marriage or homosexuals in the military. Men didn't brave police dogs and fire hoses to overturn sodomy laws and the National Guard was never called in to restore order after gays were allowed through the schoolhouse door. Gays weren't kidnapped in Africa and brought to America against their will to toil in our fields.
It's important to keep all this in mind as the chorus of comparisons between Santorum and Lott gets louder, demanding that Santorum step down from his leadership position as Lott was forced to do.
When Trent Lott defended Jim Crow, he was defending something that had been rejected by two generations of Americans. Countless elections, debates, movies, books, marches and court decisions stand as testimony to the fact that America is resolved to put Jim Crow behind us. Lott dug up a skeleton that everyone wanted to remain buried, and he was punished for it.
Santorum, meanwhile, was giving an opinion about an existing law that is currently being debated in the Supreme Court. In short, homosexuality and race are just different things. They describe different things. They have different roles in our history and culture.
I know what Goldberg's driving at here, but the fact that Jim Crow is dead could just as easily cut the other way: because Santorum is advocating a position that still has support, if you find his views offensive or dangerous, then they are worse because they can still command respect.
More to follow.
POLITICS: Bush and Santorum
I'll probably have a few more posts on the Rick Santorum controversy; I don't relish the topic, but as with my coverage of the Trent Lott imbroglio in December, we conservative webloggers have an obligation to wrestle with the tough questions of what is, and isn't, a reasonable application of conservative principles.
This is not the debate Bush wants to have right now, as we try to segue into domestic policy and ramp up the fight on judicial nominees. But it's his own damn fault; he could've pardoned those guys in Texas either as Governor or President, on a "the government has more important things to do" platform, which would effectively have struck a death blow to sodomy laws without the need to offend religious conservatives by making a statement that would be read as saying "this is OK."
Then again, the key primary for the Dems in 2004 is South Carolina, so other than Howard Dean, none of their presidential candidates is likely to relish a fight about sodomy just right now (especially since unlike Trent Lott, Santorum's not going anywhere and may yet be Senate Majority Leader when Frist retires in 2006).
More brain tumors for Johnny Oates. Prayers, please.
LAW: Lawyer Joke
BASEBALL: Praising Raul
The New York Daily News' Sam Borden asks, "Has anyone ever had a more meaningful immediate impact than Raul Gonzalez?"
Do we really need to answer that?
WAR/RELIGION: The Holy Father Gets His Backbone Back
Sadly, precious little good has come from the Vatican in the past 2-3 years or so; while Pope John Paul II has been admirably steadfast in some of his longstanding convictions, there's been every sign in recent years -- with the Vatican's failure to meaningfully address the sex abuse scandals and its shameful failure to recognize the moral realities in Iraq and Palestine as prominent examples -- that the Holy Father has lost the ability to absorb new information or take a fresh look at problems whose moral outlines have become starkly clearer in recent times. But this report carries a little of the Pope that many Catholics still know and love: a rebuke to Fidel Castro's latest brutal crackdown. Here's the letter in Spanish; I'll post the English translation if I can find one.
April 25, 2003
BASEBALL/BASKETBALL: No Comparison
Was Yogi Berra the greatest player in baseball history?
The debate over the proper place of statistics in the analysis of baseball is one that rages on perenially, and probably always will. Sometimes the arguments against statistical analysis descend into self-parody - like when the MVP voters gave Andre Dawson the award in a year when his team finished last, based entirely on his 49 HR and 137 RBI, while refusing to look at the overall picture of Dawson's poor on base percentage and dependence on Wrigley Field. Like when the writers stumped for Tony Perez for the Hall of Fame and simultaneously argued that (1) his career RBI total justified his enshrinement and (2) statistics don't matter, so let's not talk about any of the other numbers, and Perez capped it all off by ranting in his acceptance speech about how numbers don't mean anything (personally, I can't help but wonder every time Perez and Joe Morgan criticize statistics whether it's just a veiled shot at stat-obsessed ex-teammate Pete Rose). Like when pro-Bud Selig sportswriters essentially insist that revenues and expenses are irrelevant to whether a business is making or losing money.
But I digress.
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In fact, there's a fair argument over the outer limits of any statistical analysis to capture everything that happens on the baseball field, as well as the proper balance between statistical metrics that seek to be precise and all-encompassing and those that actually count something. But I write here to zero in on one, narrower pet peeve of mine: the tendency of critics of statistical analyses to use basketball statistics for support. There are a number of examples of this that crop up in the media; here's one I picked sort of at random, from a January 2002 column in The Weekly Standard bashing Wall Street Journal sportswriter Allan Barra. A similar tack was taken by SI a few months before that, if I remember right, comparing the NBA's MVP race to baseball, but I don't have the link. (Can you tell this is a column that was half-written and unfinished for a year?) Let me be very clear about this: basketball stats are different.
An obvious example: Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Wilt Chamberlain scored 30.1 points per game in his career. Bill Russell averaged 15.1 a game, in a shorter career. Chamberlain had more rebounds, total and per game, and a slighly higher assists/game average. He shot for a higher field goal percentage, much higher. Wilt's signature weakness was free throw shooting, but Russell was also a crummy free throw shooter.
You can slice and dice the numbers severa different ways - playoff stats, run the head-to-head matchups - but no matter how far that narrows the gap, you simply can not make a credible statitsical case that Bill Russell was a better player than Chamberlain, or even particularly close. There's just too much -- too much difference in offense, principally. Twelve points per game for all those years is a lot.
And yet, there are plenty of reasonable people, people quite knowledgeable about the game, who argue that Russell was better. And they might be right - even when you account for better teammates, Russell didn't win all those championships and beat Wilt head-to-head all those times for nothing. The argument can go either way.
Anyway, my point here is not to resolve the Chamberlain-Russell debate, but to make a larger point about statistics. There are people who argue that baseball stats don't matter, but they do, even to the most hidebound fans -- because nobody seriously disputes that they set the parameters of the debate. (This, of course, was the point that Bill James keeps making, and made most pointedly in the Dawson MVP debate: we need to understand the stats first and foremost not because that's how we SHOULD view the game but because that's how we DO view the game).
Arguing for Russell over Chamberlain is very much like arguing for Yogi Berra as the greatest player of all time. Yogi was a great player, quite possibly the best catcher in major league history. His numbers are very good, and he was more consistent and durable than anyone to play his position. He played what some would view as the most important position on the field, and his teams won with incredible regularity - 14 pennants, 10 championships.
But nobody seriously thinks that Yogi Berra was better than Babe Ruth or Willie Mays. The gap in the hard numerical records of their accomplishments is too vast to bridge, because we all know that most of the important things that happen on a baseball field get recorded.
That, ultimately, is what critics of statistical analysis of the game have to contend with. And trying to get mileage out of the fact that basketball stats are more limited just shows how ignorant those critics really are, and how much their facts are determined by their biases, rather than the other way around.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: 'Confusing News With Wishful Thinking'
For those of us who supported the war against Iraq, there were four types of reasons for war - Tactical, Strategic, Humanitarian, and Legal.
The Tactical reasons were the most pressing: get weapons out of Saddam's hands and prevent him from sharing them with terrorists. It has been somewhat surprising how long (and with how many false alarms) it has taken to gather evidence of those weapons and terrorist contacts; it is yet possible that Saddam actually did destroy them (yet oburately refused to share the evidence of that destruction with us), and there is also the worrisome possibility that he disposed of them. The capture of Farouk Hijzai, long identified as a critical link between Saddam's regime and international terrorists, will hopefully provide useful information about all this.
The Humanitarian case has now been totally vindicated, although it was never, by itself, a sufficient case for war. The Legal case was in some ways tied in to the tactical case, although I still believe that we were justified in using force to remedy repeated violations of the terms on which we ended the last war.
But the Strategic case was always, to me, the most important: the need to put an end to 'business as usual' in the Middle East, with business including the acceptance of terrorism as a routine tool of foreign policy and the incitement of hatred against the U.S.
Steven Den Beste, one of the most eloquent proponents of the grand strategy, is declaring a partial victory. More evidence now comes from this April 26 editorial in the Saudi-based Arab News, long a bastion of anti-American and anti-Israel conventional wisdom in the region:
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Editorial: ‘It’s All Israel’s Fault!’
As the dust settles over Iraq and the cacophony of excited voices on our television screens dies down, the Arab world has begun to stir from the confusion into which the swift fall of Baghdad had thrown it, to take a good look at itself and take stock.
The political repercussions, as ever in the Arab world, are not easy to ascertain, but the fallout for the media is all too evident. To put it bluntly: A great many journalists and media outlets have been left with egg on their face. From accepting the wild claims of Iraqi minister of information Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf, to wildly predicting a jihad among the Iraqi people, very little the Arab media speculated on had when push came to shove anything to do with reality.
* * *
During the war, everyone in the Arab world agreed that US news networks such as Fox TV and CNN had dangerously — and not infrequently ridiculously — confused patriotism with reportage; and they were right. After the war, however, most Arabs have come to recognize that they were throwing stones while sitting in glass houses.
In the Arab media, it wasn’t so much a question of confusing patriotism with reportage as confusing news with wishful thinking. In a word, what was lacking was objectivity and critical self-analysis.
This, of course, is nothing new. For decades it has been difficult to find anything in the opinion pages of the Arabic language press that did not concern Israel. Every problem faced by Arab societies was blamed, in however obscure or far-fetched a way, on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. The issue served as a sort of lowest common denominator, satisfying many journalists who were not equipped to write about anything else as well as many of those who rule the Arab world and who would prefer Israel — rather than their own shortcomings —to be the subject of heated discussion in the “Arab street.”
* * *
The days when the Arab world could just scream “Israel”, as if that one word were sufficient answer to every question about every problem that came its way — as though saying that one word could deflect all further inquiry — are over. The time for peaceful coexistence, internal reflection and healthy, progressive thinking has now arrived.
To those of us who have accepted the big-picture Strategic case for regional reform, this sort of reaction is beyond what we had hoped from the first war in the Arab heartland. To the Arab world, Afghanistan is like the Balkans to Europeans: a crazy outpost on the frontier. Iraq is like France (no snickering). Its occupation is traumatic, and is apparently seen as a radical break of a sort that the war against the Taliban was not. We in the West saw nothing revolutionary in the idea that the U.S. military would swiftly crush any opposition, but we have been exposed to reality; readers of the Arab media have not, and they have reacted with shock and shame.
The fact that even the Arab News is treating anti-Israel rhetoric with scorn (not recanting it, granted, but recognizing it as a diversion from the larger issues) - that is more progress than money alone could ever buy.
And, in Glenn Reynolds' wonderful phrase, the Arab News "doesn't look neoconish."
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The Baseball Prospectus runs Joe Sheehan's argument against Jack Morris for the Hall of Fame. You can get my take (from a few years back) on Morris, Bert Blyleven, Tommy John and Jim Kaat here.
WAR: The Reality of Governing
Who said we don't have a plan for Iraq?
POLITICS: New York, New York
WAR: The Color Of The Sky In Ted Rall's World
I'm almost afraid to make fun of this Ted Rall column - once you start, where do you stop? With the part where he weeps for the OPEC cartel, maybe? But I had to note this one: his assertion that the Bechtel Group must be up to no good because the company's "Republican-oriented board includes such Reagan-era GOP luminaries as CIA director William Casey."
If Bechtel's board includes a guy who's been dead for 15 years, the company has bigger problems.
April 24, 2003
BASEBALL: Yankee Gloves
There's something unusual going on with the Yankees that you may not have noticed, given that they are getting good pitching, crushing their opposition, and rolling to a record start even for the Yankees: the Yankee defense has been exceptionally ineffective.
Look at the pitching stats: the Yanks are now tied for the AL lead with a 3.01 ERA, but they are 6th in the AL in hits allowed despite a league-leading 156 K, just 50 walks (1 off the league lead), and a league-best 5 home runs allowed (less than half the nearest competitor).
Why? Simple. The Yanks are next to last in the league (above Texas) in turning balls in play into outs, 40 points below the league average (.6748 to .7126).
This has particularly affected the bullpen. Chris Hammond: 9 IP, 11 H, 0HR, 1 BB, 7 K. Antonio Osuna: 11.1 IP, 10 H, 0HR, 8 BB, 13 K. Juan Acevedo: 8 IP, 9 H, 1HR, 1 BB, 7 K. Jose Contreras: 5 IP, 11 H, 0HR, 6 BB, 7 K.
What else do these guys have in common? All new to the team. I'm not sure anyone has studied this, but I wonder if defenses are more effective when they've had time to adjust positioning behind a new pitcher . . .
Here's the other thing: last year, the Yanks were just around the league average. What changed? Well, there's Matsui, but the most obvious change is the loss of the everyday shorstop. Derek Jeter's defensive numbers have never been good, but is it possible they actually miss him? Erick Almonte has a Range Factor of 4.17 and a Zone Rating of .667 this year, and he's fielding an awful .929. Playing under basically the same conditions last season, Jeter's numbers were 3.81, .803 and .977. In other words, Almonte's taking more plays, but only because way more are his his way, and he's making more errors.
Do they miss Jeter? From the numbers alone, I can't say.
POLITICS/RELIGION: Santorum, Sodomy, and the (Back)Lash
WELL, there's certainly been plenty of commentary on Rick Santorum's controversial comments on the Texas sodomy case presently before the Supreme Court. Predictably, critics like the New York Times disapproved, without bothering to explain why Santorum was wrong. Let's go through this in some detail.
What did he actually say?
The San Francisco Chronicle helpfully reprints the whole interview, and before you jump to criticize Santorum -- or to defend him -- I'd suggest you read it all.
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We start after Santorum broaches the subject in answering a question about the Catholic Church's sex-abuse scandals and why they can be tied to an 'anything-goes' culture:
SANTORUM: In this case, what we're talking about, basically, is priests who were having sexual relations with post-pubescent men. We're not talking about priests with 3-year-olds, or 5-year-olds. We're talking about a basic homosexual relationship. Which, again, according to the world view sense is a a perfectly fine relationship as long as it's consensual between people. If you view the world that way, and you say that's fine, you would assume that you would see more of it.
AP: Well, what would you do . . . should we outlaw homosexuality?
SANTORUM: I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts. As I would with acts of other, what I would consider to be, acts outside of traditional heterosexual relationships. And that includes a variety of different acts, not just homosexual. I have nothing, absolutely nothing against anyone who's homosexual. If that's their orientation, then I accept that. And I have no problem with someone who has other orientations. The question is, do you act upon those orientations? So it's not the person, it's the person's actions. And you have to separate the person from their actions.
Up to this point, Santorum is making a moral distinction between orientation and acts, a distinction that is entirely consistent with the Catholic Church's teachings. Does that matter? Well, one link I found states that:
A devout Catholic, Senator Santorum regularly attends Mass. He is also a weekly participant in the Senate Prayer Breakfast and Senate Chaplain's Bible Study. In 1997, the Catholic Campaign for America presented Senator Santorum with the Catholic American of the Year Award.
So far, he's basically taking a moral position that is consistent with his faith, albeit one that's hugely controversial in society as a whole. (More on that later).
AP: OK . . . so if somebody is homosexual, you would argue that they should not have sex?
SANTORUM: We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family.
Here's where things get dicier: a lot of conservative Catholics, myself included, would basically agree with the moral argument (personally, I believe that any sex outside marriage is wrong, but I well recognize that I am very much in the minority in hewing to that traditional position, and if you take that view, you learn early that you will have to accept people who don't live by it or you're not gonna have any friends). Of course, as Andrew Sullivan frequently points out, this view leaves gays with no realistic option but celibacy, and I'm not unsympathetic to the bind that leaves them in. It's not an easy question.
But Santorum argues, taking a position I wouldn't touch and nor would most conservatives these days, that the sodomy laws are actually a good thing: that even allowing homosexual sex to be legal is bad because it undermines the family to permit people to have sex outside it.
This is too far; while I'm somewhat ambivalent about some of the related legal issues (there are too many questions about how conservatives should approach gay rights issues to address in one post), sodomy laws are mostly stupid and pointless, and any uses they might have can easily be remedied by more specific laws directed at particular problems. In a free society, a free conscience should be given the room to commit sin, not least because in a free society people can reach different conclusions about what is and isn't sinful.
On the other hand, the wisdom of sodomy laws are a state-level concern; Santorum's opinions on them don't amount to a hill of beans. Let's pick him up where he left off:
And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn't exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold [v. Connecticut] -- Griswold was the contraceptive case -- and abortion.
Strangely, this has become the most controversial excerpt, but what Santorum is saying here is, as Eugene Volokh notes, a perfectly legitimate "slippery slope" argument: that if we start saying the constitution protects homosexual sodomy, we may wind up at the bottom of the slope having no principled way to ban incest and bestiality (or, as Ramesh Ponuru notes, prostitution). I think there's more than a few counters to that, but there's a lot of wisdom in noticing that once the question of what is "constitutional" no longer has any relationship to the actual Constitution, you can wind up in a heap of trouble. Griswold is the perfect example of this: hardly anybody cared much that Connecticut couldn't outlaw contraceptives anymore, but the Court had broken free of the Constitution's text, and it would use that freedom 8 years later to enact a revolutionary ban on laws against abortion. And for conservative Catholic politicians, the folly of the abortion decisions is always the starting point of constitutional analysis.
And now we're just extending it out. And the further you extend it out . . . You say, well, it's my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that's antithetical to strong, healthy families. Whether it's polygamy, whether it's adultery, where it's sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.
Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality _
Back to the 'threat to the family' stuff, which Glenn Reynolds mocks. Personally, I think the threat is more indirect - what Pat Moynihan referred to as "defining deviancy down," in the sense that at some point, failing to say "no" to so many things leaves us paralyzed in the face of genuine and direct threats.
At this point, the reporter - this has to be a rookie reporter here, not somebody who smells a front-page story - gets cold feet:
AP: I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about "man on dog" with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out.
(Tim Russert would've been thinking, "Senator talks about 'man on dog' - I'm leading the news cycle with this one")
SANTORUM: And that's sort of where we are in today's world, unfortunately. The idea is that the state doesn't have rights to limit individuals' wants and passions. I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we're seeing it in our society.
AP: Sorry, I just never expected to talk about that when I came over here to interview you. Would a President Santorum eliminate a right to privacy -- you don't agree with it?
SANTORUM: I've been very clear about that. The right to privacy is a right that was created in a law that set forth a (ban on) rights to limit individual passions. And I don't agree with that. So I would make the argument that with President, or Senator or Congressman or whoever Santorum, I would put it back to where it is, the democratic process. If New York doesn't want sodomy laws, if the people of New York want abortion, fine. I mean, I wouldn't agree with it, but that's their right. But I don't agree with the Supreme Court coming in. (emphasis added)
I'd be interested to know if Santorum has supported the Human Life Amendment, which would contradict what he says above about leaving abortion to the states, but that's neither here nor there.
Anyway, there's been plenty of commentary. James Taranto was dismissive of the controversy. Lileks argued that this was dumb politics, and Calpundit called for Democrats to make hay from it, although the answer may be that most Americans don't live in Minnesota or California. Jacob Levy disagreed with co-blogger Volokh on whether the moral and constitutional arguments were legitimate points or beyond the pale of discussion.
I have to disagree with people who think that even discussing the morality of homosexuality is beyond the pale; they tend to be the same people who generally refuse to provide justifications for their own opinions.
And if they do take this view, then they damn well better never take issue with anyone's religious beliefs, which is similarly on the line between 'immutable characteristics' and 'chosen beliefs/conduct'. Basically, if you find Santorum's opinions wrong and dangerous, criticize him; if you think his stance on this is that important, don't vote for him. But don't tell me that no civilized person may be permitted to speak such opinions. That way lies France, where serious dissent on major issues is all but nonexistent and nothing ever changes, or worse, the Netherlands, where the speaking of uncomfortable truths is justification for shooting politicians. Even gay politicians.
The 'this is bigotry and hate speech' position really underestimates the American public, if you ask me. Santorum stuck doggedly to the Catholic Church's "love the sinner/hate the sin" dichotomy, and he laid out a reasoned argument. You can disagree with that, but this is just not the stuff of hate and violence; it's the very essence of people trying to have a civil disagreement over fundamentally differing worldviews.
Turning to a related issue . . . speaking of immutable characteristics, by the way, I think on some level that everyone from gay rights advocates to fundamentalists is deeply afraid to definitively resolve whether homosexuality is genetically determined or not. Both tend to want it both ways (so to speak). For example, if somebody like a Jerry Falwell says being gay is a sickness, he gets attacked. But if the orientation is genetic, then on some level it is like a "sickness" or "disorder", except for the normative weight of those terms; it's certainly the same in the sense that any genetic deviation from the norm is a sickness or disorder. (The fallacy that some conservative Christians fall into on this point is in assuming that what is 'natural' or 'unnatural' determines what is good. If our morals were nothing but the sum of our natural impulses, we wouldn't be human. The irony is that this kind of moral reasoning is essentially Darwinian, which you don't expect to hear coming from creationists).
And, of course, if it's genetic, we can test for it, and anti-gay abortions can follow. Nobody can think this is good.
But if the preacher says it's a sinful choice, they get mocked. But if it's not genetic, then on some level it is a choice. Either that, or the orientation is the product of environment. Nobody wants to go there either, since 'environment' ties into the question of gay parents.
Like I said, it's not just the Left that seems to fear answering that question; I think the implications of either position are frightening to people who have strong feelings on all sides of these issues. They stare into the abyss, and they turn away. And we end up having fights over whether politicians can even skim the surface of the issue.
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April 23, 2003
HISTORY: Deep Throat
Was 'Deep Throat' White House deputy counsel Fred Fielding?
WAR: More on the Fraudis
Matt Welch has a tough column on "Bandar Bush," the Saudi ambassador.
BASEBALL: Estimated Pitch Counts
The Baseball Prospectus' Nate Silver has another interesting column (subscription required) on estimating pitch counts for pitchers for whom they aren't available.
BASEBALL: Doctor My Eyes
I'm beginning to think that Roger Cedeno needs his eyes checked. He was never a true CF, but he wasn't always this bad an outfielder. It's fairly obvious that he just doesn't see the ball coming until it's too close to do anything about it.
SCIENCE: A Soft Landing
Although he characteristically takes forever to get to the point, this Steven Den Beste column aptly explains why it''s not the end of the world if we wait until we have clearer signs before we do anything about potential long-range economic problems.
One of this season's real surprises has been new Cubs closer Joe Borowski. I hadn't paid him much attention last season, but Borowski pitched pretty well: 97 K and 29 BB in 95.2 IP, and a 2.73 ERA. He was vulnerable to the long ball, though (10 dingers). And he's been lights-out so far in 2003: 3 saves in 3 tries, 10.2 IP, 3 hits (one a homer), no walks, 13 K, and an 0.84 ERA.
This could be an early test for Dusty Baker in Chicago: if Borowki keeps pitching anything like this, there's just no reason why Six Fingers Alfonseca should ever get his job back.
WAR: Nigerian Elections
The recent elections in Nigeria, leading to a victory for incumbent president Olusegun Obasanjo, are being disputed by the opposition, although it's not immediately clear how serious that is. Africapundit (permalinks broken) seems pretty pessimistic about the willingness of the international community to force Obasanjo to take some of the more significant complaints seriously. I'm sort of personally interested in this story, because the opposition vice presidential candidate, Chuba Okadigbo, is the father of one of my roommates from law school. Nigeria, of course, is an important country in many ways: Africa's most populous nation, rich and growing richer in natural resources (especially oil), centrally located in West/Central Africa, and divided among booming Catholic and Muslim populations. I can only wish them well.
Robert "Man Without Qualities" Musil has two interesting posts: first, he catches a typical example of Atrios quoting someone far, far out of context to make a point; then he notes that Bill Clinton seems to be serving the same role that Hillary did when Bill was the candidate: feeding red meat (or, in this case, beige tofu) to partisans on the Left, while letting his wife keep her distance from the more obviously irresponsible statements.
BASEBALL: Kiss My
A revealing note on tonight's Mets radio broadcast: Howie Rose and Ed Coleman were talking about how Art Howe had moved Roberto Alomar to the leadoff slot, and how important it was to Alomar that Howe personally asked Alomar to bat leadoff rather than writing his name in the lineup. It seems that a manager has to do a lot of stuff like this to get Alomar to play for him, and I suspect Bobby Valentine didn't do that kind of stuff.
BASEBALL: Caption Contest!
Before you can have the courage of your convictions, you need the intellectual clarity to recognize them. I wasn't initially too sure what I thought about Tom Daschle being warned by his local bishop not to keep identifying himself as a Catholic, but Jane Galt (who's not even Catholic, but is instead from Manhattan) puts Catholics like me to shame with a stirring defense of the Church's ability to do this.
POP CULTURE: Rye Playland
A little nostalgia for anyone who grew up in the NY area: Rye Playland is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Go back in your mind's eye to the Kiddie Coaster . . .
WAR: The French
Den Beste has yet another theory about the behavior of the French. I still have my own theory as well: if a country's behavior is a reflection of its population, the fear of confrontation exhibited by France and Germany may be symptomatic of an increasingly elderly population.
I'll say this: as is usually true of these things, there's probably truth in all the competing theories. But the most worrisome is the notion that France is on its way to becoming a radical Islamist state some years in the future.
POLITICS: Thought for the Day
"We prize as the greatest of freedoms the freedom to choose. But we are not really free to choose until we become sufficiently disciplined to know what the results of our choices will be."
If you were thinking about having your tongue pierced, Clayton Cramer has some news that may make you think again.
POP CULTURE: Python
Yes, I had to take this silly quiz:
April 22, 2003
LAW: Federalism and Guns
Jacob Sullum, writing in the libertarian journal Reason, questions whether new federal legislation to protect against lawsuits against the gun industry is consistent with a narrow reading of the commerce power and a commitment to federalism. I haven't studied the bill he's addressing, but I do think it's worth considering the fact that at least some of the current litigation flies in the face of existing law on the Commerce Clause and conflicts with the principles I cited in my post on Federalism's Edge.
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A number of the recent suits, rather than challenge guns as inherently dangerous, have pushed some variation of an "oversupply" theory: that gun manufacturers allegedly have knowingly sold more guns in states with lax gun laws than the local demand, knowing that such guns would then be illegally shipped across state lines to states where the gun laws are tighter. The problem with this theory is twofold. First, this directly imposes liability on the very act of interstate commerce - a serious problem under existing Commerce Clause cases. Second, by making legal sales in State A illegal under State B's law because of their impact on State B, State B has effectively overstepped the very boundaries that the Supreme Court's State Farm v. Campbell decision purports to police.
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POLITICS: The Crits Abandon Theory?
Also from the Corner, this amusing story about a panel featuring notorious academic postmodernist theorists who seemed unwilling to even try to defend the relevance of their own theories to the real world.
POLITICS/LAW: Not Exactly Pro-Choice
I just knew this was coming: somebody from NOW objects to a murder charge for Laci Peterson's child, fearing that giving any legal protection to a child carried nearly to term would help the pro-life cause: "If this is murder, well, then any time a late-term fetus is aborted, they could call it murder" Jonah Goldberg is right that this is just one county-level NOW rep, but it's still all too characteristic of the mindset that places the value of abortion above even the prohibition on murder.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 AM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Way cool graphic. (Link via N.Z. Bear). The use of the deck of cards to symbolize the Iraqi regime is brilliantly simple political iconography, and has generated lots of guaranteed press interest. Somebody at the Pentagon really scored with this idea.
POLITICS: John Edwards' Money
The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have the details on John Edwards' impressive fundraising, more than half of which comes from lawyers, mostly the plaintiffs' bar (and including some fishy items like legal secretaries donating the maximum $2,000 at the same time as their bosses). This is what I've always thought would be Edwards' Achilles heel: not that he himself is untrustworthy because he's a plaintiffs' lawyer - he paints himself in a fairly sympathetic light - but that his background as a plaintiffs' lawyer, combined with financial dependence on the plaintiffs' bar, would make him blind to its faults, resistant to even the most reasonable reforms, and ultimately easy to caricature (fairly) as a tool of a single interest group, and one that most Americans have at least some distrust of.
April 21, 2003
LAW/BUSINESS: AOLTimeWarner On The Hot Seat
WAR: How We See Iraq
In my continuing quest to find more reasonable, non-crazy liberal/left bloggers to spar with (i.e., people to actually debate with rather than just sneer past each other; more on this later), I've been checking up on CalPundit, who a number of people have referred me to. His site actually started around the same time as mine and also made the leap to Movable Type just this week, although of course he's got a good deal more traffic and links than I do.
Anyway, he's got a post arguing that Americans' tendency to see everyone else through American perspectives leaves us blind to the reality of tension between wanting a democratic Iraq and a pro-American one. I think he's too pessimistic, although I also tend to agree with Josh Marshall that a pro-Israel Iraq is just too much to expect just yet. Although we obviously would prefer to establish military bases in Iraq (due to its strategic importance and so we can get out of Saudi Arabia), the main goal of installing democracy isn't a pro-America Iraq so much as one that's not actively anti-American. Same with Israel: if Iraq treats Israel the way Kuwait does, fine. That's better than financing suicide bombers by the score.
But it's not just pro-war conservatives who are likely to view Iraq through an American lens. Let's say we succeed in establishing a government with at least some democratic elements. And let's say that that government, consistent with Iraqi public opinion, takes on a number of characteristics that some or all Americans find offensive: an absence of rights for women and gays, a close relationship between mosque and state, draconian criminal punishments, etc. Won't it be the case that people here who opposed the war will cite these shortcomings (to our Western eyes) to argue that we have failed in Iraq? Don't you expect a Maureen Dowd column on why "Dubya let Rummy and the neos tell him things would be peaches and cream, and gosh golly lookee here, we threw a war and the women still can't drive and have to stay home barefoot and pregnant?"
BASEBALL: Marcus Giles of Ham
Mac Thomason predicted, successfully, that the Braves would bench Marcus Giles after he hit a big home run. It's gratifying, on one level, to see the Mets' longstanding tormentors screw up a talented young hitter who would be very useful to them.
Like Bruce Chen or Jeremy Giambi, I continue to suspect that we don't have the whole story about Giles, although whether the rest of the story is a personality or work ethic thing, an off-the-field problem, or just a bad review of his mechanics is something we fans on the outside aren't privy to.
BASEBALL: The Red Carpet
This isn't exactly news, but you can't possibly evaluate the Royals' 14-3 start without recognizing that (1) they have yet to play a game outside the pitiful AL Central and (2) they haven't even faced the defending division champs.
Of course, if the Royals play .824 ball against the Tigers, Indians and White Sox all year, they'll do well. (I still think the White Sox are a pretty good team). But combining the small sample size with an extremely unbalanced schedule is a good way to get a record that's totally detatched from reality. Especially when your offense is premised on Brent Mayne and Joe Randa hitting like Foxx and Simmons.
BASEBALL/BLOG: Eddie Grant
This site is now the proud sponsors of the memory of Eddie Grant, an infielder with the Phillies, Reds and Giants (and Harvard alum) who was killed in action in the Argonne Forest in October 1918.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:51 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: K per Batter
Nate Silver at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) has an interesting point, albeit one that he concedes most people will continue to ignore because it's not what they're accustomed to: that strikeouts per batter faced is a much better measurement of success than strikeouts per inning, since less effective pitchers face more batters per inning and thus have more opportunities.
POLITICS: Gary Ha . . Haaah . .
Reading this blog entry is a good shorthand for why Gary Hart - even if he had stayed active in the public eye the last 15 years, which he hasn't - would be such a lousy presidential candidate: he spends too much time talking about how complicated and intricate everything is, and too little time explaining anything clearly. He's like Dukakis or the pre-1999 Gore this way. It's a combination of pedantry and self-satisfaction that's just toxic in presidential politics. Ask any litigator: your job in explaining things to people who haven't heard them explained before is to make everything as simple as possible - not dumbing it down, just stripping issues to their essence.
Unsuccessful candidates tell you they have a vision. Successful ones make you see it.
And do we really want a Leader of the Free World who has Hesiod on his blogroll?
WAR: The Ambassador Bridge
This story is a reminder of the long vigil our border guards need to keep, and a reminder as well of the dangers posed by our Canadian frontier -- the last thing anyone would have worried about before September 11.
BLOG: Two Announcements
Now that the new site's been up and running a week, I have two major announcements:
The first, which I made last week over at the Projo discussion boards, is that I am ending my affiliation with the Providence Journal. I enjoyed my time writing for Projo, and I have nothing but good to say about Projo sports editor Art Martone, who offered me a spot to keep writing about baseball when Bill Simmons' Boston Sports Guy site closed down in May of 2001. Art remains one of the voices of reason in baseball writing, and of course I'll keep checking out his columns.
I intend to eventually load all my columns from Projo and the BSG site into the archives here, and put links to many of them up on the front page; there's already a bunch loaded, including many of my Hall of Fame columns. I'll still write longer column-length posts here when I have the time, but as long-time readers are aware, I've found it harder ever since September 11 to confine my interests to just baseball. In fact, I started writing columns, back in college, mostly as a writer on politics and world affairs (the sports columnist job on the school paper was taken already by Bill Simmons when I got there). Of course, the world has changed a lot since I was a college student writing columns calling for war with Saddam . . . if I really get ambitious some day I may break out the old WordPerfect for DOS floppies and dig up one or two of those old columns.
By the way, for those of you who are fans of my baseball writing but want to avoid the political stuff - or vice versa - you can do so by clicking on the "Categories" in the left-hand column; I believe you can actually bookmark them.
Second, this site - following the lead of successful blogs like the Volokh site, Asymmetrical Information, Oxblog, The American Scene, The Buck Stops Here, and others, will now be a group blog. While there are obviously some advantages to getting all the credit for a site yourself, this is another move that will assure more content, and more continuous content, on the site even when my work and family commitments don't leave me time for writing (and thus avoid long silences like the one Dr. Manhattan is now enduring; come back, Doc!).
I am very pleased to introduce my first two co-bloggers, who have chosen to remain pseudonymous. I'll leave it to them to do their introductions, but they will be writing under the names "The Mad Hibernian" and "Kiner's Korner." What I will say is that both are lawyers, both are Mets fans, and both are likely to bring a similar perspective to issues of war and politics to the table to ensure a consistent tone for the content at this site.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:31 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Kiner's Korner | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Kinsley Continued
To continue on the Michael Kinsley column I noted a few days ago, Kinsley spends much of the column griping about the fact that a few big, well-connected American companies will get contracts in Iraq. Perhaps the best rejoinder to this is from ScrappleFace. Kinsley, perhaps reverting to form, never suggests that the companies at issue are not the best-qualified to do the jobs; he's just looking for the handiest mud.
That being said, there is a legitimate point at the end of the column, if you can last to read that far: that, because the U.S. is footing much of the bill for rebuilding Iraq, we should hire the best contractors regardless of their nationality (even if that means French companies), and that principles of free trade and international trade conventions prohibit us in any event from discriminating against foreign companies. A weighty question is implicated: should the U.S. retaliate at all against the nations that opposed the war? I hope to get into that in more detail later.
April 20, 2003
BLOG: Happy Easter
No blogging today. Major announcement coming soon. Happy Easter!
April 19, 2003
WAR: Kinsley Overboard
Jonah Goldberg wrote a memorable column a few years ago arguing that Michael Kinsley tended to write columns in which he raised a bunch of questions, implied various things or attacked the form of arguments without really saying anything on the substance of a point. Goldberg had Kinsley's usual style dead-on, but Kinsley's writings on the war have been much more vibrant and direct. Unfortunately, they've also been over-the-top rants chock full of all the popular leftist tropes.
In his latest, Kinsley starts off with a laughably deceptive but common argument:
President Bush, who was oh-so-sneery about the idea of "nation-building" during the 2000 campaign, is now nation-building with a vengeance. He plans to spend $60 billion or more over the next three years rebuilding Iraq. The agenda includes everything from repairing the oil fields to rewriting the elementary-school textbooks. Like the Clinton administration he ridiculed, he now realizes that you cannot pour soldiers and bombs into a country, declare it liberated, and come home.
If you remember correctly, the conservative critique of Clinton's foreign policy, to which Bush subscribed, was precisely that we should not "pour soldiers and bombs into a country" in the first place if we did not have the kind of goals and objectives that justified things like occupations and nation-building. But remember, also: the "nation-building" argument was an argument, not against removing and replacing dangerous dictators, but against getting involved in what were essentially civil wars, where a nation's basic structure had already crumbled beyond repair.
More to the point, Bush never said we should never do nation-building, just that we should not engage in it unless our vital national interests were at stake. And you'd really have to have been living in a cave the last two years to think that the Bush Administration doesn't believe that Afghanistan and Iraq were situations that implicated our vital national interests.
BASEBALL: Ty Gamer
Speaking of marketing, watching Ty Wigginton barreling into catchers lately reminds me how much fun it is to have aggressive young players on your team. It's been so long . . .
BASEBALL: Ladies' Day
I agree with David Pinto that the Brewers' efforts to woo women to the ballpark with gimmicks like massages and floral arrangement demonstrations is pointless. Stuff like that may help draw the occasional non-baseball-fan-wife to the park, but those women will stay home as soon as you stop offering the gimmes. The goal of marketing, especially for a team with a small fan base, should be to bring people into the park who are likely to come back even when you stop bribing them. After all, any team could fill the seats by paying the fans more to show up than the tickets are worth. The only way to attract more of the kind of fans who will come back is to put an interesting (generally, winning) product on the field).
BASEBALL: Tony! Tony!
Last night's game-winning three-run homer is a good occasion for me to note that I was in favor of the Mets' low-cost acquisition of Tony Clark. Clark's overall numbers still aren't great (batting .235 with no walks), but he's showcased some of his old power (3 homers in 17 at bats). Mo Vaughn's contract remains untradeable and Clark is unlikely to achieve more than stopgap status as an outfielder, but if he can demonstrate that he has his old 30-homer form back, the Mets may well have a guy they can trade in July to a team that needs to upgrade at 1B or DH.
SCIENCE/POLITICS: Good News
This has to be good news: a sharp drop in pollution in the U.S. between 1995 and 2000, even without drastic remedies like the Kyoto treaty. Give some credit where it's due: this occurred on Bill Clinton's watch, and under the auspices of the Clean Air Act forced on George H.W. Bush by Congressional Democrats. On the other hand, it happened without anything more radical, much to the undoubted chagrin of the Gores and Naders of the world.
WAR: PARANOIA RUNS DEEP
BASEBALL/WAR: Infidel Zionist Red Sox
Jim Caple has an amusing take on what it would sound like if the Hated Yankees hired Iraq's former Disinformation Minister as a broadcaster.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:24 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: What To Learn In College
Harvard Law blogger Philip Greenspun offers an overly rational argument on why colleges should abolish dormitories, put students in cubicles by day, and otherwise treat their students more like employees. It's a provocative idea, and I could imagine some small college trying it, but let's face it: American society has long since decided that social development is as important to the college experience as education. The fact that we nonetheless have the world's best university system suggests that this is the least of our worries.
Also, to take Greenspun's cynical-economist tack, an important purpose of college is to prevent youth unemployment by keeping marginally employable young people (i.e., most of them) busy with something else. If we make college less attractive, more kids that age will just try to enter the workforce.
POLITICS: Daschle In Trouble?
It's way early yet, but Republicans have to be encouraged by polls showing Tom Daschle trailing his likely potential opponent (John Thune) in a 2004 Senate race.
April 18, 2003
WAR: Smarts and Valor
WAR: Evil Moron
Slate's Chris Suellentrop explains why Syria's Bashir Assad is an "evil moron."
WAR: France's Dotage
Guy Milliere, writing in Front Page Magazine, has some grim thoughts about the future of France.
WAR: Iranian Demographics
Noah Millman has an interesting analysis (no permalinks; scroll down to the first entry under April 10) on demographic changes in Iran:
According to the CIA World Factbook, Iran's fertility rate is right at replacement: 2.01 children per woman. This is, to say the least, not typical of the region. Here are some comparisons to neighboring countries:
The only country in the vicinity with a lower fertility rate is Christian and post-Soviet Armenia. Iran, a fundamentalist Muslim theocracy, has roughly the same fertility rate as secular Turkey (or, for that matter, the USA).
When did this transition to lower fertility happen? It can't have happened that long ago, because 31% of the population is under 14 (versus 21% in the US and 24% in China). Could we just be dealing with the after-effects of economic development under the Shah?
LAW: Scandal in Mississippi
Reports of a possibly growing scandal in Mississippi, where federal investigators have subpoenaed records of the state Supreme Court, "looking into whether lawyers paid off loans for state court judges in exchange for favorable treatment in court." The lawyers in question include "well-heeled trial lawyers, including Paul Minor of Ocean Springs and Richard "Dickie" Scruggs of Pascagoula." (Link via Howard Bashman)
Bill Simmons argues that it's time to break up Kobe & Shaq. One quibble: Simmons says that "[u]nlike other NBA dynasties, these guys always seem vulnerable . . ." Maybe they seem invulnerable in retrospect, but I always though Jordan's Bulls could be taken, and they often escaped serieses with the Knicks, in particular, by the skin of their teeth. Remember: this team had a committee of mediocre point guards and another committee of mediocre centers; after Horace Grant left, they had a power forward who scored 5 points a game and was clinically insane, plus Scottie Pippen was never exactly Mister Big Game. The Bulls' advantages, of course, each time outweighed those flaws, but you can't tell me they were never in trouble.
POP CULTURE: Contingencies
Jesse Walker of Reason's Hit&Run blog, discussing the Smoking Gun's capture of premature CNN.com obituaries, links to the transcript of a hilarious SNL skit where Tom Brokaw pre-tapes possible announcements on the death of Gerald Ford. Read the whole thing.
Rod Dreher urges us to "[l]ift a glass of ranch dressing at lunch today to Dr. Robert Atkins", in memory of his death. Tommy Franks, quoted in this GlennReynolds.com item, refers to the U.N.'s "oil for palace" program. Dr. Weevil, baiting some troll in his comments section and showing why he's no ordinary pedant: "that's "Dr. Weevil" to you, 'bobbyp': I didn't spend five years in graduate school to be an ordinary 'Weevil'."
WAR: Clash of Cultures
See, there's countries that survive on subsistence farming or hire people to drill their oil for them, and then there are countries where an ordinary farmer can do this.
WAR: The First Sign of Civilization
May you be in Kabul half an hour before the Taliban knows you're there.
LAW: Is an Ungoogled Life Worth Living?
Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain on the Google Death Penalty. Google's enormous influence does raise some interesting issues, perhaps more in the nature of policy than legal issues. I'm not an expert in antitrust economics, but it seems to me that Google is what you might call an ephemeral monopoly: the reach and influence of a monopolist, but coupled with the certainty that it could be easily unseated from its position in a heartbeat if it attempted to exploit the consumer, or - and this is key - if it was suddenly subjected to added regulatory/legal burdens that impeded the flexibility that got it where it is. I can see why that's frustrating to sites that get banned from Google, but the social downside of imposing any sort of hightened legal duty on an entity like Google solely due to its prominence would be counterproductive.
Of course, I've still never heard a good explanation of how Google makes any money, either.
BASEBALL: Mo's Targets
Well, last night was a satisfying release; the dam hath burst and the rain shall pour forth on the parched sands . . . a team does need to whomp somebody now and then, and if it gets a win for Jay Seo and some work for Jason Middlebrook, all the better.
One thing I noticed on the radio broadcast last night: they were mentioning how Mo Vaughn just totally owns Julian Tavarez, before Mo cruched a bases-clearing double against him . . . is it just me, or are there an unusual number of pitchers Mo has unreal numbers against (David Wells being the extreme example)? Makes you wonder if his streaks and slumps are almost pre-determined: a week of famine, three days of feast.
April 17, 2003
WAR: Iraq's Oil
The Bush Administration has promised (see also here, with remarks from Colin Powell) that Iraq's oil (presently the property of a government-run oil company, if I recall correctly) should be 'held in trust for the Iraqi people'. Commentators on the Left have now joined a battery of those on the Right (last link for Wall Street Journal subscribers only) calling for such an outcome and fretting over the possibility that it will be undermined, perhaps by the State Department.
George Melloan, in the Wall Street Journal, asks the first threshold question - why should we even be the ones to make that decision, rather than leave the distribution of the country's resources to the Iraqi people's elected representatives, if we're serious about democracy? After all, distribution of the otherwise poor country's vast oil wealth is a huge question about the shape of Iraqi society. I think Melloan's right, though, that we're in Iraq to help build institutions that support democracy, not just democracy itself, and spreading the oil wealth around is a good way to encourage less government corruption and more entrepeneurship (particularly since a broad distribution will ensure that people get income but not necessariy enough that they won't want to work for more). That may sound like redistribution, but most conservatives have no trouble redistributing wealth away from centralized government control.
But what of the structure of such a project? I know little enough about how the Alaskan model (which most everyone cites) works, but it seems to me that we need to make sure that, while the resulting structure passes on the benefits of the oil rights, someone with a profit motive remains in charge as the administrator of such rights, if we really want to make sure that the beneficiaries get full value from this. For example: will Iraqis actually be shareholders in a state oil company, with shares freely transferable? (Upside: people can cash out. Downside, as we saw in Russia: people can get swindled or extorted out of their shares). Will the oil industry remain Iraqi-operated, or will we just be distributing the proceeds from selling the businesses to foreign companies, who may be able to operate the wells more efficiently? I don't have good answers, except that we should not leave operation of the oil industry in the hands of some big government monopoly (like the Mexican model, for example) that will wind up as a big, sluggish jobs program with undue influence over the country's politics. And we also have to recognize that there will be tensions, at this level, between our interests in giving Iraqis the blessings of oil wealth and our own interests in maximizing the efficient production of low-cost oil.
BASEBALL: Deja Vu All Over Again
The Mets' start is all too reminiscent of last season, when the team was expected to have a solid offense and suspect pitching, but instead started the season with excellent starting pitching and no offense at all. The offense eventually got moving a little, but by then the pitching had unraveled. It's the same start: nobody's hitting, and worse yet, the bullpen's been a disaster. So the team has kept games close by getting some fine starting pitching from people who are unlikely to keep it up.
BASEBALL: What's Ains Worth?
The Law of Competitive Balance teaches us one thing: champions can't repeat without improving. A team that wins in one year will inevitably be dragged back to the pack by players aging, having off years, getting hurt; to counter that, you have to move aggressively to upgrade your weak spots. That's why Kurt Ainsworth, who has shot to a 3-0 start, is so important to the Giants. As I've said before, if Barry Bonds turns back into his old pre-2001 self, superstar though he was, the Giants are in huge trouble.
Ainsworth hasn't been perfect, of course; he's been tagged for 4 homers in 19 IP, which if it keeps up will be enough almost by itself to keep his ERA around 4.
WAR: Dr. Germ
My younger brother points out that Dr. Germ, like Chemical Ali, sounds like someone we should be looking for on Dr. Evil's Secret Volcano Island.
WAR: Kuttner's Folly
Robert Kuttner's latest op-ed ignores his history (the recent outbreak of looting in Iraq is unremarkable compared to past countries suddenly liberated; even the Tories did not fare so well after the American Revolution - tarring and feathering, anyone?). More absurdly, he suggests that the U.S. military is letting rioters wreck the country so as to increase the size of Halliburton's construction contracts. Amazing.
Hey, where's the 'root causes' crowd when you need them?
POLITICS: Gray Skies
Gray Davis gets "the lowest rating for a Governor in Field Poll history" and a plurality now supports removing him from office.
Yep, that's the Democrats' most prominent governor. No wonder the presidential candidates are mostly from inside the Beltway.
POP CULTURE: Knight Rides Again
Biker gangs and corrupt small-town sheriffs hold on to your hats, Knight Rider: The Movie is coming!
I actually used to watch Knight Rider as a kid. It's interesting how few shows like this still exist on network TV (although the small cable networks still produce action shows that aren't adult dramas). You occasionally see a 'Walker Texas Ranger' or 'Nash Bridges' or '24,' but mostly the action genre has been overtaken by the X-Files-style sci-fi/fantasy show.
WAR: North Korean Recriminations
WAR: Anglos Not?
April 16, 2003
LAW: Fine Young Cannibal?
I've heard record labels accused of a lot of things, but encouraging cannibalism by musicians to improve their image is a new one. Let's just say this lawsuit sounds unlikely to go far. (Link via Howard Bashman). And am I mistaken, or was this incident the basis for a CSI episode?
WAR: The Times and the Facts
Eugene Volokh (starting at this post and scrollling down) tears apart a NY Times op-ed that's just rife with factual errors.
LAW: Some People Never Learn
'Motorist' Rodney King crashes his car after weaving through traffic at 100 mph. To hear the media a decade ago, King was beaten by the cops for nothing worse than Driving While Black. Maybe the repeated instances of King threatening the lives of everyone around him with his reckless races around the streets of L.A. will make a point; I suspect he'll actually have to kill someone before it sinks in, though.
POLITICS: Fitzgerald Bows Out
With the Senate hanging in the balance, the sudden retirement of the GOP's most vulnerable incumbent, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois, does not bode well, although it's early enough to get someone else in the race. We'll wait and see if there's more to this story.
One pitcher who intrigued me entering this season was Mike Maroth of the Tigers. Maroth was successful in the minors, showed great control last season as a rookie (1.61 BB/9 IP) and kept the ball in the park (just 7 HR in 128.2 IP). But his K rate was very low: just 4.06 K/9. Historically, the second season is big for that kind of pitcher: either he'll pull up the K rate or it will pull him down. But the Tigers moved in the fences at Comerica, which puts Maroth in a double bind.
Although he's 0-3 and was hit hard last night, the early indications are pretty good: Maroth has 11K to 3 BB and 2 HR through 18.1 IP. He could yet go on to a nice career.
BASEBALL: Crazies in Chicago
Wait, don't answer that.
LAW: Federalism's Edge
On Monday, April 7, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision, captioned State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Campbell, that struck down a $145 million punitive damage award premised heavily upon the defendant insurance company’s nationwide conduct and operations. The Court’s 6-3 opinion, authored by Justice Kennedy, set out one of the strongest statements yet in favor of a constitutional principle that has increasingly underlay any number of controversies over the past 10 or 15 years: Federalism’s Edge.
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At least since the issue of slavery came to dominate the national debate in the mid-19th century, one of the great structural controversies of American government and politics has been the question of “States’ Rights” in the context of a federal system; put more simply, the tug of war between the increasing authority of the federal government and the traditional roles of state and local government. In this century, federal power was ascendant from the New Deal through the civil rights movement and the Great Society, promising efficiency and freedom from local prejudices. The corresponding reaction, noting the distance and unresponsiveness of centralized policies made in Washington, came to a head during the Reagan years, and echoes down to this day in conservative politics.
As a result, when you mention “federalism,” many on the Left and Right alike assume that you mean only “States Rights,” defined as local autonomy in opposition to federal power. But in recent times, the greater threat to political diversity and responsiveness in self-government has come instead from states overstepping their boundaries to the point that they make policies for the whole Union. That is what I define as Federalism’s Edge: the point at which an exercise of state power (by a state or group of states) infringes on the right to self-government of the citizens of the other states. If a national government is overweening, intrusive and unresponsive when it is housed inside the Beltway, it is no less so – in fact, even more so – if it sits in a legislature in Sacramento, a jury room in a small town in Alabama, or a law office in Hartford. After all, at least the average citizen sometimes gets to vote in a contested election for representatives in Washington.
The subtext of Federalism’s Edge can be seen in many controversies. The issue of same-sex marriages is a classic example: opponents in other regions of the country get so exercised over the drive to recognize same-sex marriages in places like Vermont or Hawaii not because they are horrified at the effect on Vermonters but because they fear that even a single jurisdiction allowing gay marriage will, through the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution, allow people in their own state to enter into same-sex unions in Vermont, thus rendering completely irrelevant the policy preferences of the state’s own residents. State attorneys general have been criticized in some quarters for reportedly holding up settlement of nationwide litigation brought by the Department of Justice, and have been on the move elsewhere as well, acting alone or in small groups, targeting tobacco, the gun industry, more recently the securities industry. California operates under an exemption from federal preemption that enables it to set its own vehicle emission standards, standards that – due to the sheer size of the California economy – wind up effectively setting standards for the entire nation (including the states that, unlike California, include a lot of auto workers). Last year, Jonathan Chait of The New Republic kicked up a storm with a full-throated attack on the influence of the state of Delaware, principally through the incorporation of so many major corporations in Delaware, a trend that results in nationwide reach for the corporate law of one of the nation’s smallest states.
An early example of how a violation of Federalism’s Edge in civil litigation provided the subtext for a major movement in constitutional law came in the Court’s famous 1964 decision in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, in which an Alabama court handed down a libel judgment against the New York Times (for publishing an advertisement about the civil rights movement that supposedly defamed a Montgomery, Alabama City Commissioner) for $500,000, even though sales in Alabama amounted to just 394 of the 650,000 copies of that issue of the Times. Although the Court’s decision revolutionized the relationship between the First Amendment and the law of defamation, the Court’s consideration of the issue was surely influenced by the specter of a national newspaper being brought to heel by a local jury in a jurisdiction where it barely did business.
One of the more subtle violations of Federalism’s Edge came in the Supreme Court’s decision last spring in Atkins v. Virginia, in which the Court pointed to a “national consensus” consisting of less than half of the states as evidence that the Court should overrule its 13-year-old decision concluding that the Eighth Amendment does not prohibit execution of the mentally retarded. The problem with that conclusion, regardless of one’s feelings about the merits of the death penalty argument at issue, should be obvious: Article V of the Constitution provides a method by which the people of a certain percentage of the states can amend the Constitution, and for the Court to allow the meaning applied to a constitutional provision to be changed by action of a lesser number! of state legislatures severely undermines the intent of the Framers that Article V should be a bulwark against easy abrogation of the national compromises struck in the Constitution.
The policing of Federalism’s Edge can likewise be seen as a critical subtext of the Court’s endlessly controversial decision in Bush v. Gore. The standard line criticizing the decision was easy to understand: the case involved a garden-variety dispute between a state statute and its interpretation by the state executive, on the one hand, and the state supreme court on the other. With the exception of a period of activism centered around the civil rights movement, the Supreme Court has rarely intervened in such disputes, giving great deference to state courts and leaving to the political branches the task of disciplining overreaching state judiciaries. In that light, the sudden solicitousness for the proper application of state law may look hypocritical. But the Court surely understood the reason why greater, and less deferential, scrutiny was required: because the rest of the nation would have to live with the Florida court’s choices. (The concurring Justices argued that this greater scrutiny was explicit in the terms of Article II dealing with selection of electors for president and vice president).
In ordinary litigation, the principal bulwark against encroachments on Federalism’s Edge has been the Commerce Clause, and a body of law has grown up (dating back as far as Chief Justice Marshall’s opinion in Gibbons v. Ogden) limiting the “extraterritorial” reach of state laws or the imposition of state law forms of liability directly on interstate commerce. In the 1990s, the Court also began scrutinizing punitive damage awards – long the bane of nationwide businesses in unfriendly state court venues – for “excessiveness” under the Due Process Clause. The Court’s decision in BMW, Inc. v. Gore – a notorious case in which a doctor was awarded $4 million in punitive damages after discovering that the paint on his BMW had been retouched – explicitly grounded authority for its Due Process review in this line of authority. The Court noted that BMW’s conduct had not been previously found unlawful in other states, and that in fact the existing laws provided “a patchwork of rules representing the diverse policy judgments of lawmakers in 50 States.” Thus, speaking of a court judgment that would effectively subject nationwide conduct to liability under a single standard, the Court held:
[W]hile we do not doubt that Congress has ample authority to enact such a policy for the entire Nation, it is clear that no single State could do so, or even impose its own policy choice on neighboring States. . . . one State's power to impose burdens on the interstate market for automobiles is not only subordinate to the federal power over interstate commerce, . . .but is also constrained by the need to respect the interests of other States. . . . We think it follows from these principles of state sovereignty and comity that a State may not impose economic sanctions on violators of its laws with the intent of changing the tortfeasors' lawful conduct in other States. . . by attempting to alter BMW's nationwide policy, Alabama would be infringing on the policy choices of other States. . . . Alabama does not have the power . . . to punish BMW for conduct that was lawful where it occurred and that h! ad no impact on Alabama or its residents.
The Gore decision attracted its share of critics; Justices Scalia, Thomas, Ginsburg and Chief Justice Rehnquist all dissented, arguing that constitutional regulation of punitive damages was a break with the traditional role of state law and an unwarranted expansion of “substantive Due Process.” In the years since, the case has spawned much litigation and a developing body of law on the limits of punitive damage awards.
Campbell provided the Court with an opportunity to expand on the federalism aspects of Gore, and the Court’s opinion provides ample grounds for encouragement for an active role in the policing of Federalism’s Edge. The facts of the case were unsympathetic for the plaintiffs (the Campbells); according to the Court’s recitation of the facts, Mr. Campbell had recklessly caused a fatal auto accident and insisted that he was not at fault, then sued his insurer for taking the case to trial and temporarily refusing to cover the ensuing judgment. The Campbells alleged bad faith refusal to provide coverage and won $1 million in damages, principally for emotional distress.
Much of the evidence on which the Utah Supreme Court based the $145 million punitive damage award involved conduct outside of Utah:
[T]he Campbells introduced evidence that State Farm's decision to take the case to trial was a result of a national scheme to meet corporate fiscal goals by capping payouts on claims company wide. This scheme was referred to as State Farm's 'Performance, Planning and Review,' or PP & R, policy. To prove the existence of this scheme, the trial court allowed the Campbells to introduce extensive expert testimony regarding fraudulent practices by State Farm in its nation-wide operations. . . Evidence pertaining to the PP&R policy concerned State Farm's business practices for over 20 years in numerous States. Most of these practices bore no relation to third-party automobile insurance claims, the type of claim underlying the Campbells' complaint against the company.
Reviewing whether the conduct at issue was sufficiently “reprehensible” to warrant a punitive damage award 145 times the size of the actual damages, the Court the chastised the Utah Supreme Court for permitting the case to be “used as a platform to expose, and punish, the perceived deficiencies of State Farm's operations throughout the country.” Explaining why this was wrong, the Court provided a ringing endorsement of the limits on the power of a single state's law to punish nationwide conduct:
A State cannot punish a defendant for conduct that may have been lawful where it occurred. . . . Nor, as a general rule, does a State have a legitimate concern in imposing punitive damages to punish a defendant for unlawful acts committed outside of the State's jurisdiction. Any proper adjudication of conduct that occurred outside Utah to other persons would require their inclusion, and, to those parties, the Utah courts, in the usual case, would need to apply the laws of their relevant jurisdiction. . . . A basic principle of federalism is that each State may make its own reasoned judgment about what conduct is permitted or proscribed within its borders, and each State alone can determine what measure of punishment, if any, to impose on a defendant who acts within its jurisdiction.
The Court further noted the unique dangers in allowing juries to adjudicate punitive damage claims based on conduct that was different from the conduct for which compensatory damages were awarded:
A defendant should be punished for the conduct that harmed the plaintiff, not for being an unsavory individual or business. Due process does not permit courts, in the calculation of punitive damages, to adjudicate the merits of other parties' hypothetical claims against a defendant under the guise of the reprehensibility analysis . . . Punishment on these bases creates the possibility of multiple punitive damages awards for the same conduct; for in the usual case nonparties are not bound by the judgment some other plaintiff obtains. . . ."Larger damages might also 'double count' by including in the punitive damages award some of the compensatory, or punitive, damages that subsequent plaintiffs would also recover".
The Court observed that such measures raised the danger of crossing the line between the civil and criminal justice systems: “Great care must be taken to avoid use of the civil process to assess criminal penalties that can be imposed only after the heightened protections of a criminal trial have been observed, including, of course, its higher standards of proof.”
The practical significance of Campbell is principally in its explicit rulings on the use of evidence and jury instructions regarding out-of-state conduct under standards that were applied more generally in Gore. Lawyers, of course, will argue for years to come over how broadly Campbell can be read outside of its fact situation, and advocates of judicial restraint may continue (as Justices Scalia, Thomas and Ginsburg did in dissenting in Campbell) to argue that the entire enterprise is an excess of judicial activism. But for now, when Federalism’s Edge is overrun by judges and juries in plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions, the Supreme Court is on the case.
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WAR/LAW: Who Shall Make No Law?
The Boston Globe yesterday (registration required) ran this exceptionally fatuous piece complaining about the treatment of anti-war celebrities:
It's been a good long while since I've had a sit-down with the US Constitution, but if my junior high school memories serve me correctly, I don't recall the Bill of Rights guaranteeing free speech only to those who espouse one particular opinion.
Um, you might try reading the first five words of the First Amendment; in fact, reading the first word alone might have spared us from reading this column . . .
Blog: Bad Marketing
More than a few people have noted the bitter irony of Hong Kong's current tourist marketing campaign slogan, "Hong Kong will take your breath away." But this one was nearly as bad: The back of the Houston Astros 2001 media guide carries an ad . . . Big, bold letters proclaim, "Sometimes, it's the things you don't see that have the biggest impact." The ad is for Enron . . .
LAW: New Zealand Courts
Howard Bashman has news and links about a plan afoot in New Zealand to create a new Supreme Court; it's hard to tell from the story whether this is a cynical attempt to pack the court, an honest attempt to create a more responsive local institution, or both. Either way, it''s more proof of something we should remember as the reconstruction of Iraq gets underway: democracies can be messy.
LAW: Do Smoking Bans Kill?
This story is a depressing example of getting away with murder.
WAR: Rest in Peace, Leon Klinghoffer
The capture of Abu Abbas is a big story for a variety of reasons. For one, if bin Laden or any other senior Al Qaeda leaders are still alive (such as the 7 guys who escaped in Yemen the other day), they should be reminded: Abbas' big attack killed one American, 18 years ago. And we did not forget him.
Second, of course, it disproves yet again all the people who argued that Saddam could have nothing to do with terrorists, nothing to see here, please move on, etc.
Third, and perhaps most importantly, it's a reminder of the benefits of military occupation. We want to get out of Iraq fairly quickly, and there will be increasing reasons to want to do so as the months roll by; we need to hand over control sooner than later to Iraqi civilian institutions. But for now, there are many benefits to having American boots on the ground, in terms of human intellligence, capture of terrorists and Ba'ath party officials, seizure of documents that will incriminate terror groupps, Arab leaders and their aiders and abettors in the West, and of course the confiscation of weapons of mass destruction.
This ought to be a bigger story, except for the fact that everyone remotely involved has a strong interest in not making it one. (Registration required)
POLITICS/OTHER SPORTS: The Masters
I guess the whole Masters protest story turned out to be a big dud:
What appeared to happen here was more evidence that dissent on the left is a dying lifestyle. It is firmly the era of Nobody Wants to Hear It. While tens of thousands more antiwar activists were not turning out to protest the Iraq war (or to call for an end to all war-occupation-aggression-racism-injustice) on the same day in Washington, hundreds were not disembarking from buses to join the attack against Augusta National's old-boys club.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:40 AM | Other Sports | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 14, 2003
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Welcome to the new site! As you can see, there's a lot of work going on here before the new site is fully functional, so posting will probably be very light this week until the bugs are worked out (and I figure out how to use Movable Type).
You want a link? For old time's sake, I'll extend the first link at the new site to Bill Simmons, who follows Mike Tyson's imitation of Marlon Brando in 'On the Waterfront' and even includes a picture showing that Bill has a reach advantage on the Champ.
April 13, 2003
BASEBALL: Bull Throwing
I suppose I can't let the story of the Hall of Fame disinviting Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon from an event honoring 'Bull Durham' over their penchant for anti-war and generally left-wing politics go without comment, but I really can't impove on James Taranto's retort to Robbins' letter (complaining that "baseball is being politicized"): "It does not even seem to have occurred to Robbins that none of this would have happened had he not politicized his own acting career."
Joe Sheehan at Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) thinks otherwise:
[I]t's not that we don't want public figures--entertainers and athletes--to have political opinions. It's that we want them to have the right ones, and when they don't, they simply become cannon fodder. Social consciousness is good, as long as it tends toward the kind of mainstream things everyone can get behind. Curt Schilling can be political in writing an extended letter in the wake of September 11, because he said the right things. Manhattanville basketball player Toni Smith, however, is roundly criticized for her political protest, turning her back on the flag during the national anthem, just as Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf was a decade ago. MLB can wrap itself and its personnel in the flag, with no regard to what level of support that decision has within the game.
My initial response to this is, well, duh. If athletes make fairly bland statements with which nearly everybody agrees, few will be offended. If they say things the great majority of the paying customers find abhorrent, they will be unpopular and that will spill over onto the public's affection for them. If they go somewhere in between, choosing sides on an issue where the country is deeply divided, people on the other side may wish to tune them out.
But there's another distinction here that Sheehan seems to miss. There are plenty of people in this country who supported the war with Iraq. There are also plenty of people who objected for one or other reason, based on predictions that the war would not turn out to be in our best interests, or based on a devotion to subjugating our national judgment to international procedural rules. The first group is the classic 'loyal opposition' group, and while they may be foolish and misguided, I don't think they meant America harm; quite the contrary. The second group is indeed 'unpatriotic' in a literal sense -- they are willing to put their nation's interests second to some defined interest of the world at large -- but again, their motives are generally driven by a sense of where our long-term enlightened self-interest lies.
The relevant point for these purposes is that, while both of these groups might find a certain amount of flag-waving, 'support the troops' rhetoric or some of the generic bravado in Schilling's letter to be a bit misplaced or unnecessarily strident, neither group is likely to find such generalized expressions of patriotism offensive. The only people who will be offended by generic appeals to patriotism, the flag or the troops are people who are on some level emotionally committed to anti-Americanism, the view that the exercise of American power is not a force for good in the world. And that's not a mainstream position in this country, or one that any sensible business needs to associate itself with. And, for better or worse, it's that third view that people associate with Sarandon and Robbins.
Let's give another example: would Sheehan find it problematic if baseball fans saw nothing wrong with athletes doing anti-drug PR spots, but objected to athletes who loudly proclaimed that using cocaine was a good thing? That's 'taking sides' all right, but one side is the position supported by the common sense conclusions of a great majority, and the other is a fringe position.
As with the item below, it's important to recognize that not all sides of all controversies are equal. I'm a big fan of bright lines and neutral principles, but there is still no substitute for using our human capacity for moral judgment. And comparing putting the flag on a uniform to giving ideologically charged speeches on issue after issue over a decade and a half -- that's a failure to use that judgment.
POLITICS: Bad Words
While I tend to be suspicious of academics who try to penalize speech they don't like, this story of a campus newspaper being shut down over an offensive April Fool's issue seems like an example of free speech rights being legitimately outweighed by decency and common sense. The reasons why are exactly the same reasons why Columbia, for example, would be acting not only legally but appropriately if it fired that professor who called for "a million Mogadishus." With rights come responsibilities, and particularly in the example of a privilege like operating a campus newspaper funded by the college, there is such a thing as going beyond the pale.
April 11, 2003
POLITICS: Panhandler Airways
This chart on the latest corporate-welfare bailout of the airlines is just appalling.
BLOG: Baby Names
An interesting story in the New York Daily News has the most popular baby names in New York City in 2001. #1? Michael and Ashley. What I found most interesting was the top names for Latinos: for boys, Justin, Christopher and Kevin; for girls, Ashley, Jennifer and Destiny (I'm working off a table in the print edition, which has more detail than the link). I was really surprised that there wasn't a single traditional Latino name in the bunch (the same was true, although less surprising, for Asian & Pacific Islander babies).
POP CULTURE: A Peaceful People
Looks like Hollywood's offended the wrong group again.
WAR: REMEMBER THE CONGO
One of the great overlooked stories of late has been the discovery of a massacre in the war in the Congo. The left-leaning site Common Dreams claims that the war "has killed more people than any conflict since World War II." Good for them for noticing; of course, they'd change their tune if the U.S. proposed to do something to stop it . . .
WAR: Biting The Apple
If Jack Shafer is trying to mock R.W. Apple into retirement, he's doing a real good job. (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
BLOG: Hesiod and Atrios
I do try to read left- or liberal-leaning blogs, both to fairly hear the other side and to find bad ideas to stamp out; sometimes I'll even try to engage people in the comment sections. But two blogs that I've about had it with are Atrios and mini-Atrios (aka Hesiod). There are many reasons for this; Hesiod in particular has become totally unhinged by the war, lurching off into 'black helicopter' territory and mumbling about a 'Bush Fedayeen' that's out to murder critics of the president. But another reason is their hatred and contempt for Christianity. Check out this post from Hesiod, which is an extreme example. And there's this, from Atrios, who basically quotes a preacher preaching and thinks it's a punchline.
Gotta find me the loyal opposition. These clowns ain't where it's at.
WAR: "[T]imes when peace must be made"
"[T]here are times when peace must be made before it can be kept; and Europe as a whole has seen such moments as none of its business, relying on the US, and then usually blaming it for carrying the can." (Link via Tim Blair).
WAR: Kemp On The Peace
Jack Kemp has a history lesson about the Marshall Plan. (Shockingly, Kemp raises the importance of a stable currency).
WAR: The Big Story: CNN Confesses!
Today's biggest story, clearly, was the colossal bombshell of an admission by CNN exec Eason Jordan that CNN's pre-war coverage from inside Iraq was hopelessly compromised by fear of reprisals by the Iraqi regime. This was certainly widely suspected, but such a blunt admission of the truth is rare. NRO's Corner had a battery of good posts on this; check here, then here, then here, then here (citing Eugene Volokh).
But it's the American media that's biased in favor of us, right?
WAR: Fear of Inspectors
Agree or disagree with the Administration's tack in Iraq, but one result is clear: this report from North Korea indicates that admitting UN inspectors is now seen by unstable dictators as a path to war rather than an alternative.
How ironic. But just as well. Inspectors will still be useful for what they were originally intended for: verifying the compliance of cooperative states like Ukraine or South Africa (and even there, all they can do is say, "we saw them do what they said they did," not "they've got nothing left"). They're like auditors, and Lord knows we've been reminded that auditors are only as good as what their clients are willing to show them. Neither one should ever have been confused with investigators.
Of course, Harkin ignores the fact that Iraq's conventional military was never the reason for the war (the first one, yes, but not this war).
BASEBALL: DAVID PINTO WIGS OUT
David Pinto's had a good week, interviewing Bill James and getting a link from Rob Neyer. But I think Pinto's getting carried away with Ty Wigginton, suggesting he should bat second. Wigginton's shown some real promise with the bat -- if he can hold up in the field (the jury's still out on that one), Wigginton should hit enough to plug the third base hole. He's a somewhat similar player to Shea Hillenbrand, maybe a bit less power but I think Wigginton is likely to get on base more. But let's be realistic: Wigginton had a .324 OBP in AA in 2000 and a .325 OBP in AAA in 2001. I'd still rather take my chances with Roger Cedeno at the top of the order, and leave Wigginton to hit sixth.
WAR: Next stop, Yemen?
Next stop, Yemen?
LAW: The Gig Is Up
WAR: Steyn & Other Highlights
I shouldn't need to tell you this, but Mark Steyn has been on fire lately, with too many good columns to link to them all. This one, on why a victor's peace like that imposed on Europe after World War II would be preferable to the kind of UN 'peace' the Palestinian refugees were given at about the same time, is a classic. More good stuff from the past week: Michael Barone on the peace, Ralph Peters on the critical role of our Special Forces and intelligence in keeping many of Saddam's weapons on the sidelines, and new details on the deaths of Michael Kelly (which was apparently more directly combat-related than it first appeared) and David Bloom (who apparently ignored warnings about blood clots).
WAR: Athens and Sparta
So Maureen Dowd doesn't want the U.S. to turn into a state organized around the making of war, like ancient Sparta . . . funny, aren't liberals the ones who keep saying we should all share more pain in this war, i.e., a draft and no tax cuts? Isn't that the way to be less Athens and more Sparta?
April 10, 2003
BASEBALL: Cubs-Expos Box
A few thoughts on the Cubs-Expos box:
+Loyalty to Mark Grudzielanek (see below) is one thing, but leading off Grudzielanek is entirely another. That's just craaaaazy.
+Man, the Cubs are going to strike out a lot this season: Sosa, Patterson, Alex Gonzalez, Hee Choi . . . there were a lot of whiffs in this series.
+Pity poor Frank Robinson: he led off Jose Macias and batted Wil Cordero cleanup. I know that's not his regular lineup, but still . . .
BASEBALL: Damn Benitez
Damn Benitez . . . he can't go more than an inning; he just can't. I thought at the time that the Mets should have dealt him to the White Sox for Keith Foulke last May/June when Foulke was struggling, while they had the chance. Benitez spoils a well-pitched outing by Tom Glavine. We also see the problem with having (1) limited depth in quality relievers, (2) aging starters who can't go too deep in games, and (3) not enough offense to blow people out now and then: with Mike Stanton overworked and unavailable, Benitez had to be pushed too far, and he got burned.
Nobody'd be happier than me to see this team succeed, but I have certain ideas about how to build a good baseball team, and this team violates those ideas in so many ways that I basically have to root against my own analysis to pull for them. It's frustrating as anything. I'm not ready to give up being a Mets fan, as Bill James did with the Royals (the Royals have far exceeded the ordinary bounds of penury, idiocy and suckitude), but it does get me down sometimes.
BASEBALL: Magic Dust
Chris Kahrl on Baseball Prospectus Premium yesterday (subscription required) was bemoaning Dusty Baker's preference for veteran ballplayers, currently manifested in preferring Eric Karros and Mark Grudzielanek to giving everyday jobs to Hee Seop Choi and Bobby Hill. That's true enough, and I agree with Kahrl that this is not a wise or cost-effective way to run a baseball team. But maybe we should consider the flip side: maybe Baker's preference for veterans is inseparable from his biggest strength as a manager, the fact that veterans play well for him and respect him as a 'player's manager.' After all, if there's one thing veteran ballplayers don't like, it's young players who are after their jobs. If you're Sammy Sosa, and you see that Baker is loyal to Mark Grudzielanek, what are you going to conclude about how he'll treat you? Joe Torre is the same way.
This is not to suggest that this is the only way to manage men; managers like Casey Stengel and John McGraw got great mileage out of keeping the fear of God in older ballplayers, dropping them at a moment's notice for younger men. But that was also in the days before guaranteed contracts, when players were genuinely hungry; many of today's players share that hunger out of pride or competitiveness, but they don't need to. Sometimes, something else needs to be employed to motivate the millionaire ballplayer, and loyalty is as good a candidate as any. So hiring a manager who -- when given the choice -- will demonstrate loyalty to the old guys may not be as unthinkingly stubborn or stupid as it may sometimes be portrayed.
WAR: TOPPLING STALIN?
Probably the simplest way to describe the war today is this: the war against the regime is over, but there's still a war to be fought against organized resistance, and that war will be dangerous and just as important: a war to ensure that Iraq does not become Lebanon, and that the bitter-enders are reduced to nothing. Our focus will now shift from loosening the regime's grip (with as little loss of life as necessary) to something more like the Afghan war - killing people who are likely to ever want to fight us.
Maybe somebody can answer this . . . my wife and I were discussing how little that huge statute looked like Saddam, and I seem to recall reading that he had bought some used statuary from the Soviet Union in its dotage (presumably at a discount). Was that actually a statue of Josef Stalin?
Lileks, on the liberated Iraqis: "All of a sudden, in a day, a guy can look at a car battery without crossing his legs."
Boy, is this ever a rapid advance to the next journalistic meme, from (who else?) Reuters: "After Saddam 'Nightmare' Baghdad Wants U.S. Out Soon . . . Baghdad residents expressed relief on Thursday at the collapse of Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule but said U.S. forces should restore order quickly and leave, or face the wrath of an emboldened population."
April 9, 2003
WAR: WCHC and The Berlin Wall
My first semester of freshman year of college, I did news updates on WCHC, the campus radio station. The audience was probably pretty negligible and almost certainly uninterested in news, and I quickly decided it wasn't going to do anything for me. But there was one high point I'll never forget from that otherwise unenlightening experience: the night I got the report coming off the newswire that the Berlin Wall had come down, and I got to go on the air with the news.
Today was like that.
BASEBALL: Pinto Meets James
I hope you didn't miss David Pinto's interview with Bill James. What a coup for a baseball blogger!
WAR: Moscow Times Report
This Moscow Times piece is more disturbing than the one below, reporting that "The Russian diplomatic convoy that came under fire as it evacuated Baghdad might have been carrying secret Iraqi files that U.S. intelligence officers wanted to seize." Hmmmm . . .
BASEBALL: Cone Goes In Hard
Much as I'm skeptical about whether it will work, you gotta love David Cone's grit on the comeback trail. One thing I forgot to mention the other day, but that really impressed me, was Cone going hard into second base to break up a double play. Here's a 40-year old pitcher who probably hasn't run the bases more than once or twice in the past decade, and he's putting his body on the line for an edge on the bases. That's the sort of thing that gets your teammates' notice and respect in a hurry.
POP CULTURE: April in Moscow
Now, here's a bizarre story: The Moscow Times reported as follows:
In a surprise move Monday, President Vladimir Putin named Russia's former Miss Universe as a deputy prime minister. Oksana Fyodorova takes over the post vacated by Valentina Matviyenko, who left the government earlier this month to become Putin's envoy in the Northwestern Federal District.
* * *
Fyodorova, 25, was stripped of her Miss Universe crown last year after only four months. Pageant organizers said she failed to fulfill all her duties and had gained weight. The New York Post reported at the time that she might be pregnant from a well-connected older boyfriend named Vladimir.
Putin said Monday that he was sure Fyodorova would prove up to the task. "Being a deputy prime minister is not the same as being Miss Universe," a visibly annoyed Putin said in remarks shown on Channel One and later rebroadcast on "Spokoinoi Nochi, Malyshi." "She has a beautiful mind, will fulfill all her duties and will not gain any weight."
Of course, the article is bylined April 1. Who knew that they celebrated April Fool's Day in Russia?
Now, this can't have been any fun to clean up after.
WAR: The Sign
April 8, 2003
BLOG: On the DL
I came down with something unpleasant this morning . . . check back Thursday or so.
Meanwhile, check out this Den Beste link with a great cartoon and a link to a devastating Mark Steyn column.
April 7, 2003
WAR: Josh Marshall and the Secret Plan
I just don't buy the premise of Josh Marshall's long attack in the Washington Monthly, on the Bush Administration's alleged failure to disclose the scope of its ambitions in the war on terror. What's more than a little incoherent here is that Marshall says that the Bush Administration has a grand master plan it's not disclosing, but at the same time he continues to argue on his blog that the Administration has no policy at all.
Anyway, the core of his argument is that the American people haven't been told how long and how far the war may be expected to go:
[T]he great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support. But the White House really has in mind an enterprise of a scale, cost, and scope that would be almost impossible to sell to the American public. The White House knows that. So it hasn't even tried. Instead, it's focused on getting us into Iraq with the hope of setting off a sequence of events that will draw us inexorably towards the agenda they have in mind.
But this isn't true. First, polls consistently show that the American people recognize that the war with Saddam is part of the larger war on terror, which suggests an understanding from the outset that this is bigger than just conducting a criminal investigation into the direct September 11 plotters. Second, the real public launch of a war effort beyond just the Al Qaeda headquarters in Afghanistan was the 'axis of evil' speech -- and the Iraq war will leave two of the three axis members still standing. Third, President Bush has made clear that he has an ambitious plan to force some level of reform on the Palestinian Authority as a condition of negotiating, which certainly signals an intent to get into the most intractable problems of the region.
As for the rest of the agenda, how far does the other hawks' view actually constitute the Administration's policy? Marshall is right that the details are mysterious, but that may be a sign that the Administration's options are still open, and it's certainly the result of the need to build a new and different international coalition for each step of the plan. Marshall avoids this issue by pretending that we have no allies at all ("Luck, fortitude, deft management, and help from allies could bring about very different results. But we can probably only rely on the first three because we are starting this enterprise over the expressed objections of almost every other country in the world."), which is frankly false.
By the way, if it seems like I'm picking on Masrhall, it's actually because he's one of the few liberal writers who has a sufficient base of intellectual honesty to be worth engaging rather than just mocking. If you read Paul Krugman, to give an obvious counter-example, you'd think that everything Bush-related is nothing but avarice and malice. Krugman is constitutionally incapable of honestly stating a conservative position and conceding it even the slightest bit of truth or sincerity.
SCIENCE: Colossal Squid
WAR: Gas Masks
We're still waiting on most of the news about what the troops find in Iraq, and I still hope to see somebody pull together a final analysis after the fact of how evidence found in Iraq ties the regime both to terrorism and WMD. The clues we've been given so far are intriguing, at least. To me, as damning as anything is the fact that all of Saddam's soldiers had gas masks. The regime must have known the coalition wouldn't be bringing chemical weapons. Why spend all that money on gas masks, why hand them out to every soldier? It's possible, I suppose, that it was all an elaborate ruse to scare the soldiers. But apply Occam's Razor (the simplest explanation is correct) here: the simplest explanation is that Saddam had his troops outfitted with chemical gear because he expected to use chemical weapons.
WAR: Kelly and Bloom
The news of the deaths of Michael Kelly and David Bloom have overshadowed the actual fighting a bit over the weekend; maybe it was just the fact that I was away from the TV. He'd never made an impression on me before the war, but Bloom had really become the face of the "embedded journalist" program, yelling off the top of a rolling tank with goggles on and sand in his hair.
I'm still stunned by the loss of Kelly, a guy whose columns I read pretty regularly; as you can see below, I'd posted a link to his last column just hours before the news of his death was announced. Jonah Goldberg hit the right note: "the fact that Kelly's death is so heartbreaking for many of us in the journalism business is a sobering reminder, for me at least, of the real pain caused by every death in this war." And there's Peggy Noonan's must-read, rapid-reaction obit from Friday; nobody writes a eulogy like Peggy Noonan.
One more, for nostalgia's sake: a link to a posting of the full text of Kelly's famous "I believe" column.
April 5, 2003
BASEBALL: Mets 4/5/03
What a difference two days makes. The Mets have been playing in bitterest cold and rain in New York - Frank Robinson came to the park Friday night wearing what looked like oven mitts on his hands and a "remind me why I'm managing again" look on his face, while Expos center fielder Endy Chavez played in a ski hat with a headband over his nose. The Mets' two geriatric starters, David Cone and Tom Glavine, made maximum use of the cold, jamming the Expos' hitters inside and then getting them to wave at outside pitches. Cone twice whiffed Vladimir Guerrero like this. The downside was that Mo Vaughn left today's game with a strained hip flexor (he pulled up a bit lame after a swing); it's unclear whether this was purely precautionary, but Mo was hobbling a bit. I'd love to see Cone and Glavine recapture past glory, although I'm still not optimistic. But things sure look better than they did on Thursday.
April 4, 2003
BLOG: The Carnivores
Tung Yin has some scary thoughts about one of the members of the coalition in Iraq: dolphins.
BASEBALL: 1 Player, 10 Teams
BASEBALL: Kirby Puckett Acquitted
BASEBALL: Mets 4/4/03
To keep yesterday's Mets loss in perspective (beyond the fact that it still leaves them a game ahead of Atlanta), you have to remember that Piazza was serving a suspension, Mo Vaughn was out with a bellyache (in Mo's case, this is a serious affliction), and Mark Prior was on the mound. Third starter or no, Prior is at least one of the top 10 pitchers in the National League, and could easily cement his position as #4 by the end of the season; expecting him to surpass Johnson, Schilling and Oswalt is asking a bit much, but there's no reason he can't surpass the next tier (Maddux, Morris, and perhaps Millwood). Prior's not a "potential" guy like Kerry Wood; he was just about that good already last season (his numbers from last year projected to 34 starts: yes, an 11-11 record, but 208.2 IP, 175 H, 25 HR, 68 BB, 263 K). All he needs is to cut the home runs just a bit and he'll be totally dominant.
(I tried to find a comparable pitching season to Prior's last year - a pitcher with 140 or more K in less than 120 IP, starting 10 or more games - and the only comp I could find was Pedro Martinez' injury-shortened 2001 campaign).
BASEBALL: 3 DAYS INTO THE SEASON, AND ALREADY THEY HAVE TO GIVE THE TICKETS AWAY
A friend forwarded me an email he received from the Mets, announcing that the team was giving away up to 800 tickets to tonight's game -- the team notes that it's David Cone's first start in his return to the team -- to people on the team's email list. The seats are in the Pepsi Picnic Area in left-center field.
With Cone pitching, the last place they need to give tickets away is beyond the fences in fair territory . . .
BASEBALL: SAMMY SOSA QUAGMIRE WATCH
WAR: Sullivan v. Marshall
Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall have been sparring lately about whether or not Marshall's critiques of the war will be discredited if the war ends with a swift victory in the near future. Marshall's latest posts are here and here; Sullivan's are here and here.
Marshall had been hammering Rumsfeld, in particular, with charges that the war was bogging down due to inadequate troop strength, citing the various anonymous 'Pentagon sources' and retired generals like Barry McCaffery, and of course he's argued all along that the 'neocon' vision of a democratic Iraq as the first domino in the Middle East was unrealistically optimistic; Sullivan accuses Marshall of 'moving the goal posts' now that the war has started going better, by saying this about whether he was going to be embarrassed if the war turned out well:
Presumably, I'll be haunted one or two months from now when we're off on an easy occupation of Baghdad, governing a peaceful nation of thankful Iraqis, and resting easier since we've cowed Syria, Iran and the Palestinians into quiescence.
I think Sullivan has the better of this argument, although Marshall isn't so much moving the goal posts (he's announcing the same objectives he's always set to measure the success of war in Iraq) as he is performing a classic bait-and-switch. What Marshall has been doing is symptomatic of recent war criticisms, starting with the New York Times barrage of 'Baghmire' stories; here's why. Marshall has, as I noted, long argued that the Bush Administration's postwar strategy was not going to work. This is a political argument, and it is an essentially dovish position, since it argues for the status quo. But that just distinguishes Marshall as a critic of the Administration from the left, a position which has not gained much traction. Thus, he opened a second front in the opinion war by arguing that Bush and Rumsfeld screwed up the conduct of the war itself; this is a military argument, and it is on some level a hawkish position, since it assumes the use of force and argues for applying even more force. The critique is enormously attractive to the Administration's critics, because it enables them to look more hawkish than they are and to argue that only they truly have the interests of our soldiers at heart, while arguing that while Republicans get all this credit for being serious about national security, they will even screw up militarily because of their political ideology. It also permits a 'threefer' argument, since the lack of troops strength can be tied directly to the failure to get Turkey's permission to run the 4th Infantry Division through Turkey into northern Iraq.
If correct, this would be a devastating critique; if American troops really faced disaster in the field because the war plan supplied too few troops and too little armor on the ground, Rumsfeld and probably Bush would be finished. But the military argument now appears to be in tatters, as Coalition forces have encircled the few remaining urban centers the regime still holds, and the feared weakness of our supply lines hasn't been tested again after the initial disaster with the 507th Maintenance Company. If the war goes badly from here, it will more likely be only because of the inherent risks of urban combat, not because too few boots were on the ground.
In response, Marshall says, in effect, that my critiques are not misguided because I still expect the war to fail to achieve its political objectives. He could still be proven correct -- but that doesn't validate the military critique, which was always the more damaging argument. Marshall gambled that that argument could blow a big hole in the Administration; now that it's failing, he's switching back to his initial tack and trying to squeeze residual credit from the military critique by claiming that it was valid if the political critique holds up.
Sorry. We're not buying it.
WAR: England and France
As much as it will be important to decide what type of relationship the U.S. will have with Continental Europe after the war, it seems obvious that this is first of all Tony Blair's problem. The US-France alliance is not critical to either party. But the Anglo-French alliance is hugely important to both (and the recent defacing of a WWI monument was a much deeper blow to the Brits, who lost a generation defending French soil in that war). In that sense, it's the British we need to work with to build a strategy for keeping the US-UK-Spain-Italy-Denmark-Eastern Europe coalition together after the war and bringing Germany and Turkey back to the fold, and isolating the French & Belgians, as the first step to bring them at least partially in line with our interests.
WAR/POLITICS: Kerry 2000
Isn't it a little silly for John Kerry to make an issue of Bush's pre-presidential foreign policy experience? The guy's presided over unprecdented crises, two wars, made multiple speeches to the UN, met with innumerable foreign leaders. Whatever you think his relevant experience was, that's not an issue. But in the Democratic primaries, you have to remember that 2000 (and September 2001) never happened.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:40 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly's not taking chances on being called a 'chickenhawk.' He's easily the most prominent print journalist in the embed program (the star TV journos have not done as well; Geraldo and Peter Arnett will be lucky to reenter the US without being prosecuted for treason), and he's obviously traveling pretty close to the tip of the spear. Most guys give this sort of thing up once they've reached the status of magazine editor.
I'd bet he's working on, or planning, a book; his dispatches read like it. I'd pre-order it now, myself.
MID-DAY UPDATE: Man, did I speak too soon. They just announced that Kelly was killed in a Humvee accident, the first 'embedded' journalist to die in the war. He was really a great writer, and his loss will be felt. Here's Kelly, writing last October, on the 'chickenhawk' slur.
LAW: Dean Kagan
Harvard Law School has named a new dean, Elena Kagan. Like Harvard University President Larry Summers, she's a former Clinton appointee (or, as they call Clinton appointees at Harvard, a 'right-winger').
Remember the protests about how sanctions were 'killing Iraqi children' because Iraq couldn't get medicine? Never mind.
WAR: De Genova Gets Worse
So, the story of the Columbia professor calling for "a million Mogadishus" gets even worse - turns out he also had praise for the soldier who killed two of his officers in Kuwait.
April 3, 2003
BASEBALL: Todd Zeile
Todd Zeile last night put up about a month's production, if you measure by his tenure with the Mets.
WAR: The Coalition
Under the Operation Enduring Freedom heading, CENTCOM has a page graphically listing all the members of the coalition in the war on terror (this includes coalition members like France who have not been so helpful lately, to put it mildly), with links to discuss their specific contributions. I love the page listing Saudi Arabia's contributions.
Today's CENTCOM briefing is here.
WAR: Lileks Squared
A double-barreled dose of Lileks today. From the Backfence: "A few days into the war, an Iraqi official gathers all the Saddam impersonators into a room. 'All right, men: I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the boss is still alive, so you all have jobs. The bad news is that he lost a leg.'" From The Bleat: "[H]ow do you know a Ba’athist is lying? His mustache is moving. And we curse it!"
Read the whole thing. Lileks also asks why we haven't obliterated all of Saddam's presidential palaces. Sergeant Stryker has the answer: We're raiding them to get documents. This has been one of my perverse fears about the 'shock and awe' aerial bombardment: that we would wind up destroying a lot of evidence of Saddam's ties to unsavory groups like Al Qaeda and Hamas as well as to purportedly respectable folks like Jacques Chirac. Not that we should pull our punches for this purpose, but it could be a cost of the war. Good to see we are still looking out for some of this stuff.
WAR: Private Lynch
You may be, as I am, ambivalent about women on the front lines. More on that some other day. But this is still proof of how tough even the non-combatant female supply clerks in our Army really are, and how badly our enemies misread Americans' willingness to fight when forced to:
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday. Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah. "She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive." Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch's wounds had been life-threatening.
This is, by the way, rather a different picture of Private Lynch than the initial, soft-focus media accounts of the country girl who just joined the Army to get a decent job. But a much more flattering one. It's also evidence of how the brutality of the Iraqi regime works against its troops in the field: can you blame her for not wanting to surrender and be taken prisoner by these thugs?
BASEBALL: SAMMY SOSA QUAGMIRE WATCH
BASEBALL: CAN'T ANYBODY HERE PLAY
Last night's Mets game, while generally a well-played victory featuring Cliff Floyd's first homer in a Mets uniform, once again featured the train wreck that is Roger Cedeno in center field; if you missed the video, Cedeno made a sliding dive in the ninth inning that ended in a Canseco-like embarrassment, with the ball bouncing off the grass a foot in front of Cedeno and hitting him smack in the face. The play left Armando Benitez with a "maybe it's time to start beating my center fielder" look on his face. Fortunately, the Mets got out of the ninth when Ty Wigginton held on to a game-ending popup, although Wigginton did manage to fall down in the process.
WAR: Like Iraq
How's this for a vivid description of war? Remind me not to drive a pickup truck into battle any time soon:
Question: The U.S. Army, including the 3rd Infantry Division, has been using depleted-uranium ammunition against Iraqi troops. Have you witnessed this ammunition being used?
(Link via The Command Post)
I loved this story from some weeks back but couldn't find a subscription-free link; here's the summary. Two idiots in Marlborough, Mass. tried to sell drugs at a party packed with off-duty undercover cops. Here's the key quote from the story: "Our party-crasher might have been able to guess that he was among law enforcement had he taken time to study the picture of the Framingham SWAT team on the fridge. Or look at the sweatshirt worn by the host. It had the words Burlington Police Academy and a pair of handcuffs stitched on. Oblivious to these and other clues, Garland struck up a conversation with Gutwill, never knowing he was a police detective. One thing led to another, until Garland asked the detective if he wanted to get high."
WAR: This Just In!
Isn't it a little late for this gloom-and-doom assessment of the march to Baghdad, posted yesterday on MSNBC after the last obstacles to encircling the city were removed? I mean, if you want to argue that the urban battle or the following peace will go badly, go ahead, but by all indications, the march on Baghdad from several directions is nearly complete at this point.
BASEBALL: Art's Back!
WAR: Ralph Peters
Ralph Peters, in yesterday's NY Post, refers to The New Yorker as "a minor magazine loosely affiliated with the Baghdad regime." He also notes with irony that Saladin, one of Saddam's role models (along with Stalin), was a Kurd.
April 2, 2003
WAR: The Command Post
OK, I'm off to work. Don't forget to check The Command Post all day and night for the latest war news.
WAR: Now They Tell Us
MSNBC is describing the latest battle outside Baghdad as "what military officials indicated was the beginning of the ground offensive in Iraq." Uh, hasn't the ground offensive already seen a lot of action, captured a lot of territory, cost us a bunch of lives and the Iraqis hundreds or thousands of lives?
WAR: Are The Fedayeen Terrorists?
One of the hot issues du jour is whether the varied attacks by the Saddam Fedayeen (DOD now aptly calls them 'Death Squads') can fairly be called 'terrorism,' as the Pentagon's people seem to be doing. Suicide bombings and ambushes may be traditional terror tactics, but they are not terrorism on the field of battle, because they are aimed at combatants. We should be very careful about how we use the term 'terrorism', because maintaining a clear definition is hugely important in a war where (1) we have chosen to define 'terrorism' as the enemy and (2) irresponsible critics love nothing better than to misuse the term to describe anything America does that they find distasteful.
But: two points. First, disguising combatants as civilians does cross the line -- not to terrorism, perhaps, but to unlawful combatant status. This violates every accepted norm of the laws of war, precisely because it makes the shooting or bombing of civilians more likely to happen. International law can be pretty malleable, but some basics (don't harm diplomats or surrendering soldiers and don't dress soldiers as civilians) long predate the existence of any international institutions.
Second, as Slate's Will Saletan -- no hawk -- has pointed out, the ease and rapidity with which the Iraqi regime has embraced terror tactics goes a long way to show its coziness with terrorism all along.
WAR: Our Guys
This story about two US soldiers surviving after being lost in the desert doesn't seem to have gotten much play.
April 1, 2003
WAR: An Important Clarification
Finally, the UN does something useful!
BASEBALL: QUAGMIRE WATCH
News outlets around the country, including a cover story in USAToday's sports section, announce that Sammy Sosa yesterday "stayed stuck on 499 home runs" for, uh, one consecutive game.
BASEBALL: DON'T MAKE THE LAST OUT OF THE SEASON AT THIRD BASE
Especially on Opening Day. I'll look closer at this later . . . the injury to Derek Jeter's shoulder -- whose seriousness has yet to be fully determined -- pretty much moots my AL East predictions (as well as destroying my rotisserie team, but that's another story). Without Jeter for a substantial period of time, I think the Yankees' advantage over Boston slips to nothing (even granting some healthy sketicism after yesterday about the Red Sox' bullpen). It also cuts down further -- to 5, I think -- the number of guys on the Yankees' active roster who have won a World Championship in a Yankee uniform. How quickly things change. If Steinbrenner wanted to motivate Jeter to hustle more, he's got his wish . . . this looks like another argument against the headfirst slide (sliding headfirst into a base other than home, with a catcher guarding the bag, seems like a worst-case scenario).
I used to be a fan of Enrique Wilson, who will presumably get the starting job now, but Wilson hasn't hit a lick in two years.
BASEBALL: Mets Opening Day
Well, that was an ugly way to start a season. Let's see: Glavine got shelled and had no control, Bacsik couldn't even get enough outs to salvage the rest of the bullpen, the defense came unglued, and there was no serious offensive threat mounted the whole game. I remain very much skeptical of the Glavine signing.
WAR: Just Right?
Oxblog carries an interesting letter contending that the current rapid advance on Baghdad, rather than being impeded by not having 'enough' troops, would not have been possible if the 4th Infantry Division was in tow.
WAR: Kinsley Loses It
Certainly an award for rhetorical overstatement could go to this Michael Kinsley passage: "George W. Bush is now the closest thing in a long time to dictator of the world"
Let's look at Kinsley's main point:
[S]ince the end of World War II, the United States has at least formally agreed to international constraints on the right of any nation, including itself, to start a war. These constraints were often evaded, but rarely just ignored. And evasion has its limits, enforced by the sanction of embarrassment. This gave these international rules at least some real bite.
First, this is semantics -- and if ever someone has "evaded" rather than "ignored" UN sanction, it's Bush, who claims authority to act under the UN resolutions that ended Gulf War 1 and who obtained yet another resolution promising the now-famous "serious consequences" if it was not complied with. And can I just ask -- I don't know the exact answer -- how many times since 1946 the UN Security Council has been asked to authorize the use of force, and how many times it has given that authority? I'm guessing that it's a much smaller number than the number of military actions taken during the last five decades, or even the actions taken by the US. Did I miss LBJ going to the Security Council after the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution? Did we have UN sanction for Grenada? Kosovo? Bombing Libya? Trying to spring the hostages from Iran? And when was US policy ever subjected to the "bite" of international law, other than when we got bit by leaving Saddam in power?
LAW/POLITICS: McCain-Feingold in the Courts
Election law blogger Rick Hasen has the transcript of an NPR report discussing unusual behind-the-scenes details of the divisions on the three-judge court considering the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. Hasen also follows up on a comment by Volokh Conspiracy blogger (and my law school colleague) Orin Kerr on the same subject. (Links via Howard Bashman)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: POWerful Story
A gripping POW story about the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance, from John McCain.
WAR: Loose Lips
For the record, Andrew Jackson would have had Geraldo hanged on the spot.