"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
October 31, 2003
BLOG: A Good October
Here's one benefit of the gripping baseball postseason:
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Of course, it was only in June that I added a SiteMeter link, but other traffic metrics show that July 2003 was already my all-time high month to that point. Thanks to everyone who's dropped by. Hope you'll stick around.
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BASEBALL: Manny Roulette
I'm fascinated by the Red Sox decision to put Manny Ramirez on waivers, thus allowing any major league team to claim him, provided they pony up the 5-year $100 million price tag remaining on his contract. The move has been widely interpreted as a dare to the Yankees to take on Ramirez, and the Boston Herald reports that that's where Manny would like to land.
There are three obvious points:
1. Manny is the best hitter in the American League, as one can see from a variety of available evidence; he was second the AL in OPS in 2003 and in 2002, and led the AL in Equivalent Average (EqA, the Baseball Prospectus offensive metric) in 2003 and in 2002. As a general rule, you don't give up players like that lightly when you are a contending team, as the Red Sox indisputably are.
2. Manny's a bit of a dog and a bit of a hot dog, and alienated a lot of people this season. There are some people who would like to get rid of him for that alone, plus he's not a real good fielder or baserunner, and tends to be injury prone.
3. As a general rule, very few players are worth $20 million a year for five years, given the cost of available alternatives, and still fewer who are turning 32 next season. Assuming that the Red Sox have a reasonably fixed budget, that's money that could be spread around to pay for a lot of players.
The trick, though, is not to make any one of these points a knee-jerk reaction ("Manny's great, you can't let him go!" "He's a bum anyways!").
So, do you let Manny walk? I figure the Yanks won't get him, actually; teams with lesser records get first call, and among other teams, he fits too well with the hitting-desperate Dodgers, who just yesterday cut Brian Jordan and Andy Ashby to clear some major salary space. Manny would slide right into the role vacated by Gary Sheffield in LA.
Personally, while I can see the overall logic, my take is that if you're trying to win now, you need to put the extra money into improving other parts of the team right away; the problem us that because there's really no weak spots in the lineup to add offense back to make up for losing Ramirez (unless you expect the Sox to bag Vladimir Guerrero, who's the only remotely available player who'd be an upgrade), the move only makes sense if (1) you're going to turn around and use the cash to shore up the starting rotation or (2) you're actually trying to save money instead of trying to win.
Shoring up the rotation, though, isn't as easy as it sounds; pitching is hard to come by even when you have the money to spend. There are only seven free agents who might give the Sox some real bang in the rotation:
Of those, Clemens remains most likely to retire; the Yankees will not allow themselves to be outspent by Boston on Pettitte; Maddux is old and not all that durable; Foulke, while an outstanding closer who probably has the stuff to be a starter, is nonetheless an unproven commodity as a starter; and Loaiza has a long record of mediocrity behind his one year of big success (in which he threw about a fifth of his innings against the Tigers). That would leave the Sox with just two genuine places to spend the money -- Colon and Millwood. This is problematic as well: first, those guys would know they can drive a hard bargain; the Phillies in particular will likely make a big push to re-sign Millwood; and Colon's conditioning doesn't exactly suggest he'd be a better long-term investment than Manny. (The possibility of a swap of Ramirez for former Red Sox pitching prospect Curt Schilling is more intriguing).
Besides, there may be cheaper ways to help the rotation. I still think you can get part of the way by investing some patience in Kim and Fossum, although it may be that Kim needs another change of scenery (I'll be very happy with Jim Duquette if he starts next season with both Kim and Foulke at Shea Stadium, but that's another story). Yes, $100 million's a BIG CONTRACT -- but I don't see where the Sox wind up coming out ahead on replacing Ramirez.
WAR: No Plan
Classic Goldberg File yesterday on the Democrats' new charges against Bush's Iraq policy; this alone was worth reading the whole column:
Of course, the administration does have a plan. And central to that plan is, well, spending money to rebuild Iraq. The Democrats make it sound like all the U.S. Army is doing in Iraq is having one giant-sized Chinese fire drill every day. One can just imagine John Kerry going to the local garage:
Kerry: I won't pay you to fix my car until you have a plan.
POLITICS/LAW: Levin Family Values
Turns out that one prominent filibusterer of Bush-appointed judges may be willing to make a deal to get a judgeship for his cousin's wife.
October 30, 2003
POLITICS: Sharpton vs. Dean
This whole business of Al Sharpton accusing Howard Dean of having an "anti-black agenda" is just endlessly amusing on many levels, but also revealing. The charge itself is bogus, of course; Sharpton picks two facially race-neutral issues that have killed the national Democrats in the past (guns and the death penalty), and lumps them in with Dean's 1995 statement (apostasy!) that "I think we ought to look at affirmative action programs based not on race but on class," which of course Dean instantaneously disavowed and promised to have no other gods but race-based affirmative action, thus forestalling the inevitable plagues of frogs, locusts and boils.
First of all, this is a big moment for Dean: you haven't really arrived in American politics until you've been called a racist by Al Sharpton.
Second, it is almost certainly not a coincidence that this comes immediately on the heels of Dean gaining the endorsement of Rev. Jesse Jackson, and I suspect it has a lot more to do with Jackson than it does with Dean. [UPDATE: My bad. It was an endorsement by Jackson's son, who's a Congressman. The larger point remains valid, since Sharpton timed his attack to coincide with the first significant African-American support for Dean]
Third, it's pathetic that Dean won't respond in kind. I know the front-runner needs to look above it all; and I know that most Democrats figure they will look like racist bullies if they go out of their way to make an issue of Sharpton and his long record of hate-filled ranting and dishonesty. But Sharpton took a swing at the king in the bluntest terms possible, and was disingenuous in doing so; surely if he's ever going to be fair game, it's now. This should be every Democrat's dream: a chance to denounce Sharpton and everything he stands for in a context where you won't get blowback for being "divisive" as you would if you went out of your way to go after him. Instead, Dean runs scared. If Dean doesn't have the cojones to criticize Al Frickin' Sharpton, the man's got no business running for president.
Fourth, notice how all of Dean's statements giving a little ground to the Right -- on affirmative action, Medicare, etc. -- are from about 1995, right after the Gingrich sweep of Congress. That says something too: Dean smelled which way the wind was blowing in 1995, and floated some trial balloons to see if he could position himself as a moderate. One wonders if he was thinking nationally already at that point, or just worried about keeping his job in changing times. Either way, he's clearly decided to set a different course since then.
BASEBALL: Moving On Over
Mike's Baseball Rants has at long last abandoned the good ship Blogspot; check him out at his new address, http://www.all-baseball.com/mikesbballrants/index.html. Rest assured that the Joe Morgan bashing will not be affected by the move.
October 29, 2003
BASEBALL: Lost in Translation
(John gets a few facts off as well, but the commenters set him straight).
LAW: Luskin In His Heart
Instaman notes that Donald Luskin is threatening to sue Atrios over calling him a stalker, which was Paul Krugman's charge. Luskin does some valuable work dismantling Krugman's unhinged and fact-challenged rants, but he often gets himself too worked up, and this is just way over the line for a fairly simple internet spat. Den Beste has some thoughts on what real libel is here (and on why these are tough claims to win here), and I'll say that for a non-lawyer he's got a pretty good handle on the basics.
POLITICS: Free Drugs For The Rich!
It still amazes me that Tom Daschle and other Democrats have seriously considered holding up the (unfortunately) popular prescription drug entitlement in protest over a "means testing" proposal that would deny federal handouts to the Hated Rich. (Link via Kaus). Is there a worse combination of bad policy and dumb politics? I mean, the only justification here is the Dems' "if we let somebody out eventually everyone will leave" theory (see also school choice, Social Security, etc.), but that's a hard argument to get people to swallow.
UPDATE: Lileks has a slogan for those who want to link this type of thing to cost savings from not spending $87 billion to rebuild Iraq: Insurance for those who can already afford it, and screw the needs of our conquered nations!
POP CULTURE: My G-G-Generation, N-R
Nothing sets this site apart quite like my ability to start things I never get around to finishing. But let's see if we can't push to the finish line my series looking at famous people in my generation, i.e., born between October 1969-October 1973; here's Part IV of V. (If you're interested, check out Part I, Part II and Part III).
Robb Nen, MLB
For men of my generation, even old married guys like me, all you have to do is say the name "Amanda Peterson," and you're 16 again . . . yes, it was less than a decade ago when Ed O'Bannon was in college . . . Barry Pepper is just one of several of the guys on this list who played the soldiers in "Saving Private Ryan"; that movie hit guys like me so hard in part because we were just the age of the cast. By now, I'd identify more with Hanks . . . River Phoenix has been dead for many years now, and as Bill James once said, you can't get older than dead.
BLOG: More Good News
BASEBALL/POP CULTURE: Deacon Phillippe
I see that Reese Witherspoon had a baby boy, and named him "Deacon." Now, given that her husband is actor Ryan Phillippe, this would make the boy Deacon Phillippe. Well, since Deacon isn't exactly a common first name these days, that set me a-thinkin': is he named after the six-time twenty-game winner (born Charles Louis Phillippi) who pitched for Honus Wagner's Pirates in the early part of the century, won 3 games in the inaugural World Series, never had a losing season and finished his career with an admirable 189-109 record and a 2.59 ERA despite not arriving in the major leagues until age 27? Is Ryan Phillippe a relative (the original Deacon died in 1952), or perhaps a baseball fanatic? Or was there some other origin to the original Deacon's nickname (a literary reference I'm missing here?) that the new baby shares in common?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 PM | Baseball 2002-03 | Pop Culture | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Fat of the Land
Speaking of lawsuit mania, McDonald's has settled a suit brought by a 420-pound man who claimed disability discrimination (oh, the irony) based on his weight. The amount of the settlement was undisclosed and may well have been just for nuisance value, but what caught my eye was the claimed damages of $300,000 for loss of a $6.75/hour job. I ran the numbers, and this comes to 44,444.44 hours of work. Assuming that the hourly wage has a constant present value of $6.75, working 40 hours a week, that comes out to 1,111.11 weeks of work, which assuming 2 weeks off a year (for the sake of argument) would mean holding the job for 22 years.
Leaving aside the question of how many people actually work at McDonald's for 22 years, isn't it wonderful that people think our legal system can be used to get paid for 22 years of dreary, unfulfilling work -- without having to do the work itself?
(Yes, I know the article says he also wanted an order to give him the job, but if the damages aren't supposed to be a substitute for salary, then they are really just pure fluff pulled from the air).
BASEBALL: The Facts Do Not Conform To The Theory
The situations one would want to look at in trying to determine the Clutchness of a player would seem to me to be the following:
- Runners in scoring position
The first two are self-explanatory. "Close and late" is defined as "results in the 7th inning or later with the batting team either ahead by one run, tied or with the potential tying run at least on deck."
In other words, how does someone do when the game is on the line? When the going gets tough and the tough get going. When the s--- hits the fan. When the men are separated from the boys. When (insert your own cliche here).
Here are Derek Jeter's post-season numbers [batting/OBP/slugging] in those situations from 2000-2003, combined...
Runners in scoring position: .214/.421/.357
Runners in scoring position with two outs: .188/.381/.375
Close and late: .176/.263/.323
LAW: 17200 or Bust
Law.com reports that a ballot initiative is underway to repeal those portions of California Business & Professions Code 17200 that permit the filing of mass actions challenging "unfair" or "unlawful" business practices without proof that the plaintiff was injured or even ever did business with the defendant and without meeting the standards for class actions. I've previously commented here on this liability monstrosity, which to me at least is the single most business-unfriendly aspect of California's uniquely business-unfriendly legal environment.
While I think it would be a wonderful thing to return to the core principle of law that only one who has been harmed can sue, I'm not so sure the initiative process is the best way to do this. First, the plaintiffs' bar will be very well-funded and is likely to distort the issue; they're already framing this as a question of "the ability of private attorneys to prevent impending harm to the public by filing suit," which is ridiculous. The statute, as currently used by the plaintiffs' bar, doesn't aim at preventing businesses from commencing conduct that will cause grave harm; rather, it is more commonly employed to tie down companies over existing business practices that can't be found to have caused actionable harm under traditional legal principles. Second, the new Governor has promised to make 17200 reform a key part of his revival of the business environment; while Schwarzenegger may well fail in getting legislative action on this (the plaintiffs' bar has such a tight grip on the legislature that before the recall the legislature was pressing to expand 17200), he should be given a chance to prove that it can be done through normal channels; the initative process should, at most, be a last resort for the Governor to go over the heads of the legislature if they obstruct any changes.
As The Mad Hibernian notes below, Dan Okrent is taking over as ombusdman at the New York Times; ScrappleFace had a great comment on this.
Besides rotisserie baseball, Okrent should be revered by baseball fans everywhere for an even more important discovery: he's the man who discovered Bill James and introduced him to a mass audience, over some resistance from traditional journalists and "fact-checkers" who just assumed that James' opinions and analyses could not be correct because they conflicted with conventional wisdom. Dr. Manhattan saw the significance for the Times of James' challenge to conventional wisdom back in July: "This story has additional resonance in light of the Jayson Blair scandals."
Yes, it does. Okrent will need that same iconoclastic streak if he wants to make a dent in the way the NYT peddles conventional wisdom today.
October 27, 2003
BASEBALL: Moral Victory
One of the more tiresome arguments we often hear trotted out by Yankee partisans whenever they face the Red Sox is that the rivalry is one-sided; to Yankee fans, the Sox are just another foe to roll over, and the only wins that matter are championships.
The reaction of many Yankee fans to the team's World Series defeat this year gives the lie to this; as the New York Daily News reports, many Yankee fans are looking back at the defeat of the BoSox in the ALCS as a moral victory:
Like many of the five dozen or so fans who gathered outside Yankee Stadium to give thanks and perhaps snag an autograph from a favorite player, Boaz found a silver lining in the season - at least they beat Boston.
"They could never have lived that one down," said Boaz, an unemployed market researcher from the Bronx.
"To knock our archenemies out of the World Series and keep the curse alive meant more to me than beating the Marlins," crowed Tony Apuzzi, 37, a New Rochelle schoolteacher.
And, of course, some Yankee fans reacted with a tried and true strategy:
The crowd was at one point taunted by a small group of neighborhood kids who had discovered a novel way of dealing with defeat - switching sides. They proved their newfound allegiance by chanting "Let's Go Marlins" at the Yankee fans.
"The Yankees, man, forget them," said a disgusted Ricky Nigagliono, 13. "How can they let another team win on their home field?"
"The Marlins, they're nice," said Roger Reyes, 12. "The Yankees, they got old people, that's why they're wiped out."
October 26, 2003
I noticed last week that The New Republic's website was running banner ads in its righthand column for "Shattered Glass," the new movie about Stephen Glass, the reporter who used TNR's pages to perpetrate a journalistic fraud as notorious, in its day, as Jayson Blair's. Presumably -- unless I'm missing something -- those ads were paid for by the studio. I know it's been years now -- Glass is gone and his editor, Michael Kelly, is dead -- but shouldn't TNR be ashamed to get advertising revenue from a fraud on its readers?
(Blair's fraud, by the way, has now inspired episodes this season of at least two of the "Law & Order" serieses - dramatic overkill, anyone? Doesn't Dick Wolf have the power to let one L&O know from which headlines the other is ripping?)
BASEBALL: Drafting The Kids
One thing I laughed at last night was Harold Reynolds saying that the Marlins' success disproved the idea that you shouldn't draft high school pitchers (gee, who do you think he was talking about?), given that Josh Beckett, Brad Penny and Dontrelle Willis were all drafted out of high school. Of course, this might be a more salient critique if the Marlins had actually drafted all three of these guys, but instead they got Willis in the Matt Clement trade and Penny in the Matt Mantei deal. Nobody ever said picking up prospects who had already had some minor league success was unusually risky just because they had been drafted out of high school.
No, for once I think Phil Rogers is right: you can't really draw any broad lessons from the Marlins. A few small lessons, perhaps -- I may take a look at some of those -- but the bottom line is that this was a pretty good team that got hot and got lucky at just the right time.
POLITICS: Partisanship and Accountability
Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias mull the helplessness of the Right in Britain and Canada, the feelbleness of the Left in Israel, and the pitiful condition of Britain's Left in the 1980s, but don't seem to understand why this happens to opposition parties in parliamentary states. In fact, American liberal commentators generally don't seem too interested in exploring why it is that politics in parliamentary systems is different from politics here in the U.S.; but in fact, the differences are fundamental and go a long way to showing the superiority of the American system, as well as the ways in which our own system could be improved upon:
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Mark Steyn has a big part of the answer: the absence of federalism and separation of powers means that voters never really get the chance to compare and contrast a variety of policy proposals in action at the same time, nor do individual leaders have a chance to arise from varied regions or walks of life or on the basis of strong personal characteristics; instead, all voting is simply voting for The Party, as led by leaders acceptable to the rest of the party's functionaries. The voters never get to say, "we like this guy and his new ideas.. Live with him."
The result, of course, is that the parties are immune to U.S.-style voter revolts until the ruling party has grown so hopelessly corrupt and out of touch that it collapses into ashes. Steven den Beste notes another aspect of the problem: whereas the American system rewards the ability to build coalition parties that both include and moderate the more radical elemsnts, European states often have fairly ideologically lukewarm parties of the center living in coalitions with extremist parties. Rather than factions on the Right or Left learning to develop a coherent program, this encourages governments that steer clear of any issue that could split their coalitions.
The result of all this is less strong leadership, less ideology, less responsiveness and accountability, and more need to use the anti-populist tools of coalition-building (e.g., patronage) rather than appeals to popular sentiment.
All of this is, among other things, why I'm generally opposed to the current push on in New York City to have nonpartisan elections; having clear divides and distinctions between the two parties is the best known way to encourage real accountability, both the accountability of an adversarial system (i.e., each side wanting to hang bad news on the other) and the accountability of parties needing to police their own ranks to avoid bad press.
None of which is to say that the American system is flawless. Weakened parties in the U.S. are still susceptible to ideological extremism; look at the leftward drift of the national Democrats, and you still hear people like the son of Paul Wellstone calling for even more leftism. But the Democrats will almost certainly lose big in 2004 if they run a left-leaning, high-taxes-and-pacifism campaign, and out of that defeat they may finally learn something about which of their principles are worth sticking to and which need to be jettisoned, as the GOP learned after 1964 to push a comprehensive conservative agenda but stop fighting losing battles to eliminate the New Deal and not nominate someone who would stand on federalist principles in the face of legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, or as the Democrats after the 1980s generally abandoned their love affair with soft-on-crime executives.
Stephen Green also notes a recent Daniel Henninger op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and asks why our own system's ideological partisanship has grown so nasty lately. I think Henninger is right that a large share of the blame goes not just to the transfer of power to unelected judges, but specifically to the graven-in-stone nature of judicial decisionmaking. And it's not just the judiciary; entitlement programs, current-services-baseline budgeting, gerrymandering, incumbent-friendly 'reforms' -- and yes, wars -- all allow a momentary advantage in the partisan complexion of our political bodies to be translated into near-permanent changes in the nation. Polarization is a direct result of the recognition that to today's victors belong not only today's spoils, but tomorrow's, and tomorrow's, and tomorrow's.
Check out this recent Kevin Drum post on Social Security and the comments thereunder for an example of the phenomenon; like most liberal commentators, Drum's key mantra on changing Social Security is that transition costs would be too expensive. I'll get to the merits of that some other day, but the key point here is that the Democrats in general are more interested in making it too expensive and difficult to ever change any of their programs than in designing things that stand up well to regular review by the public. To see where this leads, look at California's budget crisis; a huge part of the problem is a variety of entitlement programs and constitutional straitjackets that make it exceptionally difficult for any governor to change the direction of the state.
In either case, here or in Europe, the fault lies not in our stars but in a lack of trust in ourselves. Democratic systems work best when they stay close to the people, responsive to our concerns and changeable when experience shows that the old ways aren't working.
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October 25, 2003
BASEBALL: The Cavalry Never Came
Well, this time the cavalry didn't come. Flamethrowing ace on the mound, a 2-run lead, 5 outs away from the championship -- you were thinking, as I was, "here we go again." The comeback begins. But this time, that's how it ended. In fact, Josh Beckett threw just 11 more pitches after getting to the talismanic "5 outs" mark, getting a GIDP from Nick Johnson, flies to what's left of Death Valley in left from Bernie Williams and Hideki Matsui, and a weak grounder from Jorge Posada.
Beckett also, in the process, saved the idea of the complete game. After watching Mark Prior and Pedro Martinez -- arguably the best pitcher in each league this season -- wilt in the heat of defending a 3-run lead in the 8th inning, managers everywhere had to be revising even further downward their willingness to let their hoss finish what he started. Tonight, pitching on 3 days' rest, Beckett finished the job. Not bad for a guy whose career record stood at 9-11 with a 3.69 ERA entering the All-Star Break this season. My hat is off to Jack McKeon; he was right on the call for Beckett on 3 days' rest, and I was wrong.
Did the Yankees choke, in losing such a hard-fought series to an opponent over whom they were favored? I explored this question at length two years ago:
It really all depends how you look at the postseason. There are those, like me, who believe that baseball games are basically determined by four things: (1) talent, including not just physical talent and skill but the collection of abilities ranging from concentration to judgment of the strike zone and on the basepaths that separate good players from bad ones; (2) strategy; (3) matchups, i.e. the fact that the righthanded-swinging 1953 Dodgers would fare much better against Randy Johnson than would the 1927 Yankees; and (4) timing or luck, which may or may not be the same thing. The first is paramount over the long regular season, provided that the strategy isn't so totally awful that a team squanders its ability to put the best talent on the field. In the postseason, though, the other three factors loom much larger because the games are closer, they're head-to-head rather than against a cross-section of the league, and with fewer games a single blunder can turn the tide.
* * *
But there are also those, most prominently among pro-Yankees sportswriters, who view the postseason as a sort of mythical proving ground where true champs are separated from "phony" stars who don't really "have what it takes" . . . Thus, winning in the postseason becomes proof of a form of moral superiority, or is seen as somehow revealing who is truly the better team. The media loved, for example, revelling in how the Mariners' 116 wins "don't mean anything now" once they lost to the Yankees -- as if the entire regular season was an illusion and in 6 games the shadows had now been cast off to reveal, with Platonic insight, the actual form of the best team in the American League. We heard variations on this line for three years, but the problem with the argument is that it provides no room for the best team to lose - if you lose, by definition, you are no longer "a champion."
Did they choke? Sometimes you put your best pitcher on the mound, and he gets beat. Happens to everybody. Except the Yankees, we were told. We were told wrong.
(On a personal note, my predictions for the postseason wound up 4-3, but one thing I called before the NLCS: "Great matchup of young arms, with Josh Beckett and Kerry Wood making The Leap and Prior already there.")
October 24, 2003
BASEBALL: Wells Falls Down On The Job
Two questions about the Yankees' Game 5 fiasco:
*If David Wells knew before the game that his back felt bad, why didn't he tell Torre to have somebody up in the bullpen just in case? Why did Contreras apparently come in without being properly warmed up?
*Isn't it possible that Wells' back tightening up had something to do with the fact that his last start was on one day of rest, awfully short rest for an aging pitcher who's already not the picture of fitness?
POLITICS: CIA Cover Stories
Former CIA operative Reuel Marc Gerecht writes in The Weekly Standard about Valerie Plame and what CIA cover stories are really about, and characterizes the charges of Bush Administration critics who have jumped on the story as "wildly overstated":
Cover is the Achilles' heel of the Operations Directorate. If you have a basic understanding of CIA cover, you can figure out why the over-the-top charges against the Bush administration in the Wilson matter make no sense. . . .
The key fact about CIA cover is that the vast majority of all case officers overseas "operate"--try to spot, develop, recruit, and run foreign agents--with little or none of it. . . .
The Bush administration's critics in the Wilson affair should be commended for worrying about the possible "blowback" on foreign contacts when operatives like Valerie Plame are exposed. The odds that any of her contacts are suffering, however, are small: Casual, even constant, open association with CIA officers isn't necessarily damning even in countries that look dimly upon unauthorized CIA operational activity within their borders. . . .
And if Plame, as has been suggested, was overseas as a non-official cover officer, known in the trade as a NOC, her associations are even less at risk, since foreigners have vastly more plausible deniability with NOCs, who are not as easy to identify as officially covered officers. It is important to note that if Plame was ever a NOC, her associations overseas were jeopardized long ago by the Agency's decision to allow her to come "inside"--that is, become a headquarters-based officer . . .
This officially sanctioned "outing" of NOCs is a longstanding problem in the CIA, where non-official cover officers regularly tire of their "outsider" existence ("inside" officers dominate the Directorate of Operations). It is not uncommon to find former NOCs serving inside CIA stations and bases in geographic regions where they once served non-officially, which of course immediately destroys the cover legend they used as a NOC. Foreign counterintelligence services naturally assume once a spook always a spook. Since foreign counterespionage organizations often share information about the CIA, this outside-inside transformation of NOCs can readily become known beyond one country's borders.
Whether or not Valerie Plame was engaged in serious work inside the Agency's Non-Proliferation Center, one has to ask what in the world her bosses were doing in allowing her husband, a public figure, to accept a non-secret assignment which potentially had a public profile? Journalists regularly learn the names of clandestine-service officers. Senior agency officials may well have thought very little of Ambassador Wilson's "yellowcake" mission to Niger, which explains CIA director George Tenet's statement about his ignorance of it. They may have thought Wilson an ideal candidate for this low-priority, fact-finding mission. But neither is an excuse for employing a spouse of an undercover employee if senior CIA officials thought Plame's clandestine work was valuable. The head of the Non-Proliferation Center ought to be fired for such sloppiness.
Read the whole thing.
FOOTBALL: TMQ Talk
I was proud to be one of the early linkers to FootballOutsiders.com, a site that tries to do for football what Baseball Prospectus does for baseball; one of the lead writers, Aaron Schatz, was an early reader of this site. Now, FootballOutisders has become the official safe house for news on Gregg Easterbrook's football column after his firing by ESPN.com; check out his statement here, which is bowed but not broken:
Though I apologized and deserved to be criticized, I didn't think I deserved to be fired by ESPN. But then, I didn't think Emmitt Smith deserved to spend his final year with the Arizona Cardinals, either. Both things seem to have happened.
WAR: The Tough Questioner
At a time when he's under fire yet again, this May 2001 New York Times profile of Don Rumsfeld is interesting, in retrospect:
Mr. Rumsfeld, now 68, is back at the Pentagon's helm. And once again he is arguing before a wary Congress that the armed forces need an expensive face-lift to counter emerging threats like terrorists with biological weapons and potentially hostile nations with long-range ballistic missiles.
In the coming weeks, Mr. Rumsfeld will begin making his case for adding billions of dollars to the current defense budget and increasing President Bush's proposed $324 billion Pentagon budget. His goal is to transform the military into a more agile, lethal and stealthy force, and to build a costly and unproven missile shield.
Though Americans may feel safer today than in decades, he asserts that "weakness is provocative," that the nation is in danger of growing complacent and that the military must remain strong enough to deter and punish aggressors in this "dangerous and untidy world."
"If things are not bad, why do you need to change anything?" Mr. Rumsfeld said in an hourlong interview this week in his Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac. "And, of course, that's exactly when institutions suffer. If they think things are good, and they relax and don't recognize the changes taking place in the world, they tend to fail."
Critics contend that Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Bush's other top advisers have exaggerated the military challenges facing the United States and that he is arguing for a missile shield at a time when, at least numerically, the missile threat has lessened.
* * *
"The weapons of mass destruction are more widely dispersed," he said. "And they are in the hands of people who are different than the people who had them 25 years ago."
* * *
Aides have become accustomed to a deluge of "snowflakes" from Mr. Rumsfeld — a seemingly endless flurry of questions, problems or assignments he dictates into a Dictaphone and has transcribed by secretaries and dispatched to all areas of the Pentagon. Responses are expected to be terse: as much information and as little prose as possible.
* * *
"It's wrong to allow people to develop a zero tolerance for risk," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "We would not have airplanes if the first 20 times the Wright brothers crashed and failed we said, `Stop it, don't try it again, you're wasting money.' "
If you're looking for a Fark.com-like site for sports, you might check out the newly-launched SportsDrivel.com.
POLITICS: The Leaker
(The site I'm linking to, by the way, is playing pretty fast and loose with their domain name).
BASEBALL: Beckett's Charge
I have to agree with David Pinto, who crunches some hypothetical numbers on the topic, that starting Josh Beckett on 3 days' rest in Game Six would be a necessary evil if thge Marlins' backs were against the wall (although recall that the Red Sox didn't do that with Pedro in the ALCS even when it meant starting John "Line Drive" Burkett), but starting him with a 3-2 series lead is just not a good idea and reeks of Bobby Cox-style foot-shooting. In fact, I'd say that while it looks like he's going for the jugular, Jack McKeon is really managing scared, afraid to keep his ace in the hole for Game Seven. I'm not even 100% sure that I buy McKeon's core assumption here -- that Carl Pavano is so much better than Mark Redman that it's worth throwing both Pavano and Beckett on short rest, although Redman wasn't the same pitcher in August and September as he'd been at the beginning of the season.
October 23, 2003
SCIENCE: Another Pompeii?
USAToday had an interesting story the other day about the large number of people in Italy living in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, and the high likelihood of another eruption in the near future. Yet, people refuse to move even off the mountain itself.
BASEBALL: "Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for the house in blackjack."
Bill Simmons has some choice words from the oppressed and traumatized denizens of Red Sox Nation, who are pining for regime change (hint: Bobby Valentine's available):
While watching the NFL, my wife once asked me, "Which guy is the quarterback?" She literally knows nothing about sports. Yet last night after the Bernie Williams hit in the eighth, she kept asking, "How come that guy is still pitching?"
* * *
The Ethiopian guy who collects the money looks awful. Like he hasn't slept in days. I ask him if he's doing OK. He says, "I have never felt so awful. Not even when my own father died ... my own father. I have only been in this city for a few years, so I'm new to this. I don't know how you people do this. In my neighborhood are lots of college kids from New York, and they were cheering after the game ended. I am a peaceful man ... a PEACEFUL man I tell you ... but I swear to you I went outside looking to fight some Yankee fans ... just awful."
BASEBALL: I Think Baseball Is Trying To Kill Us
I really, after rooting my guts out against both of these teams, didn't think there was any way I'd get emotionally involved in this World Series, and although I've been in a Yankee-hating rut I managed to skim by Games 1-3 without doing so. But tonight (like Aaron after Game 1) it was all there again: Clemens, a big comeback, an extra-inning marathon, the specter of Mariano, a walk-off homer. Man, I'm exhausted.
I've been skeptical of the Marlins' ability to stay with the Yankees, and they needed this game to make this a series; now we've got one, and it will head back to the Bronx to end it all.
A handful of thoughts during the game:
I liked Derrek Lee's attempt to fake the pickoff throw getting away in the first inning -- he did this spin move where he looked like the ball had been overthrown -- but Soriano wouldn't bite. . . Bottom 1, they're getting sappy about Clemens already. But this might not be his last appearance; presumably he'll be ready to relieve in Game 7 (on 3 days rest) if it goes that far, and maybe Game 6 as well. . . . the Thundersticks are back! . . . that kid who caught Cabrera's homer looked pretty psyched . . . Clemens looked early like he had nothing; I was ecstatic when I saw Weaver get up in the first . . . they showed the list of guys who had 4 or more World Series wins and were undefeated, and except for Jack Coombs they were all Yankees . . . Bernie slapped the first pitch of the second for a single so effortlessly you'd think he was hitting off a tee . . . they keep comparing Clemens going out while still effective to Koufax or Jim Brown, but that's ridiculous; those guys were young and still the best in the game. They mentioned Elway, who's a better comp . . . I have to say, Clemens really isn't a bad hitter for a guy who rarely swings a bat . . . Carl Pavano showed tonight what the Expos saw when they traded Pedro for him and Tony Armas . . . yup, Urbina's still got the Red Sox thing going . . . top of 10, Buck & McCarver talked about Jeter swinging for the fences with two outs, but it looks like Chad Fox had the same thought since he went way up and in on the first pitch . . . they mentioned Giambi having just 5 RBI in the postseason, but he deserves plenty of the credit for winning Game 7 against the Sox for those two homers; they've been a bit overshadowed . . . it's still wierd to see people dripping sweat and fans in tank tops for October baseball . . . I thought for sure Cabrera would end the game in the bottom of the tenth . . . I agreed with McCarver that it was crazy to walk the bases loaded and then bring in Looper cold with no margin for error, but he sure made McKeon look good . . . not to cast aspersions on the guy, but Weaver looks stoned; it's just the overall look, with the narrow eyes, the pasty complexion, the scruffy hair and the cap pulled down too far . . . now, both Alex Gonzalezes are heroes in Florida.
October 22, 2003
Eugene Volokh complains that he got the following non-response from ESPN.com to his email about Gregg Easterbrook's firing:
From: ESPN Support
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your interest, but that is currently not a feature on ESPN.com.
He then notes that other readers got the response I got:
Date: Tue, 21 Oct 2003 08:54:13 -0700
Thank you for contacting us.
We appreciate your comments and are considering your opinion. We will
It appears that Volokh's problem was that he selected"Other" rather than "NFL" in the drop-down subject menu on ESPN's contact page.
Meanwhile, Ralph Wiley throws out the ceremonial first race card in ESPN.com's post-Limbaugh/post-Easterbrook era:
Dub's theory on baseball curses is that everybody sort of avoids what he calls the truth about them; teams that were -- or are -- historically dismissive and smugly cruel about its black folks -- those are the teams that stay cursed. . . . Maybe one day the Cubs and the Red Sox will get out of historical denial, ante up and kick in, pay off whatever their psychic debt is, and move on.
Um, a little history? Since the breaking of the color barrier, six all-white teams have won the World Series:
The Yanks waited nine years to integrate -- longer than the Cubs but not as long as the Cardinals (three World Championships since 1947), and when they finally brought in Elston Howard, Casey Stengel reportedly watched him in spring training and remarked, "they had to go and get me the only n_____r in the world who can't run." But that history's lost on Wiley and his race-is-everything meme. (Wiley also throws in a shot about the Marlins playing "non-sabermatrician style," but I'll leave that for another day).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Football | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 21, 2003
While David Pinto is live-blogging tonight's game, I'm just getting ready to head home from the office after a conference call. So check out Baseball Musings and I'll have more later.
BASEBALL: Another Reason to Hate The Yankees
Now, I've got a number of reasons to hate the Yankees and to lose a good deal of the fun of watching baseball when it's a series between the Yanks and an overmatched opponent, as it appears we're seeing now. Those reasons go back to my grammar school days as a lone Mets fan in the late 70s and early 80s, getting backed over by more than a few Yankee bandwagons.
One of the most common reasons for disliking the Yanks got some concrete affirmance yesterday with the release of Major League Baseball's final salary figures, showing that the Yankees spent $164 million on their major league payroll this season, compared to $119 million for the next-highest team (the woeful Mets), $106 million for the next-highest playoff team (the Red Sox), and $54 million for the Marlins. Even relatively wealthy clubs like the Braves ($95 million) and Cubs ($83 million) were left in the dust.
Let's put that in percentage terms:
Outspent the #2 team by 37.8%
That's just orders of magnitude beyond anybody else in the game, outspending even the #2 team by more than a third. Try starting a rotisserie league some time with an extra $100 on your budget and see how hard it is to win. And the stated payroll ignores a bunch of other factors: certain payments to ex-players; payments to bonus-baby minor leaguers; $5 million for Joe Torre; more money for player scouting, advance scouting (you hear so much in the postseason about the Yankees' vaunted advance scouts), etc. The real gap is considerably larger.
As Doug Pappas of the Baseball Prospectus (subscription required) estimated (even using the lower figure of $149 million from the Yankees' season-opening payroll), the Yankees were by no means the smartest or most efficient team in the game in spending their money to produce winning baseball, in terms of marginal dollars (above the minimum payroll) per marginal win (above the record you'd expect from a replacement level team); they just had a whole lot more to throw around.
Here's the problem: like most fans, I tend to like to look at the game through the eyes of a general manager or manager, and ask myself, if I were running the show, what would I do? Who would I trade, who would I keep? That's the stuff of Hot Stove League intrigue and second-guessing (and first-guessing) that makes the game fun and worth the investment of time in crunching stats and the like to really understand why teams win and lose.
But when you look at the winning teams and ask yourself what they are doing right, you come to a cold realization: no matter what he does, the general manager of your favorite team can't emulate the Yankees or duplicate their success. Nobody else has Brian Cashman's budget. Could other GMs do what Cahsman does; could other managers do what Torre does? We can't find out, because they won't get the chance unless they get hired by the Yankees, and then they won't have competition from an equal.
There are usually two related counter-arguments to this. One is to say that Mets and Red Sox fans can't talk, since our teams are among the best-funded and in any event, look how poorly the Mets spent the money they did have this year. Fair enough, but (1) as you can see, even the Mets still aren't in the Yankees' neighborhood, (2) as Pappas points out, even with the Yankees having made some good decisions with their farm system and the like, they have also spent plenty of money unwisely, but can afford mistakes others can't, and (3) the issue isn't how good a particular rival is, but whether they could ever compete on an equal footing with the Yankees.
In fact, the Yankees almost certainly could and would spend even more money if pushed to do so. When the Yankees go after a free agent, do they get him? Nearly always; I can hardly remember one they really wanted and didn't get. When a Yankee's contract is up, do they run the risk of losing him, as happens to every other team? Other than Tino Martinez, who they let go to pursue Giambi, the last major free agent loss before this season was John Wetteland, and even then the Yanks didn't expend a lot of energy to keep him, given that Rivera was ready to move up (in fairness, the Yanks did let Mike Stanton and Ramiro Mendoza go this year, but replaced them with other expensive middle relievers).
The second objection is the Baseball Prospectus line, which is to argue that Steinbrenner is making a return on his investment and other teams could afford to spend more as well. First of all, it's obviously not true that everyone else can afford to spend money like the Yankees, or it would be likely that at least someone else would try to do so. Second, since when is the fun in the game asking yourself, "if I were a billionaire owner, how much money would I spend on the team, given market size and the eslasticity of demand for tickets and premium cable TV"? That's a long way from why most of us fell in love with the game as kids.
WAR: To Baghdad
I missed blogging this at the time, but Frank Gaffney had an important point on NRO two weeks ago that I'd been thinking about myself: to transform the debate on Iraq, President Bush should go to Baghdad:
By so doing, the president will have an opportunity to see for himself the facts on the ground. Having just returned myself from a trip to Iraq and meetings with most of the senior civilian and military personnel in the theater, I can attest that there is simply no better way to take stock of the conditions that exist — and those that are being brought about, thanks to ever-more-effective collaboration between U.S. and Coalition personnel and the Iraqis.
Mr. Bush's personal visit will also afford him a truly unique opportunity to convey a surpassingly important message to both our troops and the people they are helping to experience and secure freedom: We are unalterably committed to realizing that goal.
A presidential trip to Baghdad will also compel the American and international media to address the real progress being made on the ground in Iraq — not just the random attacks there and other over-reported setbacks. It should be accompanied by a call for news organizations once again to embed journalists with Coalition forces, ensuring that their success in securing the peace is as faithfully and as accurately covered as their success in winning it.
As Gaffney points out, both Powell and Rumsfeld have made the trip already, so the logistics of security should already be in place. Personally, I'd suggest that if bolstering morale is part of the mission, the president should go on a holiday to visit with troops who have spent more than a few holidays away from home -- Christmas would be best for that reason, but would probably be a non-starter (given the diplomatic sensitivities of being too overtly Christian a celebration), so I'd suggest Thanksgiving. Such a trip would hardly be unprecedented; Eisenhower went to Korea, remember. But if memory serves correctly (I could be wrong), no American president went to Vietnam.
Speaking of Vietnam, somebody needs to send a rescue party there to bring back Ted Kennedy, who's apparently stuck in a time warp; check out this hilarious fisking of his latest diatribe, which reads like something from a bad campus newspaper. (Link via Michele).
WAR: Not Free
This Reuters report on a UN study has some fairly damning conclusions about freedom of speech and thought in the Arab world, despite some fairly flimsy attempts by both Reuters and the UN to blame this on the US:
The U.S.-led war on terror has radicalized more Arabs angry both with the West and their autocratic rulers who are bent on curbing their political rights, a U.N.-commissioned study released Monday showed. . . . Arab disenchantment was deepened by autocratic rulers who were given a "spurious justification for curbing freedoms on the pretext of fighting terrorism" by Washington's war on terror.
Of course, it's "Washington's war." No mention of terror's war on the rest of the world. I don't doubt that repressive Arab regimes that have lined up on our side (like Egypt or some of the small Gulf states) have used the war on terror as yet another justification for the same old repression, but this is really a footnote to the real story:
Arab countries lagged other regions in dissemination of knowledge. Readership of books was relatively limited, education dictated submission rather than critical thought, the Arabic language was in crisis. . . . The report said even a best selling novel sold on average only 5,000 copies compared to hundreds of thousands elsewhere. . . The number of books published in the Arab world did not exceed 1.1 percent of world production though Arabs constitute 5 percent of the world population.
It cited official educational curricula in Arab countries that " bred submission, obedience, subordination and compliance rather than free critical thinking."
* * *
The U.N. also touched on the state of Arab universities, decrying lack of autonomy and the direct control of governments that ran them on political whims. . . . No more than 10,000 books were translated into Arabic over the entire millennium, equivalent to the number translated every year into Spanish.
Research and Development in the Arab world did not exceed 0.2 percent of Gross National Product (GNP). . . The number of telephone lines in Arab countries was barely one fifth of that in developed countries.
Access to digital media was also among the lowest in the world. There are 18 computers per 1,000 people compared to a global average of 78. Only 1.6 percent of over 270 million Arabs have internet access, one of the lowest ratios in the world, the report said.
It's no wonder that paranoia, delusional ideas and ridiculous propaganda can be so easily disseminated in countries that lack even the most rudimentary forms and traditions of free expression. More's the point: remember this the next time someone tries to complain about U.S. 'cultural imperialism' in the region. Arab culture is choking to death as it is, at the hands of its own leaders. Freedom can only be an improvement.
October 20, 2003
BASEBALL: Squish the Fish
OK, my Yankees-in-four prediction didn't hold, but the Marlins leave New York having scored just 4 runs and used four of their five starting pitchers. I still don't see a long series.
October 19, 2003
Things you maybe didn't know about Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria: in 1968 he wrote a book drawing life lessons from the Peanuts comic strip. You can see the book jacket here. I actually own the book second-hand and have read it, although I can't seem to locate my copy at the moment. It's typical of the genre, philosophical but not deeply so, and painfully earnest in its approach; you would probably only enjoy reading it if you're a serious Peanuts afficionado, as I was at one time (as a kid I read nearly all the strips going back to 1952 as well as a biography of Charles Schultz). Of course, I also found it a bit amusing for the time-capsule nature of a book commenting on life in 1968.
October 18, 2003
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: TMQ Sacked?
I'm doing work tonight, so I'm actually listening to the game on the radio and don't have much time to blog, but let me just say that I agree completely with Instapundit and the many others he links to that the apparent summary firing of Gregg Easterbrook (the Tuesday Morning Quarterback) by ESPN Page 2 is just an appalling overreaction, even worse than ESPN's treatment of Rob Neyer some years back. Plus, the hypocrisy of an organization that pushes Easterbrook and Rush Limbaugh out the door for mildly inappropriate references to race and ethnicity while continuing to employ Ralph Wiley - who generalizes about race as often as Neyer cites statistics - is jaw-dropping.
Email ESPN here to let them know you want your TMQ back.
UPDATE: Aaron Schatz adds his two cents on why he'd be glad to have Easterbrook writing at FootballOutsiders.com. My own take is that Easterbrook's comments don't seem to be intentionally anti-Semitic, but they certainly crossed a line by pushing certain buttons (Jewish studio heads, greed, etc.) that have been too familiar hobby-horses for anti-Semites, so I can readily understand why offense was taken. More on this later, but this whole thing reeks of a game of "gotcha" with no application of common sense or perspective.
BASEBALL: Yankees in Four
Yes, I'm going out on a limb here, and yes, I may be reacting emotionally. But where the postseason is concerned, gut-level predictions are often as effective as more rational ones. My predictions for who would win the postseason serieses are 3 for 5 so far, missing only the two Cubs serieses.
The template here is 1999: the Yankees defeated the Red Sox and went on to face the mighty Braves, who had triumphed in an epic and exhausting six-game series with the Mets. Great things were expected of that series, but it was a massive anticlimax, with the Braves rolling over and playing dead for the Yanks. The only reservation I have here about a similar prediction is the fact that the Yankees have to start Wells on very short rest in Game One. But I fully expect the Marlins, after all the hype and exceitement, to be flat against the Hated Yankees.
October 17, 2003
WAR: Ledeen at Work
This AP article has a fascinating angle: apparently Michael Ledeen has been trying to get the CIA to investigate possible transfers of enriched uranium from Saddam Hussein's regime into Iran five years ago, but past credibility problems with Ledeen's contact have led the CIA to be skeptical.
At this distance it's impossible to tell who's right here, but it makes for a good yarn, and it's a reminder of the uncertainties inherent in the intelligence business. How can you trust a guy who lied in the past - but how can you turn him away, with potential information like this?
POLITICS: A Lie, But Not Clark's
Spinsanity does a good job of unraveling the controversy surrounding Wesley Clark's much-touted supposed claim that people close to the White House had called him on September 11 to urge him to falsely claim a connection between Saddam Hussein and the September 11 attacks. The conclusion: what Clark actually said amounts to a lot less than what people on the Left claimed he'd said; commentators like Paul Krugman and Michael Moore exaggerated Clark's statement, and commentators on the Right - in their zeal to disprove the claims of Krugman, Moore and others - unfairly claimed that Clark had made more sweeping and unfounded accusations than what he'd actually said. Here's The Krug's version of this particular Big Lie:
Literally before the dust had settled, Bush administration officials began trying to use 9/11 to justify an attack on Iraq. Gen. Wesley Clark says that he received calls on Sept. 11 from "people around the White House" urging him to link the attack to Saddam Hussein.
It appears that the truth is just that in the days after September 11, Clark talked to a guy at a pro-Israeli think tank in Canada who thought Saddam might be behind the attacks and urged Clark to raise the possibility. But the real fault here has to lie with the paranoids on the Left who used and abused Clark's statement to attack the Bush Administration. And people wonder why conservatives think Krugman can't be trusted?
BASEBALL: Your Marlins Fans
Dave Barry has the scoop on Marlins fans:
I'm a huge Marlins fan. I've been following this plucky team ever since they beat the San Francisco Giants, which was, what, nearly a week ago. I live and die by this team! When they win, I drink champagne and dance all night. This is also what I do when they lose, because there is no point in wasting champagne. But I dance in a more subdued manner.
(Hat tip to Baseball News Blog).
Of course, this is unfair; Marlins fans are very devoted to players like Dan Marino and (what's that you say? Oh.) . . . seriously, ownership has treated Marlins fans with poorly disguised contempt, yet twice in seven seasons, they've been treated to a World Series. It hardly seems fair either way, and it's no poor reflection on Miami fans if they've been bandwagon-jumpers, and tentative ones at that. But really, there were other fans who deserved this more.
BASEBALL: Post Not Alone
Turns out the NY Post wasn't the only one, according to a posting on Romanesko:
10/17/2003 12:23:32 PM Posted By: Jim Romenesko
Well, I feel a little better this morning (but plenty tired; it's a two-coffee morning for sure). If you haven't figured out from the post below or some of the others on this site, I'm not entirely rational where the Hated Yankees are concerned (the Mets, yes, as much as I've suffered with them over the years, but not the Yankees) . . .
You've probably seen sci-fi or horror movies where there's one character who's hyper-rational (usually a scientist) and keeps insisting that there's no such thing as (insert the film's particular horror here) until something happens (usually a face-to-face encounter) that makes it sand-poundingly obvious that this is precisely what's at work. This year's LCS had to have that effect on people who argued that curses, hexes, jinxes and just plain bad mojo surrounding the Red Sox and Cubs were just a myth of some sort (if you could buy stock in Dan Shaughenssy, he'd be up 50% at the opening bell this morning). Adding insult to injury was the Sox losing twice with San Pedro de Fenway and the Cubs losing back to back with Prior and Wood.
I'm not even sure I have the heart to soak up much of the commentary; I haven't seen Lupica's inevitable "Yankees have more class than loser Red Sox, their pathetic fans and their little dog too" victory lap column, although I guess I'll make time to read Bill Simmons' next attempt to place this in the Levels of Losing (pretty high, I'd guess, what with the involvement of Clemens).
UPDATE: Simmons weighs in:
Twenty minutes after the Yankees eliminated the Sox, I called my father to make sure he was still alive.
And that's not even a joke. I wanted to make sure Dad wasn't dead. That's what it feels like to be a Red Sox fan. You make phone calls thinking to yourself, "Hopefully, my Dad picks up, because there's at least a 5-percent chance that the Red Sox just killed him."
Bill also explains why he had that "now I believe in the Curse" moment. Read the whole thing.
Also: The New York Post prematurely buries the Yankees (maybe they were counting on this); David Adesnik goes straight to Lamentations; and Art Martone's wrapup includes the quote of the day:
Finally, for those ripping Grady Little for leaving Pedro out there a few batters too long, it could be worse: in 1925, Bucky Harris left a 37-year-old Walter Johnson in to lose Game 7 of the World Series 9-7 after leading 6-4 entering the bottom of the seventh inning; Johnson went the distance in the game (in a torrential downpour, no less), allowing 9 runs on 15 hits, including 8 doubles and two triples (the 25 total bases surrendered by Johnson in one day is a World Series record unlikely to be broken), including the game-winner, a 2-run ground rule double by Kiki Cuyler into the darkness in right field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth.
BASEBALL: The Dream Dies
Dreams do come true in life. David does beat Goliath. Hollywood endings do happen.
But not in the Bronx. The New York Yankees were put on this earth for one reason -- to remind us that Goliath usually wins, and that Hollywood endings are the stuff of dreams precisely because life so rarely works out that way. Cubs fans believed; Red Sox fans believed. Yankee fans just expect, and they are yet again rewarded. Yankee Stadium remains the place where dreams go to die.
Let's back up a bit, skipping around as I made notes . . .
Inning 1: You could tell this was a big one when Clemens got a standing O on the first pitch of the game.
Bravest guy in the house? Right behind the dugout on the 1B line, there's a guy in a Mets jersey. At a Yankee-Red Sox game. Only in New York.
Why is Soriano hitting leadoff, and Giambi hitting seventh? This is nuts. The lineup should be Johnson and Jeter 1 and 2 (either order has its advantages), then Giambi, Posada, Soriano, Bernie.
Pedro left his fastball at home. I've said in the past that at his peak, I'd rather have San Pedro de Fenway on the mound to pitch the big game than anyone else, ever. His peak looks gone, but I'd still take him over anyone today but Randy Johnson.
Inning 2: Enrique Wilson throws the ball away . . . bad sign for the Yanks. Defense can kill you in games like this.
Inning 3: Lots of full counts on both sides, it seems.
Doesn't Karim Garcia look like one of the Sheens? And David Ortiz definitely has the Mo Vaughn glare going.
Inning 4: Nixon does it again! I almost missed that one, it happened so fast.
I almost feel bad for Clemens at this point. Mussina comes in to relieve.
It occurs to me that if the Sox win, the two wild cards match up in the Series. But at least on the AL side, there's not much doubt that we're watching the two best teams in the league right now, is there?
Jeter rushes to the bag to turn the 6-3 double play; for the first time since I've watched Jeter, he looks desperate, less than 100% certain the Yankees will win.
Inning 5: Giambi has the solo homer. Solo homers in a game like this, you don't mind so much; let the Yanks keep hitting fly balls.
The announcers are talking about instability -- the Yanks have sure gone through some players this year.
Top 7: Nomar swings at Nelson's first pitch of the night. Jeff Nelson. Why?
Bottom 7: Pedro's thrown just 79 pitches through 6; maybe I was wrong about the deep counts. 9 outs to go. I'm thinking: maybe the Sox need to win this game -- what better way to get even the most jaded Sox fans' hopes up (only to dash them cruelly, at the hands of a fly-by-night franchise) than to vanquish the Yankees in the ALCS? It'd be like the US hockey team losing the gold medal match after beating the Russkies in 1980.
The announcers are officially in "Red Sox victory lap" mode, which proves George Santayana's point.
8 outs. Posada flies out deep to Damon. 7 outs.
Matsui is grimacing something fierce; for all of his face-of-stone look, Matsui can really wear his heart on his sleeve sometimes.
Pedro to Giambi, throwing 92, 93. His velocity's increasing. Giambi homers; Damon just misses catching it. 4-2 Sox. Sox still may need one more run to put this away.
Millar falls down, can't get to the bag, I write down, "uh oh . . . it's a game again . . . this is bad." Play has that kind of look to it.
Pedro starts out up and in on Soriano. Warning? I've got your warning right here. Is this the last inning for Pedro?
Rivera's up in the pen -- down 2, but Torre smells blood.
1-2 to Soriano, Pedro hits 94 on the gun. Jeter doesn't look worried anymore; none of the Yankees do. 2-2, Pedro goes outside, 95 mph.
Pedro throws one belt high, right in Soriano's happy zone -- but just outside. Whiff.
Top 8: Nelson's back. 2-0 pitch goes way inside to Manny . . .
Wells comes in; this is like the All-Star Game, one top starter after another. Ding dong; Ortiz goes deep off Wells, looks like Wells is buying the keg for the next game. So much for the tight game. 8 homers now, they say, in 26 games vs. Yankees; that works out to 50 on a full season.
Bottom 8: Pedro still has trouble throwing strikes to Nick Johnson (this may not be coincidental to Johnson's strike zone judgment).
Jeter doubles. Bernie drives him in. Grady sticks with Pedro to face Matsui, and Matsui doubles. Second and third, one out. Now, McCarver says they should have brought in Embree to face Matsui.
Posada up; gotta get Posada, Giambi's on deck and we'll see Embree to face Giambi.
My notes here: "tie game Damon can't throw . . . Sox doomed . . . Rivera will come in - can't win"
Embree saws off Giambi, Wilson comes up and is hit for. McCarver's still harping on Little leaving in Pedro to face Matsui and Posada, like Red Sox Nation won't do that tomorrow. McCarver: "Sometimes the manager has to overrule the superstar." I pointed out two years ago why this is BS coming from McCarver, who loves to recount the story of Bob Gibson demanding to keep the ball to finish Game 7 in 1964.
Timlin vs. Garcia, now; 2 on 2 out, 3-0 count. Timlin walks him. Will Soriano repeat Game 7 heroics from 2001? Walker wow! What a play to rob Soriano. On the replay it's like watching two separate games - Yankees whirling around the bases, fans starting to rise -- and there's Walker, snagging the ball.
Top 9: Need a base hit from Walker here to take the lead. 1-1. 1-2. Rivera has the hammer . . . a flair to Soriano . . . out.
Bottom 9: Jeter whunts - whiffs on the bunt, but it's not strike 3 yet; now it is. Timlin's still in; for some reason I'd thought they'd changed pitchers. He's been so good in this postseason and Bernie so bad, it's a question of whether something will give or momentum will hold. Walker wow! again, this time a leaping grab. So much for the iron glove reputation. So much for something giving.
Top 10: Ortiz chugs into second with a double, and this time they run for him. Ortiz just is Mike Easler, in a lot of ways - big, scary-looking guy, scary hitter, a bit of a late bloomer. Millar's too eager here, jumping at Rivera's first offering. Popup.
Bottom 10: Wakefield's in, not Williamson. Why? Bring in the closer; screw getting a lead, if somebody else gives up a run, the game's over. Plus, Wakefield brings Mirabelli with him, so Varitek (due up next inning) goes out, and Ortiz is already out.
Top 11: Nothing good can happen as long as Rivera's still out there. Contreras is probably next. Mirabelli looks . . . well, like a bad hitter up there.
Bottom 11: Torre won't warm up anyone else; he doesn't want the Sox to think they've got hope of outlasting Mariano.
Boone . . . TV turned off. Headed downstairs to blog. Not happy about how this season turned out. You suffer all year with a dreadful team, you get a little involved in the postseason, and at the end of the day it's the Fish and the Damn Yankees. That's just the way life is sometimes.
October 16, 2003
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Baseball and Politics
Dan Drezner has a post on the connections between sports and political affiliations. I don't really buy it, but it's interesting reading. Maureen Dowd uses a Cubs lede to a typically incoherent column. And Jonah Goldberg rips on something I'd meant to get to: the ridiculous New York Times editorial (No longer web-accessible) effectively rooting for the Red Sox, which is practically a parody of the old line about a liberal being a man too fair-minded to take his own side in an argument. Leaving aside the Times' bias (i.e., the fact that the paper part owns the Red Sox), the sentiment is wholly one of, shall we say, guilt at siding with the winners.
It's not that I object to New Yorkers rooting for the Sox; like most Mets fans I know, I'm pulling for them mostly out of hatred for the Yankees. And I wouldn't object to the same sentiment from an out-of-town paper; I was pulling for the Cubs, after all. It's that the Times is supposed to be one of the Yankees' home town papers, and has certainly never been exclusively a paper of Mets partisans. But the Times won't take the side of its own readers.
Calpundit points us to a new website that pays tribute to one of the game's most controversial figures, Walter O'Malley. The site is run by his son, former Dodgers owner Peter O'Malley.
BASEBALL: There's A History Here
October 15, 2003
BASEBALL: On To Game Seven
I figured this out the other day . . . you would think, what with the Yankees' mystique and their storied history, that the franchise's record in Game Sevens would be the stuff of legend. You would be wrong. The Yankees have not won a Game Seven in 41 years, since Bobby Richardson caught McCovey's liner to end the 1962 World Series. Their overall record in deciding* Game Sevens? 5-6:
1926 World Series: Loss. Babe Ruth caught stealing to end the game.
Curse? Did someone say Curse?
* - Not including their loss to the Giants in Game Seven of the best-of-nine 1921 World Series.
BASEBALL: The Upside
Well, Burkett was Burkett, failing to last four innings or hold the Yankees to one run per inning pitched, which would have been a modest victory by Burkett standards. The only good news: Pettitte has thrown 92 pitches through five innings, so he may not make it all the way to Rivera.
UPDATE: The Red Sox get to Contreras. Will we see Rivera in the 7th, a la Goose Gossage in the Bucky Dent game?
UPDATE: Ortiz ties the game. Do you run for him here, 0 out and representing the tying run at 1st?
UPDATE: Jon Miller on Mueller's single: "Jeter made a dive to his left and can't get to it!" How often we hear that.
UPDATE: Torre has Varitek walked to load the bases for Damon. Why do that with two outs?
UPDATE: Platoon player no more: Grady lets Todd Walker hit with the bases loaded and two outs against the lefty.
UPDATE: Red Sox leave the bases loaded. They're gonna need those runs they left on the table.
UPDATE: Gabe White comes in to tie up Trot Nixon with a man on second in the ninth. I assume after that we'll see Rivera. Keeping the lead at 1 is huge here, so Torre can ill afford to save Rivera for tomorrow.
UPDATE: Well, that didn't work. Nixon goes very deep off of White. It will now require a first-class piece of Red Sox history to blow this one, not that that's all that improbable.
UPDATE: First pitch strike to Giambi. Good sign.
LAST UPDATE: Well, I was right at the outset: the key to this game was running up Pettitte's pitch count so the Sox got to see the Yankee middle relievers. On to Game Seven.
BASEBALL: Bamboo Bats
As if there hasn't been enough advancement in bat design to favor hitters, I keep getting unsolicited emails from a company hawking bamboo bats. I have no idea if they're any good, but those things are scary looking.
WAR: International Idiocy
Tim Blair was at it again yesterday, skewering Australian columnist Margo Kingston's fatuities about the Bali bombing ("Howard knew!").
Why is it that foolishness like Kingston's columns seems to cross national and even language barriers, everywhere making the same ridiculous arguments?
October 14, 2003
BLOG: Link Roundup
Sergeant Stryker and Winds of Change point us to the beyond-bizarre Yankees-Red Sox rantings over at Allah in the House. (Yes, it's satire). Volokh points to a hilarious collection of law firm versions of literary works; the rewritten Book of Job had me in stitches. From Drudge: the man who taught his dog the Hitler salute; yes, the animal control woman who took the dog in is actually named "Ruff." Maureen Dowd recalls a dinner date with Rush Limbaugh (!) ten years ago. James Joyner has a priceless caption contest. And monkeys control prosthetic limbs with brain waves!
POP CULTURE/POLITICS: The Other Arnold
Gary Coleman turns out to be one of the California gubernatorial candidates who comes out of the recall looking better than he did before; Coleman has landed a gig as a political commentator for the All Comedy Radio Network. (Presumably, this is a different venture from Al Gore's rumored youth-targeted news network, although both sound like pale imitations of The Daily Show).
Personally, I thought Coleman's campaign was good-natured and appropriately tongue-in-cheek; he didn't take himself too seriously, but he gave due respect to the overall seriousness of the election. And it turns out that it got him a job. Not bad.
On October 12, 1929 at Shibe Park in Philadelphia, the Chicago Cubs entered the bottom of the seventh inning of Game Four of the World Series with an 8-0 lead; starter Charlie Root was cruising. A safer lead, you will rarely see in postseason competition. And it all unraveled horribly in a long rally highlighted by a fly ball lost in the sun by Hack Wilson; when the inning ended, the Cubs had let in 10 runs and trailed 10-8.
Like the 1986 Red Sox, those Cubs rallied to lead in the next game (they trailed 3-1 in the Series after Game 4), but blew that one as well, surrendering 3 runs in the bottom of the ninth to lose 3-2. As Bill James observed, with the stock market crash following shortly thereafter, Cubs fans must have thought the world was coming to an end.
Tonight will undoubtedly bring back memories of that horror.
UPDATE: Game over, Cubs go quietly into that good night. Man, the Cubs and Red Sox both facing elimination or advancement at the same time -- you can't buy that kind of bad karma.
BASEBALL: Ugh, Ugh, Ugh.
Just heard on ESPN Radio: John Burkett's regular season career record against the Yankees: 0-6, 8.59 ERA. You can't sum up the last 85 years of Red Sox history better than this: the Sox are facing elimination tomorrow night at Yankee Stadium, and they're starting a 38-year-old pitcher who had a 5.15 ERA this season. They'd be better off with Denny Galehouse.
Frankly, if he was healthy (concerns about his shoulder have been cited as a reason for leaving him off the ALCS roster), I'd far rather see Byung Hyun Kim starting this game, bad experiences at Yankee Stadium or no. Kim posted a 2.78 ERA and a 49/15 K/BB ratio in 55 innings dating back to June 10 this season, and didn't allow an earned run in 12 September outings, allowing just 7 baserunners in 13 innings. At least Kim would've had a hope of giving you some scoreless innings.
BASEBALL: ALCS Game 4 Notes
"They shouldn't throw at me. I'm the father of five or six kids."
Both drama and the likelihood of a dramatic letdown were in the air at Fenway last night, as the teams and Major League Baseball tried everything from extra security to giving the night off to the non-players involved in Saturday's kicking spree in the bullpen to a tearful apology from Don Zimmer, who promised not to get in any more brawls until he's 80. I'm sure the presence of Tom Ridge in the stands was purely coincidental (or maybe not), although the umpires did helpfully force Jeff Nelson to unbuckle his belt and turn his glove inside out to make Ridge feel at home . . .
This was actually the first of the ALCS games I'd gotten to see on live TV rather than radio + highlights. One verdict: Bret Boone has a lot fewer interesting things to say than Al Leiter does. Couldn't they have found a player who wasn't related to anybody on the Yankees?
Unfair stat: a FOX graphic pointed out that Doug Mirabelli led the majors in passed balls this year. The broadcasters pointed out that Doug Mirabelli caught all but two innings of Tim Wakefield this year. Coincidence?
Boone did have a point, albeit a predictable one, that if the AL wins the World Series, Hank Blalock will be owed a playoff share for the All-Star Game home run that gives the AL team home field advantage in the World Series.
Notes on replays: you can really see, in slow motion, the way the knuckleball doesn't spin when it's thrown correctly. In a sense, the knuckler's gimmick isn't its movement, as is often said, so much as its absence of the movement that batters expect on other pitches. It's also the case that the mega-slow-mo replay - which immediately looks like aged footage (I keep expecting the swings broken down to be Graig Nettles and Fred Lynn) - makes guys who swing and miss look utterly foolish. At least when you watch in normal time, you get a better sense of how hard it is to hit a baseball. And watching Johnny Damon throw reminds me: there are few things in baseball that must be more embarrassing than having a pitifully weak outfield throwing arm that just lofts throws in to the infield. It's emasculating.
Fly ball pitchers have had their moments in postseason play; consider Catfish Hunter, or Jack Morris. But Mike Mussina needs to cut down on the home runs if he's going to get back to winning games in October. As for Todd Walker, the name "Adam Kennedy" starts to come to mind.
Key difference in the game: Jorge Posada lining out to Manny Ramirez in the fifth with two outs and the bases loaded; Jason Varitek, after jogging in from the bullpen in his catching gear to pinch hit, improbably beating out a potential DP grounder to drive in what would turn out to be the key insurance run in the seventh. The call at first was the right one - Varitek was safe - and the attention to the call reminded me that someone more important to security than Tom Ridge was in the house: longtime National League umpire Cowboy Joe West. You may remember the burly, combative West for, among other things, body-slamming Dennis Cook in a brawl some years ago. Don't mess with Cowboy Joe.
The rundown that ended the seventh was just ugly, with Varitek getting caught off first and Nixon ultimately tagged out at third. Not exactly Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez evading all tags in the 1986 World Series.
Man, you could see that Hideki Matsui was pissed at himself when he dove for Timlin's high outside pitch to strike out to end the 8th. He was grimacing by the time he finished his swing.
It didn't turn out so badly, but I was convinced at the time that bringing in Jeff Nelson was a disaster waiting to happen. I know managers hate to let the crowd dictate their decisions, but here it was clear that (1) Nelson was overexcited and (2) the crowd's "Nelson, Nelson" chants were getting to him. I wonder if Grady Little actually helped Nelson settle down after he threw his first pitch way, way inside, by charging out (in what was obviously a pre-determined stunt) to have his belt and glove checked. Nelson looked in plenty of trouble out on the mound before that; better to save the stunt for later in the series against somebody who was pitching well. Nelson settled down considerably after that.
I knew the Yanks would have trouble with Scott Williamson when he got the high strike on his first pitch in the ninth . . .
Next up: David Wells vs. Derek Lowe. Career numbers at Fenway:
With John Burkett reportedly up in Game Six, the Sox need this one.
October 13, 2003
If you blog, you may have run across this problem addressed over at Winds of Change.net: porn spam in your comments. I banned some IP addresses from this site today for the first time.
October 12, 2003
WAR: We Remember
October 11, 2003
BASEBALL: LCS Chaos
Another absolute classic last night; I brought work home but had so much trouble tearing away from the game to get much done, I wound up being up until 3am. . . . I didn't get to see quite as much of today's mayhem, unfortunately - I caught chunks of each game - but I'm sure it's just a coincidence that "Roger Clemens" and "bench-clearing brawl" were yet again to be found in such close proximity . . . they're reporting that Jeff Nelson and Karim Garcia may face criminal assault charges for kicking a Red Sox grounds crew worker in the bullpen at the end of the game. Ugh.
The odds that we'll be watching the Yankees mercilessly destroy the Cubs in a week and a half are definitely on the rise.
POLITICS: Plame Links 10/11/03
Follow these to the latest news: Tom Maguire and Kevin Drum on an unsourced column by Nicholas Kristof of the NYT about the CIA angle and Valerie Plame's career, and TalkLeft with some speculation about White House emails mentioning the Wilsons.
One noteworthy point: if the disclosure of Plame's name made it easy to blow the cover of her CIA front company employer (Brewster-Jennings) by checking FEC records, and if the CIA knew her identity had possibly been compromised years before by Aldrich Ames, why was she making a $1,000 political contribution and listing Brewster-Jennings as her employer, knowing that this put a connection between her and the company on the internet for all to see?
I assume the Frank McCourt who just bought the Dodgers - described as a "Boston real estate developer" is no relation to the former high school English teacher who wrote Angela's Ashes.
October 10, 2003
POLITICS: The Latest on Valerie Plame
Newsweek and Instapundit pick up on an idea I first saw floated by a commenter at Calpundit about a week ago, and which seemed at the time to be immediately more credible than the alternative: that the "leak" story is much narrower than critics of the Bush Administration had been hoping, and in a way that is almost certain to disappoint Joseph Wilson and others who had hoped to see Karl Rove "frog-marched" out of the White House in irons. (Calpundit himself notes the new theory but is agnostic, and Mark Kleiman also backtracks a bit).
To summarize, if you haven't followed this saga, the critics suggested that the leak of Valerie Plame's identity as a covert CIA operative must have been part of a coordinated campaign by the White House, based on three things: (1) the anonymous Washington Post source who leaked the existence of the leak investigation said that six other reporters were contacted, but only Bob Novak ran the story; (2) Wilson claims that a reporter told him "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game." and (3) Bush and everyone who works for him is evil.
Well, (3) is an article of faith for some folks, but it looks like there's just nothing but hope to support (1) and (2). On (1), the Newsweek story suggests that what really happened is that some senior administration official on the national security side -- perhaps someone like Lewis Libby who'd had meetings with Plame's colleagues and may have just assumed (stupidly) that she was a known Langley-based analyst (it appears this is consistent with her job duties over the last 5 or 6 years) without thinking about the fact that she could have previously been a covert operative -- blabbed her CIA status to Bob Novak as part of a broader theory of what was wrong with Wilson's Niger mission, and calls to any other reporters happened only after Rove's people read Novak's Monday morning column. This makes sense -- Rove seems more likely to have found out this type of detail from the newspapers, and I'm sure Novak is a must-read for Beltway insiders. As to (2), Newsweek suggests that the blunt formulation of "I just got off the phone with Karl Rove, who said your wife was fair game" was Chris Matthews talking (after Novak's column ran), and anyone who's watched Matthews' show can see him summarizing a conversation that way, where Rove says the real angle is that Wilson's wife picked him for the Niger assignment, and Matthews boils it down to "Karl Rove is after your wife."
Looks like this story could be a lot smaller than its proponents hoped. Which is not to say there's no scandal here, but rather one that doesn't reach very far. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Several of the sources I linked to above note that Atrios is pushing this item from the original Washington Post story as conclusive proof that Newsweek's story is a fraud:
Another journalist yesterday confirmed receiving a call from an administration official providing the same information about Wilson's wife before the Novak column appeared on July 14 in The Post and other newspapers.
The journalist, who asked not to be identified because of possible legal ramifications, said that the information was provided as part of an effort to discredit Wilson, but that the CIA information was not treated as especially sensitive. "The official I spoke with thought this was a part of Wilson's story that wasn't known and cast doubt on his whole mission," the person said, declining to identify the official he spoke with. "They thought Wilson was having a good ride and this was part of Wilson's story."
Assuming that the WaPo's unidentified source is credible, this supports the idea that Novak's source told essentially the same story to one other journalist. That doesn't undercut Novak's account of how the conversation unfolded, it doesn't necessarily implicate anybody but the people implicated by Novak, and it's consistent with the idea that Novak's leaker (who we'll call Source A) simply didn't realize that Plame was a former undercover operative whose indentity was apparently still classified.
Who's at fault here? Besides Source A, there's Source B (the guy who confirmed this to Novak by saying, ''Oh, you know about it'') and the idiots at CIA who not only didn't expend too much energy waving Novak off the story but then compounded the problem by confirming Plame's identity to other news outlets who called after seeing the Novak column. Clearly, Source A needs to be fired no matter who he is, and the CIA people should as well. (Source B might have an excuse here, for example if Source A is his boss or someone whose judgment on security issues he'd trusted, but it doesn't look so great for Source B at the moment either).
BLOG: Lileks Was Here
Imagine my surprise reading that Lileks was not only here in New York; he had lunch in a restaurant in my office building while he was here.
October 9, 2003
BASEBALL: No Omen
Another too-busy-to-blog day, but before we get rolling with Game Two, I'll leave you with your depressing Hated Yankees postseason stat of the day:
Since 1995, the Yankees have played in 19 postseason serieses (not counting this one), and won 15 of them. They have won the first game of a series 12 times and lost 7 times. How does that break down?
Record when winning the first game: 9-3.
It's not how you start against the Yankees. It's how you finish.
October 8, 2003
BASEBALL: Digging The Longball
Barely halfway into Game 2 of the NLCS and Game 1 of the ALCS, we've already had 15 home runs in the LCS. I guess we've got our storyline (and so much for the Marlins' stinginess with homers).
LAW: The Wisdom of Solomon
In the news down here in Washington, students at Georgetown University’s Law Center protested the school’s decision to allow the military to recruit on campus, since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allegedly conflicts with school policies mandating “anti-discrimination” compliance by employers. Similar grumbling recently took place at my former law school and, I suspect, goes on at virtually every such institution.
These protests, however, highlight the wisdom of the Solomon Amendment, which threatens revocation of all federal funding from a school if it refuses to allow the military to recruit on campus. Since the Vietnam War, liberal academic institutions, while proudly welcoming the most outrageous of advocacy groups, always find some reason to oppose allowing military or national security-related institutions to recruit or organize on their campuses. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, an imperfect product of political meddling by the Clinton Administration, is their most recent target and, indeed, the merits of that policy are quite debatable.
Yet, in a post-9/11 world, one would think that schools would show a little more gratitude to the military, perhaps the most highly respected profession in modern America, and would somehow find a way to hold their noses and their tongues while the services come to speak to a new generation of willing individuals, prepared to serve their country and to defend the lives and rights of ungrateful idiots who dwell in ivory towers.
If you're wondering, no baseball blogging this morning because I was tied up with work and other stuff and didn't get to see much of the Cubs-Marlins game last night, which had the look of an instant classic (with Mike Lowell channeling Kirk Gibson). Al Leiter seemed a bit nervous and soft-spoken but insightful in the little I caught of his commentary; more on that later in the NLCS.
POLIITICS: Coalition Man
Let's review the Wesley Clark file for a second: Clark has no domestic policy experience, has only recently worked in the private sector, and has never held elective office. So, his credentials are strictly national security/foreign policy. Is he a more decisive leader than Bush? Hardly; his waffles on Gulf War II are already the stuff of legend. Would he have run the war itself better? Clark himself, in an April 10 London Times column, praised the Bush Administration's war-fighting strategy.
What does that leave? Well, the very core of Clark's message is his idea that we have neglected our alliances and need to work with a broader coalition. He's Coalition Man.
Which is why this latest story is so damning: Clark's campaign manager has quit, upset that Clark's DC-based political consultants have given insufficient respect to the grass-roots internet-based "Draft Clark" movement. Now, this story has a few angles, like the idea (noted here and here) that the Democrats generally are too beholden to inside-the-Beltway consultants, and the observation that Clark has forgotten that you can't conquer America by occupying Washington. But here's the key one: if Clark is selling himself to us as Coalition Man, what does it say about his qualifications that he can't even hold together a coalition of his own supporters for an entire month?
RELIGION/WAR: Idolatry Part II
Last October, I looked at the essential features of sharia courts and asked if the institution was, in strictly Islamic terms, essentially idolatrous/blasphemous by "effectively set[ting] up the sharia court itself as the object of worship, obedience and devotion, under the harshest of penalties, and in substitution for the devotion of invidual conscience directly to divine authority". Christopher Hitchens interviews the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, himself a Shiite cleric, who makes a similar point:
A sentence of death for apostasy cannot really be pronounced, or acted upon, unless there is "an infallible imam," and there is no such thing. The Shiite faithful believe in a "hidden imam" who may one day be restored to them, but they have learned to be wary of impostors or false prophets. In any event, added Khomeini, there was an important distinction between what the Quran said and what an ayatollah as head of state might say. "We cannot nowadays have executions in this form."
Mark Kleiman charges the White House with "an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up" in the fact that documents that have been requested from White House employees by the Justice Department will be reviewed by the White House Counsel's office first and will be turned over to DOJ in two weeks. (Link via Calpundit; the same post is now up at Kleiman's new Movable Type blog).
My reaction: Kleiman and others complaining about the "two weeks" really have no clue about the work of laywers. For the White House Counsel's office to just turn over the file without reviewing everything would be irresponsible and tantamount to legal malpractice. I know we'd all love to see total, non-adversarial cooperation, but once you turn over the whole file to the Justice Department, you've got a heck of a time then arguing that the stuff is privileged when Larry Klayman and his ilk come knocking with FOIA requests (he could argue that you've waived any privileges by handing things over, and he'd have some legal support for that position). Two weeks to do a document production of this nature is not even close to a foot-dragging time frame.
I'm not suggesting the White House should take an aggressive position on privileges (or start inventing new ones, a la Bill Clinton). But any time you pull a big file of stuff, there may be things you shouldn't produce - attorney-client privileged communications, embarrassing and irrelevant personal stuff, and in this context, classified national security information that doesn't need to be spread around anymore than necessary. You do have to be careful if you don't want this one leak to open the door to more sensitive disclosures. Ask any lawyer who's represented a government agency, corporation, church, or other organizational client whether they would turn all this stuff over without anyone reviewing it.
Kleiman further claims that
This would be completely routine in a civil case. . . But in a criminal case it's unheard-of: investigators don't usually let the lawyer for one of the defendants take a look at all the documents submitted by the other potential defendants and key witnesses, even if that defendant happens to be the boss of all the others.
This is just not true, and Kleiman, a non-lawyer academic, obviously doesn't know what he's talking about. If a corporation gets a grand jury subpoena, and the company orders its employees to gather evidence, even if the investigation focuses on individuals rather than the company, you bet the company's lawyer will look at the documents. They are, after all, the company's own records. As Kleiman conveniently forgets -- and as Bill Clinton was wont to forget -- the White House counsel represents the institution of the presidency, not the president personally, and the people at issue here are employed by the executive branch. (I assume that the evidence being gathered here is people's work-related records, pursuant to requests made to the White House).
I haven't really gone into the whole Plame thing very far yet, in part because of the baseball playoffs and in part because there's only so much new I would have to add. But this particular gripe is just way overblown and a sign that guys like Kleiman are losing their grip on reality.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Conrad from The Gweilo Diaries agrees with me. And Kleiman backtracks and tries to pretend that he didn't call this . . . well, "an unspeakably sleazy trick that makes sense only as part of a cover-up."
BASKETBALL: NBA Practices
Newsweek has an unflattering portrait of Kobe Bryant, although really a lot of the stuff in here -- about how he's focused, driven and a loner -- doesn't seem that bad, really; I suspect they're stretching to explain how such a squeaky-clean guy winds up accused of rape.
The article faults Kobe for putting himself in an ambiguous situation by failing to follow standard NBA practices for having casual sex with groupies:
[T]here are also rules of conduct off the court, and players usually swap the do’s and don’ts over dinner after a game. Rule No. 1: Let your crew approach the woman first, to size her up. One baller makes his bodyguards spell out in plain language to potential one-night-stands what the night’s activities will entail. If she hesitates, she’s turned away. Rule No. 2: Give nice parting gifts. One NBA star is known to travel with a treasure chest of diamond tennis bracelets to hand to conquests in appreciation.
This entire scene is appalling, obviously, but at least it does ensure that everyone involved is up front on what they're getting into.
October 7, 2003
I did pretty well with my Divisional Series predictions - 3 out of 4, missing only the Braves-Cubs series. So, just to get on record before the first pitch . . .
Yankees-Red Sox: Given the history, you'd be bonkers to pick the BoSox, as much as I'd love to see them topple the Hated Yankees. The fact that Pedro won't be available to start until Games 3 and 7 is also not encouraging, given Boston's typically thin rotation, plus the top of the Sox bullpen doesn't exactly stack up to Rivera. The Red Sox can win this series if Pedro has two big games and they batter their way into the Yankees' suspect middle relief (even if the Yankees win the series, I suspect the Sox will get one game where they get to Weaver and score 11 or 12 runs), but the odds are not good. Yankees in six.
Cubs-Marlins: This is a tougher call. The Marlins just have everything going right now, but then a lot of what worked against the Giants was the kind of magic that can vanish overnight. The Cubs, meanwhile, got past the Braves without getting Sammy Sosa out of his late-season deep freeze. Great matchup of young arms, with Josh Beckett and Kerry Wood making The Leap and Prior already there. Key players in this series: Joe Borowski and Kyle Farnsworth, who will be asked to do away with the Marlins' late-inning magic and give Dusty enough confidence to not ride his starters into the ground. And Sosa, of course; the Giants didn't hit a single home run against Florida's pitching. The Cubs don't get on base enough to win without the longball, but with four games at Wrigley, that seems unlikely.
This time, I think Florida's luck runs out. Cubs in seven, and a rematch of the 1932 and 1938 Serieses to follow.
WAR: Gas up the Whackmobile!
If you believe that the Bush Administration is engaged in a grand strategy to overthrow hostile and dangerous tyrannies, particularly in the Middle East, you have to assume that an important component of that strategy is the building of public support, at home and abroad, for targeting specific enemies. Certainly, in Iraq, that part worked, as the war was backed by Congress, a large percentage of the public, and several key allies (and parts of the case for war, such as Saddam's violation of UN resolutions, were validated by the UN and even many of the war's critics).
A tougher nut to crack will be Saudi Arabia, which (1) casts itself as an ally, (2) never engages in openly hostile acts towards its neighbors, (3) has no weapons of mass destruction, (4) has no identifiable dictator so much as a diffuse class of feudal lords, (5) is seen as a symbolic leader of the Muslim world, and (6) has all sorts of people on its payroll, from bipartisan former government officials at home to Islamic movements all over the world.
But the Administration, if it set out to build public support for a confrontation with the Saudis, has one thing on its side: even the nuttiest of the nutty Left has now started calling on Bush to take a tougher line with Riyadh. When you can get Michael Moore demanding that you be thrown in the briar patch . . .
October 6, 2003
BASEBALL: Featuring Scott Williamson in the Role Originated By Calvin Schiraldi
Except this time, the sinkerballing reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever got the last strike. It would have been too much to see this Red Sox team go down for the want of a closer -- have you ever seen a team with so many closers, but none who could close a game (well, maybe the 1997 Mariners)? Williamson, Kim, Lowe, Timlin, Wakefield and toss in the guys who auditioned this season (Howry, Person, Todd Jones). But tonight, Lowe got the job done.
Before that . . . Man, Barry Zito's curveball is a thing of beauty; there are some pitches you cheer for and some that leave you breathless, but the only appropriate response to Zito's curve is a wolf whistle . . .
On the other hand, when I'm watching the game with my six-year-old son, I could do with a few less ads for 'Skin'. (To say nothing of last night's unsubtle single-entendre ads for Enzyte, the "natural male enhancement").
OK, Manny shouldn't have been doing his Jeff Leonard imitation in the sixth inning after his game-breaking home run, but Tom Brenneman and to a lesser extent Steve Lyons were treating him like he'd spit at a fan or something. Get off the high horses, guys; like we didn't know Manny was a bit of a hot dog at times? The guy's had a rough postseason.
The Damon-Damian Jackson head-to-temple collision was the scariest thing I've ever seen on a baseball field (live, that is; the death of John McSherry was worse). It gave me that football injury, I-hope-he-walks-again feeling as soon as I saw Damon wasn't moving. Now, the fans who gave the Red Sox a hard time while Damon was prone on the field -- they are a fit target for some fresh-off-the-shelf Canned Sportscaster Outrage.
[Lileks moment here - I interrupt this blog post when I hear my daughter fall out of bed. Heard the sound upstairs, knew right away what it was, had her up by the time she was awake enough to start crying. Hey, I got to do something to make up for spending the whole evening in front of the ballgame]
Anyway, the collision reminded me of one that looked almost as hairy at first but that both guys walked away from, the 1988 face-to-face collision between Mookie Wilson and Lenny Dykstra that ended with Mookie's teeth marks across Lenny's nose.
The transition from Chad Bradford to Ricardo Rincon (or vice versa, as in Game 4) has to be a jarring one; Bradford's got that wacky submarine delivery and the long, snapping arms to complete the picture, while Rincon has to have the shortest arms I've ever seen on a major league pitcher.
On to the ninth . . . Steve Lyons was awfully jocular talking about Bill Buckner in the ninth inning, for a guy who was a member of the 1986 Red Sox himself; maybe he's still bitter that they traded him away. (Hey 'Psycho': never be insulted to be traded for Tom Seaver).
I could just tell there was going to be trouble almost immediately after Scott Williamson came into the game; he wasn't pitching, he was aiming. You could see it in the way he was winding up and sort of pointing his arm rather than a natural motion. Grady Little just had no choice but to get him out of there after he walked Guillen.
But Lowe got the job done. Next stop: the Bronx.
Three sources suggested Sunday that Hudson's injury might have stemmed from an alleged altercation on Friday night at Q, a Boston nightspot.
According to a security guard and a member of the bar staff, Hudson got into a skirmish with a Red Sox fan and threw several punches, including one that clipped a bartender.
"It was a big melee. He was throwing haymakers,'' said the security guard, who spoke on the condition his name not be used.
"Honest to God, he's 160 pounds and it took eight big guys to hold him back,'' the staff member said of Hudson. "It was five minutes of mayhem.''
Hudson was unavailable for comment about the alleged incident on Sunday night, and the manager of Q, Noel Gentelles, strongly denied that any clash had taken place.
"Tim and Barry (Zito) were both here, and they couldn't have been nicer,'' Gentelles said. "Barry even played with the band. There was no altercation.''
Now, going out for a beer or three in the middle of a playoff series is no crime, but this is just stupid, stupid, stupid. If the A's can't get past the Red Sox because of this, Hudson deserves all the grief he'll get.
(Link via Sons of Sam Horn)
October 5, 2003
BASEBALL: 95 Years
Maybe it's just me, but the Cubs' postgame celebration didn't look like a team celebrating the death of a semi-artifical 95-year-old monkey on their backs; they seemed rather subdued (albeit not like the Yankees, who looked like they were looking for the clock to go punch out their time cards). FOX's focus on the 95 years since the Cubs won a postseason series was a neat storyline, but the players seem uninterested in it -- which is as it should be. It's Dusty's job to keep them focused on the real goal, which is ending that other 95-year drought since the Cubbies were Champions of the World.
In the meantime, if you're looking to brush up on your Cubs history, my column here profiles the 1918 Cubs (among other teams), while this post notes that the team the Cubs beat in the 1908 pennant race on the notorious Fred Merkle "boner" play -- the 1908 Giants --was actually the greatest on-base machine, relative to their league, of the past 110 years.
POLITICS: The Barbarian
Andrew Sullivan, I think, gets it precisely right in measuring the distinctions between the allegations against Arnold Schwarzenegger and those against Bill Clinton, particularly the fact that Clinton's conduct involved the abuse of public office to perpetuate and cover up his misbehavior.
Now, to say that a man is not as unfit for public office as Bill Clinton is to damn him with faint praise indeed, and this really doesn't help Arnold's case on the merits. But it does point out that anyone who defended Clinton has no standing to get upset when similar and lesser charges are made against a Republican. As James Taranto pointed out, this is especially the case for MoveOn.org, a group whose sole founding principle is the idea that a politician's sexual advances, welcome or otherwise -- or anything else he may do to conceal them -- are no grounds to deny him public office.
What does this all say about Republicans? Well, most of us were, at a minimum, unwilling to accept the Democrats' idea -- which was made the basis of several 1992 Senate campaigns (notably in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Washington) -- that it is scandalous for anyone to disbelieve any allegation of sexual harrassment against a public official, or even to question such allegations. Suffice it to say, that idea didn't get much of a hearing from its former proponents in the 1990s. Frankly, I was never really convinced by Paula Jones' story, although I thought that the people who brought us "they just don't get it" deserved to reap what they had sown by the creation of that and other autopilot, judgment-free scandal machines (the late and unlamented independent counsel statute was another). And once the courts got involved, the merits of the original case got to be rather secondary . . . but that's another post.
Are we hypocrites? The real truth is, most of Clinton's harshest critics are either supporting McClintock or were already unhappy with Arnold but backing him in the absence of better alternatives. (I'll come right out and say here what I'm sure a lot of social conservatives are thinking about Arnold, as they thought about Bob Packwood as well: the man's social liberalism may in part be driven by a sense that he couldn't take the heat for being, say, pro-life, because his behavior towards women would make him vulnerable to attacks, and he needed a credential that would look "pro-women" to his critics. The wages of sin are paid by the innocent.)
Is Arnold unfit to be president? Quite likely yes. The presidency is a position of special trust, and things that wouldn't disqualify a man from a lesser office are bigger question marks when the White House is involved. We tolerate things in our governors and legislators, however, that we wouldn't accept from the president.
Is Arnold unfit to be governor? He's hardly the guy I'd choose first, but I'd have to say, no, not compared to the alternatives. Remember, the whole point of the recall is that the ordinary political process in California has broken down so badly in dealing with the state budget, the energy crisis and the banes of runaway litigation and regulation that it's become necessary to hold open auditions for the job. And we have seen allegations (admittedly, less well-sourced than those aimed at Arnold) of even worse behavior by Gray Davis even on top of the man's comprehensive catalog of other flaws. Bustamante? Let's face the bottom line: Bustamante's basically just more of the same thing that got California into this mess. If you're a California voter who's happy with the status quo, by all means, go vote for him.
In a better world, I wouldn't want Arnold as my governor. But if I lived in California, I'd probably pull the lever for him on the outside, desperate hope that maybe he could do something, anything to change the morass that the state's government has sunk into. Barbarian, or no barbarian.
BLOG: Bloggers at HLS
I can't believe they're having a conference on blogging at my alma mater and I never heard about it until Friday. Too bad. Glenn Reynolds is blogging from there, as are many others, and David Pinto got me all nostalgic for Harvard Square with this picture.
POLITICS: The Ashcroft Solution, Part Two
October 4, 2003
BASEBALL: Got the Trots
Trot Nixon has his Carlton Fisk moment tonight, keeping the Red Sox alive to torture their fans another day. It had to be a better feeling than seeing Don Zimmer on Thursday night's Yankees-Twins telecast, sitting there in his Yankee uniform and smiling as he wrapped up an interview about the 25th anniversary of the Bucky Bleeping Dent game. What an absolute classic tonight's game was, with great pitching performances by Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Mike Timlin, Scott Williamson, Chad Bradford and Jim Mecir. Memories of 1999 abounded, with Manny in a 1-for-series slump and Pedro warming up down in the Fenway bullpen.
It may surprise you to learn that I'm not a baseball rulebook afficionado, but those who are will have a field day with this one between Nomar's re-play on Chad Bradford's quick pitch, the play where Tejada was called out while arguing that he should have scored on an obstruction play, and Eric Byrnes overrunning home plate and getting tagged out at the backstop. The Tejada play brought back memories of David Cone and Chuck Knoblauch holding the ball to argue calls, but in this case it's more excusable if Tejada didn't understand that it was a live play -- but what's the Oakland third base coach for if not to get Tejada safely to a base while this is going on?
Bobby Valentine on the A's mental state for Game 4: "If they're angry they're cool; if they're feeling sorry for themselves, they're in trouble." That's Valentine in a nutshell. He's right, of course. Ted Lilly had this look on his face all night like, "tell me again why I'm not winning this game?" Maybe he always looks like that.
Marty Marion was nicknamed "the Octopus" for his leaping grabs, but Mike Timlin looked like he was auditioning for the moniker with some of his spears tonight. Scott Hatteberg had some jumping to do as well, due to a few too many high throws from the left side of the Oakland infield.
On another note, nothing looked scarier today than Robert Fick's very intentional-looking collision at first base with Eric Karros; if you didn't see the play, Fick was running up the first base line and held his hand out to basically knock the glove off Karros' hand after he's already caught the throw from Kyle Farnsworth for the force-out. It definitely brought back visions of Todd Hundley barreling into Cliff Floyd back in 1995, to horrific effects on Floyd's career for several years. Jason Steffens has the postgame reaction to the combative Fick's latest antics (you may remember his suspension for his part in a massive brawl and his use of obscene gestures when he was with the Tigers), and David Pinto has some harsh words for Fick as well.
BASEBALL: Separated at Birth
I can't be the first one to notice that Matt LeCroy is a dead ringer for the guy who used to play Tim Allen's sidekick on Home Improvement . . . and Ken Macha kinda reminds me of a cross between Larry David and Dick Cheney.
Back to the Sawx game.
BASEBALL: Bonds Part 2
Well, Bonds got some relief from his teammates today, but it didn't matter much because the pitching didn't hold up. Let's re-run the chart for the full series; it looks a bit less lopsided now:
(Note that this includes a 4-run inning in which Bonds had a sac fly.)
WAR: Where Are The Weapons of Mass Destruction?
As I noted last night, you must check out Andrew Sullivan's summary of David Kay's report on Iraq's WMD programs. Sullivan suggests that we should read the whole report, which I intend to do myself shortly.
In fairness, of course, you should also check out Gregg Easterbrook's take. Easterbrook focuses on the absence of a continuing nuclear program, and takes it as evidence that Bill Clinton's missile strikes on Iraq were more successful than a lot of (particularly conservative) observers thought:
Set aside the question of whether the United States should have invaded Iraq in 2003; history may still judge this decision favorably, as a liberation of the oppressed. But if most of the Iraq atomic weapons program stopped in 1998, as Kay concludes, then Clinton administration policy on Iraq was far more effective than once assumed; then the WMD case for invasion this year was even weaker than now assumed; and then the case for airstrikes to halt the North Korean nuclear-weapons program may be stronger than now assumed.
Unlike, say, Josh Marshall, I never bought the idea that the entire case for war depended on whether or not Saddam had an active nuclear program; on top of the many other reasons for war, biological and chemical weapons looked plenty bad enough. But Easterbrook's probably right that Clinton is owed an apology on this point, up to a point (it would still have been better if he'd moved more aggressively against both Saddam and bin Laden; maybe if he'd been threatened with impeachment more often . . . )
BASEBALL: One Man Band
How important has Barry Bonds been to the Giants in this series? The Giants have yet to score in an inning when Bonds doesn't get on base. Let's break this down through three games:
That's a man who needs some support.
BASEBALL: Fool Me Again
As late as the end of last season, you could fairly ask whether Mark Prior had advanced to the same class as pitchers like Greg Maddux. By tonight, you felt bad for Maddux trying to keep up with Prior. In fact, either Prior or Jason Schmidt is probably the leading starting pitcher in the NL Cy Young race, although their slim workloads (30 starts, 211.1 IP for Prior, 29 starts, 207.2 IP for Schmidt, 32 starts, 211 IP for Kevin Brown) probably means the award will rightly pass to Eric Gagne (77 games, 82.1 IP).
You could tell how "on" Prior was by how many hitters in the fearsome Atlanta lineup were swinging at pitches that were way, way out of the strike zone - pitches at their eyes, pitches a foot outside. The fact that Prior's control was off in the early going made him that much more unpredictable, and the hitters that much more defensive, by the end of the game. You know the saying, "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me"? Well, with good pitchers it's almost the opposite -- see hitters hack at a few bad pitches it's probably the result of impatience. But see a whole lineup of guys do it all night, and that's almost always because the pitcher's got something special going.
That said, my initial reaction was that leaving Prior out there to throw 133 pitches once the Cubs had an insurance run seemed foolhardy. The biggest risk isn't hurting his arm -- although with a once-a-decade ace like Prior, that's a constant worry. And it's not Prior blowing the game -- he was going too good to think that bringing in Joe Borowski was a surer bet. The biggest risk is wearing him down for the postseason, which isn't a sprint anymore so much as a quarter-mile run.
There is a counterargument, though: it's Game 3, and Game 5 is in two days. Prior won't pitch again until the NLCS, so he may get an extra day's rest. And though our knowledge of pitching injuries and fatigue is still largely anecdotal, there's a lot of people who would agree that it's not the muscle-tearing long outing that does you in so much as the trying to bounce back before the arm had healed up from it. As statheads have been conceding all season, maybe Dusty knows more than he sometimes lets on.
POLITICS: El Rushbo
ScrappleFace nails the Limbaugh drug allegations but good: "When I say I do this show with half my brain tied behind my back, I'm not kidding."
BLOG: For The European Traveler
This "European Travel Guide" from The Lemon from a few weeks back is just sidesplittingly funny. Don't miss the guide to common French phrases at the bottom.
October 3, 2003
BLOG: Crackpots Like Us
Checking out my Technorati inbound links and discovered that I'd been linked by a site called The Crackpot Chronicles. The odd things: the site just started today, I'm one of just two links on the blogroll, and the site's operator is a woman named Ellen Sander -- and since my inbound links and (I suspect) my readership tilts heavily male, that's always noteworthy.
Anyway, always good to see a reader start a new blog. Happy hunting!
BLOG: Happy Thoughts
Mike at Miniluv wants us all to blog good things. These days, good news is in short supply, but hey! the Cubs won and the Giants lost, and I'll take that. Oh, and Andrew Sullivan reports that the case for war on grounds that Saddam Hussein was continuing and concealing a program to develop biological and chemical weapons in violation of innumerable UN resolutions has been completely vindicated. But more on that later.
BLOG: Be Back
Got interrupted here just as I was getting rolling for the morning -- more baseball stuff when I have time to blog next.
WAR: Back to the UN
One of the loopier tropes we keep hearing from critics of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy is how Bush had to change direction and go crawling back to the UN for help. Um . . . no. Asking for UN help was in no way a flip-flop or admission of failure. Let's review:
1. Fall 2002: We ask the UN (i.e., France/Germany/Russia) to agree with us about the problem with the Iraqi regime. The UN agrees.
2. Early Spring 2003: We ask the UN to help us solve the problem. We make clear that we're not asking permission; we're going to fix the problem, we've got some allies, but we want more help. The UN refuses.
3. Late Spring 2003: We take care of the problem without the UN's help, but with the help of a number of allies.
4. Fall 2003: We come back to the UN, even after it pissed in our face, and ask for help again with the aftermath. This time, at least some of the nations involved appear more conciliatory.
How exactly have we admitted failure? We said we could and would do this with whatever allies we could get, but we always wanted more allies and more help than we got. This is like asking out the same girl who stood you up once before; if anything, it shows the Administration's humility in being willing to ask again rather than say, "they didn't get on the boat when it sailed, screw them."
SCIENCE: Breast Implants and Suicide
A series of studies suggest a link between breast implants and suicide, and MSNBC's writeup suggests that this could be problematic for the makers of silicone implants, who are trying to get FDA approval to get back on the market after waves of litigation based on junk science connecting silicone implants to everything but prostate cancer. Even this article concedes the obvious: this could just as easily be a case where, for many women, suicidal tendencies and the desire to get breast implants are both symptoms of the same set of problems: women who have seriously low self-esteem and/or are heavily dependent on other people (employers, husbands) who place and overemphasis on their looks.
What's frustrating is that the article is vague as to whether the studies involved only silicone implants and not other cosmetic implants.
October 2, 2003
WAR: Al Qaeda in Iraq
This story ought to be getting more attention: The Weekly Standard on captured foreign terrorists, including Al Qaeda operatives, in Iraq.
POLITICS: Losing the Plame Game
Now, the current controversy is not something you can gloss over by changing the subject. But it's symptomatic of a larger political problem: the Administration and the GOP haven't done one single thing since Bush's aircraft carrier speech in May to seize the newsmaking agenda or advance conservative policies. Every single thing that's happened since the beginning of May has been either (1) managing ongoing initiatives, (2) doing stuff behind the scenes, or (3) damage control. When that happens, you get to be a big, slow target for potshots; any idiot can say "the implementation of the policy isn't working," usually on the basis of an isolated anecdote, and the burden shifts to you to explain things in context, which is boring and difficult and not a story the media wants to tell. And when you lose the initiative and go to full-time siege-mentality mode, that's when people make mistakes and start worrying more about shooting messengers than about how to steal a march, grab a headline and move the chains.
It's all about managing the initiative. It's key in politics, it's key in sports (think of shortening your stroke with an 0-2 count), it's key in litigation. Right now, we've got the White House, narrow majorities in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, but we don't have the initiative (the one exception to this is what is usually the GOP's weakest link, California electoral politics). The Plame controversy may well blow over if a culprit is swiftly identified, in stark contrast to Clinton-era controversies where administration stonewalling dragged everything out far beyond its natural lifespan. But even if that happens, unless the Bush Administration does something to start rolling out new ideas of its own, the Right will be forced back on the defensive again very quickly.
POLITICS: The Ashcroft Solution
Can Bob Novak and other journalists be subpoenaed to reveal who leaked Valerie Plame's name to them? (The question assumes that there were leaks to other journalists besides Novak, but it still seems at least equally likely that the much-touted leaks to "six other journalists" were people who got calls from folks in the White House political operation after Novak's column appeared in the papers, and those would hardly count as "leaks" at all). Eugene Volokh notes some of the obstacles presented by the Justice Department's internal guidelines on subpoenas to reporters.
POLITICS: Sound and Fury
The latest White House press briefing by Scott McClellan is really a masterpiece of the art of nothing-saying. A sample:
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Terry, there is a process in place that was followed. The CIA has a process to look at classified information if it is leaked, and they followed a process and that process has moved forward. And the Department of Justice is looking into it. I don't know the specific time period, but the process was followed, and the President expects the process to be followed, and that process was followed, and that what the President expects, because leaking classified information is a very serious matter.
Q That's what I'm asking about. He said that -- I want to know what he's done about it. This story broke in July. Did he know in July that an undercover CIA official had been outed and that the person who outed that undercover CIA official attributed it to senior administration officials?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think there -- no, I understand what you're saying. But I think there are certain assumptions you're still making in your remarks. The Department of Justice is looking into this to determine what you're saying about the potential leak of classified information concerning an undercover CIA agent. And there have been some news reports that I saw back to that period, some that have been cited recently, talking about how some of this information may have been well-known within the D.C. community.
Q Fair enough. But when did the President know it?
MR. McCLELLAN: But, see, that's what I just told you, Terry. The process is in place, and it followed that process. I don't know, in answer to your first part of your question. But the President expects the process to be followed for something like this, and it was. The CIA followed the process and information has been provided to the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice is looking into it. But, remember, back in July, when this issue came up and I was asked about it, it was an anonymous source in the newspaper. There are plenty of anonymous sources in news reports on a daily basis, and we could spend all our time trying to track down the information from those anonymous sources. But we want to be able to focus on the people's business --
Q Right. But you were asked about it in July --
MR. McCLELLAN: And I made it very clear back there in July, too, that there was no information beyond the media reports with anonymous sources to suggest any White House involvement. But the process was followed, and that's what's important. The President believes it's important that the process was followed, because the President believes the leak of -- the leaking of classified information is a very serious matter.
Q Fair enough. If you get a chance, if you could establish for us when it came to the President's --
MR. McCLELLAN: Terry, that was back in July and I --
Q Is that not knowable? That's knowable, right? It's checkable?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- just don't know. I looked into it and I just don't know.
Q Do you know if anyone has yet come forward to offer any information to the Department of Justice about this?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think you need to talk to the Department of Justice about that. They're the ones who are doing this investigation and they would be the appropriate ones to ask that question.
Q Would you know? Would you know? Are you trying to stay away from it?
MR. McCLELLAN: I don't have any reason -- I don't have any reason to. That's the Department of Justice, that's their role, and the criminal division over there.
Q Scott, in the past, the Justice Department has used polygraph examinations in sensitive leak investigations. The President has said he expects full cooperation. If I work at the White House and down the road in this investigation the Justice Department came to me and said, we want you to submit to a polygraph investigation, the President would expect the answer to be?
MR. McCLELLAN: I appreciate the hypothetical, but that is a hypothetical and that is not where the process is. The process is that the Justice Department has asked the White House to preserve any and all material related to the specific information they put in their letter. And that's --
Q Well, let's set that specific hypothetical aside. If an FBI agent or the Justice -- somebody on the Justice Department team made a request of a White House official that is consistent with past practices in a similar investigation, would the President expect someone on his staff to comply with that request?
MR. McCLELLAN: The President has directed the White House to cooperate fully, that message was sent as soon as he learned of the investigation. He made it clear to White House Counsel, and White House Counsel made it clear to senior staff the other day -- that was the President -- at the President's direction. We will cooperate fully with the investigation and make sure that we preserve the integrity of the investigation. So that's where things are right now.
Q Ambassador Wilson says that he was told by a reporter that Karl Rove said, "Wilson's wife is fair game." I know you've spoken with Karl, does he deny that?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Does he deny that he ever used those words, "Wilson's wife is fair game"?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look, the issue here, and this came up earlier, the issue here is whether or not someone leaked classified information. That is a serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest. I have seen comments from Mr. Wilson. And I have seen him back away from those comments later. It seems to be, he said one thing previously about Karl Rove, and then he backed away from it. And now he's saying other things. There's a changing of the issue here all of a sudden. The issue here is did someone leak classified information, and, if so, who was that person, and then the appropriate action should be taken.
Q You have said previously from the podium that these types of accusations against Karl are "ridiculous."
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes.
Q On the very line that Ambassador Wilson says that Karl used, "Wilson's wife is fair game," is that wrong?
MR. McCLELLAN: I've just said, he has said a lot of things and then backed away from what --
Q Scott, I want to know --
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and then backed away from what he said. So I think part of your role is to do some further questioning there.
Q I'm asking you, that's why we're asking, to make sure -- I mean, we don't want to continue to report something that's inaccurate.
MR. McCLELLAN: If Mr. Wilson -- well, he made some comments earlier and then he backed away from them, and those comments were reported previously.
Q Does Karl deny that he said that?
MR. McCLELLAN: What were the words again?
Q "Wilson's wife is fair game."
MR. McCLELLAN: And who did he say it to?
Q To a reporter that then repeated it to Wilson.
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is -- the issue here -- what is the issue here? Did someone leak classified information? Is that the issue?
Q It could be about changing the tone, too.
MR. McCLELLAN: All of a sudden now, we're trying to change the topic in this room.
Q There's a legal issue, there's an ethical issue, too. Going after a man's wife is unethical.
MR. McCLELLAN: Let me make it very clear. As I said previously, he was not involved, and that allegation is not true in terms of leaking classified information, nor would he condone it. So let me be very clear. But I'm not going to -- we're not going to go down every single allegation that someone makes. That's just -- we can do that all day long. Let's stay focused on what the issue is here.
Q You said the issue here was whether someone leaked classified information. As I understand the applicable laws here, isn't the real issue whether someone knowingly leaked classified information?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, yes, you may -- I may stand corrected on that, you'll have to look at the law. I'm not going to play a lawyer from here. But the leaking of -- I'll go back to what I have said and what the President has said, and what he has always said, that the leaking of classified information is a serious matter and it should be pursued to the fullest extent. And the Department of Justice is doing that now.
Â« Close It
BLOG: Hating Yale
Hey, maybe that explains why people hate Hillary, Clarence Thomas, Pat Robertson and Howard Dean, too!
LAW: In Chaos There Is Opportunity
POLITICS: Recall Sunset
You know, when they're writing your obituary a week before the election and scarcely two weeks after polls had you as the front-runner, things aren't going too well. But, of course, to Democrats the name of the game is still what they can do after the votes are cast to change the result.
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: More McNabb
While I tend to agree with my co-blogger The Mad Hibernian that some of the outrage at Rush Limbaugh over his comments on Donovan McNabb is rather artificial (Howard Cosell got away with worse), the fact is that this was a really idiotic thing for Rush to say, and one that will probably doom his second career as a sportscaster. Let's put this in perspective: Rush has a new job. He comes with a reputation. Ex-ballplayers have to prove to the audience that they're not just dumb, inarticulate jocks. Dennis Miller had to prove that there was a place for a comedian in the Monday Night Football booth. The one thing Rush has to prove is that he can keep his politics out of his football commentary. Responding to questions about the NFL's silly minority-hiring mandates is one thing; the network asked him to give his take on that controversial subject.
If Terry Bradshaw or John Madden said Donovan McNabb was overrated in part because of his race, it wouldn't be news. Bill Simmons, last Friday:
I can't imagine any QB in the league playing worse than McNabb did two weeks ago. Is he even that good? It's like the Ben Affleck thing -- everyone keeps telling me that Ben Affleck is a major movie star, enough times that you even start believing it ... but check out his filmography on IMDB.com some time. Not exactly a bevy of hits. Same goes for McNabb. For a few years, he was a winning QB on a very good football team. Doesn't make him a superstar.
But a lot of people will now just say, "Limbaugh. We knew he was a bigot." And that doesn't help Rush's ability to get people to hear his political message, either.
UPDATE: I seem to be behind the news cycle a bit on Limbaugh - more on the broader story later.
October 1, 2003
POLITICS: Novak Speaks Again
Bob Novak's column this morning is about . . . well, about Bob Novak:
To protect my own integrity and credibility, I would like to stress three points. First, I did not receive a planned leak. Second, the CIA never warned me that the disclosure of Wilson's wife working at the agency would endanger her or anybody else. Third, it was not much of a secret.
* * *
During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger. When I called another official for confirmation, he said: ''Oh, you know about it.'' The published report that somebody in the White House failed to plant this story with six reporters and finally found me as a willing pawn is simply untrue.
If you're keeping score at home, Novak is dropping some minor hints on who the leakers were . . .
POLITICS/WAR: More from the Plame Wars
I don't have the ambition to do a big post on this yet -- but Sparkey over at Sgt. Stryker noted something vurrrry interesting: Joseph Wilson is employed by the Middle East Institute, a think tank funded by my friend and yours, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. (He's also apparently an advisor to a lobbying firm for the Turkish government).
Now, let's assume for the sake of argument that Valerie Plame really was a covert operative -- or even an analyst with access to sensitive information and responsibility for interpreting it -- working on sensitive WMD intelligence issues. Am I the only one who finds it scary that, at the very same time, her husband is on the payroll of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is (to put it mildly) at least an arguably unfriendly government? At the risk of sounding like Tailgunner Joe here, how many other people on the CIA's Middle East/terrorism/WMD beat are financially supported by the Wahabbis or other hostile/fanatical foreign powers? And if there isn't a law against this, shouldn't there be?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:37 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Traffic Report
As you can see, the digit counter says I passed 50,000 hits on Monday. I've been having some record traffic days lately, particularly the day David Pinto got linked to by Instapundit, which cascaded a bunch of people over here. Pinto, of course, has been my main source of steady traffic since the beginning here; besides my blogiversaries, I should be celebrating September 14 as the 1-year anniversary of getting a link from Baseball Musings.
From looking at the SiteMeter and HostMatters reports, it seems that my traffic is very much driven by three things:
1. Links to my posts. On days when someone links to a post, I get a disproportionate amount of traffic. This, of course, reminds me that traffic here is driven by people coming to read specific stuff, which keeps me honest.
2. Secondary traffic, like when someone who links to me gets a big link, usually an Instalanche.
3. Search engines. For example, my post on the new strike zone in 2002 gets a lot of incoming traffic because it appears prominently when you Google "boston sports guy". My post on sabermetrics and warbloggers is top of the list if you Google bill james sabermetrics. Some of that seems like random traffic, but if you came here looking for something and stuck with the site, all the better.
Of course, you'll notice that #1 and #3 are both much bigger sources of traffic ever since I moved to Movable Type, with its superior (and Googlable) archives and easier-to-permalink posts.
BASEBALL: Mazzone. Leo Mazzone.
If you want yet another reason to be amazed at Leo Mazzone, you can look at Jaret Wright's line with the Braves (counting last night's outing) compared to his line from the rest of 2002-03:
Yes, small sample size, and yes, it's a little unfair to include Wright's work as a starter in Cleveland. But the point is, the Braves can take a guy who's about as ineffective as you can get, and there he is a few weeks later pitching in the 7th inning of a close playoff game, pushing his ERA with the team below 2.00.