"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
January 30, 2004
POLITICS: That's Debatable!
The Washington Post offers a partial transcript from last night's Democratic debate. Let's have a little fun with some choice quotes, focusing mainly on the two principal candidates and that wacky funster, The Most General Wesley Clark:
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BROKAW: You saw the defense -- you saw the National Intelligence Estimate, Senator Edwards, as a member of the Intelligence Committee. Did you believe it when you saw it? And was that the basis for your vote, which you enthusiastically talked about when you made the vote to authorize war against Iraq?
KERRY: I will tell you, and I think General Clark will share this, that those who've been to war know that the words "last resort" are important. And I intend to hold him accountable in this election, because the American people's pockets are being picked to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars, and our troops are at greater risk than they needed to be.
Hmm, pockets being picked . . . by our troops in the field? If he's talking about Halliburton, hundreds of billions?
CLARK: We need an international organization. We need to be able to bring every nation in that wants to help. . . . But I want to go back to the question you raised a minute ago about Iraq, because I heard from the Pentagon two weeks after 9/11 that the administration was determined to go into Iraq, whether or not there was any connection with 9/11; that they were going to use it as a pretext for invading Iraq.
And I thought he was just trying to change this Administration. This is a lot of foolishness crammed into a short space: Isn't the point to get help from nations who currently don't want to help? Is he ever going to stop peddling these vague conspiracy theories? And didn't the war start on March 19?
BROKAW: Senator Kerry, let me ask you a question. Robert Kagan, who writes about these issues a great deal from the Carnegie Institute for Peace, has written recently that Europeans believe that the Bush administration has exaggerated the threat of terrorism, and the Bush administration believes that the Europeans simply don't get it.
He's a slippery one, that Kerry - he's playing the "it's a law enforcement issue" card, but leaving himself an out, as always.
BROKAW: Was there an inadequate response to terrorism during President Clinton's term?
Doesn't that just say it all? Clark has no idea why giving up after lobbing a few missiles at bin Laden and missing didn't work. For a guy who blames Bush for not preventing September 11, that's an awfully agnostic response.
EDWARDS: Can I just go back a moment ago -- to a question you asked just a moment ago? You asked, I believe, Senator Kerry earlier whether there's an exaggeration of the threat of the war on terrorism.
Maybe Kerry's not so slippery after all. Edwards nailed him but good on that one. Now, if he can teach President Bush to walk and chew gum at the same time . . .
DEAN: You know, I think in some ways, unfortunately, the terrorists have already won. We have an act that allows American citizens to be held without knowing what they're charged with and without seeing a lawyer. To my knowledge, that hasn't happened since 1798, with the Alien and Sedition Acts.
Mmm, there's an optimistic campaign slogan: "the terrorists have already won"! And that crack about the Federalists . . . you talkin' to me, Howard?
KERRY: I will be a president who's on the side of workers in this country to provide the American worker with a fair playing field, to provide the American worker with a fair shot to be able to compete. Because that's not what they have today.
Yup, we don't want large corporations, um, buying jobs from the president?
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BASKETBALL: Coach Ewing?
The Washingtonian's Capital Comment from its February edition (11th item) reports rumors that Patrick Ewing might be brought in to coach the Georgetown basketball team. Although I must say, the report seems more like unsupported speculation than rumor.
POLITICS: Campaign Links
"You have a Jim Rassmann, who was a Special Forces officer that was blown off John Kerry's small boat ... When John Kerry turned that boat back and hauled Jim Rassmann out of the water, risking his own life, what he has said: We leave no one behind. He didn't leave Jim Rassmann behind. He won't leave veterans behind."
--Ted Kennedy, who left Mary Jo Kopechne behind. (Link via NGD)
--Noam Scheiber notes that in 1991, John Kerry's office was sending pro-war letters to pro-war constituents and anti-war letters to anti-war constituents (Link via Andrew Sullivan)
--Over at The Command Post, I quote at length from RNC Chair Ed Gillespie's speech ripping into John Kerry's voting record on national security. Highlight: Kerry voted in 1997 to cut $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget. (I also liked Gillespie's crack on Edwards: "I heard Sen. Edwards was disappointed that he got only 13 percent of the vote in New Hampshire after getting 33 percent in Iowa. I guess as a trial lawyer he just assumed he would always get a third.").
--The New Republic (subscription only) says Kerry's 1997 book The New War "was almost entirely focused on the threat of global crime-not terrorism." As TNR notes, the book isn't terrible, but it certainly isn't the visionary tract Kerry now makes it out to be. And get this doozy:
Perhaps worst of all is the odd note on which he closes-a call for repairing America's domestic health through after-school programs, health care for all, and early-childhood intervention. Those programs, Kerry writes, "will enable us to make peace in our own country and contribute to it elsewhere." After reading that Manhattan is likely to be nuked someday, a reader can be forgiven for expecting more.
--A link to the full text of Kerry's dramatic 1971 testimony to Congress. Note that the "Winter Soldier Investigation" (discussed here) is the opening and thematic centerpiece of this speech, which launched Kerry's political career.
--Fortune magazine notes that Wesley Clark just made $1.2 million (at least on paper) from his investment in a German company, and that this was essentially a risk-free investment set up by business associates. Nice work if you can get it.
--This morning's NY Daily News looks at Clark's videotaped address to the annual conference of the Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America, a group under investigation for ties to terrorism. "Two past conference speakers face terror-related indictments and a third is identified in FBI reports as a Hamas terror leader."
--Also in the Daily News, gossip columnist Lloyd Grove (second item) relates some of the hate mail he's getting for questioning whether John Kerry has had Botox to render his famously furrowed brow smooth and motionless. Um, he is a gossip columnist. This is the first and, I'm sure, last time I'll say this: this is an issue for Maureen Dowd!
WAR: On The Other Side
Matt Welch notes a recent interview with British journalist John Pilger in which he urges support for the Iraqi "anti-occupation resistance." Matt's headline is right on target.
January 29, 2004
BASEBALL: Full 2003 DIPS Report
Don't forget to check out Jay Jaffe's Defense Independent Pitching Stats (DIPS) calculations for 2003. Having done the mid-season computations myself on the simplified version of the DIPS formula, I can appreciate how much work goes into this.
BASEBALL: Sheffield to Third?
Gary Sheffield is offering to return to third base to solve the Yankees' dilemma that arose when Aaron Boone went down. As David Pinto has noted, this would be a logical solution even though it would exacerbate the extent to which the Yankee infield is already a defensive disaster.
WAR: Kay For Everyone
David Kay's appearance before Congress (besides confirming that Kay is a dead ringer for Bob Barr) gives plenty for both sides of the neverending Iraq war debate to think about. Let's start by flashing back to what I wrote on this topic in September 2002:
There's been an unreal quality about the whole Iraq debate, arising from the gulf between the real, practical considerations for going to war and the legal arguments, under international and U.S. law, for doing so in a way that will bring Congress and the U.N. with us. The real reasons include Saddam's motive to use terrorist proxies and weapons of mass destruction against us, his opportunity to do so, the interconnection between Saddam's tyranny and aggressiveness and the general cesspool of government in the Muslim and Arab worlds and the positive example of fear we set by taking out our #1 declared enemy among nation-states. The legal arguments, by contrast, include the pre-existing Congressional and U.N. resolutions authorizing force, the legal and practical fact that we remain at war with him by virtue of his violation of cease-fire conditions and the unabated hostilities over the no-fly zone, and specifically Saddam's noncompliance with weapons inspections.
* * *
[T]he question is not whether we can meet the heavy burden of developing a casus belli from scratch. Bush is not a prosecutor overcoming the presumption of innocence; he's the exasperated parole officer of a guy who's violated all the conditions of his probation. And he made it quite plain that the international community has to understand that if Saddam gets away with this, the U.N. will never be able to put anyone on probation again.
For fans of the legal argument - generally the opponents of war - Kay's findings have been damning: it is now clear that Saddam's regime was in very serious violation of numerous UN resolutions, including continuing to have WMD programs and failing to cooperate with weapons inspections. It is equally clear that further inspections would not have gotten to the bottom of this, given the apparatus of deception and intimidation surrounding the programs. And recall, again, that these resolutions were the conditions of the 1991 cease-fire; we had all the grounds we needed to call off the cease-fire and resume hostilities.
But for those of us who were more interested in the practical arguments, we have to live with the painful ambiguity: Saddam probably didn't have WMD that presented an imminent threat. Of course, caveats apply to that: there were other reasons for war; the whole point of the Bush Doctrine of preemption is to head off threats before they are imminent; Saddam may still have had bioweapons stocks sufficient to kill Americans and cause panic, in the wrong hands (consider how little anthrax was needed to panic the country's faith in the mail). But the hope for a smoking gun that would humble the critics into submission is long gone.
One guy who's vindicated in this whole thing is James Lacey, the TIME reporter who I believe was the first person (at least that I saw; check out his May 15, 2003 article on NRO) to float the theory that is now Kay's working hypothesis after delving deeply into the evidence: that Saddam himself was deceived by terrified underlings into believing that he had an extensive WMD program. Not only does this explain why Saddam worked so hard to avoid detection of the program, why the world's intelligence agencies were all fooled, and why even Saddam's own generals believed he had a WMD program (including why they issued gas masks to Iraqi soldiers in the field), but it also explains why we keep seeing 'mobile bio-weapons labs' and 'drones' that look sort of like the tools of a WMD program, but turn out on inspection to be functionally useless. Occam's Razor wins another round.
POLITICS: Campaign Links
1. A look back at Will Saletan's definitive take on why John Kerry was such a brave soldier and such a timid politician.
3. For now, at least, President Bush is polling well in California. If Bush can even be competitive in California in the fall, that means two things: the Democrats have to expend valuable resources there, and Bush is probably doing even better elsewhere. But I'll believe this is real when I see it hold up over more time (FOX quotes a Democratic consultant attributing this to the Arnold-honeymoon effect). I remain skeptical (as I noted here and here) about California going Republican all of a sudden.
POLITICS: The Kerry Files
Yesterday, ABC's The Note re-posted a pair of hilarious memos from John Kerry's outgoing campaign heads to the incoming heads last November (one was from ousted campaign manager Jim Jordan to his incoming replacement, Mary Beth Cahill; the other was from departing communications spokesguy Robert Gibbs to the arriving Stephanie Cutter). These aren't smoking-gun stuff, since it's pretty common knowledge that campaign people talk like this, but they are deeply humorous reading and, since The Note doesn't have archives, I'll reprint them here in their entirety:
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TO: MBC FROM: JJ RE: Big Bad John
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January 27, 2004
POLITICS: He Was A Soldier Once And Wrong
Mackubin Thomas Owens on NRO has a scathing look at the vicious slanders spread by John Kerry against Vietnam veterans back when he wasn't so proud to be one:
Kerry began by referring to the Winter Soldiers Investigation in Detroit. Here, he claimed, "over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command."It is impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit, the emotions in the room, the feelings of the men who were reliving their experiences in Vietnam, but they did, they relived the absolute horror of what this country, in a sense, made them do.
POLITICS: Two New Hampshire Thoughts
*Prediction: the nomination race will, and should, ultimately turn on Michigan on February 7. It's a big state, an industrial state, it's after each region of the country has had a taste of the leading Democrats and the field has narrowed, and -- along with Pennsylvania and Ohio -- it's the core of the states where the November election will be decided.
*Joe Lieberman's declaration that he's got the "Joe-Mentum" is the saddest thing I think I've ever heard from a major candidate. He was on tonight trying to spin 9% of the vote in a state in his native region of the country as something to keep him in the game. I kinda like Lieberman, but . . . it's so, Joe. It's so.
POLITICS: Generally Wrong
Tom Maguire catches a great backtrack in the NY Times from a Wesley Clark spokesman on the General's statements on abortion:
The Clark spokesman, Jamal Simmons . . . described the exchange with The Union-Leader's publisher as "a rhetorical fight with a conservative, right-wing, anti-choice editorial board."
As long as we're making martial analogies, I'd say that the first version of any statement by General Clark is a rhetorical Maginot Line, impressive to his supporters but easily overrun and ultimately indefensible.
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During the interview I heard Saturday he announced his support for progressive taxation, and I perked up: he'd previously noted that he thought "this country was founded on the principle of progressive taxation." Well, he expanded that idea, and said that if you don't believe in progressive taxation, you're not patriotic. The host asked him to repeat himself, and said - not a direct quote, I was in the shower without a pen and paper - "so you're saying that if someone doesn't believe in progressive taxation, they're not patriotic?" And Clark said yes.
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BASEBALL: AL West Established Win Shares Report
In this post, I introduced Established Win Shares Levels, a combination of two Bill James stats, to rank the top players in baseball based on a weighted average of their accomplishments for the last three years. But EWSLs have another use: you can add up the totals on a team's roster to get a fix on how much talent (or at least, how much established major league talent) a team has, and thus an early read on comparing the strength of teams as they enter the season. Lots of cautions apply here, as you'll see as I walk through my method; this is more art than science, although I do try to make my methods as transparent as I can for purposes of allowing people to analyze and critique them.
I'm starting with the AL West, which is the smallest division, and in theory at least I'd like to find the time to get through all six (we shall see; I reserve the right to switch to doing 1 team at a time if it's easier to swallow). Here are the basics of the method:
*23 players from each team, 9 starters, 4 bench players (8 and 5 for NL teams), 10 pitchers.
*For players who only played one or two years, I used those years if the player was playing regularly in the minors or overseas the other year (except veterans who had been sent back to the minors due to poor play). This was a judgment call, but let's face it: it doesn't make sense to project Hideki Matsui by slicing his 2003 numbers in half. I didn't adjust for guys like Gil Meche who missed two years with injuries. I've indicated the players who got 2-year credit with a # and 1-year credit with a *, so you can back out the numbers if you like.
*For rookie non-pitchers with everyday jobs, I've arbitrarily pencilled in 10 Win Shares (indicated with +), which may sound optimistic, but 10 WS for an everyday player is pretty poor, and it helps counteract the bias in the system towards established veteran talent. I'll use 7 WS for rookie pitchers with rotation slots, 3 for bench players and 2 for relievers.
*I'm listing each team's unadjusted and adjusted numbers, to show the effects of the two adjustments listed above.
*I fiddled with having an age adjustment, but it got too complicated and arbitrary. Instead, I'm listing side-by-side each team's weighted average 2004 age (weighted by adjusted EWSLs). This takes studies like Avkash's recent look at average age by playing time to the next level, focusing on which teams' talent is aging (after all, if you're the Giants, it's Barry Bonds' age that matters most).
*I used WS figures from the new Bill James Handbook, so there could be slight discrepancies with online WS numbers, including the ones I used for my earlier EWSL post.
*Team EWSL totals, adjusted and unadjusted, are done from the un-rounded numbers, but I report the rounded-off totals by individual player. Don't be thrown by the fact that the "best" team in the AL West comes in at 93 wins; the way the system is structured and the fact that I'm limiting myself to 23 men per roster means we'll come in a bit below enough wins to bring the whole league home at .500.
Without further ado, in declining order of Adjusted EWSL, your American League West:
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Adjusted EWSL: 279.3 (93 wins)
Immediately, you see the problem with the method: the Mariners are stuffed to the gills with established players, but they are nearly all aging players, as the team's weighted average age of nearly 33 tells you; there's nearly nobody here with an upside outside of the setup men. On paper, before you take their age into account, I can see the M's as favorites. After you consider the age factor, though, I'd have to go with:
Adjusted EWSL: 273.5 (91 wins)
This is a strong team; you can see the additions of Guerrero and Colon bringing them to the lead. I may have overvalued DaVanon by rating him on 2003 alone, but he'd never gotten a shot at the major league level before.
UPDATE: Due to a typo, I'd listed the wrong tenth pitcher. This didn't affect the team calculations. It's fixed now.
Adjusted EWSL: 257.7 (86 wins)
At first glance it seems surprising to see the A's this far back, but then we all know they've been hemmorhaging talent, and it's no surprise that Billy Beane has invested in a lot of guys like Kielty and Byrnes who haven't really gotten a full season of at bats, or injury risks like Dye. That's who comes on the cheap. You can see how dependent the A's are on their Big Three, which will be more apparent still if Mulder hasn't made a full recovery by the spring. As usual, of course, don't bet against Beane improving this roster in mid-season.
Adjusted EWSL: 176.3 (59 wins)
Ugh. Can you say, "long summer in Texas"? I know, I know, the Rangers are at the opposite end of the methodological pole from the Mariners: lots of guys with upside, some of it (Blalock and Teixera) all but certain, and the team age is a lot younger than it looks, since the young guys are so lacking in established credentials that people like Eric Young and Brian Jordan (neither of whom I'd even noticed signing with the Rangers) skew the average. But any way you slice it, the point here is that an awful lot of things that haven't happened in the past have to happen just for the Rangers to be in the same area code as the other three teams in their division.
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January 26, 2004
LAW: Mistrust of Antitrust
I didn't really see this get much attention around the blogosphere: the Supreme Court's opinion two weeks ago in Verizon Commun., Inc. v. Law Offices of Curtis Trinko, LLP, No. 02-682 (U.S. Jan. 13, 2004). The Court's decision was interesting enough, for those who closely follow antitrust law: the Court unanimously rejected an attempt by a customer of a long-distance telephone company (AT&T) to sue the local exchange carrier, or "LEC" (Verizon) under the Sherman Antitrust Act on the theory that Verizon harmed long-distance competition (and thus the customer and a putative class) by failing to provide AT&T with sufficient access to Verizon's facilities pursuant to the 1996 Telecommunications Act. Justice Scalia, writing for 6 members of the Court, found that the plaintiff failed to meet fit within the narrow class of cases where antitrust law imposes a duty on companies to assist their rivals, given that the alleged duty to do so arising from the Telecommunications Act was a creature of statute:
In the present case, by contrast, the services allegedly withheld are not otherwise marketed or available to the public. The sharing obligation imposed by the 1996 Act created “something brand new”-“the wholesale market for leasing network elements.” . . . The unbundled elements offered pursuant to §251(c)(3) exist only deep within the bowels of Verizon; they are brought out on compulsion of the 1996 Act and offered not to consumers but to rivals, and at considerable expense and effort. New systems must be designed and implemented simply to make that access possible . . .
(Citation omitted). (Justices Stevens, Souter and Thomas thought that the case should have been dismissed because the plaintiff lacked standing to sue). The Court also refused to embrace or reject the so-called "essential facilities" doctrine (a controversial doctrine of antitrust law, never directly ruled upon by the Supreme Court, under which it is sometimes argued that access to private facilities like railway switching stations -- or desktop operating systems -- are so essential to competition that all competitors must be given access). The Court reasoned that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim under the doctrine in light of the fact that the fact of federal legislation showed that the facilities could be accessed by means other than recourse to antitrust law -- in other words, if Congress can regulate the facility directly, it isn't so essential that only antitrust law can do so.
What really makes the Verizon opinion interesting, though, was Justice Scalia's strongly-worded expression of skepticism (still joined in by a 6-Justice majority) about the value of extending antitrust law to create duties of companies to aid their rivals in already-regulated industries:
One factor of particular importance is the existence of a regulatory structure designed to deter and remedy anticompetitive harm. Where such a structure exists, the additional benefit to competition provided by antitrust enforcement will tend to be small, and it will be less plausible that the antitrust laws contemplate such additional scrutiny. Where, by contrast, “[t]here is nothing built into the regulatory scheme which performs the antitrust function,” the benefits of antitrust are worth its sometimes considerable disadvantages. Just as regulatory context may in other cases serve as a basis for implied immunity, it may also be a consideration in deciding whether to recognize an expansion of the contours of §2.
(Emphasis added; citations omitted). The Court clearly 'gets it': in fast-moving markets, the blunt instrument of antitrust law is usually more trouble than it is worth (note the citation to the DC Circuit's Microsoft opinion). And where regulatory agencies already tread, adding private treble damages litigation to the mix is likely to reduce, rather than enhance, free and open competition.
January 25, 2004
BLOG: Closing In On 100,000
As you can see, the Digits.com counter on the left should pass 100,000 hits some time on Monday. Email me if you hit the site and see the counter go to 100,000 on the nose. (I installed the counter very early in my days on Blogger, so it should be an accurate count).
January 24, 2004
BASEBALL/BLOG/POLITICS/LAW: Musings on Pinto
Congratulations are in order for David Pinto, who's moving on to a job with Baseball Info Solutions, the publishers of the new Bill James Handbook. David's been a great friend to this site, and I wish him well; he'll apparently be moving his blog to their site.
I have to wonder if the Sporting News, which bought out STATS, Inc. and shut down its annual baseball handbook (which competed with TSN's inferior publication), made a huge mistake common to arrogant baseball men by failing to consider that the key STATS employees, starting with John Dewan, might go and re-start essentially the same book with a new company. Had they thought about that, they could have (1) incorporated more of STATS' elements in the TSN annual or (2) included contract provisions in the sale requiring that key employees not compete with TSN for a number of years. Looks like they whiffed on that one.
On another note, David has this amusing nugget from Peter Gammons:
Gammons and [John] Kerry played hockey against each other in prep school, and Peter told me once that Kerry was the dirtiest hockey player he ever saw.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:30 AM | Baseball 2004 | Blog 2002-05 | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 23, 2004
POLITICS: Why Not Show Me?
The next batch of primaries after New Hampshire on January 27 is a seven-state breakout on February 3. The Democratic National Committee's site has what appears to be a definitive calendar of the remaining primary schedule. The Feb. 3 lineup:
Now, let me ask a silly question, since I don't know the answer to this: why does South Carolina get all the attention when reporters talk about the step after New Hampshire - are some of the others nonbinding or something? Missouri in particular is a swing state right in the heart of the country and bigger than South Carolina (11 electoral votes to SC's 8), and now its favorite son has dropped out. You'd think that would be a bigger story than a state the Democrats can't carry in November anyway. New Mexico went Democrat by a hair in 2000, and is a critical state in November; together with Arizona (which has 10 electoral votes and is probably in play if the Democrats are competitive), it provides an early test in the West, where none of the remaining candidates has a regional base. Even Oklahoma is nothing to sneeze at.
So why does the media keep talking only about the primaries as Iowa-New Hampshire-South Carolina?
BLOG/BASEBALL: Programming Note
Expect the baseball content around here to be more sporadic from now until at least mid-February, for at least three reasons:
1. There's usually not a lot of hard news coming out between late January and mid-February.
2. I'll be focusing a lot of my attention on the Democratic primaries, which are shaping up to be quite a race, at least for the next few weeks and possibly until March 2 or later.
And most importantly:
3. I'm hard at work on some bigger, more labor-intensive stuff, which I'll be rolling out intermittently over the next few weeks if I have the time; mainly, now that I have the Bill James Handbook to work from, I'll be trying to expand my look at Established Win Shares Levels to a team-by-team rundown of each division. Of course, it wouldn't be the first time if this blog started a series and couldn't finish it, but I'll get through what I can. But the EWSL stuff will eat up most of my baseball-blogging time.
POLITICS/WAR: EDWARDS LIED!!!!!!!!!!!!
In addressing some of Bush's key points of attack against John Edwards yesterday, I didn't mention Edwards' obvious inexperience, particularly in foreign affairs. Naturally, that remains his biggest vulnerability, which I'll get into more another day.
But Edwards is vulnerable from another flank as well: once Joe Lieberman is out of the race, he becomes the most pro-Iraq-war Democrat left, and that could render him uniquely exposed to the potential for a third-party challenge. A left-wing anti-war third party would get its most votes in places like California and the Northeast, where the Democrats are likely to run strongly anyway, but the places where it could be a factor are a number of swing states the Democrats need badly: Washington, Oregon, Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.
It's not just that Edwards supported the war (I'll deal another day with his position since the main combat operations ended); it's that his full-throated support for the most controversial justification for the war -- that Saddam's regime had weapons of mass destruction -- puts him so totally at odds with the charges made by the anti-war Left (Dean, Clark, Ted Kennedy, Paul Krugman, etc.) that the war was some sort of political stunt or oil grab dreamed up in Texas and that our WMD intelligence was all a creation of Dick Cheney and the perfidious neocons.
Of course, we all know that Edwards has plenty of company on the Left - others who stuck their necks out on the WMD allegations include such right-wing warmongers as Bill and Hillary Clinton, Dick Gephardt, Lieberman and Tony Blair. But Edwards' statements on the matter were notably definitive:
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As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I firmly believe that the issue of Iraq is not about politics. It's about national security. We know that for at least 20 years, Saddam Hussein has obsessively sought weapons of mass destruction through every means available. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons today. He has used them in the past, and he is doing everything he can to build more. Each day he inches closer to his longtime goal of nuclear capability -- a capability that could be less than a year away.
You will note that Edwards is on the Intelligence Committee (no doubt, to be fair, a fact his defenders will point to to show his experience). What that means is, he had access to intelligence on his own -- not everything that was available to the president, to be sure, but plenty enough to make up his own mind.
Saddam Hussein's regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. We know that he has chemical and biological weapons. He has already used them against his neighbors and his own people, and is trying to build more. We know that he is doing everything he can to build nuclear weapons, and we know that each day he gets closer to achieving that goal.
Now, I should stress here that I agree entirely with Edwards' statements from the fall of 2002: the available evidence did indeed suggest very strongly that Saddam was a "clear threat" and a "grave threat" to the United States, possessed chemical and biological weapons, and intended to acquire nuclear weapons. But having agreed with the president on this issue, Edwards may have trouble winning over voters in his own party who view these positions as a massive fraud.
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January 22, 2004
WAR/RELIGION: Serving Two Difficult Masters
The Washington Post carries an inspiring look at Dan Knight, a former Green Beret who's now a military chaplain on the front lines in Iraq:
"Being a noncombatant is not exactly my cup of tea, but if it's what God wants me to do, I'll abide," said Knight, 37, whose duties are to nurture the living, comfort the wounded and honor the dead. "I don't crave combat, but I fight to get on every mission I can. There's nothing more rewarding to me than being on the battlefield, praying with a wounded man."
It's a hard life to follow one of those callings, let alone both. As one soldier puts it, "He's just got an extra chain of command than the rest of us do."
POLITICS: Edwardian Nightmare
I gotta say, all of a sudden my prediction last January of Edwards and Kerry as the top 2 candidates for the Democrats (in that order), with Lieberman a distant sixth and Dean a candidate with some appeal and advantages but no staying power, is looking pretty good right now, although I did overrate Gephardt and Bob Graham (I clearly hadn't seen Graham in "action" enough). As of now, I'm mentally preparing for Edwards, who's the most dangerous of the Democratic candidates and who will require a different emphasis for Bush.
Three keys to beating Edwards, in my view:
1. Show how his populism really means taking choices away from Regular People and giving them to government. Issues like private Social Security accounts, medical savings accounts, and school choice are kryptonite to populists. Note that all these were emphasized by Bush again in his State of the Union address.
2. Make an issue of judges. Edwards, together with Patrick Leahy and Chuck Schumer, led the battle against Bush's judges, effectively pushing for more liberal courts. Not only are there "smoking gun" memos showing how this strategy was dictated by Democratic special interest groups, but once you get away from platitudes about "strict constructionists" and get to reality, it's real easy to show how liberal judges take power from the people and use it in ways that the people would never agree to. Bush is wisely pushing this angle of the gay marriage debate; while people remain ambivalent or deeply split about gay marriage, very few people like the idea of having unelected judges tell us that the Constitution mandated all along a radical change in a thousands-of-years-old institution, in ways nobody was even talking about 15 years ago.
3. Don't overplay the "trial lawyer" angle. With apologies to Walter Olson, who notes Edwards' reliance on "junk science" in his career as a lawyer, you don't want to argue Edwards' own cases (he knows them better than anyone), and not everyone hates trial lawyers. What matters more is showing how Edwards is financially dependent on the trial bar and has consistently opposed any meaningful reform of the system, which has the additional effect of revealing the true hollowness of his anti-special-interest rhetoric.
POLITICS: Heading for New Hampshire
For the record:
1. Howard Dean's getting a lot of undeserved grief over that yell at the end of his Iowa not-really-a-concession-speech, but it sounded more like a yee-hah! to me. Still, the speech as a whole was a bit more animated than we'd expect from a guy trying to look presidential, and as often happens in presidential politics, it may be unfair based on one speech, but the general attack (that Dean is way too hot-headed and impulsive) is dead on the mark as far as his campaign goes.
2. Mickey Kaus quotes Chris Matthews saying that after the Iowa backlash against Dean and Gephardt, the candidates are gunshy about going negative. Bad timing! As I pointed out four years ago, New Hampshire voters love negative campaigns (remember McCain, Buchanan, Gene McCarthy).
3. New Hampshire is now critical for Dean, of course: he needs to win, and win convincingly, to avoid an implosion, and some recent polls show precisely that (Kerry's quick surge from 10% to 27% shows that some of his recent losses in the NH polls had been people who liked him but gave up on his campaign as being out of the race). It's also critical for Clark: if he finishes lower than second, he's going to South Carolina without having been a story in either of the first two primaries, and he's in trouble. A strong third place finish, at least, is probably needed to keep Lieberman on the ropes rather than the mat; if he polls less than 10% again, he just might give up after all, leaving Edwards as the most pro-war candidate left in the race. New Hampshire can help Kerry and Edwards, but can't really hurt them unless Kerry just gets crushed.
LAW: American Justice
So, I had to report for jury duty yesterday in state Supreme Court; didn't get put on a panel, but sat in the back for the voir dire of prospective jurors for a criminal case. One juror - I won't mention any identifying information about him - was asked the following questions and gave the following answers (this is a rough approximation, of course):
Q: Have you ever been a victim of a violent crime, charged with any crime or involved in any way with the criminal justice system?
You just gotta love our legal system sometimes. You can't make this stuff up.
January 21, 2004
BASEBALL: Drilling Roger
Andrew Koch crunches some numbers on the question: will Roger Clemens get beaned in the NL? His answers:
Does Roger Clemens hit more batters than the average pitcher? Nope. In 2003, the average AL pitcher hit 10 batters per 1,000 batters faced (BFP), while Clemens hit only 5.7 per 1,000 BFP. Maybe Clemens has mellowed in his old age -- he must have hit more batters earlier in his career, right? Right, but not that many more. Over his career, Clemens has hit about 8 batters per 1,000 BFP. He's really not that reckless.
Of course, Clemens also throws at a lot he doesn't hit; the third finding is the most interesting . . . read the whole thing. (Link via Will Carroll).
POP CULTURE/BASEBALL/POLITICS, etc.: A Few Of My Favorite Books
Nothing scratches the blog itch quite like a little bout of list-making. With that in mind, I decided to draw up a list of my all-time favorite books. For reasons that will become obvious, I limited myself to one book per author, and in some cases the one book is something of a stand-in for a larger body of work. The top 10-15 of these are the real immortals, the ones I go back to again and again. In some cases, I suppose, I've also stretched the definition of "book," but hey, it's my list. I also decline to apologize for the paucity of literature and the prominence of baseball memoirs on this list; I've always preferred polemics, analyses, humor and great storytelling, and I've never made pretense at being deeply intellectual in my interests:
24. Raymond Woodcock, Take the Bar and Beat Me: I enjoy my job and the law, but not to the point where I can't see the humor in the profession of law. Woodcock, a reformed lawyer, graduate of Columbia Law School and practitioner at a big New York firm that has since gone under, wrote a scathingly humorous look at law school and the legal profession, and one I highly recommend to anyone considering a career in the law. Woodcock's take is blithely cynical in some places, but also self-critical, as he looks at how the law changed him, including his divorce (an occupational hazard of lawyering).
23. Leo Durocher, Nice Guys Finish Last: Leo's book, like Leo himself, is funny, vindictive, manipulative and an essential key to understanding six decades of baseball history, from Leo's run-ins with Ty Cobb to his frustrations with Cesar Cedeno.
22. Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged: A cliched choice for conservatives, although I came to read this one relatively late in life (just a few years ago) after I was pretty well set in my thoughts, and I still haven't read any of Rand's others. It's a tale well-told (even if John Galt's didactic speech drags a bit), skillfully playing on the unfairness, pettiness and venality of a system that gives some people the ability to decide how to dispose of the fruits of others' labors.
21. Joe Garagiola, Baseball is a Funny Game: Garagiola's was one of the first baseball books I read as a kid, and dog-eared it rather severely. It's unmistakably pre-Ball Four in its G-rated treatment of the game (it was published in 1960), and thus will seem horribly dated to the modern adult reader, but still manages to capture the earthy humor of ballplayers and the genuine love for the game of guys like Garagiola and his boyhood pal Yogi Berra, who came up from a working-class Italian-American section of St. Louis. Garagiola also captures an up-close look at important figures like Branch Rickey and Frankie Frisch. A similar collection of humorous stories about the game from the 1970s can be found in the late Ron Luciano's books.
20. Stephen Carter, Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby: A tough choice between Carter's books on church and state, affirmative action, and judicial confirmations, so I picked the one I read first. Carter describes himself mostly as a political liberal, but he fits comfortably in the neo-liberal camp in his willingness to challenge orthodoxies of the Left, especially on questions of race and religion. His writing is also a model of clarity and directness.
19. Scott Turow, One L: Yes, this was particularly influential because (like most everybody else in my law school class) I read it the summer before starting law school at Harvard. Harvard and law schools generally have changed a good deal since the 1970s, but Turow captures perfectly (and contributes to) the essentially internal psychodrama of the place. I'm also giving Turow credit here for his works of straight fiction, which are intricate and absorbing, however seamy.
18. Stephen King, Christine: King's books are always gripping, most of all The Shining and Christine. The latter gets extra points here for King's vividly accurate portrait of the minds of high school kids and the real and imagined terrors that can overcome them.
17. Mark Bowden, Black Hawk Down: As frightening as any Stephen King book, but much sadder; Bowden not only rescued the Battle of Mogadishu from historical obscurity, but in the process drew a compelling picture of the modern American military and the men who populate it, the mindset and tactics of its Third World adversaries (sometimes in spite of decent men in their midst), and the gulf that separates the two. The book's indictment of foreign-policy adventures like Somalia is almost an afterthought but one that stays with you.
16. Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August: If Bowden provided a readable and engrossing look at war from the ground level, Tuchman's World War I classic did the same from the top down. Tuchman recognized the Shakespearean tragedy of the onset of the Great War, and presents the plans of the various generals and the vissicitudes of the onset of war to maximize that effect. I also loved her book A Distant Mirror, a chilling compendium of the ills (literal and figurative) of 14th Century Europe.
15. Raymond Smullyan, Alice in Puzzle-Land: One of the many things I got from my mother was a love of logic puzzles, and Smullyan is the master of them. This book isn't just a collection of increasingly brain-bending puzzles, like his book The Lady or The Tiger?; it's also a clever and stylish takeoff on Lewis Carroll's bizarre cast of characters. The book is out of print and hard to find, but it remains a favorite.
14. J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: I was a bit of a latecomer to the Harry Potter books, having seen the first two movies with my wife (who'd read the books) before diving into this, the third installment (I've subsequently read the first two to my son); now I'm hooked. Having read all five, the third is the best, with a taut, fast-moving plot carrying lots twists (granted that a number of the surprises are telegraphed in advance). Perhaps as importantly, for the adult reader, Prisoner of Azkaban introduces the series' serious adult characters (i.e., characters who are more than just quirky authority figures).
13. The Opinions of Justice Antonin Scalia: The Caustic Conservative: Yes, I'm cheating here by citing a book that hasn't been released yet, based on its likely contents consisting of judicial opinions. I'll narrow it down here to its essence: the two opinions I particularly have in mind, and which have greatly influenced my thinking about American government and its principles, are his lone dissent in Morrison v. Olson (in which he argued that the independent counsel statute was unconstitutional, in terms that his nearly unanimous critics eventually had to concede a decade later), and Planned Parenthood v. Casey (his denunciation of the theoretical emptiness and illegitimacy of the Court's abortion jurisprudence). Taken together, the opinions set out a central theme of conservative thought about government: the need to draw governmental power only from sources whose legitimacy can be reaffirmed by keeping them accountable to the people.
12. Dr. Seuss, Horton Hears a Who: In enumerating favorite and influential books, too many people neglect the books they learned from first. But Dr. Seuss deserves a special place, and not only for charming this and many other hearers of his books to become readers of books in the first place. (I've also noted their usefulness in teaching children to read aloud). His longer books, with stories that have a moral to them, are masterpieces of precise and whimsical use of the English language, and in most cases manage to make their point without getting preachy, even on subjects (e.g., The Lorax and environmentalism) that are prone to heavy-handed one-sidedness. And they hold up so well that they are the rare children's book that an adult actually enjoys reading for its own sake.
My current favorite of these is I Had Trouble In Getting To Solla Sollew, which is a none-too-thinly-veiled slap at utopianism of all kinds. But the one that's endured the most in my consciousness since childhood is Horton Hears a Who, with a mantra that should be the creed of any pro-lifer: "A person's a person no matter how small." And its message of Horton's solitary courage when surrounded by neighbors who wish to define the Whos out of existence (one with undoubted Holocaust overtones) remains a powerful one for readers tall and small alike.
11. Baseball Prospectus 1999: I've arbitrarily picked the first of the BP books I bought. The Prospectus hasn't always been on the right side of the many arguments its staff has raised. Nor has it been as influential or groundbreaking, or nearly as entertaining, as Bill James' work; but the comparison is unfair. What matters is that they've consistently asked the important questions that were needed to move serious analysis of the game forward in the 1990s and beyond, and in so doing they've done a lot to drive the terms of debate ever since. I would never have understood baseball's post-1994 business environment and its ramifications without BP, and their work on projections, translations and pitcher workloads has often been groundbreaking. This is the first book I turn to every year to get a handle on the new season.
10. Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities: Wolfe's novel about a Wall Street investment banker who becomes a cause celebre after hitting a young African-American teen with his car after taking a wrong turn in the Bronx just perfectly sums up all the ills of pre-Giuliani New York (only some of which have been fixed since then). The satirical bite of the book is only enhanced by Hollywood's ham-handed efforts to sanitize its portrait of New York's ethnic politics. My dad, who was on the NYPD until the late 80s, swears by the authenticity of many of the scenes in this classic.
9. Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need: If you've only read Dave Barry's columns and skipped his books, you've missed a lot. I had a tough choice between the Travel Guide and Barry's Short History of the United States, which is basically his annual year-end column writ large, but the Travel Guide packed in just an unbelievable number of laughs in a short space.
8. Lawrence Ritter, The Glory of Their Times: Simply the best oral history of baseball ever done, and the one all the others copied. Ritter got a number of ballplayers from the early 20th century to open up to him; all or nearly all of them are dead and gone now, but not their stories.
7. The Book of Job: As you can no doubt tell from the balance of content on this blog, I'm a Catholic who doesn't think about religion as often as I should. But the Bible undoubtedly informs my thinking in ways I can't even perceive, and when I have read Scripture, the book I've most enjoyed reading (from the Old Testament, ahem) is Job. Job deals with the toughest questions that face any believer in an omnipotent and benevolent God must grapple with -- why bad things happen to good people, where sin and suffering belong in the world -- and doesn't provide any easy answers.
6. Peter Gammons, Beyond the Sixth Game: The best assignment I ever had in school was when my sophomore English teacher, Mr. Donnelly, gave us a list of books to report on and one of them was this classic by Peter Gammons. Gammons is a lot of things to a lot of people, and these days he's best known for (1) having the game's most extensive network of sources, and (2) uncritically repeating everything those sources tell him (which is not unrelated to the maintenance of (1)). He is at times an open mind friendly to statistical analyses of the game, and at times gives a soapbox and his imprimatur to denunciations of statistical analyses of the game.
But first and foremost, Gammons is a guy who loves baseball, loves the Red Sox, and can really write. Beyond the Sixth Game is the tale of the Red Sox from 1976-1985, when Gammons was the Boston Globe's beat writer for the team, and it's a love letter to every fan whose heart was broken by those teams, and a cold-eyed analysis of how it happened (Gammons' thesis is that the ownership of the Sox failed to appreciate the new financial realities of the free agent era). His portraits of the players are detailed and affectionate (especially Carlton Fisk and Luis Tiant, two guys Gammons obviously really did think were very special people), and his narratives of the pivotal 1977 and 1978 seasons soar. No Red Sox fan - no baseball fan - should do without this book.
5. Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution: Ask conservatives of my generation about Ronald Reagan or conservatism, and chances are pretty good that you will get a picture heavily influenced by one of his "wordsmiths," Peggy Noonan. The book is only secondarily a memoir, although it does capture (with Noonan's eye for sympathetic detail) numerous Washington figures of the 80s, as well as her previous boss, Dan Rather, of whom Noonan was very fond despite his politics. More importantly, it's a book about writing -- about a particular kind of writing (political speeches), how they get created, why they matter, and what's important in crafting them. It's also a tribute to a set of conservative ideals, and how they continued to inspire conservatives even when their practitioners didn't always live up to their promise.
4. The Orwell Reader: Yes, I'm cheating again by including an anthology. Another invaluable assignment -- the best thing I got out of college, academically -- was buying this book for Professor Green's British Empire class. I re-read it end to end again after September 11. Orwell hardly needs my introduction; his depictions of working-class life in the 1930s (coal miners, dish washers) are famously vivid, and his jeremiads against those who wouldn't stand up to fascism are the stuff of legend. My favorite essays are "Politics and the English Language" and "England Your England" (I reached for the latter in the opening of my September 11 column, as well as reaching for a scene from the Council of Elrond from the next selection) and I'm sure I'm not alone in those choices.
3. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring: I had a tough choice here; The Hobbit was the first "grownup" book I ever read, back in the second grade, and it remains Tolkien's best-written book. But Fellowship of the Ring perfectly bridges the gap between the lighthearted adventure of The Hobbit and the epic sweep of Lord of the Rings, and launches the greatest fantasy epic of all time. The question: what will good men do in the face of unremitting evil? Tolkien's answer isn't always reassuring.
2. P.J. O'Rourke, Parliament of Whores: As far as I'm concerned, still the best book ever written about American government; O'Rourke brings his vicious humor to every branch and agency of the federal government he can locate. His chapter on farm policy is the best thing I've ever read on the subject, and his account of a Housing NOW! march is sidesplitting. Along the way he encounters everyone from Pat Moynihan to Mike Dukakis to Ken Starr. But the book does have just one terribly cringe-inducing line, in retrospect; in his look at American foreign policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, O'Rourke states that
the main thing to be learned about foreign policy in this part of the world is that a wise foreign policy would be one that kept you out of here. There are some things you ignore at your peril, but you pay attention to Central Asia at the risk of your life.
Well, you knew that was coming; if I hadn't limited myself to one book per author, I'd have had a top 10 of Bill James books. As I've repeatedly noted, James has had a tremendous influence not only on my thinking about baseball but on my entire thinking process. I picked the first edition of the historical book because it is, on balance, the largest compilation of James' most pointed and entertaining writing and original thought, effortlessly spanning twelve decades of baseball history and bringing even the most distant past vibrantly to life. (I reviewed the new Historical Abstract here).
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BASEBALL: Jim Bouton's Ball Four; Ron Luciano's umpire books (noted above); Pete Palmer and John Thorn, The Hidden Game of Baseball; Keith Hernandez, If at First (a very post-Ball Four look at the 1985 Mets); Rob Neyer and Eddie Epstein, Baseball Dynasties (another one I'd have enjoyed more if I didn't know the subject so well already); Charles Alexander's biographies of Ty Cobb, John McGraw and Rogers Hornsby; Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer (I really didn't enjoy the first part, about Kahn himself, but the sections on the players were fascinating, and it was particularly poignant in retrospect to read about Carl Furillo as a hardhat helping build the World Trade Center).
POLITICS: Jeffrey Birnbaum and Alan Murray, Showdown at Gucci Gulch; The Autobiography of Malcolm X; Alan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind; Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism.
WAR/HISTORY: George Kennan's writings on the Soviet Union and on American foreign policy; David Pryce-Jones, Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.
LAW/LEGAL FICTION: The works of John Grisham, notably his first few novels; Jonathan Harr, A Civil Action.
HUMOR: The collected books and cartoons of Gary Larson (The Far Side), Scott Adams (Dilbert), Charles Schulz (Peanuts), Charles Addams, Berke Breathed (Bloom County) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes).
FICTION/LITERATURE: The collected works (nearly all of them) of Michael Crichton; Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
SCI-FI/FANTASY: The works of Isaac Asimov (including many of his books in other areas, notably his mysteries). There's a number of others I've enjoyed, but not enough to note a mention here.
BASKETBALL: The Rick Barry basketball annuals; I haven't seen one in years, but they heavily influenced my thoughts on the game in the early 1990s. I'm still reading the Basketball Prospectus, and that could be on the list soon.
CHILDREN'S BOOKS: The works of Richard Scarry; the Curious George books.
UPDATE: The Mad Hibernian reminds me that Michael Shaara's The Killer Angels should have been on this list.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Baseball 2004 | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2004 | Pop Culture | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
January 20, 2004
If you didn't already, you should check out Bill Simmons' rambling Friday column . . . it defies summary (ice boogers! lunch with porn stars!), but this was my favorite part:
[W]e might as well call it "Martzitis" because he's the most famous case. Certain coaches have a pathological need to win on their terms -- they call ridiculous naked bootlegs and wide receiver screens in big moments, instead of just keeping things simple and putting their best players in position to make plays. Martz does this more than anyone. How many times did we see things like "Marc Bulger rolling out on a naked bootleg on third down, then getting creamed" in big situations?
This, of course, is a common affliction outside of football as well; Tony LaRussa is perhaps baseball's most notorious example, although I can think of examples of managers like Bobby Valentine, Bobby Cox and Roger Craig managing themselves out of some games by insisting on doing it their way and imposing their own personal touches on what ought to be the players' game.
HISTORY: What's Cambodian For "Chutzpah"?
So, Nuon Chea - second-in-command to Pol Pot with the Khmer Rouge -- makes a grudging admission of "mistakes":
I admit that there was a mistake. But I had my ideology. I wanted to free my country. I wanted people to have well-being . . . I didn't use wisdom to find the truth of what was going on, to check who was doing wrong and who was doing right. I accept that error.
Even with this tepid apology, however, the denial continues:
Nuon Chea said the number of people who died was not in the millions. He acknowledged that many did die but said it was impossible to say how.
The record, however, is out there for those who care to look. Cambodia from 1975-1979 wasn't Stalin's Russia or Hitler's Germany; it was much worse:
By far, the most deadly of all communist countries and, indeed, in this century by far, has been Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his crew likely killed some 2,000,000 Cambodians from April 1975 through December 1978 out of a population of around 7,000,000. This is an annual rate of over 8 percent of the population murdered, or odds of an average Cambodian surviving Pol Pot's rule of slightly over just over 2 to 1.
(See the chart here as well). You know, there's a lot bad that can be said of the Vietnam War, from any political perspective, a lot more than there's space to deal with here; it was a poorly conceived and run enterprise in many ways, and has led to many necessary reforms and refinements in American foreign and military policy. But it's just awfully hard to look with any trace of human compassion at what happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, as well as in Vietnam and Laos after the war, and say it wasn't worth fighting the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia at all. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the war, Americans were fighting a real enemy, one that was deeply evil and unalterably murderous. Let us hope that, in the present war, we never elect a government that repeats the mistakes of 1975 in abandoning the field to such an enemy. (Veterans of the Ford Administration's failed attempt to get aid from Congress for South Vietnam in its last need, like then-White House Chief of Staff Don Rumsfeld and then-Deputy Chief of Staff Dick Cheney, remember this). Cambodia can happen again.
January 19, 2004
POLITICS: And Then There Were
Dick Gephardt conceded with class and decency tonight; Gephardt drives me nuts for a lot of reasons, but I have to believe that he is, at heart, a decent guy. Next on the hot seat is Howard Dean, who now must win New Hampshire. What will be most interesting in the tracking polls in NH is whether Kerry's support revives: he was hemmorhaging support so badly in recent months that it was starting to look like his supporters were giving him up for dead. Given the chance to reconsider that view, will they?
Of the remaining five, the one who looks weakest is Joe Lieberman, who's seemed liberated lately by the sense that he's running now as a message candidate - no endorsements from the party heavyweights, given little respect by the media, he's just plowing ahead, trying to turn his party back to where it was just 4 years ago. I get the sense in his renewed attacks on Dean that he now believes that his campaign will accomplish something even if he loses. As he inevitably will.
POLITICS: TNR and Lieberman
I meant to link to this last week, but was busy: Dr. Manhattan breaks down The New Republic's endorsement of Joe Lieberman and how the TNR staff's reaction mirrors the fissure within the Democratic party -- and the nation -- over national security. (The Mad Hibernian noted the TNR endorsement here). The Democrats seem certain to head in the opposite direction from Lieberman; they will almost be compelled to do so to avoid a debilitating third-party candidacy. As I pointed out to Tom Maguire, this leaves TNR as a partisan magazine in search of a party.
BASEBALL: Bottom of the Barrel
So they tell us the Mets are looking at Scott Erickson, El Duque, Garrett Stephenson and some Cuban guy to join Leiter, Traschsel, Glavine and Seo in the rotation, and they are talking to Todd Zeile to shore up the bench and Karim Garcia for right field. Remember this when you start getting excited about the team's prospects in 2004 . . .
I've liked Garcia's power for some time (31 homers in 491 AB the last 3 years), but his career .282 OBP says it all about his limitations (although I'd rather have him than spend a bundle on Brian Jordan). Zeile is 38, and his OPS+ the past three years have been (in order) 96, 89 and 78. The pitchers are all wild cards given their injury histories; El Duque might not be a bad gamble if he's cheap, but none of them inspire confidence.
UPDATE: I should note that acquiring Garcia would probably signal a Timo-Garcia platoon in right.
POLITICS: Wesley Krugman
If further proof were needed that Wesley Clark has wandered off onto the tinfoil-hat sections of the Left, you need look no further than the chief spokesman for that faction, Paul Krugman, in his Friday column. The Krug sets a simple test for the candidates, and only Clark and Howard Dean pass it:
Earlier this week, Wesley Clark had some strong words about the state of the nation. "I think we're at risk with our democracy," he said. "I think we're dealing with the most closed, imperialistic, nastiest administration in living memory. They even put Richard Nixon to shame."
On this score, the Krug at least has his taxonomy correct (although I'm not sure I'd leave Kerry out of the Dean/Clark faction). I'd disagree with him about Dean's Leftism, but that's for another post. The significant point is (as I've noted before) Clark's eagerness (like Dean's) to characterize any and all policy disagreements as signs of dishonesty, and their dalliances with dark conspiracy theories that lack even the slightest of evidentiary support. Jay Nordlinger in this month's National Review has a stunning collection of these from Clark, from his accusation that the Bush Administration is "occupying countries to extract their natural resources" rather than "buy them on the world market" to his bizarre claim that the Administration didn't use more ground troops to catch bin Laden in Afghanistan "because, all along, their plan was to save those troops to go after Saddam Hussein."
Blood for oil. Intentionally letting bin Laden go. And there's lots more where these came from; even Mark Kleiman calls Clark on the following:
Michael Moore, at a Clark fundraiser, said that he looked forward to a debate between "the general and the deserter."
Bogus, and as Kleiman points out, "deserter" is particularly strong language for a military man who parses fine distinctions about the term "relieved of command." Of course, I'm sure some people believe all this nonsense, in the absence of any evidence and often in the face of mountains of contrary evidence. Hey, Lyndon LaRouche has committed supporters too.
POP CULTURE: Tolkein FAQ
One of the beauties of the internet is that you can find the answers -- or at least someone else asking the questions -- for just about anything. I've been re-reading the Appendices to the Lord of the Rings lately, and one question occurred to me that I hadn't focused on before: during the Second Age, the forging of the One Ring precedes Sauron's captivity in Numenor. What happened to the Ring when Numenor was drowned in the sea and Sauron lost the physical form he had taken? Was he wearing the Ring, or had he left it somewhere?
Though reduced to 'a spirit of hatred borne on a dark wind', I do not think one need boggle at this spirit carrying off the One Ring, upon which his power of dominating minds now largely depended.
So, now we know that.
January 18, 2004
SCIENCE: Gorilla Revival?
I previously noted a report painting a bleak picture of the great ape population in Central Africa, but this recent report on a census of endangered mountain gorillas suggests that this particular type of ape, at least, may actually be on the road to recovery.
January 17, 2004
BLOG: Vaporize Them!
(Link via Denise Howell).
POLITICS/HISTORY: Songs for Dean
Matt Labash's look at songs written for Howard Dean is so funny it almost brought tears to my eyes:
While I'm hardly the first to state that the Dean campaign is remarkably free of people of color, I am, after spending a day on songsfordean.com, the person who has suffered through the most painful reminders of it in rapid succession. From coffeehouse bluesmen who over-enunciate every whitebread word, to hot blasts of undiluted folk so earnest that it could make the Weavers cry uncle, the songs are by and for white people. Sort of. There are two versions of the "Howard Dean Rap" . . . They use dated rap terminology like "chill" and "wack." One line goes, "Stop and stare, say hey, lookie there! / It's a doctor! Where? And he knows health care!" "Lookie there?" If they were real rappers, they'd get their asses kicked even in East Hampton, where Dean hails from. By the time they recite Bush's falling "P to the O to the double L" numbers, you just want to grab the first B-to-the-L-to-the-ACK person you can find, and tuck a reparations check into their breast pocket while apologizing profusely.
Labash also has some amusing thoughts on past presidential campaign songs:
[T]here's John Quincy Adams's "Little Know Ye Who's Coming." With the melody pinched from the Scottish "Highland Muster Roll," it's a sunny little ditty that reminds voters what's coming if they fail to elect Adams. The list is not encouraging: "Fire's comin', swords are comin', pistols, knives and guns are comin'." Additionally coming were slavery, knavery, hatin', and Satan, "if John Quincy not be comin'."
Read the whole thing.
January 16, 2004
BLOG: All Quiet
I had a big, and I mean big brief due yesterday (70+ pages and a whole bunch of exhibits, and any lawyers out there know how much work goes into something like that), so apologies if there's been no time to blog the last two days. Hopefully, I'll be back on the horse soon, although next week has its own issues (jury duty!).
Cheap shot of the day: it's Ted Kennedy's new car!
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(I may have stolen that joke from someone, but I can't remember who).
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January 14, 2004
BASEBALL: Mr. Brown is on the Ground
Chris Kahrl at Baseball Prospectus (subscription only) has some sobering thoughts about Kevin Brown:
The problem is that few pitchers put more balls on the ground than Brown does, and now, instead of having a strong middle infield with a very good shortstop behind him, he's got Derek Jeter and Alfonso Soriano, which is something like knowing that Belgium's got your back in a World War. The Dodgers allowed 1,966 ground balls and 895 singles last year, or a 1B/GB figure of .455. The comparable Yankees figures are 2,023, 1,009 and .498. So you could say that a ground ball is roughly 10% more likely to become a single against the Yankees. Brown got 374 ground balls last year and allowed 147 singles. Allowing 10% more hits on ground balls would mean 15 extra singles against Brown, or nearly 10 runs' worth. Do the same for Weaver and the result isn't nearly so dramatic, but he looks a bit better than he did last year.
He also notes that the same goes double for Paul Quantrill.
POLITICS/WAR: Wesley Off The Walls
The more I hear from Wesley Clark, the more I agree with people like Andrew Sullivan, Jay Nordlinger and James Taranto that he's a paranoid crackpot masquerading as a serious grownup. Clark's increasingly unhinged statements of late show a man who doesn't know when to stop pandering to the fringe (even by Democrat standards); and I suspect that a big part of the problem is that he's a novice at politics. Novice politicians sometimes fall into this trap: they aren't used to meeting big, diverse crowds of people, and when they meet those people and they all seem to agree with the candidate, the candidate starts to think that what goes over well with the people who attend his events is the same as what goes over well with the kinds voters who don't attend Wesley Clark events in Iowa and New Hampshire in the middle of winter.
Frank Gaffney, writing on NRO, tears into Clark for these remarks:
In a meeting last Thursday with the editorial board of New Hampshire's Concord Monitor, the would-be president made statements that no one staking a serious claim on the office, let alone anyone who claimed to be an expert about national security, could make. Referring to the murderous 9/11 attacks, he declared: "If I'm president of the United States, I'm going to take care of the American people. We are not going to have one of these incidents."
If Clark thinks that a head of state can guarantee against terrorism (I'm waiting to hear him say the same about recession and war), it should sure be news to the men and women who have run Israel these last several decades . . . this is adolescent bravado; it's really not the stuff of a responsible adult, and is particularly surprising coming from a guy with Clark's long and distinguished record of military service. (Kevin Drum tries to defend Clark's statements, but he has to whitewash their actual text to do so and doesn't touch this one).
FLASH: Michael Moore to endorse Wesley Clark... Moore: 'He's an honest and decent man. I would like to see the General debate the deserter'...
Leaving aside the "AWOL Bush" crap, Moore isn't some campaign outsider; he's the guy who introduced Clark to Madonna two months ago, and the Washington Times describes him as "an early supporter of Mr. Clark."
WAR: Pipes' Battle
If the government needed to develop newer and better rockets, and it handed over millions in grants to university physicists to do so, wouldn't it be the government's business to make sure that the physicists weren't neo-Ptolemaic crackpots who thought the earth was flat? If the government wanted to develop new vaccines, and it handed over millions in grants to university biologists to do so, wouldn't it be the government's business to make sure that the biologists understood and accepted basic tenets of modern medicine? When taxpayer money is involved, the government has every right to demand that its subsidies -- given for a concrete purpose -- are bing used by competent people who are actually working to achieve that purpose.
At bottom, that's all that Daniel Pipes' and Martin Kramer's projects to hold government-supported Middle East Studies programs accountable for their denials of the realities of the Arab and Muslim worlds are all about. The Washington Post, in a surprisingly even-handed profile, has more.
BASEBALL: Daddy Wags
Terry Pluto has a fond remembrance of Leon Wagner, who died last week at age 69.
POLITICS: Another Ugly Revelation
Mickey Kaus reminisces about "working on" the Fritz Hollings for President campaign in 1984. Does this mean that the Sultan of Snark was actually supporting Hollings' doomed campaign, or just covering it? Either way, it brings back memories of the time Hollings was being interviewed by phone for a TV or radio program (I forget which) and the interview ended abruptly because he was talking on a pay phone and didn't have enough dimes to keep the call going.
Which is not, you know, usually a sign of a campaign that's going anywhere.
January 13, 2004
BASEBALL: Coming Soon, To A Batter's Box Near You
Yes, to the surprise of nearly no one, Roger Clemens has un-retired and signed with the Astros. It's all about loyalty, with Clemens . . . as I've been saying for some time now, I still expect Clemens to go in the Hall of Fame wearing a Devil Rays cap.
Clemens batting is only the second-most-entertaining moment of 2004, of course; I haven't seen the schedules, but I'd love to see the Yankees face the Rocket so that Joe Torre can go back to calling Clemens a head-hunter after defending him the last few years . . .
(That said, I should note that Clemens of late has been the anti-Kirby Puckett: while's he's been a big jerk around the game, his work with soldiers, cops and firemen shows that he does, ultimately, have his priorities straight overall).
On another note, Bullpen Stomper Jeff Nelson looks to be signing with the Rangers (along with Kenny Rogers), thus cutting the list of Yankees who have won a World Series with the team to four: Jeter, Bernie, Posada and Rivera.
BASEBALL: The Ugly Truth Emerges
Instapundit is a Red Sox fan! (Link via Volokh). Of course, the fast-typing prof also says that watching sports on television is a waste of time, so I guess he sees the Sox play when they're in Knoxville . . .
POLITICS: More Dean Madness
Dean's not satisfied being mean to George Bush; he's also trying to psychoanalyze him:
"This president is not interested in being a good president." "He's interested in some complicated psychological situation that he has with his father," the Democratic presidential front-runner said. "He is obsessed with being re-elected, and his obsession with re-election is hurting the country."
Dean knows this . . . how?
POLITICS/RELIGION: "George Bush is not my neighbor"
"Please tone down the garbage, the mean mouthing, the tearing down of your neighbor and being so pompous," Ungerer told the former Vermont governor and Democratic front-runner. "You should help your neighbor and not tear him down."
Leave aside the rudeness to a questioner who was, in fairness, something of a heckler (although we expect our politicians to suffer fools a little more gladly than this). If Dean had a shred of Christianity about him, he'd recognize the absurdity of saying that President Bush "is not my neighbor." The whole point of Jesus' discussion of the concept of "love thy neighbor" in the parable of the Good Samaritan is that your neighbor isn't always who you want it to be.
Dean could have sidestepped this, of course, by pointing out that this isn't personal between him and the other candidates, that as a candidate for public office he has to give first priority to laying the facts before the voters, etc. But he had to go one step further and basically say that Bush is beyond the realm of decent folk to whom one owes even the slightest shred of human compassion. As I've discussed before, Christianity demands more even for Saddam Hussein (although Dean does, at least, feel he owes some measure of fairness to Osama bin Laden). It's one thing to say that that's hard to live up to -- it is. But by declaring that Bush is not his neighbor at all, all Dean is really doing is declaring that he's no Christian of any type.
BLOG: The Power of Clutch Hits
Wow. This site had over 1,200 hits yesterday, a record by a fairly large margin, and due very heavily to a link from Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits late Sunday. From the flow of traffic around the site (such as a lot of hits to the "Greatest Hits" columns), it looks like a lot of those were first-time visitors looking around the place.
If you are one of those, glad to have you as a reader; hope you come back.
January 12, 2004
If you're just checking in, it's been a busy weekend here, with lots of posts by me and by the Mad Hibernian. Keep scrollin', and don't forget to check out my look at baseball's top 25 players according to Established Win Shares Levels.
If I can find a way to work it in, I'd still like to add an age adjustment to increase the all-in-one-number aspect of EWSL, but I'm still working on it. Which raises a related issue. You can never tell, when you write up a widely-read post, what will attract the most comment. The Baseball Primer crowd jumped all over my offhand skepticism about Albert Pujols' age. Well, I've seen a good deal of skepticism on that source in various places, but I'll freely admit I'm no expert on the subject. But Brian at Redbird Nation has done the homework and thinks that Pujols' claimed age of 24 really does stand up OK. Read the whole thing.
BLOG: No 'Lanche
I shouldn't complain, since I had my biggest traffic day ever yesterday on a Sunday, but in response to the Paul O'Neill controversy, I emailed Instapundit my link to the Bush-Gore debate on Iraq, and he excerpted it with my boldface included but linked only to the original source. (It would have been ironic to get a link from Instaman, since this entry was from a year and a half ago and also generated my one and only link from Andrew Sullivan).
Of course, Glenn now complains that he's got a 3,500 message backlog on email, so I can't be too hard on him for linking without thanking. But a little link love would have been nice.
UPDATE: I get no credit when he re-uses the boldfaced quote over at GlennReynolds.com. I don't mean to pick on Instapundit, who's usually pretty good about sharing his traffic with less-trafficked bloggers. I'm just being petty. . . I guess if I had more free time I could try doctoring pictures of him putting puppies in a blender, but I'm not that desperate for traffic.
WAR: The Memorial
Zev Chafets argues that the WTC memorial proposal is distinctively Israeli in style, and attributes this to the fact that its designer is Israeli. Key quote: "Israelis understand how to commemorate mass murder the way Eskimos know how to deal with snowstorms."
I had posted this comment over at Michele's place, where she was criticizing the two-reflecting-pools design for being too cold and sterile: I didn't really look at the alternatives, but as somebody who worked in Tower One, I like the idea of being able to go back and stand where the plaza was and reorient myself to the holes where the towers stood; one thing that's unsettling about downtown now is the sense of having lost exactly where the towers were.
Rebuild the towers? Emotionally, I love it. Practically, who the hell wants to go back and work there? Not my firm, I'll tell you that. Rebuilding two 110-story towers and getting stuck with empty floors because few companies can get their employees to go back or can afford the insurance. . . that would be more depressing than anything.
January 11, 2004
BASEBALL: The Best Players In Baseball 2004
Who are the best players in baseball, at any given time? Well, one easy way to frame the question is, what players have been the best over the past few years. As it so happens, Bill James has provided us with two tools ideally suited to measuring this question, although unless I've missed something (I haven't received my 2004 Bill James Handbook from Amazon yet), nobody has yet combined the two: Win Shares (which purport to measure a player's total contribution to a team's bottom line win/loss record) and Established Performance Levels, which take a weighted measurement of a player's accomplishments in a given category over the prior three years, giving the most weight to the most recent (I explain the EPL method in a little more detail in this column).
So, for the past month or so, I've been working up Established Win Shares levels for the game's top players. Although I haven't got to everyone, I'm far enough down the list that I can say with confidence that there are, conveniently enough, 25 players with an EWSL of 25 or greater entering 2004. Here they are, in descending order (I rounded off; players are listed as tied only if they were tied before rounding); listed age, position and team is for 2004:
A few thoughts and observations:
*No pitchers. That says a lot about the volatility of pitchers. By contrast, lots of left fielders and first basemen.
*Much as I can't stand the guy, there's still Barry Bonds, and there's everybody else.
*Most of these guys are in their thirties, which is suggests that at least at the very high end, investing in players in their early 30s may not be a terrible bet.
*I was a little surprised at how high Thome and Boone ranked.
*Chavez is easily the most consistent of the players listed here, with WS totals the last three years of 26, 25 and 25. Of course, at his age, you'd like to see more forward progress.
*The most glaring absence is Vladimir Guerrero, due to the injuries and weakknesses I noted yesterday (I'd still love to have had him, though): his WS totals are a less than spectacular 23, 29 and most recently 18. Oddly, he's never had a 30-WS season.
UPDATE: Turns out that Soriano is 28, not 26.
POLITICS: The Dean Legacy
Thanks among other things to the radically redistributive tax plan imposed by Howard Dean's school-funding scheme, Act 60, officials in the ski resort of Killington, Vermont want to secede and join New Hampshire:
They say the town's restaurants, inns and other businesses send $10 million a year to the state capital in sales, room and meal taxes, but the state returns just $1 million in state aid to Killington.
Of course, as Vermont officials note, this would require "an armed insurrection type of thing," particularly since Killington is 25 miles from the border.
So there you have it: "Howard Dean - not quite bad enough to make you want to take up arms to escape his policies!"
On another note, Tim Graham at NRO catches a Dean quote cited by Eric Alterman questioning the Bush Administration's patriotism, a common theme from Dean, Clark and Kerry this election cycle:
I think there are some similarities between George Bush’s Administration and Richard Nixon’s Administration: a tremendous cynicism about the future of the country; a lack of ability to instill hope in the American people; a war which doesn’t have clear principles behind it; and a group of people around the President whose main allegiance is to each other and their ideology rather than to the United States.
LAW: Wacky Warnings
A contest reveals the most unbelievable warnings that have been placed on products to protect against lawsuits by people with no brains and less common sense. The winners:
1. "[A] bottle of drain cleaner which says: 'If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.'"
(I know I found this through Pejman, but I couldn't trace back the link).
LAW: Take Back Massachusetts?
Harvard Law Professor Mary Ann Glendon, one of the few socially conservative members of the HLS faculty, argues that the Massachusetts Legislature could still work around the Goodridge decision on gay marriage by propounding legislative findings on the benefits of traditional marriage and the significance of the distinction between the two. (Link via Howard Bashman). Her reasoning: the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court didn't say that the distinction lacked a rational basis, just that the Legislature had failed to provide one. I'm not really convinced that this would work, since the SJC could and probably would then find any proferred distinctions to be irrational (courts are not known for being willing to cede to legislatures once they've stuck out their necks on an issue like this). But it's true that the SJC would probably feel compelled to at least address the findings.
POLITICS/LAW: From The Department of Not Moving On, Part III
Looks like the DC Circuit's trying to wrap up the last detritus of the Clinton years; we've got another opinion on attorney fees, this one denying Susan McDougal's application out of hand, noting that the statute on its face doesn't permit reimbursement of people who were actually indicted.
(Link via Howard Bashman).
POLITICS: It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
OK, so it's silly to pay attention to politicians' clothes. But somehow, Wesley Clark's new sweater kick just makes him look like he's trying too hard to be Mr. Rogers, or Jimmy Carter or something.
BASKETBALL: Dare's Broken Heart
Yinka Dare has died, the NY Daily News reports; the former George Washington University center, whose bad knees never let him develop in the NBA, died of a heart attack related to the heart condition that was discovered when he was in college. Dare was reportedly only 32.
POLITICS: Blogging For Bush
It should come as no surprise that I've added a link to Blogs for Bush. Sooner or later I'll roll out my formal reasoning for voting to reelect Bush/Cheney in 2004.
POP CULTURE: Totally Random Observation
BASEBALL: No Vlad
Back to the drawing board: the Angels sign Vladimir Guerrero.
January 10, 2004
BASEBALL: Mets Up the Ante
NY Daily News reports the Mets have raised their offer to Vladimir Guerrero to $70 million over 5 years. For the record, I'm still very much in favor of this. (These guys should be happy too). Yes, Guerrero's back makes him a Juan Gone-sized risk. (Then again, Randy Johnson's bad back created the same risks when he signed in Arizona, and they did OK). Five years is absolutely as far out as I'd go with him. Yes, the Mets are in a rebuilding phase. But there are some risks worth taking no matter what stage your team is at, and Guerrero is one, a guy who's putting up Frank Robinson-type numbers and is right smack in the prime of his career.
Here's Guerrero's 'Established Performance Level' for 2001-03 (EPLs are explained here):
Pretty good, I'd say . . . yes, Guerrero has his flaws. He's error-prone: .959 career fielding percentage, terrible for an outfielder. He gives away way too many outs on the basepaths with GIDP and CS (a 63% career base thief, meaning it would be better if he never tried). He has horrendous plate discipline that's belied by his numbers; remember that a third of his walks are intentional, and that his low K rate is because he gets good wood on pitches most guys would get benched for swinging at. As long as he's healthy he'll get away with that, but if the back starts to go, the plate discipline could catch up to him in a hurry. But for all that, Guerrero is a legit superstar who's only missed time to injury once.
David Pinto notes that the Marlins have jumped into the bidding, and that the Dodgers could yet as well if they ever get their ownership straighened out. It's far from over yet. But the Mets are clearly a factor in the bidding.
BASKETBALL: The Next Big O
Bill Simmons has a fine column on why LeBron James is the real deal. James still needs a lot of work (biggest weakness: he's averaging almost 4 turnovers a game), but his in-season progress has already been dramatic, and the kid just turned 19 two weeks ago.
I disagree, though, with one assertion in Bill's column:
When LeBron hits his prime, surrounded by quality shooters and big guys who can run the floor, he'll toss up a triple-double for an entire season. Comfortably. We're talking 33/12/13 every night.
The scoring and assists, I can see; in that respect, projecting James as a potential next Oscar Robertson isn't unreasonable, although such projections are always speculative.
LeBron is currently averaging 5.8 boards per game, playing over 40 minutes a night on a crummy team with lots of rebounding opportunities (the Cavs are shooting .427 from the field as a team). That means he has to go a long, long way to 12 boards a night. Most NBA players -- with the exception of specialists like Ben Wallace or slow-developing big men like Patrick Ewing or Kevin Garnett -- enter the league at or near their peak as rebounders. Michael Jordan pulled in 6.5 rebounds/game as a rookie, and only once cleared 7 a game. Larry Bird: 10.4 R/G as a rookie, career high of 11 three years later. Clyde Drexler: 6.0 his second season (his first playing starters' minutes), cleared 7/g twice. Magic Johnson: went up from 7.7 as a rookie to 9.6 two years later, and downhill after that. Robertson himself averaged 10.1 as a rookie and 12.5 his second year, and dropped off after that. If LeBron is a star rebounder in the making, I'll be shocked.
I emailed Bill about this, and he does have his reasoning: LeBron's currently playing guard and playing away from the basket, so he'll get more opportunities to hit the boards when he moves to the frontcourt later in his career; plus, he's just a teenager and still growing. Bill knows more about basketball than I do, and he's seen a lot of LeBron's games, whereas I've only seen highlights. It's true enough that Garnett shows how a skinny teenager can develop into one of the league's best rebounders. But I still think history is against LeBron ever developing into a double-figure rebounder.
BLOG: "They'd be microscopic Zionists"
Instapundit links to this predictable but nonetheless hilarious Lileks parody of an Islamist's reaction to the Mars landing. Key excerpt:
Which would make you more proud? Coming up with cunning ways to blow up men, women and children on airplanes, or putting rockets on other planets?
BLOG: Noooo! It Can't Be!
Well, you know I'm a sucker for those internet quizzes. I even took the one that sentenced me to eternal damnation. But this just goes too far:
Read More Â»
I think I got this because my answers showed that (1) like most bloggers, I value fame and attention more than money; (2) I'm chronically disorganized; and (3) I tend to avoid unnecessary personal conflicts (life's too short to get bent out of shape about such things). That said, I think there are some personality traits they are missing . . .
Then again, I couldn't resist the irony of this disclaimer:
Keep in mind, your results are dependent on the accurate truth of your responses.
Â« Close It
January 9, 2004
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Clinton and Rose
I usually try to keep my politics out of my baseball posts - I respect the fact that not everyone who comes here for the baseball content agrees with my political opinions - but I'm making an exception here, so consider yourself duly warned. David Cameron at USS Mariner says of Pete Rose:
Rose is a scumbag lying weasel who has spent the past 10 years assailing the character of men who were telling the truth. Now, when it interests him financially and potentially leads to reinstatement, he's willing to say he was lying for the past decade and hope that we don't mind. There's absolutely no reason to put Pete Rose in the Hall of Fame, and I hope he never gets to enter Cooperstown, even if he tries to buy a ticket from a scalper.
(Emphasis added). The point about smearing his accusers is particularly relevant; one of the things that most horrified conservatives about Clinton, especially given his constitutional status as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, was the smear campaign conducted against Ken Starr and others who sought to hold him accountable. Ditto for the convenience of his apology; George Will makes the parallel explicit: "Rose's coming clean is the most soiled conversion of convenience since . . . well, Aug. 17, 1998, when DNA evidence caused Bill Clinton to undergo a memory clarification."
Although I disagree with Cameron about Rose and the Hall, my argument on this point almost four years ago was always the same as about Clinton: his actions had disabled him from holding a position of trust:
Badgering the man to apologize also misses the point; the continuing ban on managing isn’t so much a punishment as a preventative measure, like impeaching a public official or disbarring a crooked lawyer (to give two obvious parallels). Nor would I accept his apology. Rose’s decade-long denial of his problems, as well as his numerous false denials at the time, even under oath, of various easily provable facts suggests that he is not to be trusted even when and if he ever makes a public display of contrition.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:15 AM | Baseball 2004 | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Some Love For Baseball-Reference.com
Slate carries a nice little tribute to the page sponsorships on Baseball-Reference.com. I've got several of them by now, generally cheap ones.
January 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Retooling, And Rebuilding?
I agree with The Mad Hibernian that while Mets fans will regret the Braden Looper signing due to his fits of awful control, the team isn't really doing itself much harm by signing Looper to a 2-year, $3.25 million/year deal. Dayn Perry at the Baseball Prospectus (link for subscribers only) hones in on the larger point: by throwing reasonably priced contracts at free agents who weren't offered arbitration (like Mike Cameron) or come from foreign lands (like Kaz Matsui), the Mets aren't really setting back their rebuilding, because they aren't giving up draft picks or blocking the progress of significant prospects (a closer, of course, rarely really blocks anybody, although I'm not sure off the top of my head whether Looper was offered arbitration). Moreover, Perry notes that high-salaried veterans may not command much in trades these days. Conclusion: continuing to bring in veterans while rebuilding may not be as uniformly foolish as it once was.
I'm still unconvinced that the Mets management finally 'gets it,' but thus far they haven't done anything nearly as awful as, say, the Glavine signing.
WAR/POLITICS: Dean's Not To Judge?
Over at NRO, former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has a devastating look at why Howard Dean's remarks about not pre-judging Osama bin Laden's guilt until he'd been tried by a jury are such damning evidence of Dean's unfitness for high office. Key paragraphs:
Even at their most superficial level, Dean's remarks illustrate a mind-bending naiveté about the president's central role in federal law enforcement. Our Constitution commits the prosecution of criminals to the executive. United States attorneys in each federal district are appointees of the president; it is solely under presidential authority that they bring cases. The presumption of innocence - widely overused as a rhetorical lifeline for the arrantly guilty - is indeed deeply rooted in Anglo-American common law. But it is germane only as an evidentiary presumption, a vehicle for assigning the burden of proof at a criminal trial to the government rather than the accused. Yes, it solemnly binds the jury, but it has little if any relevance outside the trial context. For example, those accused of violent crimes are routinely held in jail prior to trial, often for well over a year. Even though they've not yet been convicted of anything, the presumption of innocence avails them nothing in bail proceedings.
McCarthy also reviews the history of why it was so damaging to contiunue treating terrorism as a law enforcement problem after the mid-1990s.
Dean's inability to pass judgment on bin Laden isn't a gaffe; it's inseparable from his steadfast refusal to connect any dots about Saddam Hussein; it's the same attitude.
POLITICS/LAW: From The Department of Not Moving On, Part II
Following after the decision to deny the Clintons' legal fees for the Whitewater investigation, the DC Circuit denies Monica Lewinsky's application for $1.1 million in legal fees from the Independent Counsel investigation; the court recites the relevant details of the scheme to give Lewinsky a job and her offer of financial inducements to Linda Tripp to have both of them give false testimony, among other things, and concludes that she (and Clinton) would have been the subject of an investigation even in the absence of the Independent Counsel statute. (Of course, coming from the court that appointed Ken Starr and referred this investigation to him, this isn't a surprising conclusion).
POP CULTURE: Run To You
Well, this was news to me, at least: Princess Di had an affair with Bryan Adams?
POLITICS: Unfriendly Fire
One controversy I had missed over the Christmas holidays was the long-awaited spectacle of Howard Dean turning his fire on his own troops (in this case the DLC, the group that gave us Clinton), in a move reminiscent of John McCain's unraveling in 2000. Will Saletan had the ugly details (including an inflammatory reference to Dean as "Jihoward") here and here.
WAR: Nose Down
When that Egypt Air flight went down in the Red Sea recently, I couldn't help but think of the 1999 crash brought on when one of the pilots put the plane into a nose dive - apparently deliberately - while repeating an Islamic prayer of sorts, an event that in retrospect seems like an obvious precursor to what came later. Michele had the same thought, and links to this chilling 2001 Atlantic article about that crash; if you haven't read it before, it's a must-read.
Ralph Peters can be a tremendously incisive commentator at times, but he really goes way overboard in this NY Post column, comparing Howard Dean and his followers to Communists and Nazis for some pretty tame offenses, like whining about criticism, speaking in generalities and trying to keep Dean's gubernatorial record under wraps. (Link via Kos). Peters clearly should have stuck to the general rules of thumb that before you compare someone to the Nazis or to Lenin or Stalin, you should (1) put down what you're writing and come back to it in 24 hours and (2) substitute "mass murderer(s)" wherever you have terms like "Gestapo" and decide whether that still sounds over the top.
There seems to be a lot of this going around now on the Right: attacks on Dean as a liar, a phony, etc. I'm no Dean fan, but this all seems both unnecessary and beside the point. First of all, calling someone a liar over every political disagreement is tempting because it's the stock in trade of Dean and his followers, but it's an unhealthy temptation. Besides, Dean has huge vulnerabilities if you take him at his word and take his record seriously; it distracts unnecessarily from this to go throwing mud at the guy.
Dean has shown some signs, it's true, of backing away from some of his worst ideas -- like raising everyone's taxes -- but if he tries to run from Dean the Angry Primary Candidate, there will be time enough to call him on it. For now, what's more important is Dean's ideas, which should be confronted openly.
January 7, 2004
I previously discussed Jason Steffens' advice about taking a Christian attitude towards Saddam and not rejoicing in his humiliation. Stuart Buck weighs in with some thoughts of his own, including a delightful quote from CS Lewis.
January 6, 2004
BASEBALL: 2004 Hall of Fame Honorees
Well, the votes are in. WFAN is reporting that the writers picked Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersley.
As discussed below, here was my ballot (if they gave me a vote, that is):
I'll link to the full ballot when it's available.
UPDATES: Francesa says Sandberg is third at 61%, which is close enough that he'll probably make it in a year or two.
ESPN says Sutter finished fourth, also within 100 votes, while Keith Hernandez and Joe Carter dropped off the ballot for lack of support. I guess it's progress when a guy with as many 100-RBI seasons as Carter is almost universally recognized as being far short of the Hall's standards.
Here's the full ballot. The other also-rans, with their percentages:
Ryne Sandberg 61.1
Sutter, Sandberg and Blyleven gained the most support; Goose and Smith both declined (even though, as I noted this morning, Gossage has the best numbers of any of the relievers), as did Garvey. Dennis Martinez also failed to stay on the ballot; in fact, Molitor and Eckersley were the only new names on the ballot to clear the 5% threshold.
One prediction before I sign off for the day: Blyleven, who was helped when Jim Kaat dropped off the ballot this year, will benefit again in a few years when John is off the ballot as well.
BASEBALL: My Hall of Fame Ballot
I've dated this post ahead so it will stay at the top of the page until the Hall of Fame selections are announced at 2pm on Tuesday, January 6, 2004.
I've listed each candidate with their % of the vote in 2003 in parentheses. 75% needed for election. I've also included links to my previous columns, since I've looked in depth at the cases for nearly all these guys before. (I'm adding links as I go).
1. Bruce Sutter (53.63%) - OUT. See here and here for my reasons.
BASEBALL: Scrambled Eck
OK, few Hall of Fame candidacies conflict me as much as Dennis Eckersley. Let's run a little chart to explain why:
Now, you can see that Eck was a better pitcher than Steib or Key - he pitched more innings and did more (in terms of K/BB ratio) to control the game rather than rely on his defense. But the difference isn't that great. The problem, of course, is in even trying to compare him to contemporaries who are starters . . . Eckersley's career high in Win Shares is 24 in 1978 and 1979, but other than that he was a mediocre starting pitcher. The really defining numbers are from his 11 years in Oakland and St. Louis; I don't have time for a full comparison here, but I'll offer a few comps for perspective:
* - Excludes ill-fated year as a starter
Again, the comparison is not a bad one for the Eck, although he hardly stands out in this crowd, and even adding some subpar years as a closer in to the mix, he's still behind Gossage, Sutter, Quisenberry and Henke in innings for the comparison seasons.
In the end, Eckersley is too much unlike anyone else to really compare him. If I had a ballot, I might well leave him off just because it's too tough to see where the line is for relievers. But I can't really argue with wanting him in, given how the combination of his two careers elevates him above your typical also-ran HoF candidate like Steib or a short-career closer like Henke; he's really Steib and Henke combined. I've got to commit here, so I'll swallow hard and say IN.
January 5, 2004
BASEBALL: He Hadda Believe
No, I'm really not ready to talk about this one: Tug McGraw is dead. I really don't think anybody symbolized the spirit of the New York Mets better than Tug.
POLITICS: The Tolerant Liberal Mind
The voice of a true man of the people: I can't even try to parody this guy (someone named "Neal Starkman") who writes in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that George W. Bush's popularity shows that the American people are stupid.
LAW: An Unexpected Hazard?
The subtitle of this BBC article says it all:
A chef who cut his finger is suing a hotel for £25,000 compensation by claiming no-one warned him about the danger posed by an avocado.
Um, isn't a professional chef supposed to be familiar with the properties of the avocado?
POP CULTURE: Robbery, Violence, Insanity
Busy week for the Kinks' Ray Davies, who was named a "Commander of the Order of the British Empire" by the Queen forur days ago, and was shot in the leg while attempting to live up to the honor by chasing down a purse snatcher on Sunday. Davies was apparently not seriously injured and has been released from the hospital.
BASKETBALL: Man in the Mirror
More on this later - I think I love the deal that brings Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway to the Knicks for Antonio McDyess, Charlie Ward and other suspects to the point of changing my opinion of Isiah Thomas as a GM, but I haven't looked at the financial and draft pick aspects of the trade - but I refer you to basketball-reference.com's list of "Most Similar Player" to Marbury, by age:
Similar Players (By Age)
BASEBALL: By Any Other Name
So, just in time to overshadow the Hall of Fame's big day, we're about to be treated to another rehash of the endless Pete Rose saga, as Rose is finally about to admit that he bet on baseball (no report I've seen yet says whether he'll admit he bet on games in which he was involved; I'd put my money, so to speak, on no). Rather than repeat myself ad nauseum here, I'll just link back to my prior works on this issue:
*On Rose's merits, my response to Zumsteg's inexplicable assertion that Rose wasn't a Hall of Fame caliber ballplayer, and an April 8, 2001 column in which (among other things) I compared Rose to Roberto Clemente in their primes.
UPDATE: Rose admits he bet on the Reds.
January 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Not Going Anywhere
Let's run through the Hall of Fame ballot's easy "No" answers: good players all, but guys who don't in my view merit any real discussion:
Taking away these guys and Molitor, that leaves us with five new candidates who at least merit a little analysis:
UPDATE (1/5): OK, I didn't intend to suggest that Carter, Stieb or Key were serious Hall of Fame candidates, although Key and Stieb were better pitchers than many people remember (and finished their careers with remarkably similar numbers), only that I had intended to give their careers a little more review than I've had time for here. Carter has the 10 100-RBI seasons in 12 years, plus the big home run, but there's not much beyond that; with his .306 career OBP, Carter's got the same issues as Andre Dawson.
As for Martinez, with his 245-193 record, as I've noted before, his credentials are actually quite similar to those of Jack Morris, but that says more about why Morris belongs out than the other way around.
I hope to get to the Eck tonight or tomorrow morning, time permitting.
January 2, 2004
BASEBALL: Paul For The Hall
The one easy "yes" among the newcomers on this year's Hall of Fame ballot is Paul Molitor: over 3300 hits (9th all time), lifetime averages of .306/.448/.369 (and .368/.615/.435 in 29 postseason games), 17th all time in Runs Scored, 504 stolen bases against only 131 caught stealings (almost an 80% success rate) and just over 11 GIDP per 600 at bats for his career.
The oddity is that Molitor will walk into the Hall as the first career DH to be inducted, having spent 1174 games at DH compared to 791 at 3B. What's odd is that Molitor was generally well-regarded as a defensive player at nearly every position on the diamond. I forget where he played in the minors - I think he was a shortstop - but Molitor came up as an everyday SS in 1978 when Robin Yount abruptly retired at age 22 to become a professional golfer. Molitor played short for a little over a month until Yount came to his senses, and was moved to second when Yount returned. After 3 years at second, the Brewers moved Molly to the outfield to keep him healthy, and he was their everyday center fielder in 1981, when the Crew had the best record in the AL East. The following year, he was moved to third, which he played well yet again, and the Brewers won the pennant. He was splitting time between second and first by 1990, and played a lot of first base the next two years before heading to Toronto and full-time DHing.
Here's some fun numbers I've run before on Molitor:
Milwaukee Brewers' record, 1978-92, with Paul Molitor in the lineup:
Milwaukee Brewers' record before 1978 arrival of Paul Molitor:
LAW/POLITICS: An Important Distinction
Liberal Oasis says that critics of the Bush Administration's handling of the Plame investigation should continue to be skeptical of new chief prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, despite his sterling reputation, because Ken Starr also once had a sterling reputation. (Link via Oliver Willis). Now, I generally think a lot of the criticisms of Starr were and are unfair, but before you compare Fitzgerald to Starr, you have to take account of one very critical distinction: Fitzgerald is a career prosecutor. Starr had never worked in a prosecutor's office; while he's a fine lawyer, his training was as an appellate advocate and an appellate judge, not a prosecutor. And many of Starr's missteps can be traced to the fact that he had no training or background as a prosecutor (as well as no training or background in news management, at which his adversaries were experts).
LAW: Scalia, Misunderstood
I meant to get to this one when it ran in November -- this column by liberal legal commentator Michael Dorf criticizes Justice Scalia for writing "what he regards as parade-of-horribles dissents that risk becoming self-fulfilling prophecies." Dorf observes:
Why does Justice Scalia repeatedly characterize decisions from which he dissents in ways that will likely give ammunition to those with whom he disagrees, enabling them to extend what he regards as improper precedents even further?
Dorf concludes that the "problem" is that Scalia so fundamentally differs in his outlook from his colleagues as to regard their decisions "as not merely different from his own, but as fundamentally illegitimate." (Emphasis in original).
That's one way to put it, although I doubt that Scalia really believes that the cases are always that cut-and-dried. But I think that, at bottom, Dorf just doesn't understand Scalia's concept of the role of a judge, which is not "tactical" in any sense, but rather that a judge should be trying to derive the right answer to a question -- and should, when he sees his colleagues get it wrong, criticize them in the strongest terms. Admittedly, no judge - even Scalia - can avoid having his or her reasoning in reaching such decisions colored by policy preferences, but the point is that Scalia simply doesn't look at it as his job to do anything but give the answer to the question posed. And if that's impolitic or un-tactical, so be it; tactics and politesse are the job of legislators and litigants.