"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 29, 2004
BLOG: Bissextile Pride Day
Happy birthday to Eugene Volokh and his fellow bissextiles.
February 28, 2004
I'm a little late to this one, but Al Bethke had an interesting interview (second item down) with minor league veteran Chris Coste, now with the Brewers organization.
WAR: Whose Chalabi?
One of the more tangled webs of the pre-war planning and intelligence in Iraq was the US government's controversial relationship with Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi. I never knew quite what to make of Chalabi, who was often lionized by the conservative press and vilified by those who preferred to leave Saddam in power. But a report a few weeks ago by StratFor (available by email to subscribers) raises some interesting questions - to wit, whether Chalabi, a Shi'ite, has long had some allegiance or connection to the Iranian mullahs.
The mullahs, of course, have a wide variety of interests in Iraq, some of which have been threatened by our invasion but others of which have been helped; their long-term goal, presumably, would be to see a weak Iraq controlled by an easily manipulable Shi'ite government. While it doesn't necessarily demean Chalabi's usefulness to us if he has - rationally - worked with the mullahs just as he worked with us to obtain his objective of a Saddam-free Iraq, any connection to the Iranian regime should set off alarm bells as to his trustworthiness.
One thing StratFor noted about Chalabi's background is that an Iranian connection could help explain much about the collapse of the bank he ran in Jordan until the late 1980s, which ended with a bank fraud conviction (of dubious validity) being entered against Chalabi in a Jordanian court. If Chalabi's bank was used as a conduit for Iranian funds during the Iran-Iraq War, this would explain why the Jordanians were suddenly interested in shutting it down as soon as the war ended (lest that come to light), as well as why they didn't treat Chalabi as a criminal so much as persona non grata, with the Crown Prince of Jordan personally escorting him out of the country.
A related question I've wondered about is how much of Chalabi's Iranian connections have been known to some of the fiercer opponents of the Iranian regime who have also been big cheerleaders of Chalabi, such as Michael Ledeen (see here and here for examples of Ledeen saying glowing things about Chalabi). I could be wrong, but I thought I had read somewhere that Ledeen's source on his charge that the Iranians were buying uranium in Iraq was a Chalabi contact . . . the plot, as always in that part of the world, is undoubtedly a thick one, and one that may never fully be known.
BUSINESS: The Lou Dobbs Rogue Fund
Jim Glassman has some fun figuring out that if you invested your money in firms Lou Dobbs has blasted for 'offshoring' jobs, you would have made a 72% return on your investment last year.
POLITICS: The Liberalest Senator
The nonpartisan National Journal has released its rankings for 2003, and John Kerry (when he bothered to vote, that is) was rated the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. That's gonna leave a mark. Being #1 makes it real easy for Bush's team to write the campaign commercial . . .
BASEBALL: But Everybody Does It
“Babe Ruth didn’t do steroids?” Kent was quoted as saying. “How do you know? ... People are saying Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth — how do you know those guys didn’t do steroids? So all of a sudden, you’ve got guys doing steroids now in the 20th century, 21st century? Come on.
Um, has Kent ever seen a picture of Ruth in the 30s or Pete Rose in the 70s? Maybe there was somebody out there experimenting with the stuff, but it's a well-known fact you can document just by looking at photographs that before the late 80s it was largely believed (with a few exceptions like Honus Wagner and Stan Musial) that strength training was bad for ballplayers. I doubt much of anybody took steroids in baseball before around 1987-88 or so, when you began to see the first signs of guys lifting weights.
February 27, 2004
WAR: It's Never Good News
WAR/POLITICS: Get Unserious
I found it very revealing when Matt Yglesias suggested a few weeks ago that John Kerry should "really commit himself" to "build[ing] a viable democratic state in Iraq" . . . but that until the nomination was salted away he shouldn't do so because it would "be unpopular with the primary electorate and possibly lead to a Dean-resurgence."
Of course, with Dean out of the way, I'm still not holding my breath for Kerry to get serious. But it's more than a little scary to hear from a commited Democrat the idea that the Democratic primary voters aren't prepared to hear a serious, adult discussion about America's role in the world or its strategy for winning the war on terror.
POLITICS: A Known What?
(Link via the newest indispensable blogger, Wonkette).
SCIENCE: An Ounce of . . .
I don't care how much you want to avoid getting colon cancer, I'm not recommending this as as preventative measure.
BASEBALL: Another Take on the AL by Win Shares
Andrew Koch runs his own Win Shares-driven AL standings analysis, although he departs from my Established Win Shares Levels analysis (see here, here and here) in two ways, only one of which is an improvement:
1. He uses only 2003 WS, rather than a 2- or 3-year Established Performance Level. I prefer my approach, since a longer sample gives you a better look at a player's abilities. Randy Johnson's 2001 and 2002 are highly relevant to projecting him in 2004, for example, notwithstanding the injuries that wrecked his 2003. This also creates a second problem associated with the other adjustment.
2. He adjusts for the fact that a team's players will wind up with a fixed number of plate appearances and innings pitched, and thus projects various players' time upwards or downwards and adjusts them. In some ways this is an improvement, since my EWSL system doesn't adjust down when a team picks up everyday players to ride the bench or, like the Indians, gives everyday jobs to a bunch of guys who didn't play full seasons last year. In others, it's not so good, because he has to make rough estimates about players who were hurt last season.
It's a useful and interesting exercise, anyway, and I found it an interesting contrast, although his projected standings came out pretty close to mine anyway - both of us project the Yanks, Royals and Mariners to take the divisions, with the Red Sox winning the wild card as with 100+ wins but not finishing a particularly close second to the Yankees and with the AL Central as a whole having a lousy year.
Neither of us really has a formal adjustment for player age, of course (which is why I think the Angels should be favored above the Mariners and why I'm somewhat optimistic about the Twins), although Koch is certainly cognizant of the issue. Go check it out.
LAW: Ain't No Crime
Judge Cedarbaum's opinion in United States v. Stewart, 03 Cr. 717 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 27, 2004), dismissing the securities fraud charge against Martha Stewart, is now available online in PDF form. (You can read a news account of the decision here). The case provides an interesting look at the difficulty of proving intent in criminal securities fraud cases, especially in situations such as this one, where the alleged misrepresentations did not relate directly to the business of the issuer.
The securities fraud charge was always somewhat novel, in that it accused Stewart of fraud in connection with the purchase and sale of stock in her own company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSLO), by misrepresentations during the investigation of her sales of ImClone stock in which she  "described the [alleged standing order] agreement to sell ImClone at a predetermined price,  stated that her trade was proper and  denied trading on nonpublic information." Slip op. at 5. For purposes of the analysis of the Rule 29 motion on the sufficiency of the evidence, the court assumed the falsity of these statements. Id. at 7 n.1. The court found sufficient evidence that Stewart, who owned 60% of MSLO stock in addition to being CEO, closely tracked the stock's price (including the impact on that price of insider sales, as evidenced by an informal company policy restricting insider sales), and was aware of the importance of her personal reputation to the company, as well as evidence that MSLO stock began dropping on news of disclosure of the investigation into Stewart's sale of ImClone stock.
The court's dismissal was based on the finding that the jury would need to rely entirely on "speculation and surmise" to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Stewart's statements were made with the intent to affect the price of MSLO stock, and that the issue could not be permitted to go to the jury where "the competing intentions appear to be nearly in equipoise." Id. at 16, 20. As the court concluded, in light of the fact that Stewart had made no statements indicating a concern about the response of MSLO's stock price to the ImClone controversy (and, apparently, had made no suspicious sales of MSLO stock):
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To compound [the] weak evidence [that Stewart's statements were made with intent to defraud MSLO shareholders] with the reasonable inferences that Stewart possessed many other intents -- to protest her innocence or repair her reputation, to reassure her business partners, advertisers, and the consumers of her products -- would only invite the jury to speculate.
Id. at 22. The court found that the falsity of the statements alone would not support an inference of intent to defraud:
In some securities fraud cases, the falsity of a defendant's statements may lend weight to an inference of intent to deceive. But in this case, the falsehoods lack a direct connection to the supposed purpose of the alleged deception. The falsehoods involve Stewart's personal trade in the securities of ImClone. Evidence of intent to defraud investors of a different company is not readily discernible from the content of the falsehoods.
Id. at 21. In this regard, the court observed that the responsiveness of the statements to questions arising in the media about her ImClone trade did not suggest a connection to MSLO's stock price:
Because this argument does not distinguish meaningfully between the general public and MSLO investors, it cannot support a permissible inference of intent.
Id. at 16 n. 4. The court also found that the context in which the statements were made did not support the idea that they were targeted at affecting MSLO's stock price. The first statement was made by her attorney to the Wall Street Journal, but there was "no evidence that Stewart or her lawyer reached out to the Wall Street Journal as opposed to other publications" and "[t]hus, there is no evidence that Stewart chose the forum for the statement." Id. at 18. The second statement was made in a press release:
The Government argues that Stewart's intent with respect to the second statement can be inferred from the fact that she released it knowing that it would be widely disseminated in financial publications. This argument, which can be made with respect to any public statement, adds nothing to the evidence of criminal intent.
The third statement was made to a previously scheduled conference of analysts and investors, but the court emphasized that "the fact that Stewart made [this] statement to an audience of analysts and investors cannot retroactively endow her previous statements with a bad purpose," and found that the evidence that the statement itself was intended to affect MSLO's stock price was weak, given that Stewart's statement was only a small part of a larger statement about MSLO, made at an event where there were several other MSLO representatives and representatives of other companies and that neither Stewart nor MSLO organized the conference:
There is no evidence that the negative publicity about ImClone influenced Stewart's decision to attend and take advantage of a platform from which to reach investors directly.
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POLITICS: Why Is John Kerry Questioning A Vietnam Vet's Patriotism?
John Kerry has been fond of claiming recently that the Bush Administration has broken faith with military veterans by cutting veterans' benefits. As Bill Hobbs explains, this is fiction. But I have another question: as Hobbs notes, Kerry's not only challenging Bush, he's challenging Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony Principi. What's Principi's background?
A combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, . . . Mr. Principi is a 1967 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and first saw active duty aboard the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy. He later commanded a River Patrol Unit in Vietnam's Mekong Delta.
How dare Kerry question the commitment to our veterans of a decorated Vietnam veteran?
Of course, I'm being somewhat facetious here - Kerry's claim that his own Vietnam service immunizes his national security record from criticism, like his other main blathering points about "special interests" and outsourcing, is so flimsy it doesn't hold up under even the most minimal logical scrutiny. (As one of Tim Blair's readers put it, "I think I finally understand why Kerry underwent the botox treatments. It's so he could say all the things he does with a straight face. "). But it's still fun applying the scrutiny.
* "Vote Kerry: He Led America To Victory In Vietnam!"
* "John Kerry: Pretending To Fight Against Special Interests Since Very Recently"
* "John Kerry Won't Just Take A Stand On The Tough Issues - He'll Take Two Or Three Of Them"
* "Kerry: Not in the pocket of most special interests."
On the other hand, if you want an example of someone actually questioning Kerry's patriotism, check out this, from NRO:
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As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe. KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, "our most significant success."
If true, this still makes Kerry more a sucker than a traitor - Lenin's classic "useful idiot" - but it's a pretty damaging charge. (The author, Ion Mihai Pacepa, "the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to have defected from the former Soviet bloc," has also written about how he used Yasser Arafat as a tool of the Soviet Union and how much of Arafat's rhetoric was originally developed as Soviet propaganda).
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LAW/POLITICS: Over The Edge on Gay Marriage, Part II
Following up on yesterday's argument . . . as I think you can tell, I'm hardly a bitter-ender on the substance of the gay marriage question. I don't necessarily think that the world would spin off its axis if we had gay marriage . . . frankly, I hadn't really thought about "gay rights" issues until maybe my senior year of college, and I've made a real effort since then to take in all sides of the issues. And while I don't have the patience to read as much on these issues as Andrew Sullivan puts out, I do try to read his stuff on this. But what I do take very seriously is the Left's concerted effort to impose radical social changes without ever getting the sanction of democratically elected representatives or explicit authority in the Constitution or statutes, and then turn around and call conservatives the radical ones.
Now, we've got yet another local official threatening to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, this time the mayor of New Paltz, New York (this is what you get for electing a 26-year-old Green Party mayor). As in California, this will suddenly put both the Governor and the state Attorney General in a very awkward position.
Tom Maguire, who's been all over this issue, points us to Ramesh Ponnuru's article on NRO essentially endorsing the same solution that Maguire, I and James Taranto would all prefer: an amendment that would do nothing more than leave exclusively to each state's legislature the question of what kind of marriages or civil unions to approve. Indeed, the WSJ comes out with an editorial today endorsing precisely this position:
Now, even some who support a constitutional remedy wonder about the language. There is debate about whether the amendment's language would bar states from endorsing civil unions, which Mr. Bush says they should be free to do. We think this entire issue should be decided in the states, by the people through their elected legislators. And if the voters want to alter the definition of marriage as a new social consensus develops, that should be their democratic right.
This is a popular position. Indeed, even Sullivan says "I will support a federal constitutional amendment that would solely say that no state is required to recognize a civil marriage from another state," although he contends that we should first wait for the courts to bulldoze all the existing legislation on the matter - at which point, I do question whether he'd argue that it's a "divisive" attempt to "roll back" the facts on the ground . . .
Given that the votes clearly will not be there for a more sweeping amendment - something such noted weak-kneed moderates as Tom DeLay seem to have already appreciated - those pushing for an amendment need to take what they can get. I agree with Taranto that the more modest solution would put John Kerry in even more of a terrible box than he's already in (as opposed to his current position, in which he (1) says that opposing gay marriage is bigoted and divisive and (2) says that he opposes gay marriage), since the GOP could honestly portray its effort as one that preserves the status quo without casting it in stone. Kerry would then be forced to bet his chips on the losing hand of opposing his own position - or face the wrath of the Left within his own party.
Turning briefly to the merits of gay marriage, a few non-comprehensive thoughts:
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*As I've noted before, I have no problem with civil unions that essentially formalize a gay couple's ability to pledge themselves to each other and gain those benefits and privileges that are reasonably related to such a relationship, including things like hospital visitation rights and survivorship inheritance rights that don't cost the rest of us anything. The sensible way to do this is by statute, so that the government can sift through all the incidents of marriage and decide which ones can reasonably be applied to this context.
*Probably the major reason for preserving the special and unique status of traditional marriage is its intimate relationship to the bearing, begetting and rearing of children. While radical thinkers have tried to undermine this concept since Plato, nobody's yet come up with a better way. The usual rejoinder to this is that we don't bar heterosexual couples from marrying if they are infertile or don't want children . . . this is a complete red herring. It's not unusual at all for the government to encourage A and not B, where A is more likely to lead to C and C is what the government wants to see happen. When you shift the argument to "which has a more obvious, traditional, natural, longstanding and proven relationship to the raising of children," the answer is pretty obvious.
*As Jonah Goldberg has observed, given that gay unions of any sort are a relatively novel phenomenon, the genuinely conservative approach is to recognize civil unions by statute and adjust things as we go along and learn from experience. On the "slippery slope" arguments . . . well, if you took a snapshot of our culture 20, 30, 40 years ago, it would have been very hard indeed to predict where we are today. I don't really think the burden should be on those of us who prefer more incremental changes to foresee everywhere a radical, permanent, set-in-stone court-imposed rewriting of the definition of marriage might lead us. Leaving this stuff within reach of the polity to change in the future is a far healthier answer and one that mature adults can recognize as consistent with dynamic changes in society.
*Andrew Sullivan, who has argued that opponents of gay marriage are hypocrites for focusing on the one issue where they are presently on the defensive without calling for an accross-the-board change in, say, attitudes toward divorce, shot that argument in the foot yesterday by arguing that the proposed amendment is, in fact, part of such a broader initiative. I never gave much credence to this objection; we take the issues as they arise.
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February 26, 2004
BASEBALL: Rite of Spring
Yes, now it's official. Spring training isn't officially underway until the year's first story about the new, mature Darryl Strawberry.
(Stay tuned for the other signs of spring).
LAW/POLITICS: Over The Edge on Gay Marriage, Part I
Well, looks like it's time for me to talk about gay marriage. . . I didn't choose the time or the terms of this debate, but then, neither did President Bush. Keep that in mind.
You see, like any controversy over the intersection of law with the culture, the gay marriage debate has both a substantive aspect (what the right outcome for society should be) and a procedural aspect (how we get there, who legitimizes the decision, how it's enforced). And in this fight, the procedural issue is, in my view, a lot more troubling even than the substance.
On the merits, I first looked at this issue ten years ago, when I was in my first year of law school, and I came down in support of some form of civil union solution; I haven't seen anything to change my mind since then. More on the substantive merits another day (this post is already too long) . . . but I can recall having a debate in my property class with a lesbian woman who thought it highly unrealistic to await a democratic resolution of the issue. She wanted it to come from the courts.
From sources around the blogosphere too numerous to link here, we've tended to see five basic lines of attack against the president's decision to come down in favor of a constitutional amendment on the topic:
1. Ask why anybody cares who else is married.
These are deeply misguided arguments, and notwithstanding the fact that many of them are coming from people I otherwise respect and agree with on many other issues, they buy into the thuggish and dishonest tactics of the cultural Left, tactics that have been repeated so many times that those of us who consider ourselves social conservatives know exactly where this is going.
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Andrew Sullivan, who's been leading the charge for gay marriage for years, has framed the constitutional issue this way: "All true conservatives need to rally to protect the Constitution from being used unnecessarily for wedge politics."
I have to say: I agree with nearly everything Jonah Goldberg has written on this issue. He was right when he said that social conservatives are probably going to lose this battle, and that we can't just put our heads in the sand and pretend that the question will go away. He's also entirely correct that this fight is being picked by the Left, on its terms, and it's absurd to call conservatives "divisive" for not rolling over and playing dead when they are, after all, on the defensive against a court decision that overturned thousands of years of human experience and hundreds of years of settled assumptions in the law, and against rogue local officials who have precipitated a crisis by issuing marriage licenses that fly in the face of democratically-enacted state laws, including a popular referendum.
In that sense, this is a replay of past battles over the culture, and much of the ferocity of social conservatives comes from a deep sense of "we've lost this way before, this time we have to put a stop to it." If that makes this in some ways a proxy fight over abortion . . . well, thank Harry Blackmun for that. Over and over again, we've seen the same tactics from the Left: (1) use the courts to make dramatic changes; (2) immediately declare any attempt to alter those decisions through the democratic process "divisive"; (3) call conservatives "bigots."
We know how the Left will proceed here, having seen this all before. In the Congress, they will frame this as a civil rights issue and contend that majoritarian preferences shouldn't trump the legal process; in the courts, they will point to changing social consensus to effectively urge the judges to place the popular will (i.e., the opinions of the judges and their friends) ahead of the text of the law. The singular goal, at all times, will be to evade having the matter decided by a democratically legitimate authority, whether it be a legislature, a referendum, or any provision of the constitution.
I'll make a prediction right here, one that I dare any gay marriage supporter to disagree with:
Gay marriage will become the law of the land without any state legislature ever having voted it into law, without a majority of either house of Congress ever having voted in favor of gay marriage, without any statewide popular referendum ever having voted in favor of gay marriage, and without any state or federal constitutional provision ever having explicitly authorized it.
If you're not willing to disagree with that one, spare me the hypcritical blather about how conservatives shouldn't tinker with the constitution. To those who say, "trust us, don't amend the constitution, each state will get to decide" . . . when have the courts ever given social conservatives reason to believe that? It won't happen that way. I'd love to support an amendment that simply guarantees that the issue would be worked out by state legislatures (like James Taranto's suggestion), but if the only way to prevent a judicial takeover is to support a more broadly-worded amendment, many of us may feel we have no realistic choice.
In a sane world, we'd let the state legislatures handle this, as any good federalist would want. (As I've noted before, resort to state courts is no friend of federalism; Goldberg also notes the obvious disinterest in its bedrock principles by the proponents of gay marriage.) And on the merits, I tend to agree again with Goldberg that the best answer is to enact the incremental, yet in itself radically novel, measure of civil unions in at least some states and see how they work, giving our democratic representatives time and perspective to sort through the many legal implications (see below) of the marital relation. I'd be perfectly happy with that.
And you know what? If my state legislature decided to vote to change the law and let gays marry . . . I'd disagree with that, but it's not the end of the world. It would bother me a bit, but it would hardly burn me up. But what does stick in my craw rather severely is the Goodridge approach of having a bunch of judges pronounce not only a change in the thousands-of-years-old definition of marriage, but also that there is no rational basis whatsoever for that institution as it has always existed. Again, Goldberg is on target here: we're being asked to swallow a legal declaration that our longstanding and sacred institutions have no meaning, and we're supposed to smile when they tell us that. Why shouldn't that bother me? Mary Ann Glendon hits another key point, and given how this issue has unfolded in Europe and Canada, she's hardly being hyperbolic:
Religious freedom, too, is at stake. As much as one may wish to live and let live, the experience in other countries reveals that once these arrangements become law, there will be no live-and-let-live policy for those who differ. Gay-marriage proponents use the language of openness, tolerance and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination the likes of which we have rarely seen before. Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against. The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don't go along. Religious institutions will be hit with lawsuits if they refuse to compromise their principles.
As to the other points above . . . on argument #1, I have to agree with what Atrios wrote on this (yes, I can't believe that I just wrote that either): like it or not, the government is in the marriage business, and pervasively so: as Atrios notes, a 1999 GAO study found more than 1,000 rights and benefits of civil marriage. As some of your more reasonable libertarian types like NZ Bear have recognized, disentangling marriage from the law isn't going to happen any time soon.
Which means the law has to deal with this. And there are real financial consequences, among other things, as Glendon has noted: for example, if gay marriage is declared a constitutional right, there could be hugely expensive claims for retroactive benefits from various federal entitlement programs, and resources will inevitably be diverted from existing programs directed to traditional families.
And that gets us to objection #3: as long as this is an issue that both the federal and state governments are going to have to deal with, how can you fault the president for taking a position? John Kerry may claim that Bush hasn't always followed through on his positions (claiming that "the single biggest say-one-thing-and-do-another administration in the modern history in this country"), but as I've noted before, at least Bush makes sure you know exactly where he stands, as opposed to Kerry's preferred tactic of saying one thing, then saying its opposite, then doing nothing at all. This is also the answer to the "it's all politics" charge (#5): you can argue all you want about Bush's motives, but, as Allahpundit has all-too-vividly illustrated, Bush's position on this issue has always been clear. Should he ignore the issue? As John Edwards has noted, the president needs to be able to "walk and chew gum at the same time" - and that means taking positions on tough domestic issues even while prosecuting the war on terror, and even while his chief opponents are hiding behind a fog of evasions so thick that even their supporters can't figure out where they stand.
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BLOG: This Is Breaking News?
So, the other day I registered with Washingtonpost.com, so I could continue to read their articles online, and in the process I checked the box to receive breaking news alerts. I figured, yeah, I get a lot of email, but signing up for alerts on the real 'hot news' stories can't hurt. So yesterday, I get my first one:
Spelman to Step Down
Now, I'm not saying that this isn't a story worth reporting in the newspaper . . . but breaking news? This couldn't wait until the morning paper?
February 25, 2004
We litigators have all been on the other end of lawyers like this . . . my favorite is the part where the guy wrote to the court to defend all the typos in his work, and he misspelled the judge's name.
BLOG: TOP THIRTY SIGNS YOU'RE TURNING THIRTY
I wrote this one up
TOP THIRTY SIGNS YOU'RE TURNING THIRTY
1. You refer to college students as "kids."
UPDATE: Yeah, when I wrote this I forgot how many years ago it was. Bad sign.
BASEBALL: AL Central Established Win Shares Level Report
Moving on to the AL Central . . . you may have wondered, watching as the Yankees, Red Sox and Angels grew stronger while other teams East and West held their ground, who was going to lose all those games that other teams plan to win . . . look no further. This is one ugly division. There are only three players in the whole division with an EWSL of 20 or greater, which is one fewer than the Yankees have just in their infield (counting Posada).
This is the fourth in my series on Established Win Shares Levels; see here for an explanation of the EWSL method and ranking of the top 25 players, here for an explanation of the team-by-team method in the post on the AL West, and here for my AL East analysis (in which I noted a downgrade of the arbitrary rating of rookie starting pitchers from 7 Win Shares to 5). (I haven't yet gone back and re-adjusted the AL East and West numbers after the Rodriguez-Soriano trade).
As I and others have noted before, EWSL isn't a perfect tool for evaluating team rosters; again, what it measures is how much established major league talent is on each roster. A quick reminder on notations: players marked # are evaluated on their last 2 seasons rather than last 3; players marked * are evaluated only on 2003; and players marked + are rookies assigned an arbitrary WS total.
The AL Central:
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Kansas City Royals
Adjusted EWSL: 216.1 (72 wins)
Yup, that's right, EWSL says even after adjusting for all the youngsters, the Royals have enough established talent on the roster to win 72 games - and that that's enough to win this division for their first trip to the postseason since the 1985 World Champions. Of course, the EWSL projections tend to come in a little low (especially since I'm only rating 23 players per roster), and the teams in the AL Central have to play each other enough that you won't see five teams each notching 90 losses (recall that the Royals got as far as they did last year in part by going 27-11 against Detroit and Cleveland), and KC does have some young players who could step up and at least one veteran (Juan Gonzalez) who might, if healthy, well exceed 11 Win Shares . . . but as usual, take note: just to crack .500 the Royals will need to have a bunch of things happen that represent real and dramatic steps forward from prior years.
For all that, the first-place ranking tells us that KC wasn't crazy to push this team into contend-now mode by bringing in aging veterans like Santiago, Gonzalez and Leskanic, especially not with the best player in the division (Beltran) in his walk year. . . . if the current rotation holds - which seems unlikely, given injury histories and Jimmy Gobble - this team should set some sort of record for games started by pitchers whose names begin with the letter "A".
Adjusted EWSL: 207.1 (69 wins)
Unlike some professional sportswriters, I don't have Joe Mays listed in the Twins' rotation. But I will admit that while I'm working here from some online roto sites leavened by a sanity check as to what I learned over the winter, I could still be off base as to some of the planned starting rotations and lineups. Another thing to keep in mind here.
As you can see, the difference between the Twins and the Royals is all in the adjustments. . . At first glance, there's a sense that the Twins' window is shutting, with Koskie and Stewart likely to start taking a step backward, Hunter and Jones likely having had their career years in 2002, and the departure in recent years of numerous mainstays - Pierzynski, Guardado, Hawkins, Reed, Milton, Ortiz. But this is now a young team, the youngest in the AL by EWSL-weighted age, and it's easy to see some of the upsides. Santana, if he holds up over a full season in the rotation, should add another 2-3 wins to the bottom line right off the bat, Gardenhire's record with bullpens past suggests that he can get a bit more out of the current crop (note that Win Shares values established closers, and there's really no proven closer here, which ought to fix itself as someone takes the job), and LeCroy and Cuddyer should get more playing time. But the biggest wild card is the highly-touted rookie catcher, Joe Mauer, who has a tall order filling Pierzynski's defensive shoes while being asked to add some major offensive punch. If Mauer is back in Rochester by June 1 - not an unrealistic possibility with any rookie - the Twinkies are going nowhere.
Chicago White Sox
Adjusted EWSL: 205.4 (68 wins)
The White Sox actually have the highest team EWSL in the division before you run the adjustments for players with limited experience, rookies, etc. Which isn't surprising; this is mostly a team of proven commodities, although there may still be hope that Garland will develop (there's less reason to be optimistic about Wright). Overall, though, it's hard to see much room for improvement on this roster. Loaiza's always been a talented pitcher and his peripheral numbers were good last year, so I suspect he'll retain some of the added value from 2003, when he posted 23 Win Shares; the 14 number above does seem reasonable. Also, I think Konerko will bounce back some. But projecting these guys to make much noise seems very optimistic.
Adjusted EWSL: 158.9 (53 wins)
There's no team in baseball more likely to improve this season than the Tigers, if only because in 2003 they pushed the mathematical limits on how bad a major league baseball team can get. . . . baseball games are played by human beings, and baseball teams ask fans to come and watch them, so I can't fault the Tigers for bringing in Ivan Rodriguez to generate a little excitement and add some veteran stability behind the plate (although before 2003, his record working with young pitchers was hardly inspiring). Vina and Rondell White are another matter. You have to expect some improvement from Bonderman and Maroth (2004 will probably get Maroth to the top of his range; a guy with his low strikeout rate has a low ceiling). . . I have fond memories of Nate Cornejo's dad, Mardie, who pitched quite well in 25 games in relief in his one season with the Mets . . . observant Mariner fans will note that EWSL rates Guillen at 12 Win Shares compared to 17 for Rich Aurilia, although I still have mixed thoughts about the exchange.
Adjusted EWSL: 156.4 (52 wins)
The Indians are where the EWSL method breaks down completely. Remember, this is not a predictive method, although what it tells us is very useful in making predictions; what we're measuring here is how much proven, established major league talent is on the roster. But few of the Indians have "established" anything at this level. Not only do the Indians have a lot of guys with very short track records, but a lot of the key players don't even have a full season's worth of at bats under their belts. Thus, this team has at least the potential for a fairly large and hard to quantify improvement, although I still don't see them as a contender (they need a 13 game improvement just to hit .500).
The bad news is that few of the Indians' young players are really all that young - of the potential everyday players, only Victor Martinez, Coco Crisp and the perenially rehabbing Alex Escobar are 25 or younger - and a lot of them would appear to have only "pretty good player" ceilings. But for guys like Gerut and Hafner, the future should arrive this year.
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WAR: All One Problem, Part II
George Tenet has his problems, but his testimony yesterday indicates that he gets one key point: the war on terror is less and less about Al Qaeda per se, and more and more about smaller or harder to track groups that share the same fundamental anti-American political ideology.
POLITICS/BASEBALL: One's A
In case you missed it, from late last week: did you know that the YES Network (presumably at the urging of George Steinbrenner, who was once convicted of making illegal campaign contributions to Richard Nixon), was a major donor to the group (also including such distinguished John Kerry supporters as Bob Torricelli) that ran particularly pointed anti-Howard Dean ads in Iowa (the ads that showed Osama bin Laden and questioned whether Dean had the experience to deal with him)?
One wonders whether YES' anti-Dean position had anything to do with his threat to regulate the media.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Baseball 2004 | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: How Many Times?
Meryl Yourish notes that since September 2000, Israel has seen more than 7,000 people killed or injured in terrorist attacks of its population of 5.4 million Jews . . . she asks how many September 11ths that adds up to, proportional to the U.S. population. Of course, when you check the link to the IDF statistics, it's 928 killed and the rest wounded, including soldiers; the actual number of civilians killed is 653. If you just compare the 7,000 to the 3,000 or so killed on September 11, it's more than 100 times our loss; if you compare the 653 number, it's more like ten September 11ths. But no matter how you splice the numbers, it's a heck of a lot of blood spilled in four years. It's something to chew on, before condemning the Israelis for anything.
February 24, 2004
BASEBALL: The $46 Million Man
Damien at Shea Daily (now jedikaos.net) notes that if you average out the portions of A-Rod's contract that the Rangers actually paid against the three years he played in Arlington, you get an average annual salary of $46,666,666.67. Even I can't justify that as a good deal.
WAR: I Taunt You
1. The Islamists accusing the French of "Crusader envy." So much for the superiority of the French approach to the "simplistic" and "arrogant" American tack in getting a break from these nutballs.
2. There was something rather pathetic in the efforts to taunt Bush:
"Bush, fortify your targets, tighten your defense, intensify your security measures," the tape recording warned, "because the fighting Islamic community — which sent you New York and Washington battalions — has decided to send you one battalion after the other, carrying death and seeking heaven."
Sure, they could pull something off at any time . . . but until they do, this stuff sounds like bluster that wouldn't be necessary if their operations weren't severely crimped. Or, put another way:
I don't want to talk to you no more, you empty headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries. . . now go away before I taunt you a second time.
BASEBALL: Halls of Relief
Not much blogging this morning, as I'm finishing up my Established Win Shares analysis of the AL Central, which is on deck for tomorrow morning (early preview: the Central stinks). In the meantime, if you haven't already, head on over and check out the conclusion of Mike Carminti's seemingly interminable but fascinating "Halls of Relief" series (I've only had time to read parts of it myself), in which he wraps up his history of relief pitching by stacking up the greatest bullpens of all time (there's also links to the rest of the series). Nobody goes off on a tangent quite like Mike Carminti; he's practically got enough material there for a book.
POLITICS: Buckley on Kerry, 1971
February 23, 2004
POLITICS: 2000 Trivia
Answer: New Mexico, Oregon, Iowa and Wisconsin.
Question: In what four states in 2000 was Al Gore's margin of victory over Bush smaller than the number of votes cast for Pat Buchanan?
In only two states - albeit enough to swing the election - did Nader outpoll Bush's margin of victory: Florida and New Hampshire. If a third of New Hampshire's 22,188 Nader voters had pulled the lever for Gore, he'd be president now.
POLITICS: The Map
I've added a direct link in the Reference Desk to the Electoral College Map (provided by Edwardsforprez) that's featured over at Daily Kos; it's a wonderful resource. But I ran the numbers with Bush holding all his 2000 states except New Hampshire and Nevada, and I came up with . . . a 269-269 tie. Is that possible? I'll have to check the math.
LAW/WAR: This Time, It's Personal
Darren Kaplan notes that Solicitor General Ted Olson will personally argue the government's case before the Supreme Court in Rumsfeld v. Padilla, the case addressing the government's ability to detain "dirty bomb" suspect Jose Padilla. As you may remember, Olson's wife was killed on September 11.
February 22, 2004
POLITICS: Outsourcing History?
Jonah Goldberg picks up an amusing example of overseas outsourcing by someone John Kerry won't call "Benedict Arnold." Meanwhile, the Daily News defends NY-based companies that outsource tasks overseas, while arguing that John Edwards should be criticizing companies that close plants in Queens to relocate to South Carolina.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave . . .
POLITICS: Then Again, Don't Bring It On
John Kerry hasn't even sewn up the Democratic nomination, and already he's complaining that he can't handle criticism from President Bush and Republicans on his national security record and his actions after Vietnam. Of course, the hypocrisy of Kerry wanting to take Vietnam off the table after making it part of his answer to nearly every question is mind-bending, like if Howard Dean had suddenly claimed that the Iraq war shouldn't be a political issue. So much for "BRING IT ON!"
UPDATE: Kaus catches an even more egregious attempt by Kerry to bully his opponents into silence:
Kerry responds:``I don't know what it is about what these Republicans who didn't serve in any war have against those of us who are Democrats who did."
February 21, 2004
BASEBALL: Pump It Up!
John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters has been on a bit of a crusade to dial down the anti-steroids speculation and rhetoric around the game. He links here to this Reason Magazine article in which Dayn Perry argues that the adverse health risks of steroids haven't been scientifically proven, and here he makes an essentially libertarian argument against regulating steroids, at least until there's better science on the issue.
I've agreed before with the point Perricone makes repeatedly (see here and here for examples) that the media has been way too quick to point fingers at specific players (or, for that matter, quote generalized percentages of players) without any evidence. On the other hand, the lack of evidence is no excuse for giving up on the story; the answer is to keep digging.
I haven't really digested Perry's piece yet . . . I'm sympathetic to anti-junk-science arguments, but I'm not sure I buy the "there's nothing wrong with being on steroids" argument, which sometimes tends to sound a bit too much like the tobacco executives for even my right-wing tastes. But it's a perspective worth taking seriously.
I don't doubt that there's a lot of players out there who are clean, and that a lot of guys are bulking up with the help of supplements and the like that are perfectly legit but just way beyond what was available until recently. Still, I do wonder: I was a diligent 5-6-days-a-week weightlifter myself for about 4 years in college and law school, at an age when it's a lot easier to build muscle mass than it is in your thirties. I started out weighing around 120 (I'm just under 5'10"), which was way underweight and down from where I'd been when I started college, and got up to about 140 in a year or so, but never got past that; I came away with a real appreciation of how hard it is to keep bulking up (then again, as you can guess from the numbers, my frame isn't really designed for being Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Anyway, go follow the links; there's a lot to chew on there.
POLITICS: Required Reading
I can't say enough about the Mark Steyn piece the Mad Hibernian links to below . . . but another can't-miss bit of political humor is today's Dave Barry column, which is just packed with gags in the classic Barry style. One sample:
Yes, voters, I trust you, because I am one of you. I even talk like you. For example, when I'm campaignin' in the South, I leave the "g" off the ends of words and I use old country expressions that express the homespun wisdom acquired by rural people over years of drinkin' contaminated ground water, such as: "Don't light a match till you know which end of the dog is barkin'." As your President, I will govern the nation, or at least the South, in accordance with those words, whatever they may mean.
Read the whole thing.
FOOTBALL: Screwing the NFL?
Gregg Easterbrook takes severe issue with Judge Shira Scheindlin's ruling, in Maurice Clarett's case, striking down the NFL's minimum age rule. I'm not sure if I agree with all his points, but Easterbrook certainly makes the case that the league has a valid interest in preserving a high quality of play and in keeping college football's free publicity machine for future NFL stars going.
POLITICS/HISTORY: Poll Watching
POLITICS: Last Call for Dean-Bashing
It appears for the moment that we've seen the last of Howard Dean as a candidate for national office for quite some time. Although he may be keeping his powder dry for 2008, I suspect that Dean's 2004 problem - people think he's nuts - is a hard one to overcome; ask Dan Quayle how hard it is to change an image that casts you as unpresidential.
Anyway, this makes it time to dump out the rest of my research on Dean, for future reference or just for the sheer malicious glee of kicking a man when he's down:
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I still think there's plenty to find fault with in Dean's record, notably two non-fiscal-policy aspects:
*Act 64, the McCain-Feingold-on-steroids campaign finance bill. I tracked here and here the progress of the litigation over Act 64 (NRO was ripping it long before Dean became a significant presidential contender). Last I checked in, the Second Circuit had withdrawn its opinion upholding Act 64, but that was a year and a half ago and I lost track of what happened after the Supreme Court upheld McCain-Feingold. (Here's a Google search on "Howard Dean" and "Act 64" if you want to see what else is out there). The Act 64 litigation was an amusing contrast to Dean's later effort to opt out of public financing.
But wait, there's more:
*Then there was Dean's admission that he'd had therapy for panic attacks. Dean as Tony Soprano? Mild panic attacks aren't that big a deal, although the fact that he sought therapy is a little odd. I've had those myself, mostly right after 9/11, but they were basically self-sustaining: once I knew what they were, they didn't freak me out and they went away. No therapy necessary. Maybe if Dean was more religious, he'd just have talked to a priest or minister.
On this count, however, I think the country's more blase about therapy than it was in 1972 (Thomas Eagleton), since more people seek therapy for small stuff. But it was real bad timing to reveal this when it broke in January - this was one in an avalanche of bad stories for Dean - and it put a very different spin on him saying Bush needed therapy. If you look back at Dean's quote about Bush ("Do I think the president needs psychotherapy? I recommend it; I think it's a great thing for everybody who is struggling with issues. Do I think he's unbalanced? Of course not."), it almost sounded like he was saying it as a guy who'd done therapy himself. (Note also how Dean's account in the Herald story conflicts with his earlier story about how he was in the middle of treating a patient when he got the call in 1991, and kept on what he was doing without missing a beat, finishing up with his patients before taking the oath of office.)
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February 20, 2004
POLITICS: Too Good to Check
Frankly, sharing a media market with Chuck Schumer is like sharing a banana with a monkey. Take a little bite of it, and he will throw his own feces at you.
RELIGION/FOOTBALL: Who 3:16?
One observant viewer of the Super Bowl points out that CBS appears to have blotted out the contents of posters behind the end zone, and speculates that CBS may have been concealing "John 3:16" banners.* (Link via Stuart Buck).
*For the uninitiated, John 3:16 is the one sentence of the Bible that many Christians feel captures the essence of Christianity; I can still recite it from memory, as our sophmore theology teacher in high school made us memorize it for every weekly test: "For God loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son, so that all who believe in Him may not die, but have eternal life."
Scientists have announced what they believe to be the discovery of "a frozen object 4.4 billion miles from Earth that appears to be more than half the size of Pluto and larger than the planet's moon," the largest discovery within our solar system since Pluto itself in 1930. The "planetoid," "dubbed 2004 DW [they'll need a better name], lies at the outer fringes of the Kuiper Belt, a swarm of frozen rock and ice beyond the orbit of Neptune."
BASEBALL: The Gathering Storm
A friend recently sent me an email about an event where a prominent baseball writer spoke freely about, among other things, the view that a certain well-known player is on steroids and another recently stopped taking them and has slimmed down dramatically . . . I won't reprint the charges, since (1) they're third-hand at best, (2) they weren't really intended for public distribution, and (3) it's not my place to smear the names of prominent players without any personal knowledge of the facts.
But face it: the fact that a well-known insider would make casual remarks about this stuff to strangers . . . what that says to me, really, is that the insiders know that the truth is coming out soon, and respecting a code of silence about it all doesn't really serve much purpose anymore. (David Pinto has noted one prominent crack in the wall). I really, really don't want to learn that one of my favorite players has been using steroids; chances are, you don't either. It's going to be unpleasant and distasteful all around. But as I noted in May of 2002, the truth is coming sooner or later. To me, it smells like sooner.
POLITICS: Principled Positions
Tim Noah, like Jonah Goldberg, thinks Howard Dean's problem as a candidate was that he was a phony who didn't really believe in his own left-wing campaign rhetoric. Both of them cite his more (comparitively) moderate record as Vermont governor. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, argues that Dean's undistilled leftism and confrontational style made him "the most consequential loser since Barry Goldwater."
I think the Journal is closer to the truth, and there's an important point here about politicians and their convictions. The charge against Dean sometimes focuses on the idea that his strong anti-war and tax-hiking stands were calculated postures based on his assessment of the mood of the Democratic electorate in 2003. Kevin Drum has repeatedly made the same charge against Bush. Now, it's fair game to point to inconsistencies in a man's record and ask whether he really believes what he says. But in a representative democracy, it's not necessarily fatal to hire leaders who echo what we want them to say, rather than what they'd do if they had their druthers. Many of our individual druthers, after all, aren't so well thought-out.
No, what matters more than anything is not a politician's fealty to his own internal principles but his ability to take a principled position and stick to it, whether he believes in it or not. Regardless of its sincerity, Howard Dean's positions on Iraq and on the Bush tax cuts were principled positions: he made sure everyone knew precisely where he stood, he made all the arguments for those positions as forcefully as he could, and he left himself no wiggle room to back away if those positions were rejected by the voters or if (as happened with the capture of Saddam) his principled position was discredited by subsequent events. What we look for in leaders, especially presidents, is that ability: the willingness to say, "here I stand," let the voters judge the merits of that stand, and keep faith with your promises, even when the going gets rough.
That doesn't mean that you can never compromise; even a principled advocate can judge when to settle for the best deal that's going to come. Think of John McCain's approach to campaign finance reform or Ted Kennedy's approach to universal government-provided health insurance, both clear examples of principled positions where (like the results or not) a legislator staked out a position and made things happen by tireless advocacy and leadership.
Part of what made Bill Clinton so frustrating to deal with was his allergy to principled positions, the difficulty of pinning him down on issues. But even Clinton took principled stands on occasion -- sometimes by using his popular mandate to enact campaign promises like the Family and Medical Leave Act, sometimes by bucking his own party for the good of the economy (as with NAFTA and GATT), and, in the case of HillaryCare, pushing a principled stand far beyond the point where prudence counseled compromise.
Love him or hate him, President Bush has similarly taken a series of principled positions, albeit with exceptions (as where he abandoned many of his principles on the education bill and threw them overboard on McCain-Feingiold). In dealing with the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, Bush was unyielding in pursuit of our objectives, even in the face of many objections and obstacles along the way. On tax cuts, Bush has consistently staked out clearly understood objectives -- there's no question that Bush's campaign got out in front of public demand for tax cuts and that the public identifies Bush with that position -- and pushed for as much of his proposed cuts as he could get. Bush's positions on Social Security, the Medicare prescription drug bill, judicial nominees, the faith-based initiative -- you can fault his objectives or the degree of his follow-through, but you can't doubt where Bush stands and that he's been willing to weather criticism from many corners without changing course.
Which brings us to the core of the problem with John Kerry. As Will Saletan has put it:
Kerry's more fundamental problem is his tendency to try to have everything both ways, chiefly by rigging his answers with caveats. He approaches political questions the way soldiers approach urban warfare: He never walks into a sentence without leaving himself a way out.
This is Kerry's core problem. Try to cite back part of Kerry's voting record, and he'll cite votes going the other way. War with Iraq? Voted against the first one but said some good things about it, voted for the second one and campaigned against it, voted in between for the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998. Voted for the Patriot Act and No Child Left Behind and NAFTA, campaigned against all three. Campaigned strenuously for Kyoto, but voted for the anti-Kyoto resolution in the Senate. Opposes drilling in ANWR, but wants the unions to know he's OK with it. Opposes gay marriage, but voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. . . . you get the picture. It's not that Kerry doesn't necessarily have principles; clearly, his instincts are quite liberal, as he's often shown and as his voting record tilts. But there's never been any point in John Kerry's career when, as many another legislator has done, he took an issue, made it his own, and declared to all the world: here I stand, come with me. Dean's not the only loser who got his way; in recent memory, Steve Forbes and Ross Perot also did much to shape the public agenda by taking stands on issues and forcing other candidates to deal with their ideas. But even if John Kerry wins, for what has he ever shown he would fight without backing down, come whatever grief may come his way?
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February 19, 2004
POLITICS: Called It
This site's third co-blogger, who blogs under the pseudonym Kiner's Korner, has gotten out of the blog groove the last several months. But I have to give him credit here for an email he sent me January 30, after the New Hampshire primary:
Dean doesn't actually win a single primary
I doubted him, but that's exactly what happened.
POLITICS: The Dean Delusion
As Howard Dean exits stage left, it's worth looking back at Clay Shirky's widely-linked analysis of what went wrong:
[T]he hard thing to explain is not how the Dean campaign blew such a huge lead, but rather why we ever thought that lead actually existed. Dean's campaign didn't just fail, it dissolved on contact with reality.
The irony here is rich: Dean spent much of his campaign blasting Bush for relying on faulty intelligence to make decisions and for failing to plan ahead for postwar Iraq. Moreover, his party has hung a lot of importance on corporate scandals and the burst of the tech bubble, both of which were grounded in some way in wildly optimistic overestimates of profitability. And after all that, it turns out that Dean himself was the one who was guilty of the very things he charged the president with: he fell for bad information and didn't have a contingency plan in place if things went badly.
Of course, there's a counter to all this: that Dean's implosion was all about Dean's own statements piling up against him, while events outside his control (i.e., the capture of Saddam) worked to undercut the thrust of his case. And you can argue that, given what a longshot Dean was to start with, it made eminent sense for Dean to pursue a high-risk, no-fallback-position strategy aimed at crushing the opposition in the first two contests (in fact, John Kerry has succeeded by pursuing the same strategy). But the fact is, Dean believed his own BS, and he paid for it.
POLITICS: The Calendar
There's been some griping from Democrats about the GOP having its convention in New York so close to the anniversary of September 11, when the incumbent party's conventions are normally in mid-August, but a look at the calendar (thanks to The Note) explains why the Republicans are staging the convention so late:
July 26, 2004: Target start date for the 108th Congress' August recess
As Bill Clinton might have told himself: it's the Olympics, stupid.
BLOG: Alabama Song
Laurie Lee done fell in love; She planned to marry Joe. She was so happy 'bout it all She told her Pappy so.
POLITICS: Man of the People
After Ted Barlow accused Jonah Goldberg of printing made-up stories of John Kerry pulling rank on ordinary citizens (often with the question, "Do you know who I am?," which Jonah now abbreviates as "DYKWIA"), Howie Carr stoked the fire with a NY Post column detailing how his callers have been lighting up the phone lines for years with stories like this. (For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Carr is a Boston Herald columnist and radio show host who's somewhere between the slightly over-the-top Limbaugh and Hannity and the way-over-the-top likes of Ann Coulter or Bob Grant). Now, Barlow does have a point about using anonymous letter-writers and callers to slam public figures, but I strongly suspect that some serious reportage would uncover a heck of a lot of people willing to repeat this type of thing on the record.
Now, Goldberg points us to an amusing catch by brand-new blogger Donald Crankshaw, who noticed a DYKWIA-type story about Kerry from none other than Dave Barry:
In conclusion, I want to extend my sincere best wishes to all of my opponents, Republican and Democrat, and to state that, in the unlikely event I am not elected, I will support whoever is, even if it is Sen. John Kerry, who once came, with his entourage, into a ski-rental shop in Ketchum, Idaho, where I was waiting patiently with my family to rent snowboards, and Sen. Kerry used one of his lackeys to flagrantly barge in line ahead of us and everybody else, as if he had some urgent senatorial need for a snowboard, like there was about to be an emergency meeting, out on the slopes, of the Joint Halfpipe Committee. I say it's time for us, as a nation, to put this unpleasant incident behind us. I know that I, for one, have forgotten all about it. That is how fair and balanced I am.
You can check out Barry's whole column here. While it's Barry's usual tongue-in-cheek style, Crankshaw says he emailed Barry's "Research Department" and Barry insists that he's not making this one up.
Meanwhile, the Onion perfectly captures Kerry's true colors (link via Andrew Sullivan).
WAR: It's All One Problem
Tacitus has a great series of posts here, here and here on why we should wake up and realize that Hezbollah and other non-Al Qaeda jihadist terror groups are also at war with us. This is very close to the core of what I believe Bush understands, and his critics willfully misunderstand, about the war on terror, and why the fissures over Iraq are so deep. (Among other things, Saddam's open support for suicide bombers in Israel and his known support for other terror groups - together with his invocation of the jihadist ideology in his public pronouncements - was, in my mind, a huge factor in why we were right to go to war with him). We simply can no longer tolerate the existence of groups like this. It's all one problem, and there's really no way to keep suicidal jihadist fanatics from following their anti-American creed to its logical conclusion.
While you're over at Tacitus' place, by the way, don't miss his two-part series here and here on the history and aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, including some first-hand reporting from Tacitus' trip to Rwanda late last year. It's a heart-rending account of a story that I, for one, have never entirely gotten my mind around (the French don't come off too well, although nobody else in the West does either), and is some of the best writing you are likely to see on any blog on any subject.
February 18, 2004
POLITICS: The Health of the State
Josh Marshall makes a revealing blunder all too typical of Beltway Democrats:
Bush told a crowd in Florida that "Democrats would endanger America's fiscal health by raising taxes." . . . When the president came into office the budget surplus was over $200 billion. Now the deficit is over $500 billion.
Note that Marshall equates "the nation's fiscal health" with the Federal Government's budget. Now, maybe he's deliberately turning Bush's use of the word "fiscal" against him, but the bottom line here is that Marshall completely ignores the existence of an economy outside of the government. Balanced budgets alone are not the health of the state.
POLITICS: The Source
Cartoonist Tom Oliphant comes to the obvious conclusion about the sudden descent of the 2004 campaign into mudslinging about Bush's National Guard service and unproven charges about a sex scandal involving John Kerry: the man most responsible for driving both charges to the front page is Wesley Clark, the master of the unproven assertion.
Maybe it's just coincidence that this kind of stuff is coming from the Clintons' favorite candidate (just like it's a coincidence that all those high-paid players happen to be on the Yankees) . . . or maybe Jonah Goldberg was right in 2002 that ""Like some perverse "Where's Waldo" drawing, wherever large groups of Democrats congregate, you know if you can find Bill Clinton in the picture they will behave like jackasses."
POLITICS: No AWOL Here
More reactions from military sources to the "AWOL Bush" nonsense. From Bush's visit yesterday with a National Guard unit in Louisiana:
In interviews, soldiers brushed off the flap about Bush's record. Staff Sgt. Jim Lee, an Arkansas National Guardsman, said, "I think he did his duty. We're certainly supportive of the president. We're all Guardsmen, so we know what happens when you transfer from one state to another. The records get convoluted."
Then there's Phil Carter, who strains to find a reason why the controversy should continue, but admits up front that
The issue has never been whether he was guilty of desertion or being AWOL--two slanderous charges leveled without regard for the facts. The real issue has always been the character of his service, and whether it was good enough to set the example for America's 1.4 million citizens in uniform.
This should come as a surprise to those commenters who cite Carter as an authority on the "AWOL" charge, but Carter is out in front of where the goalposts have been moved by Democrats desperate to keep the issue alive.
BASEBALL: The Glory of His Time
David Pinto alerts us to the death of Lawrence Ritter at age 81. The Mad Hibernian and I paid tribute here and here to The Glory of Their Times.
WAR: A Fitting Tribute
Check out this story on a statue paying tribute to members of the 4th Infantry Division who have died in Iraq. (From LT Smash). I love the fact that the statue was done by an Iraqi sculptor and was cast from metal from melted-down statues of Saddam. A fitting tribute to that for which they gave their lives.
BLOG: Rummy Attacks!
BASEBALL: Time Warp
Matt Welch and the Primates tear into this turgid muck of a column by know-nothing LA Times sportswriter Bill Plaschke, ripping into the Dodgers for hiring the young, stat-oriented Paul DePodesta as GM (unsurprisingly, I like the move, as does Pinto). From what I've seen online, the LAT is something of a West Coast version of the Boston Globe -- the same dull, biased newswriting, the same dreary, don't-read-me layout, the same fatuous editorials and idiot left-leaning op-ed columnists, and the same bitter, flat-earth troglodytes on the sports page. In short, a newspaper where nothing has changed and nothing has been learned since 1975. Anyway, Welch has more patience than I usually do for plowing through this stuff, and promises to start a "Moneyboner of the Day" feature mocking this kind of anti-knowledge baseball writing. Good luck.
I did get one useful thing from this, though; the Clutch Hits thread had a link to this proto-sabermetric LIFE Magazine article by Branch Rickey, reprinted at Jim Fraser's homepage (I've added it here as the link by the Rickey quote as well), in which Rickey lauded on base percentage, a combined OBP/Slugging % metric and ERA and its components as the keys to evaluating players. As Rickey noted at the time:
It is the hardest thing in the world to get big league baseball to change anything—even spikes on a pair of shoes. But they will accept this new interpretation of baseball statistics eventually. They are bound to.
An optimist, Rickey was; and an incredibly forward-thinking guy, for a man whose playing career began in 1905.
February 17, 2004
WAR: Man of Straw
Tim Blair catches an Australian critic of Bush and the Iraq war fabricating quotes about WMD, including altering passages from the State of the Union.
BASEBALL: Maddux For Sale
While he's apparently still in talks with the Cubs, ESPN reports on rumors that Greg Maddux could be close to signing with the Yankees. The rich get richer? Brian Cashman denies that he's talking to Maddux. Maddux is ideally suited for a team like the Yanks or Cubs, that can put him at the back of the rotation; he's basically a league-average starter at this stage, which is still a useful commodity as long as you don't expect him to have an ERA around 3.00 or lower.
(Warning: ESPN link opens a popup that's very hard to close).
February 15, 2004
BASEBALL: An A-Rod Primer
Here's some internal links to give you my take on the Yankees' apparent acquisition of Alex Rodriguez:
*Here's where I ran the numbers last fall on the Yankees' financial dominance, before they brought in Rodriguez, Sheffield, Kevin Brown and Javier Vazquez. What's scary is that they've moved on to snagging players the other rich teams can't afford.
POLITICS: Dated, Dean, Married Kerry . . . Then What?
Looks like the "did John Kerry cheat on his wife?" story isn't going anywhere at the moment, after peaking with cover stories in the NY tabloids on Saturday. . . which is as it should be; sure, Kerry could be lying to us, but he's now unequivocally denied the story (such as it is), and all the "evidence" is unsourced hearsay speculation. The man's entitled to the benefit of the doubt. I'm not ready to declare the story an unsubstantiated smear until we see if Drudge comes up with anything else, but until he does, we should presume that Kerry has been faithful to his second wife.
Which is not to say that the picture of Kerry's family life is entirely flattering. Remember all the howls of derision from the Left at Newt Gingrich having served divorce papers on his wife while she lay sick in the hospital? NewsMax commented on this last spring (based on reporting done in this Joe Klein article in the New Yorker):
[T]he press has been far kinder to Democratic presidential front-runner John Kerry, who, according to published accounts going back more than a decade, began extricating himself from his first marriage to Philadelphia heiress Julia Thorne at the same time she was battling a case of depression so debilitating that it drove her to the brink of suicide.
NewsMax notes that Kerry wrote to the New Yorker to complain about the article, although it doesn't address whether he actually disputed any of the facts in Klein's article . . . again, the picture of a man's character is broader than any one incident, and there have been good presidents before who had pretty ugly personal lives. But it's something to consider. Anyway, don't hold your breath waiting for the people who mocked Gingrich to come down hard on Kerry.
WAR: James Carroll
One of the very worst columnists in the business has to be James Carroll of the Boston Globe, a guy who will buy into any anti-American cliche, no matter how attenuated its relationship to the facts. Anyway, I hadn't fully grasped the roots of Carroll's problems until I stumbled accross this book review on Amazon:
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If the Civil War pitted brother against brother, the Vietnam War is best understood as pitting father against son. Some of Vietnam's longest lasting battles were fought in heavy rages and even heavier silences across the dinner table. James Carroll is a veteran of many such skirmishes. A novelist now, this book is his story of what it was like to be an anti-war priest in the '60s while his father was an Air Force general deeply involved in Pentagon planning. What makes the book particularly moving is that Carroll comes to realize that his father is no mono-dimensional saber-rattler (indeed, he suspects that his father's military career came to its sudden end because of the stances he took inside the corridors of power against expanding and intensifying the war). But the terrible truth was that neither the father nor the son ever managed to transcend the boundaries of their particular roles to meet each other in a candid, reciprocal relationship.
Orrin Judd, who's sprinkled his insightful book reviews liberally accross Amazon, elaborates:
In point of fact, the War seems to have had little to do with Carroll's personal crisis, certainly its morality had nothing to do with it, instead the story he has to tell is that age old tale of youth rebelling against authority. I'm loathe to engage in psychoanalysis, being both unqualified and not much of a believer in its efficacy, but Carroll uses the term Oedipal so often and the book is cast so clearly in the form of an Oedipal drama that it's hard to avoid doing so. Start with the fact that he outdoes his father by actually becoming a priest, where Joe fell short; continue with the way that this profession figuratively wed him to his pious mother, whose entry to Heaven would be virtually guaranteed by virtue of having borne a priest; move along to his utter rejection of his father's profession and an eventual adoption of complete pacifism; then conclude with his decision to leave the priesthood after his father had been forced out of government and crippled by disease. It's hard to see how Vietnam actually matters to any of this psychodrama : had his Dad been a butcher, Carroll would have become a vegetarian, had he been a fireman, Carroll would have been an arsonist. This is a mere story of generational tension dressed up in the ennobling guise of a great moral struggle.
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BASEBALL: Money Talks
So here I am minding my own business last night, and I check my Blackberry, and what should be there but an email message from Dr. Manhattan saying that the Yankees have all but finalized a deal with the Rangers to send Alex Rodriguez to New York for Alfonso Soriano. Lest there be any doubt what this deal was about:
"It's about flexibility," Rangers GM John Hart said last night. "We're trading the best player in the game and we're getting tremendous financial flexibility."
Now, Soriano (who's young and makes very little money) is a real good player, although I remain skeptical as always about his ability to sustain a high level of offensive productivity unless he learns some plate discipline. But this leaves the Rangers with two second basemen and no shortstop; I wonder if Soriano will be moved back to short, where he played in the minors. As for the Yanks, it appears that they intend to move A-Rod to third, rather than Jeter, despite A-Rod being a far superior defensive player, and go looking for someone to play second. It won't matter; this team will be so loaded that the infield defense will be an afterthought.
February 14, 2004
WAR: A Fifth Column?
Either FBI supervisor Mike Feghali ought to be fired instantly (and investigated to see if he should be prosecuted), or he has one heck of a libel suit . . . check out this potential bombshell article from FrontPage Magazine, charging that Feghali, a naturalized Arab-American, led his unit (translators who are a critical link in our homeland security apparatus) in celebrating the September 11 attacks, and added to that the Washington vice of deliberately slowing down work at his unit to show a need for more budget. (Link via Roger Simon).
But take the whole story, especially the more sensational parts, with a grain of salt, at least for now. The allegations seem to come entirely from one Sibel Dinez Edmonds, a disgruntled former employee who was fired by the FBI, and it's hardly unheard-of for disgruntled former employees to make up sensational charges. Still, the Senate Judiciary Committee, to whom Edmonds has complained, ought to make some efforts to ascertain the credibility of these charges.
Read the whole thing.
POP CULTURE: The Real Conspiracy Revealed!
POLITICS: A Meme Goes Under
Well, I've certainly kicked the beehive with the last few days' posts on the AWOL stuff, but it looks like Bush's critics, having made a mountain out of something that scarcely amounted to a molehill, are mostly looking for a graceful exit. Josh Marshall is consoling himself with the thought that Bush was pretty immature as a young man. (This is news?) Kevin Drum is preparing to concede defeat and even making light of the story, as if he was an innocent bystander. Honestly, I generally enjoy Kevin's site; maybe this explains it all. Hopefully he'll regain the even temper that had made him one of the few left-side bloggers who's genuinely consistently worth reading.
On TV tonight, Bill Maher was busy convincing himself that he's right to hate Bush; Maher simply ceased to be interesting after he became a bitter lefty following the backlash against his comments after September 11. And Charles Rangel was on NY1 . . . I swear I am not making this up . . . arguing that Bush shouldn't have worn the flight suit on the aircraft carrier because after missing his flight physical in 1973, he was no longer a licensed pilot.
Meanwhile, Chris Lawrence has expanded on something he wrote in my comments section, explaining why reports from the Memphis Flyer can't really be trusted.
February 13, 2004
POLITICS: Drum Punts, Kleiman Dodges, Willis Whiffs
So, yesterday I had 14 questions for Kevin Drum to answer if he expects us to continue taking him seriously on the "Bush was AWOL!!!!!!" charge. I also mentioned Mark Kleiman as one of the prominent bloggers flogging this story (and emailed him the link), and threw in Oliver Willis as well. Let's track the responses:
*Kleiman, to his credit, emailed back his response quickly and then posted it on his blog. However, his response basically dodges all of my questions and instead focuses on things we don't know. You can go there and judge for yourself. My response: Yes, I'm aware of Phil Carter, but he hasn't dealt with a lot of these points either. An obvious answer on the "why nobody remembers" thing is that Bush was just marking time, and most likely wasn't doing much to attract attention. If I'd become the most famous man in America by now, it's still unlikely that the people in my bar review class 8 years ago would remember me, notwithstanding the fact that there were only about 6 of us.
§ 432.131. Absence Without Leave
The problem is, Kleiman never gives any explanation of why he believes Bush was "required to be" in any particular place at any particular "time prescribed." It's also pretty lame that Kleiman attacks my criticisms on his blog without providing a link; that's just bad form. Blogs are supposed to be open to a give-and-take that presumes you have enough confidence in your position to let your readers hear the other side and respond. (Kleiman also insisted that his site's failure to accept trackbacks from my site and some other conservative sites is due to a technical problem he hasn't been able to fix . . . I take him at his word, but a better trackback feature might hold him a bit more accountable for his writings).
*Maybe Drum will address the questions later, but his initial response was to issue a non-denial denial, basically admitting that there's nothing to this story but arguing that Bush should nonetheless be compelled to keep answering questions about it. Um, remind me not to listen to Kevin complain about anything that was done to Clinton . . . on my Question #2, about eyewitness testimony, Drum provides a mixed answer: on the one hand, he's still pushing the statement by Col. Turnipseed even after he's come right out and said that he was misquoted and not in a position to comment. That's just sleazy. On the other hand, Drum points to a new report about some guys who do appear to have a basis for saying they expected to work with Bush in Alabama and never saw him. This is the first thing I've seen that looks like halfway decent evidence, although I'll have to digest this a bit before I pass judgment on their credibility. But bear in mind that these guys are talking about events more than 30 years ago, and they didn't come forward 4 years ago when this story broke. Like I said, we shall see.
*Willis just ignores me. Par for the course.
UPDATE: Oliver Willis, in comments, says I've overstated his interest in this story and that he didn't even notice my trackback.
February 12, 2004
POLITICS: FOURTEEN QUESTIONS FOR KEVIN DRUM
I usually respect Kevin Drum, but he's really gone off the rails on the Bush National Guard story (See here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here - and that's just the last three days!). Now, I don't usually like making demands that other bloggers write about things, but Kevin has been monomaniacal on this story, he's using his big soapbox to drive the story, and he obviously has plenty of time on his hands to delve into this stuff (he's even conducting interviews and begging readers to dive into microfilm in Alabama!). So I have a few questions -- honest questions -- I really would like to hear him answer, because as far as I can tell, he has yet to deal with any of these points:
1. As I noted previously here, Sparkey at Sgt. Stryker contends (see the comments section) that "[b]ecause [Bush] had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract" by 1972 and thus was not obligated to do anything, and could not be punished, for example, for missing a physical (Baldilocks has more here). I have no idea if Sparkey is right, but he obviously knows a heck of a lot more about the military than I do, and various sources seem to confirm that Bush had, in fact, well exceeded his required days of service. (See here and here) To me, if he's right about this, this controversy is over: game, set, match. Do you disagree with Sparkey's reading of the relevant requirements, and if not, is there any basis for arguing that Bush failed to meet his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard?
2. The original "Was Bush AWOL?" story rested heavily on Colonel (later Brigadier General) William Turnipseed of the Alabama National Guard's statement to the effect that he would have remembered seeing Bush on the base if he'd been there. It now turns out that Turnipseed says he was misquoted and admits that he himself can't recall if he was on the base that much (See also here). Others in the same unit have the same reaction: they have no reason to believe that they would remember a guy who was just showing up to do a few drills (More on that here, and compare this statement by someone who does remember). Do you still contend that Turnipseed or anyone else with the National Guard at the time provides any eyewtness evidence that Bush failed to attend to his obligations with the Guard?
3. Another key and frequently cited piece of evidence cited by Bush's critics is an evaluation stating that Bush was "not observed." Again, people with a lot more military experience than I have seem to believe that this isn't really all that uncommon, and that "not observed" is basically a military term of art for "I'm not in position to evaluate" rather than "he wasn't here." (See here) Do you have any basis for disputing this characterization?
4. A number of individuals with military experience have described your characterization of the ARF unit as "disciplinary" as being laughably misinformed(see here and here and here). Do you still stand by the notion that there is evidence that Bush was at any times placed in a "disciplinary" unit or on any other "disciplinary" status?
6. Come to think of it - do you have any experience whatsoever serving in the military or reviewing military records? That's not a criticism -- I don't either -- but given that most of the military bloggers and commenters who have weighed in on this seem to think that this is an idiotic controversy, while nearly none of the prominent Bush critics (other than people like John Kerry and Wesley Clark who have studiously avoided knowing any of the relevant facts) appears to have any clue how to make sense of military records, military jargon and military service obligations, it's a fair question.
7. Similarly, commentators with military experience have indicated that you have misread the one document you have been citing, stating that "There is ONLY one way to get TWO POINTS PER DAY. That is DRILL ATTENDANCE." (See also here ). Now that this point has been raised, do you have any basis to dispute this?
8. It is not that rare for people in the military to miss a physical (see here and here) or to have records of their physical lost. (See here re: the notion that Bush had received any sort of disciplinary "warning", and here as well). Do you contend that Bush having missed a physical is a serious infraction that justifies characterizing him as "AWOL"?
9. It appears that by 1972, Bush's airplane, the F-102, was being phased out, and for other reasons (including the winding down of the American presence in Vietnam) the Guard was facing a surplus of manpower in general and pilots in particular (See the comment here and here (scroll down)). In other words, the tasks for which Bush had trained and served from 1968 through 1971 were no longer of much use to his country, and keeping his flight physical current in particular was largely superfluous (see here). Do you contend that Bush failed to perform any service to the National Guard in 1972-73 that would have served any useful purpose?
10. It has also been suggested that it was fairly common practice at the time for the Guard to excuse members from certain obligations due to other employment, such as Bush working on a Senate campaign in Alabama. (See also here), as well as to allow a good deal of flexibility in making up missed time. Do you have any reason to question the propriety of this, in the context of how the Guard operated at the time?
11. It has been reported that, at the time Bush enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard, the unit he joined (the 147th Fighter-Interceptor Group at Ellington Air Force Base, Houston) was actually flying combat missions in Vietnam (See here, and also more generally here and here and here). Do you dispute this?
12. Bush put his life at substantial risk by training on and flying the F-102; it was all too common for pilots in the Guard to be killed while flying this aircraft, as well as others. (See here and here on the risks). In fact, pilots in the National Guard get hazard pay for their duty. Do you deny this?
14. Isn't it true that the principal source of this story is a nutjob conspiracy theorist from Democrats.com?
Look: Some of the sources I'm citing here may not be authoritative. And yes, Bush didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam as John Kerry did. But the way I see it, the record currently shows that Bush (1) signed up for hazardous duty that was well more than the bare minimum of service to get out of Vietnam, (2) fulfilled every requirement - and then some - that his country asked of him to merit an honorable discharge. The burden of proof here is on those who claim otherwise. I'd love to hear Kevin or Oliver Willis or Mark Kleiman or some of the other critics try to act like responsible adults here and go point-by-point through these questions and show me the evidence why they disagree with these two conclusions.
BASEBALL: Brewers Ramblings, Mets Photos
Still not much doing over here on the baseball front (other than continuing work on the Established Win Shares Levels project). In the meantime, Al Bethke has a roundtable on the Brewers (really!), and Kyle Rosenkrans has news and pictures to make you think of springtime for the Mets (Newsday has more on the scientific approach of new Mets pitching coach and former A's pitching guru Rick Peterson).
February 10, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: Bush Meets The Press
Adding my two cents here . . . I watched Bush's interview on CNBC Sunday night at 10. I thought Russert was noticeably more deferential to Bush than to his usual guests, although he asked plenty of tough questions; the difference was more in the followup.
My take on Bush: obviously, this isn't his best format, but we knew that already. On Iraq, at least, I thought he was great. He stayed relentlessly on message (Bush's ability to not say things is a hugely underestimated skill), but once he got rolling he was also fiesty and impassioned on the importance of Iraq to the larger situation. On the connection between Iraq and the larger war on terror, you couldn't help but be impressed by his depth of conviction.
He had definitely prepared extensively for this. After each question, he'd pause and say "sure" or "OK" and then launch into his prepared answer, which made clear that he was there to stake out his positions rather than to engage in genuine back-and-forth conversation. Which is frustrating, but it also shows an un-Dean-like appreciation of the gravity of every word that comes from the President.
He was weaker on the other stuff. He was too defensive on the economy, didn't stress enough how things have improved lately, but then, he doesn't want to seem unconcerned to people who haven't tasted the recovery yet. I also thought when he started talking about how the market started dropping in March 2000 and the recession began a year later, he could have tossed in a dig about how when he proposed his tax cuts in 2001, the Democrats were saying he was overstating the country's economic problems (remember "talking down the economy"?). Maybe by debate time, the opposition research people will have dug up Kerry saying that.
Like Andrew Sullivan, I don't know what planet Bush gets his budget numbers from. But then, I don't put much stock in anybody's budget numbers.
On the AWOL issue, Bust could have said more but he doesn't want to dignify the issue; what the Democrats have been stupid about is giving him an opening to rip them for lumping in Guard service with desertion or fleeing to Canada.
POP CULTURE: Bonus
The SciFi Channel reports on bonus footage that will be included in the DVD version of Return of the King:
Among the excised scenes: a humorous bit between Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) having a drinking competition. "I really quite liked [it]," Jackson said. "But we felt [it was too comedic] at a point when we wanted to set up the tension of the story. And there's a sequence of Sam [Sean Astin] and Frodo [Elijah Wood] disguised as orcs, where they end up in the orc army for a while."
Personally, I'll be very disappointed if even the DVD version doesn't have the scene with the Mouth of Sauron. I think I had read somewhere that the parley with Saruman was also filmed, but maybe not; that would make a good scene.
From the NY Daily News:
A new Time/CNN poll . . . found that 60% of voters deem Kerry did proper service in Vietnam, but only 39% deem Bush did.
So . . . 40% of survey respondents think that Kerry piloting his boat through firefights isn't enough? What would satisfy these people? Do the other 40% think he (1) should have died there, or (2) should have refused to serve?
On the other hand, Charles Johnson points out that this is dishonorable:
Al Gore . . . was a featured speaker at the Arab League’s lunatic “think tank” known as the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up . . . what should we call lending the prestige of the US Vice Presidency to a blatantly insane anti-America, antisemitic Arab hate group in the Persian Gulf—after September 11? And taking their money—no doubt quite a lot of it?
Johnson also links to an example of the kind of stuff the Zayed Centre has featured from other speakers.
BLOG: Cracking Down
Another campus controversy at my alma mater; the Boston Herald reports that Holy Cross has imposed a 5-year ban on the school's rugby team, due to hazing rituals involving heavy drinking. I can remember my freshman year, when one of my roommates was on the rugby team and would be awakened at 4 or 5 am to go drink.
February 9, 2004
BASEBALL: AL East Established Win Shares Level Report
Time to continue my division-by-division look at team rosters by Established Win Shares Levels. EWSLs are explained in my post raking the top 25 players in baseball by EWSL, and the team-by-team method is explained in the post on the AL West. One small change in the methodology: I downgraded rookie starting pitchers from 7 Win Shares to 5, given that rookie pitchers often struggle and given how many pitchers with a track record have less than 7 EWSL. As I and others have noted before, EWSL isn't a perfect tool for evaluating team rosters, and I'll note some of the flaws in the system as I go on; just bear in mind that what it measures is how much established major league talent is on each roster. EWSL can't and doesn't predict future progress; it just gives a sober assessment of what each player has proven in the last three seasons. A quick reminder on notations, for those of you who read the prior posts: players marked # are evaluated on their last 2 seasons rather than last 3; players marked * are evaluated only on 2003; and players marked + are rookies assigned an arbitrary WS total. On to the AL East . . .
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New York Yankees
Adjusted EWSL: 319 (106 wins)
EWSL confirms something I've suspected but that a lot of the hand-wringing in New York this offseason has obscured: even with the back of the rotation in uncertain hands, a gaping hole at third base after the Aaron Boone injury, a porous infield defense (which will only be moreso if Mike Lamb wins the job) and an aging outfield, the Hated Yankees are loaded for bear. (And recall that Team EWSL generally understates slightly the number of wins a team can roll up, largely because I'm only rating 23 players rather than the 30-40 who appear for any team in a given season). Of course, the likely further decline of many Yankees due to the advanced age of the roster isn't factored into these numbers -- you can see that their weighted average team age is even older than the Mariners, about whom I expressed concern last time around. On the other hand, Lieber, and Contreras are pretty good bets to cough up a good deal more than 11 Win Shares this season, if they can stay healthy; the same goes for Kevin Brown.
Boston Red Sox
Adjusted EWSL: 307.3 (102 wins)
That's not a misprint; I didn't apply any adjustments to the Red Sox total because every single player out of the 23 listed here had a major league track record going back three years. The age of the Red Sox is well-distributed; only five players are older than 33, and two of those are middle relievers and a third is a knuckleballer who should be immune to the ravages of age. The Sox may be slightly overrated here due to two biases of the system: they have multiple pitchers who have been closers in the past three years (the Win Shares system gives extra credit for saves), and they have bench players who played everyday recently, who can't replicate those levels of contribution coming off the bench (the same would go if I listed Brian Daubach and Tony Womack here, although I'm not sure that there will be room for Daubach after the signing of Ellis Burks).
Toronto Blue Jays
Adjusted EWSL: 216.9 (72 wins)
Just because the people running the Blue Jays know what they're doing doesn't necessarily mean they'll be any good. EWSL says that on the basis of established talent, these guys should finish third -- thirty games behind the second place Red Sox. Still, this team is developing an air of late-90s Oakland A's about it: the lineup is stacked with prime-age players who play for peanuts because they haven't fully established themselves at the major league level yet. Even bearing in mind the mild downward bias of Team EWSL, they should clear 72 wins comfortably, particularly if Josh Phelps is healthy and they get progress from Ted Lilly and Josh Towers . . . I was surprised to learn that Miguel Batista is 33 already. Also, Kevin Cash is the only player I've evaluated so far who has an established track record of zero Win Shares; since he didn't earn a Win Share last season in over 100 at bats, it wasn't worth adjusting him. Ugh.
Adjusted EWSL: 202.8 (68 wins)
The AL East is like a medieval feudal society, where the rigid heirarchy is unchanging from year to year; the division's five teams have now finished in the same order for six consecutive seasons since the Devil Rays entered the league in 1998. This year's return to big spending by the Orioles was intended to overturn the Musick of the Spheres in this division, but it says here that they've still got a ways to go, and new additions Javy Lopez and Rafael Palmeiro are no spring chickens. Like the Blue Jays, this is still a relatively young lineup but with few genuinely young players (i.e., 25 and under), although there's more youth on the pitching staff than there is in Toronto.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Adjusted EWSL: 187.7 (63 wins)
Aubrey Huff scored 91 runs last season. After a decade of high-scoring seasons around the major leagues, this is hardly newsworthy. Except this one thing: no Devil Rays player had ever scored 90 runs in a season before (Huff also became just the third D-Ray to drive in 100 runs or bat .300 in a season, and the fourth to slug .500, while Rocco Baldelli's 89 runs scored also exceeded the prior team record of 87 shared by Gerald Williams and Randy Winn). Then there's the team's pitching leaders; Rolando Arrojo in 1998 is the only D-Ray ever to have an ERA below 4.00 or win more than 12 games, and one of just two to throw 200 innings, strike out 150 or have a winning record. On the plus side, Victor Zambrano's 12-10 season last year eclipsed Arrojo's team record for single-season winning percentage . . . all this is a roundabout way of saying that Tampa Bay has not only never won anything (88 games is the longest stretch that the franchise has ever played .500 ball), they've never even had star seasons from individual players. Baldelli and, possibly, Carl Crawford -- both young 'uns at 22, are the best hope for changing that, but neither is close to maturity yet, as their combined 56 walks and 230 whiffs attest, and the emergence of a respectable starting rotation seems as distant as ever.
(There are other guys with a major league track record hanging around Tampa - Fernando Tatis, Eduardo Perez, Mich Meluskey - but they wouldn't change the numbers much).
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February 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Talking Baseball With Robin Roberts
Joe Posnanski of the KC Star had an interview a few weeks back with Robin Roberts, baseball's best pitcher in the early 1950s and, relative to the standards of his time, one of the two or three greatest workhorses ever to take the mound in his prime. I've been reading Roberts' autobiography, My Life in Baseball (I read books a few bites at a time, and I'm generally in the middle of several at any given time); Roberts has some interesting stories (nearly everything he tells Posnanski here is almost verbatim of how he relates the same stories in the book). Roberts is 77 now, but apparently still sharp as a tack. I had the good fortune of meeting him at an autograph event a year ago; he looks kind of like Don Rumsfeld these days, a square-jawed, broad-shouldered man in his 70s.
One amazing detail that Posnanski catches that also struck me in reading Roberts' book: Roberts once threw 28 consecutive complete games. Descriptions of Roberts' tools as a pitcher often make him sound like Mariano Rivera: a guy who was able to get away with throwing nearly all fastballs due to a combination of pinpoint control, outstanding velocity and remarkably nasty movement on his heater. Roberts' vulnerability to the gopher ball made him less effective than Rivera, but imagine Mariano Rivera throwing 340 innings a year, and you've got a heck of a pitcher. (Oddly, Roberts reports that the consistent velocity and movement just came to him one day in 1947 while pitching in a summer college league; his mechanics had just clicked).
That workload -- or perhaps just an idiot manager -- caught up with him near the end of the 1955 season, though. Roberts notes in the book that he threw a complete game victory on August 19 of that year (his 20th win for the sixth straight season), and his manager, Mayo Smith, called him in the next night to relieve. He retired one batter to end the game without incident, but his arm wouldn't straighten out after his next start, and he was never the same pitcher, going 2-5 the rest of the year and seeing his ERA balloon to 4.45 the following year. Smith -- who would later lose ace Denny McLain, a similar pitcher, to arm trouble in Detroit -- had been trying to get the Phillies to .500; they finished the season 77-77, 21.5 games out of first place.
February 7, 2004
HISTORY: And What About A Plaque For KITT?
Baywatch star David Hasselhoff is griping that his role in reuniting East and West Germany has been overlooked....
POP CULTURE: Watching the Watchers
February 6, 2004
WAR: It's Not All Good
Josh Chafetz reminds us that the troubles Gerhard Schroeder is having in Germany may actually be bad news, to the extent that his political problems have less to do with his antiwar stance and more to do with his support for tax cuts, reform of Germany's bloated welfare state and other needed reforms, and given that his replacement could be even worse.
POP CULTURE: You Say He's Just A Friend
By the way, I gotta say, it warmed my heart to hear Biz Markie in one of the Super Bowl ads. I gotta figure ol' Biz could use the royalty money.
WAR/POLITICS: On Bringing It On
Ed from Late Final, on the difference between Bush and Kerry on the war:
Kerry: When he says, "Bring it on," he refers to President Bush, the RNC and Karl Rove.
"The President’s comment yesterday regarding the continued attacks on American troops in Iraq was unwise, unworthy of the office and his role as commander in chief, and unhelpful to American soldiers under fire. The deteriorating situation in Iraq requires less swagger and more thoughtfulness and statesmanship," Kerry said in a statement.
POLITICS: Clark Minor
BLOG: Hail To The Chief
A guardsman from Utah named Paul Holton has described seeing an Iraqi girl crying and decided then and there to help that child and others like her. By enlisting aid through the Internet, Chief Warrant Officer Holton had arranged the shipment of more than 1,600 aid packages from overseas. Here's how this man defines his own mission: "It is part of our heritage that the benefits of being free, enjoyed by all Americans, were set up by God, intended for all people. Bondage is not of God, and it is not right that any man should be in bondage at any time, in any way."
Think about this, from the perspective of the blogosphere's development and maturation: the President of the United States has cited something that started on a blog. We've had news events before where blogs were influential, like the fall of Trent Lott and the rise of Howard Dean. But the Lott story is typical of such events: it was an ordinary political event covered by traditional media. All the blogs did was fan the flames. Here, though, it was a comment on the Chief's blog that catalyzed the actions of other bloggers and got the ball rolling, and much of the organizational work of Operation Give was done over the internet. A lot of children have been helped, and a little corner of history has been made.
WAR: What Intelligence?
“I think it’s legitimate for me to question all of our intelligence information because that I never learned anything from those briefings that I hadn’t learned in the newspapers. If they don’t know anything more than they’re telling us, what’s the use of having an intelligence agency, and why bother to brief us?”
SCIENCE: For The Birds
This MSNBC report speculates that the 1918 influenza epidemic was caused by a strain of flu similar to the bird-borne virus currently erupting in Asia:
So far this year only 16 people have been killed, but there is some evidence it may have begun spreading from person to person. If that happens, experts fear the virus has the potential to be as bad as the 1918 epidemic.
Given that the 1918 epidemic killed more people than World War I, that's not a comforting thought.
February 5, 2004
POLITICS: The AWOL Smear Keeps Crumbling
Tom Maguire notes a significant fact about the whole "Bush AWOL" nonsense. If you recall, there are three principal pieces of evidence relied on to push this story:
1. Bush's National Guard commander in Alabama, William Turnipseed, says he would have remembered seeing Bush if he'd been there, but doesn't.
2. Bush missed a physical.
3. Bush hasn't produced Guard records showing he wasn't AWOL.
The third, of course, isn't evidence so much as an absence of evidence, and it's unsurprising that the Guard's paperwork from that period isn't in great order. Now Maguire notes that the first point has been badly undermined by the Washington Post:
Reached in Montgomery yesterday, Turnipseed stood by his contention that Bush never reported to him. But Turnipseed added that he could not recall if he, himself, was on the base much at that time.
In other words, if Bush was doing what he said he did - just showing up for meetings to play out the last two years of his commitment after exceeding his contractual commitment of hours of service in his first four years of service - it's not surprising in the least that he never interacted with Turnipseed, who isn't so sure he was around much himself. Bogus.
POLITICS: Charting The Battleground States
Let's have some fun with numbers . . . as primary season winds down and we look ahead to the likely Bush-Kerry matchup, it's important to bear in mind a lesson that the 2000 election drove home: presidential elections are won and lost in the Electoral College. (Which is, among other things, why national polls are of limited usefulness; it's the individual states that matter). So I thought I'd look at which states are likely to be "in play."
There are two variables: how many electoral votes a state has to offer, and how likely it is that the state could go to either candidate. The first is a fixed number; we know it in advance. (Daily Kos, which has some of the best horse-race coverage around, has a great calculator that lets you compute the electoral numbers by coloring various states red and blue). For the second, a good starting point is the 2000 election results.
I decided to take a whack at combining the two. I started by dividing a state's electoral votes by the percentage point difference between Bush and Gore, but that gave too much weight to the larger states, so I settled on dividing the electoral votes by the percentage point difference squared. (For ease of comprehension, I multiplied the percentages by 10 - thus, a 12-point difference was rendered as 1.2 before squaring it, a six-point difference as .6). This isn't a scientific sample, just a way of quantifying what we already intuitively know. Here's my ranking of the most-hotly-contested states (Under "Margin," I listed a negative margin for states won by Gore):
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If you cut the level of significance off somewhat arbitrarily at a factor of 20, you get 18 battleground states, with Florida naturally the biggest. Some thoughts:
*You can see why Karl Rove should be smiling. The least competitive states include a bevy of states that form Bush's base, while four of the top five and six of the top nine are Gore states from four years ago. On top of that, number 11 is Gore's home state, where Kerry is likely to be less competitive, while Kerry hails from a region of the country where most of the states are already solidly in his column anyway. And Florida seems likely to be more Bush-friendly this time, given how easily Jeb cruised to re-election there in 2002 and the absence of Lieberman on the Democratic ticket. There's even hope that Bush may find a more favorable hearing in New York due to the focus on terrorism and in California if Arnold Schwarzenegger is still popular in November, but as you can see, New York in particular isn't high on anyone's priority list.
*Then again, there are countervailing worries for the Bush camp. Kerry seems well-situated to pick off neighboring New Hampshire. Bush's biggest worry has to be elector-rich Ohio; the state has suffered exceptional job losses and Ohio Republicans have had a particularly bad record on tax and spending issues of late. And several of the Gore states at the top of the list (Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon) were fertile grounds for Nader in 2000; that won't help Bush this year unless there's a lingering animosity towards Kerry's vote in favor of the Iraq war. Nevada could also be in jeopardy for Bush; while he's kept a surprising number of his campaign promises, Nevadans are none too happy about Bush backtracking on hopes that he would oppose the unpopular Yucca Mountain nuclear dump.
In the end, the best source will be state-by-state polls. But those aren't always easy for us amateurs to come by, at least not ones that are reasonably fresh and all taken at the same point in time. For now, though, we know which states to look most closely at.
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February 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Trivia Question of the Day
Here's a fun trivia quiz for you: there have been ten 150-RBI seasons (by nine different players) since World War II. Name them.
THE ANSWERS HERE:
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WAR: Why War In Iraq?
I made this comment over at Roger Simon's site, but it bears repeating here because this issue keeps coming up. In the course of addressing a broader point, Simon said
"there were always two major arguments for War in Iraq-the moral one (Saddam was a mass murdering dictator) and the "practical" one (the "imminent"... or not) WMD threat."
This is a common formulation, but it's a false choice, and one that liberals enamored of the humanitarian argument are too quick to point to. There were, in fact, several other arguments. To name five: (1) Strategic: replacing tyranny with democracy in Iraq puts pressure on other Arab & Muslim states to reform. (2) Tactical: taking out Saddam removes a country where we couldn't track the flow of terrorists and weapons, thus increasing our ability to use our law enforcement and intelligence apparatuses, and also puts our troops on the borders of other notorious offenders. (3) Making an Example: Knocking off our most prominent enemy, a guy whose media celebrated Sept. 11, sent a powerful message that we are dead serious about not taking this crap anymore. (4) Legal: Saddam violated UN resolutions that were the conditions of ceasefire. (5) Combatting terror: the strongest argument of all, if controversial on the evidence, looked at Saddam's open support for Palestinian terror, his connections to Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas, and the evidence linking him to Al Qaeda and other groups. Don't let the WMD thing distract you from the fact that supporting terrorism is bad whether you have WMD or not.
February 3, 2004
BASEBALL: On The Lamb
The Newberg Report, always a great source on the Texas Rangers, has some thoughts on Mike Lamb's departure from Arlington. Personally, I still think Lamb has a good year or two with the bat in him, but his horrendous fielding record (.914 career fielding percentage at 3B) will make it difficult to find work, and it wouldn't be the first time a guy who struggled in the field let it affect his hitting as well.
POP CULTURE: The Boob Tube
I missed the now-notorious peep show at halftime at the Super Bowl; I only caught a little of halftime before changing the channel in disgust and disinterest. My wife's reaction to a glimpse of the show even before Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction": "don't they know that children watch the Super Bowl"?
The Corner had the two best reactions. From Jonah Goldberg:
LOOK AT IT THIS WAY.... Your daughter comes home crying, driven home by a boy you never liked in the first place. Before you can ask what happened she runs up to her room. You ask the boy what happened. He says, "Mr. Goldberg it's not my fault. She had a wardrobe malfunction!"
From John Miller:
"Dad, why are they doing that?" asked my son, age 6, just before his bedtime. What was I to say? "Some people call it dancing," was my lame reply. I should have told him that maybe all the dancers forgot to go potty before they went on stage.
Also, it occurred to me afterwards that Justin Timberlake has done things like this before.
Howard Bashman linked to this, and Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan have picked up on it by now, but I'll still add that you should check out Stuart Taylor's National Journal column arguing that, to Ted Kennedy's proposal for forcing colleges to disclose the kind of alumni preferences that get nitwits like Ted Kennedy into Harvard (and George W. into Yale, for that matter), we should add required disclosures for all other kinds of non-academic preferences in admission, racial and otherwise. Here's his proposed questionnaire:
Please provide data showing:
This goes back to why I was skeptical of the Racial Privacy Initiative, which was soundly defeated in the California special election. Sunshine is a good thing.
HISTORY: Silent Cal
Liberal writer Jack Beatty had an interesting article in The Atlantic online about Calvin Coolidge, noting that Coolidge was never really the same after his son died from a freak infection in the summer of 1924. I'm not sure I buy all of Beatty's animosity towards Coolidge's record, but it's an argument worth reading.
POLITICS: Sabotaging Bush?
Mac Thomason called this one first, and now The Wall Street Journal's John Fund is speculating about deposed Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore making a third-party challenge to President Bush from the right. (Link via Howard Bashman). I'm skeptical that that would happen, or that Moore would find sources of financing for such a run; Bush has been pretty strong on social issues.
POLITICS: Campaign Links 2/3/04
*Edwards finally goes on the attack, and says he would've voted against NAFTA. Which puts him way out there with Gephardt, Perot, Buchanan and Bob "the Goalie" Kerrey in rejecting Bill Clinton's number one accomplishment as president.
*Salon carries an article (sorry, subscription only) on why Wesley Clark doesn't blink. The author of the article, Anna Holmes, actually contacted me and a number of other bloggers looking for quotes about why we thought Clark was so creepy, although there's only a few quotes (none from yours truly) in the final article.
February 2, 2004
POLITICS: George W. Bush: Reform Conservative or Neoliberal?
One of the burning questions that has surrounded George W. Bush since he arrived on the national scene has been, how conservative is he, really? Four years ago, I thought I had an answer. Today, I'm not so sure.
To make sense of Bush's proper place on the Right, it's necessary to look at two significant political movements that have come to the fore in the past 15 years or so. Traditionally, the conservative movement has been driven by small-government conservatism, the idea that government is too big and intrusive and spends and regulates too much. Ever since the Reagan years, the small-government conservatives have been trapped in a sort of limbo: they've won the battle of ideas, but lost the political battle, most spectacularly with the failure of Newt Gingrich's 1994 revolution to eliminate any significant government programs.
Partially in response to this, we've seen the growth of what (at the risk of adding another sub-category) I've long liked to think of as Reform Conservatism. The central insight of Reform Conservatives has been that the most important problem with government programs is not that that they involve the government, but that they take choices away from individuals. The classic Reform Conservative solution is including privately controlled accounts within the Social Security system; rather than stage a losing battle over trying to scale back or get rid of the program, Reform Conservatives have focused on introducing within it an element of private choice to make the operation of Social Security more like a non-governmental program. The other signature issue of Reform Conservatives, school choice, operates the same way: it's still redistributing taxpayer money, but the decisionmaking authority over the use of that money is shifted to parents and away from school system bureaucrats.
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As described, of course, many of the Reform Conservative ideas date back to Goldwater, but they have particularly boomed in recent years. It's clear that some of the high priests of the movement, like Jack Kemp, genuinely believe that Reform Conservative solutions are an optimal form of governance; most others more likely view it as a tactical compromise strategy to introduce at least some level of personal freedom and private choice into our system as it currently exists. In that sense, one can argue that Reform Conservatives are the truly conservative ones, trying to work with the system as it exists rather than perfect a utopian system that has no chance of adoption. (In either case, of course, most Reform Conservatives would still agree with traditional small-government conservatives that there has been plenty of spending the past four years that can't be justified under any view of conservatism, but that's another day's post).
The polar opposite of the Reform Conservative movement is the neoliberal movement, of the Pat Moynihan/New Republic/Mickey Kaus variety (Bill Clinton knew how to talk the talk of neoliberalism). The neoliberals generally agree with the conservative critique of the liberal public policies of the Great Society era -- that they erode personal responsibility and public accountability and incentives to work -- which is why they are more often quoted by their adversaries than by their allies. But neoliberals part company with the Right over the solutions to those problems, preferring instead to have government enforce standards that demand such accountability, rather than depending on individual self-interest.
The classic divide here is in education, between the Reform Conservative solution of school choice (competition! accountability to the parents!) and the neoliberal solution of requiring schools to meet standards (accountability to government!). On that score, Bush has come down firmly on the neoliberal side, abandoning all but the most tepid school choice provisions in the No Child Left Behind act in favor of federal standards. Reform Conservatives are restive.
Bush's "Compassionate Conservatism" was supposed to be a Reform Conservative movement, coopting many of the themes of the Steve Forbes '96 presidential campaign:
Even the faith-based initiative was sold this way: loosening government restrictions so that aid-dispensing groups had more autonomy to practice their faith. Ditto for opposing campaign finance "reform" while proposing additional disclosure requirements.
Anyway, one of the things I'll be looking for - and taking a look at as the campaign grinds on - is the extent to which Bush tries to reclaim some of the Reform Conservatism in his platform. We conservatives love Bush for his foreign policy, judicial appointments, and tax cuts, but on the core issues of domestic governance, there's been little to show for the past three years in the way of reform of the way government interacts with the people. If Bush runs as a neoliberal, he'll be sacrificing a big part of what made him such an attractive alternative to Shrumist populism in 2000 by offering genuine, rather than rhetorical, empowerment.
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February 1, 2004
FOOTBALL/POP CULTURE: Return of the Sports Guy
I hope you haven't missed out on this week's rare treat: Bill Simmons is back and blogging twice a day. Bill's Boston Sports Guy site, of course, was a hit blog before most people knew what a blog was -- for the last few years of the 1990s, he was a mostly one-man show offering daily links and sidesplittingly funny commentary on sports and pop culture. (As many of you know, I got my own start on the Net on Bill's site from May 2000 to its demise a year later). Anyway, he's been reduced to two columns a week lately while working for the Jimmy Kimmel show, but this week he's been in Houston for the Super Bowl and back in top form. Click here for yesterday's entry and links to the rest of the week.
I confess to not having followed football that much this season, but Bill's Thursday column completely sold me on why the Patriots should be heavy favorites:
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Consider the following things:
Bill's Monday column also ran through another of his specialties, worshipping at the altar of gorgeous women . . . just two thoughts: (1) Bill asks what happened to Phoebe Cates, but if I recall correctly she made a conscious decision to stay out of the limelight and have children (with her husband, actor Kevin Kline); and (2) Bill writes of Jennifer Anniston, "[e]specially in those first two seasons of "Friends," when she had a little more weight on her . . . [t]hen she went Elisabeth Shue on us and got skinny ... she still looks great, but it's not the same." I have to not only agree, but say that this is, as far as I can tell, this is nearly a unanimous opinion and one that's shared by women as well as men. Nearly every time we watch Friends, my wife and I comment on how much better Anniston and Courtney Cox looked before they went all diet-crazy. I just don't know how women in Hollywood get it into their heads that they aren't supposed to look like . . . well, women.
Anyway, read the whole week's worth of columns, if you haven't already.
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FOOTBALL: The Toll Of The Pounding
The NY Daily News has a sad look at the decrepit-before-his time Earl Campbell, who was absolutely the most unstoppable force I've ever seen on a football field - harder to contain in his prime even than Jerry Rice or Lawrence Taylor. The online edition lacks the photo (check here for that). Take a look at the white-bearded Campbell and ask yourself if you can believe this man is two years younger than John Edwards.
POLITICS: Neocon Abuse
Thursday's NY Times carried a review of Debra Dickerson's book "The End of Blackness," about race in America. What caught my eye was this bit of idiocy:
Ms. Dickerson has been accused of employing reductive neoconservative logic and of pandering to white readers, telling them what they want to hear.
This, of course, is a classic misreading of the term "neoconservative," by someone who probably learned the term in the past year and thinks it means "anything that is conservative that I do not like." Since when is there even a standard "neocon" position on race (at least, one that is distinct from conservatism as a whole), much less one that should be seen by the Left as particularly odious?