"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
August 31, 2004
POLITICS: Links 8/31/04
*Tim Blair notes that Kerry staffers have recently been admonished to be "more diligent about staying on top of the Senator's position." They'll need GPS for that one.
*QandO notices that John McCain has pointedly not denounced the Swift Boat Veterans' second ad, the one featuring Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony. Given the history there, this should not be surprising. Meanwhile, Wizbang reports that the Swifties are offering to drop their remaining ads if Kerry will meet certain conditions including an apology for his 1971 charges of war crimes.
*Jonathan Chait gets a convenient case of amnesia (subscription only):
McCain has even asserted that Kerry brought this on himself by emphasizing his record. "His critics are saying, 'Look, you made it fair game,'" McCain said. "I mean, that's very legitimate, and I think there's a risk that he took when he made it such a centerpiece. He may be paying a very heavy price." Uh huh. Four years ago, Bush made a big deal about his record as Texas governor. By that logic, then, it would have been "fair game" for critics to accuse him of using the governor's office for Michael Jackson-style sleepovers with little boys.
Leaving aside Chait's facile dismissal of the Swift Vets' charges, note how he assumes that all the attacks on Bush have been about such high-minded policy disputes as "accusing Bush of weakening environmental regulations." Apparently Chait has never heard of Michael Moore, or of the persistent and entirely unsubstantiated claim (made even by Kerry himself) that Bush was AWOL from his National Guard unit.
BASEBALL: Win-Now Watch
Since July 30:
Smells like victory . . .
* - Includes HBP
Well, this much is certain: the one decision the Mets made that has helped them win a few ballgames now was the one that involved giving an everyday job to a 21-year-old prospect.
But hey, at least Rick Peterson can say that Victor Zambrano hasn't walked anyone in two weeks . . .
POLITICS: The "G" Word
Andrew Sullivan has often ripped President Bush for not using the word "gay" - I wonder if he saw Friday's USAToday interview (only an abstract is now available online, but the cached version is here for now), Bush addressed the same-sex marriage issue:
Bush said he has not discussed the amendment with Mary Cheney, but "of course I've heard from people that are my friends who are gay. ... I will encourage a debate in a way that doesn't divide people into camps and doesn't disparage anybody."
Not that this really makes a huge difference, but since Sullivan has marked this as an important yardstick in his estimation, it's worth noting.
POLITICS: McCain Pulls His Punches
Fine speeches last night by McCain and Giuliani, both of whom made some necessary points about the war on terror and the war in Iraq. The two speeches were a reminder that, no matter how else people may try to spin their presence at the podium, the two were there not because of their moderation on some issues but because of their star power, their obvious political talents, and most of all their unrelenting hawkishness on foreign policy. There's a reason McCain has a big speaking role at this convention and Chuck Hagel doesn't.
McCain's speech, however, was also an illustration of why he is unlikely to find success again as a presidential candidate. Once upon a time, John McCain was a brutally negative campaigner, promising an end to "the truth-twisting politics of Bill Clinton and Al Gore." Lately, though, McCain has seemed to take to heart his own crusade against negativity, alternating between cheerleading and chiding President Bush while staying mostly silent on the sins of the Democrats. McCain's prime-time slot covered the important stuff - the foreign policy stakes, the absence of sensible alternatives in Iraq, and a well-deserved potshot at Michael Moore - along with a clenched-teeth tribute to Bush's leadership. I particularly liked this one shot at the Al Gore far left: "I don’t doubt the sincerity of my Democratic friends. And they should not doubt ours." (Emphasis most definitely in original).
But a convention crowd wants more: an explanation of why John Kerry's competing vision (or lack thereof) should be found wanting. McCain mostly left that to Rudy. And if he seriously wants to be president, he will have to change that. Yes, it's true that Bush himself mostly avoids the big broadsides against Democrats, but he is willing to throw the occasional punch at his opponent. If McCain isn't willing to do the same anymore, maybe he doesn't want it badly enough.
August 26, 2004
BASEBALL: Why Give Up On Kinney?
Start with the reasons why they did. He’s now on his fourth organization; the Red Sox traded him to Minnesota for Greg Swindell back in 1998, and the Twins dealt him to Milwaukee two years ago when they ran out of room on their 40-man roster. He’s got a 5.18 career ERA, which isn’t good. Like far too many Royals’ pitchers, he’s a little too prone to flyballs (0.83 G/F ratio, 55 HR in 361 career IP).
Now here are all the reasons why they shouldn’t have. He’s not that old (27). He’s cheap ($400,000), although I think he’ll be arbitration-eligible this winter. He can miss bats, and he’s getting better at it. His K/9 ratio is 6.80 for his career, and consider this progression: 5.10, 6.14, 7.18, 7.51. Last season, he struck out 152 batters in 190 innings. Do you know how long it’s been since a Royals pitcher struck out 152 batters? Try 1997, by a pre-injury Kevin Appier.
And most importantly, he appears to have taken a big leap forward this season. His strikeout rate is the best of his career…and so is his walk rate (3.32 per 9). His ERA this season is 5.78, but most of that damage was done in the season’s first six weeks. His ERA on May 15th was 8.61; since then, this is his line:
31.2 IP, 35 H, 4 HR, 7 BB, 30 K, 3.13 ERA.
Plus, it’s worth noting that he’s been awfully hit-unlucky this year, surrendering 8 hits more than expected, which is a pretty margin in just 62 innings.
And we’re not talking about a soft-tosser; Kinney throws in the mid-90s, and was considered a top prospect in the minor leagues.
So why did the Brewers flat-out release him? Damned if I know. He was definitely getting torched by lefties (.379/.443/.543). While his platoon splits have never been as dramatic as they were this year, that may always be a problem for him. And the turnaround to his season corresponds to the time he was demoted to the bullpen. He had a 9.72 ERA as a starter this season, and even though he’s been pitching well in relief, I suppose the Brewers may be disappointed by what Kinney hasn’t become, as opposed to what he has.
What he has become is a pretty damn good reliever, with the stuff and sudden breakout in his K/BB ratio to suggest continued upside. The Royals plan to use him in middle relief, and maybe that’s all he’ll ever be good for. But it’s sure as hell worth giving him the roster spot to find out.
Point, Allard Baird.
LAW: Following The Rules
Judge Richard Conway Casey of the Southern District of New York has joined judges in San Francisco and Nebraska in enjoining the partial-birth abortion ban, despite his own convictions on the issue:
Casey - an alum of both my college and my law firm, I should add - is a sort-of Clinton appointee; he was originally nominated by George H.W. Bush at the recommendation of Al D'Amato but had his nomination blocked by Senate Democrats. President Clinton renominated him in 1997, making him the first blind man appointed to the federal bench. I haven't seen the opinion and I am, of course, disappointed with the result, but I have to respect the fact that Judge Casey went against his own expressed policy preferences in following what appears to be the Supreme Court's lead on this issue. It's unfortunate that that sort of judicial restraint tends to be a one-way street.
BASKETBALL: Shooting By The Numbers
The miserable showing by the US Olympic basketball team has people talking about the decline of shooting in the NBA. It's certainly true that this team can't shoot. But is offensive efficiency and skill really in decline around the league? It's an appropriate time to unveil another of my long-standing research projects: a statistical history of offensive efficiency and tempo in the NBA. My apologies if someone else has done this stuff before, but I got tired of trying to find it somewhere; tip of the hat to Basketball-Reference.com for the numbers.
I'll run these in table form, decade by decade. The first four columns of the chart should be familiar enough: the leaguewide averages for team points per game (P/G), shooting percentage on two-point shots (2%), on three-point shots (3%), and on free throws (FT%). A key stat I use here is Points Per Field Goal Attempt (PPFGA), developed by John Hollinger of the Basketball Prospectus; the formula is (P/(FGA+.44(FTA))). Basically, Holinger started by assuming that a free throw is worth 1/2 of a field goal attempt (e.g., you get two shots for two points instead of a single field goal attempt), then cut the ratio from .5 to .44 based on an analysis of how often guys shoot an extra free throw after hitting a bucket, for a technical foul, etc. I use the denominator of this formula to estimate the number of team shot attempts per game (FGA/G). The last three columns seek to break down the components that go into offensive efficiency above and beyond the shooting percentages: the percentage of the league's points that were scored at the line (FT/P), the frequency of free throw attempts per field goal attempt (FGA/FTA; a higher number means less free throws), and (since 1979-80) the percentage of shots that were three-point attempts (%3).
I've listed league expansion and contraction under "Major Rules Changes," but I'm sure I've missed some actual changes in the rules that had some significant effects. Also, I haven't set out the blow-by-blow extension of the schedule; the NBA schedule rose gradually to 72 games in 1953-54, then went up to 75 in 1959-60, 79 the following year and wound up at its present 82 in 1967-68. I also haven't done a similar table for the ABA, for a variety of reasons; maybe another day. Let's begin:
Major Rules Changes: 1947-48, league contracts from 11 teams to 8; zone defenses outlawed
The NBA traces its official records back to 1946-47, although the league was known as the BAA (Basketball Association of America) for the first three years prior to a merger with another professional league. To the modern eye, a league-wide field goal percentage around .280 is almost inconceivable, although to the novice basketball fan at the time it may have seemed to make it easier to grasp basketball statistics (see! they're just like batting averages!). As you can see from the above and the seasons of the early 1950s, however, the offensive skill level of the league was improving rapidly as the league gathered the nation's best basketball players; look at the 60-point increase in the league's free throw percentage in a two-year span. Free throw percentage is a good barometer of basic shooting skill, since free throw shooting is basically just man vs. basket, with no adjustment for the level of competition. The pace of play reached a pre-shot-clock high of 107.9 shot attempts per game in the league's second season, when teams played just a 48-game schedule.
Major Rules Changes: 1951-52, size of foul lane doubled from 6 to 12 feet; 1954-55, shot clock introduced; 1957-58, ban on offensive goaltending
Basketball in the Fifties, especially early in the decade, was a bruising business, as earthbound forwards and centers dominated the game. The level of violence in the game reached a pinnacle in the 1952-53 season, with one foul shot for every 2.15 field goal attempts and a record 31.2% of all points being scored at the line. Perhaps the archetypical player was Dolph Schayes, who shot 40% in a season just once (.401 in 1959-60), but averaged nearly 8 free throw attempts per game for his career while shooting .849 from the line, and averaged 12 or more rebounds a game 11 years in a row. Bob Cousy debuted in 1950-51, and revolutionized the game by being the first true point guard, but took some time to foster imitators; Bill Russell arrived in 1956-57, although black players would not become a common fixture for several more seasons. You can see the immediate and dramatic impact on tempo of the shot clock, as well as the fact that it was introduced to arrest a decline in the pace of the game.
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Major Rules Changes: 1961-62, league expands from 8 teams to 9; 1964-65, foul lane widened again from 12 to 16 feet; 1966-67, league expands from 9 teams to 10; 1967-68, league expands from 10 teams to 12; ABA begins operation; 1968-69, league expands from 12 teams to 14
1959-60, Wilt Chamberlain's rookie year, saw the league shoot above 40% for the first time and never look back; Wilt would be the first significant NBA player to shoot 50% the following year. The 1960s were the golden age of up-tempo basketball, which combined with stars who played more than 40 minutes a night is what gave us all those eye-popping individual stats - in 1961-62 alone, you had Wilt scoring 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds per game, the Lakers with two 30/game scorers (Jerry West and Elgin Baylor), Walt Bellamy scoring 31.6 points and 19 rebounds/game as a rookie, Oscar Robertson averaging a triple double per game while scoring 30.8 points a game, Bob Pettit scoring a career high 31.1 per game while pulling down 18.7 rebounds/game, and Russell (the league MVP) hauling in 23.6 boards a game while scoring a career high 18.9. Those guys were good, but they weren't that good; they just played in a league with exceptionally favorable conditions.
Major Rules Changes: 1970-71, league expands from 14 teams to 17; 1972-73, ABA contracts from 11 teams to 10; 1974-75, league expands from 17 teams to 18; 1975-76, ABA contracts from 10 teams to 9, only 7 of which finish season; 1976-77, ABA folds, league expands from 18 teams to 22
As it had in 1959-60, the league took a great leap forward to usher in the 1970s, as the 1969-70 season saw the league's PPFGA shoot up from 0.981 (just off the prior year's record high) to 1.022, averaging more than a point per shot attempt for the first time. Why the sudden advance? Probably a combination of factors: with rapid expansion and rising player movement (especially if you count the ABA), team defenses were harder to sustain; Bill Russell retired, the Celtic defense collapsed, and the highly efficient scoring machine Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came into the league (compare Kareem's career PPFGA of 1.184 to Russell's 0.942 for an extreme illustration of the changes in the nature of the game and its dominant figures).
1969-70 also saw the league free throw percentage shoot up almost 40 points in one season, and free throw shooting would reach an all-time high of .771 in 1973-74. One factor was the injury and then retirement of Wilt Chamberlain. I'm not kidding; over his 14-year career, with the exception of the 1969-70 season (when he played only 12 games), Wilt missed an average of 440 free throws per year - about half the number of misses by an average team in those years. Particularly when the league was just between 8 and 11 teams, that can have an impact.
In a related development, the number of free throw attempts fell off sharply in the 1972-73 season, as the field goal/free throw attempt ratio shot from an all-time high of just over 3-to-1 to 3.832 to 1 in one year, and would only rarely again dip below 3-to-1.
1979-80, three-point shot introduced; 1980-81, league expands from 22 teams to 23; 1988-89, league expands from 23 teams to 25
The three pointer was the major rules innovation at the start of the 1980s, but coaches and players around the league clearly judged it a failure, as the number of attempts dropped by more than a third after the first season and didn't recover for five years (the player perhaps most responsible for its revival was Larry Bird, whose 3-point attempts picked up again in 1986-87 along with the league). But no matter; offensive efficiency reached historic highs in the 1980s, as field goal percentages soared close to 50% on the two-point shot, while rates of free throw attempts rose in the middle of the decade, the heyday of the sort of scoring-machine small forward that's almost extinct today (think Bernard King, George Gervin, Mark Aguirre, James Worthy, Adrian Dantley, Alex English, etc.). The Showtime Lakers were the leaders in this, of course. While we think of the 1980s as a great time for scoring, however, the slow decline in the pace of the game was continuing apace, as shot attempts dropped below 104/game in 1979-80 for the second time since the first season of the shot clock, and dipped below 102/game six times.
Major Rules Changes: 1989-90, league expands from 25 teams to 27; 1990-91, league awards 3 foul shots rather than 2 if a player is fouled while shooting a 3-pointer; 1994-95, 3-point line moved in from 23'9" to 22 feet; 1995-96, league expands from 27 teams to 29; 1997-98, 3-point line moved back again to 23'9"; 1998-99, lockout/strike shortens season to 50 games
The 1990s opened with another milestone: the first season below 100 shot attempts per team since the introduction of the shot clock. It should not be surprising, perhaps, that the 3-point shot's rise has coincided with the decline in shot attempts as well as - of course - free throw attempts, as the three places a premium on moving the ball around to get the open man. Offensive efficiency shot upward for a few years when they moved in the 3-point line, but collapsed when the league moved it back. The 1998-99 season proved to be a bit of an aberration, however; if you look at the percentages in context, you can recognize across the board that players were moving unusually slowly and shooting unusually poorly, no doubt showing rust from the long lockout.
Major Rules Changes: 2001-02, illegal defense rules eliminated as part of larger overhaul of defense rules
"Average" is the all-time average since the NBA's beginnings, or since 1979-80 for the two three-point-specific categories. When you take the current decade in context, you can see that three-point shooting and free throw shooting - the better measures of marksmanship - are as healthy as they have ever been; scoring is down today partly because of slow tempo, partly because fewer and fewer guys are getting to the line the past five years, and partly because shooting percentages inside the arc have dropped to levels not seen since the late 1970s. That is where the league's scoring issues lie; I'll leave it to someone who understands the game's nuts and bolts better than I do to diagnose more precisely why that is.
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BLOG: STRINGS ATTACHED
OK, rant time. It's 1 in the morning, and I just got off the phone after two hours (most of it spent on hold) trying to get assistance from Dell with our wireless connection. I should have been in bed a long time ago, I've got to work in the morning, and for good measure I'd hoped to work on a long blog entry I've been working over. All out the window.
Here's the deal: my wife and I got a Dell laptop about two months ago. Although there were other uses for the laptop, we paid a lot of extra money to ensure that the laptop would have wireless service so that, among other things, I could blog without having to hibernate in the basement, where the desktop and cable modem are located. We paid for the wireless card, we paid for the router. I spent upwards of 90 minutes on the phone with tech support in early July to hook the ^%!^@! thing up.
Result: we can now use the internet . . . in our bedroom. It's the only place on the ground floor of the house where the wireless signal comes through (it's directly above the room in the basement where the desktop and router are located). To keep the connection, you need to walk very slowly out of the bedroom, and then it's a weak connection that can be lost at a moment's notice, which among other things means frequent saving or risk of losing lots of work on the blog.
So, tonight I got fed up and called Dell for help. 25 minutes on hold, get the call center in India on the line, get a few hugely time-consuming but ineffective pieces of advice. Get switched to the wireless specialist; almost an hour on hold ensues. Wireless specialist walks me througn a few items and then announces that (1) the problem may be that the wireless connection can't work in the presence of cordless phones (both our phones are cordless, and without one I could not call him from in front of the computer) or microwave ovens; (2) the router could be interfered with by walls, ceilings, etc., and (3) if we want it to work we have to buy yet another router. None of which cautions were mentioned anywhere by Dell or any of the other sources I looked at before plunking down the money for this thing. And I'll be damned if I'm going to buy another router only to be told I need to replace my telephone and unplug the microwave to use the computer.
Is wireless access really a mirage? Is it just Dell? Or did I just talk to an idiot in tech support? I don't know. I just know I'm unlikely to ever get what I paid for. And I'll be blogging in the basement for the foreseeable future. Grrrrr.
August 25, 2004
BASEBALL: Things I Wish I'd Seen
Red-hot man mountain Calvin Pickering - now batting .364/1.364/.417 in three games since his Sunday callup to replace the injured Mike Sweeney - hit a bases-clearing triple last night in Anaheim. Pickering looks like he may finally be living up to his long-ago promise, having had a huge year in AAA.
POLITICS: McQ Reads The Reports
One of the lingering debates on the Swift Boat story is whether the incident in which John Kerry pulled James Rassman out of the water - and won the Bronze Star - occurred under enemy fire or not; the Swifties say that there was no fire and that several boats (the captains of which have lined up against Kerry on this point) were at the scene for some time fishing the crew of PCF 3 (Kerry's boat was PCF 94) out of the water after it hit a mine and was disabled.
McQ over at QandO explains why the NY Times has (unsurprisingly) misread the Navy documents on Kerry's website to mistakenly claim that several Viet Cong were killed during the incident; McQ contends that the documents actually show that they were killed on land by soldiers the swift boats had been carrying earlier in their mission.
UPDATE: Don't forget to follow McQ's links; this and this present sober, clear-headed assessments of the available evidence regarding the March 13, 1969 engagement, with more supporting links. Frankly, this is getting to be an interesting "whodunit"-type story, even apart from its (tenuous) relevance to the presidential race.
August 24, 2004
POLITICS: In The Tank
Watching Kerry on Jon Stewart - Stewart is totally in the tank for Kerry. Maybe that's not surprising; you don't expect tough questions on a comedy show. But Stewart makes it clear whose side he's on.
One interesting note: Kerry is starting to play the expectations game by noting that Bush has won every debate he's been in.
POLITICS: The F-102
While we're in the pre-convention lull - and I assure you, faithful readers, that by next week I'll be back on the issues as far as political coverage goes - it's worth remembering what a fraud many of the attacks on President Bush's National Guard service have been. The Donovan pointed recently to an essay on Aerospaceweb.org (with useful, and let's face it, really cool pictures) on the F-102, Bush's aircraft, and on his service record. A few key excerpts (but make sure to go there and read the whole thing):
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By this time, the 147th Fighter Wing was also beginning to transition from the F-102 to the F-101F, an updated version of the F-101B used primarily for air defense patrols. Furthermore, the war in Vietnam was nearing its end and the US was withdrawing its forces from the theater. Air Force personnel returning to the US created a glut of active-duty pilots, and there were not enough aircraft available to accommodate all of the qualified USAF and ANG pilots. Since USAF personnel had priority for the billets available, many of the Air National Guard pilots whose enlistments were nearly complete requested early release. The ANG was eager to fulfill these requests because there was not enough time to retrain F-102 pilots to operate new aircraft before their enlistments were up anyway. Bush was one of those forced out by the transition, and he was honorably discharged as a first lieutenant in October 1973, eight months before his six-year enlistment was complete. Bush had approximately 600 flight hours by the time he completed his military service. In the fall of 1973, Bush began coursework at the Harvard Business School where he received an MBA in 1975.
Bush's service still doesn't compare to Kerry's, even if you buy the charges against Kerry's service. But neither is the contrast as stark as Kerry supporters would have you believe. Bush took on hazardous duty, served honorably for four years in which he was frequently occupied flying a complicated aircraft on homeland defense missions, and then left the Air National Guard early at a time when his services were no longer of any use.
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POLITICS: Kerry Crack-Up
CrushKerry.com - not an impartial source, obviously - claims that the decision to threaten legal action against the Swift Boaters came from Kerry himself against the better judgment of his advisors. Here's what's interesting about Kerry wanting to use the courts to squelch criticism: remember the FOX lawsuit against Al Franken, which was widely reported to have been instigated by Bill O'Reilly? Remember the hue and cry on the left at O'Reilly over this?
*Matt Yglesias: "If this sort of thing is going to be typical of rightwing tactical thinking in the near future, then Bush is definitely going down in 2004."
*Jack Balkin called it "A Fair and Balanced Attempt at Censorship" and added:
Now, it turns out that the Democrats' presidential candidate is the same sort of glass-jawed bully that O'Reilly is. Oh, the irony.
BASEBALL: Cross Balls
I just noticed a new feature at Baseball-Reference.com: lists of baseball players by the colleges they attended. My alma mater, Holy Cross, is well represented with 77 major league players, albeit the great bulk of them real old-timers, and the last guy (former Twins pitcher Mike Pazik) retiring in 1977. Notables include 19th century star Cubs outfielder Jimmy Ryan; Lou Sockalexis, the Native American supposed namesake of the Cleveland Indians (who was kicked out of HC for drinking - I guess the place was rather different then); Andy Coakley, a successful pitcher for Connie Mack's pennant-winning 1905 A's; Jack Barry, the shortstop in Mack's "$100,000 Infield," who later coached baseball at the Cross for decades; "Jumpin' Joe" Dugan, the third baseman for the 1927 Yankees; Rosy Ryan, a starting pitcher for the Giants when they won four pennants and two World Series between 1921 and 1924; and Mike Hegan, a journeyman catcher who played for the 1964 Yankees, 1969 Seattle Pilots, and 1972-73 A's.
Not a bad crew. Barry or Jimmy Ryan was probably the best player of the bunch.
POLITICS: Don't Know Much About Cambodia
Captain Ed, who's been one of the blogosphere's All-Stars lately, notes a Washington Post article that puts the final nail in John Kerry's claims to have a "memory . . . seared -- seared -- in me" of making an illegal border crossing into Cambodia on a swift boat during his tour in Vietnam.
UPDATE: But one of Kerry's "Band of Brothers," Del Sandusky, is sticking by the Cambodia story.
BASEBALL: Wright's Patience
POLITICS: Quick Links
But oops. Some two weeks earlier, in an interview with George Stephanopoulos, Kerry had taken a different position: "I think we can significantly change the deployment of troops, not just [in Iraq] but ... in the Korean peninsula, perhaps, in Europe, perhaps." As you might imagine, the Bush campaign quickly pointed out the inconsistency.
The stumble raises two basic questions about Kerry's campaign. First, is he a latter-day Ron Burgundy—the idiot 1970s anchorman of Will Ferrell's recent film who would read anything that appeared on his TelePrompTer? Did Kerry not remember what he had said to Stephanopoulos?
*This is unbelievable, and a good example of why Tad Devine is such a tool: blaming Bush for the Democrats' over-the-top rhetoric:
Link via Hanks.
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Kerry's lies — and they were nothing but lies — about "routine" atrocities committed by average American soldiers and sanctioned by the chain of command were sheer political opportunism. Kerry knew that none of the charges were true.
He'd been there. He may have done some stupid things himself, but atrocities were statistically very rare. Contrary to the myths cherished by film-makers, American troops behaved remarkably well under dreadful conditions.
John Kerry lied. Without remorse. To advance his budding political career. He tarnished the reputation of his comrades when the military was out of vogue.
Now, three decades later, camouflage is back in the fall fashion line-up. Suddenly, Kerry's proud of his service, portraying himself as a war hero.
But it doesn't work that way. You can't trash those who served in front of Congress and the American people, spend your senatorial career voting against our nation's security interests, then expect vets to love you when you abruptly change your tune.
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POLITICS: Candidate, Denounce Thyself
John Kerry is in a box. He's been calling on President Bush to denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad, although Bush's more generalized blast at independent "527" groups yesterday makes it harder to press that point. But what are Kerry's possible arguments for dismissing the Swift Boat ads?
1. It's Ancient History. This is the easy and logical response to attacks on something a politician did 30+ years ago under factual circumstances that have grown hazy: dismiss it as old news. Heck, Bill Clinton routinely called for people to "move on" from things he'd done while he was President. Indeed, even the Vietnamese think that the Vietnam War should be a non-issue in this campaign. But Kerry torched that bridge a long time ago; a man who introduced himself to the general electorate in July and made his Vietnam service literally the first thing out of his mouth, surrounded by his "band of brothers," can't plausibly argue that what happened in Vietnam means nothing to his campaign.
2. Independent Ads Are Bad. Given the vast array of anti-Bush spending over the past year - including Michael Moore pushing his movie's video release up to October - Kerry can't well denounce 527 groups and other independent actors in principle.
3. It's Wrong To Attack A Man's Service Record. Here's the biggest problem: if Kerry wants to stand on principle as saying you shouldn't attack a man's service record, he has a three-pronged problem: (a) he himself is attacking over 200 of his own comrades who are involved in the Swift Boat campaign; (b) he has to deal with his own past history of making false charges of widespread atrocities against American troops in Vietnam; and (c) he has personally attacked Bush's service record with the Texas Air National Guard. From Kerry's own mouth:
Were Kerry to take the same stand he demands from Bush, he'd have to denounce himself and his own campaign. Oops.
4. Attack The Financing. This has been Kerry's main tactic: focus on the Republican financiers of these ads rather than the men in the ads. Of course, Charles Krauthammer had the best response to this:
Anyway, unlike Paula Jones - about whom the charge may have had some credibility - people can't seriously believe that the 200+ Swift Boat Veterans, each one a man who served his country in wartime, have been bought off; they may or may not be the most credible individuals, but most of them seem to be gainfully employed, and some quite successful.
5. They're Lying. Of course, this is the bottom line, but it's a place Kerry doesn't want to go, because it means engaging the Swift vets on their terms: disputing whether the accusations are true. But it's all he has left, and now - with the campaign focusing on Kerry's anti-war activities, about which the only dispute is how clear it should have been to Kerry that his charges were untrue - even that is not a defense.
August 23, 2004
BASEBALL: Wright to Dream
David Wright hasn't missed a game yet since arriving at Shea; here are his numbers projected to a full season:
Well, we Mets fans need something to dream on. Wright's flyball/groundball ratio of 0.78 bodes particularly well for him as a power hitter, although it hasn't stopped him from hitting into double plays. Ironically, Wright has been missing the two elements - steady defense and patience at the plate - that were his predecessor Ty Wigginton's two most conspicuous weaknesses. But Wright is 21 and showed both in the minors, so there's hope for the future.
Now, if we can ever get Jose Reyes healthy . . .
August 22, 2004
POLITICS: Matthews v. Thurlow
I gotta say, on reading this transcript, Larry Thurlow - one of the Swift Boat vets - doesn't sound very credible to me, although it's hard to tell with Chris Matthews browbeating the guy.
UPDATE: The bottom line: even leaving aside the issue of the relevance of microanalysis of Kerry's war record to the campaign - I continue to think that Kerry's actual record is of little relevance, although if he's been lying about his record all these years that is something, whereas I also continue to think that Kerry's early-70s anti-war activities when he was preparing a run for Congress are much more relevant - it seems over-the-top for the Swift Boaters to be attacking every one of Kerry's medals. The attack on Kerry's Bronze Star (the rescue of Jim Rassman), of which Thurlow is a part, is especially central to this controversy; while the attack on Kerry's Silver Star seems mostly to involve a difference of opinion, there's a direct factual contradiction between Kerry and the other swift boat captains over (1) how many boats were present when Kerry pulled Rassman out of the water and (2) whether there was enemy fire at the time. Rassman seems like a sincere and truthful witness in support of Kerry on this point, but his vantage point may not have been that great - by his own testimony, he was under water for most of the incident and (correct me if I'm misreading this) may not have been able to tell the difference between enemy fire and fire from the swift boats at the shore - and John O'Neill has cited physical evidence supporting the Swift Vets' version of the event.
At the end of the day, it may be that some of the Swift Boaters are not being honest or don't remember things real well, although (1) that doesn't necessarily call into question the whole enterprise, since we've seen examples already of Kerry, to put it charitably, having inaccurate recollections of those events, and (2) I don't for a second think these guys have been bought off or that they are all partisan Republicans; it's much more likely that their primary motivation is bitterness at Kerry's anti-war speeches.
POLITICS: Bob Dole Goes Postal
Bob Dole became the first major Republican to directly attack John Kerry's war record on Wolf Blitzer's show today, lighting into Kerry with startling ferocity:
DOLE: I think this can hurt Kerry more than all the medal controversy. I mean, one day he's saying that we were shooting civilians, cutting off their ears, cutting off their heads, throwing away his medals or his ribbons. The next day he's standing there, "I want to be president because I'm a Vietnam veteran."
And I think he's -- I said months ago, "John, don't go too far." And I think he's got himself into this wicket now where he can't extricate himself because not every one of these people can be Republican liars. There's got to be some truth to the charges. But this is on tape. This is on television. This is before the Senate committee.
BLITZER: Just to remind our viewers, this is when he came back from Vietnam. He testified in 1971...
DOLE: Ran for Congress.
BLITZER: Right. And he was quoting a whole bunch of other Vietnam veterans who opposed the war and making these allegations of atrocities, if you will, war crimes committed by U.S. troops. And a lot of people have always suggested that what's really angered these Vietnam veterans, the other side, is, not so much what he did or didn't do when he served in Vietnam, but what he did when he came back.
DOLE: I think that's true. And I think this ad's going to take -- it's going to be tough on Kerry because -- and he says, "Well, this is all hearsay," what he picked up from other veterans. But he said it. He said it before a Senate committee. It had worldwide attention.
BLITZER: The fact that he said on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" a few months ago he probably went too far. He was a young man just back from Vietnam, and he probably shouldn't have said some of those things during those statements when he came home from Vietnam. Does that ease the responsibility that he has?
DOLE: Maybe he should apologize to all the other 2.5 million veterans who served. He wasn't the only one in Vietnam. And here's, you know, a good guy, good friend. I respect his record. But three Purple Hearts and never bled that I know of. I mean, they're all superficial wounds. Three Purple Hearts and you're out. I think Senator Kerry needs to talk about his Senate record, which is pretty thin. That's probably why he's talking about his war record, which is pretty confused.
BLITZER: You know, the American public seems to be paying attention to these Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. There's a CBS poll that came out. I think this is the right poll. Here it is. Presidential choice among veterans, 37 percent support Kerry-Edwards, 55 percent Bush-Cheney. But after the convention it was at 46 percent. He seems to be losing support among veterans, which is an influential bloc of voters out there.
DOLE: You know, I think it's too early to tell what -- nobody maybe in six -- how many days left? Not many. There are eight weeks. Maybe this will be forgotten. Maybe there will be something else. But I think this has certainly damaged Senator Kerry. And I think it's partly his own doing. He can't lay out -- I remember in '96, I was the veteran in the race. Bill Clinton avoided the draft. And we didn't have all this trouble over my service versus his non-service. There wasn't much written about it. People accepted the fact that I had a record. Now there's all the talk about Bush's National Guard service. Has he told the truth? Has he released the records? And one way, I think, for John Kerry, who I consider to be a friend, is to maybe apologize to all these people for something he may have said at a very early age, and let us have those records he's given to the author...
BLITZER: Douglas Brinkley.
DOLE: Douglas Brinkley, the records and the journals...
BLITZER: Who wrote a book about his experience.
DOLE: Yes. But somebody ought to find out the facts. I think this is going to be -- could be the sleeper issue.
So it seems to me they've initiated it, and now they've got into some rather murky area. But I don't -- I wish they'd forget it. It's not about whether or not you're...
BLITZER: And speaking about people getting shot up in Vietnam, the Democrats, at least some Democrats, are now going after the president and the vice president for avoiding service in Vietnam. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, Democrat...
DOLE: He's not a very good one to complain because he was hiding out in Japan, claiming he was a Vietnam veteran.
(via SpinSwimming). Some of this smacks of bitterness, of course, but Dole is plainly disgusted with Kerry's overuse of his Vietnam record, and it's not hard to see why the stress on the three Purple Hearts are particularly galling to Dole, given Kerry's obvious robust health compared to the severity of Dole's wounds. You can also hear the former infantry officer in Dole when he's asked about John McCain's comments and he remarks, "Yes, but, John wasn't there. He was up in the air."
I await the usual suspects calling Dole a "chickenhawk" because he didn't serve in Vietnam. At any rate, we're getting another object lesson in the ugliness of campaigns based on my-war-record-can-beat-up-your-war-record.
UPDATE: Captain Ed suggests that Dole may have been provoked into this outburst by a Boston Globe editorial that denigrated one of Dole's own Purple Hearts. Idiots.
BASKETBALL: New Source
I was contacted recently by the proprietors of the new site Basketball-Reference.com . . . a little background: Sean Forman for years has done great work with Baseball-Reference.com, the premier baseball stats page on the web and one I support with several page sponsorships, and after some stumbles introduced Pro-Football-Reference.com. But for some time, a need was unmet in basketball, and a competitor set up (an extremely useful) knockoff site, Basketballreference.com. I had been using the site for many months and permalinked it here, but an affiliate of Forman has finally established the new site. Check it out; it seems to run a little faster and better than the imitation site.
POLITICS: Moving To Close Quarters
Instapundit (just keep scrollin') and the Minute Man have moved in for the kill on the Swift Boat story. Blood in the water! This is getting nasty, and of course it's all feuled by the fact that there's a bunch of veterans out there who have been nursing a very well-deserved grudge against Kerry for 33 years now. This, from the Swift vets' ad (watch it yourself), is just devastating - following an explanation of how the North Vietnamese often tried to get POWs to falsely confess to war crimes:
Welcome to 21st century political campaigns.
August 21, 2004
POLITICS/POP CULTURE: Governor Piscopo
Joe Piscopo says he may abandon his lucrative career as . . . uh . . . well, anyway, he may run for governor of New Jersey as a Democrat.
Piscopo, of course, stopped being funny when he started lifting weights, which makes him the prime example of what I might term Picsopo's Laws of Thermodynamics for Comedians:
*The talent of a small-to-average-size comedian decreases in direct proportion to the increase in the mass of the comedian.
*The talent of an average-size-to-large comedian decreases in direct proportion to the decrease in the mass of the comedian.
Not sure why exactly this is. Partly it's because fat comedians who make jokes about being fat and sloppy get less funny when they get in shape, skinny comedians who do a lot of pratfalls and physical comedy lose some of that if they get fat (think: Dan Aykroyd), and comedians generally get less funny if they start working out and taking themselves seriously. Which is another way of saying that growing up is bad for comics.
POLITICS: Not The Last To Be Tortured With Kerry's Speeches
"They used Senator Fulbright a great deal," McCain wrote - a reference to Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony that U.S. soldiers were committing war crimes in Vietnam as a matter of course.
He said Kerry political ally Sen. Ted Kennedy was "quoted again and again" by his jailers at the Hanoi Hilton.
"Clark Clifford was another [North Vietnamese] favorite," McCain told U.S. News, "right after he had been Secretary of Defense under President Johnson."
"When Ramsey Clark came over [my jailers] thought that was a great coup for their cause," he recalled. Months earlier, Sen. Kerry had appeared with Clark at the April 1971 Washington, D.C., anti-war protest that showcased his testimony before the Fulbright Committee.
"All through this period," McCain told U.S. News, his captors were "bombarding us with anti-war quotes from people in high places back in Washington. This was the most effective propaganda they had to use against us."
Sometimes, in war, soldiers - even in the best of armies - commit horrible atrocities; such is human nature and the opportunity war affords for the exercise of its most brutal impulses. And nobody really disputes that some American soldiers committed such atrocities in Vietnam, probably - given the nature of the war - with greater frequency than other wars.
But Kerry has sold himself - and won the hearts of some veterans - on the theory that service in Vietnam was, whatever the merits of the war itself, no different than any other service; that American soldiers who served there did so with the same honor, and deserve the same recognition, as veterans of other wars. I have no quarrel with that argument, which seems quite right to me; but hardly anybody did more at the time to argue the contrary position - that American soldiers had acted barbarously as a matter of course - than Kerry. No wonder his words (while he was still a member of the Navy Reserve) were such effective propaganda for the enemy.
August 20, 2004
POLITICS: "Front" Groups
Bryon Scott over at Blogs for Bush takes a hard look at "independent" 527 groups and finds that, for all the fuss about "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," such groups are overwhelmingly Democratic.
UPDATE: Jay Caruso has done a good deal more digging, and looks at individual Democrats with close ties to both the Kerry campaign and the "independent" 527s. If the Bush people are savvy, they will counterclaim with such a bill of particulars against Kerry's complaint to the FEC (which I gather is based on the work of Kerry's investigators at the NY Times) regarding the independence of the Swifties.
BASEBALL: More Ichiro
If the season ended today, the AL division winners would be the Yankees, Twins and A's, and the Red Sox would take the Wild Card. Ichiro is hitting .428 against those four teams (68/159). Wow. (The overall scalding hot streak continues: .394 since May 1 (163/414), .483 since the All-Star Break (70/145)).
POLITICS: It's The Kerrymobile!
August 19, 2004
BASEBALL: Snakes, Bit
How bad are the Diamondbacks? You probably know that they're on pace for more than 110 losses and that, entering last night's action, they'd lost 46 of their last 55 games. Mike's Baseball Rants has some historical perspective; even the 1962 Mets and last year's Tigers never lost more than 44 of 55 games (the 1916 A's, however managed a 4-56 slide).
How about this: before last night's victory over Pittsburgh, the D-Backs were 0-14 against the Tigers, Expos, Devil Rays and Pirates.
Opposing lefthanded batters are hitting .299/.486/.395 - against a team that sends Randy Johnson to the hill every fifth day. Take out Johnson (.171/.261/.244) and that goes to .309/.503/.405. With men on base, opposing teams are hitting .289/.495/.385 against Arizona.
August 18, 2004
BASEBALL: The Team That
The 1994 Montreal Expos are one of baseball's great "what-if" stories - what if they'd played out a full season? What if they'd won the World Series? Would they have been able to hold together such a talented team? Would they have saved baseball in Montreal?
Well, we can't answer those questions precisely . . . although we can approximate an answer to the first question, and without resort to "what-ifs." I was playing around with the Streak Reports on Baseball-Reference.com some time ago, and noticed that from August 19, 1993 through May 5, 1995 - a full 162-game schedule including the entire 1994 regular season - the Expos won 110 games and lost just 52. (The Expos finished the 1993 season on a 31-10 tear in a futile attempt to catch the Phillies, went 74-40 to post the best record in baseball in 1994, and opened 1995 with a 5-2 spurt before slumping to a last-place finish with a depleted lineup. For that stretch, they were, in plain sight, a great team for one full season's worth of games, similar to, say, the 1975 Reds (108 wins), the 1986 Mets (108 wins), or the 1984 Tigers (104 wins). And now, thanks to the magic of Retrosheet, we can not only see that 110-win record; we can flesh out the picture by reconstructing the individual stats of the players who made up a great team. Let's take a look:
One thing that really jumps out at you about the Expos' offense is its incredible balance. The team leader in homers hit 26, but they managed
Walker and Alou, of course, were the offensive stars, and would go on to distinguished careers elsewhere. The hidden big year here was Grissom, who was dazzling - playing by far the best baseball of his long, erratic career - down the stretch in 1993, batting .353, scoring 34 runs and stealing 24 bases in 25 attempts in 41 games. And, of course, all the way down the depth chart (see more below) you see guys who have had long, productive major league careers.
As you can see, the Expos had an unusually poor-hitting pitching staff; if you break the numbers down (see below), the mainstays of the rotation were especially awful, while guys like Butch Henry, Denis Boucher and the relievers did OK in limited action.
What's striking here is that, even for a modern team, this staff never finished its starts. Felipe Alou had a great bullpen (and a deep roster to pinch hit for his helpless-hitting starters), and made extensive use of it. . . Ken Hill and Dennis Martinez went in opposite directions down the stretch in 1993, as Martinez salvaged what had been an awful year, while Hill had the swoon some were expecting again in 1994 when the strike hit . . . Wetteland was incredibly lights-out in 1993, and even moreso the end of the year.
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No what-ifs about it: when the Expos are gone from Montreal, this team will be worth remembering.
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BASEBALL: Dr. Bronx
Dr. Manhattan has a rundown on the Yankees. Check it out.
BASEBALL: Zambrano Down
Well, so much for optimism: Victor Zambrano walked off the mound in the second inning with an inflamed elbow, and is listed as day-to-day.
August 17, 2004
POLITICS: Who Is John Hurley?
UPDATE: Not the same guy. A relative? Even so, it kind of moots the point. Consider this item corrected.
So last night, I saw John O'Neill of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on Joe Scarborough's show, debating John Hurley, national director of "Vietnam Veterans for Kerry." (I missed the same duo on Hardball last week, but it sounds like they did the same routine). Some Kerry supporters may wish to know: who is John Hurley? Well, Hurley is obviously a politically active head of a veterans' group, and he has a pretty thick Boston accent. Which leads me to believe that he is one and the same as John J. "Wacko" Hurley, head of the South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, who successfully fought all the way to the Supreme Court in 1995 to keep a gay group out of the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade.
Somebody call Media Matters, which tried to discredit the Swift Boat group by dredging up a variety of intemperate and in some cases intolerant quotes by O'Neill's co-author, Jerome Corsi. At least Corsi isn't actually heading a group directly affiliated with the Bush campaign.
(Of course, the merits of keeping gay groups out of the St. Patrick's Day Parade is open to fair debate, depending on one's view of the parade, but what do you think Atrios would say if Hurley was heading a pro-Bush group?)
As for the merits, I gotta say, if this was the first I'd seen of this controversy, I would have started off very skeptical - O'Neill seems so over-the-top in attacking just every bit of Kerry's service record, and his demeanor is very cheesy trial-lawyer. But I was definitely more convinced by the end that O'Neill's charges could have some weight to them. O'Neill just had a whole lot more specifics on his side, and all Hurley could do - besides say he thought O'Neill should be ashamed of himself - was to cite Navy reports that apparently relied on Kerry's own information.
The debate over the circumstances of Kerry's Bronze Star (the rescue of James Rassman) seems particularly stark - Kerry and Rassman say that Kerry came back alone under fire to pull out Rassman, O'Neill cites the captains of several other boats who say Kerry alone fled the scene and came back when the shooting stopped while there were several other boats around pulling other guys out of the water. It's very hard to write this off as a difference in perceptions.
Anyway, I remain open to persuasion on who's right here, and I remain skeptical of how relevant any of this really is to the 2004 campaign. But there's clearly an interesting story here.
August 16, 2004
POLITICS: Not in the Same Boat, Part II
I'm on my way out of town again on business. It turns out that for all the Kerry camp's blather about how (most of) the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth never served on the same boat with John Kerry, one of his vocal "band of brothers" who spoke at the Democratic Convention may not have been either, and may be lying today. I've said for some time that I wasn't interested in exactly what Kerry did to earn medals in Vietnam, but it looks like the swift boat story is gaining some real traction anyway based on problems with the, er, accuracy of Kerry's narrative.
Captain Ed is on this story like a starving man on a sandwich. Go check him out.
August 15, 2004
POLITICS: Sauce, Goose, Gander
So, last week, Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander switched parties, to catcalls from Democrats; Alexander chose to time his switch late enough to prevent the Democrats from fielding a viable opponent on November's ballot, a bit of non-beanbaggery that the perennially overwrought Mark Kleiman described as "about the sleaziest, most cowardly thing I've ever heard of a politician doing". Mmmm, short memory there, Professor Kleiman. Kevin Drum also called it "Pretty sleazy".
Well, now New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey has delayed his resignation in disgrace until November 15, to prevent any election at all to fill his job and keep the governorship in (unelected) Democratic hands until 2006. Neither Drum nor Kleiman has had anything to say on this yet - not that it's my place to tell them what to write - but it will be amusing to see if they turn around and defend this sort of chicanery when it helps their side. Hmmmmmmm.
BASEBALL: The Mark of Zambrano
Now, I haven't seen Victor Zambrano pitch for the Mets yet. And I continue to believe that they way overpaid for him. And I continue to be skeptical of Rick Peterson's reported boast that he could turn Zambrano around "in 10 minutes."
That being said, I am optimistic about Zambrano's future with the Mets, and his performance in his first two starts (2.92 ERA, 12 K, 5 BB, 10 H, 0 HR and 0 HBP in 12 innings) does nothing to undermine that confidence. Hopefully, Mets fans won't hold against Zambrano the front office's foolishness in dealing for him. And, of coure, people should be patient if he gets shelled in his next start - in Colorado.
August 13, 2004
POLITICS: The Vietnam Veteran in Nicaragua
While I'm away, I will leave you with this, a wonderful illustration of how Vietnam winds up being at the center of anything John Kerry does, no matter what the issue at hand, and an illustration in particular of the context behind his use of the "Christmas in Cambodia" fable in a 1986 debate on Nicaragua; from a wonderful May 17, 2004 cover story by Jay Nordlinger in National Review on Kerry's Latin America policies dating back to the 1980s, available in full online only to subscribers:
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Said Kerry, "Senator Harkin and I are going to Nicaragua as Vietnam-era veterans who are alarmed that the Reagan administration is repeating the mistakes we made in Vietnam. Our foreign policy should represent the democratic values that have made our country great, not subvert those values by funding terrorism to overthrow governments of other countries." Note that, certainly by implication, the senator characterized the Contra resistance as "terrorism." In addition, "President Reagan has probably come closer to trying to interpret Vietnam in a positive way than either Presidents Ford or Carter. But this also lends itself to a revisionism about Vietnam that makes it easier for us to repeat our mistakes unwittingly."
As his plane touched down in Nicaragua, Kerry said, "Look at it. It reminds me so much of Vietnam. The same lushness, the tree lines." (This reporting comes from the Washington Post.) Vietnam was uppermost in his mind: "If you look back at the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, if you look back at the troops that were in Cambodia, the history of the body count and the misinterpretation of Vietnam itself, and look at how we are interpreting the struggle in Central America and examine the CIA involvement, the mining of the harbors, the effort to fund the Contras, there is a direct and unavoidable parallel between these two periods of our history." Said Kerry, "I see an enormous haughtiness in the United States trying to tell them [the Nicaraguans] what to do."
Finally, "These are just poor people, no money, no food, just like Vietnam, and they are just trying to stay alive. They just want peace. They don't want their daughter getting blown away on the way to teach! Or their sons disappearing. It's just terrible. I see the same sense of great victimization. The little kids staring wide-eyed and scared. It really hits home the same way as Vietnam. . . . If we haven't learned something by now about talking rather than fighting . . ."
In the face of criticism of the trip,
If you're a subscriber and you missed this, log in to NR Digital and read the whole thing; there's much more on the follies of Kerry's view on the region.
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August 12, 2004
BLOG: On The Road
I'm on the road the next few days, so I won't be catching much baseball and posting will be slim to none.
POLITICS: Not All In The Same Boat
John Cole demolishes one of the Kerry camp's fraudulent talking points on the swift boat story: that the Swift Boat Vets aren't qualified to speak to Kerry's Vietnam experience because they were not in his boat. I'm left with three possibilities to explain why the Kerry people are relying on such thoroughly bogus arguments, coupled with foolish, bullying threats of lawsuits to stifle a poorly funded ad campaign:
1. The Swift Boat Vets are right.
2. The Kerry people are incompetent fools.
3. The Kerry people have such contempt for the public that they think this will do.
(My money's mostly on #3, but the Swifties have at least scored one apparent hit with the "Christmas in Cambodia" story that Kerry has now backed off from after saying in 1979 - when it should have been fresher in his mind - that it was "seared" in his memory).
And we have to consider who this story is aimed at. To me, John Kerry is still a war hero. But I'm not the Swift Boat Vets' target audience.
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John Kerry put his life on the line for his country in Vietnam. He wore the nation's uniform; he carried out dangerous missions with people shooting at him; he could easily have died there. To me, as a man who never served, that's enough to make him a legitimate war hero - no matter that he was there "only" four months, no matter what tales he's told or how he's bragged about his service since then, no matter if he was overzealous in the heat of battle, no matter whether he deserved every medal and commendation, and no matter what he did in the anti-war movement when he came home (however much the latter point may otherwise bear on his fitness for high office). That, at some level, is the case for many of Kerry's supporters and detractors alike, and is the likely reaction of many in the public at large who have never been to war, never worn their country's uniform.
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August 11, 2004
BASEBALL: No Boone
I was mildly surprised that nobody took a chance on Bret Boone at the trading deadine, given that it was only last season that Boone was third in the league with 117 RBI, scored 111 runs, won the Gold Glove and finished tenth in the MVP balloting, and given some of the weak-hitting second basemen fielded by contenders: the Twins' Luis Rivas (.247/.399/.274); the Yankees' Miguel Cairo (.286/.418/.332 being way over his career averages of .271/.367/.319); the Angels' Adam Kennedy (.257/.366/.327); the Phillies' Placido Polanco (.277/.385/.340); and the A's' Marco Scutaro (.280/.386/.306). Sure enough, Boone - who averaged .301/.526/.358 with 106 runs and 122 RBI the past three seasons, and who I ranked before the season as the 8th best player in baseball by Established Win Shares (with 29) - is batting .305/.467/.368 since the All-Star Break.
Not that I think Boone is a superstar at this juncture; he's 35, and he had a horrid first half, and frankly I haven't really seen him play this season. I suspect his defense may have deteriorated badly; the Hardball Times' Win Shares numbers (granting that in-season Win Shares are not the best way to evaluate defense) show him with 1.5 defensive Win Shares compared to 4.0 for Rivas, 2.6 for Cairo, 2.9 for Kennedy, 3.2 for Polanco, and 3.9 for Scutaro. Boone's Range Factor and Zone Rating this season are 4.32 and .755, career lows and down from 4.54 and .814 just last season. And frankly, while the other second basemen listed above are all offensive weak links, none but Rivas - possibly the best of the bunch with the glove - has really been horrendous. So maybe it's no surprise that the highly-paid Boone ($8 million salary this season) just couldn't be shopped despite pretty good odds that he'd provide an offensive upgrade for a contending team.
POLITICS: Direct Hit: Kerry Was Wrong On The Cold War
More on Vietnam another day - for now, this is the link of the day, QandO discussing an op-ed in the LA Times on the real scandal in Kerry's record: how he was wrong on nearly every major foreign policy initiative during and immediately after the Cold War. Key quote:
POLITICS: Bush's War Stump Speech
Here's President Bush's current stump speech on the war, which has a pretty good nutshell summary of why it all happened, and a good zinger at Kerry; I highlight some of the points the Administration hasn't really stressed enough in the past:
After September the 11th we looked at all the threats of the world in a new light. One of the lessons of September the 11th is that America must take threats seriously before they fully materialize. (Applause.) We saw a threat. My administration looked at the intelligence and saw a threat. The United States Congress looked at the same intelligence; members of both political parties, including my opponent, looked at the intelligence and came to the same conclusion.
We went to the United Nations, which looked at the intelligence and demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, or face serious consequences. After 12 years of defiance, he again refused to comply. He deceived the weapons inspectors. So I had a choice to make: either forget the lessons of September the 11th and take the word of a madman who hated America, or defend this country. Given that choice, I will defend America. (Applause.)
Even though we did not find the stockpiles that we expected to find, removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right thing to do. (Applause.) Saddam Hussein had the capability to make weapons of mass destruction. And he could have passed that capability on to terrorist enemies. After September the 11th, that was a chance we could not afford to take. And America and the world are safer because Saddam Hussein sits in a prison cell. (Applause.)
And now -- and now, almost two years after he voted for the war in Iraq, and almost 220 days after switching positions to declare himself the anti-war candidate, my opponent has found a new nuance. He now agrees it was the right decision to go into Iraq. After months of questioning my motives and even my credibility, Senator Kerry now agrees with me that even though we have not found the stockpile of weapons we all believe were there, knowing everything we know today, he would have voted to go into Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power. I want to thank Senator Kerry for clearing that up. (Applause.)
August 10, 2004
BASEBALL: Mass Defection
I'm a little late to this particular party (what else is new?), but you owe it to yourself to read Howard Bashman's interview with Seventh Circuit Judge Frank Easterbrook in its entirety (and weep that this man does not sit on the Supreme Court). Don't know how I missed this, but I actually didn't know he was the brother of Gregg Easterbrook, the New Republic writer and Tuesday Morning Quarterback and one of the most entertaining politics/sports writers in the business. But which brother is more entertaining is debatable, as Judge Easterbrook has some great lines here. I'd emphasize that you should read the whole thing; here are some excerpts:
*How can you not be impressed by a guy who says, "I read science journals as well as economics journals and law reviews in my spare time"
*Easterbrook catches Bashman at one of his tricks in this feature: "although the interview is captioned '20 Questions for the Appellate Judge,' you propounded more than 40, with multiple interrogatory sentences per paragraph and compound inquiries per sentence. So a two-to-one ratio must be acceptable."
*On judicial legitimacy:
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*On oral argument:
I use argument to grasp details about the case (such as whether particular arguments were preserved in the district court or what the record shows about some potentially important fact) and test my tentative legal impressions. The latter, especially, means laying out for counsel the difficulties with that side's position and seeing whether counsel has a riposte. If yes, I must go back to the drawing board (which is fairly common); but if the lawyer lacks an answer, or tries to weasel out of meeting the question, then I'm more inclined to think the difficulties insuperable. That's one reason why an oral advocate should never say "I'm coming to that later" (the time is now, when it matters to the judge) or "That's a hypothetical; the facts of this case differ" (the judge knows it is a hypothetical; the goal is to abstract away from the facts and test the legal issue at a more general level). Lawyers who say "just decide this case on its own facts" are asking for a law-free zone, which we don't offer. (I sometimes mutter under my breath: "Whew! Until that reminder, I had been planning to decide this appeal on some other case's facts!")
. . . The best way to prepare is to follow John W. Davis's Rule #1 of appellate advocacy: change places mentally with the court and imagine what a generalist judge would find troubling about your position. Friends who have had nothing to do with the case (other than to read the briefs) can help you by supplying the outsider's perspective. Visits to the court also help. Watching other oral arguments before yours commences introduces you to the court's style. Assistants in the SG's Office regularly watched their colleagues' arguments in the Supreme Court and sometimes attended oral arguments in private litigation. By the time they stood up to argue their own cases, they knew what the process was about, what worked, and what didn't.
*On the importance of jurisdiction:
Last year my clerks gave me a sketch, done by a cartoonist, that captures my attitude: a lawyer is disappearing through a trap door, which I opened by pushing a button on the bench. On his way down (way, way down; the Seventh Circuit's courtroom is on the 27th floor of the Dirksen Courthouse) the lawyer exclaims: "BBUT, YOUR HONOR, JURISDICTION WASN'T RAISED BELOOOOOWWW...!" . . . (The phrase "Your Honor, I wasn't trial counsel so I don't know what’s in the record" also opens the trap door. A voice-activated switch should automate the process, but I can't persuade the General Services Administration to install a trap door. GSA expresses concern about disrupting ongoing trials if an appellate lawyer should pass through district courts on the way to the street.)
*On the frequently reversed 28-judge Ninth Circuit:
*On the judicial appointment process:
It is bad enough to assume that a scholar who writes an article opposing rent control would automatically think as a judge that rent control is unconstitutional--the subjects are unrelated--but terrible to assume that a lawyer who (say) represents persons accused of committing securities fraud would then favor securities fraud while on the bench. Nonsense. Ex-prosecutors on the bench acquit defendants; former defense lawyers appointed to the bench convict defendants; proponents of public support for religious instruction still apply the Establishment Clause after appointment; and so on. There is a nasty side effect of condemning the lawyer on the client's account: ambitious lawyers will shy away from representing controversial clients. And as almost any cause or client can be depicted as controversial from some perspective... Do we really want this?
*"[T]he bottomless pits in Star Wars [hold a special place in my heart, as they] demonstrate that once civilizations have achieved sufficient technological progress OSHA will wither away."
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August 9, 2004
LAW/POLITICS: Confidential Sources
The US District Court for the District of Columbia today released an opinion (dated July 20, 2004; link opens as PDF file) ordering Tim Russert and Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to disclose information provided to them by confidential sources (presumably, the identities of individuals within the Bush Administration) in the Valerie Plame investigation. (The Washington Post has more here).
UPDATE: Here's the bottom-line order (also a PDF) holding Cooper and Time in contempt but staying the contempt order pending an appeal to the DC Circuit.
BASEBALL: Walker, St. Louis Cardinal
Watching the Mets get completely dismantled by the Cardinals this weekend was not fun - let the record reflect that just 8 days after trading their best prospect and several other key blue chips to shore up theirn rotation for the 2004 stretch run, the Mets stand 11 games out of first place and 8 1/2 games back (in 9th place) in the wild card race. It's over.
The Cards, meanwhile, had a real strike of genius in acquiring Larry Walker to join Jim Edmonds and . . . well, Jim Edmonds in their outfield. Even for all his injuries and Coors and everything else, Walker is still a formidable offensive threat (.279/.494./.392 on the road the last three years, and .317/.780/.508 in 58 plate appearances on the road this year). For St. Louis, this is the time to go for the jugular, and that's exactly what the Walker acquisition represents.
I'm less clear, at this distance, why Ray Lankford (.258/.425/.353) got his walking papers rather than, say, Reggie Sanders (.252/.476/.297); Brian at Redbird Nation thinks other reserve outfielders, notably So Taguchi, should have been the odd men out.
August 8, 2004
POLITICS: A Swift Confusion
Kevin Drum says the Vietnam vets in the Swift Boat group must be "certifiable lunatics" because Media Matters has assembled a bunch of (admittedly wacky) quotes about the co-author of their book . . . who isn't one of the vets. Josh Marshall (tongue in cheek) says he's starting a "Concerned Vietnam Combat Veterans Whose Service Records Have Been Attacked by Friends of President Bush Even Though President Bush Has Nothing To Do With It and Did His Best to Stop it But Failed" group . . . except, of course, that he doesn't even humorously suggest that any such vets exist.
As I've said before, I think the whole swift boat story is something of a sideshow, and I'm withholding judgment on the credibility of these guys. And yes, as with the Democrats' favorite small subset of 9/11 widows, their credibility needs to be evaluated just like anybody else in politics, no matter how sympathetic (or, in this case, heroic) their own personal stories are. I do have an open mind on this one.
But note to people attacking the vets: discrediting people who assist, finance or run with the story won't do. If you don't have the goods on the men who wore this country's uniform and now want to be heard on what they saw and did in Vietnam, don't dismiss them out of hand.
POLITICS: More on the Swift Boat Story
Captain Ed has the latest. Read for yourself.
UPDATE: I still think this is a relatively minor story, as are Kerry's and Bush's service records generally, although it's a bigger deal because Kerry's made his four-month tour in Vietnam the centerpiece of his campaign. But one thing that's really clear here from reading the two sides' letters is that the Swift Boat Vets have much better lawyers than the Kerry/Edwards camp does (which is unsurprising if you look at John O'Neill's resume). The Swift Boat Vets' letter is far more detailed and deals directly with the issues, while the Kerry/Edwards letter seems obsessed with non sequiturs like who served on which boat and who filled out particular forms.
BLOG: Table Samples
Feel free to ignore this post; I'm posting some sample tables here as a test while I'm working on a larger project.
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August 7, 2004
POLITICS: Another Satisfied Customer
Democrats who cheered the courage of Jim Jeffords call Louisiana Congressman Rodney Alexander a "coward" and a "turncoat" for switching parties to become a Republican. Of course, both sides cheer switchers to their side and hiss those who go the other way, although Republicans are more apt simply to trumpet switches as a sign of the strength of the party and its ideas, rather than as some great profile in courage (although many big GOP stars have switched from the Democratic side at some point, including Reagan, Phil Gramm, Bill Bennett, Jean Kirkpatrick, and many others).
BASEBALL: Ichiro On Fire
This is just amazing: Ichiro is now batting .481 (51/106) since the All-Star Break, and is running a career-best .398 OBP. Perhaps equally interesting is the persistence of a huge home-road split, especially as far as hitting for power: .367/.473/.407 on the road, compared to .344/.394/389 at SafeCo.
POLITICS: Don't Go There
One of the stupidest memes I've heard from the Left in a very long time - and that's saying quite a lot - is detailed here:
In the "rapid fire" section of Crossfire she said the following to a Republican Strategist...
"Dick Cheney was in the house for over a decade. How many bills did he pass?"
The Republican Strategist paused, looked physically ill, then tried to change the subject by saying "Well, he was aknowledged as a leader."
There was laughter in the crowd.
But Brazille didn't let him go. She leaned forward and very calmly told the truth.
2 bills for Cheney. 57 for Kerry.
I generally figure Brazile would be smarter than this - this is just an incredibly idiotic comparison. First of all, Kerry's been in the Senate twice as long as Cheney was in the House - but Cheney, unlike Kerry, came to the Vice Presidency with qualifications well beyond his Congressional record. Cheney had already been White House Chief of Staff in the Ford Administration (he was Don Rumsfeld's deputy during the traumatic conclusion to the Vietnam War and had worked in the Nixon and Ford White Houses since 1969) and Secretary of Defense during the first Gulf War and the end of the Cold War. He also, of course, headed a large corporation in the 1990s. He was clearly a much more consequential figure than Kerry in numerous ways, a recognized power broker in GOP politics and national security policy.
To review: there are basically four major ways to have an impact in Congress:
1. Get in the leadership. This is the true path to power. Dole, Daschle, Frist, George Mitchell . . . these guys were all impact players on a huge range of legislation without getting their names on them. How many bills did Tip O'Neill sponsor? Dick Cheney quickly got into the leadership:
Kerry, by contrast, never got close. This is a guy whose big theme is that he'll build alliances, and he never even managed to get his fellow Democratic Senators to follow him anywhere.
2. Sponsor bills. Neither Kerry nor Cheney did much of this.
3. Be a high-profile advocate on particular issues - McCain on campaign finance, Kemp on tax cuts, Nunn and Lugar on defense, Kennedy on health care. Even if they hadn't had their names on bills, those guys would be impact players. Neither Kerry nor Cheney did much of this.
4. Be a high-impact committee chairman. Kerry never has. Cheney, of course, was never in the majority, so he didn't have the chance.
Which brings us to another distinction - Cheney spent his years as one of the leaders of the minority in a chamber where the minority has little clout. By definition, members of the minority party in the House don't accomplish much, especially the way the Democrats ran the House in those years. When he's had opportunities to exercise more influence, as he has now in three Republican administrations (he was a lower-level Executive Branch guy in the Nixon years), he's been a major, major impact player. Kerry, by contrast, has been in the Senate - where the minority has more power - and has spent about half of his two decades there in the majority party, while leaving barely a trace and never really getting out front on any issue (c'mon, give me examples of causes where Kerry took a visible public position and fought for it without ducking for cover).
(Pejman has more in a similar vein; thanks to Pej for the link to Kos)
Of course, Kerry's Senate record does look distinguished . . . compared to Edwards.
Stuart Buck properly slams this Legal Times article for calling it a "bombshell" that a new biography reveals that Clarence Thomas doesn't believe in stare decisis in constitutional cases, something that should have been well-known to any reader of his opinions. I rather think the author of the article overstates the case as well in calling stare decisis in constitutional cases "the key principle of our society's rule of law."
Interestingly, the book under discussion also sides with Thomas (at least partially) in the famous sexual harassment charge:
"In the end Thomas and Hill remained the only two people who knew what transpired between them, and each told a different story," Foskett writes, noting that the two had a social relationship of some form before they worked together. "Although it was plausible that Thomas said what Hill alleged, it seemed implausible that he said it all in the manner Hill described.
"Bullying a woman wasn't in Thomas's nature and ran contrary to how he conducted himself around others in a professional environment. And if the context wasn't as Hill alleged, was it fair to turn private conduct into a political weapon to defeat his nomination?" Foskett asks.
POLITICS: Fire From The Left
Barking moonbat warning: a left-wing fimmaker blasts ultraliberal Florida Congressman Peter Deutsch, now running for Senate, for this egregious offense:
I guess you do. You can go here and see video of Deutsch take this appalling position . . .
In other news, the Wall Street Journal's Political Diary noted on Thursday that he's in a spitting match with EMILY's list, calling them "anti-male." I'm starting to feel pretty good about the GOP's chances of taking that Florida Senate seat, I tell you.
POLITICS: Send Me Where?
Spinsanity, hardly a Bush-friendly source, calls the Democrats on exaggerating the extent to which John Kerry chose to go into combat in Vietnam.
BASEBALL: Rare Ferdie Schupp Sighting
Via Dave Barry
August 6, 2004
POLITICS: No Flop
Richard Cohen trots out one of the Democrats' typical efforts to obfuscate John Kerry's allergy to principled positions by turning the "flip flop" charge against President Bush. Right off the bat, of course, Cohen gives away the game:
Quick: name Kerry's core beliefs he will stick to come Hell or high water. But don't hold your breath while you are thinking.
OK, but moving beyond that, Let's run down his list and see how many actual flip flops we have:
Nice try; Bush opposed nation-building for its own sake - not as a necessary aftermath to a victorious war. As I've argued repeatedly, this has nothing to do with the Iraq and Afghan wars, in which the cause was national security and the mission was and is victory. Cohen has to ignore the Administration's own beliefs - and, pointedly, ignore September 11 - to turn this into a flip-flop. Not an auspicious start.
When did Bush ever say he wanted to act unilaterally? Let's review: before the Iraq war, Bush asked a bunch of nations to help; some of them responded, some didn't. After the war, he asked again. Other than the refusal to let the absence of some coalition partners deep-six the whole enterprise, the only unilateralism Cohen can cite is the fact that Bush didn't want U.S. military operations in Afghanistan hampered by the need to run all targets and missions through the multilateral bureaucracy that was such an operational nightmare in Kosovo.
Um, no. Bush would not negotiate unilaterally with North Korea, where the U.S. goal has been to involve the neighbors. When the North Koreans agreed, after much bellyaching, negotiations commenced. That's called a victory, not a flip-flop.
We covered this one already; Bush always wanted their help.
Here, we've at least got a change in tune, but it's more of a tactical retreat than anything; Bush realized he couldn't resist the formation of a department and could accomplish a lot (policy-wise and politically) by pressing for one that met his requirements. In the end, this boils down to cagey tactics, not a flip-flop.
Again, Bush bowed to reality and has sought to make the best of the situation. And frankly, it's not like these inside-the-Beltway "what sort of commission shall it be" controversies are anything like issues of war and peace or positions on issues of continuing importance.
I choose to ignore this. Look, it's my blog.
As usual, people on the Left are complaining that Bush changed his tune so he could co-opt the momentum and turn it to his advantage. That's smart tactics, not a change in principles. Nobody ever said politicians can't compromise to advance their agendas.
OK, that's an impartial source. You win. . . Next up: the Center for American Progress.
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BUSH PLEDGES NOT TO TOUCH SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS... "We're going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus." [President Bush, 3/3/01]
...BUSH SPENDS SOCIAL SECURITY SURPLUS The New York Times reported that "the president's new budget uses Social Security surpluses to pay for other programs every year through 2013, ultimately diverting more than $1.4 trillion in Social Security funds to other purposes." [The New York Times, 2/6/02]
Pardon me if I don't take this sort of "lockbox" stuff too seriously. Of course, that's without addressing whether the federal government's budgetary needs may have been changed by some event between March 2001 and February 2002. Lemme think . . .
GOVERNOR BUSH VETOES PATIENTS' RIGHT TO SUE... "Despite his campaign rhetoric in favor of a patients' bill of rights, Bush fought such a bill tooth and nail as Texas governor, vetoing a bill coauthored by Republican state Rep. John Smithee in 1995. He... constantly opposed a patient's right to sue an HMO over coverage denied that resulted in adverse health effects." [Salon, 2/7/01]
...CANDIDATE BUSH PRAISES TEXAS PATIENTS' RIGHT TO SUE... "We're one of the first states that said you can sue an HMO for denying you proper coverage... It's time for our nation to come together and do what's right for the people. And I think this is right for the people. You know, I support a national patients' bill of rights, Mr. Vice President. And I want all people covered. I don't want the law to supersede good law like we've got in Texas." [Governor Bush, 10/17/00]
...PRESIDENT BUSH'S ADMINISTRATION ARGUES AGAINST RIGHT TO SUE "To let two Texas consumers, Juan Davila and Ruby R. Calad, sue their managed-care companies for wrongful denials of medical benefits ‘would be to completely undermine' federal law regulating employee benefits, Assistant Solicitor General James A. Feldman said at oral argument March 23. Moreover, the administration's brief attacked the policy rationale for Texas's law, which is similar to statutes on the books in nine other states." [Washington Post, 4/5/04]
OK, this one's semi-legitimate; Bush hasn't had a consistent position on this issue. Score one.
BUSH SUPPORTS CURRENT TOBACCO FARMERS' QUOTA SYSTEM... "They've got the quota system in place -- the allotment system -- and I don't think that needs to be changed." [President Bush, 5/04]
...BUSH ADMINISTRATION WILL SUPPORT FEDERAL BUYOUT OF TOBACCO QUOTAS "The administration is open to a buyout." [White House spokeswoman Jeanie Mamo, 6/18/04]
I'm less familiar with the arcana of tobacco quotas and buyouts, as I suspect is the president. I'll pass on this one, although it reeks of deal-making.
BUSH WILL NOT OFFER NUCLEAR NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM... "We developed a bold approach under which, if the North addressed our long-standing concerns, the United States was prepared to take important steps that would have significantly improved the lives of the North Korean people. Now that North Korea's covert nuclear weapons program has come to light, we are unable to pursue this approach." [President's Statement, 11/15/02]
...BUSH ADMINISTRATION OFFERS NORTH KOREA INCENTIVES TO DISARM"Well, we will work to take steps to ease their political and economic isolation. So there would be -- what you would see would be some provisional or temporary proposals that would only lead to lasting benefit after North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs. So there would be some provisional or temporary efforts of that nature." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 6/23/04]
Where I come from, that's called negotiation.
BUSH SUPPORTS A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE... "Bush said he...favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question." [The Nation, 6/15/00, quoting the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, 5/78]
...BUSH OPPOSES A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHOOSE "I am pro-life." [Governor Bush, 10/3/00]
It's ironic: in 1978, Gore and Gephardt were pro-lifers. But far removed in time as this one is, I'll score number two here.
BUSH PROMISES TO FORCE OPEC TO LOWER PRICES... "What I think the president ought to do [when gas prices spike] is he ought to get on the phone with the OPEC cartel and say we expect you to open your spigots...And the president of the United States must jawbone OPEC members to lower the price." [President Bush, 1/26/00]
...BUSH REFUSES TO LOBBY OPEC LEADERS With gas prices soaring in the United States at the beginning of 2004, the Miami Herald reported the president refused to "personally lobby oil cartel leaders to change their minds." [Miami Herald, 4/1/04]
First of all, it's debatable what really happened here, but second, the situation in the Middle East has obviously changed between 2000 and 2004 in ways that make oil less than our #1 priority.
BUSH SPOKESMAN DENIES NEED FOR ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR THE REST OF 2004... "We do not anticipate requesting supplemental funding for '04" [White House Budget Director Joshua Bolton, 2/2/04]
...BUSH REQUESTS ADDITIONAL FUNDS FOR IRAQ FOR 2004 "I am requesting that Congress establish a $25 billion contingency reserve fund for the coming fiscal year to meet all commitments to our troops." [President Bush, Statement by President, 5/5/04]
I refuse to regard changes in budgetary estimates as flip-flops. Particularly given the game of chicken the White House traditionally plays with Congress on stuff like this.
BUSH SPOKESMAN SAYS RICE WON'T TESTIFY AS 'A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE'... "Again, this is not her personal preference; this goes back to a matter of principle. There is a separation of powers issue involved here. Historically, White House staffers do not testify before legislative bodies. So it's a matter of principle, not a matter of preference." [White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, 3/9/04]
...BUSH ORDERS RICE TO TESTIFY: "Today I have informed the Commission on Terrorist Attacks Against the United States that my National Security Advisor, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, will provide public testimony." [President Bush, 3/30/04]
I covered this already.
BUSH PLEDGES TO ISSUE REGULATIONS BASED ON SCIENCE..."I think we ought to have high standards set by agencies that rely upon science, not by what may feel good or what sounds good." [then-Governor George W. Bush, 1/15/00]
...BUSH ADMINISTRATION REGULATIONS IGNORE SCIENCE "60 leading scientists—including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors and university chairs and presidents—issued a statement calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. According to the scientists, the Bush administration has, among other abuses, suppressed and distorted scientific analysis from federal agencies, and taken actions that have undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels." [Union of Concerned Scientists, 2/18/04]
This is called a difference of opinion, not a flip-flop.
BUSH INVITES CHALABI TO STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS...President Bush also met with Chalabi during his brief trip to Iraq last Thanksgiving [White House Documents 1/20/04, 11/27/03]
...BUSH MILITARY ASSISTS IN RAID OF CHALABI'S HOUSE "U.S. soldiers raided the home of America's one-time ally Ahmad Chalabi on Thursday and seized documents and computers." [Washington Post, 5/20/04]
Obviously, Chalabi has fallen out of favor due to a wide variety of intervening events.
BUSH OPPOSES THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY..."So, creating a Cabinet office doesn't solve the problem. You still will have agencies within the federal government that have to be coordinated. So the answer is that creating a Cabinet post doesn't solve anything." [White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, 3/19/02]
...BUSH SUPPORTS THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY "So tonight, I ask the Congress to join me in creating a single, permanent department with an overriding and urgent mission: securing the homeland of America and protecting the American people." [President Bush, Address to the Nation, 6/6/02]
Covered this one already.
BUSH SAYS WE FOUND THE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION..."We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories...for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them." [President Bush, Interview in Poland, 5/29/03]
...BUSH SAYS WE HAVEN'T FOUND WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION "David Kay has found the capacity to produce weapons. And when David Kay goes in and says we haven't found stockpiles yet, and there's theories as to where the weapons went. They could have been destroyed during the war. Saddam and his henchmen could have destroyed them as we entered into Iraq. They could be hidden. They could have been transported to another country, and we'll find out." [President Bush, Meet the Press, 2/7/04]
Well, there have been a number of reassessments of what we have and haven't found, but calling this a "flip-flop" is just silly.
BUSH SUPPORTS FREE TRADE... "I believe strongly that if we promote trade, and when we promote trade, it will help workers on both sides of this issue." [President Bush in Peru, 3/23/02]
...BUSH SUPPORTS RESTRICTIONS ON TRADE "In a decision largely driven by his political advisers, President Bush set aside his free-trade principles last year and imposed heavy tariffs on imported steel to help out struggling mills in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, two states crucial for his reelection." [Washington Post, 9/19/03]
This isn't so much a flip-flop as a betrayal of his principles, since Bush telegraphed pretty far in advance his view on steel tariffs. But being generous in an attack on a lousy policy, I'll score this three.
BUSH WANTS OSAMA DEAD OR ALIVE... "I want justice. And there's an old poster out West, I recall, that says, 'Wanted: Dead or Alive.'" [President Bush, on Osama Bin Laden, 09/17/01]
...BUSH DOESN'T CARE ABOUT OSAMA "I don't know where he is.You know, I just don't spend that much time on him... I truly am not that concerned about him."[President Bush, Press Conference, 3/13/02]
Gimme a break. Just tell me: do you really think Bush doesn't still want bin Laden killed or captured?
BUSH SUPPORTS MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE... "[If elected], Governor Bush will work to...establish mandatory reduction targets for emissions of four main pollutants: sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury and carbon dioxide." [Bush Environmental Plan, 9/29/00]
...BUSH OPPOSES MANDATORY CAPS ON CARBON DIOXIDE "I do not believe, however, that the government should impose on power plants mandatory emissions reductions for carbon dioxide, which is not a 'pollutant' under the Clean Air Act." [President Bush, Letter to Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), 3/13/03]
I'll score this as half a flip-flop, since Bush's overall position opposing such caps was clear in the 2000 campaign, but he did have this document out there.
BUSH RESISTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE... "The White House immediately turned aside the calls from Kay and many Democrats for an immediate outside investigation, seeking to head off any new wide-ranging election-year inquiry that might go beyond reports already being assembled by congressional committees and the Central Intelligence Agency." [NY Times, 1/29/04]
...BUSH SUPPORTS AN OUTSIDE INVESTIGATION ON WMD INTELLIGENCE FAILURE "Today, by executive order, I am creating an independent commission, chaired by Governor and former Senator Chuck Robb, Judge Laurence Silberman, to look at American intelligence capabilities, especially our intelligence about weapons of mass destruction." [President Bush, 2/6/04]
At worst, another prudent tactical retreat (it's called "picking your battles"); at best, Bush outwitting his opponents again by getting them to call for something he wanted.
BUSH OPPOSES CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION... "President Bush took a few minutes during his trip to Europe Thursday to voice his opposition to establishing a special commission to probe how the government dealt with terror warnings before Sept. 11." [CBS News, 5/23/02]
...BUSH SUPPORTS CREATION OF INDEPENDENT 9/11 COMMISSION "President Bush said today he now supports establishing an independent commission to investigate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks." [ABC News, 09/20/02]
Covered this already.
BUSH OPPOSES TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION... "President Bush and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) have decided to oppose granting more time to an independent commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." [Washington Post, 1/19/04]
...BUSH SUPPORTS TIME EXTENSION FOR 9/11 COMMISSION "The White House announced Wednesday its support for a request from the commission investigating the September 11, 2001 attacks for more time to complete its work." [CNN, 2/4/04]
19. One Hour Limit for 9/11 Commission Testimony
BUSH LIMITS TESTIMONY IN FRONT OF 9/11 COMMISSION TO ONE HOUR... "President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have placed strict limits on the private interviews they will grant to the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, saying that they will meet only with the panel's top two officials and that Mr. Bush will submit to only a single hour of questioning, commission members said Wednesday." [NY Times, 2/26/04]
...BUSH SETS NO TIMELIMIT FOR TESTIMONY "The president's going to answer all of the questions they want to raise. Nobody's watching the clock." [White House spokesman Scott McClellan, 3/10/04]
This is getting incredibly picayune . . . just more negotiations.
BUSH SAYS GAY MARRIAGE IS A STATE ISSUE... "The state can do what they want to do. Don't try to trap me in this state's issue like you're trying to get me into." [Gov. George W. Bush on Gay Marriage, Larry King Live, 2/15/00]
...BUSH SUPPORTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BANNING GAY MARRIAGE "Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife." [President Bush, 2/24/04]
What happened in the interim, of course, was the judicial campaign to impose same-sex marriage by court order, with an obvious direction towards a nationwide ruling.
BUSH OPPOSES NATION BUILDING... "If we don't stop extending our troops all around the world in nation-building missions, then we're going to have a serious problem coming down the road." [Gov. George W. Bush, 10/3/00]
...BUSH SUPPORTS NATION BUILDING "We will be changing the regime of Iraq, for the good of the Iraqi people." [President Bush, 3/6/03]
BUSH SAYS IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO DISTINGUISH BETWEEEN AL QAEDA AND SADDAM... "You can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror." [President Bush, 9/25/02]
...BUSH SAYS SADDAM HAD NO ROLE IN AL QAEDA PLOT "We've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in Sept. 11." [President Bush, 9/17/03]
This is the old bait-and-switch by CAP, confusing Al Qaeda with September 11.
BUSH VOWS TO HAVE A UN VOTE NO MATTER WHAT... "No matter what the whip count is, we're calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council. And so, you bet. It's time for people to show their cards, to let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam." [President Bush 3/6/03]
...BUSH WITHDRAWS REQUEST FOR VOTE "At a National Security Council meeting convened at the White House at 8:55 a.m., Bush finalized the decision to withdraw the resolution from consideration and prepared to deliver an address to the nation that had already been written." [Washington Post, 3/18/03]
More negotiations and tactics.
BUSH OPPOSES SUMMITS... "Well, we've tried summits in the past, as you may remember. It wasn't all that long ago where a summit was called and nothing happened, and as a result we had significant intifada in the area." [President Bush, 04/05/02]
...BUSH SUPPORTS SUMMITS "If a meeting advances progress toward two states living side by side in peace, I will strongly consider such a meeting. I'm committed to working toward peace in the Middle East." [President Bush, 5/23/03]
That's a heck of a big "if." Bush is holding out a carrot here.
BUSH OPPOSES MCCAIN-FEINGOLD... "George W. Bush opposes McCain-Feingold...as an infringement on free expression." [Washington Post, 3/28/2000]
...BUSH SIGNS MCCAIN-FEINGOLD INTO LAW "[T]his bill improves the current system of financing for Federal campaigns, and therefore I have signed it into law." [President Bush, at the McCain-Feingold signing ceremony, 03/27/02]
This one is Bush's most notorious flip-flop, and a baldly self-serving one, so this is four and a half flip-flops, heavily concentrated on issues Bush plainly regards as ones of relatively minor importance or are separated by many years. For a guy who's been president for four years and governor for six before that, not bad. Bring it on!
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POLITICS: The Camera Doesn't Love Him
LAW: Closing Argument
August 5, 2004
POLITICS: We're From The Government, And We're Here, To, Um . . .
Irving Kristol once remarked that "A liberal is one who says that it's all right for an 18-year-old girl to perform in a pornographic movie as long as she gets paid the minimum wage." I think he meant this as a joke. But New Zealand is out to prove him right; the government went and legalized prostitution . . . only to subject it to the sort of OSHA regulations that govern - and burden - legitimate enterprises:
The recommendations - which the New Zealand Herald said will also be distributed to brothels and sex workers - include detailed advice on safe sex practices such as the storage and handling of sex toys and disinfecting equipment.
1. I swear I'm not making this up.
2. Lest you get too alarmed, "torch" means flashlight. I hope. Ouch!
3. I may have to nominate "occupational overuse syndrome" for "best euphamism ever.
LAW: Great Moments in Automated Messages
BASKETBALL: Wheelin' and Dealin'
If you missed it, just heard on WFAN that the Knicks completed a trade today:
I will not expose the current state of my basketball ignorance by attempting to analyze this, except to note that the facts that (1) the Knicks are getting thinner and thinner in the middle and (2) Crawford's career shooting percentage of .397 does not bode well for a change in offensive philosophy away from "move slowly and miss a lot of shots".
BASEBALL: Trivia Question of the Day
Since 1911, 11 pitchers have won 25 or more games in a season (some of them more than once) while starting less than 35 games. Most of these are familiar names - seven are Hall of Famers, and three of the others played for multiple World Championship teams.
Bonus question: Name the pitcher who holds the record for fewest starts in a season by a 20-game winner. Answer at the top of the page here. Hint: He's also the only man to win 20 games while throwing fewer than 200 innings. Another hint:
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He was a rookie at the time.
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BLOG: Pop Quiz
Seen in various places, most recently Ricky West:
1. WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR BEDROOM WALLS? Without looking? Probably white. I don't stare at the walls much.
2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW? I tend to bounce around between books. Books I just finished the last few weeks: Babe Ruth and the 1918 Red Sox, by Allan Wood; Fresh Lies, by James Lileks; Things Happen for a Reason, by Terry Leach. Books I'm actively reading: The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers, by Rob Neyer and Bill James; The Connection, by Steven Hayes; re-reading Give War a Chance, by PJ O'Rourke. Books I'm in the middle of and intend to get back to at some point: My Life in Baseball, by Robin Roberts; The Two Faces of Islam, by Steven Schwartz; Men at Work, by George Will; After, by Stephen Brill; The Seekers, by Daniel Boorstin. I'm also reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire to my son.
3. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? Picture of my son at about five months old, sitting up next to a teddy bear that's about his size.
4. FAVORITE BOARD GAME? Monopoly. We play it a lot with the kids. My son has a disastrous obsession with the most expensive properties; my daughter just likes to buy the light blue set and put up hotels.
5. FAVORITE MAGAZINE? National Review. I cancelled my SI subscription; I never found a weekly magazine a good format to read about baseball.
6. FAVORITE SMELL? Probably the smell of McDonald's french fries or Dunkin Donuts, the smells they pipe out to suck you in.
7. FAVORITE COLOR? Green. When you have kids, you need to be able to answer this question. Also fond of purple; this blog's purple and white layout is my school colors from college (Holy Cross).
8. LEAST FAVORITE COLOR? The color of the building across from my office that I have to look at out my window - it's an awful 70s yellowish brick.
9. HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOUR ANSWERING MACHINE PICKS UP? Four.
10. MOST IMPORTANT MATERIAL THING IN MY LIFE? Photo albums. I used to take tons of pictures.
11. FAVORITE FLAVOR OF ICE CREAM? Vanilla, preferably with chocolate chips or in one of those chocolate chip cookie sandwich thingies. But ice cream is one of those things I like but mostly avoid (like donuts) because it's just not quite good enough to justify the nutritional issues.
12. DO YOU BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT DAILY? I don't like to walk slow or drive fast. I mostly just drive a mile or so to the train station, but I do probably slightly exceed the speed limit heading there.
13. DO YOU HAVE A STUFFED ANIMAL IN YOUR ROOM SOMEWHERE? My wife does - a dog, it was the first gift I bought her, long before we were dating.
14. STORMS - COOL OR SCARY? If I'm in the house? Cool. But I'm afraid of lightning when I'm outside, and I hate driving in rain..
15. FAVORITE DRINK? I basically live on orange juice, coffee, Coke, and red wine (in that chronological order). Each has its charms.
16. WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY? October 13. Anniversary of Mazeroski's homer.
17. FAVORITE VEGETABLES? Broccoli. Yes, broccoli.
18. IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Fantasies? Owner/GM of the Mets. President. Closer to reality? Federal judge. Professional blogger. If I had a professional blogging gig, I'd just never run out of stuff to write about.
19. IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY COLOR HAIR, WHAT WOULD IT BE? I'm past 30, so I'm just happy to have hair.
21. TOP THREE FAVORITE MOVIES (IN ORDER)? Star Wars, of course. The Untouchables. Too hard to pick a third.
22. DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS? I'm a two-finger typist. I type very quickly for using just two fingers, but my mom's efforts to teach me to type properly never took.
23. WHAT'S UNDER YOUR BED? Drawers.
24. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NUMBER? 13. Hey, if your birthday's on the 13th, you make a virtue of it.
26. WHAT IS YOUR SINGLE BIGGEST FEAR? Heart attack, stroke, any kind of sudden death. Drowning as a result of a terrorist attack causing an explosion in the Queens Midtown Tunnel or a LIRR or subway tunnel is way up there, though.
27. FAVORITE CD OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW? Born in the USA. Lately, I've listened to a lot of the Saw Doctors Live from Galway.
28. FAVORITE TV SHOW OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW? Besides baseball? Probably Seinfeld, unless you count the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour. Right now? The Sopranos isn't on again for a few years, so maybe The Daily Show, Monk or one of the Law & Order shows.
29. HAMBURGERS OR HOT DOGS? Burgers, although it was hot dogs for many years. Ah, maturity.
30. THE COOLEST PLACES YOU'VE EVER BEEN? Congress, for the State of the Union Address in 1992. The Hall of Fame for the 1982 Induction Weekend ceremonies. The Supreme Court, to meet Clarence Thomas.
31. WHAT WALLPAPER AND/OR SCREENSAVER IS ON YOUR COMPUTER RIGHT NOW? Picture of the kids with our nephews.
32. DOES MCDONALD'S SKIMP ON YOUR FRIES & DO YOU CARE? No, but I don't eat there much.
33. FAVORITE CHAIN RESTAURANT? Pizzeria Uno. My wife and I should own stock.
35. IF YOU COULD LEARN TO PLAY ONE INSTRUMENT OVERNIGHT, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Electric guitar . . . More realistically, I'd really like to be able to play the harmonica.
POLITICS: More Links 8/5/04
*Taxation without representation: the Commons Blog notes that the UN is preparing to propose, next month, taxes - yes, UN taxes - on various international transactions to raise money for international development and UN-run anti-poverty programs. I was sure these guys had misread this story, but when you click the links it turns out to be for real. I'll give you three guesses which world leader is the major proponent of this, and the first two don't count (hint: first name "Jacques").
*Stuart Buck drills Kerry with still more examples of Kerry - contrary to his cynical convention blather about "Saying there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq doesn't make it so" - himself saying that it was so. My favorite, from January 2003:
As I've said before, Kerry's use of that line in the convention speech can only be read as the work of a man with complete confidence that nobody will call him on what he said before.
*Doc Weevil notes the oddity of accusing Republicans of being "un-Pennsylvanian."
*Professor Bainbridge compares Kerry's liberalism to Paul Wellstone's. (link via Instapundit). Chris Lawrence disagrees. For the record, here's how the Almanac of American Politics breaks out Kerry's 2001 and 2002 record, via National Journal rankings:
As usual, Kerry's supporters have been busy trying to say what he isn't rather than what he is, but any way you slice it, that's a pretty liberal record.
*Another blogger who will be at the Republican Convention (link via Instapundit).
*I saw Bill Clinton on Letterman Tuesday night - Dave gave him an uninterrupted platform to stump for Kerry. He made one semi-good point that was self-serving and not in Kerry's interest (surprise!) by defending the CIA by saying that the CIA found itself by the early 90s staffed with people with the training, looks, language skills and outlook to infiltrate the Warsaw Pact, and it takes time to train a whole new crop of people to infiltrate Middle Eastern terror groups (15 years? I'm skeptical that it should have taken that long. But he's partly right).
POLITICS: Fun With Kerry
Happy Fun Pundit had some hilarious captions to the "clean suit" photo (link via Vodkapundit). The elephant one damn near killed me. Protein Wisdom has some fun with a more recent shot. It's amazing how Kerry succeeds in making Bush and Cheney look like regular "just folks" by comparison.
POLITICS: Playing Rough
Personally, I'm not that eager to go after John Kerry's Vietnam service, since that's the only issue he wants to talk about. But, of course, if he wants to run on Vietnam, he has to take the good with the bad. Polipundit links to this video from the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," featuring a group of officers who served alongside Kerry in Vietnam and blast his integrity and his conduct upon returning home from the war. Very hard-hitting stuff. Say what you will about the relevance of some of these charges to the election - I'm skeptical of whether it matters how severely Kerry was injured when people were, after all, shooting at him - but these guys have unquestionably earned the right to question every aspect of Kerry's service.
Some on the Left have attacked the swift boat group because some of its members are Republican activists in long standing, but my sense is that - whether you give their accounts credence or not - these guys are acting on motives that run far deeper than partisan politics. By and large, these are guys who felt betrayed by Kerry in 1971 when he gave his now-infamous speech to the Senate - which ran as the lead story on all three network newscasts that night and was the foundation of his political career - accusing his fellow Vietnam vets of "war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." It should not be surprising that some of the men he slandered then have not forgiven or forgotten.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, John McCain blasts the Swift Boat Vets ad (although the Swifties get the benefit of having their ad available on MSNBC). For the record, as I've said before, I don't think the nitty-gritty details of Kerry's service record should be an issue, try as Kerry may to make it the only issue. Nor do I hold against him the simple fact that he opposed the war on his return. On the other hand, how Kerry conducted himself and the things he said when he returned from Vietnam - including the 1971 testimony that fed directly into his 1972 campaign for Congress - is very much a part of his political career and entirely fair game, and he shouldn't act surprised that so many vets despise him for it.
August 4, 2004
BLOG: Daly Move
BASEBALL: Stinks Like Old Fish
You know, the Dodgers have gotten a lot of entirely undeserved grief for Paul DePodesta's imitation of the 1987 Giants, turning over a big chunk of the roster and dealing popular team leader Paul LoDuca. But even if you buy into the idea that "chemistry" is too fragile a thing to mess with, how can you possibly argue that the Marlins made a good deal by dumping Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi for LoDuca, Juan Encarnacion and Guillermo Mota? I mean, LoDuca could win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and that still doesn't even the scales with Penny, who after all won two brilliantly pitched games against the Yankees in the World Series last year.
More seriously, what the heck were the Fish thinking? LoDuca is indeed having a fine year, batting .308/.460/.360, compared to career averages of .287/.430/.342, but he's notorious for wearing out in the second half (not a characteristic usually associated with team leaders on successful teams), and at 32 he's unlikely to change that pattern. Hee Seop Choi, by comparison, is just 25, already batting .270/.495/.388, and only likely to improve. (It's true he's had the advantage of platooning thus far this season). Encarnacion, of course, is likely to be no help at all with the bat (.235/.415/.290), while Penny was the team's second-best pitcher this season (3.15 ERA, 105/39 K/BB ratio), is only 26, and is still learning how to harness his Grade A fastball.
The only way to make sense of the deal is to look at Florida's desperate situation at catcher, where Mike Redmond and Josh Willingham have both been offensive and defensive busts. But that still makes this a panic trade; you don't give up young stars like Penny and Choi to fill a single hole with an unspectacular 32-year-old. Fools.
BASEBALL: Avkash Goes Ballistic
I finally got around to adding the marvelous Mets blog The Raindrops to my blogroll, and here's a good reason why (via Always Amazin) - Avkash, who follows the Mets minor league system much more closely than I do, tears into Mets management over the Benson and Zambrano deals.
August 3, 2004
BASEBALL: Voice of the Mets, Rest in Peace
Bob Murphy has died, at age 79, just about a year after announcing his retirement after 42 years as the voice of the Mets. Murphy had apparently been battling lung cancer. You can read my "happy recap" of Murphy's broadcasting career, on the occasion of his retirement, here. He was a fine man and a terrific broadcaster, and will be missed.
BLOG: Welcome Back!
Dr. Manhattan is blogging again, and has an explanation for his hiatus. Prayers and best wishes to his family in dealing with this situation; there's just nothing worse than having something happen to a child.
BASEBALL: All You Need Is Glove?
I don't have the quote handy, but Bill James has told interviewers in recent months that the Red Sox have their own, proprietary defensive statistics that show some pretty impressive things. I kept thinking of that, as the Sawx traded Nomaaahhh for two guys - Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz - who have made particularly large impressions with the glove. Do the Sox know something the rest of us don't about the size of the impact of these players? (The fact that the A's have similarly been stocking up on glove men the past few years suggests that there may be something up here as far as non-public evaluations of defensive value).
Second James quote that comes to mind is his defense of the Ted Simmons trade upon Whitey Herzog's arrival in St. Louis, on the grounds that (1) the team wasn't winning with Simmons anyway and (2) Whitey's willingness to deal Simmons after Simmons refused to play third base was necessary to establish who was in charge. Lesson: yes, sometimes the manager's need to motivate the players really is a legitimate factor in making a deal.
This brings us to the competing interpretations of the Nomar trade: is this a disastrous abandonment of a win-now Sox team? Is this, like the Cardinals trading Simmons, importing Darrel Porter, and dealing Garry Templeton for Ozzie Smith, part of a needed restructuring in which declining properties (who lack plate patience) are shipped out and more defensive-oriented players brought in?
Joe Sheehan argues, persuasively, that Mientkiewicz was basically available for free, having lost his job to Justin Morneau, so effectively the Sox traded Nomar for the inferior (.298 OBP this season ) Cabrera. Bill Simmons counters that every team in the league had scouts watching Nomar, and given his poor defensive play and attitude, the deal the Sox got was probably all they could get for a declining Nomar in his walk year. Bill is probably right: the real issue is, if this is the best deal you can get, and Nomar's hitting well and you're contending for the Wild Card, do you make a deal at all?
Sheehan: "Chemistry is a three-game winning streak."
Again: they're both right here, to some extent; I don't much believe in "chemistry," but then there really is such a thing as a guy who's so miserable and insubordinate that you need to ship him out and stick with people who actually want to win some ballgames. I'm afraid I'm not close enough to the Sox to judge.
Still, the deal-breaker is exactly how much the Sox stand to gain from Cabrera's and Minky's defense. Entering this year, owing in large part to Nomar's injuries but also their defense, my Established Win Shares system rated Nomar only slightly ahead, with 22 EWSL to Cabrera's and Minky's 19 apiece. Of course, that doesn't account for the fact that Win Shares is biased towards players who are close to replacement level but get a lot of playing time. This season, Nomar has 6 Win Shares (2 above an average player with his playing time), while Cabrera has 7 and Minky has 4, but 4 each below average - not a flattering picture. So it's hard to get a good feeling about this deal on the Win Shares ledger, though Cabrera gets 4.5 defensive WS to Nomar's 0.8 - even with the difference in playing time, that's something.
Step back, though: Sheehan contends that the Red Sox staff is so flyball- and strikeout-dominated that infield defense won't make much of a dent. The Hardball Times' Fielding Independent Pitching numbers - which seek to project a pitcher's ERA as if he had an average defense behind him - seem to bear that out: other than Derek Lowe, none of the Sox major pitchers has a significantly worse FIP than his actual ERA (San Pedro de Fenway is trailing a bit, 4.15 to 3.96, but it's not a large difference). However, the splits widen when you compare Runs Allowed as opposed to ERA:
I know FIP is supposed to approximate ERA, not RA, but 0.74 runs/game seems like a big deal for your top 8 pitchers . . . it comes to something like 63 runs. And while I don't have the numbers to compare here, 1.46 ground balls per inning pitched seems like plenty of opportunities for the infield defense to make a difference. If nothing else, the Red Sox have a lot invested in Derek Lowe - and might some day in the future want to have the option of adding other pitchers who get a lot of ground balls - and with their defense as it was, that was a lost cause.
I'm running low on time here, so I'll just say: no, I don't think this deal really helps the Sox, but given the financial realities, the fact that they're not going to catch the Yankees in the regular season and the fact that there's a good case that this team needed to upgrade its defense, I'm not going to rip the Sox for taking a bad situation, identifying a way in which their team needed to be upgraded, and executing a strategy that is aimed directly at the problem.
POLITICS: 8/3/04 Links
*Kerry wants to send nuclear fuel to Iran. Seriously. I wish I was kidding. Next thing you know, he'll be kissing Brezhnev . . .
Link via Vodkapundit's chaser, Will Collier.
*Stryker takes issue with Hugh Hewitt's contention that the military votes heavily Republican, and criticizes the Marines who told reporters that they were against Kerry.
"Well, why couldn't he have said that?" muttered one of the old coots, as Kerry swept past us.
That's how I felt after the Convention: all week Senators Biden, Lieberman and Edwards made the case that the Democrats were credible on national security. Why couldn't Kerry have said that?
Because in the end he's running for President because he feels he ought to be President. That's his message to George W Bush: "The Senator needs you to move." And even then everyone else says it better.
Read the whole thing.
August 1, 2004
POLITICS: To Trade And Not To Trade
Matt Welch just drills Kerry and Edwards for their straddle on free trade, noting this quote from senior Kerry economic advisor Laura Tyson:
I want to assure you that a Kerry-Edwards administration will continue in the great American tradition of leading the way on global economic integration.
As Welch puts it,
Read the whole thing; this was before Kerry's "fair trade" and anti-outsourcing language in his convention speech. The soft-spoken promise that Kerry doesn't mean what he shouts from the rafters is reminiscent of this.
POLITICS: Kerry Speech Blog Roundup
*Tom Maguire agrees with me that Kerry failed to address the critical questions in the war on terror - who we are fighting and whether he would have gone to war in Iraq. (Maguire also notes, of Kerry's "the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to" line: "Why we had to go to war in Kosovo remains a mystery, but this has been a Kerry line for over a year.") Kerry supporter Matt Yglesias agrees for basically the same reason: "To put it politely, I thought that was crap":
Typically, Yglesias and his liberal friends think that Kerry's vagueness was politically smart - as usual, they seem to assume that the American people are too dumb for specifics - but I tend to think that if the debates roll around and Kerry refuses to answer these two critical questions - (1) would a President Kerry have ultimately decided to go to war with Iraq, and (2) does the war on terror go beyond hunting down some stateless terrorists - he'll come off like Dukakis' cold response to Bernard Shaw on the death penalty in 1988.
*Andrew Sullivan, who's also voting for Kerry:
Also: "private drug research that has cured millions and saved my own life must be throttled to placate constituencies like the AARP."
*Jay Reding thinks President Bush can tear up Kerry's approach with one word that was conspicuous by its absence: "Victory."
*I was only joking to friends about Kerry arriving in Boston on a water taxi because he couldn't find a swift boat, but Fred Kaplan at TNR reveals that those of us who had this thought weren't off base at all:
Kaplan also notes a flaw in Kerry's invocation of the lessons of his combat service:
(Of course, some, like LBJ, had fairly bogus combat decorations. But as to the architects of that war, the point stands). Kerry wants us to believe that his combat experience will be a restraint on going to war:
But this leaves unanswered the critical question about our reluctance to use force to stop the march of terrorism in the 1990s: what will Kerry say to the parent or spouse or little child who has lost a loved one due to a terrorist attack that Kerry could have prevented if he'd gone to war? The possibility doesn't even enter into his calculations.
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"I defended this country as a young man, and I will defend it as President."
This really intrigues me. I agree that Vietnam was a defense of the United States, inasmuch as we were trying to blunt the advance of Communism. So: only Nixon can go to China. (Only Kirk can go to Chronos, for you Star Trek geeks.) Only Kerry can confirm that Vietnam was a just war. This completely upends conventional wisdom about the Vietnamese war, and requires a certain amount of historical amnesia. Why does this get glossed over? The illegitimacy of the Vietnam war (non-UN approved, after all) is a key doctrine of the Church of the Boomers; to say that service in Vietnam was done in defense of the United States is like announcing that Judas Ischariot was the most faithful of the disciples. Imagine if you were a preacher who attempted such a revision. Imagine your private thrill when everyone in the congregation nodded assent. The past was more malleable than you had ever expected.
"The future doesn't belong to fear; it belongs to freedom."
A passive platitude. Try this: "The future cannot belong to fear. It must belong to freedom." Because that tells me you intend to shape history, not sit back on the couch and see how it all turns out. In any case, the two are not necessarily symmetrical; it is possible to be fearful and free, for a while. Ask the Brits in WW2. And just saying that the future belongs to freedom does not make it so, I fear. I think this is an appeal to those who believe that the administration has created a climate of fear so they can take away our freedoms. You know, the neocons who danced a jig of joy on 9/11 because they saw an excellent opportunity to subpoena library records.
And so on. All the stuff about restoring trust and credibility is nice, but note how no one is questioning the trust and credibility of the Brits, the French, the Russians and the UN, all of whom shared the same opinions about Iraqi capability. What it says to me is this: if John Kerry had been president after 9/11, he would have looked at all the intel about Iraq, studied its history, examined its strategic value, shaped up the nature of its leadership, and declined to depose Saddam.
Fine; I understand that position. I understand that he defended America by serving in Vietnam.
One question: did Vietnam attack America?
Ah! The Gulf of Tonkin incident and subsequent resolution made it seem as if they had. So he fell for that, as everyone did. He voted to wage war against Iraq because he fell for that, as everyone did. He's learned. Next time he needs hard proof, like a smoking crater in New York.
Make that another smoking crater in New York.
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POP CULTURE: Revenge
From one of Bill Simmons' readers, on the "Vengance Scale":
Department of Embarrassing Corrections, from the same column: "Joe De's is on Cambridge Street, not Main Street." Bill, you're getting old . . .
POLITICS/LAW: Curse You, Fred Baron!
From Jayson Stark: Rick "Peterson reportedly told the Mets he could get [Victor] Zambrano straightened out 'in 10 minutes.'"
If he's wrong, that will sounds like George Tenet telling Bush that finding WMD in Iraq was "a slam dunk case."
Stark also thinks the Marlins got by far the better of the deal with the Dodgers . . . more on that later. The short answer is, "um, no."
BASEBALL: As Bad As Advertised
I tuned in late to last night's Mets game hoping to give a fresh look to Kris Benson, only to discover that he'd already been driven from the game, allowing seven runs in five innings. I've got a feeling this won't be the last time.
POLITICS: At The Movies
Punch the Bag wants Republicans to "Lose the hokey country music," and contrasts the Democrats' use of U2. Of course, one reason Republicans use country music is that liberal rock stars won't give permission for use of their songs (not that this stopped the Democrats from using Van Halen against the band's wishes). He also has a Kerry anecdote: