"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 30, 2004
POLITICS: Happy Coattails
The happiest people from tonight's debate have to be down-ticket Democrats. John Kerry's strong performance may not move the needle much in the presidential debate, given Bush's refusal to be pushed around and his bouts of feisitiness. But if the debate didn't help Kerry much, it should be enough to finally arrest his catastrophic decline, and that will help other Democrats worried about a Mondale-sized disaster.
POLITICS: The Debater and the Chief
If you had any doubt that John Kerry is a tough, aggressive debater - in fact, a man who's at his best in debate - tonight should have removed any doubt. Kerry put in a fine point-scoring performance, getting off his shots at President Bush, avoiding his trademark rambling and getting away, actually, with quite a lot of statements that the president should have called him on, from fairy tales about buying body armor on the internet to the fundamental illusion that Kerry can change the opinions of allies who haven't helped out in Iraq. Bush, partly because he's not a great debater and partly because he carries the burden of his office (can't scorn the French if you might someday have to work with them), was unable to dismember the fundamental falsehood at the heart of Kerry's "plan" for Iraq.
But Bush also did what was probably necessary: he stood on the podium as Leader of the Free World. He made clear over and over the importance of being consistent, not sending "mixed messages." Yes, like Kerry, he had a few points he repeated endlessly, but he had to.
Bush's strongest performances were on two points: calling Kerry on his stream of insults aimed at the allies who HAVE helped us in Iraq, and making Kerry look like an idiot on North Korea, where Kerry was left sputtering about the need to have bilateral rather than multilateral talks without giving any reason other than that's not what Bush is doing.
Bottom line: Kerry is a better debater, and it showed. He's faster on his feet. But when Bush sets his feet, he doesn't budge. The voters will decide which is a more important qualification to lead in wartime.
UPDATES START HERE:
Bush talked a lot about freedom, liberty. Kerry hardly did, except in Russia, but he did bring more emphasis to winning than in the past.
I hope this debate doesn't change much in the election; I think it may not. Bush started badly but held his ground after that, while Kerry was consistent throughout.
This summarizes one exchange: Kerry: "He's a liar." Bush: "I don't take that personally."
I liked how Bush repeatedly stressed staying on the offensive.
It was tacky how Kerry said "the president invaded Iraq." No, the United States and its allies did.
Kerry said Bush didn't work with our allies like Reagan did. Reagan, rolling over in his grave: "oh, now you support my foreign policy."
People who ripped Zell can shut up after Kerry called our troops "occupiers".
Kerry dodged Jim Lehrer rolling out his "last man to die for a mistake" line after Kerry called the war a "mistake"
Bush's turning point was when he called Kerry's attack on Bush for turning own UN help "totally absurd." Also, Kerry stepped in it when he started talking about yet another UN resolution and when he used the phrase "passes the global test" for preemptive action, and when he griped about us developing bunker-busting nukes to take on North Korea. Ill give Reagan the last word: "now that's the Kerry I remember."
POLITICS: The Kerry Kool-Aid Comes In Two Flavors
Mark Prior came up huge today, with 16 K and only 3 hits and a walk allowed in going 9 innings against the Reds, with the three main wild card contenders now tied in the loss column. Unfortunately for the Cubbies, one hit was an Austin Kearns homer that tied the game 1-1 in the 7th. Still tied in the 10th at last check, with Ryan Dempster in a 2-on 2-out jam.
UPDATE: Still tied after 11.
UPDATE: Bottom 12, 2-1 Reds after Valentin doubled in Dunn, man on first, Nomar up, 1 out.
UPDATE: Reds win.
UPDATE: A's win, Angels lose to Rangers; all tied up again in the AL West. Texas is 3 back with 3 to play, but with the A's and Angels facing off for the last three games there's no way for them to tie it up. Barring a big Dodger collapse against the Giants, the only races left are the AL West and the NL Wild Card.
POLITICS: Quick Prediction
Lots of interesting issues to address for tonight's debate, but I'll just make a prediction on one. A key issue of tone for Kerry is whether to try to look presidential and be likeable, and thus temper his attacks on Bush in favor of trying to lay out his own vision, or whether to play to his natural strength as a debater - the strength that forged his reputation as a "good closer" - and go mercilessly on the attack, questioning Bush's truthfulness and trying to bait Bush.
My prediction: the latter. Several reasons: (1) Bob Dole, who shares some of Kerry's strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate, tried the former approach in 1996, to no effect (as Kerry's Clinton-era staffers will recall); (2) Kerry has been on the attack in recent speeches, to say nothing of his spokespeople; (3) Kerry's base wants it (to the point where some people have been pining for Howard
I'm not saying this is necessarily the wisest strategy. But it will feel good, and stands a chance of breaking the race's momentum (or, alternatively, burying Kerry entirely). I predict that Kerry decides that he's been too cautious for too long, throws caution to the wind, and turns his rhetorical boat into the fire, coming out swinging as the man Kerry obviously believes he really is.
Stay tuned. The fireworks could be fun to watch.
September 29, 2004
BLOG: Programming Note
In theory, the next week and a half should be a booming time for this blog - my readership is way, way up, and we're simultaneously headed into the presidential debates, the end of the pennant races, and the beginning of the postseason. In something of an ironic repeat of October 2000, however, I am gearing up for trial (actually a securities arbitration), which is scheduled to cover most of next week. I'll keep posting here to the extent possible, but things may be slower than usual until we get through October 8.
September 28, 2004
BASEBALL: "[S]tats Nazis"
I noted a few years ago the similarity between (1) the battles between conservatives, particularly bloggers, and the mainstream political media and (2) the battles between statistical analysts of baseball and the mainstream baseball media. Peter Gammons has given us yet another example of this attitude:
Cabrera is a dashing, 78 rpm defender who sometimes almost plays too fast. But he gives himself up when necessary, pounds high fastballs and clearly loves playing on a Red Sox team that is in contention and sold out every game all season. . . Roberts is right about Cabrera, and the same thing can be said about Derek Jeter -- who the stats Nazis will insist from their garages isn't an exceptional shortstop -- and Brian Roberts. On the other hand, there are some star-type players that are not as good on a pennant contender.
"Stats Nazis in their garages" does have about the same ring as "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas." (For the record, I blog in the basement, not the living room or the garage). Ironically, of course, this comes just a little over two weeks after Gammons wrote a warm endorsement of the very types of new statistical analysis of defensive stats that have long supported the case against Jeter's defense and that led the Red Sox to trade for Cabrera. In fact, in that column, Gammons cited Cabrera as a prime example of the value of such stats. As I've noted repeatedly, we have yet another example of how Gammons gives vent to the views of different sources with diametrically opposite world views.
POLITICS: Lowered Expectations
Karl Rove must dream, in the says leading up to the first debate, of stories like this:
And remind me why someone who gets snookered this badly by the mere threat to pull out of one debate should be trusted to negotiate with Iranian mullahs and crazy Kim.
Then again, Dales warns that the history of pre-debate polls and their power to predict the general election result doesn't necessarily support the idea that the debates are as influential as everyone thinks.
September 27, 2004
WAR: The "Q" Word
A big controversy erupted back in April when Ted Kennedy called Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam;" commentators on the right like Instapundit and Jonah Goldberg accused Kennedy of preaching defeatism, while people on the left, like Mark Kleiman and Matt Yglesias, tried to argue that Kennedy hadn't really meant an unwinnable quagmire; Kleiman eventually relented when Eugene Volokh pointed to Kennedy using the "q" word:
Well. Now, we have John Kerry running a campaign commercial criticizing ads run by Bush "[i]n the face of the Iraq quagmire . . ." Defeatism has become the major theme of the Kerry campaign in the closing weeks, to the point where he would run an ad just assuming that the war in Iraq is a "quagmire."
Don't say you weren't warned.
BASEBALL: Beating the House
Studes notes that the Yankees are likely to finish around ten games better than the record that would be projected, via Bill James' Pythagorean theory, from their runs scored and allowed. He notes the teams qualifying for postseason play since 1900 that have exceeded their projections by the most: 1970 Reds (11 games), 1961 Reds (10), 1997 Giants (10), 1931 Athletics (9), 1930 Athletics (8), 2002 Twins (8).
See a pattern? How about their postseason records? 1970 Reds (4-4), 1961 Reds (1-4), 1997 Giants (0-3), 1931 Athletics (3-4), 1930 Athletics (4-2), 2002 Twins (1-4). Total: 13-21, one World Championship (the 1930 A's, who played a Cardinals team with a nearly identical Pythagorean record).
September 26, 2004
POLITICS: From My Blog To Jonathan Alter's Ear
Back on July 28, at the height of enthusiasm for the Kerry campaign, I noted this, from Josh Marshall's site, about a conversation Marshall had with Michael Moore at the Democratic convention:
[A]s he breezes by he says, "Oh, Really? I liked it. You don't even have to say it. Everyone knows how bad it is."
Think what you will about Michael Moore or evening one of the convention, I think that sums up precisely what this event is all about and the dynamic on which it's operating. I've seen a slew of articles today arguing that the Democrats must energize their 'base' while not alienating the swing voters John Kerry needs to clinb from the mid-40s past 50%.
But this strikes me as a tired conventional wisdom that has little to do with what's actually happening here. . . .
Among Democrats, the rejection of this president is so total, exists on so many different levels, and is so fused into their understanding of all the major issues facing the country, that it doesn't even need to be explicitly evoked. . . . the primetime speeches were actually brimming with barbs, and rather jagged ones at that. They were just woven into the fabric of the speeches, fused into rough-sketched discussions of policy, or paeans to Kerry.
Perhaps it's a touchy analogy, but like voters who understood the code-words Republicans once (and often still do) used to flag hot-button racial issues they dared not voice openly, these Democrats could hear the most scathing attacks on President Bush rattling through the speeches they heard tonight.
As it turns out, this is rather precisely the problem: Kerry didn't think the American people needed any persuading. Thank you, big media/lefty pundit coccoon. Now, months later, Jonathan Alter has noticed the problem:
Oh, well. The Shrum strategy was the product of short-term thinking (the assumption that Bush's unpopularity in the period of the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal would last until fall) and was reinforced by the sealed and often smug world of Democratic politics, where it was taken for granted that Bush was bad, bad, bad, and any reasonable person already knew why. Shrum correctly realized that a Michael Moore-style sledgehammer would do little to sway undecided voters who don't loathe Bush. But Shrum wrongly extrapolated from that point that Kerry had no need to indict Bush in easy-to-remember phrases that would stick. He once told me as much, and that name-calling wouldn't work in post-9/11 presidential politics.
That was wishful thinking.
Of course, it's a bit late now to fix the problem. But turning to the meta-issue, amazingly, this isn't the first time Alter has followed one of my trains of thought. On September 9, I wrote:
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Of course, for this to work, the Democrats have to fall into Bush's trap and start complaining about Bush's reluctance to debate and pressuring him to do three debates.
Now, neither of these is the most original or incisive point in the world, and I actually got the first one third-hand from Michael Moore. But it goes to show how replaceable a guy like Alter is when an amateur writing in his spare time can spot the same trends weeks earlier. As Bill James would observe, that makes Alter a replacement-level pundit, and he should probably be paid and treated accordingly.
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Another not-new-but-new-to-me link: Aaron Schatz, moving on up to Slate, on why star running backs like Ricky Williams are overrated.
POLITICS: Stale Humor . . .
WAR: Follow The Money
Austin Bay, just back from Iraq, had an important observation about a key driving force in the insurgency there:
The Baghdad rumor mill says Baath warlords pay bombers anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per attack, so even a million dollars can buy a lot of bang. It also buys TV time. The thousands of trucks that successfully deliver goods in Iraq don't make CNN. The one that the mercenary bomber blew to bits does.
It's a strategic weakness every PR operative knows: TV demands drama. TV magnifies the thug's bomb.
(Link via Instapundit). This is a huge point. It's also why I can't understand why we're not turning some serious screws to get Oil-for-"Food" documents out of the UN's grubby hands - the faster we find the money, the faster we can strangle the insurgency. (Unless we already have that stuff behind the scenes and are not making a big public stink so it's not widely known we have it, or unless the trail's gone cold enough that it's no longer urgent)
See here for more on how the Oil-for-"Food" money may have been used to fund al Qaeda as well, despite the conventional wisdom that Saddam would never have anything to do with terrorists. (Hat tip: CQ)
Meanwhile, Ollie North, also back from Iraq, offers his own perspective; you may not like North, but he has two advantages that many reporters don't: he's a combat veteran himself, and he actually went back to re-embed in some of the hot zones to see what was going on. He makes an important point about why, even if it stretches the definition of "terrorist" to cover people attacking foreign troops in their own native land, they can hardly be described as anything but:
I'm not sure I agree with regard to al-Sadr, who clearly has an endgame in mind that results with him gaining some form of political power. But many of the Sunni insurgents, Zarqawi included, fit this description to a T.
BLOG: When It Rains . . .
Traffic is usually way down on a Sunday, but I've had a gigantic traffic day, as Little Green Footballs and Instapundit link to my stroll through Josh Marshall's archives, in both cases without me having to do anything to publicize the link. Very gratifying. Once again: for anyone coming here for the first time, check out the "greatest hits" posts and scroll down to my sidebar of baseball columns from 2000-2003, if you want a sample of what I do here.
POLITICS: The Microbial Theory
Let's consider exactly how bad things look right now for John Kerry in the Electoral College, by looking over RealClearPolitics' state-by-state battleground poll averages. Bush, of course, starts with a historical advantage: he needs 269 electors to tie, 270 to win, and if he holds the 2000 "red states," he gets 278. On the RCP scoreboard, Bush gets 291 if you count the states where his average margin is at least 3 points over Kerry.
With Ohio drifting away from Kerry and Wisconsin looking firmly planted in the Bush camp, Kerry's hopes are now totally dependent upon wresting Florida from Bush, while holding on to big battlegrounds like Pennsylvania (Kerry by 1.7), Minnesota (tied), Oregon (Kerry +0.7), and New Jersey (Kerry +1.4) (Michigan, at Kerry +5 now looks fairly safe for Kerry barring another big shift in the dynamics of the race).
But, leaving aside the issue of Maine and possibly Colorado splitting their electoral votes, consider this outcome - even if Florida gets away from Bush, he could still win with the following states:
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That's 273 electors, with Bush needing only to hold one red state that's close (New Hampshire, at +1.7), pick up one blue state that's close (New Mexico, Kerry +0.5), one that's trending Bush (Iowa, Bush +3.6), and one that's not close (Wisconsin, Bush +6.5), and he wins even if Florida (Bush +3.4) slides away and he can't replace it with another big state.
None of which means the race is over. But it means that a strategy of targeting states is almost entirely doomed for Kerry (although he does need to keep defending states like New Mexico). Kerry needs to change the race's overall dynamic. The debates are all but his last chance to do that.
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BASEBALL: Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Much as I dislike Barry Bonds and don't want him breaking the home run record, I'm constrained to agree with John Perricone and Bud Selig that we have long since passed the point where opposing managers aren't just being foolish in walking Bonds all the time, but downright unsportsmanlike. Let the man hit.
POLITICS: Links 9/26/04
*Go read Captain Ed, and keep scrolling. There's just so much good stuff there I can't begin to link to it all.
*I've added Let's Fly Under The Bridge to the blogroll for Roland Patrick's unique combination of exhaustive examination of the "Bush AWOL" nonsense (with the benefit of knowledge derived from his own military experience) and his longstanding crusade to mock Brad DeLong. In this installment, he carves up the US News and World Report for misunderstanding Bush's TANG payroll records and service requirements. (Hat tip to the redesigned QandO - update your blogrolls! - for linking to Patrick).
*Geraghty notes more examples of Kerry's chronic indecisiveness, this time with quotes from exasperated party loyalist and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.
*Godwin's Law alert from Josh Marshall: "Can we re-check the sprinkler system in the Reichstag?"
*Drezner's got some great stuff on life in the campaign press corps bubble.
*The spate of retractions on stories harmful to Kerry on Friday seems like a sign of what the ex-Clinton guys like McCurry, Lockhart, Carville and Begala are good at - jumping all over the media to get their side of the story out or, in these two cases, to get errors fixed before they spread too far. Just because media bias, sloppiness and laziness so often tilts against Republicans, we shouldn't forget that Democrats get burned at times as well, and a Democratic candidate needs people to push back at the media.
By the way, I thought at the time that people might be misreading the Burkett paraphrase that later got retracted. Here's the original:
During a single phone conversation with Lockhart, Burkett said he suggested a "couple of concepts on what I thought [Kerry] had to do" to beat Bush. In return, he said, Lockhart tried to "convince me as to why I should give them the documents."
Some people read this as saying that Lockhart wanted Burkett to give the documents to the Democrats, but it always looked to me like he was saying Lockhart told him to give the documents to CBS. This is just bad writing, which leaves the reader in doubt as to critical facts (as Daffy Duck would say, "Pronoun Trouble!"). Anyway, the later retraction clarified that Burkett had told the reporter that CBS wanted the documents - and if that's what he really said, the reporter just goofed terribly.
*As long as John Kerry is in public life - at least as long as he fails to apologize for or retract his statements in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War - stories like this one will just keep coming (hat tip to Allah).
*And another point, albeit not from what you would call an independent source, on Bush's entry into the TANG, for those of you not sick to death of this:
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Link via Powerline.
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LAW: Lost Tribe
Wowsers. The Weekly Standard's Joseph Bottum, fresh from his denunciations of Charles Ogletree, now charges no less a figure than Laurence Tribe with plaigarism over the incessant repetition of identical or similar phrases from Henry J. Abraham's 1974 book Justices and Presidents in Tribe's 1985 book God Save This Honorable Court - a popular work, with no footnotes, which Bottum suggests was rushed into print to provide intellectual ammunition to otherwise unarmed Senate Democrats bracing for attacks on Reagan appointees to the Supreme Court (an effort that bore fruit in the Bork hearings in 1987). Go read Bottum's whole article and judge for yourself.
I actually worked for Tribe briefly my third year of law school, as part of an army of research assistants who summarized Supreme Court cases - every Supreme Court case for several recent years, between us - for a revision of Tribe's American Constitutional Law treatise. Tribe isn't the kind of guy to plaigarise out of a lack of ability to do independent work; as Bottum suggests, the trap for people like Tribe is more the temptation to be inhumanly prolific.
September 24, 2004
BASEBALL: Rampaging Bears
Stat of the day: the Cubs are batting .272/.480/.327 since the All-Star Break. Of course, a .480 team slugging percentage for a full season would be most impressive by historical standards. For the starting lineup, the numbers are even more impressive:
Once again, the Cubs have a team that's long on home runs and short on patience. But when you've got this kind of wall-to-wall power, it hardly matters. While Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Matt Clement have struggled, it's been the less-vaunted Cubbie offense - even adjusting for the fact that it's been a good hitters' year at Wrigley - that's carried the load as the Cubs stay in the wild-card hunt down the stretch run. And while Nomar and Sammy may be the biggest names here, they haven't been particularly close to the biggest bats, as Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez and the long-awaited breakout of Michael Barrett have made a much bigger impact.
September 23, 2004
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/23/04
*Ramesh Ponuru notes the Kerry campaign's misuse of a study whose author contends that it did not, as the Kerry folks claim, show that President Bush's Social Security reform plans would lead to massive benefit cuts.
What else is new?
*It's official: the Kerry campaign is raising the white flag in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, all once thought of as potential swing states. Kerry has pulled any plans for running additional ads in those states.
*Jon Stewart last night, on Rathergate: "To see fake journalism taking off like this is very refreshing."
*Progress in winning over African-American voters is, like the Yeti, a durable yet mythical figure in Republican circles. But hope springs eternal. Red State has a chart (the second one, not the first, which is a sample of 40 voters) that seems to show President Bush doubling or tripling his support among black voters in several states compared to 2000, mainly in the South. I'm not sure if this is reliable stuff, but if it is, I'd bet that military families are heavily represented among those willing to give Bush a hearing.
*Captain Ed's readers keep digging up new documents at the Navy Archives regarding Kerry's tour in Vietnam. This one relates to David Alston, who spoke persuasively at the Democratic Convention but has tended to tell stories about engagements where he and Kerry did not serve together.
*Try this one on:
First of all, the commission said, it has to determine which candidates have enough support in the polls to qualify for the debates, which it does not plan to do until Friday.
They need a poll to determine if Kerry still has enough support to be included in a debate? ;)
*What is Kerry hiding? Quite a lot of things major candidates usually disclose, including medical records, tax and financial records, and military records. (via QandO). The press usually doesn't tolerate this - they didn't let go with Bill Simon's tax returns in 2002 or Jack Ryan's divorce records this spring (in each case, inflicting huge damage on the candidate), and we saw in the case of Paul Tsongas why the medical records of a candidate - especially a cancer survivor - can be a significant omission. Yet the media has given Kerry a free pass on stuff that he would have to disclose if he was running for Senator or Governor.
BASEBALL: Despair and Rebirth
Eric McErlain has a couple of good posts, one lamenting how the Mets not only destroyed their credibility with their fans by trading Scott Kazmir but completely failed to anticipate or understand why people were so upset, the other discussing the development of a baseball stadium in Washington to house Les Expos (See here for a photo of the likely site).
BASEBALL: Singles Record
ESPN and the Associated Press botched this one on Friday:
With a hit in the seventh inning for his second single of the game, Suzuki bettered the mark of 198 singles set by Lloyd Waner of Pittsburgh in 1927.
Of course, as I noted in a column about Ichiro three years ago, the major league record at the time was 206 set by Wee Willie Keeler in 1898, and the AL record was 185 by Wade Boggs in 1985. Ichiro broke that AL record in 2001, extending it to 192, and has now broken Keeler's record as well, with 211 singles through last night. But a little halfway competent research would have indicated the right record.
September 22, 2004
This about says it all about the booming traffic so many of us are experiencing as the first presidential election to be blogged approaches.
POLITICS/WAR: Flip, Flop & Fly
Tracking all the Kerry flip-flops on Iraq is a hopeless endeavor, but here is a choice one. Kerry's speech on Monday:
Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.
A brutal, oppressive dictator, guilty of personally murdering and condoning murder and torture, grotesque violence against women, execution of political opponents, a war criminal who used chemical weapons against another nation and, of course, as we know, against his own people, the Kurds. He has diverted funds from the Oil-for-Food program, intended by the international community to go to his own people. He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel.
Man, this is just too easy sometimes. I also found this amusing:
The President . . . should give other countries a stake in Iraq’s future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq’s oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.
So, after all of Kerry's bluster about a coalition of "the coerced and the bribed," be wants to get more people on our side by . . . bribing them. But at least he's being consistent in calling for outsourcing jobs currently done by U.S. companies and workers, right?
POLITICS: The Expectations Game
A few weeks back I noted the Bush campaign's strategy to lower expectations for Bush's performance in debates by creating a debate-about-debates dynamic that made it seem as if the president was afraid of too many debates; I also noted how hard it was for Bush's detractors to resist the temptation to fall into the trap by mocking Bush on this score.
The good news for Kerry supporters: Matt Yglesias isn't stupid enough to fall for the trap. The bad news: John Kerry is.
(Stephen Green notes about Kerry: "Man, I'd love to play poker with this guy." Of course, Kerry is the same guy who has now announced to the world that we should be willing to threaten war when we don't mean it, so his bluffing skills are as bad as his ability to recognize a bluff - "Gee, John, you put a lot of chips on this hand." "Yes, I'm bluffing.").
BASEBALL: Road to 300, And Beyond
In early 2002, I took a look at the pitchers who won 300 games and where they stood relative to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine at the same age, finding that Maddux was ahead of every modern (post-1920) pitcher who had won 300, while Glavine was also well-situated. As the two near the end of their age-38 seasons, let's update the chart, and add Mike Mussina into the mix:
* - And counting
First of all, ignore Phil Niekro, who's the outlier here. As you can see, a lot of these guys hit the wall right around 36-37, although the effect is exaggerated by the fact that several of the more recent pitchers were around that age in the 1981 strike season. Maddux remains well-situated to rack up a truly impressive number of career wins without having to have any more great seasons, although perhaps not as well situated as Clemens, who stands two wins from becoming only the second pitcher (Spahn was the last one) since the 1920s to win 330 games.
Glavine is still in the game, but frankly he needs to get out of Queens (which would probably help the Mets as well). As for Mussina, his struggles of late don't portend well, but he's ahead of Ryan, Spahn, Wynn, Perry and Niekro at the same age, and with the Yankee offense behind him he should have a few more years of smooth sailing if he gets straightened out.
For comparison, let's run the chart of the remaining 300-game winners from the 1890-1930 period (the 1880s guys are not even worth comparing):
Alexander, at least by this age (in the mid 1920s), is actually a decent comparison to Maddux. Mathewson retired at age 35, and at 37 was in Europe serving in World War I.
September 21, 2004
POLITICS: Question of the Day
1) Burkett comes into the possession of documents that, if true, would damage Bush and aid Kerry.
2) Via Max Cleland, the Kerry campaign is notified that Burkett has some highly interesting documents related to Bush.
3) Via Mary Mapes of CBS, Joe Lockhart is notified in particular that Burkett had some "records" that would "move the story forward."
4) Indeed, Burkett "had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS" only "if the network would arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign."
5) Lockhart, a very busy man, then calls Burkett.
6) Despite the fact that Lockhart would have had no reason for calling Burkett in the first place other than the story about National Guard documents, and despite the fact Burkett had already tried to get the documents to the Kerry campaign via Max Cleland, and despite the fact that he had made CBS promise to get him in touch with the Kerry campaign before he would release the documents, both Lockhard and Burkett somehow neglected to talk about the documents.
7) Instead, Burkett merely took the opportunity to tell Lockhart that Kerry needed to talk "more" about his "Vietnam experience," as if Kerry hadn't already emphasized that theme, and as if Lockhart had called Burkett merely to hear this sort of generic advice.
Are 6 and 7 believable?
Like I said about Sandy Berger's-pants-gate: man, Clinton scandals are just the gift that keeps on giving, aren't they?
Oh, and: could there be a clearer contrast between (1) the media presumption of Bush and RNC involvement in the Swift Boat ads in the absence of any evidence of same and (2) the media presumption that the Kerry folks had nothing to do with this even though key figures in the Kerry and DNC camps were talking to all the major players, including a known crackpot, at the critical junctures? Particularly given that Bush and the RNC have never tried to add the Swift Boat Veterans' charges to their own litany of attacks on Kerry, while the open attacks on Bush's Guard service have come in the form of Kerry speeches, Kerry press releases, daily attacks by the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ad campaigns paid for by the DNC, speeches by Wesley Clark, Tom Harkin and other Democratic candidates and officeholders, to say nothing of veiled references from numerous speakers at the Democratic Convention. It's not like the Democrats can credibly say that they didn't ask Burkett about this stuff because they weren't interested in this issue.
UPDATE: Wizbang has an entertaining trip into the Sixty Minutes wayback machine to visit with the original wacko who started all these anti-Bush "Fortunate Son" stories before committing suicide after his criminal record (for paying someone to commit murder via car bomb) was exposed.
POLITICS: Web of Connections
Well, we keep digging deeper on the web of connections between the Democrats and the forged documents used in CBS' hit job on President Bush.
First of all, beyond his statement on CBS Evening News, Dan Rather sat for a longer interview with local reporter Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV here in NY (Kramer is best known as, among other things, Hillary Clinton's favorite reporter during the 2000 Senate race, which should tell you something). I didn't see a transcript, but you can go here and view the video.
Rather seemed genuinely contrite and apologetic, and kept saying there was no excuse, "this is not a day for excuses." But his factual assertions belied that:
1. He focused entirely on the idea that CBS had to change its story when it determined that Bill Burkett lied to them about the provenance of the documents. Still no admission that there was anything wrong with the documents themselves or that anyone else but CBS' own diligence led to the discovery.
2. Rather seemed to admit that CBS, or at least Rather, never saw anything purporting to be originals: "I believed in the authenticity of the copies of the documents we had"
3. Rather refuses to accept responsibility for putting the documents on the air over the objections of two of CBS' experts, and continues to insist either that the experts are lying now or that he personally was misled by his staff at CBS about what the experts were telling them. I haven't exactly transcribed this - I'm paraphrasing - "I was told that we had four experts who by and large agreed that the documents were not forgeries, probably weren't fake - two of those came back later and either changed their story or changed what I was and we were told was what they were saying"
4. Additional information on Burkett's additional source: Burkett told CBS that the documents came from a person (who Rather still won't identify) who would have had access to the original files and who was out of the country and CBS could not locate them.
But wait, there's more!
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In other words, Burkett wanted the Kerry people to know he was helping them so they would be grateful later.
*Via Allah - well, I can barely keep up at this point. Burkett also talked to Howard Dean within the last 45 days. And, the out-of-country source? There are two, actually. USAToday:
Burkett said Ramirez told him she had seen him the previous month in an appearance on the MSNBC program Hardball, discussing the controversy over whether Bush fulfilled all his obligations for service in the Texas Air Guard during the early 1970s. "There is something I have that I want to make sure gets out," he quoted her as saying.
He said Ramirez claimed to possess Killian's "correspondence file," which would prove Burkett's allegations that Bush had problems as a Guard fighter pilot.
Burkett said he arranged to get the documents during a trip to Houston for a livestock show in March. But instead of being met at the show by Ramirez, he was approached by a man who asked for Burkett, handed him an envelope and quickly left, Burkett recounted.
"I didn't even ask any questions," Burkett said. "Should I have? Yes. Maybe I was duped. I never really even considered that."
By Monday, USA TODAY had not been able to locate Ramirez or verify other details of Burkett's account. Three people who worked with Killian in the early 1970s said they don't recognize her name. Burkett promised to provide telephone records that would verify his calls to Ramirez, but he had not done so by Monday night.
An acquaintance of Burkett, who he said could corroborate his story, said he was at the livestock show on March 3. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Burkett asked if he could put papers inside a box she had at the livestock show. Often, she said, friends ask to store papers in her box that verify their purchases at the livestock auction. She said she did not know the nature of the papers Burkett gave her, and he did not say anything about them.
After keeping the copies for a couple of days, he said he drove to a location he would not specify, about 100 miles from his ranch, to put them "in cold storage." Burkett said he took the action because he believed the papers were politically explosive and made him nervous. "I treated them like absolute TNT," he said. "They looked to me like they were devastating."
Burkett said he passed the rest of the documents to Smith around Sept. 5, at a drive-in restaurant near Baird.
Pressed about the inconsistency between his initial account and the story of Ramirez, the mysterious Houston source, Burkett confessed that the Conn story had been a lie to throw reporters off the trail.
Let's be frank here: this is crazy talk, and shreds any remaining credibility any of Burkett's other tales might have had.
UPDATE: Who is George Conn? Wizbang notes that he has previously publicly repudiated Burkett's nutty stories.
SECOND UPDATE: Who is Lucy Ramirez? Well, maybe that's Spanish for "Mister Snuffalupagus." But if she's for real, Ace has one possible suspect with a Democratic connection. Oh, and if Burkett thought the records were real and he destroyed the originals, isn't that a felony as well?
*Spartac.us has more on the timeline. And keep your eyes on the Kerry Spot, where Jim Geraghty notes that the Democrats were able tro release their "Operation Fortunate Son" the very day the CBS story aired.
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September 20, 2004
POLITICS: Josh Marshall's Timeline
Allah and Jeff Goldstein have been wondering about the timeline set out in the Washington Post for how CBS put together the "Sixty Minutes II" story, and what it means in the hunt to identify who was responsible for creating and disseminating forgeries. You'll want to read their whole analyses. Now, it appears that CBS will point the finger at Bill Burkett, see here and here, a guy about whom Kevin Drum - who interviewed Burkett in February - said
Here's the basic timeline derived from quotes from the WaPo article, which I've excerpted and bullet-pointed:
*During the Republican National Convention in New York [August 30-September 2], Rather got a call from Ben Barnes, a onetime Texas lieutenant governor and veteran Democrat who has known the anchor, a former Houston TV reporter, for 30 years. Barnes said he was ready to say before the cameras that he had pulled strings to get Bush a coveted slot in the Texas Guard in 1968. Mapes had long been urging Barnes to tell his story.
*On Friday, Sept. 3, the day after the convention ended, Mapes hit pay dirt. She told Howard her source had given her the documents.
*The next stop was Texas. Rather was in Florida, so CBS chartered a plane to get him to Austin. On Sunday, Sept. 5, he and Mapes interviewed Robert Strong, an administrative assistant in the Texas Guard during Bush's service there.
*Document analyst Marcel Matley flew from California to New York, and Rather interviewed him on Labor Day, Sept. 6
*On Tuesday, Sept. 7, as Rather sat down in a CBS studio with former Texas lieutenant governor Barnes, the top brass was turning its attention to the explosive story.
The story ran Wednesday, September 8.
So, that's it? Well, here's an item quoted by Goldstein that needs to be factored in:
Cleland confirmed that he had a two- or three-minute conversation by cell phone with a Texan named Burkett in mid-August while he was on a car ride. He remembers Burkett saying that he had “valuable” information about Bush, and asking what he should [do] with it. “I told him to contact the [Kerry] campaign,” Cleland said. “You get this information tens of times a day, and you don’t know if it is legit or not."
Cleland, as we know, was in Texas August 25 to deliver a letter to the president's ranch in Crawford; on August 21, Cleland was in Wisconsin.
Anyway, that's all background here. Someone with more time to spend on this can connect these dots, but I'd like to add a few links to the fire:
*On August 22, with no apparent prompting from anything in the news, Josh Marshall, out of the blue, calls for Ben Barnes to come forward:
But he's never really spoken openly about how he helped Bush hop in front of everyone else or other aspects of the president's abbreviated military service, about which he is said to know a great deal.
Maybe now would be the time?
By August 27, still well before Barnes was reportedly in touch with Dan Rather, Marshall touts a Kerry campaign video featuring Barnes:
I'm told the tape is from a recent Kerry rally . . .
[snip; includes Barnes saying, "I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it."]
One of those two men is Jim Moore -- co-author of Bush's Brain. Moore told me this afternoon that the clip is from June 8th of this year, at a Kerry rally in Austin. Moore assures me that the tape is legitimate.
I placed a call to Barnes' office and left a message with one of his assistants; but the request for comment has not yet been returned.
Click through Marshall's site to see the video. Soon, Marshall was pushing the Barnes-is-talking story; by September 1, six days before Barnes supposedly met with Rather, Marshall reported:
Apparently, the attacks on Kerry's war record just proved too much for him. As we've noted previously, for almost a decade now Barnes has gone to great lengths to avoid causing trouble for the president on the Guard matter. And the Bush folks in Texas have made it clear to him during this election cycle that if he spills the beans about the president that they'll do everything in their power to put him out of business in the state (Barnes is now a lobbyist). And that heat has, I'm told, increased dramatically in recent days.
But apparently those threats haven't done the trick because he has already taped a lengthy interview slated to appear in the not-too-distant future on a major national news show in which he'll describe the strings he pulled to keep Bush out of Vietnam and apparently more.
(Between you and me, according to my three sources on this, Barnes told his story to Dan Rather -- remember, the Texas connection -- for 60 Minutes.)
(Allah noted a similar report in Salon that day). What does it all mean? Not clear yet. But Marshall's sources were clearly pushing Barnes to come forward and get him to talk to Rather, at precisely the time that Burkett was talking to Max Cleland and was, apparently, involved in getting the forged documents to CBS.
Developing . . .
POP CULTURE: Sky Captain
I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this weekend (I wasn't excited enough about the movie to redesign my blog on that theme, but I was pretty intrigued). Visually, the film was an absolute masterpiece, every bit as compelling as advertised, with the film noir-ish play of light and shadow and the spectacular computer-generated backdrops. One thing that worked extremely well was the fact that the movie opened in familiar settings - the Empire State Building, Radio City - and when that worked, the suspension of disbelief was cemented. The movie's high points were the spectacular aerial dogfights, especially the chases through the narrow streets of Manhattan. You could fill a film-school paper with all the visual references, notably The Empire Strikes Back (for a Cloud City-style airborne aircraft carrier scene and a duel on a bridge over a seemingly bottomless pit), and an early scene against a large picture window in Manhattan that was lifted directly from Citizen Kane.
The plot and dialogue weren't anything exceptional, but they held together without much in the way of cringeworthiness, and a plot twist near the end was amusing. If I had a quibble with the movie it was the casting of Jude Law, who was rather a dry action hero, lacking in the charm and flair of a Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson. Law co-produced the film, though, so I gather a different lead would not have been possible.
Anyway, if you like sci-fi/retro adventures in an Indiana Jones-ish vein, this is definitely one to catch on the big screen.
BASEBALL: Bonds Rising
A new feature over at Baseball-Reference.com: the site has long had Similarity Scores so you could compare a player's most comparable players through the same age. Now, at least for batters, you can look over the list of the ten most comparable - and their stats after that age. Here's the numbers for Barry Bonds from age 36 (in 2001) to 2003, compared to the average from 36 on for his most comparable players through age 35:
The list of comparables includes three active players - Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Rafael Palmeiro - but the numbers are even lower if you remove them. The others' average numbers are not that bad for old guys, but they give you a sense of how truly unique what Bonds has done is. Lest you think this an unfair comparison, the other seven are all in the Hall of Fame, including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Mel Ott.
All of whom were in increasingly steep decline at Bonds' age.
BASEBALL: Neyer in Hot Water Again
Somehow, I managed to miss this story.
BASEBALL: Reversion to Form
Looks like my prediction isn't holding up too well, as the Yankee-Red Sox series reverted to form with the Yanks' mauling of Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, leaving the Sox to pick up a game and a half on the Yankees in their remaining 11 other games even if they sweep next weekend's series at Fenway. Of course, that's not impossible (the Sox play 8 games against Baltimore and three against Tampa Bay, while the Yankees have 1 against the Rays, three vs. the Twins and six against the woebegotten Blue Jays), but don't bet on it.
September 19, 2004
POLITICS: The Forgery Trap
This hypothetical scenario, which I linked to earlier, suggests (among other things) that the White House, while having no role in their creation, basically entrapped CBS into putting forged documents on the air:
An hour later two high-power experts are pouring over the documents. Within fifteen minutes they're telling Bush and Rove that the memos are not only fakes, they are really, really bad fakes. Rove: 'How easy would it be for other experts to see that?' Expert: 'Anyone can see it. I can't believe that CBS found a legitimate expert to authenticate these. No professional is going to risk his reputation by saying that these are genuine, especially if he only has copies to go by.'
But what's the White House going to do? Rove expects 60 Minutes to show a small picture on the TV screen with a blow-up highlighted overlay of a couple of critical sentences from each memo. It won't be enough for experts to analyze. The general public will believe it, and White House denials will be brushed aside.
Now Rove comes up with a counter-ploy: Re-fax the documents to the rest of the news media. That way they'll have the evidence available for their own experts to analyze and knock down. Don't say much of anything; just reiterate the usual boilerplate that the President fulfilled his National Guard obligation and was honorably discharged.
The 60 Minutes crew is a bit surprised by the White House tactic, but immediately concludes that Rove is trying a pre-emptive strike, to minimize the significance of the memos. In a way it's even better than an angry response. It shows that the White House is shell-shocked! The White House reaction proves that the memos are genuine, despite the doubts which have been raised during the pro forma review by CBS' outside experts, and despite the denials of Killian's son.
The Washington Post's account seems to support this general theory, if not its specifics:
Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.
At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."
(No word on whether pun intended).
Howard was struck by the fact that Bartlett, in his interview, kept referring to the Killian memos to support his argument that the president had fulfilled his military obligations.
"This gave us such a sense of security at that moment that we had the story," Howard said. "We gave the documents to the White House to say, 'Wave us off this if we're wrong.' " But Bartlett said CBS never asked him to verify the memos and that he had neither the time nor the resources to do so.
I note with amusement CBS' defense, in stark contrast to its sneers at the one-man-band nature of the bloggers criticizing it:
POLITICS: The Steyn Challenge
Mark Steyn challenges CBS' typewriter "expert" Bill Glennon, who still insists that it was possible to create the now-infamous Killian memos with a 1972-vintage typewriter:
Any takers, CBS?
POLITICS: Bear Baiters for Bush?
If you follow the Electoral College too closely for your own good, you may be aware that, if each of the two presidential candidates wins the vote in each of Maine's two Congressional districts, they are each awarded one elector, with the state's two remaining electors going to the statewide winner. Apparently, while John Kerry is still doing solidly in Maine, President Bush is running ahead in the state's predominantly rural Second Congressional District, a potentially significant win if the election swings back to being airtight-close by Election Day. To what does CNN attribute this?
Is that anything like this?
POLITICS: And Now For Something Completely Different
Add to the list of new government agencies to be added by John Kerry: the Ministry of Silly Walks:
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September 18, 2004
PATRIOT GAMES: Winning Hearts and Minds, If Not Championships
From our correspondent in Iraq:
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POLITICS: Misguided Fox Hunters
Stuart Buck catches Kevin Drum and the New Republic making charges against FOX News - of promoting a doctored photo of John Kerry and Jane Fonda - without any supporting evidence. Buck goes through the transcripts and finds that FOX anchors mentioned that the photo was doctored and a hoax every time they referred to it.
Well, this is the first time in my lifetime - or at least my memory - that anybody has cracked 700 homers. Savor the moment . . . even if, like me, you can't find much to like about Bonds. It's still a unique one.
POLITICS: Latest on Rathergate
*ABC has decided to go for CBS' jugular, and comes up with the man who actually got Bush into the Texas Air National Guard:
"I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.
Staudt insisted Bush did not use connections to avoid being sent to Vietnam.
"He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard," Staudt said, adding, "I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them."
During his time in charge of the unit, Staudt decided whether to accept those who applied for pilot training. He recalled Bush as a standout candidate.
"He was highly qualified," he said. "He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given."
Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody."
He added that Bush more than met the requirements for pilot training. "He presented himself well. I'd say he was in the upper 10 percent or 5 percent or whatever we ever talked to about going to pilot training. We were pretty particular because when he came back [from training], we had to fly with him."
"There was no contact between me and George Bush ... he certainly never asked for help," Staudt said. "He didn't need any help as far as I knew."
He added that after retiring he was not involved in Air National Guard affairs. "I didn't check in with anybody - I had no reason to," he said. "I was busy with my civilian endeavors, and they were busy with their military options. I had no reason to talk to them, and I didn't."
Staudt said he continues to support Bush now that he is president. "My politics now are that I'm an American, and that's about all I can tell you," he said. "And I'm going to vote for George Bush."
Link via Allah.
UPDATE: Allah has some pointed comments about Burkett's phone call to Max Cleland; he's right on the money in his point about Josh Marshall. And Mickey thinks Staudt could sue CBS, although the bigger question is why they never talked to him in the first place.
September 17, 2004
BLOG: Seen and Heard
1. Charlie Rose asking Adam Nagourney of the NY Times and Mark Halperin of ABC News what John Kerry really believes about the Iraq war. They laugh. Eventually, they compose themselves enough to spout the party line about allies. This is followed by Bill Maher and Cornel West over on HBO lamenting how lame Kerry is.
2. Newt Gingrich and Bill O'Reilly congratulating themselves for not being those kind of right-wing crazies who think Dan Rather forged or knowingly used forged documents.
3. Walking in Manhattan, a guy on a bike runs a red light and almost runs me down - then turns around to yell at me for not watching where I'm going, as he bikes in front of a moving truck.
4. Long Island Railroad publishes new schedules every few months; the latest ones expired September 6. From what I could see at Penn Station, they didn't even bother to do September schedules for Shea Stadium.
5. Swift Boat Veterans running their latest ad on early morning TV - here in Queens. Is this a swing state, or have the Swifties suddenly come into more money than they know what to do with? Probably neither - with a modest budget, they are probably targeting NY to try to hit opinion leaders who will give them free publicity.
6. Vignette - young man and woman, probably dating, on the train platform, and the man casually twirls her around, like they're dancing. Older couple nearby, both looking - and you could see, watching them, they were just thinking - we don't do things like that anymore.
POLITICS: Swift Dodge?
Has the Navy determined that John Kerry was entitled to his medals? An AP report seems at first glance to say so:
Vice Adm. R.A. Route, the Navy inspector general, conducted the review of Kerry's Vietnam-ear [sic] military service awards at the request of Judicial Watch, a public interest group.
Hmm, "procedures followed properly"?
"Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," Route wrote in the memo sent Friday to Navy Secretary Gordon England.
"In particular, the senior officers who awarded the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition, we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards."
This is almost certainly the right decision as far as the Navy is concerned, but it does nothing to resolve the public question, which is dumped back on the voters to decide whether the facts matter and, if so, what they are. Not the reference, however, to "existing documentation" - I'm sure Judicial Watch will be hot to pursue whether everything available to Route has been made public.
UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks this proves that the Navy has documents we don't, since there isn't sufficient public information to conclude that the proper procedures were followed with regard to Kerry's first Purple Heart.
PATRIOT GAMES: The Early Show
The second in a periodic series by guest blogger and Army officer "Andy Tollhaus" on watching sports from Iraq.
April 23, 2004
I hate getting out of bed in the morning. And, I’m terrible at it. (My mother told me just yesterday how glad she was that she wasn’t the one that had to get me out of bed anymore.) I’m liable to hit snooze for over two hours without realizing it and then spring out of bed cussing, but still late. So, when I set my alarm for 5 AM on the day that I was switching from a day shift to a night shift I felt like there was no way in hell that I was getting up for the first Red Sox-Yankees game of the year. The game would start at 4, so the 5 o’clock wake up should get me to a TV for the start of the 5th inning. As I woke up around 5:20 and walked to the bathroom, I wondered how the game was going, and figured that it would have to go on without me, because I was still tired and could get about 6 more hours of much needed sleep if I just resigned myself to check the box score online later. On my way back from the bathroom, I snuck into the “living container” next door, quietly turning on the television to check the score. The four sleeping occupants in the 20 foot by 10 foot “room,” which is basically a shipping container with electricity and air conditioning, had achieved success in setting up their AFN satellite, while I had achieved only frustration. It was the top half of the 6th and the Sox were up 5-2. Instantly I was awake. I think it was just the sight of Fenway Park…but it could have been the fact that the Sox were winning…and it definitely had something to do with them beating the Yankees. Whatever it was, I was ready. Forget all that talk 6 months ago (to the day, as the media loved pointing out) about swearing off the Red Sox for good. I turned the TV off and went back to my room to get dressed (body armor, weapon, and helmet, all part of the required uniform) so I could walk the 500 meters or so to the Battalion TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to watch the rest of the game.
As I sat down at one of the tables in the TOC, I nodded hello to my roommate Pov Strazdas (another friend from West Point). Pov’s a die-hard Raiders fan who, thanks to Wayne Gretzky and the LA Kings, is also as knowledgeable of a hockey fan as any that I’ve known from “SoCal.” In the TOC there’s always a certain level of activity that naturally goes along with running an Apache Battalion, but there’s also a television there, mostly for news. During the night shift the TV usually ends up showing one sport or another. Watching sports is usually more uplifting than watching the same news over and over of the country that you’re fighting in. Pov had been keeping me up to date on the NHL playoffs - since I wasn’t willing to get out of bed that early for anyone other than the Bruins and it seemed that AFN couldn’t bear to air that atrocious collapse against Les Habitants. By the time I finished reflecting on Pov’s hockey fan-dom, the Bruins’ collapse, and why we’re watching sports in a Battalion Headquarters in Iraq, the bases were full of Yankees in the top of the 8th. As you should already know (if you don’t, do pushups until I get tired, as Pov likes to say) we held on to win. The new season was here. The Sox. The Yankees. Fenway Park. Live, in Iraq. Unreal.
Halfway around the world, the feeling was the same. The start of a new baseball season signifies spring and new life. Memorial Day and the Red, White and Blue unofficial start of summer will soon be upon us. Granted summer in Iraq isn’t quite the time of year that we’ve all been hoping for, but it doesn’t get much more Red, White and Blue than watching our National Pastime in a combat zone. I had a new-found energy and wasn’t supposed to be at work for another 6 hours. Seeing Fenway had taken it from a daily check of the box scores to an old, familiar experience.
By now the battalion was waking up. Day shifts were coming on and Pov and the rest of those “on nights” were praying that their A/C’s were still working so sleep could be found in the midst of all that heat. For now, though, the channel still lingered on sports and the Giants-Dodgers game was just starting exactly 11 time zones away. I watched just long enough to see Barry Bonds’ pop up weakly to third. I then took my new-found energy off to renew my efforts in fixing my dish. I hired a local man who does some work around post and some magic on satellite dishes. By the time ESPNNews was leading off the half-hour with Sox highlights over and over again I was watching it in my own room. Nothing better than watching the highlights of a game that you just watched. Except, of course, watching highlights in Iraq of a game that you just watched in Iraq.
A week later, on the next of many exciting Friday nights in Iraq, I’m sitting here anticipating the next Red Sox - Yankees series, starting in about 4 hours. On AFN, the Cubbies are about to start a day game against that other New York team. It looks like a beautiful day for baseball in Chicago. I think I’ll leave the TV on as I fall asleep (it is 11 PM here, and I do have to get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow). Maybe if Mr. Cub can convince them to play two, they’ll still be playing in the morning. That would make getting out of bed a little bit easier.
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/17/04
*I had meant to tear into Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter's claim that "There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war," but Stephen Hayes had done it for me.
*Does Kofi Annan want Bush to win, or is he (more likely) completely oblivious to how little most Americans (even many critics or skeptics of the Iraq war) like having some UN functionary tell them that it's "illegal" for America to go to war with a country that repeatedly violated the terms of a cease-fire? The State Department fires back.
*Got your Florida campaign slogan right here: "[L]et them go naked for a while" may not exactly be "let them eat cake," but it's close.
*Not that Kerry himself is any better; he's about as convincing a populist as Prince Charles. Vodkapundit notes that Kerry calling Lambeau Field "Lambert Field" is hardly the first example of him botching the local color, citing his campaign's ignorance of St. Louis radio powerhouse KMOX and his misadventures with Philly cheesesteak. Of course, then there's touting "Buckeye football" to a Michigan crowd, misidentifying Eddie Yost as a Red Sox player . . . it's stupid stuff, and the Yost thing is particularly forgivable because it was from a years-ago memory, but it does bespeak a certain disinterest in connecting with people on things that should be easy to get right. But here's what's hilarious about the Lambeau thing: Lambeau is a French surname, and Kerry said it like one of those guys who deliberately refuses to pronounce a French name properly. If Kerry can't get a French name right, what, precisely, is he good for?
*Opportunity knocks: Bush and Kerry have each been invited to appear, separately, for half-hour segments on Black Entertainment Television (BET) to address questions of special concern to African-American voters. Bush should jump at this. Yes, any potentially hostile interview is a risk in the stretch run of an election. And yes, Republicans often eschew advertising and campaigning directed at African-Americans out of a rational short-term calculation that there are more likely votes to be won elsewhere. But this is free TV, it's just a few hours of the president's time, and it's a way to showcase his interest without having to get booed by an NAACP crowd.
*Hey Hey, Ho Ho. (But check out the definitive rebuttal in the second comment).
*The camera does not love John Kerry. Of course, the caption here suggests an improvement on current campaign tactics.
POLITICS: 54-40, or Fight?
Bush leads 54-40 in a Gallup poll due out this morning, raising further questions about the sometimes wide variance in polling. Still, I'd be surprised if many presidential candidates have won after trailing by double digits in a Gallup poll as late as the middle of September. The electoral math is getting grim for Kerry; if Bush wins Florida and Ohio, it's very hard for Kerry to win, and Bush is looking stronger in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which would really lock down the electoral college.
But don't get cocky; Dales still sees a lot of states in play.
Well, for the first time I was on the receiving end of a full-bore Instalanche yesterday, as the Blogfather linked to the item below on the Plame investigation. I'm normally getting 500-600 visits a day lately; yesterday, I had about 6,000 visits in two hours, and wound up with nearly half of a usual month's traffic in less than half a day. You can see the results here.
September 16, 2004
LAW/POLITICS: More Cracks In The Wall
Breaking news in the Valerie Plame case. DC District Judge Thomas Hogan yesterday unsealed this opinion (link opens a PDF file) requiring New York Times reporter Judith Miller to "appear before the grand jury to testify regarding alleged conversations she had with a specified Executive Branch official" and produce related documents; the court notes that Miller did not write an article but "spoke with one or more confidential sources regarding Ambassador Wilson's article, 'What I Didn't Find in Africa.'" The court concluded that requiring Miller's testimony was proper because "all available alternative means of obtaining the information have been exhausted, the testimony sought is necessary for the completion of the investigation, and the testimony sought is expected to constitute direct evidence of innocence or guilt." (Emphasis added).
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that one of its own reporters, Walter Pincus, has indicated that his source has revealed his (or her) identity already:
Post reporter Walter Pincus, who had been subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury in the case, instead gave a deposition yesterday in which he recounted his conversation with the source, whom he has previously identified as an "administration official." Pincus said he did not name the source and agreed to be questioned only with the source's approval.
"I understand that my source has already spoken to the special prosecutor about our conversation on July 12 , and that the special prosecutor has dropped his demand that I reveal my source. Even so, I will not testify about his or her identity," Pincus said in a prepared statement.
"The source has not discharged us from the confidentiality pledge," said The Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr.
BASEBALL: Mets at Bay
The invaluable Jason Mastaitis reminds me of something I either hadn't known or had forgotten (unsurprising, given how poorly I follow the lower minor leagues): Jason Bay used to be a Mets farmhand until he was traded in the deal that brought in Steve Reed to throw 26 innings in the all-important 2002 stretch drive. Could the Mets use a 25-year-old outfielder who makes $305,000 and has career averages of .293/.563/.382?
Don't answer that.
I also agree with Mastaitis that Wally Backman sounds like he would be a fine choice to replace Art Howe.
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/16/04
It's all about 9/11, Iraq, terrorism, and national security, baby. This election is going to be won on that issue, and Kerry needs to convince the country that he can handle it better than Bush. And really, considering the botch Bush has made of national security, that shouldn't be all that hard.
Bottom line: Republicans aren't avoiding the issues. It's just that their signature issue happens to be the one people care most about this year. Democrats had better figure that out pronto.
(Emphasis in original).
*In a funny Monday G-File, Jonah Goldberg compares Dan Rather's decision to use and then defend the use of forged documents to the decision of the Hapsburgs to enter World War I:
I don't have any better idea about what's coming next than the folks in 1914 did. I don't think blogs have the ability to replace CBS News any more than Gavrilo Princip and the Black Hand could replace the Hapsburgs. Blogs are great but they can't do the heavy lifting of investigative journalism. But it seems obvious to me that we are officially at the Goodbye To All That moment of old media.
*Allah has a real Columbo moment with the acronym "OETR." My main source on things military confirms this: "I have a half dozen OERs but I have never heard of OETR." (Link via Geraghty, who needs to get permalinks)
*Speaking of Geraghty, he has tons of poll news this morning. What does it all mean? Dales has the answers.
*Funny Bushism in his speech to the National Guard (where he pointedly stated that "I respect and honor all of those who serve in the United States Armed Forces -- active, Guard, and Reserve."):
Um, wasn't that the war of or for Independence?
BLOG: Citizen Dan
BASEBALL: Getting Younger Every Day
Jonah Keri has an interesting look, over at BaseballProspectus.com (subscription only), at the sudden development the last two years of two over-30 utilitymen (Mark Loretta and Melvin Mora) into major star-caliber players. He includes a chart of players who took major leaps forward after age 30, from a database going back to 1972. (Side note: here's an example of BP's insistence on using its own proprietary stats, in this case VORP, hampering its studies - they could have used Win Shares without any substantial change in accuracy and been able to run the study back another 100 years).
Anyway, I found the distribution of these leaps forward by older players over time interesting:
1973-78: 5 in 6 years. OK, we can discount that some due to the
1979-92: 13 in 14 years, two of which were in the high-offense 1987
1993-2004: 30 in 11 years.
Logical inference? Well, could just be a small sample size. But it
BLOG/POLITICS: Why CBS Matters
My law school classmate Orin Kerr comments on the CBS frenzy:
C'mon, folks: don't we have more important things to blog about?
Dan Drezner concurs. I see their point about the extent of the coverage, but:
(1) Most of us have blogged many angles of the Iraq war to death, especially the justifications for the war in the first place.
(2) Getting a good picture of the facts on the ground to blog about the war's continuing progress can be quite frustrating for the U.S.-based civilian observer. Part of the problem is that we are so heavily dependent on the media to give us an accurate picture of what is going on.
In that context, the fact that one of the three major networks - in a story immediately disseminated by many other media outlets (including on the front page of numerous newspapers) - is being exposed for having used forged documents, perhaps knowingly and almost certainly recklessly, in pursuit of what looks like a partisan and/or personal vendetta against the president, is tremendously important. The problems being revealed go to the heart of CBS' newsgathering and editorial decisionmaking practices, which in turn affects the credibility of the news we rely on to interpret so many other stories.
In a way, then, this is about the Iraq war. It's about everything.
(3) I'll add a third point: I can blog until I'm blue in the face about the Iraq war, as we all have, without doing much to change the world. But as with the Trent Lott story, the blogosphere has actually affected the course of this story. That's where the emphasis comes from - bloggers are always going to be most attracted to the stories on which they can actually have some impact or uncover some new facts.
September 15, 2004
PATRIOT GAMES: A Sports Diary From Iraq
I am pleased and honored to introduce a new recurring guest columnist. He's currently serving in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division and will be blogging here under the pseudonym "Andy Tollhaus". Lacking a better title for the series, I'll be filing his dispatches under the heading "Patriot Games." Here's the first column, written back in February. Enjoy.
February 14, 2004
Two years ago, I had a great idea. After two fruitless years of waiting for another, I’m sitting in Kuwait writing this letter. I moved (PSC’d in Army lingo) to Germany in February of 2002, still picking red, white, and blue confetti out of my hair from the greatest Superbowl of my generation. During the NCAA basketball tourney that year, at about 4 AM Central European Time, my friend Brian and I talked about how different it was to be an avid sports fan serving in the Army. How different it is to miss an entire week of the NFL and NCAA Football because you’re in the field and don’t even get to watch the little helmets move across the screen on your ESPN Gametracker. How it’s different to miss the entire middle portion of the Major League Baseball season because you’re spending 6 weeks in Hungary being out on what Army movies call “maneuvers.” How it’s different to set your alarm for 3 AM to catch the 2nd and 3rd period of an NHL playoff game, one friend from New Hampshire wearing a Bruins hat and one from Michigan wearing a Red Wings Jersey.
This year watching the true America’s Team in the Superbowl had an entirely different feel to it. (Just for the record, how can the Pats not be America’s Team?! The Patriots. Red, White and Blue! What more do you want? Three Point Pat probably scored himself a couple of those cricket loving Red Coats back in Lexington, for all we know. Think about it. America gets to choose who America’s Team is, not Jerry Jones! But I digress…) The difference I felt in the Superbowl experience wasn’t just that it was only the second greatest Superbowl of my generation. And it went way beyond the obvious location and crowd: Germany with my new bride, Sarah, and some friends, as opposed to the Superdome with my brother, Jay and one of his “Army buddies.” That early Monday morning, there was a cloud hanging over our heads. Within 48 hours of the end of the game, I’d be saying goodbye to Sarah for a year while I deployed with the Big Red One (1st Infantry Division) to Iraq.
Sure the game was exciting, but everyone in the room was more concerned with what they had or hadn’t packed, what the conditions would be like and how hard it would be to say goodbye to normal life for a year. It didn’t even matter that most of us had money on the game (or some tiny detail in the game thanks to the brilliance of Internet gambling).
Two years ago Brian Pearson and I (roommates and Team Handball teammates at West Point until 2000) had the idea to write a column about being a sports fanatic serving in the Army in Europe. We wanted to write about the six hour time difference and how you could tell who the true fans were when you were watching the West Coast baseball games which often were still going when we went in for PT (physical training) at 6:30 in the morning. We wanted to write about going to see what the locals raved about at the Bayern Munich soccer game (which turns out has the same feel as big time college football, but no high-fiving). We would write the column from the perspective of a die-hard Red Sox fan and some Johnny-come-lately Yankees fan (just kidding Brian) and talk about how important sports were to those of us who are stationed abroad.
Now I finally feel that my story would be worth reading. It will be a journal of some sort. The articles will tell the story of a year spent away from home with a group of people of varying sports loyalties and interests. Looking back, sports events will serve as landmarks in our year long story that brought us closer together and helped take our mind off of that ever so slowly approaching day of homecoming. Even if no one cares about how we watch the NCAA tournament or who wins our Fantasy Football Leagues, the “columns” will serve as a nice collection of memories for me when I look back on what will no doubt be the most interesting year of my life so far.
Trust me, I’d much rather be writing that not-quite-as-interesting journal from Europe about Sarah and me finding an Internet phone booth in Glasgow, Scotland at one in the morning to watch the Don Zimmer icon charge the Pedro Martinez icon on the new ESPN Brawl–trackertm. It’d be more fun telling stories about Sarah and I watching the Red Sox almost “Cowboying Up” all the way to the World Series wearing our “O’Neill Sucks” t-shirts and trying to determine if that distinct “crack” sound at 6:14 AM came from Aaron “insert expletive here” Boone’s bat or my wife’s heart. It’d be cooler to write about the excitement I felt when I learned that my younger sister Susan, serving with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Al Asad, Iraq at the time, had earned an R&R leave slot during the World Series. Since our Iraq tours would overlap (missing each other by less than a week as we pass through Kuwait heading in opposite directions), Sarah and I had scheduled leave to go home and visit Susan last October -- the fact that the Sox were looking like World Series participants being an added bonus. (Incidentally, Susan took the opportunity to fly to South Bend to join a group of her college friends hoping to witness their alma mater beat Florida State. Well, that was last year. The Sox were not World Series participants, the Seminoles beat Notre Dame 37-0 and I never got around to writing anything. This year, though, is a brand new ballgame.
I’ll update as often as possible, at least when interesting things happen: the NCAA tourney, the NHL Playoffs, the Fantasy Baseball Draft, and, of course, the Army-Navy game. I’ll also make a point to write some entries strictly to introduce the readers to the people here, telling their sports fan biography.
I am a Captain in an Apache Battalion currently in Kuwait, moving north to Iraq, within two weeks. I’ve discussed the idea with my chain of command, and my battalion commander thinks it would be a unique way to pass information home and allow family members and friends to understand the daily life that is so hard to explain. Hopefully this turns into a regular thing, giving me one more way that sports will help pass the time.
BASEBALL: Howe Sacked
To no one's surprise, the Mets have fired Art Howe, but will be asking him to manage out the balance of the season rather than hand the reins to a Moose Stubing-style caretaker. Which is pretty classless, but then, for the money they are paying Howe, he can suck it up.
More [please] later [not] on [Larry] possible [Bowa] replacements.
BASEBALL: You Wanna Play, You Got To Pay
Mike Carminati will no longer be performing his relentless and often hilarious fiskings of Joe Morgan's chat sessions on ESPN, on account of ESPN deciding to move Morgan's chats behind the wall of "premium" content you have to pay to get. Of course, paying for the Morgan chats is like when PT Barnum got people to pay admission to see "the Fabulous Egress". While I have my theories, it's never been entirely clear how such a smart player can be so stupid about the game he mastered. If another Joe Morgan came up today, Morgan probably wouldn't think he was any good.
That horse was dead anyway; I gave up about a year or two ago arguing with people who think batting average and RBI are important but statistics aren't. But Carminti's posts were entertaining nonetheless.
BASEBALL: How Did I Get Here?
How do teams go about developing or acquiring the best players in baseball? Well, for a snapshot from the 2004 season, I thought I'd take a look at the top 20 players in each league, by Win Shares, and how they got where they are. Where players were acquired by trade, I tried to break out the factors that led them to be traded - i.e., trading veterans for prospects, trading a prospective free agent, just making a bad deal, etc.:
Of course, I should note that the Pirates got a very good deal for Giles, economic factors and my own skepticism at the time notwithstanding. I'm also willing to call the Drew-Marquis deal a fair one for now, whereas the Derrek Lee-Hee Seop Choi deal was clearly motivated by economics even though Choi is a fine young player. And yes, I'm as amazed as you are to see Mark Loretta on that list. Also, I could be mistaken about whether economics were a big mover in the Jim Edmonds deal.
Yup, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora and Lew Ford are still hanging in there. And yes, the Yankees have the top three players in the league. Wonders never cease.
Let's group these, putting the foreign and domestic free agents in one category, as well as lumping together the various types of trades made principally for baseball reasons rather than financial ones.
Leaving aside the fact that big organizations like the Yankees and Cardinals have an advantage in being able to sign anyone they draft, you've got 45% of star players coming either through free agency or through deals where a big factor was the other team's need to either dump salary or avoid losing a prospective free agent (on the other hand, some free agents, like David Ortiz, were acquired without breaking the bank in a bidding war). For obvious (ahem, Yankees and Red Sox) reasons, the proportion is much higher among AL teams. But savvy trading and scavenging (the Twins stand alone here in stealing Santana off the Rule V draft, but I can't think of a more idiotic and unjustified deal than the Devil Rays trading the rights to Bobby Abreu, acquired in the expansion draft, for Kevin Stocker) is still a close second as a way of striking gold. Just a quarter of the Top 40 are truly home-grown products.
POLITICS: On Wisconsin
Millionaire construction magnate and former Army Ranger Tim Michels yesterday won the Republican primary to challenge Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. The Feingold-Michels race, in a critical swing state in the presidential race, promises to focus heavily on national security:
Michels, the only candidate in the race with military experience, also argued his background was critical in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Yes, it's ironic to have a Republican, in this year of John Kerry, stressing his military record. But a military record remains a very good thing for a public official to have; it just can't be everything. Feingold's vote against the Patriot Act naturally invites a serious debate on the issue. It's also ironic to have a self-financed millionaire businessman running against one of the authors of the campaign finance reform bill that will only proliferate the number of such candidacies in the future.
Feingold remains favored to win, but polls have consistently shown that he was vulnerable; Michels will need to move fast to make an impression. Fortunately, Feingold called before the primary for five debates with the GOP nominee. I was a little disappointed here - I'd given money to Bob Welch (not the pitcher), a long-time Wisconsin state senator and conservative favorite. Either way, though, it will be a senate race to watch.
September 14, 2004
WAR: Excess of Evil
German newspaper Die Welt, "citing unnamed western security sources," charges that Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people:
Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.
Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.
Read the whole thing. (Link via The Corner). You will recall that Sudan was the site of a suspected chemical weapons factory (which may or may not have been an aspirin factory instead of or in addition to manufacturing chemical weapons) that had ties to both Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, according to Clinton Administration officials justifying the 1998 bombing of the factory.
POLITICS: Not So Fast
Greyhawk, who's headed off to Iraq (drop some cash in his tipjar to help out keeping his site live while he's deployed), catches even RatherBiased.com missing a chance to rip an inflated claim by CBS News about its role in publicizing the horrors at Abu Ghraib. (Link via Instapundit).
POLITICS: Charlie Cook Unplugged
Wonkette, breaking with her usual practice, carries some actual political analysis from Charlie Cook of the National Journal (note that this is analysis someone else paid to get and then leaked to Wonkette):
A savvy poiunt about Obama, who gave a speech that left us all feeling very good . . . about Barack Obama. (See here for my critique of the Democtrats' convention strategy, although I hadn't pointed the finger at Obama). I also liked the plug for Real Clear Politics and its averaged polls. The Kerry Spot (a daily must-read these days) has more free-premium-content gloom for Democrats with a link to this FreeRepublic post reprinting an analysis of congressional races by Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg.
BLOG: What I'm Drinking
Although I'll have a beer now and then and - once upon a time - sampled harder liquors, my taste in drinks generally runs to wine, particularly red wine. I tend to drink the kind of mass-produced red wines that sell for $7-10 for a bottle, enough money to get you away from the real watery stuff but not expensive enough to bust my budget. Anyway, finding decent cabernets in that price range isn't hard; I've lately been drinking a California cabernet from Cooper Canyon, which is nice. What I'd heartily recommend, though, for a reasonably priced ($8.99 in my wine store) red with some body to it is wines from Norton vineyard, a vineyard in Argentina (South American reds tend to be the best bargains for the money), especially the Malbec.
POLITICS/OTHER SPORTS: Band of Ruggers
Eric McErlain takes apart one of the stupidest political arguments I have ever seen, this Bob Harris post at Tom Tomorrow's place showing a still photo of George W. Bush playing rugby at Yale and trying to make out Bush as some sort of dirty rugby player. I'm no expert on rugby, but it always seemed like one of those sports where the technical term for someone who never played dirty was "loser."
Anyway, I emailed Harris some time back - he never responded - to point to this David Pinto post:
Lesson: maybe you don't want to make this an issue. Although McErlain links back to a post where he quotes Denis Leary making Kerry out to be a weak-minded, vascillating showboat as a hockey player, at least in his later years. So who knows?
Anyway, the best line about the whole Bush rugby thing comes from a commenter at Michele's place back in mid-August:
And, of course, it's a devastating picture, ruining Bush's rugbycentric strategy, which he planned to kick off at the end of the convention when he'd be joined by a dozen former Yale rugby players, his "Band of Ruggers."
BASEBALL: The Guilty Parties
How to explain the Mets' second-half collapse in three easy lessons?
1. Here are the combined post-All-Star Break stats for Mike Piazza, Cliff Floyd, and Richard Hidalgo:
Bear in mind that this is the middle of the Mets' batting order (Jason Phillips and Todd Zeile have been worse). Full second-half batting stats are here.
2. Here are the combined post-All-Star Break stats for Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and Steve Traschsel:
Bear in mind that these are the aces of the Mets' staff; Jae Seo and Kris Benson are worse. Full second-half pitching stats are here.
3. Games played by Todd Zeile after the break: 46. Games played by Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui combined: 43. No, you don't want to see Zeile's numbers, or the Mets' defense without Reyes. You just want to see Zeile retired, and the season over.
LAW: Shaking The Tree
Juan non-Volokh notes a slap on the wrist for plaigarism on the part of Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree; apparently his research assistants slapped a chunk of some work from Jack Balkin into a book Ogletree was doing on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Joseph Bottum of The Weekly Standard is appalled that having your research assistants cobble together other people's ideas on the central area of your expertise is considered scholarship.
Of course, most legal scholarship does depend to some extent on input from research assistants. But while Ogletree's scholarship may well be subject to criticism, I would note that the man is nonetheless an asset to the Law School; he's a well-liked and respected instructor, has run the clinical program, gets lots of media attention, and otherwise does things to improve both the Law School's public profile and its attention to students. It may be that the problem is the expectation that all professors will be equally focused on research.
Anyway, for a walk down memory lane to September of 2001, here's an amusing email exchange involving Ogletree's efforts to get Jesse Jackson to speak at Harvard Law School, courtesy of his eccentric colleague Charles Nesson.
POLITICS: I Link, You Decide
Two more stories on the "AWOL"/medals issues, which I pass along without further comment:
BASEBALL/POLITICS: The Ownership Society
Following up on an earlier post, a few diligent readers sent me links to this AP story observing that President Bush - unlike Senator Kerry - has raised a lot of money from baseball owners and, to a lesser extent, baseball players. Of course, given that a lot of these people know Bush personally from his days as owner of the Rangers, that's not all that surprising, nor is it surprising that the owners would, as a result, view Bush as being sympathetic to their interests.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Baseball 2004 | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Pajama Time
September 13, 2004
Bill James - yes, Bill James, writing a guest column over at the Hardball Times - makes the obvious-when-you-really-think-about-it point, though to a surprising extent, that the 162 game schedule increases Ichiro's odds on breaking George Sisler's hits record by something like a factor of 9-to-1, whereas it less than doubled Roger Maris' odds of breaking Ruth's home run record (as a matter of probabilities; in practice, you either break the record by Game 154 or you do not).
Link via Pinto.
BASEBALL: Defensive Stats Go Mainstream
Peter Gammons can be very frustrating for sabermetrically-inclined readers; he clearly understands and enjoys sophisticated analyses of the game, but he's also prone to Luddite anti-stathead diatribes. As I've often noted, the reason for this is that Gammons will repeat basically anything his sources around the game's front offices tell him, and many of them remain contemptuous of statistical analysis on anything but the most rudimentary level. To give a political analogy, Gammons is David Broder and Bob Novak rolled into one, dispensing the insiders' views from both sides of a raging debate with equal vigor. In fact, given how closely Gammons' columns reflect conventional wisdom, you can measure the influence of sabermetric ideas within the game by how often they show up in Gammons' work as opposed to how often he bashes them.
So, it's welcome to see Gammons picking up on the Hot New Thing, the pursuit of sophisticated defensive statistics and their role in the reshaping of the Oakland and Boston rosters. And, of course, he throws us sabermetric types the ultimate bone at the end:
Too true; read the whole thing.
Also, Jim Baker looks at the historical performance of wild card teams in the playoffs, with some surprising results - including the fact that baseball's wild card teams have won more playoff games than they have lost, with a record of 85-79 (or 78-72, if you exlude the 2002 World Series matchup of two wild card teams).
POLITICS: CBS' Downfall
Deacon at Powerline notes possible ways for CBS to feel the heat from its use of forged documents, including boycotts of their advertisers or FCC consequences. These are unrealistic and penalize innocent parties. The answer here is obvious. You are never going to get CBS or its affiliates off the air.
POLITICS: Hopefully But Almost Certainly Not The Last Post About Bush's and Kerry's Service Records
As recently as five days ago, this, from Kevin Drum, was the motto of the Left in dealing with the dueling stories about (1) whether George Bush was given preferential treatment in joining the Texas Air National Guard and whether he fulfilled his service requirements to the TANG and (2) whether John Kerry earned bogus medals to get an early trip home from Vietnam:
As it turned out, of course, the documents Drum was discussing in that post were crude forgeries. Even apart from that, however, Drum is way off base in his analysis, as I'll discuss below. Now, we get a different tune from Matt Yglesias, who's been an unlikely bitter-ender in the forged-documents debate:
A third perspective comes from this comment by Oliver Willis (scroll down; it's in the comments section) that pretty well sums up the mindset of Willis, the rest of the Media Matters crowd and their ilk:
(You can see a similar approach in this DNC email and press conference Friday morning after the 60 Minutes documents had been fairly well exposed as frauds). Well, let's start with Drum's and Yglesias' points about the burdens of proof. And let's recognize the basic truth about these stories:
1. George W. Bush was paid by the TANG for a sufficient number of drills to meet all requirements, and was given an honorable discharge in 1973.
2. John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star by the United States Navy, was granted permission to leave Vietnam early, and was given an honorable discharge from the Navy Reserves in 1978.
So before we go talking about documents and witnesses, let's recognize that the official records of both the TANG and the Navy reflect decisions made at the time to credit Bush with the service and Kerry with the honors they claim today. So of course, the burden of proof is on their accusers, especially given that there is (now that the Killian memos have been revealed to have been frauds) no sign that anyone questioned Bush's service prior to, I believe, his 1994 race for governor of Texas, and that most (though not all) of the questions about Kerry's medals were aired for the first time in 2004. How do those cases stack up?
Read More Â»
The AWOL Story
I've about beaten this one to death and I won't revisit all the links here. But a critical theme that runs throughout coverage of this issue by people who actually have some experience serving in the Guard or the Reserves (which are two different animals, of course, but share some important similarities) is that irregular periods of service and spotty records are not all that unusual. For example, we have no shred of evidence that John Kerry ever drilled with the Navy Reserves between 1970 and 1972, when he was still an officer. For more detailed and thorough perspectives on this, see McQ of QandO here and here as well as A View From The Flight Deck. Each of these guys stresses a critical point: it's in the nature of the Guard for service requirements to be flexible. The purpose of the National Guard is not drills; the purpose is to have people you can call up for varying types of service if needed. Making the drill requirements flexible is, in fact, a good way to accomodate the work schedules of people who - as all Guardsmen do - have other jobs. That tends to be misunderstood by people who (1) haven't served themselves and (2) think of Vietnam-era Guard service as some sort of benefit that had to be paid for in drill time. It took some time, I must confess, for me to grasp that point as well.
At the end of the day, the critics of Bush's record have a tough time arguing that the TANG was somehow duped into giving Bush an honorable discharge, since this basically amounts to proving a negative - specifically, that he wasn't where he claims he was, at the base in Alabama, on the days in question. But there are a number of witnesses who do remember Bush's service in Alabama, including this new one noted by Captain Ed today:
Copeland, 65, remembers meeting Bush on two occasions. He does not remember the precise dates. On one occasion, Copeland said, Bush and Lt. Col. John "Bill" Calhoun came to Copeland's office with a question about Bush's pay. Copeland is not sure, but he believes the question had to do with where to mail Bush's checks.
Read the whole thing. As I said, the burden of proof is on those who would argue that the TANG didn't know what it was doing when it granted Bush an honorable discharge. Simply saying that the records are not complete is not enough to carry that burden. As for Yglesias' point about the Killian memos, let's not forget a key dynamic in both of these stories: neither Bush nor Kerry likely spends much time personally involved in these issues. To add to that, the Bush White House generally likes to let things simmer a bit in the blogosphere/talk radio/NR/WSJ universe before jumping on an argument. My assumption is that the press people were just expected to talk around these documents, and Bush himself (the only guy in the White House with any relevant personal knowledge) wasn't ever going to look at them unless the thing blew up big time.
The Swift Boat Story
As Drum's post indicates, the general tendency on the Left has been to just dismiss the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as liars and avoid getting into the details. It's certainly true that some of the Swifties' claims have been overwrought and others have included factual assertions that are contradicted by some documents. Neither of these facts should be surprising, however, given that the men involved have lingering anger against Kerry and are, in many cases, just now revisiting events of 35 years ago:
That was then. After their opening news conference, the veterans ? most of whom had not seen one another in 35 years ? began talking among themselves about their memories of Kerry. They read Douglas Brinkley's hagiographic war biography, Tour of Duty, and found descriptions of events they didn't recognize. They compared notes. And their point of view changed. They came to question what Kerry had done, not just after leaving Vietnam, but while he was serving alongside them. In particular, they came to question some of the cornerstones of Kerry's Vietnam record, the engagements in which he won the Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. The result of that questioning was a book, Unfit for Command, written by the group's main spokesman, John O'Neill.
That's from Byron York's summary and analysis of the Swifties' charges in the latest issue of National Review; it's available on the web only to NR Digital subscribers, but I'd highly recommend it as a concise and even-handed analysis of the central factual issues. Another terse summary can be found in this "30 Questions" list (link via Kaus), and a much more detailed analysis of the attacks on Kerry's medals (though not his now-infamous claim to have spent Christmas 1968 in Cambodia) was assembled here by some readers of Captain's Quarters. ( Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard also had a decent but less comprehensive roundup a few weeks ago).
The bottom line? Well, the "Christmas in Cambodia" story decisively discredited Kerry's original account, and it seems unlikely that Kerry would have gone into Cambodia without the knowledge of any of his boatmates, fellow Swift Boat skippers or commanding officers, not one of whom to my knowledge has corroborated his story; it was also apparently not done, at least in the time before Kerry left Vietnam in March 1969, to send big, noisy swift boats on clandestine missions to drop off CIA agents. Nobody has found any record of swift boats being used in this way, even 35 years later when many of the details of secret missions in Cambodia are far less secret. Still, it remains unclear whether there is any shred of truth to Kerry backers' revised theory that maybe he was in Cambodia at some later date. Unlike the medals and AWOL issues, there are no Navy records of any kind supporting Kerry having done what he says he did.
The medals? Some of Kerry's medals are for real heroism: There's no serious question about Kerry's second Purple Heart, and you can nitpick, as a military matter, about Kerry's Silver Star, but as to the latter the controversy seems to keep coming back to Kerry shooting a guy who'd shot at his men with a rocket launcher in the back, and to me that's a good thing even if the guy was a teenager in a loincloth. Maybe that's not quite Silver Star material, but that's for the Navy to decide, they did, and I don't see a point in second guessing it. The same goes for inside-baseball debates about the wisdom, in combat terms, of Kerry's decision to beach his boat. That leaves two other controversies:
Kerry's First Purple Heart
The eyewitness accounts on the central issue (whether Kerry's wound suffered on December 2, 1968 was the result of enemy fire or whether there was no enemy fire that night) are fairly muddled - Kerry's defenders have some points on their side in arguing that William Schachte, Kerry's immediate superior, may not have been on the boat that night, although the idea that Kerry was on a training mission with no one there to train him seems a bit implausible - and the few available documents (most are missing or nonexistent) are most decidedly not in Kerry's favor, particularly his journal a few days later saying "we" hadn't been shot at yet. But the really damning thing for Kerry on this one is the fact - undisputed, as far as I've been able to tell - that his commanding officer, Grant Hibbard, refused to grant him a Purple Heart at the time, and yet Kerry seems to have re-applied for one later when no one involved in the incident was still around to object. It's not clear exactly when he re-applied, but the medal was awarded in late February 1969, timing that's more consistent with the idea that he was hatching a plan to use the three-and-out rule to go home, since all three of his Purple Hearts were awarded in a span of about 20 days. Here's John O'Neill, in an interview with John Hawkins of Right Wing News:
Our contention is both his first and third Purple Hearts were fake. He invoked the 3 Purple Heart rule to leave Vietnam 243 days early. None of these involved any injury that required even an hour of hospitalization. None of these involved any kind of real injury.
The timing and the fact that Hibbard denied the medal the first time around give this story enough juice, in my mind, to overcome the burden of the fact that the Navy eventually awarded the medal. In fact, the Kerry campaign has made some noises about conceding the possibilty that the medal was improperly awarded, although as usual with the Kerry people I couldn't tell you what their position on that is at this moment. We may never know who is right about whether there was enemy fire that night, although it would help if Kerry would release his records so we could find out if there is anything else there on this engagement.
The Bronze Star and the Third Purple Heart
Both of these decorations were awarded to Kerry on the basis of action on March 13, 1969; almost as soon as the medals were awarded, Kerry took advantage of the three-Purple-Hearts rule to get out of Vietnam, itself a decision that irritates some of his fellow swift boat comrades but doesn't really raise the blood pressure of most of us who haven't walked a mile in those shoes.
The story of the Bronze Star, endlessly repeated in the Iowa primaries, is basically that (1) Kerry returned his boat to the scene of an ambush, (2) under heavy fire, and (3) by so doing saved the life of Army Special Forces officer Jim Rassman. The he-said-she-said aspects revolve around Kerry's account - including that embodied in the official Navy report, which Kerry appears to have written - and Rassman's vs. those of the other swift boat captains. But Rassman, by his own account, was under water during most of the engagement and not in a position to guage the location of the various boats or tell the difference between hostile and friendly fire.
Which is significant, because most of the case against Kerry's account rests much more heavily on physical evidence than on uncorroborated points of testimony by his accusers, notably the facts that (1) the other boats were, in fact, quite close enough to pick Rassman out of the river themselves (as they were essentially stationary after one boat, PCF-3, was disabled by a mine) and (2) since only one of the boats sustained any bullet holes and no one was shot (and there's some debate over whether the three bullet holes were even from that day), the heavy fire described by Kerry is fairly impossible; large boats in a narrow canal are huge targets. Similar issues arise with Kerry's claim that his own boat hit a mine, which according to the Swifties is inconsistent with the physical evidence.
On this one, I'm reserving judgment until I get my copy of Unfit for Command (it's shipping slowly; the Wall Street Journal's best seller list shows three times as many copies sold as any other non-fiction book last week), because the devil is in the details. But nothing I've read seems to offer much of a persuasive rebuttal to the various points noted by the Swifties; the most the critics have done is point to the three bullet holes and to poke at the credibility of the witnesses. Of course, witness credibility is a far less significant issue when testimony can be corroborated.
Kerry's third Purple Heart is tied up with this incident. By his own accounts, it appears that Kerry sustained self-inflicted wounds earlier in the day from throwing a grenade at too-close range into a rice bin. But York, at least, contends that Kerry may nonetheless have merited a Purple Heart due to a contusion on his arm sustained during the Rassman incident.
Without new records from Kerry, the Swift Boat story is unlikely to advance any further in either direction, but at this point there's no incentive for Kerry to do that. On the present record, I have to give credit to two of the Swift Boat Veterans' charges - against the "Christmas in Cambodia" story and the first Purple Heart - and essentially call a draw pending further analysis on the Bronze Star and third Purple Heart. As I've indicated repeatedly before, the relevance of all this is dubious - Kerry did serve, and in highly hazardous duty, and nobody questions this (least of all the other swift boat veterans) - although the Cambodia thing is more significant because (1) it appears that Kerry may have spent years retailing a wholly false story and (2) he used it in policy debates and not just as campaign background fluff. But to use the Swift Boat Veterans as an example of a group throwing wholly unsubstantiated mud, as Kerry's defenders have repeatedly done, is just severely misleading and doesn't square with a detailed appraisal of their charges.
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September 12, 2004
POP CULTURE: Jack and Bobby
OK, I admit it: I saw the ads for the WB series "Jack and Bobby," and when they described the premise, I thought, "maybe not my kind of show, but sounds like a cool idea." Kind of like "Joan of Arcadia," which I don't watch but which I seem to enjoy every time I catch 10 minutes of it flipping channels. Then they gave the show's title, and they lost me. Please, not another walk down faux-Kennedy memory lane. Even if the show's content has nothing to do with it, I'm just not buying something in that wrapping. Make it stop.
HISTORY: Sad Song
The Daily News has an interesting article about legendary 19th century songwriter Stephen Foster; I'd never known that Foster wrote most of his classic American folk songs from an apartment in lower Manhattan, or that he died a nearly penniless alcoholic at age 37.
September 11, 2004
WAR: Where I Was
Can't do much more for today than send you back to where I was on September 11, 2001.
September 10, 2004
I think there's a simple reason why the Red Sox are going to pull down the Yanks from behind, even trailing by 3.5 games, and win the division:
Then they lose to the Wild Card Yankees in the ALCS.
BLOG: Good Sport
POLITICS: What To Apologize For
Rich Lowry notes this, from a Washington Post story:
Aides say Kerry may soon apologize for some of his most heated comments during the Vietnam War protests of the early 1970s, a move that would rekindle the debate for a few more days.
The time to do that would be today, before the rally planned for Sunday in Washington, where thousands of Vietnam vets are planning to denounce Kerry. A little more from memory lane with Kerry's 1971 testimony will explain why:
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Did Kerry imply that returning Vietnam vets would be dangerous and unstable in a way that veterans of prior wars had not been?
"[W]here America finally turned" - these are not the words of a man who thinks a great country made a terrible mistake. These are the words of a man who thinks Vietnam was the logical end of a nation that had long been headed in the wrong direction.
Did Kerry foresee the catastrophic consequences of American withdrawal?
Kerry also told some stories - maye true, I don't know - about his experiences in trench warfare in the Navy:
Then there's this question from Senator Pell:
Wouldn't you agree with me though that what he did in herding old men, women and children into a trench and then shooting them was a little bit beyond the perimeter of even what has been going on in this war and that that action should be discouraged. There are other actions not that extreme that have gone on and have been permitted. If we had not taken action or cognizance of it, it would have been even worse. It would have indicated we encouraged this kind of action.
Would Kerry admit that what Calley did at My Lai was not the usual way American troops behaved in Vietnam?
I think it lies with the men who designed free fire zones. I think it lies with the men who encourage body counts. I think it lies in large part with this country, which allows a young child before he reaches the age of 14 to see 12,500 deaths on television, which glorifies the John Wayne syndrome, which puts out fighting man comic books on the stands, which allows us in training to do calisthenics to four counts, on the fourth count of which we stand up and shout "kill" in unison, which has posters in barracks in this country with a crucified Vietnamese, blood on him, and underneath it says "kill the gook," and I think that clearly the responsibility for all of this is what has produced this horrible aberration.
Now, I think if you are going to try Lieutenant Calley then you must at the same time, if this country is going to demand respect for the law, you must at the same time try all those other people who have responsibility, and any aversion that we may have to the verdict as veterans is not to say that Calley should be freed, not to say that he is innocent, but to say that you can't just take him alone, and that would be my response to that.
Did Kerry at least recognize the threat of world Communism, which would still claim many more victims before it was defeated 27 years later?
I say that because so long as we have the kind of strike force we have . . . I think we have a strike force of such capability and I think we have a strike force simply in our Polaris submarines, in the 62 or some Polaris submarines, which are constantly roaming around under the sea. . . .Why do we have to, therefore, consider and keep considering threats?
At any time that an actual threat is posed to this country or to the security and freedom I will be one of the first people to pick up a gun and defend it, but right now we are reacting with paranoia to this question of peace and the people taking over the world. . . .
Therefore, I think it is ridiculous to assume we have to play this power game based on total warfare. I think there will be guerilla wars and I think we must have a capability to fight those. And we may have to fight them somewhere based on legitimate threats and that is what I would say to this question of world peace. I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.
Senator, I will say this. I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in other it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will exist.
But when you start to neglect those needs, people will start to demand a new structure, and that, to me, is the only threat that this country faces now, because we are not responding to the needs and we are not responding to them because we work on these old cold-war precepts and because we have not woken up to realizing what is happening in the United States of America.
The lack of willingness to admit the difference between democracy and communism is particularly striking. Another question from Pell, who was still trying to defend democracy:
They have all become dictatorships when they have achieved the size and complexity of this country. Only smaller countries really have made a democratic system work at all.
So I only wish to throw it out hopefully that, in spite of the tragic experiences of you and so many other people and the deaths of so many people, this system is not beyond recall and with the assistance of people like yourself and the younger generation we can get back on the track, and can make this system operate effectively. . .
Have you yourself arrived at the point where you believe that basic structural changes must be brought about in our system or do you believe it can be made to work?
Kerry's response does finally give some qualified support to democracy, but makes clear what he was selling, anyway:
But I will say that I think we are going to keep trying. I also agree with you, Senator. I don't see another system other than democracy, but democracy has to remain reponsive. When it does not, you create the possibilities for all kinds of other systems to supplant it, and that very possibility, I think, is beginning to exist in this country.
But this question from Senator Symington really gets at another element of Kerry's testimony that enraged Veitnam vets:
Kerry's answer first tried to use a severely inflated bogus statistic, but then fell back on a characterization that nonetheless painted with the broadest of brushes:
The problem exists for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the emptiness. It is the only way to get through it. A lot of guys, 60, 80 percent stay stoned 24 hours a day just to get through the Vietnam-
Senator Symington: You say 60 to 80 percent.
Mr. Kerry: Sixty to 80 percent is the figure used that try something, let's say, at one point. Of that, I couldn't give you a figure of habitual smokers, let's say, of pot, and I certainly couldn't begin to say how many are hard drug addicts, but I do know that the problem for the returning veteran is acute because we have, let's say, a veteran picks up at $12 habit in Saigon. He comes back to this country and the moment he steps off an airplane that same habit costs him some $90 to support. With the state of the economy, he can't get a job. He doesn't earn money. He turns criminal or just finds his normal sources and in a sense drops out. . . .
It is very, very widespread. It is a very serious problem. . . .
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POLITICS: Freepers 1, Big Media 0
If you read political blogs other than this one, you have by now already seen some of the details of this story; it's such a perfect illustration of the speed with which the blogosphere can detect, analyze, and ultimately overwhelm a bogus story in the mainstream media. And it all started with one guy on a message board. Here's the timeline:
1. Stories about President Bush's National Guard service had been pushed very hard by the media back in February, but little new information had surfaced since then. Following a month of tough questions about John Kerry's Vietnam service, however, Democrats were desperate to put some heat back on the president. Enter Dan Rather, ever eager to move the ball against Republicans; "60 Minutes II" had a story in the works for some time built around an interview with Ben Barnes, a Texas Democrat who claimed he'd pulled strings to get Bush into the National Guard in 1968. Leaving aside the fact that Bush actually didn't need any help because there was no waiting list for people willing and able to spend a year learning to fly the F-102, Barnes has an obvious credibility issue: he's a high-ranking official with the Kerry campaign and is the campaign's third-largest donor/fundraiser.
Enter the memos: CBS pushed the fact that the story also included "newly discovered" documents from the files of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984 (dead men dispute no tales). Even before it aired, lefty bloggers like Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum started hyping the fact that the story would be more than just Barnes. The documents weren't hugely damning, but they added just enough weight to some of the pre-existing theories about Bush avoiding a flight physical and getting favored treatment to keep the story moving. The story aired Wednesday evening. In apparent coordination, the New York Times and Boston Globe on Wednesday released new high-profile stories including a retired military officer's analysis that had apparently been in the works since at least February (more on that one later).
2. Having been launched by CBS, the story took off immediately, with none of the slow-boil skepticism that had been applied to bona fide eyewitness accounts of Kerry's service. Thursday morning, the Times, the Washington Post and the New York Daily News all ran CBS' documents story on the front page. ABC's The Note aptly summarized the instant media feeding frenzy (links omitted):
ABC's Terry Moran's wrap of Bush's military Guard records was the first stand alone package in GMA. Moran included sound from White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett claiming Ben Barnes was acting "on behalf of John Kerry" and reported in his live close that Lt. Col. Jerry Killian wrote in one memo that "I'll back-date, but won't rate," a statement that "raises the possibility that Bush's military records were falsified."
CBS' Bill Plante's wrap led the "Early Show." Plante reported that the White House says Bush did not have to take the annual physical exam he never showed up for because the Alabama National Guard did not have the kind of airplane Bush was flying. Plante also reported that the White House says they are trying to get all of his records released.
NBC's Carl Quintinilla wrapped both Kerry's and Bush's Wednesdays within the "Today" newsblock, focusing on Kerry first then reporting nothing new on Bush's Guard records. Quintinilla was the only one to include the new "Texans for Truth" ad featuring former Alabama Air National Guard Lieutenant Bob Mintz claiming he didn't remember Bush being there.
The New York Times and the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune and USA Today wrap the days' developments. LINK, LINK, LINK, and LINK
The Boston Globe 's Robinson and Latour ran the "60 Minutes" documents by military officers who said it "contain[ed] evidence that political influence may have come into play as he sidestepped his training requirements in his final two years of service, from May 1972 until May 1974." LINK
"Bush's service has been in dispute for years because of a six-month gap in 1972 that has not been fully explained by military records. Repeated news reports and document releases by the White House and Pentagon have not settled the question," writes James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. LINK
Rainey's last graph calls the Globe's Wednesday "scoop" into question:
"Two retired officers interviewed by The Times on Wednesday and familiar with National Guard procedures differed as to whether Bush was still obligated, at that point, to check in with a unit in the Boston area."
The Washington Times looks at the Democrats' strategy. LINK
Rush Limbaugh calls it all a cheap media ploy. LINK
DeFrank, Meek, and Siemaszko of the New York Daily News report the Bush campaign was "rocked yesterday by allegations that the "Top Gun President was a substandard pilot who disobeyed a direct order while serving in the Texas Air National Guard." LINK
The big lefty bloggers jumped instantly into the breach, with Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman and Oliver Willis, in posts too numerous to link here, calling Bush a criminal and a liar and accusing the Whiite House of a cover-up.
3. Before the papers had hit the stands, however, CBS had posted PDF copies of the documents online, however, and around 9pm Wednesday, one guy on a FreeRepublic.com message board was raising questions about their authenticity:
In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.
The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.
I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.
This should be pursued aggressively.
47 posted on 09/08/2004 8:59:43 PM PDT by Buckhead
Now, the "freepers" have taken more than their share of guff over the years, and since I don't go there I can't vouch for whether the bad reputation is deserved. But on this one, all it took was one skeptical guy - one more, apparently, than works for Dan Rather (at least when it comes to anti-Bush stories).
4. At 7:51 AM Thursday morning, the Big Trunk over at Powerline - which may well be the best single conservative blog out there - simply posted a copy of the FreeRepublic post and asked whether the CBS memos were genuine. As soon as I saw that post, I knew this was a big story - and apparently, so did everyone else. Blog after blog started linking to it, emails poured in, and the Big Trunk started updating with thoughts from people all over the country who had experience with typewriters and computers and could tell the various telltale signs that this was a Microsoft Word document created on a laser printer rather than a genuine typewritten document. The incoming feedback really took off once the National Review Online linked to Powerline's analysis both at The Corner and the Kerry Spot. Typewriter museums (did you know such things existed?) were contacted, bloggers produced exact duplicates of the memo on Microsoft Word, forensic document experts were interviewed (see this INDC Journal post for a particularly in-depth treatment), people familiar with the technology and terminology available to the military in the early 70s weighed in. Dan Rather's most persistent critics jumped aboard. By late yesterday, the original Powerline post had over 250 trackbacks; by this morning, nearly 500.
5. Then, the breakout: around 3pm, the Drudge Report linked to the Powerline analysis, flooding the site with so much traffic it crashed. By 9pm, the Weekly Standard had a column out with this tidbit:
6. By this morning, the Washington Post and ABC News were running with the story - WaPo had it on the front page - of how CBS may have been duped, and Killian's own son was disputing the documents' authenticity. John Podhoretz was retracing some of the timeline in his NY Post column. And now, for all of Rather's eagerness to put some pressure on Bush, the heat will instead fall on CBS, which at last check was simply insisting that it adequately sourced its story.
In just a day, one citizen's skepticism shook CBS and reminded the major media outlets of the hazards of running with a story just because it came from one of their own. Ten years ago, they would have gotten away with it.
September 9, 2004
POLITICS: More Republican Liars?
“Little did the American prisoners of war imagine that half a world away events were conspiring to make their precarious situation even more desperate. That an American Naval Lieutenant after a 4-month tour of duty in Vietnam was meeting secretly in an undisclosed location in Paris with a top enemy diplomat. That this same lieutenant would later join forces with Jane Fonda to form an anti-war group of so-called Vietnam veterans, some of whom would be later discovered as frauds who never set foot on a battlefield. All this culminating in John Kerry’s Senate testimony that would be blared over loud speakers to convince our prisoners that back home they were being accused and abandoned. Enemy propagandists had found a new and willing accomplice.”
That's from Stolen Honor, a new documentary (independent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but featuring some of the same former POWs) expanding at length on the excesses of John Kerry's "war crimes" testimony and the harm it caused. Go here and see if you think these guys are just another bunch of lying, crooked Republican attack dogs. Just for one example of a guy who appears in "Stolen Honor" and has also supported the Swift Boat group, check out this bio on "Bud" Day, who doesn't strike me as the kind of guy you want challenging your activities in wartime:
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POLITICS: Debate About Debates
The "process" issues of a political campaign, in particular the "debate about debates," tends to bore me. But I do have one observation to offer. The Bush camp is floating a trial balloon about maybe only agreeing to two debates instead of three. My suspicion is that Bush is posturing about ducking a third debate so as to (1) signal to the press that he's winning (the underdog always wants more debates, so if the dynamic is Kerry pestering Bush for debates, the media will draw that conclusion) and (2) subtly lower expectations (Kerry can't simultaneously accuse him of being afraid to debate while building him up like Lou Holtz before the Navy game).
Of course, for this to work, the Democrats have to fall into Bush's trap and start complaining about Bush's reluctance to debate and pressuring him to do three debates. Fortunately, some of them, at least, are as knee-jerk predictable as monsters in a video game who fall for the same fake-out every single time. Go see Atrios and Oliver Willis fall right into the trap.
UPDATE: Mark Kleiman marches right into the trap as well. Where's Admiral Ackbar when you need him? These guys are just too easy.
SECOND UPDATE: For now, the Kerry camp sticks to the script:
[M]ake no mistake, George Bush is a skilled debater. In fact, he has never lost a debate in his entire political career.
POLITICS: Shorter John Kerry Foreign Policy
"[T]he United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."
But the French and the Germans, well, they'd go to war if we asked them nicely.
POLITICS: Human Lives Are One Thing, But Money?
If you look at John Kerry's latest line of argument in yesterday's big Iraq speech, he gives a brief nod to the loss of life in Iraq:
He clearly is tiptoeing around saying whether those 1,000 have given their lives in vain or for a noble cause. But he then spends the bulk of the speech griping about the bill:
George W. Bush's wrong choices have led America in the wrong direction in Iraq and left America without the resources we need here at home. The cost of the President's go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford to keep the 100,000 new police we put on the streets during the 1990s.
This is a deeply morally offensive line of argument. The decision to go to war means the decision to sacrifice the lives of some number of our soldiers. That's a very grave decision. If the decision is worth making - if it is worth asking even one young man or woman to lay down his or her life for the greater good of the nation - it is petty and ungracious to complain about the bill. Yes, it's a lot of money. But it's only money. And if it's what needs to be done to win the war, then we who have asked for those sacrifices should spend that money without complaint. Think the war was a bad idea? Fine, tell us that. Want money for job training and after-school programs? Fine, tell us how you'll cut domestic spending, raise taxes or borrow money to pay for it. But don't dare tell us that we should pay for those things by haggling over the price of national security while our troops are dying in the field.
POLITICS: The Long Arm of Grover Norquist
September 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Choke Me, Choke You
Answering a question I asked in late July, the Mets radio announcers noted that tonight's save by Armando Benitez against the Mets, his 11th of the season, established a new record for saves by one pitcher against one team in the same season.
Shoot me now! I demand that you shoot me now!
BASEBALL: The Wreck of the 7 Train
The Mets have been absolutely unwatchable (or unlistenable, as the case may be) the past few weeks; with the exception of David Wright's at bats, each game seems to fade in my memory almost immediately into a blur of despair. This blog was necessarily going to be tilted more in a political direction than usual in the stretch run to the presidential election, but that's been exacerbated of late by the need to avert my eyes from the train wreck that has been the Mets of late.
POLITICS: Kerry AWOL?
Since people are still pushing the "Bush was AWOL" story in the absence of any supporting evidence, and in particular any evidence that Bush was even required to show up for any drills in Alabama in 1972 after four years of extensive service in the Texas Air National Guard, it's worth noting for contrast that there seems to be an absence of evidence that John Kerry fulfilled his contractual commitment to drill with the Navy Reserves during the time when he was busy being an anti-war leader, meeting with Vietnamese Communists in secret, and running for Congress. Jon Henke at QandO pulls together some links, including an analysis concluding that "Kerry, while in violation of his contract . . . was not legally required to drill and hence not AWOL." Which would not bother me one bit. Does it bother those who nitpick at the last year of President Bush's service?
(PS - Go here and read through my prior link-filled analyses on the "AWOL Bush" charge, in particular these fourteen questions. While we're at it, see here and here (Links via QandO and Bill Hobbs) and here - QandO is really on top of these issues - regarding the fact that Bush didn't bypass anybody on a waiting list to get into the Texas Air National Guard because so few people were willing, able and qualified to spend a year training to fly the F-102. Finally, recall that John Edwards - like Dick Cheney - passed up the opportunity to enlist and go to Vietnam).
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Not That Simple
Mark Cuban, trying his hand at politics, makes a serious error regarding drug company profitability:
They don’t run their companies to make a profit. They run their companies to make Wall Street happy, to push their stock prices up, and if they are lucky, to hit the jackpot personally.
They know that in order for their stock prices to go up, they have to sell the future. If all they have to sell is the cash flow from their existing base of drug patents, they have a problem. Could you imagine the CEO of a major drug company saying, “Well, we can’t come up with any new products, and our R&D isn’t really working, so we will just play out the patents on our drugs and pay out the cash to shareholders.” Yeah Right.
They will do just what they are doing now — keep on investing in their own R&D hoping they can hit a home run with new drugs, and when that doesn’t work, they will use their stock and cash to buy other companies that have better prospects. In all cases, they hope the results will propel their stock and their own net worth.
They aren’t going to change how they do business at all. Won’t happen. CEOs are a competitive bunch. You don’t get to run a major corporation by not being motivated to succeed. A measure of that success is personal wealth.
As long as CEOs and those around them want to be rich, we can change the laws regarding drug pricing and nothing at all will change…Nothing.
This is a perfect example of how a smart businessman can believe a stupid idea when it comes to politics. Cuban is right, of course, about the kind of motivations that make executives tick - like any other worker, they work to make their companies profitable because they are given incentives to do so, not out of some abstract love for their shareholders. And he's right that, if drug companies realized tomorrow that they could no longer expect future profits from large R&D layouts, executives would be loath to become doomsaying pessimists about their own companies.
But what would really happen is right under Cuban's nose, and he misses it: what does a company do when it realizes that its current business is throwing off profits that can't sustain in the future? Well, the most common response is what Cuban himself suggests: "use their stock and cash to buy other companies that have better prospects." In other words, diversify.
Which is precisely the point: if R&D in new drugs starts looking like a bad gamble, sooner or later drug company CEOs will devote more of their available resources to acquiring companies who do other things than invest in drug R&D, and less to that R&D. And, in the long run, we'll have fewer drugs produced. Not none; that goose won't stop laying golden eggs entirely. But the natural response of CEOs who want to stay successful will be to migrate their companies' capital investments away from a low-margin business. And we'll all suffer.
September 7, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: The Iraq Straddle
Kerry supporters have been howling since the Republican convention (see this EJ Dionne column on Zell Miller's speech for an example) that Republicans were somehow dishonest for suggesting that a Kerry Administration would subordinate its judgment to that of the UN or let decisions to protect U.S. national security be held up by the French.
In a lot of ways, this is classic Kerry non-definition: the man spends nearly all his energies (including those spent on Vietnam, which is deployed in the service of this endeavor) trying to explain what he doesn't stand for rather than what he does ("that dog won't hunt"). Let's see if we can unpack Kerry's semi-current Iraq position on its own terms and see if I can explain precisely why I find these cries of outrage - and, indeed, Kerry's entire position on the Iraq war - so spectacularly disingenuous.
1. Was Iraq A Sufficient Threat To U.S. National Security To Justify War? The Bush Administration and other war supporters made many arguments about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to our national security (see here and here for some of my own thoughts on the subject), ranging from his pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to his ties to international terrorists to broader arguments about his role in the region.
There is a coherent argument - albeit one I regard as dangerously irresponsible - to the effect that Saddam's regime was not a threat, and there are those who dispute particular items in the Administration's bill of particulars against him. But Kerry has not renounced his prior conclusion - underlying his vote in favor of authority to use force against Saddam's regime - that the regime posed such a threat. Despite generalized blather about "misleading the nation into war," Kerry has never, to my knowledge, made a serious effort to attack the factual underpinnings of the Administration's case, something that would be particularly difficult to do on the WMD issue given his own and Edwards' prior statements on the issue. He hasn't tried to deny Saddam's ties to terrorist groups and provision of safe haven to terrorists; that's a place Kerry, wisely, doesn't want to go.
2. Could Steps Short of War Have Removed The Threat or Revealed It To Be Overstated? Another of the "process" arguments before the war, and emphasized by some critics since, is that if the weapons inspectors or sanctions had been given more time, we would have discovered an absence of weapons - and not gone to war - or would have found some other way to defuse the multifaceted threat posed by Saddam's regime. Kerry has also not attempted to pursue this argument, perhaps recognizing the foolishness of arguing that we could at some point have taken Saddam's word - or the word of the inspectors he was actively working to deceive - that he was cooperating with inspections (when there's been substantial evidence since the war that he was doing anything but), and perhaps simply recognizing that Kerry would look foolish if he renounced his own war vote. Instead, Kerry has admitted that, even knowing what he knows now, he would have voted the same way. In other words, for all his arguments that war was unnecessary, Kerry hasn't made any effort to convince the public that the reasons he cited for voting in favor of war would or could have been resolved short of war.
3. Should We Have Waited For More Allies? Instead, Kerry's main argument has been that (1) we went to war without sufficient support from our allies and (2) things would have gone better, and easier, for us if we had waited to get that support. Of course, given what we now know about weapons inspections - i.e., that inspectors were never going to unearth a "smoking gun" - it is entirely implausible to suggest that "more time" would have resulted in a larger coalition. What was going to happen to change the minds of the war's critics? If the 12-year history of the conflict shows anything, it's that prolonging confrontations inevitably leads to fissures in the coalition encircling Saddam. Delay would only have led more of the allies to walk away from war.
In short . . . Kerry's position on the war, at least as set forth in his convention speech and some of his other efforts to explain it, amounts to this: we needed more allies, we shouldn't have gone to war without them . . . but we weren't getting them. If that's not a veto in the hands of our "allies," specifically those (France, Germany, Russia and China) with seats on the UN Security Council or leading positions in NATO, what is? (Howard Dean on Bill Maher's show the other night was focusing this point on Iraq's neighbors, but let's not pretend that any more Arab states would have lined up to give public support to the war).
P.S. - Of course, all this is an analysis of Kerry's position on the war as of his speech to the Democratic Convention, not the Howard Dean imitation he's now peddling. Bill Kristol notes that Kerry's current position is one he previously saw as so irresponsible as to disqualify one from high office:
Not an unheard of point of view. Indeed, as President Bush pointed out today, it was Howard Dean's position during the primary season. On December 15, 2003, in a speech at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, Dean said that "the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer." Dean also said, "The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at the extraordinary cost, so far, of $166 billion."
But who challenged Dean immediately? John Kerry. On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."
Kerry was right then.
WAR: Oh Yeah, Life Goes On
Michele Catalano breaks radio silence over at A Small Victory to explain why she isn't going to do wall-to-wall September 11 remembrances this year. The decision to put tragedy behind us in some way can be a painful one, but life is far too short to feel guilty about deciding to focus a little more on what we have left.
September 6, 2004
POLITICS: "When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?"
In the pantheon of bad ideas: someone in the Kerry campaign deciding to call John McCain, one of the few Republicans who's had some nice things to say about Kerry, a liar. Powerline has the details and notes that cooler heads have (for now) prevailed.
If Bush's campaign did this to McCain, even for part of a day, the president would be hounded about it to his grave.
Read More Â»
11. Senator John McCain: “Our President will work with all nations willing to help us defeat this scourge that afflicts us all.”
12. Senator John McCain: “However just the cause, we should shed a tear for all that is lost when war claims its wages from us. But there is no avoiding this war. We tried that, and our reluctance cost us dearly. And while this war has many components, we can't make victory on the battlefield harder to achieve so that our diplomacy is easier to conduct.”
13. Senator John McCain: “After years of failed diplomacy and limited military pressure to restrain Saddam Hussein, President Bush made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq. Those who criticize that decision would have us believe that the choice was between a status quo that was well enough left alone and war. But there was no status quo to be left alone."
Don't hold your breath waiting for the Kerry camp to explain how any of these statements are "lies".
Â« Close It
POLITICS: Targeting the Swifties
Well, even if the 200 Swiftees are lying, what does it say about Kerry's character that 200 of his fellow officers and sailors would come out of the woodwork and lie, cheat, and steal to keep him out of the White House? . . .
Dole made a related point with his "they can't all be lying Republicans"; some of the public probably figures, where there's smoke, there's fire.
And I don't have an answer for that, BTW. But proving the Swiftees "wrong" is not really the point - the point is, the guys Edwards would said would vouch for Kerry loathe him.
Of course, the truth or falsity of the claims about Kerry's medals certainly matter, although the Swift Vets' second charge - that Kerry betrayed and libelled them by his 1971 Senate testimony and by his secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong while still an officer in the Navy Reserve - isn't subject to much in the way of factual disputes. And, as both Maguire and Captain Ed point out, there are still plenty of factual areas in which the Swifties or have either scored a hit or still have a ball in the air.
But Maguire's main point underscores why the Kerry camp has been so desperate to paint these guys as having been bought and paid for by the GOP - if the story is just "bitter ex-Vietnam colleagues smear Kerry," that's still bad for him. It's why Kerry can't just laugh it off and say, "well, it was a long time ago and people's memories always differ about things that happen in combat." It's why, in effect, Kerry can't let anyone believe that these 200+ Navy combat veterans are men of any honor at all, anything but cheap whores bought off for a pittance.
Which is not, to put it mildly, the posture you want as a candidate who's a putative champion of veterans. And certainly not if you're a candidate who said worse things yet about your military brethren all those years ago.
POLITICS: Not The Dream Team
You know, on watching the Democratic and GOP Conventions, a parallel occurred to me to explain why the Democrats, despite having a modestly well-received and tightly-disciplined convention, weren't nearly as successful as the Republicans. You see, putting together a good convention is sort of like assembling a good US Olympic basketball team.
The Democrats, like the US Olympians, started with a decent foundation: a two-time champion (Bill Clinton, Tim Duncan) and a guy with few accomplishments but much talent and potential (Barack Obama, LeBron James). But, like the US Olympic team with the likes of Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson, the Democrats overloaded their dias with guys who were there more because they were big names and big egos than because they fit into a gameplan to win the fight they're engaged in. Thus, Al Gore. Thus, Jimmy Carter. Thus, Ted Kennedy. And, like the Olympians, they then sent these guys up there in circumstances (in the Dems' case, a stern warning against anger and full-throated Bush-bashing) in which they couldn't even play to their strengths.
The GOP had no such problem. Former presidents Bush and Ford and Bob Dole, the last three guys to lose a national election for the GOP? Love ya, guys, but no invite to the podium. Prominent congressional leaders like Hastert, DeLay, Frist, Santorum? All were deemed bad speakers (Hastert), too controversial (DeLay, Santorum) or both (Frist), and buried in the early evening or not asked to speak. Party maverick John McCain, liberal Republicans Giuliani and Schwarzenegger and Democratic defector Zell Miller? Asked to step up but limited to playing a role, setting up the president's message in the areas where they agreed with him. About the only "vanity" appearance that went over poorly was Bush's daughters.
The Democrats put on too many of their All-Stars without regard to how those guys would advance the ball with swing voters, yet kept them too muted (unlike Miller) to fire up the base. The GOP ensured that everyone at the Convention was there to set up the big man. That's a team - it's winning basketball, and it's winning politics too.
POLITICS: Kerry on the War Again
"I would not have done just one thing differently than the president on Iraq, I would have done everything differently than the president on Iraq," Kerry said.
He denied that he was "Monday morning quarterbacking." The Bush campaign said Kerry had "demonstrated nothing but indecision and vacillation" on Iraq."
"I said this from the beginning of the debate to the walk up to the war," Kerry told supporters. "I said, Mr. President don't rush to war, take the time to build a legitimate coalition and have a plan to win the peace."
He said Bush had failed on all three counts. He called the president's talk about a coalition fighting alongside about 125,000 U.S. troops "the phoniest thing I've ever heard."
"You've about 500 troops here, 500 troops there and it's American troops that are 90 percent of the combat casualties and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 percent of the cost of the war," he said. "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Update your scorecards accordingly.
UPDATE: The Bush campaign makes a point I had thought of and Googled but couldn't pin down a quote for: that Kerry's "wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time" line is verbatim from Howard Dean's stump speech (Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd have also used the same line). Yearrrrgggggh!
POLITICS: Ya Think?
POLITICS: Back Where We Started
57 days from Election Day, the dynamics of the race have not changed. Bush can still screw up (think of Ford in 76 freeing Poland in the debates), and external events can still do him in. But with a bit of a lead going (probably not the 11-point lead in the Time/Newsweek polls, but perhaps a real 3- to 5-point lead) I really don't think there's anything Kerry can do to change the dynamics. Kerry missed his chance at the convention to lay out a positive or coherent agenda, or clarify his position on the Iraq war; after the convention, it's nearly impossible to do another reinvention of the candidate. All Kerry has left is that he intends to attack Bush harder - but really, where can he go that he and Howard Dean and Michael Moore and MoveOn.org haven't covered already? That way lies only deeper into the fever swamps. Were I Kerry's advisers, I'd tell him to keep his dignity and hope the other guy screws up. But Kerry wants to believe he can still win this himself, and that will be his undoing; the harder he thrashes about, the more leeway he gives Bush in case Bush winds up needing it.
POLITICS: Beyond The Pale
The NY Daily News reports that an independent pro-Bush group, "MoveOnForAmerica[, ]led by GOP political consultant Stephen Marks", is preparing to run two controversial ads. The first targets the Democrats' embrace of Al Sharpton:
Fair enough - it's one thing for a party to put a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Robertson on stage, but giving Sharpton a prime-time slot and a nod in Kerry's acceptance speech . . . well, if the GOP did the same for David Duke, they'd deserve what they got. Of course, this is of dubious political wisdom, since the media will want to spin this as playing the race card (as opposed to the racist card) in ways they didn't when the NAACP ran those infamous ads against Bush in 2000. Which is bad; Bush has gone out of his way to avoid racial division, and is banking on Kerry having problems matching Al Gore's turnout of black voters in 2000.
The second ad is just bad:
Which might be a fair point, except the Horton-furlough case didn't happen while Kerry was Dukakis' Lieutenant Governor. Instead, the 'hook' is this:
When Reissfelder was captured three years later, he tried to grab a cop's gun. The ad says he tried to shoot a police officer and pleaded guilty to that, but didn't serve his 15-year sentence.
His sentence, however, had nothing to do with the case that Kerry worked on with his law partner, Roanne Sragow, who was the lead attorney.
Sragow had been assigned by a judge to look into Reissfeld's '67 murder conviction - which turned out to be wrongful.
The ad admits he was cleared but calls him a "would-be cop killer," and points out Kerry was Dukakis' lieutenant governor.
This is precisely the sort of thing that Judge Frank Easterbrook has rightly decried when the Democrats have done it in judicial confirmation hearings:
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?
It's true that some clients are so vile they don't deserve a distinguished attorney's best efforts; I could imagine people I would refuse to represent. But the fact is, we shouldn't punish Kerry for representing a criminal defendant - especially when the guy may have been innocent and especially when it was his partner's client. And, of course, invocation of Horton's name will blunt the effect of the first ad, which at least seeks to make a legitimate issue of someone the Democrats should have denounced a long time ago.
September 5, 2004
POLITICS: No Quarter
Ralph Peters, a former Army officer who's been a staunch supporter of Bush's strategic approach to the war on terror while fiercely criticizing Don Rumsfeld for what Peters views as an insufficient commitment to put "boots on the ground," tears into John Kerry's speech to the American Legion like there's no tomorrow. Some choice quotes:
Had he offered each vet a $5 bill and a shot of whisky for their support, his performance could not have been shabbier.
From one Vietnam vet:
On the insurgency in Iraq:
On Kerry's claim to have been fighting all along for veterans' benefits:
Read the whole thing.
BASEBALL: Lowe No Longer
It could be a coincidence that uber-groundball pitcher Derek Lowe turned his season around immediately upon the Red Sox ditching Nomar and bringing in glove wizards Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. Could be, but not likely.
When the deal was made a month ago, I looked at the Hardball Times' Fielding Independent Pitching numbers, which seek to project a pitcher's ERA as if he had an average defense behind him (FIP) compared to the pitcher's actual Runs Allowed, and found significant underperformance by the major Sox pitchers, particularly those with high numbers of ground balls allowed and especially Derek Low:
Now, the individual numbers at such small sample sizes are bound to be flukey, although it's clear that Lowe is no longer getting completely murdered by his defense. But the overall conclusion is clear: since the deal, the Sox pitchers are pitching slightly better (as Peter Gammons and others have noted, Lowe's walk rate has dropped dramatically since the deal, perhaps due to greater confidence in his defense), but their defensive support has been dramatically better, as their FIP has dropped by 0.20 R/9IP while their Runs Allowed-FIP margin has dropped by 0.59. Maybe, just maybe, Theo and Bill James & co. know what they are doing.
* - There may be an error in the Hardball Times numbers for Lowe, but I can;t fix it without comparing apples to oranges.
BLOG/BASEBALL: New Blog Roundup, 9/5/04
Like many bloggers, I often get emails from people who have started new blogs. I have less and less free time these days to check these out and less and less room on my blogroll for new additions, and frankly - if you're thinking of doing this - while I'm sympathetic to new bloggers, I'm much more interested in getting an email with a link to an interesting post than just "look at my blog."
That said, here's a roundup of people who asked me to pass on a link, most of them baseball blogs; if you're in the mood to go exploring, check them out:
Bijan Bayne (the author of "Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball")
Ump Is Blind (a humor site)
The Torch (a political site)
Balls, Sticks, & Stuff (Comments on sports...and other stuff too)
I'll have more in part two of this tour in the next few days.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 AM | Baseball 2004 | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 4, 2004
POLITICS: Schundler at the RNC
Check out RedState's interview with Bret Schundler, the man who lost to Jim McGreevey in 2001 and may yet be in line to win the New Jersey Governorship.
LAW: Air Force Sodomy Case
Phil Carter has some interesting thoughts on a case upholding an anti-sodomy provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and its broader meaning for debates about the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas.
POLITICS: Hang In There, Slick Willie
Best wishes, of course, on a full recovery to Bill Clinton, who'll be having heart bypass surgery early next week. In the immortal words of Mark Steyn, "if we members of the vast right-wing conspiracy don't get back to our daily routine of obsessive Clinton-bashing, then the terrorists will have won." And in all seriousness, Clinton is - by the standards of the 2002-04 Democratic Party - a voice of reason in foreign affairs.
POLITICS: Learning To Think Long-Term
The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, in the subscription-only Political Diary (a must this season, I would add) had an important point about how current methods of governmental accounting obscure the real costs of transitioning Social Security to a private accounts system:
Point Two: That's the kind of accounting peculiarity that, in the private sector, leads straight to the hoosegow. Thus the reported national debt is about $3 trillion, but the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security alone are $11 trillion.
No change in the real net fiscal position of the federal government would be required, just an exchange of invisible (to the uninformed public) debt for visible debt. Better yet, done right, the deal could be a fiscal win-win: Future retirees would have a bigger nest egg (plus ownership and control of how they spend it down, rather than the government dictating terms of their bet with the mortality tables). Meanwhile, the real indebtedness of the federal government would actually go down, not up.
When you tinker with some of the present-value issues - which are beyond my expertise, I can tell you - I suspect the transition from spend-as-you-go to spend-and-borrow-in-exchange-for-cutting-future-obligations is not quite as costless as Jenkins makes it sound, but his fundamental analysis does make an important point about the degree to which the media overstates by orders of magnitude the nature of the transition costs. To my mind, if the transition is something that gives us a better system and fewer long-term costs to taxpayers, then it's worth incurring some additional costs now to put the system on a better footing in the long run.
BASEBALL: Cardinal Infield Update
As I've noted before here and here, the Cardinals' infield is making a run at the all-time record for Win Shares amassed by one starting infield, which is 119 by the 1914 A's (Connie Mack's "$100,000 infield" of Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry and Frank Baker; you can find the full list in the Ken Boyer comment of the New Historical Baseball Abstract). Through Thursday's action, Pujols, Womack, Renteria and Rolen were up to 33, 15, 16 and 35 Win Shares, respectively - 99 total, and a pace for 121 on the season if Tony LaRussa doesn't start sitting them more down the stretch run. (Of course, Mack's team had a shorter season to work with). In fact, 99 Win Shares already puts this crew even with the 1973 Big Red Machine (which would have scored higher if NL MVP Pete Rose had been playing third instead of .191-hitting Dennis Menke) and the 1990 Detroit Tigers (Cecil Fielder, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Tony Phillips) for 21st place all time, and just six more Win Shares between them will pull them into the top 10.
September 3, 2004
Does Bush pay Kerry for pictures like this?
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part III
Bush's speech, I thought, was solid; it lacked a single huge flourish that would bring the crowd to a frenzy (the way, say, Zell Miller did with his "spitballs" line), but it didn't need to be poetry; it needed to tell people what Bush intends to do in the next four years, particularly on domestic policy; and it did just that. Bush needed to get first downs, not throw the Hail Mary pass, so to speak. He said, "Tonight I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years." And he delivered it.
*Bush seemed to shrug a bit too often during the speech - it's a mannerism of his, but he seemed to use it a lot.
*Bush did a good job, I thought, of drawing together a single coherent theme to his various proposed reforms:
The times in which we live and work are changing dramatically. The workers of our parents’ generation typically had one job, one skill, one career often with one company that provided health care and a pension. And most of those workers were men. Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives, and in one of the most dramatic shifts our society has seen, two-thirds of all Moms also work outside the home.
*This one puzzled me:
Aren't these called Enterprise Zones? What's Jack Kemp doing these days, anyway?
*I credit Bush's attack on Kerry's desire to raise taxes and to raise spending, but Bush would have a bit more credibility on the latter if he hadn't overspent so much the past four years and if there weren't so many places in the speech where I was holding on to my wallet. Show me the spending cuts!
*There are a lot of damning Kerry quotes to choose from; Bush picked two particularly good ones by honing in on the pot shot at Reagan (eight years of “moral darkness,” ) and the more egergious pot shots at our allies (“coalition of the coerced and the bribed.”). Both embody Kerry's sneering contempt in a way that can't play well with independent or undecided voters.
*Like Cheney and - from what I could see on TV - unlike Kerry, Bush knew to stop for a drink of water during his liveliest applause lines.
*If you couldn't tell at home, a few of the times when the crowd started chanting "Four More Years" in the middle of something Bush was saying - particularly during the section where he was contrasting the nations that have turned to cooperation in the war on terror - were efforts to shout down the protestors who got in (one of whom held up one of those infantile "Bush Lied People Died' signs - if it didn't ryhme, who would listen?). It definitely did interrupt the flow of the speech, but anyone who thinks this sort of thing will help Kerry defeat Bush needs to get out of Manhattan more. It should hardly bear reminding that even the furthest right wackos never tried to interrupt Kerry's or one of Bill Clinton's convention speeches. Fools.
*I thought the end of the speech went on too long, and there may have been a better place for the jokes. But Bush does self-deprecating humor quite well; it's one of his biggest contrasts with Kerry, who had almost no humor in his speech and who seems to have little or no ability to poke fun at himself (quite the contrary). That's a bigger distinction than it seems. And it's a bad one for Kerry; even Al Gore knew how to mock himself.
*Kerry's response was so predictable it could have been pre-programmed - he accused Republicans of (yawn) attacking his patriotism (Rueters, of course, took this unquestioningly as true) and then (yawn, stretch, rub eyes) on to Vietnam:
Speaking of Iraq, I had no problem with Bush not doing more to explain the ins and outs of the decision to go to war. 'Splainin' is for the debates, when Kerry will have to face questions on the same issues.
UPDATE: Is it too much blog triumphalism to point out that, before bloggers started digging up stuff like this, the President of the United States would not have used a 1946 New York Times article in a speech to the nation?
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part II
I was back at the convention last night. Thoughts:
*Man, we are so gonna win this thing. I've been holding off on the optimism for much of the spring and summer, but the contrasts between Bush and Kerry, from their personalities to the professionalism and discipline of their campaign operations, is all saying "victory" at this point in the game. I think Kerry needs a major external event to turn around that dynamic.
*Across the street from Penn Station, which runs under Madison Square Garden, is Macy's; Macy's has a big video screen that runs ads. When I arrived for the convention around 7pm, the video screen was running the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad with Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony.
*It occurred to me that Zell Miller missed an opportunity in his riff on the Democrats' war dissent: besides Wendell Willkie, he might also have referred to Bill Clinton not challenging George H.W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. The contrast would have been sharp, since Kerry opposed that war too and since it would have helped Zell underscore how a 1992 Clinton supporter became a 2004 Bush supporter. Then again, Clinton didn't quite support that war, either, so much as he ignored it because it was a dead issue by 1992.
*There are some things you can't do. You can't beat Democrats by promising to spend money. And you can't beat Republicans by wrapping yourself in the flag.
And yet, in a sense, it's almost beside the point for Bush to wrap himself in the flag. For a lot of Republicans, Bush is the flag - maybe not Old Glory, but at least the battle flag in the War on Terror. Bush has laid out a distinct and aggressive approach to fighting terror, most notably the doctrine of preemption, the "forward strategy of freedom" in the Muslim and Arab worlds, the "axis of evil," and the "Bush Doctrine" (you're with us or against us). Because of the root-and-branch nature of so much of his opponents' criticism of this approach, it has come to be identified worldwide with the person of Bush, and his defeat at the polls this fall would be identified everywhere with a rejection of these cornerstones of American foreign policy. Thus, if Bush goes down, it is very much the fall of the flag in battle - our enemies will exult, and our friends will worry about our commitment. Democrats may regard that as a harsh truth, but it's hard indeed to avoid it.
*The house was packed as it was not on Wednesday, and the delegations on the floor were far better organized in neat circular lines. I don't know if the folks at home could see the group - they had to be Texans - all sitting together with the red, white and blue matching outfits and white cowboy hats.
*The early speakers (former Texas railroad commissioner Michael Williams, Florida Senate candidate Mel Martinez) got more attention froim the crowd than last time, but they didn't have much new to say. During Martinez' speech I saw my first "Jeb '08" sign. It didn't look hand-made, either.
*Pataki's 9/11-heavy opening was cringe-inducing, but he warmed up as he slid into attacks on Kerry. He was wearing too much makeup, I think.
Then, the main event: the president's speech.
September 2, 2004
POLITICS: Inside the RNC
Through the efforts of a friend, I managed to get into the Republican convention last night, and will be returning tonight. A few thoughts on the evening:
*I only had to go through security twice to get in; although security was wall-to-wall and very observant and had closed off many of the numerous approaches to MSG and Penn Station, the actual run through the metal detectors didn't seem as intrusive as the usual routine at airports and courthouses.
*My convention pass got me access to the press area behind the scenes, which means going past booths/tents filled with people from all the recognizable major media outlets, from newspapers like the New York Daily News to opinion journals like the Weekly Standard. But I wanted to see Bloggers Row, and eventually I followed the signs for the media until I got to Radio Row, where numerous radio stations are set up and broadcasting side by side. The blogger contingent was set up at a long patch of table off to the side - a small area crammed with laptops, but well-situated and visible. I was surprised at how many people were dropping by to see the bloggers, some of whom were quite smooth at setting up interviews. I got to meet all sorts of bloggers I had been in contact with by email but never met, including Alan Nelson from the Command Post, "Captain" Ed Morrissey from Captain's Quarters, Kevin Aylward from Wizbang!, Matt Margolis from Blogs for Bush, and David Adesnik from Oxblog. Roger Simon was probably the most recognizable in his trademark fedora. I also spoke with Hugh Hewitt, who had just wrapped up his radio show with an interview with John Fund; Hewitt is set up right across the aisle from the bloggers and is most gracious in person.
*Michael Barone dropped by the bloggers' area; there's a skill level involved in being a really high-level pundit that's truly impressive. Barone was peppered with questions from all sides and poured forth high-level punditry pretty much continuously, and was still doing so in a crowd when he headed away, talking about everything from the effect of down-ticket races (he cited Adlai Stevenson's gubernatorial campaign as particularly crucial to Harry Truman's re-election in 1948, complete with references to the number of electors Illinois had in that year) to the effects of abortion on national politics (he thinks Giuliani is such a star that we may see the first pro-choice GOP nominee in 2008). Barone reminded me of nobody so much as legal scholar Richard Epstein, who I met at a Federalist Society conference in law school, and who had a similar gift for rapid-fire extemporaneous opinions on every topic that passed his way.
*After that, I moved into the arena. A convention is a political junkie's dream come to life; there were familiar faces from the media and politics just everywhere, and if I was more aggressive about these things I could easily have struck up a few interviews (on one of the entrances to the Garden I was on line behind Alan Keyes). From my perch in the arena I could see interviews going on with Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, and watched Barone (again) and Candy Crowley and Rudy working the floor.
*Someone with a sense of humor set up the Al Jazeera booth right next to Fox News.
*The first two speeches I saw were Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey introducing her boss, Mitt Romney. Romney got a very warm reception, but it wasn't 10pm yet, and the crowd clearly was not into the early speeches; Healey in particular seemed to be shouting enthusiastically into an empty room. Same-sex marriage? not popular with Republican delegates. Healey's biggest applause line was her reference to how Romney "stood up to an activist court" to protect "traditional values." She did also draw a little reaction by noting that John Kerry doesn't talk much about when he was Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor under Michael Dukakis. Romney's speech seemed just wasted; he told a moving anecdote about a U.S. Olympic athlete who carried the tattered World Trade Center flag at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, but nobody seemed to be paying attention.
*Then, John Kerry was given Zell. Zell Miller is not a guy you want coming after your candidate, as I remember well from 1992. I was surprised that Miller's speech (1) didn't do more to set out his Democratic bona fides (as he's done in op-eds for the Wall Street Journal) and (2) focused entirely on foreign policy. My wife, watching at home - after having seen Rudy and McCain Monday but skipped most of Tuesday - was worried that the convention has been too overwhelmingly focused on national security to the exclusion of domestic policy, although I suspect that that is partly to help set the stage for President Bush to set out his Big Idea agenda tonight (as Bush told Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday when asked about his domestic agenda, "I'm going to save some of it for the speech if you don't mind."). Miller's comparison of the Democrats of today to Wendell Willkie was rough stuff - the common Democratic complaint is that Bush has played politics with national security, but really, if the Dems had been as supportive of the Iraq war as they were in Afghanistan, the war on terror would be a much smaller issue. More on this another day, but it's precisely because of the political battles over foreign policy that this is such a predominant issue this year, to the point that convention delegates seemed bored during the domestic policy parts of Cheney's speech.
My wife worried that Miller came off as too harsh, and he was certainly rough: after he said, "nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators," I half expected him to add, "Senator, you messed with the wrong Marine!"
Miller had a field day with Kerry's opposition to various weapons systems, climaxing with "This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?" My wife said Miller was less prepared to deal with CNN interviewers later who pressed him with DNC talking points about how Dick Cheney as Defense Secretary had not pressed for some of those systems. That's poor preparation: this has been a Democratic talking point for months, and if you take the record seriously it's hard to put much stock in the notion that Kerry and Dick Cheney have similar records on defense spending and weapons systems. (This particular talking point is vintage Kerry; his campaign isn't willing or able to tell you what Kerry stands for, but is instead obsessed with trying to disprove anything that's said about his record).
This was also a good passage, tying together the long years of Kerry's vascillations on foreign policy and blunting his efforts to hide behind his Vietnam service:
As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military. And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far-away. George Bush understands that we need new strategies to meet new threats.
John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday’s war. George Bush believes we have to fight today’s war and be ready for tomorrow’s challenges.
*Then, Lynne Cheney, who told us that her husband "entered public life as the Gentleman from Wyoming." I know it's too long ago to be worth explaining the relevance to today of Cheney's term as White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, but is it too much to ask his own wife to remember that he held the job?
*As for the Vice President, he was low-key as always. I was actually sitting next to Cheney's speechwriters, which was amusing, since they knew exactly what was coming and were chattering about various passages in the speech as it went along. His speech started with the much-underappreciated fact that Cheney himself, despite his current image as the Mr. Moneybags guy from Monopoly, is from relatively humble origins: "my grandfather didn’t have a chance to go to high school. For many years he worked as a cook on the Union Pacific Railroad, and he and my grandmother lived in a railroad car."
Many of Cheney's lines were repeats of things he or Bush have said before, which was disappointing on one level, but a sign of both the consistency and the marketing savvy of the Bush team - they understand the importance of recycling key phrases to reinforce the public's image of what they stand for. (And, having done so, they don't blame those key phrases on "overzealous speechwriters").
Cheney told us that Libya's "uranium, centrifuges, and plans for nuclear weapons that were once hidden in Libya are locked up and stored away in Oak Ridge, Tennessee . . . " Gee, should he have just given us a street address? I sure hope they are well-guarded.
The foreign policy section of the speech bored heavily into Kerry, in classic Cheney fashion:
After Cheney cited Kerry's experience as a Senator and a soldier, I half expected him to say: "a man with John Kerry's experience should know better." I was specifically disappointed in two things: first, Cheney should drop that line mocking Kerry's reference to a "sensitive" war on terror, which really is taken out of context; far more damning, in my opinion, was his reference back in June to "the real war on terror in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan" and his claim that the Bush Administration had "transferred it for reasons of its own to Iraq." That's a stark admission of Kerry's fundamental unwillingness to accept the centerpiece of the war on terror, which is the idea of an offensive strategy of changing the conditions and removing the forces that support and nurture terrorists throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds, as opposed to concentrating solely on taking down those specific nations and organizations that can be proven to have already attacked us.
Second, even beyond the weapons systems and the $87 billion, I really wanted to hear more on Kerry's plan to gut intelligence spending in the mid-90s. I could also have done with some of Kerry's quotes about the Reagan policies that made such a difference in the Cold War; it's one thing to cite votes, but Kerry's speeches took some very tough lines against nearly every major controversial initiative of the Reagan years, from Central America to missiles in Europe. Still, there's only so much time, and you do have to cut to the chase.
My wife was concerned that there seemed to be a lot of empty seats in the hall while Cheney was speaking, although that was news to me where I was sitting. I'm also not sure the TV caught the full impact of the rows of people doing the tomahawk-chop-style "flip-flop, flip-flop" wave. Which played in with this:
Aside from the laugh line, this is clearly a central point to Cheney: a guy who can't keep his message at least straight enough that his supporters could answer the question "would Kerry have gone to war in Iraq" is never going to project the certainty about American intentions and resolve that is itself an important element of stability in foreign affairs.
All in all, an entertaining night, and one with a lot of red meat for the crowd; the parade of moderates was most definitely interrupted, and the base was happy. The stage is now set for the next-to-last major movement (other than the debates) of this campaign - the president's address to the nation laying out his agenda for the second term.
POLITICS: A Revealing Moment From Josh Marshall
Reflecting on the latest shakeup in the Kerry campaign, Dr. Josh Marshall reveals more than he probably intended to in diagnosing the Democrats' counterproductive, morale-sapping tendency to panic and lose faith:
Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.
The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.
That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.
Replace "campaign" with "nation at war" and you have a pretty good summary of why the current leadership of the Democratic Party can't be trusted with the car keys in dangerous times.
September 1, 2004
BASEBALL: Slow Boat
Chris Dial over at the Baseball Think Factory has an intriguing but ultimately inconclusive look at whether slow-working pitchers - which he mainly defines as "Steve Trachsel" - get poor defensive support. The study as conducted proves nothing, but it's a good analytical start down a road towards being able to measure two things (a pitcher's pace and the quality of his defensive support relative to his team's defensive abilities) and see if they correlate.
POLITICS: Like, Bogus
I caught only pieces of the three major addresses last night - Arnold, the Bush twins, and Laura Bush. The twins were pretty much the living embodiment of the phrase, "not ready for prime time." Instapundit rounds up the commentary, including an NRO reader describing them as "bad MTV VMA filler". If this is anything like what George W. was like at 22, it's actually rather frightening to think of him flying fighter jets.
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Leaning Right
Marty Noble of Newsday notes the political tilt of baseball players in general and the Mets in particular towards the Republican party:
"But I'd be surprised if it isn't 4 or 5 to 1 Republican in the game," Mets catcher Vance Wilson said last week. "Not everyone is involved or up to date on what's going on, but of the ones who are, I'm sure it's heavy Republican."
(Link via Baseball Primer). Of course, Noble can't resist this dig:
Would Noble say the same thing about the overwhelmingly Democratic tilt of, say, movie stars? I'm sure making big money and paying big taxes does have something to do with it, but professional athletes have always been a conservative lot, since long before they made a lot of money, and I suspect that's been doubly true in times (like the present) when the principal political issue was war and peace.