"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
December 31, 2004
BLOG: Turning Over A New Leaf
As I've done in the past, I'm creating brand-new categories for the new year. You'll now go to Baseball 2005 for new baseball entries, Politics 2005 for new politics entries, War 2005 for new war entries, and Law 2005 for new law entries (the Law category hadn't needed an overhaul last year). I'll shortly be updating the link to baseball-only posts at the top of the page as well to send you to Baseball 2005.
Happy New Year!
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Baseball 2004 | Baseball 2005 | Blog 2002-05 | Law 2002-04 | Law 2005 | Politics 2004 | Politics 2005 | War 2004 | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Bust Cycle
For many years, the number of original prime-time TV programs (i.e., shows with actors and a script), or at least the number of hours of original prime-time TV programming, was basically fixed. There were three networks, and after the collapse of prime-time game shows in the 1950s, only a few hours of prime time were set aside for movies, newsmagazines, Monday Night Football, and other non-scripted programs like Candid Camera and That's Incredible! The main variable in the number of shows was how many 1-hour dramas would be on vs. how many half-hour sitcoms.
That started to change in the mid/late-1980s, with the arrival of the FOX network as the first credible fourth network. Over the following decade or so, the supply of original programming exploded, with a fifth and sixth network (The WB and UPN), as well as original programming on pay cable (HBO, Showtime) and basic cable (USA Network, Comedy Central).
Of course, expansion of the supply of shows can only mean one of two things on the supply end - expansion of the supply of good writers and good ideas, or dilution of quality. Rather obviously, it has meant the latter. Worse yet, I suspect that what results is less a sharp division between good ideas written well and bad ideas written poorly, but fewer shows being able to sustain a core of good writers, as writing talent gets dispersed more widely. And writing talent is the key variable: there's always more good actors and actresses than there are well-written TV shows and films for them to populate (it's far more common to see good actors struggling to save bad material than the other way around).
The other inevitable consequence of increased supply is that, in the absence of increased demand - and the evidence is that with the rise of movie rentals and the internet and the proliferation of other entertainment options, overall demand for original TV programs has dropped - the increased supply will be chasing a smaller and smaller audience.
The consequences of this should have been obvious, and they are being manifested today. "Reality TV" may be a fad as far as TV viewers are concerned. To network execs, though, reality shows, expanded newsmagazine lineups, and prime time game shows are a rational response of substituting cheap-to-produce substitutes (reality shows, with few writers, essentially volunteer casts, and often poor production values, are famously cheap). Another consequence is that networks are taking a harder line with replacement-level actors and actresses - witness ABC's attempt to save "The Practice" before its final season by firing everyone on the show who made decent money (i.e., everyone but the ugly people), or CSI's abrupt firing of two cast members (later re-hired) who wanted more money. Even USA took a hard line with Bitty Schram, now-former co-star of "Monk." "Frasier" went off the air in large part because its cast was so expensive.
Of course, it's not an anomaly that, in such an environment, as in the movie business or in pro sports, the elite who can guarantee big ratings get an even bigger salary - like Ray Romano, who's both a star and writer of his own show, or James Gandolfini on The Sopranos. But the overall dynamic of network TV is unmistakable: with more players and a shrinking pie, networks in the future will allot fewer prime-time hours to original programming, and will spend less money on all but the biggest stars of those programs.
December 30, 2004
BLOG: Where To Help
BASEBALL: Check, Please
David Pinto notes the $85 million bill the Yankees have to cough up between the luxury tax ($25 million) and revenue sharing ($60 million). Ouch. Still, considering their free agent and Big Unit pursuits this offseason, it's hard to say that's put a crimp in the Yankees' budget. But you have to wonder how many more Giambi-sized mistakes they can eat before the team's behavior is affected (assuming they can't get out of contracts, as they may with Giambi).
BLOG: Small World, Part XVIII
Lileks complains today, in the course of discussing the Nick Coleman-Powerline dustup, about "the inability of Police Chief Tony Bouzaâ€™s police department make law-abiding citizens feel as though they had the momentum" in Minneapolis some years back. I don't have anything to add to that except that my dad knew Bouza from his NYPD days (he also knows plenty of people who knew Bernard Kerik at the NYPD, and who had a rather low opinion of Kerik, for what it's worth).
LAW: Line of Duty
Yes, according to New Jersey workmen's compensation law, as construed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, getting hurt while going out to dinner at your boss' insistence is a work-related injury.
BLOG: I'm Back
I'm still testing this out, but it looks like the upgrade on the blog is about done. More to follow.
Post Upgrade Test
December 27, 2004
POLITICS: How It's Done
This Powerline item is a classic fisking (link via Instapundit).
HISTORY: Thought for the Day
"I have long since learned that a man may give offense and yet succeed."
--John Adams, on diplomacy (in a letter to Congress from the Netherlands defending his decision to press aggressively for Ducth support in the American Revolution, against charges of, among other things, having offended the French)
December 25, 2004
PATRIOT GAMES: Not Just A Fantasy
Eighth in a series of reflections on sports by "Andy Tollhaus," an Army officer currently serving in Iraq.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
The Red Sox have been World Champions of the World for almost two months. I just keep visualizing Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling reenacting that scene from the end of Top Gun. You know… the one where Maverick and Ice Man make up and say, “You can be my wingman anytime!” Only this time, they’re on a baseball diamond in St. Louis instead of on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the Indian Ocean. “Petey, you’re still dangerous, but you can be my Ace anytime!” “BS, Curt! You can be mine!”
Ah… if it were only that simple. As it turns out, Pedro would never offer to be the number two starter…anywhere. Oh well… all that really matters is the first sentence I wrote.
Since October, I’ve spent a lot of time realizing that other sports actually do exist. There have been plenty of other sports to follow, sometimes whether you like it or not. Mike Ferlazzo, the satin jacket hater from Long Island, jokingly got upset with himself for knowing that Ty Willingham had been fired. He prides himself in not following sports, but around here, you really can’t help it. Since sports are almost always on TV in the Dining Facility, people who never cared about basketball now know that Ron Artest is producing an R&B album and Peyton Manning has a little brother playing in New York.
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It’s comical when someone doesn’t want to watch football and attempts to change the channel to an old sitcom rerun or news program. Even if it’s a replay of a meaningless game, to turn football off is practically un-American. Sporting events, football games especially, seem to really take people home. Not only do they help pass the time, but they get people thinking about home and where they normally would be to watch these games.
And when the TV’s not on, there’s plenty of sports conversation going around. It’s hard not to know who claims the Cowboys or Eagles as their favorite team and it’s almost impossible not to know who’s in a Fantasy Football league. Fantasy Football brings us a few “home games.”
Among a group of my friends, Fantasy Football has loomed on the horizon since early August. In order to get the draft done this year, we knew it would take some effort. A live draft was out of the question. The “Reverse Cowgirls” owner worked during the day, while another owner usually flew in the middle of the night. The owner of “Kuwaiti Danish Dairy” (named after the ice cream supplier in our mess hall) was at another base, with minimal internet access. Last year ten of us got together at someone’s house with some German beer for the draft. This year, 12 of us drafted over the course of 5 days. Since no one has internet where they work, it was a constant series of word of mouth picks that the “Grumpy Old Geezers” just selected Anquan Boldin (or some other guy who’s probably out for most of the season) and it’s now “Blonde Ambition’s” pick. When someone checked the net and found that we were waiting on someone, every effort was made to track that owner down. Often, four or five of us would end up at the internet zone at the same time, talking trash and offering bogus advice to the guy trying to make his pick. For one pick, the owner of “it’s discovietnam” (no capital letters) was found in the front seat of an Apache about to launch for a mission. Since we knew he’d be gone for a couple of hours and the draft would be waiting on him, I called him from our TOC over the secure radio. As soon as he heard my voice, he knew what I wanted and offered up “Drew Bledsoe” as the first quarterback ever to be drafted from an Apache.
Of our ten league members from last year, two moved to Korea in the offseason, which made their participation difficult. All eight of the others came back to play in our aptly named “Needs of the Army” league. Adding four more here was pretty easy, since there were plenty of sports fans looking for new ways to pass the time.
Marking time as it passes is by far the most compelling reason to play fantasy football this year. The NFL season is set up brilliantly for that. Weeks are numbered and treated as proper nouns as if they’re months. When a number follows it, the word “Week” gets capitalized so that no one misses the fact that another week has passed. For Fantasy Football participants, the passing of each week means a victory or a loss and a step closer to or further away from the playoffs. Fantasy also breeds interest in just about every game of the NFL season. We get about 5 or 6 games each week on AFN and, almost always, there’s a receiver or even a kicker who’s success or failure affects your team.
Week 15 wrapped up our Playoffs and our season. The winner, “Left is Easier” was the Stop Loss Division champ and our strongest team all year. His worst-to-first turnaround was definitely aided by some extra spare time… and, of course, by the Indianapolis Colts. What’s great this year about our league is that even those that didn’t win realize that the end of the season means it’s almost time to go home.
Most of us are bigger college football fans than NFL fans, but only 5 or 6 games a week on TV makes it pretty hard to follow the action. So again, we’ve created our own action. With a Playstation game, NCAA Football, we’ve got a “Dynasty” going where six of us control different teams from one conference. The season is saved as it progresses and when you’re not playing one of the other players, you play against the computer. The season goes on with Top 25 polls and a Heisman Trophy race discussed in mock issues of Sports Illustrated. After Josh Burton took Kansas State to three consecutive Big XII titles and finally a BCS National Championship, we switched conferences to allow two new teams to start on a level playing field with the Big Ten. John Manfra returned glory to Penn State with an undefeated Big Ten Title and National Championship. A bonus for those of us not making the title games was the opportunity to rag on the few poor saps that actually were fired from their coaching jobs.
We got this idea from my friend Fish in another unit. Fish and his buddies split up some NFL teams and played seasons of John Madden Football on Playstation. They even have a bookie who establishes point spreads and over/under lines. Only the two who are playing don’t know what the spread is and the crowd roots according to their $2 or $3 bets. While I was visiting, I watched Fish win the AFC Championship among a crowd that numbered close to ten.
Our college game allows us to play for all of the traveling trophies in college football. The Big Eleven has a lot of these, from the “Old Brass Spittoon” to “Paul Bunyan’s Axe.” You can also play games outside of the “Dynasty” for any of the other traveling trophies in Division IA, such as the “Keg of Nails” and the “Jeweled Shillelagh.” We even made up some of our own trophies. When I beat my roommate, I win the “Rotten Watermelon” and we record the score on it with a marker. This watermelon was a gift from one of the Iraqi Red Sox fans from the picture posted earlier. (Don’t worry, we actually threw the watermelon away when it got rotten, but we replaced it with a replica.) When I beat Chris Visosky, I win the “Old Jar of Fatness,” a gallon sized plastic jar that holds pretzels, or Oreos, or peanuts -- whatever we have handy at the time.
Football, real or imagined, is a little piece of America that gets piped into us here. And other than some time zone issues, it arrives pretty much unchanged. As the season winds down, the NFL Playoffs and the NCAA bowl season bring new interests to follow, and for us, it marks the beginning of the end of our year in Iraq.
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December 23, 2004
BLOG: Merry Christmas!
I'll be out-of-blog until after Christmas. Enjoy the holidays, everyone!
BASEBALL: Miller to Mueller to Millar
(Emphasis added). This is one of those so-obvious-they-shouldn't-have-to-study-it points. Let me ask you this - take two 16-year old boys, one of whom does well in school, but is scrawny, has lots of acne, and is unpopular with girls (I speak from personal experience here); the other is a big, good-looking guy who's successful in sports, has lots of sex, and is barely passing his classes. Which one do you think has higher self-esteem, really? Anyone who's remotely familiar with teenagers should be able to tell you that teen self-esteem tends to be closely tied to whether they are on the giving or receiving end of various types of social ostracism and abuse, while perhaps the best of academic motivators among teenage boys, at least, is the desire to have a better life later than one's crummy existence as a teenager.
BLOG: Please Stand By
Yes, I'm aware that the comments section is plagued by many of the same error messages I've been getting whenever I try to post over the past week or so. For what it's worth, if anyone out there has had a similar issue, here's the error message:
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Internal Server Error
The server encountered an internal error or misconfiguration and was unable to complete your request.
Please contact the server administrator, firstname.lastname@example.org and inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done that may have caused the error.
More information about this error may be available in the server error log.
Apache/1.3.33 Server at www.baseballcrank.com Port 80
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LAW: For The Rest of Us
December 22, 2004
BASEBALL: Tooling Around
Mac Thomason rips Baseball America a new one over its preference for toolsy high-upside prospects over guys who have less upside but more likelihood of developing into useful contributors. I'm woefuly deficient in following the minor leagues myself, so I can't judge who's right on the particular prospects in question, but Mac's point is worth considering.
BASEBALL: Armers' Market
Perhaps the most striking feature of this baseball offseason, coming during an era when effective starting pitching would seem to be in short supply, is the large number of starting pitchers with substantial track records - many of them quite successful in recent years - who have gone on the market. I'm probably missing someone here, but I count 30 starters - 20% of the starting jobs in the big leagues, and more than that as a proportion of guys with any kind of major league track record - who have either been traded or been free agents this off season (this is counting free agents who re-signed or, like Roger Clemens, are now committed to one team, as well as guys in the Randy Johnson deal who were publicly traded before the deal fell through). Of course, with so many pitchers available, it behooves buyers in this market not to overpay out of a concern for scarcity. To make sense of the available options, it's therefore useful to look at them as a group.
In the past, I've found "established performance levels" to be a useful way to organize information about a player's record, including my continuing "Established Win Shares Levels" studies. In that spirit, here are the established performance levels, Win Shares included, for those 30 pitchers, ranked by ERA+ (which I computed as a weighted average); I listed "U" next to the team for guys who are still unclaimed:
Of course, this chart is just past performance; it doesn't show the severe injury risks associated with a large number of these guys, most notably Pedro and Brad Penny . . . Just a few more quick thoughts for now:
*You can clearly see that the Mets overpayed for Kris Benson. While I'm not a fan of Benson, I wasn't opposed to re-signing him, which seemed like a necessary move to avoid opening a hole in the rotation. But it's now clear that there were many other available alternatives of comparable quality, and the Mets should have relied on that to avoid overpaying and, if necessary, sign or trade for someone else.
*The difficulty of sustaining a serious workload in this day and age is apparent from the fact that only Hudson and Vazquez have been able to establish a level of 210 or more innings over the last three-year period.
*Context matters: Carl Pavano's numbers look better than those of Vazquez because he was pitching in a friendlier evironment last year. Derek Lowe's ERAs are actually better than those of David Wells, when you adjust for Fenway.
*Matt Clement is indeed a useful pitcher, and his power would have made him especially valuable to the Mets, but the guy does have weaknesses (mainly walks) that will be exposed at Fenway.
*I continue to think that Billy Beane will be vindicated in his decision to deal Mark Mulder now rather than later as far as Mulder's declining performance and uncertain health/durability is concerned - but that doesn't justify the trade, because it doesn't look like Beane got enough value in return. Good strategy, bad tactics. The same applies to a lesser extent to the Hudson deal.
*Matt Morris' performance no longer lives up to his reputation.
*Somebody could still really make a quiet impact on their rotation by snagging both Odalis Perez and Wade Miller.
December 21, 2004
BASEBALL: Keep Me In The Briar Patch!
So, after all the speculation about Javier Vazquez not being able to pitch in New York, Vazquez apparently scuttles the Randy Johnson deal by refusing to report to the Dodgers for a physical. Of course, it could be that he or the Yankees have something to hide about his physical condition, and it could be that Vazquez is trying to squeeze some extra money out of the deal. But for now, he seems to have decided that he'd rather try to make it here, and prove he could make it a-ny-where . . .
RELIGION: The Heart of the Matter
Earlier this week, the Pope provided a welcome reminder about Christmas.
Meanwhile, the usual silly controversies of this holy season are underway, to which Jim Geraghty has a good response. This is probably my last post of the year, so, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!
FOOTBALL: Punch Drunk
Bill Simmons has a fun recap of last night’s Patriot loss, including his take on how he would do the obligatory Monday Night Football introduction of himself:
However, I can’t help but wonder: can a regular season loss by a team that was 12-1 really qualify as a “stomach-puncher”?
HISTORY: Log Cabin Republican?
The New York Times has an article about a historian's rather thin-sounding argument that President Lincoln was gay. This sounds like wishful thinking on the part of the Times, but, for more, see here.
UPDATE: Actually, it is misleading to call the author of the book in question a "historian" - the Times, in fact, describes him as a "psychologist, influential gay writer and former sex researcher for Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey." Make of that what you will.
* Today, another terrible and cowardly attack in Iraq claimed the lives of more good men and women. Recent news from the Middle East has recently been a mix of hopeful signs (see here, here and here) and desperate violence. I think that the former is a major incentive to the latter, an unfortunate dynamic that we’re going to struggle with for the foreseeable future.
* David Adesnik dissents from the view of David Ignatius that the U.S. should engage in covert operations to influence the Iraqi election (as Iran is almost certainly doing).
BLOG: Slate Sale
Things you don't really want to hear from your company's executives on the day of a new acquisition:
Hope is not a business model. Then again, maybe the market believes that model is out there:
BASEBALL: On and Off in Houston
Miller's a good pitcher who's been scarred by injuries and Minute Maid Field; if he's healthy, he'd be a great pickup for someone.
Clemens can certainly still pitch, so it's more a matter of motivation. If he does return, Clemens - the winningest righthander since Grover Alexander - could become only the second pitcher (after Warren Spahn) to break 330 career wins in the post-1920 lively ball era.
BLOG: Reading List
From the archives: my favorite books.
For what it's worth, what I'm reading right now: John Keegan, The First World War (more on this later; I can't put it down); Michael Kelly, Things Worth Fighting For; and a few others I started and have made slow progress on. I was very close to finishing John Fund's Stealing Elections and Stephen Hayes' The Connection before the election, but haven't made much headway since then. I also recently finished PJ O'Rourke's new book Peace Kills: America's Fun New Imperialism, which was OK but I'd already read the best stuff in article form.
BASEBALL: Chavez vs. Bonds
The Baseball Savant gets carried away with Eric Chavez, comparing his numbers through age 26 to Barry Bonds:
Link via Pinto. Of course, Bonds through age 26 had won back-to-back MVP awards; Chavez has never placed in the top 10 in the balloting. That's because the offensive context Chavez plays in is radically different; for example, the rough measure of OPS+ shows Chavez at 131, 122, 132 and 132 the past four years, compared to 147, 125, 170 and 161 for Bonds.
Even if you ignore context, though, the comparison doesn't hold. Chavez missed 37 games to injury last season, something that didn't happen to Bonds until he was 34. And the comparison totally overlooks a factor of great significance in projecting player development: speed. Chavez has stolen 14 bases and grounded into 35 double plays the past two years, compared to 97 steals and 16 GIDP for Bonds at the same age. (As to the plate discipline, Chavez has drawn 90+ walks once; Bonds had done it three years running). Even with just the raw numbers, you could see several reasons why Chavez' future as a hitter - even ignoring the post-2000 Bonds surge, which is entirely without precedent - shouldn't be compared to Barry Bonds.
December 20, 2004
BASEBALL: The Saga Continues…
Details are still emerging about the new agreement between Cropp and Williams, but the full 13-member council will be asked to vote on an amended plan today…
Hopefully, they have better options on the table than just this.
BASEBALL: Wrist and Reward?
Looks like Mike Cameron is going to be out for the start of next season. The Mets shouldn’t need an extra incentive to pursue Carlos Beltran, but this would seem to be it.
BASEBALL: Some Things Never Change
As you can imagine, I got a nice chuckle out of that one. I also wondered about someone like Luis Rivas becoming "stale." I mean, if you have a bucket of, say, feces, and you leave it out for a week, does it become something worse than a bucket of feces? Does it become "rancid feces" or something? And how big of a bucket would you need to fit Rivas into it, exactly?
Q of the Day: Of the 15 Harvard alums to play Major League Baseball, name the only one to make the Hall of Fame.
Answer in the extended entry:
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December 19, 2004
WAR: Spanning the Globe, 12/19/04
* A new RAND study has some good suggestions for winning the ideological component of the War on Terror.
* Finally, Indiana Jones and the Battle for Fallujah?
UPDATE: Speaking of context, I’m curious as to the context of attacks against Rumsfeld for writing, but not personally signing, some “condolence” letters. In World War II, did George Marshall? In Vietnam, did Robert McNamara? In the Gulf War, did Dick Cheney? In Somalia, did Les Aspin? I honestly don’t know and would like to. There is an issue of time, but it does seem to me that a personalized letter from a subordinate would be preferable to a form letter from the Secretary. Anyway, it does sound a little tacky, but some context is necessary for me to know if this is something that is at all unique to Rumsfeld.
December 18, 2004
BASEBALL: Unit Adhesion
Well, you knew Steinbrenner had to do something to top Pedro coming to Shea, and there was only one pitcher out there (well, other than bringing back Clemens) who fit the bill. Just wait for the first time Pedro and Randy Johnson square off in the regular season . . . although Joe Torre traditionally tries to duck the head-to-head matchups of aces.
Short term - over the next two seasons, maybe three - this deal is a bonanza for the Yankees, who give up the struggling Javier Vazquez and bring in the dominating Johnson plus, apparently, as of the latest report, Kaz Ishii, who can also be potentially useful. I'll have to digest the broader pitcure for the Yankee pitching staff later, but the minimal changes to the everyday lineup, combined with the addition of Johnson, Ishii, Pavano, Wright, Stanton and Rodriguez leaves no doubt where the Yanks felt they needed to improve.
If Vazquez isn't nursing an undisclosed injury - a very real possibility- I envy the Dodgers getting him out of the Bronx, where Torre had lost confidence in him, and into Dodger Stadium, although the Daily News suggested this morning that he could be headed to the White Sox . . . of course, the deal is still cotngent on Brad Penny passing a physical with Arizona, among other things (think the D-Backs ever thought when they traded Penny for Matt Mantei that they'd need to part with the Big Unit to get him back?)
The rationale for dumping Johnson and bringing in Penny makes sense for Arizona, and Shawn Green is still young enough, but Green's injuries and high salary obviously make him a less than ideal return on Johnson.
More to follow on all this, as well as Tim Hudson to the Braves, Beltre to the Mariners, and Renteria and Clement to the Red Sox . . . the moves are just coming too fast to make sense of them all.
BASKETBALL: Bad Juxtaposition of the Day
NY Daily News website's top 2 headlines, at last check:
Nets get Vince Carter in 4-player deal
In these NBA times, I had to do a double-take to remind myself these were not related items.
December 17, 2004
Lileks shows his eye for the telling detail, even in an otherwise innocuous essay about a trip to Chuck E. Cheese:
LAW: Sorry, Harry
Prominent left-wing Yale constitutional law professor Jack Balkin gives no comfort to defenders of Harry Reid's baseless attack on Justice Thomas' competence, and grounds his objections to Thomas in purely results-oriented terms:
Having seen his work over the course of more than a decade, I have no reason to think that Thomas is appreciably better or worse in terms of his lawyerly skills than many other Justices who have sat on the Supreme Court. The positions he takes are often quite striking, almost to the point of being "off-the-wall," but sometimes ideas once thought "off-the-wall" become orthodoxy later on depending on how the political winds blow. If I have an objection to him, it is that his constitutional vision is very different from mine, and so I think he interprets the Constitution in ways that lead to very unjust and uncalled for results. I think his arguments are often wrong and his assumptions misguided, but that does not make him an embarrassment. It makes him a powerful person who is using his power to move the law in what I consider to be the wrong direction. I would oppose appointing more Justices to the Supreme Court who agreed with him not because they believed in natural law, or original understanding, or disagreed with legal realism, but because they would be likely to push the practical meaning of the Constitution in very unjust and inappropriate directions.
December 16, 2004
BASEBALL: Pixels On Paper
You can now buy the departed Redbird Nation blog, starring our old friend and fellow Crusader Brian Gunn, in handy book form here. I've already ordered my copy.
BLOG: Another Lie Exposed!
LAW/WAR: Habeas Extended
Judge John Bates of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued an opinion today in Omar Abu Ali v. Ashcroft (the kind of case that pretty well announces what it's about in the caption) refusing to dismiss a habeas petition brought by a US citizen who has been detained by Saudi Arabia since June 2003. Ali, who alleges that he has been tortured by the Saudis, also alleges that he is being held at the behest of the US government. The court concluded that habeas jurisdiction was not necessarily barred either by the fact that Ali was held outside the US nor by the fact that he was in the custody of a foreign power, but ordered further discovery proceedings to develop the factual record.
December 15, 2004
WAR: Spanning the Globe, 12/15/04
* Not to point any fingers or anything, but this is a cool article on the KGB’s historical fondness for using poison (complete with spring-loaded umbrellas!).
* The Washington Post covers Germany’s frustrating inability to prosecute anyone in connection with the 9/11 attacks. The more one reads about modern-day Germany, the more clear it is why it has been a favorite rest stop for terrorists: the legacy of the Nazis has left the country unwilling to take responsible security measures, both internally and externally.
* Like the Abu Ghraib case, this should be investigated and any wrongdoers should be severely punished.
* In criticizing Bernard Kerik, who clearly had some issues, a few of which might even be relevant, I’m pretty much in agreement with Rich Lowry’s argument that the first rationale for his withdrawal was the most important.
* Speaking of which, John Derbyshire doesn’t like the way some caricature the immigration debate.
* One of the contributors over at Slugger O’Toole provides a nice reminder as to which side in the dispute in Northern Ireland was recently praising the late, unlamented Yasser Arafat. (Hint: it’s not the one many Irish-Americans like to demonize). That said, from my limited knowledge, the anti-Catholic Rev. Paisley is someone I’m pretty loathe to defend.
UPDATE: There is some dispute over the facts of the Kerik “nanny” situation. I have nothing to add about that, one way or another. My point was a more general one: for a potential head of DHS, or for anyone that matter, allegations of violating of U.S. immigration law should be viewed as a deadly serious matter in a post-9/11 world.
HISTORY: The Cold Hard Truth
Here’s a tribute to the late Iris Chang, who committed suicide in November. It is a sad tale, almost as sad as the one Chang became famous for retelling.
POLITICS: Answering Josh Marshall's Call
(Also posted in The Corner after I emailed this to Jonah Goldberg - Welcome, Corner readers!).
For all of Josh Marshall's huffing and puffing about the effort to expose how Joe Wilson got picked for the Niger trip, it's worth taking a little trip in the Wayback Machine to what Marshall had to say on July 8, 2003, less than a week before Bob Novak's now-infamous column identifying Wilson's wife, CIA officer Valerie Plame, as the person who picked Wilson:
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A U.S. intelligence official said [Joseph] Wilson was sent to investigate the Niger reports by mid-level CIA officers, not by top-level Bush administration officials. There is no record of his report being flagged to top level officials, the intelligence official said. "He is placing far greater significance on his visit than anyone in the U.S. government at the time it was made," the official said, referring to Wilson's New York Times article.
Let's run through what we know.
Wilson has said repeatedly that he was sent to Niger because, as he wrote in the Times, "Vice President Dick Cheney's office had questions about a particular intelligence report."
Now, note the difference in what's being said here. No one, let alone Wilson, has claimed that any "top-level Bush administration officials" sent him on his investigatory trip. What he and others have said is that CIA officials sent him out, because they were following up on a request from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) to look into the Niger-uranium allegations.
So to start with you can say that the 'intelligence official's' statement amounts to a sort of non-denial denial. But what about the broader question? Was the whole effort triggered by an inquiry from the OVP or not?
Wilson says yes. And presumably he's basing this on some knowledge of the situation. Nick Kristof said the same thing in his June 13th column in the Times, though it's possible that Wilson was his source. But if there's a factual dispute here, let's find out. Is Wilson's description of the OVP's involvement accurate? In particular, did the OVP get Wilson's eventual report? I think this is something a good investigative reporter with juice should be able to resolve for us pretty quickly. So, again, let's find out.
(Emphasis added). Josh Marshall - Bob Novak's assignment desk? Cliff May, who like Marshall is as much a part of this story as a commenter on it, responds to the questions Marshall posed at the time:
Sources can sometimes mislead you and sources can sometimes be wrong (NB: NYT editors) but that’s what I have in my notebook.
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BASEBALL: Pray They Don’t Alter It Any Further
I’m sympathetic to the argument that D.C. taxpayers shouldn’t get stuck with the whole tab for a new stadium, but the City Council should honor the city’s original agreement with MLB. Doing otherwise only gives baseball an excuse to look elsewhere for a less inept city government that won’t renege on its deals.
UPDATE: David Pinto has a different take, which I agree with in principle, except to say that, if D.C. wanted to draw a line about demanding private financing, the time to do that was when it first made a deal. With baseball already committed to moving and renaming the team and local baseball fans prepared to support it, I think it’s wrong to reverse course like this. Hopefully, an owner or investor will ride in to pony up the money, but the track record of D.C.’s local government can’t be much of an incentive.
SECOND UPDATE (from the Crank): I like the image of Bud Selig as Lando . . . Eric McErlain has been all over this story, and has links aplenty here.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Lawrence makes a valid point.
BASEBALL: Grand Slam Trivia
A reader emailed me this question:
Well, I didn't know the answer, and haven't yet been able to verify that it happened that way (maybe someone can confirm this in the comments). But assuming that there is, in fact, precisely one such player, I think I found the answer.
This link lists the 12 major leaguers to hit both a pinch hit grand slam and an inside the park grand slam in their careers:
Of the 12, precisely one player had just one career home run: Pete Milne of the 1949 New York Giants. Milne batted 29 times in 31 games for the Giants that year while making just one appearance in the field, so it stands to reason that he was used mostly as a pinch hitter. (The list above identifies the date of his grand slam as April 27, 1949, a game the Giants won 11-8 over the hated Dodgers, so it's not surprising that it won him a job as a pinch hitter). So that appears to be the answer.
BASEBALL: San Pedro de Shea
As you can tell from my commentary the past few days, I have decidedly mixed feelings about the Mets' signing of Pedro Martinez to a four-year, $50 million contract. Some thoughts, some original, some not, in no particular order:
1. Four years is obviously too much guaranteed time for a guy with Pedro's injury history. On the other hand, the cost of the deal is money ($50 million), players (the draft picks the Mets give up) and opportunity cost (the innings Pedro takes away from other players). Given that Pedro seems unlikely to reach the point where he's pitching a lot of innings but pitching ineffectively, an extra year only costs the Mets one of those, the money. On the other hand, you can hardly blame the Red Sox for deciding that this was crazy money.
2. In the same vein: finding good young hitters is not that hard; finding good young pitchers these days - guys who can consistently take 30 turns in the rotation with a better-than-league ERA - is next to impossible. And Barry Bonds notwithstanding, in general, hitters decline much more predictably with age than do pitchers. And, a starting pitcher usually does much less to block the progress of good young arms, since few teams are so glutted with pitching that they can't quickly find room for a good youngster. All of which are a way of explaining why, as a general matter, I'm more willing to see even a rebuilding team take on an expensive starting pitcher in his 30s, as compared to a Sammy Sosa-type declining slugger.
3. Pedro is, as I discussed yesterday, a pitcher of historic levels of greatness. If you are going to gamble, better to gamble on a guy who's an inner-circle Hall of Famer than on . . . well, on Kris Benson and Victor Zambrano, for example. Given his track record, I view Pedro as much more of a proven commodity, and not a significantly greater injury risk, than Carl Pavano or Jaret Wright, both headed to the Bronx after precisely one year of being healthy and effective. (Of course, all pitchers are greater injury risks than almost all everyday players).
On the durability front, well, Pedro is replacing Al Leiter, who is six years older and was never an iron man himself. Leiter, working for an average salary the past 3-4 years of about $2 million per year less than Pedro will make, averaged 194 innings a year in his seven seasons at Shea, only once throwing more than 210 (Pedro threw 217 last year, but with diminished effectiveness compared to 2001-03). If we get about the same from Pedro, I'll be happy. I don't expect 230 innings.
4. Shea is a great place for a power pitcher, especially with Mike Cameron in center field, and facing a pitcher instead of some Frank Thomas/Edgar Martinez type DH every nine hitters is a great way to cut down the number of stressful pitches thrown. Both of which are a way of saying that Pedro may wind up being more valuable with the Mets than he would have been with the Red Sox. Bringing a power pitcher to Shea is like bringing a power hitter to Wrigley (see, Dawson, Andre; Alou, Moises).
5. Of course, none of this should be viewed as a substitute for the long-term strategy the Mets need to develop young talent. But frankly, I'm not about to hold my breath waiting for that to happen. Given the existing strategy of trying to half-rebuild while continuing to prop up the team with veterans, Pedro is a decent fit in that context.
6. I know the market has changed a lot, but $50 million really doesn't look like an extraordinary amount of money compared to past contracts given to Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown, Darren Dreifort, Kevin Appier, Mike Mussina, Tom Glavine, Chan Ho Park . . . yeah, there's a lot of bad decisions there, but this isn't a Mo Vaughn style 7-year $100-mil-plus millstone here; it's basically one Kris Benson plus one Kaz Matsui. If this deal deters the Mets from two more middle-market contracts like those, where's the harm?
7. Just for a little perspective, if you look at the most similar pitchers at the same age, Pedro is around the same age at which Tom Seaver went to the Reds, Roger Clemens to the Blue Jays, Mussina to the Yankees, and Lefty Grove to the Red Sox. Most of the guys on that list had their ups and downs in their mid-30s, but in general they had some real high points as well. Of course, physically, Martinez resembles Mussina, Grove, Greg Maddux, Whitey Ford or Juan Marichal much more than he does Seaver or Clemens. On a more sobering note, Pedro is also about the same age Frank Viola and Bret Saberhagen were when they left the Mets.
8. Can we finally have a no-hitter now, please?
9. Dan Lewis asks Five Questions:
1) Will this guy improve the team next year?
Go see his answers; I do think there's a missing factor here: the deal has upside. Although I don't regard it as the most likely possibility, it's certainly one of the plausible scenarios to get 800 innings, 800 strikeouts and an ERA below 3.00 from Pedro over the next four years. Given the scarcity of highly effective pitchers these days, that would be worth more than $12 million a year, in my view. (A return to something close to vintage Pedro, which is not going to happen, would be worth much more). That's one thing that distinguishes this from the contracts that a lot of mid-30s hitters get, where you are paying them a salary equal to the best value they are likely to give you. Hey, you win in baseball by taking risks. This deal is a big risk, but then Vladimir Guerrero last year was a big risk too. This is one that could pay off. Better that than give out more $25 million contracts to guys who are a safe bet to turn in a 4.25 ERA.
December 14, 2004
BASEBALL: The Very Best
Long-time readers will recall my Translated Pitcher Records project from four years ago. Hopefully, I'll get back to that one some day. But a simpler way of comparing the very best pitchers over time is ERA+, baseballreference.com's comparison of a pitcher's career ERA to a park-context-adjusted league average. There are two problems, however, with the baseballreference.com leaderboard: it has a very low innings pitched threshold, and thus is loaded at the top with relief pitchers; and, unlike my Translated Records, it isn't translated back into a recognizable ERA benchmark.
So I thought I'd do both; I separated out the pitchers by groupings of innings pitched, and translated their ERAs back into a uniform context of a league ERA of 4.50, which is around midway between the NL and AL ERAs in 2004:
3000 Career Innings or More
You can see why I stick to the view that Walter Johnson was the greatest of all pitchers, as he stands second only to Lefty Grove here, and in 40% more innings. This list is dominated by pre-1920 and active pitchers, other than Grove and Ford. While I knew he was on the edge of making a Hall of Fame case, I was as surprised as anyone to see Kevin Brown on a list this elite. And this is also further confirmation of precisely how great Kid Nichols was, and why he really gets a raw deal when the great pitchers of old are being ranked.
2000-3000 Career Innings
This second list is guys who have had fairly substantial careers but not a full, 15-years-at-200-innings career:
You can see here why, for all my mixed feelings about the warning signs and the Mets overpaying, I'm still excited about the possibility of Pedro coming to Shea: he's been head and shoulders above anybody else who's ever pitched, he's still just 33, and a guy that good is worth a gamble. . . Noodles Hahn? Yeah, I'm not too sure about that one either, but Hahn's the classic forgotten type of pitcher, a guy whose big years came with the turn-of-the-century Reds, a dismal franchise in a quiet period in the game's history. . . Curt Schilling is close to qualifying for the next list up, although he's also close to dropping off the bottom if he finishes with a few bad seasons.
The rest of the guys in the under-2000 IP bin fall into three groups: relievers, starting with Dan Quisenberry at 3.08 and including John Franco, Bruce Sutter, John Hiller, Lee Smith, Kent Tekulve, and Doug Jones; very-short-career starters, from Smoky Joe Wood at 3.08 down through Jim Devlin (who was banned from baseball for throwing the 1877 pennant race), Harry Brecheen, Spud Chandler, and Dizzy Dean; and one active starter, Tim Hudson at 3.26.
BLOG: 2003-04 Traffic Report
I checked my traffic stats last night with the "Webalizer" feature at Hosting Matters. . . thought it would be interesting to chart this out. This is visits per day, but less important that what the actual number is is that it's a consistent measurement of the site's daily traffic since I moved to the Movable Type site:
Wow. And the thing is, you go around the blogosphere, you see a lot of people whose traffic patterns look something like this. Of course, it remains to be seen if I can keep up the momentum of the election, the 2004 postseason and some of the huge links I've had lately.
December 13, 2004
BASEBALL: Following The Glavine Trail
Well, this would put the Mets one Mike Mussina acquisition from ensuring that no active pitcher wins 300 games . . .The fourth year for Pedro strikes me as the one year too many. I'm more encouraged by the fact that they're pursuing Delgado and Sexson, especially now that they wouldn't need to surrender draft choices to get Delgado (I'd rather have Sexson, although he may be close to signing with Seattle).
UPDATE: At least the Mets aren't doing anything nearly as stupid as trading Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik. The mind staggers at that one.
SECOND UPDATE: It certainly looks like this is happening, given Larry Lucchino's email referring to Pedro's Red Sox tenure in the past tense.
SCIENCE/POLITICS: Getting Warmer
The Mad Hibernian's post on Friday on Michael Crichton's new book questioning "global warming" and similar environmental dogmas (which followed on this powerful speech by Crichton last year denouncing global warming theories) prompted some interesting comments and links. Now, I'm no expert on the subject myself, but I did think it was worth repeating here something I said in the comments to that post. I'm very skeptical of hearing "global warming" discussed as if it is a single concept, like "the earth is round." Basically, "global warming," as I understand its popular meaning, is really three different concepts:
1. The earth has, for some period of time, been getting warmer.
2. This past warming trend is not a random or cyclical phenomenon but is a trend that will continue into the future unless interrupted by human intervention.
3. The past trend and its continuation into the future are the results of specifically identifiable human activities, i.e., carbon emissions.
It is entirely possible to believe #1 without believing #2 and #3, or even to believe #1 and #2 without believing #3. Beware of anyone who tries to use evidence supporting just one of those propositions to convince you of all three.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Enemies of Science | Politics 2004 | Science | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 2004 Bedfellow Awards
Well, as promised back in late October, it's time to award the 2004 Bedfellow Awards. The Bedfellow Awards are named in honor of the comic strip "Bloom County," in which Senator Bedfellow was defeated on the strength of an election-day headline, "WARNING: VOTING FOR BEDFELLOW MAY CAUSE HERPES". Although the award gives special points for attacks that are false and/or unfair, the simplest definition of a Bedfellow Award nominee is a news story that (1) comes out shortly before the election, and (2) has a much larger impact on the election than it would have if it had come out earlier.
I solicited nominations, although I didn't get a whole lot of them. You can see some of the nominees here and a very early candidate here as well as in the post linked above and its trackbacks. Let's run through the awards:
1. Overall Winner: Osama bin Laden
Political experts will debate endlessly which candidate it helped and whether it had much of an impact one way or another (Kerry says it cost him the election), but there's no question that the big, knock-everything-else-off-the-front-page surprise story of the campaign's last weekend was the emergence of OBL himself from his gopher hole with a video message aimed directly at the American people and obviously timed deliberately to influence the election. (I'll leave aside here as well the debate over whether he was actually trying to help Kerry or just to show he could influence an American election as his minions had in Spain). The story, once out there, was a legitimate story, which is why I'm giving the award to bin Laden himself rather than the news media or the candidates, who had no choice but to react to it.
2. Anti-Bush Winner: The Al-Qaqaa Explosives Story
This was a favorite nominee, and it would have been an even more outsized story if CBS had succeeded, as planned, in sitting on the story until the Sunday before the election (instead, because the NY Times broke the story a week earlier, 60 Minutes had to settle for a story attacking the Bush Administration over the sufficiency of equipment for the troops in Iraq). The explosives story got more heat and less light than it would have earlier in the campaign because there was so little time to get to the bottom of the thing.
3. Anti-Kerry Winner: The Dishonorable Discharge
On November 1, the New York Sun's Thomas Lipscomb finally broke through Kerry's long stonewall on the circumstances of his discharge from the military, but the day-before-the-election timing wound up making the story a late hit. Of course, unlike late hits against Bush, this one got ignored and buried.
4. Senate Race Winner: The Kentucky Senate Race
Nasty, nasty, nasty, full of allegations of whispering campaigns, the most late-hit-filled and under-the-radar campaign of the year turned out to be the Kentucky Senate race, with Democrat Dan Mongiardo openly challenging the mental competence of Republican righty Jim Bunning, and Bunning accused of a whispering campaign to convince voters that Mongiardo was gay.
I didn't get enough nominations or pay close enough attention to pick a House winner, but the latest of the late hits had to be the attack on Louisiana Republican Billy Tauzin III for a citation for trespassing and illegal hunting of nutria, a kind of rodent.
Anyway, there were plenty of candidates from this year's presidential elections. Feel free to suggest additional honorable mentions in the comments and trackbacks.
BLOG: You Like Me! You Really Like Me!
Well, the voting is in, and I have to say that I'm just flabbergasted that I actually won the 2004 Weblog Award for Best Sports Blog, taking 19.7% of the vote to 10.9% for the Athletics Nation community and 10.8% to Eric McErlain's Off Wing Opinion. (I'll have to add Athletics Nation to my regular reads). Of course, particularly given that this blog covers only one sport and somewhat sporadically, this award probably should have gone to someone like David Pinto, but I'm flattered nonetheless that, by my calculations, more than 670 of you voted for me. I'll try to do my best to live up to the honor in the coming year.
December 12, 2004
BASEBALL: Hudson Crossing
Another era is ending in Oakland, just as the first Beane Era ended with the departure of Matt Stairs, Ben Grieve, John Jaha, and Jason Giambi. It seems increasingly likely now that Tim Hudson will be traded in accordance with his demand for a new contract by March 1, bringing the era of the Big Three starters to a close.
Hudson, of course, is one of baseball's true elite pitchers, has been since he arrived in the majors in the last century. He's been durable - 2004 was the first time he missed significant time to injury - and unbeatable, 92-39 in his Oakland career.
Of course, I've long been a devotee of Bill James' belief that one thing you have to watch in evaluating pitchers is their strikeout rates; a dropping rate is both a signal (diminishing effectiveness) and has a direct effect on performance, increasing the number of balls in play that can potentially become hits. On the other hand, there are ways for a pitcher to compensate for a loss of strikeouts, at least temporarily, mostly by throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park.
Tim Hudson in recent years has been one of the most extreme examples of those coping mechanisms you will ever see. Let's look at his season-by-season rates in a number of categories:
It's not an unbroken chain in every category, but the overall pattern is crystal clear: a broad-based improvement in every other aspect of Hudson's game but strikeouts since 1999. You have to admire Hudson's determined adaptability, relentlessly cutting walks and home runs, getting more ground balls, and revolutionizing his ability to set up the double play by eliminating his vulnerability to the stolen base almost overnight in 2002. He's even made just 3 errors the past three years compared to 10 the prior three.
That's the good news. The bad news is, his strikeout rate has been sinking like a stone, and Hudson has all but run out of room to squeeze further improvements out of the rest of his game to compensate. Lefthanders are particularly catching up to him, batting .298/.422/.352 against Hudson in 2004.
It's very possible that the smart, gifted and driven 29-year-old ace will come up with new ways to trick batters and reverse the downward trend in his strikeout rate, keeping him at the elite level to which he's grown accustomed. But any team forking over big bucks and top prospects to get him should understand that, if he doesn't, Hudson's days as one of the league's elite may be numbered.
UPDATE: I recognize, of course, that Hudson's alarmingly low 2004 K rate may have been a function of pitching through injuries. The downward trend is still worrisome.
December 10, 2004
LAW: The Office Christmas Party
In light of the Mad Hibernian's post on this topic Wednesday, I though I'd flash back to my own reflections, from 2002, on office Christmas parties.
OTHER SPORTS: Season on Ice
I haven’t been following the NHL lockout very closely at all, so I was kind of struck by what kind of financial problems the league must be having when the Players’ Association is making proposals to cut their own salaries by 24% (up from their 5% September proposal). Apparently, the main dispute is over whether to have a luxury tax or a salary cap. Scott Burnside has some more-informed analysis.
I’m glad I don’t have Gary Bettman’s job.
WAR: The Last March of the Ents?
I don’t agree with all of it, but Victor Davis Hanson has a cool column today on the “Ents of Europe” and the War on Terror. J.R.R. Tolkien probably would have hated it, once writing that “The Lord of the Rings” was “neither allegorical nor topical.” As these things go though, Hanson’s analogy strikes me as pretty apt.
Hopefully, for all of us, the final outcome will be similar.
SCIENCE: The Skeptical Novelist
I’m intrigued by Michael Crichton coming out as a global warming skeptic in his new novel, see here and here, but probably not intrigued enough to actually buy it. Crichton’s highly intelligent and has a lot of interesting ideas, but doesn’t seem to be writing very entertaining stories these days. This book in particular sounds like it would work a lot better as non-fiction, although it would almost certainly reach a much smaller readership that way.
Anyway, I’m a certified dunce when it comes to science and would hardly claim to be an authority one way or another, but am a relative skeptic on environmental matters. Thus, before reading Crichton’s book, I should probably try and tackle this one.
LAW: If Not Bigotry, What Then?
I really meant to blog earlier in the week about Harry Reid's bizarre comments about Clarence Thomas; as you've probably seen by now, in an interview with Tim Russert, Reid objected to Justice Scalia as Chief Justice but conceded that "I may not agree with some of his opinions, but I agree with the brilliance of his mind"; then, turning to Thomas, he argued that
Taranto, Stuart Buck, and Ann Althouse have all taken this apart quite well. I hate to throw around unjustified accusations of bigotry, so I'm certainly prepared to believe that Reid wasn't taking a potshot at Thomas' intellect either (1) because he regards Justice Thomas as dumb because he's black or (2) because he thinks he can convince others that Thomas is dumb because he's black. But if Reid has something else in mind, I can't imagine what it is. He didn't bother to give examples, and Russert didn't press him for any. I very much doubt that Reid has read many of Thomas' opinions, and I suspect that he was just parroting what his staffers tell him. I have read quite a number of those opinions, ranging from opinions on intensely arcane subjects to critical issues of civil procedure to impassioned dissents on hot-button issues, and I can tell you that the charge of bad writing is ludicrously off the mark. At times, he can be quite eloquent. Thomas may not be the stylistic genius Scalia is, but Scalia is almost certainly the best writer the Court has ever seen (which is high praise, compared to people like Robert Jackson and Oliver Wendell Holmes); nobody else on the Court today compares to him either. Thomas' opinions certainly don't suffer from the kind of sloppiness and high-handedness that characterized, say, William O. Douglas. Buck, who's a great admirer of Justice Thomas, has links to some sample opinions and to comments of grudging admiration for Thomas' legal thinking by a prominent left-leaning academic, and you should go check out his links. (I should add that I've met Justice Thomas, and he's quite an impressive guy in person).
If Reid has even a shred of support for the argument that Justice Thomas is unqualified to be Chief Justice by virtue of his writing abilities or any other defect of competence or intellect, let him come forward with it. Thus far, I'm hearing nothing from Reid or his defenders to suggest he can. To the contrary, Noam Scheiber of the New Republic had to conclude:
I'll add a few examples of Thomas opinions of my own on a variety of subjects:
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WAR/POLITICS: 12/10/04 Links
*Great, great column by Tom Friedman on the radicalization of Iraqis under sanctions. Friedman often infuriates; he's right about diagnosing problems but responds by suggesting daft solutions. This one's more on the diagnosis side. (Link via Geraghty).
*A fine primer on Ukrainian history from a Ukrainian friend of LT Smash. If you've studied Russian history, as I did in college, some of this will be familiar, but there were also things here that were new to me or that I'd long forgotten.
*You'll want to head over to Soxblog, where pseudonymous blogger James Frederick Dwight (you really shouldn't need to think too hard on the origin of his pseudonym) is tearing apart a sloppy New Yorker piece comparing hospitals and clinics that treat cystic fibrosis (start here and scroll up for followup posts, including his discussion of my initial reaction to the piece, which was that it sounds like something drafted by the plaintiffs' bar).
*Victor Cha, a Georgetown professor who advocates a "hawk
*You can look at this chart here and argue, as these Berkeley professors do, that the results on this graph show that the 2004 vote in Broward and Palm Beach counties were a suspicious outlier, but isn't the far more logical inference that the 2000 count in Broward and Palm Beach is the suspicious outlier? Gee, does anyone remember any controversy over the vote-counting methods used in Broward and Palm Beach in 2000? I wonder if the results would look less anomolous if you used the Election Day 2000 counts in those two counties rather than the figures that were generated a month later.
December 9, 2004
BASEBALL: The Winners
One quick thought on the Yankees' acquisition of Tony Womack (no relation to Dooley). Yes, he's had a big hit or two, but for his career, the 35-year-old Womack has played in 38 of his teams' 39 games in the postseason; here's his postseason career record projected out to a full 162-game season:
Come to think of it, let's check out Jaret Wright's career postseason record; Wright has made 15 appearances in 27 postseason games played by his teams:
Well, OK, Wright's numbers - which include a 15.63 career postseason ERA against the Red Sox - are spread over almost two different careers in Cleveland and Atlanta, and the postseason does wacky things to pitcher workloads. Still, if you believe in the Yankee postseason magic, these guys haven't had it in the past.
December 8, 2004
LAW: There’s Always One
Reading this month’s ABA Journal, I came upon an annual rite of the holiday season as easy to predict as the Perils-Of-Trick-Or-Treating articles you see every Halloween or the Blinding-Of-Larry-Driscoll-type stories you read about fireworks every 4th of July. It could perhaps be classified as the Don’t-Get-Too-Drunk-At-Your-Law-Firm’s-Holiday-Party article. I had to laugh at this in particular anecdote:
I’m sure John Ashcroft would be proud.
LAW: Three Strikes Foolishness
The newly approved amendment to the Florida Constitution would automatically revoke the medical license of any doctor hit with three malpractice judgments. The law is backed by doctors' foremost antagonists — lawyers — and the ramifications could be huge.
This amendment has nothing to do with patient safety and everything to do with giving additional leverage to plaintiffs' lawyers to coerce settlement of med mal lawsuits. How can I be so sure? As Prof. Yin notes, "the amendment speaks of three judgments, not three lawsuits". I'd bet the plaintiffs' bar would scream bloody murder if a settlement counted as a strike, and especially if a settlement above a specified dollar amount counted as a strike, which it would if the idea was actually to punish malpractice rather than create a hammer for settlements. After all, a doctor who repeatedly commits malpractice but never goes to trial would never have a judgment against him, just a bunch of settlements. Whereas if you counted settlements against the doctors, they would have more incentive to fight claims rather than pay off the plaintiffs and their lawyers.
You can compare this to the way the NASD, which regulates stockbrokers, operates. NASD rules now make it very difficult for a broker who settles a claim to get it expunged from his record; even with the consent of the other party, you still need a specific order from an arbitration panel and court approval of that order. While this procedure is controversial and of debatable effectiveness, there's no question that its intention is to prevent crooked brokers from settling quietly with anyone who complains. If the Florida statute had a similar rule, there would at least be the possibility that it was intended to crack down on bad doctors, rather than on doctors who insist on defending themselves before a jury. (Of course, even a three-settlements rule might work as a hammer for plaintiffs' attorneys if it allowed you to avoid the rule by settling before a case is filed, but it would be closer to the expressed purpose of the statute).
BASKETBALL: Athletes Out of Action
Slate has an interesting tribute to Athletes in Action, the traveling Christian basketball team that's being pushed to the brink of extinction by the NCAA.
December 7, 2004
WAR: Depends How You Define “Facts”
Earlier today, I made the mistake of reading Eric Alterman’s column on MSNBC.com. After discussing how French anti-Semitism during World War II was basically a myth, which seems to conflict with a number of events I remember reading about in history class, Alterman launches into a critique of a registration-only article discussing bias at The New York Times. Needless to say, Alterman disagrees with its author, basically asserting that the Times is, in fact, a right-wing mouthpiece for the Bush Administration. Fine.
Anyway, Alterman goes on about how Saddam Hussein had no connection whatsoever with al Qaeda and about how this is a skull-thumpingly obvious fact that everyone knows. I don’t want to rehash the whole debate over Iraq’s al Qaeda connections, which are contentiously debated (see here, here and here for counter-arguments, as well as here for my take). But having just recently been reading the 9/11 Commission report, which Alterman apparently never has, I was struck by his certainty.
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One tiny example, from p. 134 of the paperback version of the report:
I know others have sifted through all of this and come to differing rational conclusions - the Commission ultimately dodged the issue - but I doubt that Alterman is one of them. Instead, he simply makes conclusory statements unsupported by evidence. It might not all be so bad if he wasn’t criticizing others for doing exactly what he is doing.
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POP CULTURE: Tangled Up In Green
Slate.com carries a negative review of Ed Bradley’s mailed-in Sunday interview with Bob Dylan and sees a Viacom connection as the motivation behind Dylan’s rare appearance and Bradley’s fawning. The Crank mentioned in passing here the tendency of CBS to shamelessly plug books put out by its corporate masters.
Aside from ethics, I guess there’s nothing necessarily wrong about it - Dylan is certainly a worthy interview subject - but you have to wish that “60 Minutes” would be a little more forthright about this type of thing.
UPDATE: I misread the end of the Slate piece, which, as a more alert reader points out in the comments, says that Steve Kroft had apparently mentioned the Viacom-CBS-Dylan connection at the top of the show. Having just caught the tail end of the interview and reading the Slate author’s tone, I assumed that CBS had failed to disclose it. Anyway, as a result, I don’t see any real problem here except for a boring interview. My bad.
WAR: Mr. Bin Laden’s Wild Ride
Reading this story - about how (newly democratic) Afghanistan is hoping to make the caves of Tora Bora into a “visitor attraction” - suggests to me that tourism may not be the best hope for that country’s economy.
Although you never know:
Now the first visitors are returning. The latest issue of the Lonely Planet Central Asia guide is the first to include a section on the country.
Previous editions contained a two word entry on Afghanistan: “Don’t go!”
HISTORY: Remembering Pearl Harbor
63 years ago today. Go here for one of the less-remembered (by me, anyway) stories of that attack.
UPDATE: Murdoc Online has a fascinating account, including the after-action report, for the initial confrontation with a Japanese submarine a little over an hour prior to the bombing.
POLITICS: Whither CBS News?
Jim Geraghty maps out the possibilities for CBS News after the final report comes out on Rathergate:
Two, they could define themselves as the left-of-center news channel, and aim for the blue state audience. Instead of trying to prevent bias, they could embrace it, and make it part of their brand identity. "CBS News: The channel that progressives prefer."
Three, they could define themselves as the tabloid news channel, rushing things to air without checking, and intentionally eroding their standards for accuracy in the name of being first. They could be one part supermarket checkout line tabloid, one part Drudge, one part Wonkette, one part British Fleet Street scandal sheet.
The third is obviously somewhat tongue in cheek, especially for a deep-pocketed broadcast network. I agree that CBS can and should make a clear decision as to which way the Evening News goes: try to build a new reputation for evenhandedness, or embrace the Left the way FOX has embraced the Right. On the other hand, the departure of Rather, who after all brought this story on himself in his capacity as a 60 Minutes II correspondent rather than as Evening News anchor, offers a third way: start splitting the brand, letting 60 Minutes and 60 Minutes II go their way as crusading liberal newsmagazines, while attempting to play it straight on the Evening News. This can work in the newspaper business - the Wall Street Journal has had success with both a highly ideological opinion page (which hires its own reporters) and a news section with a high reputation for evenhandedness and balance. Would it work in TV? If CBS tries to rebrand itself as a network that distinguishes between a balanced newscast and an openly left-wing newsmagazine, of course, the network would have to decide which side of the line they want to dominate the morning show, the coverage of big events like the conventions (where FOX, for example, has prospered by stacking its panels with conservative commentators who draw in right-leaning viewers). Splitting the two sides makes some sense: while the Evening News has floundered in the ratings, 60 Minutes remains healthy and can profit by enlarging its reputation as a vocal critic of all things Bush (although they might do well to stop shilling books sold by Viacom).
I've also got an outside-the-box suggestion for Rather's replacement: CNN Headline News anchor, technology reporter and former Tech TV anchor Erica Hill. Hill would bring a number of advantages to the anchor position. First, and most obviously, she's drop-dead gorgeous, better-looking than most of the actresses on CBS' prime-time schedule, let alone in the news business. That never hurts in the ratings department, and before you gripe about looks as a job qualification, remind me again why Brian Williams is succeeding Tom Brokaw, and why John Roberts has been mentioned as a replacement for Rather: first and foremost because they are big, good-looking guys with reassuring voices. Let's not pretend otherwise.
But there are other women on TV who could look good reading the news; what's additionally noteworthy about Hill is her background as a tech reporter. If you've seen her reports on CNN, she clearly comes off as someone who understands and enjoys new technologies and, frankly, spends a lot of time on the internet; she's been reporting for months on the influence of blogs and the internet on campaigns. That's precisely the fresh perspective towards newsgathering that CBS badly needs. I don't know how smart she is - her bio says she's a summa cum laude graduate of BU, which is nothing to sneeze at - but she comes off as intelligent on the air, which is important.
Granted, there would be internal resistance at CBS to bringing in someone with minimal experience (she can't be more than 30 years old, and looks younger than that), although again, the CNN bio does say she anchored the now-defunct Tech TV's on-air coverage all day on September 11, which is a real baptism of fire for any anchor. And maybe shaking things up would be a good in itself, sending a message that the way things have always been is part of the problem and bringing in someone not so set in her ways that she can't take the program in new directions. In any event, part of CBS' problem, even above and beyond bias, is age: Rather and Bob Schieffer and Mike Wallace . . . these guys are fossils, and whatever their other virtues they can't be expected to connect with younger viewers or change with the times. Maybe CBS, with an older-skewing audience, is happy with that dynamic, but it's unsustainable long-term. A young, fresh-faced anchor would change all that. With Brokaw leaving, there will be a window of opportunity for a new anchor to capture market share if CBS can make a splash. Erica Hill in Dan Rather's chair would make a splash.
UPDATE: You can catch a flavor of Hill's style with her online "Hot Wired" columns at CNN.com here (from January, discussing campaign blogs), here (marveling that she could survive a few days without internet access) and here (discussing procrastinating online).
BASEBALL: Perspective on Schilling
I was looking over Curt Schilling's career, and two thoughts come to mind:
1. One of the great underrated terrible trades in recent baseball history is the Astros' decision, on April 2, 1992, to trade Schilling straight up for Jason Grimsley. Schilling and Grimsley were both young pitchers trying to establish themselves at this point - Grimsley was 24, Schilling 25 - and both had followed some success as rookies in 1990 (a 3.30 ERA in 57.1 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 2.54 ERA in 46 IP as a reliever for Schilling) with struggles in 1991 (1-7 with a 4.87 ERA in 61 IP as a starter for Grimsley, a 3.81 ERA in 75.2 IP as a reliever for Schilling). But it should have been obvious at the time not only that Schilling threw harder but that he was closer to breaking through: 103 K and 58 walks for Schilling in 121.2 IP over the previous two years - including 71 K in 75.2 IP in 1991 - compared to an abysmal record of 83 K to 84 walks for Grimsley (and 16 wild pitches) in 118.1 IP. And the results were immediate and dramatic: Schilling posted a 2.35 ERA in 226.1 IP in 1992 for the Phillies - 4th best in the NL - and would pitch a shutout in the World Series by the end of 1993, while Grimsley never pitched a game in an Astros uniform and was released a year later.
It's not clear to me, years later, what Houston was thinking; with Pete Harnisch, Darryl Kile, and Butch Henry, Houston had no shortage of young starters, and Schilling had started in the minors. Perhaps Grimsley had options left and Schilling didn't (after all, the deal was April 2)? Either way, the Astros don't get nearly enough grief for this one in the annals of catastrophically bad trades.
2. If there's one guy whose career path Schilling's resembles, strangely enough, it's Tommy John, and not only because both of them were pioneers in bionic baseball. Through age 33, due to a variety of injuries and misfortunes (including lousy support from their teams) over the years, both Schilling and John had a lot of good baseball behind them and not much to show in the win column: Schilling had 110 lifetime wins at the end of 2000 (when he went 11-12), following his mid-season arrival in Arizona, despite a league-average-or-better ERA 9 times in 11 years; John had 134 wins after his first post-surgery season, in 1976, when he went 10-10, despite a league-average-or-better ERA 11 years in a row. Each had seemingly given his arm in the service of a dismal franchise - Schilling throwing 254.1 and 268.2 IP in 1997-98 with the Phillies, John 269.1 IP in 1970 with the White Sox.
Then, each suddenly reeled off three 20-win seasons in four years, and went to the postseason with two different teams, Schilling the D-Backs and Red Sox and John the Dodgers and Yankees.
Of course, the parallels aren't perfect. Schilling is most unlikely to match John's durability (pitching to age 46) or win total of 288 (John through age 37 was up to 214 wins, while Schilling now stands at 184). On the other hand, Schilling's teams haven't failed in the postseason as John's did in 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981 and 1982 - despite solid efforts from John (a 2.65 career postseason ERA), and Schilling had been the difference for both Arizona and Boston. And John couldn't quite match Schilling's level of dominance - from age 34 to 37, John went 80-35, Schilling 74-28, and John's career winning percentage through age 37 stood at .586 compared to .599 for Schilling (this before John went 23-20 over the next two years pitching mostly for division-winning teams). To say nothing of the fact that Schilling is an overpowering strikeout pitcher who alreadly has 500 more strikeouts than John did in nearly 2000 more career innings.
As you can see, though, the parallels are actually fairly strong, a factor to consider down the road in evaluating both pitchers' Hall of Fame cases.
BASEBALL: Tale of the Tape Measure
SI.com writer Peter McEntegart repeats a slightly different variation of a stat I saw Peter Gammons citing the other day:
The most astounding number to come out of the Barry Bonds steroid controversy is not that 93 percent of the 40,000-plus voters on a SI.com poll don't believe Bonds' claim that he was unaware he took steroids. The more intriguing number comes from Stats Inc., which reports that Bonds had never hit a home run longer than 450 feet before the 2000 season, when he turned 36. Since then, he's hit at least 21 homers of 450 feet or farther.
Either way…well…it seems like telling circumstantial evidence.
December 6, 2004
BASEBALL: The Bonds Defense
Bonds said that Anderson had so little money that he “lives in his car half the time.” Asked by a juror why he didn’t buy “a mansion” for his trainer, Bonds answered: “One, I’m black, and I’m keeping my money. And there’s not too many rich black people in this world. There’s more wealthy Asian people and Caucasian and white. And I ain’t giving my money up.”
and asks the relevant question:
So, Bonds now says he took what Anderson gave him but didn't ask what it was. Are you kidding me? Here you've got a guy walking around with the Scarlet "S" tattooed on his head, he knows he's taking a variety of supposedly unidentified substances . . . Absolutely everyone who followed baseball the past five years either (1) thought Bonds was using the stuff or at least (2) was aware of the charges. You thought Bonds was on steroids. I thought Bonds was on steroids. But it never even occurred to Barry Bonds himself that he should look into the stuff he was taking? If so, he was the only guy in the game who wasn't thinking it. He has to know it won't pass the smell test.
POLITICS: Anti-Family Zealots
And the Democrats wonder why they lost even normally Democrat-friendly states like New Mexico:
Oh, and to repeat a point we Republicans keep making: you take the people who abort their children, and we'll take the families with four kids, and we'll see in a generation which of us has more voters.
BASEBALL: Traxler Dies
BASEBALL/LAW: Big Daddy Hits Back
In a follow up story Oct. 21, Fielder told the News he planned to repay his debts, saying: "I'm going to be a man about it. I'm going to take care of all my responsibilities."
From the story reported on ESPN, it doesn't sound as if Fielder is disputing many of the key allegations against him - that he gambled away millions of dollars and had lost his Florida mansion as a result of inability to pay gambling debts - and is instead attacking charges that are harder to pin down, like the extent to which he was "in hiding" or in contact with his family. Those are facts as to which it will be hard to show that the News recklessly disregarded the truth if they relied on what somebody told them or on the fact that they couldn't find him, and Fielder will have a tough time proving $25 million in damages if the thrust of the story - massive gambling debts, loss of his house - is true.
BASEBALL: Smear Job
I thought what the NY Daily News did to Jason Giambi on Sunday was just reprehensible. Giambi has a lot of well-deserved grief coming over his use of illegal and against-the-rules steroids and his lies to cover up that use. But the Daily News splashed a huge story across the back page about Giambi's love of Vegas nightlife:
Um, why would that be? What does Vegas have to do with whether the guy cheated and - the question of the hour - how seriously we should take that cheating? And what do you mean, "reckless"? Drugs? Sex? Gambling? Something else entirely? The News never precisely says, burying us instead in innuendo and a bunch of truisms about Sin City:
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"Great guy," the bouncer says. "He's not cheap with his money. He likes to make sure everyone around him has a good time."
Giambi, who is married, is free to spend his nights as he wishes, of course, but his lifestyle has become a public matter after a season in which he was sidelined by a mysterious parasite, then a benign tumor that neither he nor the Yankees would discuss, all of it accompanied by suspicion regarding steroids use that has now been confirmed.
Basically, it seems, his body has been breaking down ever since he became a Yankee, and whatever role steroid use and perhaps withdrawal has caused, you have to wonder if there are other factors involved, and whether he is having trouble coping mentally as well.
A friend of his in New York has told the Daily News of wild parties that Giambi has thrown in his upper East Side apartment, and that Giambi went on a two-day binge in the city after the Yankees lost to the Red Sox in the ALCS. Though Giambi has told the friend he no longer goes to bars in the city as much as he once did because Yankee fans question him about his declining performance, he offered no indication that his physical ailments have caused him to change his partying ways.
Giambi has never tried to hide his enjoyment of the nightlife. In Oakland, where he became a star as the long-haired, anti-establishment leader of the young and rowdy A's, Giambi used to have a saying that eventually became a slogan the players wore on T-shirts under their uniforms:
"Party like a rock star, hammer like a porn star, hit like an All-Star."
OK, so Giambi likes to party and go to strip culbs, and cheats on his wife. The partying bit is maybe sorta relevant to his performance, although we could have been told with a bit less sensationalism if the story is just that he likes a drink and a late night. The sex is, frankly, none of my business, however much I may disapprove. Ballplayers like to go to strip clubs? This is back page news?
Lisa Olson piled on in the same issue, blaming Giambi's father and hinting darkly about Giambi's "destructive lifestyle habits."
I've stressed this before: if you've got the goods on a guy, that's one thing - but the press has no business spreading dirt it doesn't have. The News just didn't have nearly enough facts to justify a story that was clearly meant to imply much worse things about Giambi than it said.
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BLOG: Out of Service
I've been off line since Thursday night due to computer difficulties (I'll get into those later), so I'm just catching up here - blogging may be sporadic until our computers have been restored.
BLOG: Small World
The woman who beat Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings lost the next day to a woman named Katie Fitzgerald, who grew up with my wife. This is actually the second time we've known someone who won on Jeopardy! - we were on vacation last year, turned on the TV in mid-afternoon, and there on TV was Pete O'Malley, another college classmate who was known, back in the day, for performing as the school mascot, the Crusader (complete with sword and armor, decked out in his full infidel-slaughterin' glory).
December 4, 2004
BASEBALL: Mr. Bright Side
Well, one positive development from all this steroid business is that the Mets have apparently decided to pass on Sammy Sosa.
Jason Mastaitis has picked up on this too and has some other juicy…err…interesting Mets news.
POP CULTURE: Iron From a Stone
This IMDB news item caught my eye:
Movie-maker Oliver Stone is lining up another historical figure for his next biopic - former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The director is refusing to let the critical mauling and disastrous box office performance of his latest film Alexander - based on Macedonian warrior Alexander The Great - and is pursuing his current dream of bringing the British leader's life to the big screen. And Stone is determined to land Meryl Streep for the lead role. He says, "Margaret Thatcher is an amazing woman and a good subject for a film. I'm thinking about Meryl Streep to play the Iron Lady." Pals claim Stone - who's documented the lives of shamed President Richard Nixon, assassinated leader John F. Kennedy and rock star Jim Morrison - is now keen to focus his films on some of his female idols. One friends says, "Oliver is one of Baroness Thatcher's greatest fans. Alexander was slammed by critics, so maybe he think it's time to concentrate on a great woman for a film. Thatcher was one of the most powerful political figures in the world and her life has been as colorful as any superstar." [Emphasis added]
I confess to being more than a little surprised that Stone is an avid admirer of the famously conservative “Iron Lady” but, then again, I wouldn’t have thought he would be a fan of an unapologetic conqueror like Alexander the Great either.
BASEBALL: Legalize It?
In a post about Pete Rose and Barry Bonds, David Pinto has some provocative thoughts about steroid use and baseball, basically asking why is it wrong:
We want to watch big guys hit home runs. That sells baseball. That helps our teams win. That's exciting. Why do we care so much about how they sculpt their bodies to become those hitters?
After all, we don't see to care so much about actors and actresses having plastic surgery. We go see them in movies because they look good, and when they stop being beautiful, we stop watching. Should there be a rule that only "natural" actors be allowed to make movies? Should Hollywood ban everyone who gets a face lift or tummy tuck?
Of course not. Becuase these people are hurting no one but themselves. And the same is true of baseball players.
It’s a very good question, the fundamental kind people too rarely ask. Like in international relations, why is it wrong for countries like Iraq and Iran to pursue nuclear weapons? Asking such questions doesn’t necessarily mean that you will come to a different conclusion, but it does help prevent you from blindly following conventional wisdom. In terms of steroids, there are several reasons why they should be banned and why their usage should be proscribed. Here are just a few…
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First, as pointed out in Pinto’s comments, most steroids are illegal and it is wrong for baseball to look the other way at illegality that is fundamentally tied to performance. None of those forms of surgery are illegal. This is, of course, a circular argument and drug legalization advocates might ask why steroids need to be illegal. But for now, it suffices to say they are; baseball does not exist in a vacuum.
Second, there is the fairness issue. Baseball games should not be decided by which players are most willing to take drugs to enhance their performance. Even if steroids were not illegal in broader society, they should be banned in a competitive, zero-sum environment such as Major League Baseball. Some players wisely choose not to take steroids for health reasons. Should they be penalized for that? Do we want to see baseball degenerate into some kind of freak show like SNL's All-Drug Olympics? (“His trainer has told me that he's taken anabolic steroids, Novacaine, Nyquil, Darvon, and some sort of fish paralyzer. Also, I believe he's had a few cocktails within the last hour or so. All of this is, of course, perfectly legal at the All-Drug Olympics…”)
Third, there is the issue of setting a bad example for children and aspiring athletes. Again, is the message we want to send that you need to destroy your body and health in order to succeed in baseball? Allowing steroid use at the highest level of baseball encourages its use at every lower level, including many, many young people who will never achieve the types of offsetting riches that people like Barry Bonds have. Some libertarians would argue that it is still an individual choice, even at lower levels, and if young people are stupid enough to take steroids just to make their high school or college teams, without a real chance at the pros, that is their own stupid fault. Maybe so, but MLB can draw the line at the highest level and have a real impact on people’s lives. That is good enough for me.
There are plenty of other reasons. Just because steroid use harms the people who take them, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t also harm the integrity, popularity and aesthetics of the game. I see no good reasons why steroid use should be tolerated by MLB and why cheaters should not be punished to the full extent of its rules.
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December 3, 2004
POP CULTURE: Classical Rebirth?
The City Journal, lamenting New York’s long, unpleasant experiment with “modernist” architecture, has some great suggestions for a rebirth of classical architecture on the West Side.
It is long past overdue for the City to stop alternately constructing hideous eyesores and bland, nondescript office buildings and move back to the classical architecture of Grand Central Station, the Flatiron Building and the Empire State Building. As the authors here state:
Here’s hoping this idea gets somewhere.
December 2, 2004
BLOG: Count Every Vote!
Yours truly is up against some fierce competition in the balloting for "Best Sports Blog" at the Wizbang-sponsored "2004 Weblog Awards." You can go here to vote or view the results in that category, or here for the whole poll.
Of course, there are always some anomalies in the categories. This blog isn't, of course, purely a sports blog. Vodkapundit and Ann Althouse are undoubtedly horrified to be listed under "Best Conservative Blog." Mark Steyn's site isn't really a blog at all. Powerline should have been nominated under "Best Conservative Blog" and "Best Group Blog," Kevin Drum should have been nominated for "Best Liberal Blog" (Powerline and Drum both appear in the "Best Overall Blog" category), and having a "Best LGBT Blog" category without Andrew Sullivan is like having a "Best Game Show Contestant" category and leaving off Ken Jennings. And the voting is skewed a bit in some ways - LGF is leading the "Best Blog" ballot, while the liberal blogs are all getting crushed there.
Still, it's a fun process; thanks to Kevin Aylward for putting it all together. And, of course, I'm flattered that anybody is voting for me.
BASEBALL: Spilling The Juice
No time to blog this morning, but I'll point you to Jeff Quinton, who picks up the NY Daily News report on Jason Giambi admitting to the BALCO grand jury that he used steroids and human growth hormone. Of course, if this story gets confirmed in the public eye - not that anybody'd be all that surprised - it would reduce Giambi's vulnerability to blackmail by the Yankees.
Of course, the Yankees also have their hands full with not paying their
UPDATE: Fixed the reference above. Also, note that Jeremy Giambi also admitted using steroids, which is unsurprising in light of his brother's admission:
The younger Giambi testified that he knew testosterone was a steroid but that Anderson had described "the clear" and "the cream" only as undetectable "alternatives to steroids."
"For all I knew, it could have been baby lotion," Jeremy Giambi told the grand jury.
Jeremy Giambi, 30, also told the grand jury that he had taken several different-colored pills provided by Anderson even though he didn't know what they were.
Nedrow asked Jeremy Giambi why he trusted Anderson.
"I don't know, I guess -- I mean, you're right," Jeremy Giambi testified. "I probably shouldn't have trusted the guy. But I just felt like, you know, what he had done for Barry [Bonds] and, you know, I didn't think the guy would send me something that was, you know, Drano or something, you know, I mean, I hope he wouldn't."
December 1, 2004
BASEBALL: Be Careful Who You Wish For
The Giants have to be planning on drifting gradually to a safe distance from the pennant race as the Marlins did this season if they are looking to entrust their closer job to Armando Benitez. As the AP item notes:
Yeah, and that doesn't count meaningful regular season games in pennant races. Brian Sabean is falling back on the "everybody blows games" defense:
LAW: It Depends Whose Ox Is Getting Gored
The latest example of judicial overreaching on social issues comes from the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, where a panel ruled on Monday in FAIR v. Rumsfeld (link opens 100+ page PDF file) that the Solomon Amendment violated the First Amendment freedoms of speech and association of university law schools. The Mad Hibernian noted the decision here; I first blogged about the Solomon Amendment here, on the second day of this blog's existence.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue, the Solomon Amendment provides that universities may not continue to receive federal funding if they refuse to allow military recruiters on campus. Many colleges and, in particular, law schools banned military recruiters during the Vietnam War as an anti-war protest, although the bans that remain in effect today are mainly predicated, at least ostensibly, on a protest against the military's "don't-ask-don't-tell" policy towards gay servicemen and women. A group of law schools sued, saying that their freedom of speech and association was violated by making them, as a condition of receiving federal funding, accept recruiters on their campuses.
There is, of course, no constitutional right to federal funding, so the case turns on the doctrine of "unconstitutional conditions," by which the government may not impose an undue burden on the exercise of a fundamental right as a condition of receiving a benefit. In other words, the court had to balance the degree of imposition on the law schools' rights of speech and association with the strength of the government interest involved.
This is where the court's opinion is problematic.
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As an initial matter, a Powerline reader noted that the court appears to have stacked the deck by improperly placing the burden on the government to justify the statute, rather than on the plaintiffs to show the burden. But the court appears to have gone further than that.
On the side of weighing the law schools' interests in disassociating themselves from the military recruiters' nefarious "message," in what has to be taken as a too-cute attempt to hoist cultural conservatives by their own petard rather than offer a straightforward analysis of precedent, the Third Circuit relied heavily on the US Supreme Court's decision in Boy Scouts v. Dale, which used the "unconstitutional conditions" reasoning to rule that the Boy Scouts could not be pressured into accepting a gay scoutmaster. The court makes clear that it was thumbing its nose at the Dale decision when it emphasized that the Supreme Court had held that the reason why "a gay scoutmaster would undermine the Boy Scouts' message was because the Boy Scouts said it would." Slip op. at 30 (emphasis in original). Thus, the Third Circuit effectively held that it was compelled to accept the law schools' objection as an unrebuttable presumption.
Of course, this is a radically different approach from that taken by the Supreme Court in an earlier case that generated much controversy: Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983), in which the Supreme Court - to the cheers of nearly all the same people who back the FAIR lawsuit - found it appropriate for the IRS to deny a tax exemption (like federal funding, a benefit, not a right) to a university whose policies were, like the denial of access to military recruiters, against public policy. In fact, those policies - refusal to admit students involved in interracial relationships - were, while repugnant, far more directly entangled with the university's core mission (i.e., its admissions policies) than the minimal intrusion of an annual visit from a recruiter. The freedom of speech and association claims in Bob Jones were also stronger because they were based upon sincerely held religious beliefs and thus impacted yet another fundamental right.
(Emphasis added; citations omitted). In short, the Supreme Court has recognized the significant need for the military to recruit from institutions of higher education. To defer blindly to the law schools' need to disassociate themselves from the occasional recruiting visit, while giving little weight to the interference with the military's recruiting objectives caused by a complete ban from campus is unreasonable and unrealistic. I have a hard time seeing the Supreme Court let this stand. Unfortunately, though, the broader issue of coming to consistent treatment of the interests of military and educational institutions is unlikely to be settled soon.
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