"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
June 30, 2005
BLOG: Out of Blog
Taking a break from the blog for the long weekend - I should be back on Wednesday or so. Enjoy the 4th of July.
WAR: The Hostage Taker
Yeah, it sure looks like Iran's new president was heavily involved in the taking of American hostages. Rusty has the pictures to prove it, and lots more.
BASEBALL: Nobody On Base
Pedro is now allowing 0.817 baserunners per inning pitched. If he keeps this up, he will place 7th on the all-time single-season list (the record is 0.737, set by Pedro in 2000; Greg Maddux in 1995 is the only other pitcher to place in the top 10 since 1913).
BLOG: Quick Links 6/30/05
*"[B]eing a terrorist makes me a good Muslim". As the reader who sent this in points out, "It's also interesting - although not terribly surprising - that TIME seems to have better sources within the insurgency than they do within the US military."
COSTAS: If you had been elected president last November, by this point what would President John Kerry have done in Iraq?
After that, Kerry launches back into his usual style, such as taking the words of unfriendly foreign leaders at face value. The man never changes.
*I did not know that Evan Thomas of Newsweek was the grandson of Socialist presidential candidate Norman Thomas, but I can't say I'm surprised.
June 29, 2005
BASEBALL: Show Me
I'll believe that the Mets are or were close to dealing Mike Cameron and Miguel Cairo for Gary Sheffield when I see such a deal go through. That's a deal that sounds like something a Mets fan would get laughed at for peddling on WFAN, not something Brian Cashman would agree to, no matter how desperate the Hated Yankees are for a center fielder and how well Cameron has hit this season and how much Joe Torre loved Cairo and even how willing the Mets might be to take on additional salary. Aside from the various quotes from Sheffield about how he won't go anywhere, Sheffield is the Yankees' third-best player at the moment, a career .298/.527/.400 hitter who shows no sign of slowing down, and the Mets could get him without parting with a pitcher or anybody under 30? That only makes sense if he's in more hot water over the steroids issue than we know.
Would I do the deal if it was offered, were I the Mets? Of course. The Mets lose nothing from their ability to win in the future, and greatly help their odds to win now. But it's not gonna happen. George wouldn't green-light something that carries such a large risk of looking bad at the expense of the Mets.
BASEBALL: "Mr. Steinbrenner, Tear Down This Wall"
POLITICS: Fatina Abdrabboh - Fit to Print?
In case you missed it, the NY Times ran the most ridiculous op-ed piece I think I have ever seen last week; a woman named Fatina Abdrabboh (apparently a student at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, naturally) wrote, from Cambridge, Mass., about how
[T]he Muslim headscarf, or hijab, that I wear makes me feel as if I am under a microscope. I try to go to the gym just about every morning. Because I work out with my scarf on, people stare - just as they do on the streets of Cambridge.
Then she described how upset she got watching the news in the gym:
Every television in the gym highlighted some aspect of America's conflict with the Muslim world: the war in Iraq, allegations that American soldiers had desecrated the Koran, prisoner abuse at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush urging support of the Patriot Act. The stares just intensified my alienation as an Arab Muslim in what is supposed to be my country. I was not sure if the blood rushing to my head was caused by the elliptical trainer or by the news coverage.
But wait! Her faith in the nation was restored by an act of staggering heroism:
Suddenly a man, out of breath, but still smiling and friendly, tapped me on my shoulder and said, "Ma'am, here are your keys." It was Al Gore, former vice president of the United States. Mr. Gore had gotten off his machine behind me, picked up my keys, handed them to me and then resumed his workout.
You should read the whole thing, although I've excerpted almost all of it as is; there's so little there it's amazing that a reputable college newspaper would find room for this piffle, let alone the New York Times (one staggers to think of all the worthwhile things written in the blogosphere last week that NYT readers would never learn about while they publish the likes of this). Chris Lynch and Jonah Goldberg make appropriate mockery of various aspects of the column (links via Lyford). Ankle Biting Pundits had some more serious background on the numerous times that Fatina Abdrabboh - presumably the same one - had been quoted in the media complaining about perceived ill-treatment in the U.S., particularly on account of her headscarf; it's a must-read.
I had a few thoughts of my own:
1. Isn't it, um, kind of dangerous to bend down on a treadmill while wearing a headscarf? Am I the only one who thought this was a tort case waiting to happen? (A scene at the end of "The Incredibles" comes to mind, if you've seen it).
4. As my wife pointed out, if people in Cambridge stare at her, it's probably just because she doesn't have green hair and a pin through her nose.
BASEBALL: Not His Year
It is officially time to worry about Keith Foulke. After last night's debacle, Foulke has a 6.03 ERA and the numbers to back it up - he's allowed 8 homers and 14 walks in 37.1 innings, compared to 8 and 15 in 83 innings last year. His K/9 are down to less than 7 from close to 9. This is now past the point of "bad start" to "bad year," and maybe then some. I have to wonder if he's physically 100%.
BLOG: Been There, Done That
BASEBALL: And Henchmen, Too?
The link on CBSSportsline to this article read "Boss summons his minions to Tampa." I figured Steinbrenner must be the only person in public life who gets to have "minions." Then again, this Google News link suggests the term is more commonly used than I thought.
June 28, 2005
WAR: Media Bias!
These days, everyone's a media critic.
WAR: On The Same Page
BASEBALL: What Ails The Yankees
As you will recall, my preseason Established Win Shares Levels analysis concurred with the general consensus that the Hated Yankees had the most talented team in the American League. But the 2005 season has thus far had other plans for the Yanks. Over at The Hardball Times, we can look at the semi-current (through last Thursday, when they were 37-34) Win Shares totals for the Yankees. Where have they gone wrong? Let's compare the EWSL totals, projected over a 71 game season, to the Yankees' actual Win Shares through 71 games to identify the culprits. First, the non-pitchers:
WSAB is a measure of marginal Win Shares against the number expected of a replacement-level player with a similar amount of playing time. I included it here so you can see which guys are falling short of their EWSL due to poor quality play vs. lack of playing time. I included one player here (Damian Rolls) who I had projected in the preseason but hasn't played, and two (Crosby and Cano) I didn't project who have. Of course, adding one extra player means the team should come in a bit ahead of its preseason numbers.
As you can see, while the Yankee lineup has some problems - principally the aging support players Giambi, Bernie, Tino and Womack falling short of even their modest, age-adjusted expectations - the Yanks have more than covered this by getting greater even than expected performance from their stars, notably Sheffield, A-Rod and Posada.
You know what that means. The pitchers:
There you have it: a falloff of 15 Win Shares (5 whole wins) from the guys who were counted before the season, and a net loss of 8 Win shares (almost 3 wins) even including the guys who weren't counted. The damage was mainly done at the back of the rotation and bullpen: Mussina at +1 and Randy Johnson at -1 vs. their expected Win Shares are actually a wash, and Mariano, like the stars in the lineup, is doing his best to carry the stragglers. But Pavano, Brown, Wright, Quantrill, Stanton and Felix Rodriguez at -16 are just killing the Yanks; all that money spent on added pitching depth in the offseason went straight down the tubes.
Looking at these numbers also reassured me that my age adjustments weren't too harsh, and in some cases were too mild: the eight Yankees age 37 and over are at a net loss of 11 Win Shares against even their diminished expectations.
POLITICS: You Know You Have A Problem When . . .
I think my favorite detail from this story is the fact that the NY Times has a "Credibility Committee." When you need to appoint a committee to figure out why you have credibility problems . . .
LAW: Why I Love Justice Scalia
Yet another example, from the broadband case; in dissent, Justice Scalia explains why cable modem dealers are obviously selling telecom services:
I agree (to adapt the Court's example . . . ) that it would be odd to say that a car dealer is in the business of selling steel or carpets because the cars he sells include both steel frames and carpeting. Nor does the water company sell hydrogen, nor the pet store water (though dogs and cats are largely water at the molecular level). But what is sometimes true is not, as the Court seems to assume, always true. There are instances in which it is ridiculous to deny that one part of a joint offering is being offered merely because it is not offered on a "'stand-alone'" basis.
(Emphasis in original; citations omitted, footnote in brackets).
I have no idea if I even agree with Justice Scalia's preferred resolution of the case, but you have to love the way he frames an argument.
June 27, 2005
BASEBALL: Looper Blows It
Not much to add to last night's bitterly disappointing missed opportunity to sweep the Hated Yankees while they were playing defense like a beer league softball team that had gotten out of shape over the winter. Braden Looper just blew it, with a little help from David Wright not guarding the line with a man on first, nobody out and a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 9th. Looper's not a terrible closer and he's not a particularly expensive one, but he's definitely not a positive in his role.
POLITICS: The Flag Burns Back
WAR: Why They Will Lose
Good Max Boot effort setting out the major reasons why the insurgency can't and won't win. His points about the lack of a leader and lack of territory are significant, and you would hope that the ex-Baathists and other misguided nationalists in the movement would begin to realize that they are playing a losing hand.
On the other hand, neither factor would prevent the country from slipping into civil war or just plain chaos, which may be the real goal here. The problem, especially with regard to the foreign jihadis, is the extent to which war with America is an end in itself. The problem with fighting nihilists is that you can't take their nothing away from them. The best we can do on that score is (1) as Boot suggests, do a better job of sealing the Syrian border and (2) keep preparing the Iraqi military to carryu on the fight, since the real endgame for us here is having an Iraqi force willing and able to defend its own territory.
UPDATE: I do think the time will come when we will want and need a fixed exit date from Iraq, once we feel that the Iraqi forces are ready (just as we had fixed dates for the transfer of sovereignty and the Iraqi elections). But setting such a date more than a few months in advance of that day would be a disaster, for reasons Chester explains. And setting an October 2006 date - transparently linked to the 2006 Congressional elections rather than the facts on the ground - would be nothing but politics.
WAR: The Enemy
POLITICS: Krugman on Ohio
I had meant to link to Don Luskin's brutal takedown of Paul Krugman's article on scandals with the pension funds in Ohio; Krugman's mendacity in spinning the news to create falsely negative impressions about Republicans is pretty boundless. (Via Maguire). Of course, the real scandal here isn't the perfidy of Republican politicians and businessmen or the perfidy of Democratic politicians and businessmen or even (as Luskin suggests) the distorting effects of racial preferences; the real issue is that big giant honey pots of other people's money are being invested by politicians and people appointed by politicians. That's a dangerous trend and one that GOP reformers should crusade against at the state and federal levels. I hope Arnold succeeds in changing that in California.
BASEBALL: Manny Slammer
LAW: Hot Water?
Federal prosecutors are investigating one of the nation's most aggressive class-action law firms, Milberg Weiss Bershad & Schulman, for alleged fraud, conspiracy and kickbacks in scores of securities lawsuits, and could seek criminal charges against the firm itself and its principals.
Investigators allege that Mr. Lazar was illegally promised a share in the legal fees that would result from the cases in which he was a plaintiff, according to the indictment. Named plaintiffs in class-action cases can't have a special interest or concealed inducements beyond others in the class.
Most of the cases being investigated were filed before a  change in the law [i.e., the Private Securities Litigation Rerform Act] altered the way law firms jockeyed for the lead in class-action cases. Previously, the first to file a case was assigned the lead, allowing it to control the case and win the highest fees. As a result, many law firms kept a stable of clients to help launch suits quickly. Today, courts usually decide which firm will be given the lead role based on expertise, resources and increasingly, the lowest fees.
POLITICS: Political Math
Partisans of social-justice mathematics advocate an explicitly political agenda in the classroom. A new textbook, "Rethinking Mathematics: Teaching Social Justice by the Numbers," shows how problem solving, ethnomathematics and political action can be merged. Among its topics are: "Sweatshop Accounting," with units on poverty, globalization and the unequal distribution of wealth. Another topic, drawn directly from ethnomathematics, is "Chicanos Have Math in Their Blood." Others include "The Transnational Capital Auction," "Multicultural Math," and "Home Buying While Brown or Black." Units of study include racial profiling, the war in Iraq, corporate control of the media and environmental racism. . . .Teachers are supposed to vary the teaching of mathematics in relation to their students' race, sex, ethnicity and community. . .
The mischief just never ends, does it?
BASEBALL: Home Sweet Home
The Wall Street Journal had an entertaining article Friday ($) about how home teams screw around with the schedule to have more night games on getaway days, leaving the visitors to depart bleary-eyed; apparently this has become a particularly common tactic in an escalating war of minor indignities fought between the Devil Rays and the Hated Yankees.
The NY Times also had an interesting article - no longer web-available - on the question of what to call the Mets' new stadium, which presumably will not be named after William Shea, the lawyer who brought National League baseball back to New York. Of course, Shea's family has no cause to complain (as, mostly, they don't) - it was honor enough that the Mets played in a park bearing his name for four decades, and that
UPDATE: Dr. Manhattan reminds me that Yankee Stadium was, in fact, open in time for the 1976 World Series.
As I should have noted, the candidates for a new Mets stadium name would be either Jackie Robinson Stadium or a corporate sponsor. I'm fine with a corporate sponsor as long as it is (1) not something ridiculous (I think my favorite, from college football, is the infamous Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl), and (2) not a bank, telecom company or other company likely to change its name every three years.
June 26, 2005
WAR: Godspeed, Phil Carter
BASEBALL: Vinny No Go
Vinny Castilla, month by month:
Yup, after that hot start, Castilla has been worse than worthless. Another reason why my Hacking MASS team over at Baseball Prospectus has surged to #65 out of 1,859 teams. My roster:
The interesting question is whether the Nationals will eventually bail out on Castilla. Naturally, the hot April has made it that much harder to do.
BASEBALL: Another Sox Guru
POLITICS: Anyone But Her?
I got the following email from the Republican National Committee on Thursday:
As we've all come to see through this year's debate, the current Social Security system is financially unsustainable for future generations of Americans. We need to make sure when our children and grandchildren retire, they will receive the benefit that today's retirees currently enjoy. The problem is, every year we wait will cost $600 billion more to fix the problem.
(Emphasis added). Now, this is obviously a national form letter in which the RNC inserts the names of your local Senator and/or Congressperson. But I have two Democratic Senators, not one. Did the RNC decide that registered Republicans would be so averse to having the RNC ask them to call Hillary Clinton that they just left her off the list?
BLOG: Ode to the Instalanche
"'Twas the day after Sunday, and all through my site,
"My referrers log empty, most bloggers would scoff,
"But now my Sitemeter spun faster and faster,
"Much faster than spambots the linkers they came,
June 24, 2005
BASEBALL: That's Your Daddy
Well, Pedro quieted the howling masses at Yankee Stadium tonight, with a little help from two great center fielders and some horrible defense by the Hated Yankees. You know, the whole "who's your daddy" chant is just tiresome. And worse: it's a clear message that you should never show respect for the Yankees, because it will just get rammed back down your throat for the rest of your career. Good riddance, for one night, at least.
BASEBALL: Decision Time
I was down this road last week, but I thought it would be worth revisiting in more detail today. The Mets through 72 games now stand 35-37. Does that mean that this team is going to finish around .500, let alone contend? Hardly, given recent history:
The "average" does not include 2005. Clearly, this Mets team the past three years, like the early-90s Mets, has shown the ability to hang around for about half a season and then run off the rails. Now, with the NL East as close as it is, it would be silly to run up the white flag today. But Mets management needs to be preparing in every way for the possibility that, by the time mid/late July rolls around, they will be dealing from the position of a team rebuilding for 2006-07, rather than contending. That means putting people like Floyd and Cameron and Glavine on the table.
Specifically, a final decision will have to be made on the Mets' scheduled off-day of Monday, July 18. Counting the just-completed series in which the Mets took 2 out of 3 from Philadelphia, the Mets are in a stretch where they play 17 of 23 games between June 21 and July 17 against their own division, culminating with a 4-game set at Shea against the Braves. To my mind, they need to win at least 11 of those in-division games, while at least splitting the other 6, if they are going to be anything like serious contenders the rest of the way; otherwise, they are just treading water. Of course, if - like last season - the team suddenly runs off the rails the last 10 days of July, they should reconsider any effort to make trades to help in 2005. But by preparing themselves mentally and emotionally now to play for the bigger game later, Mets management can help avoid a repeat of last season's futile panic deals near the deadline.
June 23, 2005
LAW: Rehnquist Nostalgia
BASEBALL: Does Whatever A Spivey Can
On a gut level, I liked the Nationals' gamble in dealing Tomo Ohka for Junior Spivey, at least as far as the fact that Ohka has been playing with fire thus far this year and is likely to crash and burn.
As for Spivey, he's a lot less impressive than he seemed a few years ago. But he may have a role. The righthanded hitting Spivey, for his career, is batting .305/.568/.409 against lefthanded pitching, as opposed to .257/.379/.331 against righties. If Spivey is used as a role player, he can be spotted more against lefties.
Of course, dealing a starting pitcher, even a combustible one, for a role-playing infielder isn't usually a long-term winning strategy. But if Frank Robinson uses Spivey properly, he can get the most out of this deal.
BLOG: Quick Links 6/23/05
*Mike Lupica on Steinbrenner's decline with age. I'm not the biggest fan of the "he's being manipulated by his advisers" genre, with its inevitable vilification of some advisers and hosannas to others (i.e., sources). But Lupica does convincingly argue that George just isn't the same.
*Captain Ed notes Jaques Chirac bending on agricultural subsidies, one of France's most intransigent and damaging policies. It's worth considering as well this manifesto from the EU Referendum blog, setting out why "Euroscepticism" is about democratic accountability, which is under seige throughout the Western world.
*Cat got your tongue? Or the other way around? There's tough and then there's tough.
*Why do men with stay at home wives make more money? This article overlooks two possibilities: (1) Men who are married with stay at home wives have an increased incentive/need to work hard; (2) Women are more likely to stay at home if they have a reasonable expectation that their husband will make enough money to support them.
*This lawsuit, demanding a constitutional right for felons to vote, seems unlikely to go anywhere. (Via Bashman). The Fourteenth Amendment itself, for example, explicitly contemplates that states will deny felons the right to vote:
Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
June 22, 2005
WAR: Thanks, and Prayers
BASEBALL: Here We Go Again
If you are a Mariners fan, you really don't want to see "Felix Hernandez" and "shoulder" in the same sentence.
BLOG: Quick Links 6/22/05
*If this Mitt Romney broadside against "people within our country, and most of them are Democrats, who take delight in attacking our own country, and the way we treat people" isn't a sign that Romney is running for president instead of running for re-election in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, I don't know what would be.
*Profile of political consultant Mike Murphy. Romney's association with Murphy worries me - his candidates never seem to have a coherent philosophy or much of a policy program.
*Joe Katzman has some helpful thoughts on same-sex marriage and its place in the larger marriage debate, with links; I should return to Katzman's points at some point.
June 21, 2005
BASEBALL: Anything You Can Do . . .
Minky and Daubach both go deep in the 8th inning tonight, proving either (1) that competition is a good thing or (2) that batting against Ugueth Urbina is a good thing.
BASEBALL: Dumping DeJean
I'm not sure there are easily fox-able answers to what ails the Mets at the moment - especially the lack of a second baseman - but I do know at least a few things that will help and a few that won't.
1. Dump Mike Dejean, as the Mets did last night. The Mets have a bevy of young pitchers with potential upside - Heilman, Seo, Bell, Ring, Koo. Each of them has some reason to believe they could pitch effectively in the majors now or very soon. And even Manny Aybar has posted great K/BB ratios. DeJean, alone among the bullpen crew (since the departure of Felix Heredia) offered no cause for optimism. Might as well at least see what the kids can do backing up Looper and the rejuvenated Roberto Hernandez.
2. More Daubach, which we're starting to see. Brian Daubach's nothing special, but Minky has been so totally lost at the plate that you need to try somebody with a little power.
3. Get Reyes out of the top of the lineup. Reyes in the lineup every day is a good thing despite his low OBPs; he can hit for a good average (despite recent slumps), give you extra base power, speed and defense, and he's learning and improving. But there's no rational excuse for a guy with a .280-ish OBP (lowest in the majors over the past year) batting ahead of the big boppers. At this point, I'd just set the table with Cameron and Wright.
4. Replace Ishii with Heilman. Ishii's just not getting the job done. I don't know if he can hack it in the bullpen, but the more important thing is getting starts from guys who can keep you in the game.
1. Boo Beltran. Really, do we need another Bonilla or George Foster situation with a guy with a seven-year contract? Beltran's yet to get really hot, but he was hitting at about 80-90% of his expected production until he got hurt. When healthy, Beltran will be fine. As is, he's batting .327/.561/.385 with men on base, .306/.486/.375 from the seventh inning on, and .417/.722/.447 in the late innings of a close game. Can you say "clutch"? Give the guy a break.
2. Fire Willie Randloph.. Rookie managers have to learn, and by all appearances Randolph has handled the "respect of the players" part of the job well, and has done some things (like sticking Heilman out there) that have paid dividends. But if he's going to succeed long term, he really needs to show he understands the basics by getting Reyes out of the top of the order; he's finally at least taken the first step by dropping him to #2 lately.
WAR: Who Died at Gitmo?
One of the unfortunate ironies of the furor over Guantanamo Bay (as noted here) is that, while over 100 prisoners have died in U.S. custody, approximately 27 under suspicious or questionable circumstances, there do not appear to have been any deaths at Guantanamo Bay. A fact confirmed by Dick Durbin himself:
Q: I guess one of the reasons people are having such a hard time with this one, is when comparisons are made and you use names like Nazis and Soviet gulags, when you are talking Nazis there were what, 9 million people killed in the camps there. The gulags had about 3 million and so forth. And I know Gitmo is not the Holiday Inn down there, but I don't think anyone has died down there, have they?
POLITICS: He's Dead, Jim
I like Biden in some ways; he's certainly more likeable than Kerry (faint praise, indeed), is prone to occasional bouts of candor, and at least seems to have given some thought to serious foreign policy issues, although his instincts are erratic at best. But he clearly suffers from the same classic Senate combination of inflated self-importance, windbaggery and inconstancy that has damaged the presidential runs of Kerry and so many others; he's the textbook Senate "show horse." Plus, he may have the worst hair in American politics, which is not going to help.
June 20, 2005
All the evidence proves that Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi is working for America, because his victims are Iraqis and not [members of] the coalition forces under the command of the American occupation forces in Iraq. . . .
[W]hy is Al-Zarqawi massacring innocent Iraqi citizens and [members of] the Iraqi National Guard, the Iraqi army and the Iraqi Interior Ministry? Al-Zarqawi undeniably aims to harm the Iraqi people and members of the Iraqi forces, who undergo training to protect [their] homeland in the future. This massacre of the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi people is meant to strengthen the American occupation of the region . . .
You could call this more evidence of paranoid anti-Americanism from a nominal ally, Egypt. But is there more to this? After all, if you read between the lines here, the Egyptians are (1) denouncing al-Zarqawi for attacking Iraqis, (2) noting the obvious fact that any violence in Iraq only serves to prolong the U.S. military presence, and (3) going out of its way to note that Zarqawi is a (Jordanian) foreigner attacking Iraqis. Baby steps, cloaked in the language of baroque conspiracy theory, but steps in the right direction nonetheless, perhaps.
PETA employees charged with cruelty to animals. Evidence of James Taranto's theory that PETA is a right-wing plant continues to grow.
WAR: This Would Be Good To Know
CIA Chief Porter Goss says of Osama bin Laden, "I have an excellent idea where he is", after discussing the difficulties of "dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states". Which sounds to me like "Pakistan."
Does this mean anything? Who knows? The problem, of course, is that even if the Pakistanis could help us get bin Laden, doing so would require them to admit he was in their country.
POLITICS: So Quit, Then
Maureen Dowd is complaining about "the psychological pressure of being original." That's like Kaz Ishii complaining about the psychological pressure of having pinpoint control.
WAR: Strategic Overview, June 2005
Mackubin T. Owens had a good nutshell summary of the ongoing campaigns in Iraq last week (via Powerline); a more big-picture evaluation comes from Wretchard here and here.
June 17, 2005
POLITICS: Poor Seniors Don't Eat Dog Food
Clip and save this one for the next time this urban legend gets trotted out in a Social Security debate: Dr. Weevil confirms that no matter how poor you are, you can't save money by eating dog food instead of people food.
POLITICS: Harmonic Convergence of Wingnuttery & Moonbattery
A Kansas preacher and gay rights foe whose congregation is protesting military funerals around the country said he's coming to Idaho tomorrow to picket the memorial for an Idaho National Guard soldier killed in Iraq.
UPDATE: This guy has pictures. What loathesome characters.
WAR: Sunnis Accept Compromise
This NY Times report seems like it should have been a bigger deal:
Iraqi political leaders broke weeks of deadlock on Thursday, with Sunni Arabs accepting a compromise offer to increase their representation on the Shiite-led parliamentary committee that is to draft a constitution.
Time to declare victory? Of course not. But seeing as how "we need Sunni participation" is the gripe du jour of the anti-war crowd, it's encouraging to see another hurdle cleared.
POP CULTURE: A Real Princess
Norwegian Princess Leah's name was inspired by a character in a "Star Wars" movie, the mother of the infant princess was quoted as saying Thursday.
As long as they don't give her the hairdo . . .
WAR: How To Make People Not Care About Torture
Let's say that you are an independent, or a mainstream Democrat, who has no particular stake in defending the Bush Administration. And let's say that you believe that the actual incidence of murder, torture or other serious physical abuse of prisoners in US custody and the custody of US allies in the war on terror is unacceptably high, higher than should occur just from the natural fact that some prisoners in any prison population will be mistreated by guards or interrogators. (Jon Henke lays out a credible argument that this is, in fact, the case, even if a few of the examples he cites seem rather strained). And let's say that you would actually like something to be done about this.
Shouldn't you be incensed right now at Dick Durbin, Joe Biden, Amnesty International, Newsweek, and Time Magazine? Let's recall briefly:
*Durbin compared US troops' treatment of prisoners in their custody to the Nazis, the Soviets, or Pol Pot, a comparison predictably trumpeted by Al Jazeera.
*Biden called for the closing of Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay and the release of its occupants, although he did then render this assertion largely nonsensical by saying we should "keep those we have reason to keep." Biden further complained about the indefinite nature of the detention of terrorists at Gitmo, to the hosannas of Daily Kos.
*Time Magazine ran a profile of the interrogation of an actual Al Qaeda hijacker wannabe - i.e., someone who wanted to kill me, and would very much like to have killed you too - complaining about a whole raft of "coercive" interrogation procedures, like that were justly mocked for their mildness, under the circumstances, by Lileks in this penetrating Screed.
*Newsweek, of course, started the whole movement to refocus attention away from mistreatment of prisoners to charges that American troops committed blasphemy by mishandling the Koran.
Several of these folks, Durbin in particular, also blamed everything on the U.S. not following the Geneva Conventions.
Let's take a deep breath here. Look: conservative Republicans are in power right now in Washington, controlling the Executive Branch and holding partisan majorities in both Houses of Congress. And will continue to control the White House and Senate, and probably the House, for 3 1/2 more years, at least. You will get nothing accomplished without persuading them that it is (1) morally imperative, (2) in our national interest, and/or (3) in their political interest to do something about the treatment of prisoners in US custody in the War on Terror.
Republicans know that the majority of the public voted for Bush, knowing all about Abu Ghraib, and knowing all about all the other charges against the Iraq War. Republicans know full well that comparing American soldiers to Nazis is a political gaffe of enormous proportions, the kind of gift from your political opponents that you can't turn down. (See Patrick Ruffini and Hugh Hewitt on why this whole conversation is poison for the Democrats). Conservative Republicans believe, and have very good reasons to think the majority of the American public believes, that the United States should decide for itself what is right and in its national interest, rather than being told what to do by a bunch of international agreements. And there are plenty of us who believe, as I do, that in a war of this nature, where the most dangerous weapons are the jihadis themselves, there's nothing wrong with holding people who are out to get us until we are certain that there is no more danger - however long that takes. And then there's this:
Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
See, Colonel Jessep was the bad guy in that movie. He did something that was indisputably bad, and the audience rightly cheers when he goes to prison. We don't expect our military, no matter what their other virtues, to act like barbarians.
But don't you think there are a lot of people out there who listen to this particular speech and say, "he has a point"? (In your heart of hearts, don't you feel that way?) Don't you think American troops deserve the benefit of every doubt? Isn't it obviously the fact that the bulk of the American people don't much care to complain about a little rough treatment for actual, bona fide terrorists who would slit the throat of a young child if they could? Isn't it obviously the case that our troops are dealing with people who are not only trained to lie about mistreatment, but are lethally dangerous to their captors if treated like ordinary prisoners? And then we recall, as Bill Whittle discusses at length, that our adversaries in Afghanistan and Iraq and wherever else we capture them have committed war crimes not as isolated incidents but as a fish swims in the water; nearly everything they do, from fighting out of uniform, to faking surrenders, to targeting civilians, violates the most basic rules of warfare that have existed between combatants since many centuries before there was any such thing as "international law." Read Whittle and be reminded that it would be, not merely unwise, but a moral atrocity to reward this type of conduct by treating these guys exactly the same as we treat enemies who abide by those rules.*
In short, if you are selling "the Iraq War is evil" and "Americans are acting like Nazis" and "it's just like the gulag" and "boo hoo for actual sworn members of Al Qaeda who have to endure excessive heat and too much air conditioning (this, for guys who previously lived in caves) and have to listen to loud music" and "we ought to let these guys go free" and "we are acting illegally by not following some treaty" - well, you already know that the guys in power don't buy that, and they didn't get elected by buying it, and they don't believe the public buys it, and they're almost certainly right on that score.
So, you have two choices. One, you can just keep peddling inflammatory we-lefties-alone-have-the-moral-high-ground rhetoric and engaging in moral self-gratification, and keep pushing complaints about easily mocked hardhsips for vicious killers. This tactic is guaranteed to cause people in power to circle the wagons and tune you out and the public to lump you in with dope-addled peaceniks with no common sense, however much it may make you feel wonderful about yourself. Or - go back and read Henke again - you can keep a laser-like focus on the worst abuses, the actual deaths and genuine, indefensible instances of torture and mistreatment, and try to win over enough Republicans to force some changes.
There are plenty of us who are willing to be persuaded by arguments like Henke's that leave out the overwrought and frankly anti-American comparisons to Communists and Nazis but that also zero in on genuine abuses rather than sob stories about how these guys were treated a little mean. But when you call American soldiers Nazis and call Guantanamo the gulag - as it sits just miles from actual gulags - you cheapen the meaning of "Nazi" and "gulag". And when you call the interrogation methods that have been approved by the Pentagon "torture," you cheapen the meaning of torture. And you end up devaluing your own words to the point where they flow over the listener like so much rainwater.
Plus, you wind up driving away people who might be tempted to listen to you. I tried to lay out my own thoughts back in February, and still I had people jumping down my throat for not denouncing the Bush Administration and all its works, to the point where I wound up frankly wondering if it's worth the grief you get for writing about this subject. If you want to get things done, try not attacking people who try to meet you half way on these things.
Predictably, we see where the Democrats' hearts lead them. They want to relive 1987, when they pilloried Reagan over Iran-Contra as their path to win back the White House. Of course, that didn't work, but it felt good. As a number of commentators have pointed out, that debate would have gone much better for the Dems if they'd focused on what was genuinely bad - trading arms for hostages - but no, they wanted to settle scores with Reagan over his determination to battle Communism in Central America, a fight where Reagan had a lot more public support. Here we go again, with the Democrats trying to paint American efforts as evil and wrong in a big way, rather than flawed in a specific and correctible way, and framing an argument about whether we are being too hard on the evildoers. The more you hear "Nazi" and "gulag" and "Geneva" and complaints about sleep deprivation and rap music, the less will get done about guys getting raped or beaten to death in custody. That can't be what the Left wants - can it?
Read More »
*This is neither here nor there in the rest of this argument, but this Atlantic Monthly article (subscription required) makes the case that, in most cases, a friendly interrogator will get better results than harsh, coercive methods. I have my doubts that this is an ironclad rule, that there are never exceptions, that the world is that simple, with no tradeoffs. But there is a rational point to be made here that we may have self-interested reasons to treat prisoners better as well.
« Close It
LAW: Need To Know
Burning question of the day: does Michael Jackson get his porn back? Dan Abrams says not yet.
WAR: Yes, There Were Flowers
The welcome that I've seen American and British forces get in parts of Iraq is something I . . . want to mention first because there are people who say that that never happened. It is commonly said by, umm, political philosophers like Maureen Dowd . . . where were the sweets and where were the flowers? Well, I saw it happen with my own eyes and no one's going to tell me that I didn't. I saw it . . . months after the invasion, people still lining the roads . . . Especially in the south - still lining the roads and waving and the children waving which is always the sign, because if the parents don't want them to, they don't. For miles, it . . . was like, this is the nearest I'll get to taking part in the liberation of the country, to ride in with the liberating army. I'll never forget, and I will not allow it not to be said that that did not happen. And in the marshes too - the marsh Arab area of the country which was drained and burned out and poisoned by Saddam Hussein. Again, almost hysterical welcome, and in Kurdistan in the north.
June 16, 2005
POP CULTURE: "Would These Faces Lie To You?"
OK, I'm not a fan of Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, but here he's unleashed on a deeply deserving assemblage of Michael Jackson supporters and reporters. Viciously funny stuff. Via The Intern.
BLOG: Welcome, CNN Viewers!
Yes, you've come to the right place. Scroll down a bit for yesterday's post on the Vietnam Card. And feel free to put your feet up and look around a bit - besides politics, there's plenty of baseball and other stuff around the site, starting with the "Greatest Hits" on the sidebar.
(Transcript of CNN's Inside Politics here)
WAR: And, Where Are We Supposed To Put Them?
POLITICS: Strange Tales
A Kansas City abortionist is out of business after investigators discovered a grisly house of horrors at his clinic – with fetuses kept in Styrofoam cups in his refrigerator and one employee accusing him of microwaving one and stirring it into his lunch.
But is the story accurate? The Kansas City Star makes no reference to the more explosive allegations, and if I recall correctly, WorldNetDaily doesn't seem like the kind of outfit I'd rely on if it's alone in its reporting (in fact, that's a good rule of thumb for any news organization). Count me skeptical for now.
BASEBALL: You Know You're Having A Bad Year When . . .
I see that Rocco Baldelli, who is almost recovered from a torn ACL, will now miss the rest of the season with Tommy John surgery. (I guess the $5 I gambled on Baldelli in my Rotisserie draft is now officially wasted).
POLITICS: And The Horse You Rode In On
BASEBALL: Treading Water
The Mets are now 32-33. At this point last year, they were 31-34, before a hot streak that pushed them to 44-41 two games before the All-Star Break. Lesson? You can hang around .500 this long and longer and still have the kind of miserable year they had last season.
Granted, an awful lot went wrong in the second half - Glavine, Leiter, Traschel, Looper, Piazza, Floyd, and Hidalgo were all awful, and Matsui got hurt. I don't see that many people dropping off badly this time, but there could certainly be injuries.
What this means most of all is, the Mets should play their cards very carefully as far as making trades. Last year, they made two win-now deals about a week after it became clear that they were out of the race. This division race could go down to the wire, but they should tread very lightly in terms of sacrificing any part of their future to compete now.
For example, I'm interested in the rumored Matsui-for-Alfonzo deal possibilities. The deal only makes sense if Alfonzo can still play second, which is doubtful. That aside, though, whether such a deal would be a good one depends on what prospect(s) get thrown in to balance it out. Yusmeiro Petit, who appears to have a high upside, would be too much. Jae Seo, who can pitch but is unlikely to ever be any kind of star, on the other hand, I'd be willing to part with (although I'm doubtful that Matsui and Seo would be enough to make that deal).
June 15, 2005
BASEBALL: Questionable Management
If, as Jim Tracy asserted in today's Los Angeles Times, Hee Seop Choi is "probably the hottest hitter in baseball," then why in the world did he drop him into the sixth slot against Jose Lima? Utterly disconcerting....
BASEBALL: Amazing Stat of the Day
In the past 365 days, Jim Edmonds has hit into one double play. Among players with 502 plate appearances (enough to qualify for a batting title) over that stretch, the top 6 guys in fewest GIDP are Edmonds and Carl Crawford (1 each), Ichiro (2), Bobby Abreu, Jimmy Rollins and Kevin Mench (3 each). Other than Mench, that group is three speed merchants, a fleet-footed slugger, and Edmonds - a 35-year-old power hitter with a long injury rap sheet. Very impressive. Plus, he's batting .309/.647/.431, ranking him first in the majors in slugging and fourth in OBP for that stretch. Gotta take your hat off to the man. To be more specific, gotta vote for him for the All-Star Team. The third OF spot may be tough; Beltran is tempting for a Mets fan - though I'd rather he have the days off - but Giles, Dunn, Drew and Cabrera are also worthy contenders; I probably vote for Giles. (I regard Bonds' injury as giving me an excuse not to feel compelled to vote for him). But the top two outfielders in the NL shouldn't be hard: Abreu and Edmonds.
UPDATE: The rest of my NL All-Star Ballot, off the top of my head: Pujols over Derrek Lee at 1B, Kent at 2B, Khalil Greene at SS, David Wright over the injured Chipper at 3B, and I'm voting for Piazza at C but I can't blame you if you vote for Johnny Estrada.
BASEBALL: 30 Not Likely
David Pinto muses over whether Dontrelle Willis might have a shot at 30 wins. I looked back at the numbers, and this much is clear: Willis would have to do something totally unprecedented.
When Lefty Grove won 31 in 1931, he made 11 relief appearances in between his starts and threw 27 complete games. When Dizzy Dean won 30 in 1934, he made 17 relief appearances and 24 complete games. When Walter Johnson won 36 in 1913, he made 12 relief appearances and 29 complete games.
Those are the only three pitchers ever to win 30 games while starting fewer than 37 in a season. And of the 6 other times a pitcher has won 30 with between 37 and 39 starts, they've averaged 7 relief appearances and 33 complete games.
I just don't see a modern pitcher, making 35 or fewer starts and not relieving between starts, winning 30, especially without a lights-out closer or a wrecking crew offense, neither of which the Marlins have.
UPDATE: From Chris, in the comments, a Retrosheet breakdown of wins as a starter for the last four 20-game winners:
McLain '68 -- 31 as a starter, 0 as a reliever
POLITICS: The Wrong Man?
After years of left-wing writers insisting that George W. Bush has a secret drug arrest in his past, could it be that they were looking at the wrong George W. Bush? (via Tim Blair).
POLITICS: The Vietnam Card - 2008 Edition
Every presidential campaign since 1988 has featured an intense focus on the issue of non-service in Vietnam: the issue arose in 1988 with Dan Quayle's Indiana National Guard service, then moved on in 1992 and 1996 to Bill Clinton's on-and-off ROTC commitments, and then in 2000 and 2004 to George W. Bush's Texas Air National Guard service as contrasted with the Vietnam service of Al Gore and John Kerry. Kerry's service, of course, also spawned the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and related controversies best not rehashed here.
It's debatable whether attacks on a candidate's failure to serve in Vietnam are effective - note that the targeted candidate was on the winning side in each of those five elections, in the last four cases against candidates with more distinguished service records, three of them combat veterans. As I've argued in the past, the Democrats' particular fixation with the "chickenhawk" theme was the source of many of their worst mistakes in 2004.
Still, the issue remains with us, and whether we like it or not, we will assuredly be arguing, come 2008, about what the candidates did during the Vietnam War. With that in mind, to assist us all in going into the next cycle with our eyes open, I set out to examine what I could dig up on the various people who have been prominently mentioned at one time or another as (1) 2008 candidates (2) 2012 or later candidates or (3) possible VP candidates. Consider this a first draft. I've tried to keep the list comprehensive rather than fret over which ones are actually bona fide candidates at this stage, although I've put more effort into locating information about the more major candidates. Candidates are arranged by year of birth, to give some perspective on when they would have been eligible to serve. A NOTE ON SOURCES: I've cited anything I could get my hands on via a Google search. Take the sources for what they're worth. I'm happy to be corrected; email me or drop links in the comments if I've missed something or if a source has misstated facts. Birthdates and other basic information are mostly taken from the Almanac of American Politics.
Before we get into the candidates, though, let's try to offer a little of the historical perspective that often got lost in the shuffle in discussions of the draft status of Bush, Kerry and Dick Cheney. Even based on date of birth alone, not every young man in the 1960s and early 1970s was equally likely to get drafted to go to Vietnam.
Before the lottery was implemented in the latter part of the Vietnam conflict, Local Boards called men classified 1-A, 18 1/2 through 25 years old, oldest first. This resulted in uncertainty for the potential draftees during the entire time they were within the draft-eligible age group. A draft held today would use a lottery system under which a man would spend only one year in first priority for the draft - either the calendar year he turned 20 or the year his deferment ended. Each year after that, he would be placed in a succeedingly lower priority group and his liability for the draft would lessen accordingly. In this way, he would be spared the uncertainty of waiting until his 26th birthday to be certain he would not be drafted.
As to student deferments:
Before Congress made improvements to the draft in 1971, a man could qualify for a student deferment if he could show he was a full-time student making satisfactory progress toward a degree.
A lot of my information on the Vietnam draft comes from this site, the provenance of which I can't vouch for, although a good deal of the information about the Vietnam-era lottery is also here on the Selective Service website. (There's more here). Apparently, the lottery was introduced in 1969:
December 1, 1969 marked the date of the first draft lottery held since 1942. This drawing determined the order of induction for men born between January 1, 1944 and December 31, 1950.
In addition to the draft procedures, you need to understand the changing circumstances of the war over time. U.S. involvement in Vietnam did not become a major manpower commitment until 1965 (see here), with troop levels rising from 23,300 in 1964 to 184,300 in 1965 to a high of 536,100 in 1968. Under Nixon, troop levels dropped off to 334,600 by 1970 (a 37% reduction), then dropped in half to 156,800 in 1971, and to 24,200 in 1972, with the war ending by the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973. As you can see, the need to draft men to go to Vietnam was falling off sharply from 1971 on. This chart shows the peak and dropoff in the number of draftees taken into the Armed Forces; I'll reproduce the key figures:
To give some sense of perspective for the proportions involved, the link above notes that a lottery for six years' worth of potential draftees affected 850,000 young men. In other words, if you came of age between 1965 and 1969, your odds on being drafted were pretty high; other years, much less so.
CANDIDATES BORN BEFORE 1939
1936 - Draft Eligible 1954-62
CANDIDATES BORN 1939-1943
The men in this age group were draft eligible before the institution of the draft lottery in 1969, and thus were exposed to the draft at age 18 1/2 and became gradually less likely to be drafted as they approached age 26, becoming ineligible on their 26th birthdays. While women served and in some cases died in Vietnam as volunteers in non-combatant positions, women were not eligible to be drafted.
1942 - Draft Eligible 1960-68
Biden himself was in graduate school during the Vietnam War and avoided it. He was described by Vietnam veteran David Hackworth as a "well-connected draft dodger" . . .
I'm not sure what the basis of "draft dodger" is; presumably, Biden used student deferments to avoid service, but I don't have better sources on this.
1943 - Draft Eligible 1960-68
He took a nine-month break before his senior year to work for Cornell University at the Arecibo Radio Observatory in Puerto Rico. He returned to earn his Harvard degree, but something had changed. "I enjoyed it, but I was ready to move on," Bredesen said.
John Kerry (D-MA) (12/11/43) - Navy 1966-70, Navy Reserve, 1970-78. Volunteered for the Navy after being denied a deferment; served two tours, 1966-70, including four months of hazardous combat duty in Vietnam, December 1968-March 1969. I won't rehash here the various controversies over Kerry's service, but he was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.
CANDIDATES BORN 1944-45
1944 - Draft Eligible 1961-69
Rudolph Giuliani (R-NY) (5/28/44) - Did not serve; received a deferment in 1968 for a clerkship with a United States District Court judge. Got a letter from the judge to sustain this deferment, after receiving student deferments for college and law school.
Wesley Clark (D-AR) (12/23/44) - Army 1966-2000. Graduated from West Point, 1966. After two years at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, served in Vietnam with honor and distinction 1969-70, being wounded four times and earning a Silver Star and Purple Heart. Remained in the Army until 2000. Link.
Tom Tancredo (R-CO) (12/20/45) - Did not serve. According to Political State Report, Tancredo "avoided service in Vietnam by obtaining a medical deferment for mental health reasons." This and this link, from critics of Tancredo's views on immigration, are harsher in their descriptions.
CANDIDATES BORN 1946-51
Romney was given a religious deferment while a Mormon missionary in France during the late 1960s and a student deferment while at Stanford and Brigham Young universities. . . . In fact, millions of American men received deferments during the Vietnam War. In 1964, for example . . . 1.2 million men received student deferments, according to the Selective Service. In 1965 -- the first year of Romney's deferment -- 1.7 million men received student deferments. . . Romney . . . declined to be interviewed on the subject. But in 1994, when he was trying to unseat Democratic U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, Romney denied that his 2 1/2 year Mormon mission to France was taken to avoid being drafted. He said his father, a three-term Michigan governor and 1968 presidential candidate, never intervened.
I believe that the mission is a religious requirement for Mormons; while I'm not sure if there are strict rules as to when you take them, most Mormons today do the mission in or around the college years.
Newt Gingrich (R-GA) (6/17/47) - Did not serve. It appears that Newt got deferments for college, graduate school and fatherhood. This link states that Newt also got a deferment for being a father. PBS' Frontline has a good timeline; Newt was married in 1962 as a college freshman, had his first child in 1963, and was in college and grad school from 1962-70. On the draft:
Gets draft deferment because of school and children (flat feet and near-sightedness also probably would have kept him out).
Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) (7/30/47) - Austrian Army, 1965-66. Military service was compulsory, but Austria was not at war in those years. Arnold spent a week in military prison for going AWOL to enter his first bodybuilding competition, but was thereafter given permission to compete in bodybuilding events while in the military. Link.
Haley Barbour (R-MS) (10/22/47) - Did not serve.
Hillary Clinton (D-NY) (10/26/47) - Did not serve. Woman, not eligible for draft.
Bill Richardson (D-NM) (11/15/47) - Did not serve. Got college degree in 1970, Masters Degree in 1971.
Bill Owens (R-CO) (10/22/50) - Did not serve. According to USAToday, Vietnam is a problem for Owens, who's had a lot of problems lately:
Shortly before the 1998 Republican primary, reports surfaced that he had misrepresented his Vietnam War draft status. Owens told The Denver Post he was never called up, but a review of his records showed college deferments in 1969, 1970 and 1971. Owens said he simply forgot.
Tom Vilsack (D-IA) (12/13/50) - Did not serve.
CANDIDATES BORN 1952-1953
1952 - Subject to 1971 Draft Lottery for Induction in 1972
George Allen (R-VA) (3/8/52) - Did not serve. According to the same source, his lottery number was 229, a high number.
1953 - Subject to 1972 Draft Lottery for Induction in 1973
Russ Feingold (D-WI) (3/2/53) - Did not serve. Very high lottery number of 322.
John Edwards (D-NC) (6/10/53) - Did not serve. Lottery number: 178. Edwards' Vietnam exposure is discussed by Tim Noah here.
CANDIDATES BORN AFTER 1953
Mark Warner (D-VA) (12/15/54) - Did not serve.
Mary Landrieu (D-LA) (11/23/55) - Did not serve. Woman, not eligible for draft.
Evan Bayh (D-IN) (12/26/55) - Did not serve.
Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) (11/27/60) - Did not serve.
June 14, 2005
WAR: Penn in Iran
If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged, maybe there's hope yet for Sean Penn. (via Drudge) At least he's not there to suck up to the mullahs.
June 13, 2005
WAR: What Smash Said
This is, of course, one reason why I'm so glad we still have Bush in office. I get the sense that, whatever else is going on, Bush still wakes up in the morning looking to take the fight to the bad guys. And, perversely, as his presidency eventually reaches lame-duck status, he'll only be more single-minded on the objective, which is his legacy whether he chooses it or not.
June 12, 2005
BASEBALL: One to Win
If you're gonna win a division, at some point, you have to start winning the kind of games the Mets won last night against the Angels. If you missed this one - easy enough to do, given the long rain delay - the highlights included:
*Kris Benson walking with the bases loaded in the 2d
*Carlos Beltran taking away a 2-run homer by Ben Molina with a leaping grab in the 7th.
*Trailing 2-1 against Francisco Rodriguez with one out in the bottom of the ninth, Marlon Anderson hits an inside-the-park pinch hit home run to tie the game. Anderson drilled a sure double to right center; Steve Finley made a dive for it, and Vladimir Guerrero, playing by the book, ran behind Finley to back him up if the ball got past him. But instead of rolling by Finley, the ball ricocheted off his knee into the right field corner, at which point I knew Anderson had an easy triple and a shot at the inside-the-parker, apparently the Mets' first at Shea in 16 years. The play ended with a bruising collision at the plate between Anderson and Molina, opening a couple of gashes on Anderson's face from where he went face-first into Molina's mask.
*Cliff Floyd's walk-off three-run homer, trailing 3-2 with two outs in the bottom of the tenth. Here's the pitch-by-pitch sequence of that marathon tenth inning, in which Floyd managed to stay alive after nasty changeups from Brendan Donnelly put away Beltran and Piazza:
Jose Reyes: Strike (looking), Strike (foul), Foul, Ball, Ball, Foul, J Reyes singled to shallow left
Mike Cameron: Ball, Strike (looking), Ball, Ball, Strike (swinging), Foul, Ball, M Cameron walked, J Reyes to second
Carlos Beltran: Strike (bunted foul), Ball, Strike (foul), Strike (swinging), C Beltran struck out swinging
Mike Piazza: Strike (swinging), Ball, Ball, Strike (swinging), Strike (swinging), M Piazza struck out swinging
Cliff Floyd: Strike (swinging), Ball, Ball, Strike (foul), Ball, Foul, Foul, Foul, J Reyes stole third, C Floyd homered to right, J Reyes and M Cameron scored
(Reyes stole third totally uncontested, if you're wondering if he was crazy to run with two outs. His threats to steal also contributed to Donnelly walking Cameron, including a failed pitchout).
I really hope Floyd can finally stay healthy this year - he's just playing with such tremendous enthusiasm and flair this season, cracking big homers and throwing out baserunners by the bushel.
POP CULTURE: To Sing the Blues, Some Are Born
June 11, 2005
WAR/POLITICS: The Constable Blundered
Go read Captain Ed's thorough summary of the new report on the FBI's failings leading up to September 11. Of course, it's easy to find law enforcement errors with the benefit of hindsight; investigation's a tough job. But the blow-by-blow both emphasizes why the Patriot Act was needed and underlines the damage done by fear of racial profiling.
BASEBALL: Blog Links
Tom Elia compares the misery of the Cubs to the misery (past tense) of the Red Sox. And Doctor Horsefeathers reviews Jerry Crasnick's book "License to Deal : A Season on the Run with a Maverick Baseball Agent", including a behind-the-scenes look at Dontrelle Willis.
June 10, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 6/10/05
*Fun facts from Drezner: the US makes up 47% of the world's military spending, and the supplemental appropriations to pay for Afghanistan, Iraq and the overall war on terror for Fiscal Years 2003-05
amounted to approximately $238 billion and exceeded the combined military spending of Africa, Latin America, Asia (except Japan but including China) and the Middle East in 2004 ($193 billion in current dollars)
*Time for the Democrats to execute Order 66. Looks like the firing has commenced.
*Profile of our old friend Dave Holmes, now the host of CBS' "Fire Me . . . Please".
*Eric Neel ode to Vin Scully, which I missed when it first ran.
*More Rehnquist rumors: he's going (via NRO), he's staying. The Chief Justice is a well-known poker enthusiast; my bet is nobody knows but him what he's doing, and nobody will until very close to the day he announces.
June 9, 2005
BASEBALL: Perhaps the Final Beltre Bash?
Last month, I compared Adrian Beltre unfavorably to his Dodger replacements. But he's now beginning to show signs of life: since the start of June, he's managed to compile a .292 average and a .370 on-base percentage. True, these numbers aren't exactly going to propel him onto the leadership boards, especially with a paltry .375 slugging percentage accompanying them, but they're at least better than his seasonal .242 AVG and .277 OBP.
What truly strikes me, though, is his 8 total walks. For perspective, consider that Antonio Perez, who's more or less become the regular Dodger third baseman, has 9 -- in 155 fewer plate appearances (235 vs. 80). Indeed, Perez has spent time on the disabled list, as well as in AAA to improve his fielding at the hot corner, yet he's drawn more. And this advantage has translated to an 11.3 VORP, compared to Beltre's -2.1.
Maybe Adrian's finally found his groove. If so, then we can start missing him, because Antonio's been just fine.
BASEBALL: Unsteady Eddie
If I think about it, I'm sure I can come up with some worse major league hitters than Kevin Hench's list. For example, shortstop Enzo Hernandez had an OPS+ of 61 in 1971, compared to 53 for Rey Ordonez in 1998 and 37 for the legendary John Gochnauer in 1902. And for bad-hitting pitchers, I'm not sure Al Leiter tops Bob Buhl's 1962 season, when he went 0-for-70, although Buhl did draw 6 walks.
POLITICS: Bad Times
Megan McArdle catches a New York Times editorial using one of Paul Krugman's favorite tricks, comparing the ten-year projected cost of a tax cut to the one-year annual cost of a spending program, in this case aid to Africa. She notes some other problems as well with the Times' math.
June 8, 2005
BLOG: Object of Worship
Link via Chris in Des Moines.
WAR: This Is Wrong
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. I read this piece in the WSJ yesterday and I'm still too angry to write about it rationally.
BASEBALL: Pitching's Dark Ages?
BLOG: Quick Links 6/8/05
*So Dino Rossi's challenge to the Washington governor's election was rejected by the trial judge, and Rossi declinnes to appeal. I agree with John Hinderaker that the legal standard applied by the court - requiring not only proof that the number of illegal votes exceeded the margin of victory but also proof that those votes went to the winner - makes overturning an election result all but impossible in a system of secret ballots, at least without an express confession by one side that it orchestrated a decisive number of fraudulent ballots.
You could argue - and I'm not sure I would disagree - that imposing such a high standard is a good thing, to discourage election litigation except in the most egregious cases. Clearly, Washington is in desperate need of electoral reform. Anyway, the big question now is whether Rossi will challenge Maria Cantwell for the Senate in 2006, or keep his powder dry for a rematch in 2008 for the job he clearly prefers.
*Edward Jay Epstein reviews movie economics and offers reason to hope that economic necessity might push Hollywood to make more movies for adults.
*This may indeed be the only answer to the ever-growing atrocities in Zimbabwe.
*Frank Gaffney has a scare-the-pants-off scenario involving the "EMP" nuclear attack. I know I'm still missing some context here, though.
BASEBALL: Texas Rocket
Maybe I've been looking in the wrong places, but I wonder why we haven't seen more talk about Roger Clemens possibly being traded to the Rangers later in the season. Clemens is obviously making way too much money for the Astros to want him around the rest of the year if they can find a willing suitor. I've seen the Yankees mentioned, of course, but why not the Rangers? They have an excellent offense and look like they will stay in the AL West race; they have a deep-pocketed owner who, while he's been more financially conservative since the A-Rod deal, has shown a willingness to spend; they are, as always, in need of a #1 starter (don't tell me "Kenny Rogers"; just don't); and, of importance to Clemens, he could pitch there without leaving his home state of Texas.
Am I missing something?
BASEBALL: National Deficit
The Washington Post has a fairly good article on the Nationals' surprising emergence, but it seems to miss the most crucial point. This summary is fine:
How, exactly, have they won seven of their last eight [note: with today's victory, the string is now eight of nine--RT], overtaking everybody in the process? They don't lead the NL in any significant category. In fact, they are statistically unremarkable, in some cases abysmal. Only two teams in the NL score fewer runs per game than the Nationals' 4.09. No team in the league has hit fewer home runs than the Nationals' 40. Their starting pitching is not dominant; their bullpen is, statistically speaking, quite ordinary.
But I'd be more apt to note, as Baseball Prospectus does, the Nats' overall negative run differential. After all, if you plug their total runs scored (235) and total runs allowed (244) in the James Pythagorean formula, you get an expected record that drops below .500, putting them in the cellar of the NL East. They're playing five games above their heads right now. Without a surge in run production, they're likely to falter.
(Aside: Somebody needs to tell ESPN that their sabermetric columnist is named Rob Neyer, not Rob Never. See the header.)
June 7, 2005
BLOG: Not A Bushism
The United States and Britain are working to provide the world's richest nations with a plan to eliminate debt relief for African countries "on the path to reform," President Bush said Tuesday.
BASEBALL: And They Play in a Pitchers' Park?
The Dodgers' recent woes can be easily traced to the pitching staff, especially its penchant for yielding the long ball. If you want just one simple indicator, take a look at the Beane Count, which examines team rankings in walks and homeruns. While the hitters are respectable in both areas, the pitchers are among the worst in HR-allowed, despite giving up the second-fewest bases on balls.
The story doesn't get any better within the rotation. In calculating the average game scores of the 105 pitchers who've started enough games to "qualify," we get a major-league figure of roughly 51.3. Pedro Martinez, whose 68.6 ranks highest in the game, is over two standard deviations from the mean. By contrast, Dodger starters are, at best, mediocre. Derek Lowe (52.9), Brad Penny (52), and Odalis Perez (51) offer nothing spectacular. Jeff Weaver (45.3), Scott Erickson (38), and Wilson Alvarez (27) are miserable, particularly if you consider their home park.
What these numbers tell us is that the Dodgers have yet to get consistently good starts. I suspect that they'll improve as folks like Penny (and, hopefully, Perez) recover from injuries, but Paul DePodesta is taking no chances: he's in the market for a starter.
BASEBALL: Feel the Draft
There's already so much good coverage of the draft that it'd be fruitless for me to live-blog it. Hence just check out John Sickels. And pay a special visit to Baseball America, which deserves considerable praise for projecting the first eighteen selections, as well as twenty-two of the top thirty.
But let me note that, in using their supplemental pick to draft Luke Hochevar, the Dodgers have essentially found their way to the first round. As John notes, this Tennessee right-hander could have gone in the top five. His affiliation with Scott Boras is a significant wild card, though perhaps the fact that the Dodgers initially selected him in 2002 could avert negotiating snafus.
BASEBALL: The Impossible
Yesterday, before the Dodgers' first game against the Tigers, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke revisited the 1988 World Series with Kirk Gibson. The resulting article has interesting tidbits, most notably Plaschke's own recollection of the historic fist-pump. But this point stands out:
How much did that home run typify his season? Consider that he was voted MVP despite hitting only 25 homers with 76 runs batted in and a .290 average.
Gibson's modesty is admirable, and indeed, if we truly want to "be honest," we should agree that -- by Hall of Fame standards -- his career was "very, very average."
On the other hand, as a journalist, Plaschke should know better than to provide statistics without appropriate context. Yes, Gibson hit only 25 homers. But, back then, that was good enough for seventh in the league. And, while he had a mediocre batting average, he finished fourth in on-base percentage, ninth in slugging percentage, fourth in OPS, third in OPS+, second in runs scored, and seventh in runs created. He had a very productive season.
Perhaps he didn't deserve the MVP award. Two years ago, Crank laid out a very strong case against Gibson (and for Darryl Strawberry), providing support for Plaschke's assertions. But, as Aaron Gleeman has noted, Gibson also accumulated the second-highest Win Share total, so his selection was not entirely unjustified. It certainly wasn't something to be dismissed in the interest of immortalizing the homer.
Then again, we've come to expect such sloppiness from Plaschke, right? (He's a far cry from Bernie Miklasz, to be sure.) But, if there's anything from the column worth saving, it's this admission:
"There were personality defects in the deal, it's what made me who I was," he says. "Some people didn't like it. But they didn't take the time to understand it."
Maybe he'll write similarly of Paul DePodesta seventeen years from now.
BASEBALL: The Mets Rotation
The Mets' pitching staff has been coming along nicely lately, although I still have serious concerns about several of the starters. But it also occurred to me that just looking at ERAs wasn't getting at some of the important distinctions between these guys. I decided to break them down by starts, into three groups: Quality Starts (6 or more innings, 3 or fewer earned runs; I always thought 3-in-6 was a pretty poor excuse for a quality start, but less so now than 20 years ago); Disaster Starts (at least 1 earned run per inning pitched); and Mediocre Starts (the rest). Let's see how the seven men to start games for the Mets this year break out:
How about the Mets' record in those starts?
As you can see, this is a classic breakdown for a team with an OK but not great offense: the Mets are extremely hard to beat when they get a quality start, lose most of the time when they don't, and are incapable of coming back when the starter gets blown out.
For the quick math, the Mets are 18-10 when Pedro, Benson, Heilman or Seo starts, but 12-17 when Glavine, Zambrano or Ishii starts.
Now, each pitcher's ERA broken out by Quality Starts, Mediocre Starts and Disaster Starts:
Now, some conclusions. While some of us - myself prominently included - have given up on Tom Glavine, what we see here is a guy who can still give you plenty of quality outings, as long as you live with the fact that he's the one starter most likely to take you completely out of the game. In fact, Glavine's ERA in his 9 non-disaster starts is 2.62 - exactly the same as Pedro's in his 11. The difference is that Pedro has yet to have a game completely get away from him, whereas it has happened to Glavine three times, two of them against division foes. Of course, the overall result is still a losing record for the Mets when Glavine starts.
Then there's Zambrano, Ishii and Heilman. These numbers confirm for me that Zambrano is contributing, and Ishii isn't and should be replaced by Heilman. Note that while Zambrano is the least effective Mets starter in his Quality Starts, he's the most effective in his Mediocre starts, because he's the most likely to be lifted before 6 innings even if he has only allowed 2 or 3 runs. On a great offensive team, this would make him very valuable, as he usually doesn't get blown out, only once in 10 tries compared to 2 in 7 for the other two. On this team, a little less so, but at least Zambrano gives you a chance. As with Glavine, his performance so far would be more valuable with just a little more offense behind him.
Ishii's ERA in his QS+MS is 3.27 compared to 3.46 for Zambrano, but the difference is that he's far less consistent, as his Mediocre Starts aren't far removed from a Disaster Start. Basically, unless Ishii's completely on top of his game, he kills you. That could be useful for a truly awful offensive team that wants to steal a win every now and then, but it won't cut it for a contender, which the Mets still hope to be. Heilman has been better at keeping the team in games, and is currently in the bullpen mainly just because Ishii isn't suited to relief, either. Unless the Mets really think they can trade Ishii soon, I'd bury him in a mop up role.
POLITICS: Oily Numbers
Gerry Daly points out a Washington Post editorial that mixes and matches numbers to severely understate the potential impact of drilling for oil in ANWR.
UPDATE: Todd Zywicki notes the same bad math in another op-ed in the Post, and an attempt to correct the record with a letter to the editor.
POLITICS: The Truth Leaks Out
Not that I think college transcripts tell you a whole lot about a presidential candidate, but it's emblematic of the way the media let John Kerry get away with hiding things a Republican would have been pilloried for that we're only now discovering that his college grades at Yale were just as bad as Bush's, despite the incessant claims of Kerry's supporters that he was a much smarter, more complex and nuanced thinker. We did also get Kerry's tax returns very, very late in the game. The rest of his military and medical records are still, ahem, AWOL, although this Globe article does hint that they may be available.
UPDATE: Jay Tea notes that the military records are now available, but only to the Boston Globe. The Globe says there's nothing to see, and that may be the case, but until the records are more widely available, it's wait-and-see.
June 6, 2005
BASEBALL: Street Talk
Via Barry Zito Forever, I see that newly-installed A's closer Huston Street is writing about his experiences over at ESPN.com. I loved his opening line:
Every kid who has dreamed of being a baseball player has stood in his front yard with a bat and said to himself, "Bottom of the ninth, Game 7 of the World Series, the bases are loaded," and then envisioned hitting a home run to win the game. My job is to shatter that dream.
BASEBALL: Marte Is Here
The Braves have called up super-prospect Andy Marte to fill in for Chipper Jones. Looks like some of the voters in Mac Thomason's preseason pool were real close.
POP CULTURE: Moldy Oldies
Michele mourns the loss of oldies radio station WCBS-FM. Now, some of her sentiment is about good memories, and everyone's got their own memories. But let me tell you: I will not miss this radio station.
When I was in college, I had a dismal summer job working at a book packing warehouse, usually working 12 hours a day (6am-6pm) in a breathtakingly dusty environment, filling orders on a sort of assembly line. The warehouse had a split-day radio policy: from opening until noon, we heard WCBS, and from noon to closing, WNEW, when it was still classic rock. Which meant six hours of the same old "oldies," starting at 6 in the morning, every single day. These oldies were mainly late 50s/early 60s pop too soft to really qualify as rock (a more complete description can be found here); if I never hear Paul Anka again, I will be very happy.
June 5, 2005
BASEBALL: The Real Curse
From a reader in Bill Simmons' mail bag, a pet peeve:
[E]very time I even begin to talk about how everything goes wrong with my Cubbies ... there is some Boston fan that gives me the ole "hang in there, if the Red Sox can do it, then the Cubs can do it too." The last thing I want to hear is someone reminding me that the Cubs are now the only cursed team. I realize that both the Cubs and the Red Sox went a long time without winning the World Series, but why do you guys feel the need to hold our hand while we try and win one.
Um, only? There were three of the 16 "original" NL/AL franchises that had not won a World Series since before World War II. Now there are two. A Cubs fan ought to have the common decency to have heard of the other one. I mean, if anybody has a claim to a curse, it's the franchise that threw the freaking World Series and has not won another postseason series in 85 seasons since then, despite having the best record in baseball in 1959 and 1983 and the best in the AL in 2000.
Of course, the White Sox have the kind of curse you would put on a team if you really wanted their fans to suffer: White Sox fans aren't pitied, just ignored. They don't finish last for years at a stretch (in fact, they've finished last only twice since 1935), they don't have spectacular collapses in pennant races, they don't lose postseason serieses in memorable fashion (they've never gone the distance in a postseason series and have scored just 56 runs, less than 3 per game, in 19 postseason games in the past 85 years). They don't get to cry "small market" as the Royals or Brewers do, and they've rarely had fire sales of their players. They never get to be the best team in town, nor the city's saddest sacks. They just plod along in perpetual mediocrity, never any closer to the goal.
Anyway, I'm wondering how far we have to get into 2005 before this particular exorcism starts to become an object of some real attention.
BASEBALL: Dumb Things Joe Morgan Says, Part...
...well, I lost count. The guy amazes me sometimes; it's like if Larry Bird became a broadcaster and we discovered that the guy had no clue about how you win basketball games, or if it turned out that Bill Clinton didn't know anything about politics.
Anyway, today's gem was a bit of historical ignorance. John Miller was discussing headfirst slides - mainly in the context of guys going headfirst into first base - and Joe was contributing some sort useful color, discussing his own preference until late career for sliding feet first, and how great base thieves like Lou Brock and Maury Wills always went feet first. Then Joe declares that the guy who popularized the headfirst slide was Omar Moreno.
Now, OK, maybe Moreno was the first big time base thief to go mostly headfirst, I don't remember. But most of us would consider it faintly ridiculous to discuss who made headfirst slides more popular without mentioning the man who was synonymous for decades with the headfirst slide, who indeed made it his signature: Pete Rose, of course. How could Morgan, who played side by side with Rose for seven seasons in the prime of their careers, have possibly forgotten Rose? It boggles the mind.
June 4, 2005
POLITICS: Quick Links 6/4/05
*Interesting battle in Michigan over a bill - opposed by Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm - to require abortion clinics to make ultrasound images available to mothers contemplating abortions, so they can see the baby before they decide it isn't a human being worthy of being given a chance to live. Of course, the stickier issue would be the more intrusive step of requiring the clinic to show the images; if that's not required, I doubt that many abortion mills would go out of their way to make the option known. What's a little unclear from the article is whether most clinics already have ultrasound equipment (if not, this is an expensive new burden); I would think, given the nature of the business, that they would have to for safety purposes.
*I've been skeptical of claims that Robert Byrd is vulnerable, but this West Virginia blogger says polls show his likely Republican opponent is well-positioned to make it a real race. via Instapundit.
*Yes, the seedy lobbyist tied to Tom DeLay was also a big backer of Harry Reid, Tom Daschle, Patrick Kennedy and Dick Gephardt. Don't the Democrats ever investigate these things before making these kinds of charges?
June 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Dotel Down
So Octavio Dotel is having surgery and done for this year and into next season. Tough blow for the A's, who had hoped to have a primo closer in his walk year to shop, but maybe good news for the Mets, who now have one fewer reason to get fleeced by Billy Beane (but hey, there's still Barry Zito). Actually, Dotel might not be a bad guy for the Mets to take a jon Lieber-style flyer on this offseason.
UPDATE: Obviously, of course, this is great news for Huston Street (and, ahem, people who own him in fantasy leagues), as Street now steps in to what will no doubt be a long tenure as A's closer.
POP CULTURE: Bizarre Safety Lesson
This bizarre, gruesome bicycle safety video is definitely a blast from deep in the past. I'm not even sure where or how I saw it, but it's certainly memorable.
POP CULTURE: The Real Sith Lord?
With Mickey Kaus, Jay Tea at Wizbang and Dale Franks at QandO still kicking at the politics of Star Wars, let me note the one contemporary parallel to Palpatine that should be jaw-droppingly obvious (one other blogger has noticed the same thing). Just think:
*Rises to power in a weak, corrupt and dysfunctional republic in a time of civil war.
*Gradually consolidates extraordinary executive powers, mainly with popular approval if not entirely legitimate assent, to deal with security threats.
*Assumes direct control over the regional governors to consolidate his power outside of the purview of the legislature.
*Possesses civilization-destroying weapons.
*Is, to public appearances, warmly embraced by the leading power for good.
*Isn't above using assassination attempts as a political tool.
*Ruthlessly dispatches corrupt oligarchs who had supported his rise.
*Was trained by an old order now thought extinct, and stuns observers with nostalgia for its accomplishments.
You don't have to be the biggest critic of Vladimir Putin to see a parallel. I assume Russian audiences will pick them up. Will Putin? This is a man, after all, who complained that Dobby the House-Elf from Harry Potter looked too much like him.
June 2, 2005
BASEBALL: Only For You
Carlos Beltran just went yard, and the Mets announcers pointed out that all 7 of his home runs have come in games started by Pedro.
BASEBALL: At Norfolk
Far as I can tell, there are three guys now at Norfolk who might reasonably help the Mets in the near future. One is a familiar major league face, 33-year-old Brian Daubach (see the Norfolk stats here), who's hitting .358/.628/.429; Baseball Prospectus' forecast (subscription only) for Daubach this season, following a .274/.530/.403 campaign at Pawtucket last year, is .260/.452/.371, which even when adjusting for Daubach's poor defense at first base would be a heck of an improvement over Minky.
The second is Jeff Keppinger, batting .332/.446/.373. I'm not a huge Keppinger fan, but he's someone to consider in the second base mix if things continue to go awry with Matsui. I'm not sure he'd be a real improvement over Cairo.
The third and perhaps most immediately interesting is an ex-Yankee farmhand, reliever Juan Padilla, who posted a staggering 52/6 K/BB ratio and just 1 homer allowed in 58 innings at Columbus in 2004 and has followed up with a 1.01 ERA in 35.2 IP this season, striking out 36, walking 5 and allowing just 1 home run. Numbers like that demand some attention.
(Jae Seo, of course, also continues to pitch well in AAA).
LAW: Maybe Later
Instapundit links to a Profslawblog post arguing for Seventh Circuit judge Richard Posner as a Supreme Court appointment. Certainly, Judge Posner is the most qualified man for the job on credentials and intellectual accomplishment alone, moreso even than, say, Ken Starr or Laurence Tribe or his Seventh Circuit colleague Frank Easterbrook. My sense is that this would make Posner an attractive candidate if Bush faced the need for a compromise a down the road. But I have no doubt that Posner would not be his first pick, particularly due to his age.
POLITICS: 2006: The Terrain
There's been a lot of talk, more than usual this early in the election cycle, about the 2006 Senate races and the odds of either party picking up seats and changing the dynamics in a Senate now perennially deadlocked over judicial nominations and other business. In fact, much partisan strategy over these battles will, as always, be shaped by the prospects for the next election - where the parties hope to gain, where they fear to lose, and whether they expect to be dealing from a stronger or weaker hand come January 2007. With that in mind, let's take a look, using some hard numbers, at the political terrain for the 2006 Senate races.
There are polls, of course, but polls this early are volatile. Before we get to the polling data, there are two main pieces of hard data - actual votes - that we can use to evaluate the political climate in a state entering the beginning of a Senate race. The first is the red/blue issue: when people were paying greatest attention, which party did they side with? The polarizing nature of the 2004 election, with a conservative Republican and a liberal Democrat, sharpened that distinction. The second is the history of this Senate seat: how did the incumbent do in his/her last election? This second item is of particular importance where the incumbent is running again, although you do have to bear in mind that you are dealing with election results from six years ago, before 9/11, the Iraq War, the Florida Recount, Enron, judicial filibusters, Terri Schiavo, blogs, etc., etc., etc. Rather than rest on one or two of these data points, let's combine the two. I present a ranking of the Senate seats to be contested in 2006, from most to least likely to change parties, based on adding (1) the incumbent party's percentage of the vote in the last race for this seat (S%) to (2) the incumbent party's percentage of the vote in the 2004 presidential election (P%) (all numbers from FEC sources here, here and here):
Observant readers will note that I'm missing a state, Vermont. The problem is that Jim Jeffords ran there as a Republican in 2000, so it's hard to make anything of his 65.56%-25.42% thumping of his Democratic opponent. Kerry won 58.94% of the vote in Vermont, so if you double that and throw out the Jeffords anomaly, the D% should probably be 117.88, ranking the state near Maryland as an open seat the Democrats ought to be able to defend.
These notes are important. John Kyl is in a very strong position, but he ran unopposed in 2000; he's not quite as bulletproof as he looks. The Democrats may seem weak in several spots because they ran the table in close Senate races in 2000, but several of those candidates knocked off incumbents last time around, and will start in a stronger position this time around with the headwind of incumbency at their backs rather than in their faces. I figured "divided opposition" where the two main candidates pulled below 96%, leaving a number of voters on the table, but since Ted Kennedy beat his opponent 72.69%-12.86% in 2000, that doesn't amount to much.
I'd hesitate to say what threshhold indicates a realistic chance of a seat changing hands, but obviously anyone below 100 has to be viewed as an opportunity for the other side, and anyone above about 110 is - other than open seats - an extremely tough race. You can see that most of the most competitive races, based on this criteria, involve Democratic-held seats.
Of course, all of this is prologue; the 2006 races will be fought, like every election, with a new backdrop of issues and partisan mood and momentum, which so far seems to be favoring the Democrats. The number of genuinely competitive races is bound to be reduced if credible challengers can't be located, as was the case in 2004 in Nevada, for example, where Harry Reid was vulnerable but the GOP couldn't get a serious challenger. But the numbers above at least provide a solid guide to where the needle stands entering those races, and how far it has to move to save or defeat the incumbents listed above.
UPDATE: Don't miss Gerry Daly's effort to tweak some of the variables here to create a more accurate measure. I don't necessarily agree that the other Senate seat is all that instructive, as demonstrated by longstanding in-state splits: D'Amato and Moynihan, Grassley and Harkin, Domenici and Bingaman, etc. and the fact that some states just get in the habit of re-upping incumbents. For example, the persistence of Robert Byrd does nothing to help Jay Rockefeller. On the other hand, for similar reasons, I'm inclined to agree with a commenter at RedState that the last Senate election isn't that useful in evaluating open seats, at least not in the case of someone like Frist or Sarbanes who ran as an incumbent six years ago.
Read More »
UPDATE #2: Here's the table re-done to just double the presidential vote in the four states where there's an open seat:
« Close It
June 1, 2005
WAR: Self-Parody Alert, Bias Edition
I swear I am not making this up. Who "saw" this "bias"?
After the arraignment, Anthony Ricco, one of Mr. Shah's two lawyers, said the arrest was typical of the government's efforts to cast suspicion on Muslims in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Well, that part may or may not be true, but not in the way Mr. Ricco suggests, and certainly not in a way that would reflect favorably on Mr. Shah's brand of Islam. Specifically, it is not a defense to this:
Prosecutors said the two men were recorded by a government informer swearing a formal loyalty oath to Al Qaeda. They were charged with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to Al Qaeda.
Bias against people who swear loyalty to Al Qaeda . . . I can live with that. Where does this sinister bias lead?
The two cases have caused Muslims to tread carefully in academic settings, two young men said yesterday as they stood in the foyer of the Islamic Cultural Center on East 96th Street.
Well, caution in swearing fealty to the nation's enemies is not necessarily a bad thing. But I do hope that a college professor would see that there is a difference between criticizing the Patriot Act and promising one's services to Osama bin Laden.
BASEBALL: When Do Rookies Emerge?
Well, the AL Rookie of the Year race has a clear favorite; not only has Tadahito Iguchi raced out to a hot start - .302/.450/.355 and 7 steals through yesterday's action - but he's been one of the major improvements behind the surprising White Sox having the best record in baseball. (Jeremy Reed, Chris Young, Gustavo Chacin or Huston Street could still catch him over the course of the season). The NL race is much murkier - Clint Barmes is off to a real good start even adjusting for Coors, but Brad Halsey has been outstanding as well.
But could we be missing someone? (Say, Felix Hernandez or Andy Marte, for example?) Well, we could be forgetting someone who's played a little but not got going yet. But the odds are against anybody arriving for the first time after this point in the season. I took a look back at when the Rookie of the Year made his major league debut in each year since 1947. The results, out of 116 Rookies of the Year:
*18 debuted more than one year before winning the award. The longest wait was five years - Lou Piniella broke in in 1964 with the Indians but had to wait for the 1969 expansion draft to get an everyday job.
*43 debuted the year before winning the award. Although historical trends aren't that clear, it does appear that this has become more common in the past 20 years, with 23 of the last 38 winners appearing in the majors one or more seasons before being Rookie of the Year (the proportion rises to 23 of 35 when you count out veteran Japanese imports).
*45 debuted in April, many of them apparently on Opening Day or in their first turn in the rotation. The times within April have varied based on when the schedule started.
*Just 8 waited until May to appear, including Hideo Nomo, who was in the Dodgers starting rotation in 1995, when the season started late due to a lockout. The others: Joe Black (May 1), Darryl Strawberry (May 6), Dontrelle Willis (May 9), Don Newcombe (May 20), Don Schwall (May 21), Willie Mays (May 25), Chris Chambliss (May 28). Black, despite the late start, managed to throw 142.1 innings in 56 appearances, all but two in relief, plus 21.1 innings in the World Series. Unsurprisingly, this was his last good year.
*Only two men have won the Rookie of the Year Award having debuted after June 1: Bob Horner, who came straight out of college on June 16, and Willie McCovey, who did not arrive until July 30. McCovey may be the most famous example of a late arriving impact rookie, but he's also essentially the only one to win the award.
*By the way: Iguchi's early progress indicates that the AL is nearly as dominated by an influx of star-quality Japanese rookies in recent years as the NL was by Negro Leaguers in the late 40s/early 50s. The award has gone to Kaz Sasaki in 2000 and Ichiro in 2001, and could have gone to Hideki Matsui in 2003 if two sportswriters hadn't refused to rank him on their ballots. Similarly, 6 of the first 7 men to win the NL Rookie of the Year Award were former Negro League players - besides Newcombe, Mays, and Black, you had Jackie Robinson, Sam Jethroe, and Jim Gilliam. An impressive group, indeed.