Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 30, 2005
POLITICS: Ronnie Earle, Movie Star

Apparently, the Austin, Texas DA has been letting a film crew record his pursuit of Tom DeLay. And Earle's methods of pressuring corporations to pay off his favorite causes in exchange for leniency are . . . unorthodox, to say the least. And we remember Earle's use of the DeLay investigation to raise money for Democrats, which the Houston Chronicle called "a stunning display of prosecutorial impropriety."

You know, I was appalled by the personal attacks heaped during the Clinton years on Ken Starr, an upstanding public servant and a man whose previous career had been one of unblemished integrity and civility. I felt then - and still do - that the relentless attacks on Starr, as a means of delegitimizing his inquiry and distracting from the merits of the case, were bad for the administration of justice. And so, I have deeply mixed feelings about the "pig pile on Ronnie Earle" playbook. But the more I see of Earle's record, the more obvious it is that this is a guy with a long track record of troubling behavior with regard both to this investigation and other politically charged investigations. Maybe he has the goods on DeLay; I'm still in the process of absorbing the ins and outs of Texas campaign finance law in the hopes of making sense of this whole thing. But his behavior certainly doesn't inspire confidence.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 29, 2005
POLITICS: The Slope Slips

Tacitus thinks Rick Santorum is owed an apology.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:49 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: 78-22

Mr. Chief Justice Roberts. The "yes" votes included all 55 Republicans, every red-state Democrat but three (Minority Leader Harry Reid, presidential candidate Evan Bayh, and liberal warhorse Tom Harkin), every light-blue-state Democrat but three (Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Maria Cantwell of Washington, both up for re-election in 2006, and the retiring Mark Dayton), and even liberal stalwarts like Chris Dodd, Carl Levin, and Patrick Leahy.

UPDATE: Chief Justice Roberts:

"I view the vote this morning as confirmation of what is for me a bedrock principle, that judging is different from politics."

Amen to that. I also see that among the honored guests at the swearing in were the widows of Thurgood Marshall and . . . Potter Stewart? He's been dead for 20 years (Stewart was replaced on the Court by Justice O'Connor). But apparently his wife is still with us.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:46 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Presumed Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Another thing on CNN last night was a panel discussion on Larry King on the DeLay indictment, featuring, among others, left-wing pundit Katrina vanden Huevel of the Nation. King gave her a lot of rope, but at one point he was badgering her repeatedly with the question, "but you do presume that DeLay is innocent until proven guilty, right?"

Too many people misunderstand the role of the presumption of innocence. It's a legal rule, which applies to juries, instructing them not to find guilt without sufficient evidence, and to start by assuming the defendant is innocent until that evidence has been presented. In that context, of course, it serves a valuable role.

But the presumption of innocence, even as a social norm, shouldn't preclude pundits - who after all get paid to look at facts and offer opinions about them - from saying they think a public figure is guilty, if the available evidence supports that conclusion. Vanden Huevel would be quite within her rights to explain why the evidence Ronnie Earle has on DeLay shows that he did what he's accused of doing.

On the other hand, if the presumption of innocence means anything in the realm of opinion journalism, it means that you can't assume someone is guilty just because the government says so; an indictment alone isn't proof of guilt, especially when the prosecutor in question has a track record of indicting Republicans without a sufficient basis to do so.

So, if you want to argue that the evidence against DeLay shows he's guilty as sin, go ahead. There's nothing un-American about that at all; to the contrary, we all get to have an opinion about our leaders. But if you want to persuade anyone that he's guilty, it has to be based on something besides the existence of the charges themselves.

UPDATE: A commenter notes that Democrats like to point out that Democratic Travis County DA Ronnie Earle has indicted more Democrats than Republicans. I'll let John Fund, writing in today's OpinionJournal's Political Diary (subscription only - no link)
respond to that point:

His defenders point out that the 63-year-old [Earle] has indicted 15 public officials in Texas in the course of his three decades as a prosecutor, of whom 12 were Democrats. But that ignores the fact that until the mid-1990s, very few Republicans were elected to public office in Texas and many of the Democrats he prosecuted happened to be bitter adversaries of his.

Among them was Democratic Attorney General Jim Mattox, whom Mr. Earle indicted on bribery charges in 1985. He was found not guilty by a jury and went on to win reelection in 1986, but lost a bitter primary for governor four years later to Earle ally Anne Richards. Another target was Democrat Bob Bullock, the late lieutenant governor and state comptroller. After Mr. Earle conducted an exhaustive investigation of his office but failed to return an indictment, Mr. Bullock compared the prosecutor to "a little boy playing with matches" and sought to curb his ability to conduct open-ended investigations of state political figures.

Reading between the lines here, Richards was and is a liberal, and Bullock was known to work across party lines with George W. Bush, so I'm guessing that some of this history is about the spilt between the Richards/Jim Hightower liberal wing of the Texas Democratic Party, and the rapidly-dying conservative wing that produced people like Martin Frost, Phil Gramm, and Charles Stenholm, with Earle being allied with the liberals. Maybe someone more knowledgeable on Texas politics can weigh in on this.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: Walking It Back

I caught a few minutes of CNN last night, and, to their credit, Aaron Brown and Anderson Cooper were walking through all of the false stories they had helped circulate during the week following Hurricane Katrina - 10,000 dead, babies being raped in the Superdome, etc. I've seen the same stuff done on blogs and in the newspaper investigations that exposed a lot of these falsehoods, but it was really something different to see it on TV, with the reporters who spread the stories walking them back, and with video clips of Mayor Nagin and the now-former New Orleans Police Chief telling totally baseless horror stories to a mortified Oprah. Cooper seemed particularly shaken by the extent to which he'd bought in to and repeated things he'd heard from NOPD sources that turned out to be false. One can only hope that Oprah performs a similar service for her massive audience, many of whom likely don't read blogs or watch late-night cable news.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 28, 2005
LAW: My Choice?

Well, I took the quiz, but I wasn't expecting this answer:

JUDGE ALICE BATCHELDER
JUDGE ALICE BATCHELDER
U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, appointed by
G.H.W. Bush, 61 years old
An Ohioan, well regarded and respected for her
intellect and judgment, Batchelder could be a
nominee meant to stifle Democratic criticism.
Batchelder is considered a nominee who could
appear as thoughtful, charismatic and
intelligent in Senate hearings as Judge Roberts
was.


New World Man presents: My favorite candidate for the Supreme Court
brought to you by Quizilla

Actually, I don't know an awful lot about Judge Batchelder, so I'm not being critical - she's just not one of the people I've been thinking about for this vacancy.

Via New World Man

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Time For DeLay To Step Aside

Now, unlike Bill Frist, Tom DeLay has now reportedly been indicted. [Report confirmed]. We shall see what merit there is to the charges, given the history of partisan prosecutions here, but either way, an indictment does warrant DeLay stepping down as Majority Leader until and unless he is aquitted or charges are otherwise dropped or dismissed.

UPDATE: Here's the indictment in PDF form, via CNN; you can read the whole thing yourself, as it's only four pages. You will notice that DeLay is not charged with any violations of law in his own right, nor with having committed any "overt act" in furtherance of the conspiracy. In other words, he's not accused of doing anything.

Of course, in the context of an elected official's role in his subordinates' raising of campaign funds, that's not surprising. Under conspiracy law, what is unlawful is the act of agreeing that the other conspirators will seek an unlawful objective. Thus, whether there's any basis for this indictment depends almost entirely on what DeLay knew about what these guys were doing, when he knew it, and whether there is any proof that he agreed to it. The indictment, rather typically of conspiracy indictments, gives almost no indication of what that proof might consist of. It does, however, allege that the unlawful agreement was formed "on or about the thirteenth day of September, A.D., 2002," the date on which the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC delivered a check for $190,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee (RNSEC). One would ordinarily expect proof of some meeting or other contact by DeLay on or about that date, although with whom is left a bit vague, since he is alleged to have conspired with "one or more of" John Colyandro, James Ellis, "or with . . . Texans for a Republican Majority PAC," so that the charge could be satisfied by proof that DeLay agreed with some person affiliated with Texans for a Republican Majority PAC other than Colyandro or Ellis.

More on this another day, and of course, while I'm familiar with federal conspiracy law, I can't say I know anything offhand about any peculiarities of conspiracy law in Texas. If Texas is like federal law, the jury would be instructed that it needs to find that DeLay personally knew he was breaking the law and had the specific intent to violate the law. But the bottom line here is that a charge of this nature will have to go to trial to determine what DeLay's personal involvement was.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:50 PM | Law 2005 • | Politics 2005 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Dog Bites Man

Media scammed yet again by a Democrat pretending to be a disaffected Republican for purposes of anti-Bush stories.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, stop the presses: three liberal journalists say the media hasn't been anti-Bush enough! Media Matters, with characteristic lack of perspective, treats this as a confession of press conservatism.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Make 'Em Earn It

Well, the Mets were finally eliminated from the wild card race last night, but at least they made the Astros win to do it, putting an end to a classic too-little-too-late charge. Not being eliminated until September 27 is a decent moral victory, if you're counting them. With the team standing 80-77 and 4 of its last 5 games at home against the hapless Rockies, there are still a few more candidates:

*2 wins gets them a winning record.

*3 more wins gets them their best record since the 2000 NL Champions.

*They're a half game up on the Marlins and Nationals, so holding third place is a realistic goal.

*They're 2 games up on the Padres, who are in first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Putin Says He'll Go

Vladimir Putin continues to insist he will respect the term limits in Russia's constitution and step down in 2008. Which is good news, although it remains to be seen if he will follow through. Putin also had some KGB humor to offer Russian TV viewers in a nationally televised interview:

"I do not see my goal as sitting in the Kremlin endlessly and having Channels One, Two and Three constantly show the same face, and if someone chooses a different channel, the FSB director would appear on the screen and tell viewers to go back to the first three channels," he said during the nearly three-hour program, alluding to a joke from Soviet times. The FSB is the domestic successor of the KGB, the feared Soviet security service.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: From The Horse's . . .

Al Qaeda TV:

The lead segment recounted Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which the narrator proclaimed as a "great victory," while showing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia walking and talking among celebrating compatriots.

That was followed by a repeat of a pledge on Sept. 14 by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, to wage all-out war on Iraq's Shiite Muslims. An image of Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Sunni Muslim, remained on the screen for about half the broadcast.

The masked announcer also reported that a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have launched chemical-armed rockets at American forces in Baghdad. A video clip showed five rockets fired in succession from behind a sand berm as an off-screen voice yelled "God is great" in Arabic. The Islamic Army asserted responsibility last year for the killing of Enzo Baldoni, an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped in Iraq.

A commercial break of sorts followed, which previewed a movie, "Total Jihad," directed by Mousslim Mouwaheed. The ad was in English, suggesting that the target audience might be Muslims living in Britain and the United States.

The final segment was about Hurricane Katrina. "The whole Muslim world was filled with joy" at the disaster, the anchorman said. He went on to say that President Bush was "completely humiliated by his obvious incapacity to face the wrath of God, who battered New Orleans, city of homosexuals." Hurricane Ophelia's brush with North Carolina was also mentioned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:12 AM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: NOPD Chief No More

The chief of the New Orleans Police Department has stepped down. According to some reports, as many as 300 of New Orleans' 1,750 cops went AWOL during Hurricane Katrina, and that's before you discuss cops who joined the looting. A man can't be proud of running a department that goes to pieces like that in a crisis, when it's needed most. LA cop Jack Dunphy explains.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 27, 2005
BASEBALL: Double Your Pleasure

The most amazing number about Jimmy Rollins' 31-game hitting streak entering tonight's game - which apparently ties the club record set by Ed Delahanty - is that he has hit 17 doubles in 31 games.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:58 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION: Meth and Man

So, how exactly does this conversation go: "here, have some meth, and then let's talk about Jesus"?

Seriously, it's still an impressive and inspiring story of something good coming from a horrible situation, and God working through someone who didn't set out that day with any intention of spreading the Good News.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:33 PM | Religion | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: All Tied Up

Jay Caruso wonders what happens if the Red Sox, Yankees and Indians all end up tied. A commenter provides this 2003 response from Major League Baseball:

Scenario #5: If three Clubs in a League are tied with identical winning percentages at the end of the championship season and two of those tied Clubs are from the same Division and are also tied for first place in that Division and the third tied Club has the highest winning percentage among the second-place Clubs in the remaining two Divisions, the Division Champion shall first be determined by a one-game playoff on Monday, September 29. Any playoff games played to determine a Division champion shall not count in determining which Clubs are deemed tied for a Wild Card designation. Clubs that were originally tied with a Club or Clubs for a Wild Card designation shall still be considered tied.

Example of Scenario #5: The Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals and Florida Marlins all have identical winning percentages at the end of the championship season. The Astros and Cardinals are tied for first place in the NL Central and the Marlins have the highest winning percentage among the second-place Clubs from the NL East and NL West. The Astros and Cardinals would play a one-game playoff on Monday, September 29. The winner shall be declared the Division Champion. Despite the loss, the losing Club would still be considered tied with the Marlins for the lead in the NL Wild Card. Those two Clubs would play a one-game playoff on Tuesday, September 30. The winner of that game shall be declared the Wild Card.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
LAW: Cert Granted

Well, the Supreme Court is back in business agreeing to hear 11 cases for the new term even before John Roberts arrives. Two big ones, in terms of issues of public interest, are on campaign finance issues:

*Randall v. Sorrell, Nos. 04-1528, 04-1530, & 04-1697:
Do Vermont's mandatory limits on campaign expenditures by candidates for state and county offices violate the First Amendment? (I noted the constitutional issues with Vermont's Act 64 three years ago here; more here and here).

*Wisconsin Right to Life Inc. v. Federal Election Commission, No. 04-1581: Is the Federal Election Campaign Act's prohibition on corporate disbursements for electioneering communications unconstitutional as applied to certain communications by Wisconsin Right to Life Inc.?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:42 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
LAW/POLITICS: Selling Frist Short

Well, the latest Beltway feeding frenzy is on, and Bill Frist is the main course. If you haven't followed this story, which as Jon Henke notes has already hit the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, Frist

is facing questions from the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission about his sale of stock in his family's hospital company one month before its price fell sharply.

The Tennessee lawmaker, who is the Senate's top Republican and a likely candidate for president in 2008, ordered his portfolio managers in June to sell his family's shares in HCA Inc., the nation's largest hospital chain, which was founded by Frist's father and brother.

A month later, the stock's price dropped 9 percent in a single day because of a warning from the company about weakening earnings. Stockholders are not permitted to trade stock based on inside information; whether Frist possessed any appears to be at the heart of the probes.

A spokesman said Frist's office has been contacted by both the SEC and the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan about his divestiture of the stock.

In contrast to the Democrats, Republicans have a tendency to panic and throw their leaders under the bus at the first whiff of ethical trouble. Sure enough, even hardy souls like Captain Ed and Leon H, as well as the libertarian Henke, are calling for Frist to step down, and Tom Maguire doesn't much seem to have his heart in defending Frist. The desire to have nothing to do with this kind of trouble derives from a healthy impulse, and in Frist's case - as was true with Trent Lott - it is driven in part by unrelated frustrations over his shortcomings as Majority Leader. But based on what we know so far, there is absolutely zero reason to believe that Frist did anything wrong, or that he will or should be in any legal jeopardy.

As an initial matter, some people have questioned whether there was a problem with Frist making any investment decisions at all, given that his assets were supposedly in a "blind trust" to comply with Senate ethics rules. Shockingly, however, Senate ethics rules on the matter turn out to be fairly porous, as Tom Maguire notes: precisely because ethics rules require federal officials to make regular disclosures about their assets, it's not really possible for them to be entirely unaware of their holdings.

Professor Bainbridge, who was one of the first people on the Right to jump on this story, gives the necessary legal background. Basically, under the securities laws - my own area of practice, by the way - the initial question in an "insider trading" case is whether the trader was aware of information about the company that is material (i.e., information that would be important to an investor making a decision to buy or sell) and nonpublic (which means what it sounds like: information not in the public domain). As Prof. Bainbridge notes:

If some SEC enforcement lawyer in fact were to start looking into this, the first question will be whether Frist had material nonpublic information about HCA at the time he ordered the sale. If he had the common sense God gave gravel, the answer to that will be a resounding no. For somebody in his position to retain access to such information would exacerbate the inherent conflict of interest that arises when he deals with health care issues, as well as potentially exposing him to insider trading liability.

Assuming Frist did not possess such information, there's no legal problem with the sale.

He goes on to discuss the longstanding dispute over whether the SEC needs to show trading while in possession of material nonpublic information, or whether it needs to show that the trader actually used the information. That is indeed a vexing issue, albeit one that is somewhat theoretical in many cases (the evidence of use is often circumstantial anyway). Prof. Bainbridge suggests that it might matter here if Frist could show a different motivation for selling, such as a desire to eliminate a conflict of interest that would no doubt only become a larger issue if he runs for president. But if Frist can be shown to have had access to information about HCA's upcoming earnings news before it became public, he is politically toast no matter what the legal outcome.

The same goes, I suspect, for a second part of the legal inquiry that Prof. Bainbridge doesn't address. Frist, as far as I can tell, has no formal relationship with HCA, so he is not technically an "insider" who owes legal duties to its shareholders. Thus, at least under the securities laws, he can only be prosecuted if (1) he was a "tippee," i.e., some person inside the company tipped him off to inside information in violation of that person's own duties to the company and in exchange for some benefit (such as a share in the profits), or (2) he "misappropriated" confidential information that was entrusted to him by the company in some relationship of trust and confidence. The misappropriation theory would likely not apply to information Frist may have received from members of his extended family who were involved in running HCA; the Second Circuit rejected application of the theory in such circumstances to a member of the Waldbaum (grocery chain) family in United States v. Chestman, 947 F.2d 551, 570-71 (2d Cir. 1991).

It's not entirely clear if the "misappropriation" theory could be extended to, say, someone who learned information in his capacity as a government official. The Fourth Circuit rejected such liability in the case of officials of the West Virginia Lottery who bought stock in a company before awarding it a contract in a lengthy and scholarly opinion by Judge Michael Luttig in 1995, United States v. Bryan, 58 F.3d 933 (4th Cir. 1995), but on grounds of wholesale rejection of the theory, which was later approved by the Supreme Court. It should be noted, however, that in Bryan and United States v. ReBrook, 58 F.3d 961 (4th Cir. 1995), the same court upheld the same defendants' convictions for mail and wire fraud. Thus, again, the issue of whether Frist is really in any trouble here all comes down to whether he had any inside information about HCA, which he denies.

On that score, what we know now suggests that there's no reason to be concerned. At the moment, there is only pure speculation that Frist had any material nonpublic information. The suggestion (or assumption) being made by his critics is that if Frist sold a huge, long-held block of stock before bad news made the stock drop, he must have had some inside information, absent some other, rational explanation for why he sold. But Tigerhawk, in a post that's a must-read for anyone attempting to discuss this issue intelligently (link via Instapundit), looks at the trading history of HCA and provides an obvious explanation: HCA had just had a huge run-up in value, and it was publicly known (due to SEC reporting requirements) that a lot of HCA insiders had sold stock (which can be and often is perfectly legal, by the way, depending on the circumstances):

Bill Frist, if he had any information at all about HCA when he ordered his trustee to sell his shares, knew what everybody else knew: that the management was shoveling stock out the door. That fact alone would be sufficient for many investors to sell their shares, and so it should have been for Frist, who was probably trying to get rid of them anyway in advance of his presidential campaign.

Moreover, we -- and HCA investors -- should applaud Frist for having handled the transaction the way he did. It was well within his rights to sell his shares much earlier in the spring, before the extent of the selling by insiders (including his own relatives) came to light via filings at the SEC. Instead, he waited to give his instruction to his trustee until after all the management selling had been disclosed. The result was that HCA's public investors had every opportunity in the world to sell their own shares on the basis of the management selling before Bill Frist. The timing of Frist's sale benefited those HCA shareholders wise enough to act on the insider selling, insofar as they got out the door before Frist.

Now, this is speculation, just as assumptions of Frist's guilt are speculation, and maybe we will learn something later that changes this picture. But Tigerhawk's analysis certainly shows why - in the absence of any evidence to the contrary - the most logical explanation is that Frist, having sound political reasons to want to sell the stock anyway, chose to instruct the trustee to sell at what looked to be an opportune time to sell.

(One final point: while they don't happen in every case, SEC investigations of trading in advance of big announcements - particularly by people, like Frist, who are related to management - are sufficiently routine that there's really no significance that should attributed to the existence of the investigation by itself.)

Two concluding notes:

1. I don't have time here to address the fact that Frist seems rather clearly to have lied in TV interviews about the degree of his knowledge of the HCA stock in his "blind" trust except to say that it's an incredibly stupid lie, given that his ownership of HCA stock was sufficiently public knowledge that interviewers kept asking him about it.

2. As I commented on Leon H's post, it's all too easy to bail on Frist's ineffectiveness as Majority Leader. Remember how disenchanted we Republicans were with Trent Lott? Remember how disenchanted we were with Bob Dole? Remember how happy we were to see both of them go? Have you noticed how unhappy Democrats are with Harry Reid? How miserable they were with Tom Daschle? (Moreover, neither Reid nor Daschle nor Nancy Pelosi nor Tom DeLay nor Dick Armey nor Dick Gephardt has, within the last several years, been an effective spokesperson for his or her party.)

Face it, being a Senate leader is hard, and on issues where the caucus splinters, I'm not sure that personal leadership can do much to pierce the armor-plated egos of Senators with either fear or persuasion. I think the last really popular Senate leader, within his own party, was George Mitchell.

In short: Frist has been a disappointing Senate leader in a number of ways, and certainly his public statements on this issue haven't helped him. It will be a good thing for the GOP to get a new Senate leader yet again in 2006. But I wouldn't call for his head over an investigation that shows no sign of being anything more than a routine inquiry that is likely to clear him.

UPDATE: I should add that the mail/wire fraud theory pursued in the Bryan and ReBrook cases wouldn't be available here - the government's theory in those cases was that the defendants defrauded the government because their investments deprived the government of the defendants' "honest services" in the process for awarding the lottery contract. Here, since there's no allegation of anything affecting Frist's performance of his legislative duties, that theory would be unavailable.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Law 2005 • | Politics 2005 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Ruffini's Poll Returns

Yes, Patrick Ruffini is running the latest installment of the 2008 GOP presidential tracking poll. Ruffini's pitch:

This month's poll has all the features you know and love: tracking results by your favorite blogs, and a complete state-by-state breakdown. I also cooked up a little something special this month: you can now "tag" (or label) your vote so it's uniquely you. Are you a pro-life libertarian interested in immigration and taxes? Then type: pro-life, libertarian, immigration, taxes -- and see how others like you voted! Tired of poll questions that don't ask you about the stuff YOU care about? Then tag your vote and tell everyone what you think.

Go vote.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2005
BASEBALL: The Game's Appeal

Neo-Neocon offers an ode to baseball's appeal to old and sick people:

Baseball's season is long, and a game occurs virtually every day. Someone cooped up and housebound can have a daily appointment with something outside of his/herself, an activity that lasts a number of hours and becomes engrossing, when there are precious few other activities that fit that bill.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: Too Big To Fail

Mickey Kaus nails it:

The NYT's Tom Friedman, in an exceptionally blowhardish appearance on Meet the Press, laments the effect of massive U.S. borrowing from China:

I think we have--we are now in a position where China has-- they're heading for $1 trillion, OK, of our--in reserves that they're going to be holding, basically. And the leverage that is going to give China over the United States in the coming years, God knows where-- how that's going to play out.

Hmm. If you lend a trillion dollars to someone, does that give you leverage over them or them leverage over you? I'd always thought it was the latter, especially when the debtor is a sovereign nation. What's China going to do, repossess the United States?

Also on the economic front, Mindles H. Dreck notes a New York Times column on the Forbes 400 that has it completely backwards about the degree of upward mobility shown by the changes in the list over the past 23 years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Business | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Let The Torts Commence!

Blaming oil companies for hurricanes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)
September 24, 2005
POLITICS: Tax and Spend

There's been a lot of talk going around lately about government spending, and I thought I'd add some hard data in here on the percentage of GDP consumed by federal taxes and by federal spending. These are official government historical data and projections based on the Fiscal Year 2005 budget. I'll hold the analysis for now, but this chart gives something to refer back to in later posts:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:18 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 23, 2005
BASEBALL: Making The Most of It

To give him his due, Jose Reyes has managed to score 93 runs this year despite a dismal .303 OBP (to say nothing of the quality of the Mets' #2 hitters and the disappointing production of Carlos Beltran). Alfonso Soriano has scored 99 runs with a .310 OBP.

Reyes, at least, still has an outside shot to be the first player to score 100 runs in a season with an OBP below .300 since Jake Beckley and Tom Brown in 1892, back when the average NL team scored 1.82 unearned runs/game (recall that reaching via error counts as an out in OBP); it was done 6 times between 1883 and 1892.

Five players since 1894 have scored 100 runs with an OBP below .310, all of them between 1984 and 1999: Juan Samuel twice, and Neifi Perez, Tony Armas and Devon White once each, with Armas' .304 OBP in 1984 being the lowest, as well as the only example of a guy managing the feat mainly through power rather than speed. Thus, if Reyes scores 7 more runs without raising his OBP, he will have the lowest mark for a player scoring 100 runs in 113 years.

(List of players scoring 100 with a .309 or lower OBP here).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Watching Your Own Death

Or, in this case, death averted. Saw this when I caught a few minutes of this twitchy, undernourished actress on the Craig Ferguson show last night (yes, I got home from work pretty late).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:10 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 22, 2005
BLOG: Anderson Cooper

Interesting profile of CNN's Anderson Cooper. I did not know he was a Vanderbilt; he's one of those people who just suddenly appeared on TV and it seemed like everybody knew who he was. Cooper's had a rough life . . . the funny thing is, the anchors are such creatures of the Manhattan establishment, yet the Big Three were mostly self-made men haling from far from the East Coast, without much in terms of social or educational pedigree - Rather's a Texan, Brokaw's from South Dakota, Jennings was from Canada. Cooper is more from the background you'd expect in a big media guy, the background that most New York Times reporters come from.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:17 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: BJ on the Block

As I noted below, the Mets may well be in the market for a free agent closer this offseason, and if they are, Orioles closer BJ Ryan should be at the top of their list. If you're wondering why Ryan - a stud closer in his prime, pitching for a team with deep pockets - would be on the market, the O's are apparently looking at 23-year-old rookie reliever Chris Ray as a potential closer of the future, and could either let him close in 2006 or give the job to a stopgap veteran (Ray's minor league numbers are here).

I'm not a huge fan of building through free agency generally, or of free agent closers in particular (they tend to be overpriced), and of course the Mets do have some passable internal options, notably Heath Bell. But I don't see Bell as a highly reliable closer in 2006; he looks like a guy who needs more seasoning in a setup role. And Ryan is the real deal, 30 years old next season, just hitting his stride in late 2003 and blossoming over the last two seasons. Of course, given the heavy investment in the great-now-who-knows-later Pedro, and Cliff Floyd entering the last year of his contract, the Mets are sensibly in win-now mode despite the extreme youth of some of their key players.

(The only Mets closer I ever really trusted was Randy Myers - Benitez blew too many big ones, Franco, McDowell, Orosco and Neil Allen all lived too close to the edge, and Looper, Dale Murray and Skip Lockwood were all just arsonists.)

I'd certainly much rather go after Ryan than Billy Wagner; Wagner's a wonderful pitcher, but he will be 35 in July, has had injury problems in the past, and has had a bad case of Benitez Disease in big games (7.71 career postseason ERA). And the other options aren't that appealing: Trevor Hoffman is still deadly effective, but he will be 38 next year, presumably prefers to re-sign with San Diego, and wants big bucks to leave, and Octavio Dotel may not pitch again until 2007.

A free agent closer makes more sense if the Mets are shedding some other salary this offseason (Piazza, for example, will either re-sign for less or go elsewhere, and Cameron could be dealt) and aren't pursuing other free agents. The rest of the crop is fairly slim. AJ Burnett is the prize, but other teams more desperate for starting pitching will lead the chase; Kevin Millwood is the only other starter worth looking at. Johnny Damon will inspire bidders, but the Mets have two expensive center fielders already; the surplus of outfield options will probably also keep them from chasing Hideki Matsui, Brian Giles or Milton Bradley (although Matsui would be worth it). The Mets aren't going to pursue Nomar, and presumably wouldn't sign Rafael Furcal to play 2B. Ramon Hernandez, reputedly a catching option, isn't all that impressive, and I'm not thrilled about Paul Konerko, although he'd be a major upgrade (Bryan Smith has more on the 1B market).

Oh, and: signing Ryan would keep him away from Atlanta . . . forcing them to get a 1.50 ERA and 35 saves out of some minimum-wage journeyman instead.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:11 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 21, 2005
BASEBALL: Pack Your Bags

Braden Looper, having now lost his closer job, proves tonight that he's equally capable of blowing a lead in the 8th. Time to shut Looper down for the season and have the doctors get to work on whatever's been sapping his sinking fastball.

Go to #3 on this list for the guy the Mets need to pursue this offseason. (And for those of you having Benitez-vu, he's also #2 on this list over the same time period).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:55 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Card Collection

For me, one of the funniest parts of this hilarious card collection is how many of these cards I specifically remember owning (via The Intern).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 9/21/05

*Instapundit thinks spending federal funds and law enforcement resources battling adult (i.e., not child) pornography is a waste of resources. I agree. Porn is a classic example of the sort of thing that, even if you are going to crack down on it, ought to be left to the local level; as the Supreme Court recognized decades ago, what counts as obscene in one community may be acceptable in another. And it's awfully difficult to argue that pornography has any truly national impact, except by making arguments under which any bad thing has a national impact.

*Unless I remember incorrectly, this represents the first indictment of a Bush Administration official. That's a marked difference from the record of prosecutions in the Clinton Administration (or the Reagan or Carter Administrations, for that matter). If the history of two-term presidencies is any indicator, this will not be the last.

*Youppi! is back, after a year spent living under an overpass in Montreal carrying a "Will Mascot For Food" sign (in French, of course). (via Kevin Cott).

*Now, Tom DeLay says, "There are programs all over the federal budget that are bloated or wasteful or inefficiently using the funds we provide them, and I'm very interested in identifying them." How long has DeLay been in Congress?

Some are arguing that it's time for divided government - that Democrats in Congress would at least produce some pork-killing gridlock. I mean to get to this point in more detail when it's time to discuss the McCain 2008 campaign, but while fighting pork is a good thing, the real battle is to change the structure of the budget process and rein in entitlements - neither of which would ever be helped even one little bit by electing more Democrats. But I'm not that optimistic that we're getting anywhere on that front under the GOP, either.

*This looks like a bad idea. So does this, if it means that partisan sniping has led the Bush White House to divert one of its best homeland security people to handle an investigation.

*Rafael Palmeiro is being investigated by Congress for perjury. Which serves him right, but if we're on the subject of waste of taxpayer money, this is a rather conspicuous example.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 20, 2005
BASEBALL: Buy High, Sell Low

This would not be a good idea.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:09 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Gary Ackerman Goes Blue

From a July 29 press release by my Congressman, Gary Ackerman:

Ackerman noted that "since last fall, I have tried again and again to work with FEMA on this rule so that 9/11 first responders and their families could start collecting the funds raised by the 9/11 Heroes Stamp. But at every step, FEMA - which does a spectacular job responding to disasters and emergencies throughout the country - refused to accept input or provide any feedback as to the content of the rule or when it would be published. I have enormous respect and admiration for what FEMA does in crises, which is why I'm so disappointed in this rule. Unfortunately, more than 45 months since the stamp was created, 38 months since the stamp went on sale, and more than six months since beginning work on the rule, what's been produced is, frankly, half-a__ed bureaucratic bulls__t. New York's best and bravest deserve far, far better than this."

(Emphasis added). I've omitted the language here, which is unfortunately not omitted from Ackerman's press release. Isn't this crossing a line that should not be crossed? I mean, it's one thing when a politician uses foul language in a private conversation and it somehow goes public, most famously in the case of Nixon's White House tapes but also, more recently memorably, in the case of George Bush in 2000 calling a New York Times reporter an unprintable name while talking to Dick Cheney in front of what turned out to be a live microphone. And it's another thing when that conversation is had in a setting where the politician should have known his conversation would be overheard and publicized, as with Cheney's use of an expletive to Patrick Leahy in a meeting on the Senate floor. And it's another thing still when a politician uses a bad word in a magazine interview that's expressly intended for publication (even if, as in the case of John Kerry's Rolling Stone interview, the magazine in question is one that uses such language freely), or in a radio interview (as in Ray Nagin's outburst during the hurricane).

But this is a new low, putting this sort of language in a press release. Now, while I refrain from using bad language on this blog, I'm certainly not innocent of doing so in my daily life, so I'm not getting squeamish here about the words themselves. My point is, simply, that it is yet another step to the coarsening of our culture to incorporate obscenties into the public vocabulary of our elected officials, one of the few areas of public discourse in which that is still taboo, and in which a measure of formality and civility is still expected to prevail. Recall Lileks' prediction, in August 2002:

Once vulgar words are commonplace in the papers and the television, there's no going back - and public life just gets cruder and cruder. I know it's a losing battle. Fifty years down the road a presidential candidate will say "My opponent says I'm soft on the military, and to him and all his advisors, I can honestly say: f**k you." He'll be celebrated in some corners for connecting with the genuine people, with those not bound by musty conventions. The authentic people! The ones who really f**kin' live!

It turned out to be one year and four months down the road, not 50. And Ackerman's press release is another step down that road. By 2008, will we have candidates who, like Atrios, call everyone who disagrees with them "f___ers" and leave it at that? Even if we don't, we are headed in that direction.

UPDATE: Jesse Taylor makes the opposite case, and in the process pretty well plays right into the popular caricature of the Angry Left as over-agitated, immature, reflexively oppositional and utterly lacking in perspective.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Getting to First

Following on yesterday's thoughts, you can see the list here of all players, through 2001, who posted a .370 OBP in a season of 500 or more at bats with a slugging percentage below .400. 27 players have done the feat more than twice, and thus established themselves, at least at some point in their careers, as "pure" OBP guys; I will group them by era.

1871-1919
Jimmy Barrett
Bob Bescher
Donie Bush
Topsy Hartsel
Dummy Hoy
Miller Huggins
Fielder Jones
Clyde Milan
Jimmy Sheckard
Burt Shotton
Roy Thomas

1920-1959
Luke Appling
Richie Ashburn
Lu Blue
Elbie Fletcher
Jim Gilliam
Billy Goodman
Stan Hack
Johnny Pesky
Pee Wee Reese
Eddie Stanky
Eddie Yost

1960-2001
Brett Butler
Rickey Henderson
Tony Phillips
Willie Randolph
Ozzie Smith

It does seem to me that a disproportionate number of these guys played for a lot of successful teams, notably Henderson, Randolph, Ozzie, Gilliam, Reese, Sheckard, Stanky, Hack, Pesky, and Jones.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2005
BASEBALL: Clendenon Passes On

1969 Mets World Series MVP Donn Clendenon has died, taking with him another piece of Mets history.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Follow The Leadoff

Where did all the good leadoff men go - or were they always this rare? It seems, at least, like finding guys who do the basic job of getting on base is awfully hard these days, especially if you think of a leadoff man in the traditional terms of a guy who can run and steal some bases but isn't a big power hitter. I decided to compare this season to some seasons in the not-too-distant past to see how much has really changed.

What I did was to look at all players with an On Base Percentage (OBP) of .370 or higher (in at least 450 plate appearances), which is a good cutoff to identify the mark of excellence in getting on base (it's 40 points above the MLB average). Then, I asked two questions:

1. How many of these guys can steal any bases?
2. How many of these guys wouldn't be used as leadoff men because they are big sluggers? Nobody's gonna lead off Albert Pujols, after all. And more to the point, as anybody who has played Rotisserie baseball, WhatIfSports or any other fantasy or simulation game can easily understand, in an age of tight budgets, it's a lot harder to afford a good leadoff man if you have to pay for one who's going to hit 40 home runs.

Of course, I quickly discovered that I needed a control group to measure how unusual the distribution of the OBP leaders was, so I compared 2005 to 1977 and 1987. I chose 1977 and 1987 because they were the seasons in the 1970s and 1980s most similar to today in terms of league offensive production: In 1977, the NL batted .262/.396/.327 and the AL .266/.405/.329. In 1987, the NL batted .261/.404/.327 and the AL .265/.425/.332. In 2005, the NL is batting .262/.413/.330 and the AL is batting .268/.424/.330. You can see the league leaders in OBP for 1977 here, 1987 here (both based on a full-season 502 plate appearances) and 2005 here.

Let's look at the breakdown of the .370-and-up OBP crowd in each league by steals and slugging. First, as base thieves:

Year40+30-3920-2915-1910-140-9TOTAL
1977322731431
1987642532040
2005011662034

Of course, since steals are a cumulative category, you'd expect 2005 to be just a little low, since the season's not over yet. But still: in 1977, 7 of 31 of the top OBP guys stole 20 or more bases; in 1987, the figure is 12 of 40. In 2005, it's just two guys - Bobby Abreu, whose .515 career slugging percentage makes him awfully expensive to use as a leadoff man, and Brian Roberts.

Then, slugging:

YearSub-.400.400-49.450-99.500-49.550-99.600+TOTAL
197717796131
19872810910140
2005145128434

Now, your real slap hitter, with a slugging percentage below .400, is hard to find here in any era: in 1987, even Brett Butler slugged .425. But in each of the two older seasons, you could find a decent selection of guys below .500: 15 of 31 in 1977, 20 of 40 in 1987. This year? 10 of 34. And that group of 10 includes two bona fide mashers who are just below .500 (Abreu and Brian Giles), two slow-moving catchers (Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer), and three guys who don't run particularly well and have had careers marked by injury and inconsistency, to the point where nobody would have banked on them as leadoff men (Sean Casey, Nick Johnson, and Marcus Giles). That leaves three guys you would legitimately consider as elite leadoff hitters: Derek Jeter, Luis Castillo, and Placido Polanco.

The era of Raines and Rickey, this is not. A corollary is that it may be worth it for more teams to give up on locating a traditional leadoff man and just stack the top of the lineup with sluggers who get on base, especially if they run well (e.g., 1-Beltran, 2-Wright . . .)

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:26 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (1)
September 16, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 9/16/05

*The Washington Post:

Slightly more than half of American teenagers, ages 15 to 19, have engaged in oral sex, with females and males reporting similar levels of experience, according to the most comprehensive national survey of sexual behaviors ever released by the federal government.

The report today by the National Center for Health Statistics shows that the figure increases to about 70 percent of 18- and 19-year-olds.

The survey, according to those who work with young people, offers one more sign that young women are more sexually confident than they used to be.

As a friend writes, "One could, accurately, replace the word 'confident' with 'promiscuous.'"

*Is Anderson Hernandez on the way?

*Michael Newdow may have won another round in California, but the US District Court in DC rejected his attempt to get a permanent injunction against prayers at the inauguration of the President. (Link opens PDF file).

*Maybe you saw, or heard, the tearful story told on national TV by Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard:

The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in a St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, 'Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?' And he said, 'Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday.' And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.

If so, you were lied to. Via Jeff Goldstein, who has been en fuego on the Hurricane Katrina story, to the point that he can barely keep his server running.

*Wonder if the people who got all bent out of shape over the Tom Delay-Homeland Security-Texas Legislature flap will go nuts over a Louisiana Democratic Congressman, who is perhaps not coincidentally under federal investigation, diverting the National Guard to clear possessions out of his house rather than save people.

*Speaking of DeLay, if he really believes Congress is doing a good job holding the line on spending and there is no fat left to cut in the budget, it is clearly past time for the House GOP to go get itself a new leader. Via NRO (and yes, I've seen subsequent reports putting the quote in context - they make it a little more understandable but no more defensible.

*Then there's the story of a 57-year-old New Orleans man who drew on his long-ago training as a Vietnam veteran and walked out of town. Via Brian Preston, who has likewise been all over Katrina and its aftermath.

*Classic George Will (via NRO). Favorite line: "You can no more embarrass a senator than you can a sofa."

*Go read Ann Althouse on John Roberts' view of the use of foreign law in interpreting the United States Constitution (hint: he's agin' it).

*So, what does the Chief Justice do? His main importance on the Court is that he picks who writes the opinions, out of the Justices in the majority (if he joins the majority - Burger used to switch sides just so he could control who wrote what). Rehnquist was reportedly less interested in using this power, except when he wanted one for himself. It was presumably Rehnquist who decided that the Bush v. Gore opinion should be an unsigned per curiam opinion.

However, the Chief has other jobs all to himself, such as heading the Judicial Conference and power of appointment for FISA court judges; this article explains these duties well. And more here. Also, as we recall, he presides at trial if the President gets impeached, although the way Rehnquist interpreted this role left most of the procedural rulings to be made by the Senate, not the Chief Justice.

*Some jokes never get old, especially #4 here.

*Mark Steyn, as usual, had the definitive word on the "Crescent of Embrace" design for the Flight 93 memorial, which has since been scrapped:

[T]he men who hijacked Flight 93 did it in the name of Islam and their last words as they hit the Pennsylvania sod were no doubt "Allahu Akhbar". One would be unlikely even today to come across an Allied D-Day memorial so misconceived in its spirit of reconciliation as to be called the Swastika of Embrace. Yet Paul Murdoch, the architect, has somehow managed to produce a design whose two most obvious interpretations are a) a big nothing or b) a splendid memorial to the hijackers rather than their victims.

*I agree with this.

*This is hilarious:

In order to draw attention to Wal-Mart's paying its workers an average of $10.17 an hour with benefits, the UFCW hired a bunch of temps at $6.00 an hour with no benefits. And while the oppressed, exploited Wal-Mart workers slave away in air-conditioned comfort, those blessed with the Union paychecks walk up and down outside in the sun until they get blisters on their feet. The Wal-Mart workers are coerced into taking regular breaks in a private area; the Union employees are dropped off at the beginning of their shift and left to fend for themselves for the entire day.

If the Democrats really want people who work and shop at Wal-Mart to vote Republican, and they get the people who hate the place, I'll take that deal. Dick Cheney understands that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:13 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Hurricane Katrina • | Law 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
September 15, 2005
BASEBALL: Free Fallin'

If there's anything in baseball more depressing than watching a team that had been hanging around contending suddenly go into free fall and start losing all the time and playing listless baseball, it's watching this happen for the fourth year in a row. The Mets, 68-60 on August 26, are now 3-14 since . . . they're like the Bizarro Mets: Kaz Matsui's hitting about .350 in that stretch, and the rest of the team is helpless. Ugh.

UPDATE: Numbers for the 17-game-and-counting swoon here and here. Matsui's hitting .353/.529/.382, most likely ensuring himself the chance to compete with Anderson Hernandez for the starting job again next year, Beltran's hitting .338/.492/.411, and Castro and Piazza are hitting a combined .260/.520/.356, and basically nobody else is hitting anything. On the pitching side, the big disaster (aside from Looper, which was entirely predictable) has been Benson, who's been a batting practice pitcher for the past month.

SECOND UPDATE: My prediction (linked above) had been two games blown by Looper against NL East foes in September. Well, we're only halfway through the month and he just blew #2, the first being the game in Atlanta on September 7 where he blew two leads, one in the 9th and one in the 10th, to go with two games (September 1 and 13) where he coughed up an insurance run in the 9th inning of a 2-run loss. This follows two losses and a blown save (in a game they'd led by 8 runs against the Nationals) in August. It's time for Looper to leave town, now. (And Matsui, Ishii, Offerman, and Gerald Williams should be right behind him).

OF COURSE, elsewhere, it's Benitez time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: The Googlesphere

Google Blog Search arrives. WaPo has the story.

Which reminds me of something I've noticed while searching Technorati and Blogpulse. In my ordinary blog reading, I am constantly amazed by how many talented writers there are out there, people with something to say and a knack for saying it. There are many hundreds of such blogs now, carrying on scores of conversations about every issue under the sun, although I mainly read blogs on politics and baseball.

But then, when you go outside of the widely-read and widely-linked parts of the blogosphere, and start running across things written on LiveJournal and Xanga and the like, you realize how many people there really are out there who just can't write - or, apparently, think - to save their lives. It's quite an eye-opener. Granted, some of them are teenagers who will learn eventually, but still.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: Making FEMA a First Responder

We've heard a lot lately about the notion that FEMA should have taken, and should take in the future, a more leading role in making the federal government, in effect, a first responder to natural disasters and terrorist attacks. Now, there's a fair debate here over whether the federal government ought to improve its ability to respond quickly with redundant capacity to provide emergency supplies, evacuation, etc. in the event that state or local first responders are for one reason or another incapacitated.

But we should resist, at all costs, the idea (pushed by Mickey Kaus, among others) that the federal government should centralize a greater amount of the nation's first-response capacity. Let's look at two aspects of this problem.

1. Vulnerability

Let's think rationally here, in terms Osama bin Laden would understand, and we - as long as we're fighting him, or fighting anybody else, for that matter - can ill afford to forget. We have two choices:

A. Centralize disaster-response with FEMA, with the heads of DHS and FEMA and the President personally responsible for making the crucial decisions.

B. Decentralize disaster-response, with decisionmaking power in the hands of 50 Governors and scores of Mayors.

Even the leader of a ragtag terrorist operation can tell you that decentralizing authority into local cells that can operate on their own for long stretches makes you less vulnerable to your enemies. The more we centralize our response to disasters with FEMA, the more we hand our enemies the ability to cripple our response to multiple simultaneous attacks in different parts of the country. Imagine if Flight 93 had hit the White House - wouldn't it then have been a particularly good thing that Rudy and Pataki could put the NYPD and NYFD into action without awaiting word from Uncle Sam? Why on earth should our response to this disaster be to centralize rather than distribute our ability to respond in a crisis?

2. Local Knowledge

As critics of the Iraq War never tire of reminding us - and, for that matter, as opponents of the Vietnam War often noted - for out-of-towners, there's no substitute for knowing the neighborhood. Even closer to home, consider the lesson of the 2004 election. As was much remarked at the time, outside of the big cities - where Democrats had longstanding political machines skilled in getting voters to the polls on Election Day - Republican get-out-the-vote efforts were generally more successful than those of the Democratic side, in part because the Republican "GOTV" operation was carried out locally by local voters, whereas the Democrats in many areas were dependent upon outside groups. While you can debate the degree of importance of this factor, virtually every post-mortem on the election concluded that the Democrats need to improve their local grassroots operations.

What has this got to do with disaster preparedness? Quite a lot, actually. Just as with voter turnout, getting people to evacuate a city or gather in a safe shelter is a job in which there's just no substitute for local knowledge. You have to know who lives where, how to persuade them to budge, and you have to know the fastest way out of Dodge. And even moreso than in doing Election Day turnout, you don't have time to learn all of that in the chaos of a disaster or an attack that may give just a few days' or hours' warning, if even that much.

By all means, let's talk about improving the federal response to disasters; regardless of who deserves credit and blame for the response to Hurricane Katrina, nobody who watched the unfolding of events in New Orleans could conclude that there is no room left for improvement at all levels. But in so doing, let's not make ourselves more dependent upon Washington and less reliant on the people who are in the best position to know their own turf.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:22 AM | Hurricane Katrina • | War 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
September 14, 2005
POLITICS: Mr. Chirac, Tear Down This Wall!

We already knew that George W. Bush was a (rhetorically) committed free trader, even if his actions haven't always lived up to his rhetoric (ahem, steel tariffs). But this call for the total worldwide abolition of trade barriers, as pie-in-the-sky as it may be under present international political conditions, ought to warm the hearts of conservatives, libertarians and Clinton-style liberals everywhere. Nothing wrong with shooting high and setting goals we can work to, even if it takes the next few decades.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2005
BASEBALL: The Ace Has Arrived

Who has the highest strikeout/inning ratio in baseball since the All-Star Break? Read it, and weep.

Also: in one of my fantasy leagues, I bailed out and traded Dontrelle Willis (for BJ Ryan, a deal that makes sense only if Dontrelle was out of gas) at the end of July. But Willis has a MLB-best 1.23 ERA since August 1.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:51 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: No Longer Just A Humble Carpenter

Yes, this is basically an edited version of the email Bill posted. And in my defense, I didn't see his email in my Yahoo! box until at least a half hour after he sent it . . .

Bill Simmons and I were having a discussion about how much precedent there is for Chris Carpenter having the sort of dominant, Cy Young-caliber season* he's had this year, given that Carpenter is 30 years old and has had a mediocre, injury-riddled career.

The obvious precedent is Mike Scott. Scott through age 29 had career bests of 10 wins, a 3.72 ERA, 154 innings, and 83 strikeouts. At age 30, Scott went 18-8 with a 3.29 ERA and 137 K, and the next year exploded on the league, going 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA in 275 IP, striking out 306 batters, throwing a division-clinching no-hitter, and winning the Cy Young Award.

So, who else is similar to Carpenter? Well, recall first that, like Scott, Carpenter built up to this with what looked, just a year ago, like a career year: he was 15-5 last year with a 3.46 ERA (121 ERA+) and 7.52 K/9. I don't think anyone predicted this season after he broke down (yet again) at the end of last year (me, I've been arguing for years that he should be converted to a closer due to his fragility). If you look at guys with big bust-out seasons in their 30s, there's a bunch of examples of less dramatic turnarounds by guys who were inconsistent or injury-prone in their 20s (Mike McCormick, Kevin Brown, Curt Schilling, Mike Cuellar, Bob Tewksbury), were previously relievers (Wilbur Wood, Hank Aguirre), pitched OK and got huge run support (Steve Stone) or just didn't get a shot in the majors until they were past 30 (Dazzy Vance, Spud Chandler, Sal Maglie). But I could think of four others who have a similar profile:

1. If you look at the top 10 most similar pitchers to Carpenter entering 2005 on baseball-reference.com, you'd find Jason Schmidt at #9. Schmidt's career-bests through age 29 were 13 wins, a 3.45 ERA, and 196 K, all set or matched at age 29 (his age-29 season is quite similar to Carpenter's). At 30, Schmidt went 17-5, 2.34 ERA, 208 K, pitching comparably to Carpenter, if winning a few less games and throwing a few less innings.

2. Bucky Walters, through age 29, had career bests of 15 wins (at age 29) and a 4.17 ERA. At 30, he went 27-11 with a 2.29 ERA and won the MVP Award; other than Scott, he's probably the most similar case.

3. John Tudor's career bests were 13 wins and a 3.27 ERA, until at age 31 he posted the 1.93 ERA in 275 innings and won 21 games. Getting out of Fenway and getting Ozzie behind him had a lot to do with that, of course.

4. Dave Stewart's career high in wins through age 29 was 10, and he'd never tossed 200 innings before. Stewart at 30 started the string of four consecutive 20-win seasons, although he didn't instantly dominate the league.

I could be forgetting someone - I didn't exactly do a systematic study - but I think those are the most dramatic examples.

* - I'll save for another day the Carpenter vs. Roger Clemens Cy Young debate. Suffice it to say that Carpenter's season is of legitimate Cy Young quality; the question is whether you can give the award to someone other than Clemens, given how well he's pitched.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Time To Plan The Victory Parade

June 12, 2007, will mark the 20th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech at the Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin. While I suppose I would prefer a more obviously non-partisan anniversary (the 50th anniversary of Churchill's "Iron Curtain" speech is in March 2006, which is probably too soon to plan something like this with everything else that's going on), this would seem as good an anniversary as ever to plan something that should have been done long, long ago: a victory parade in the nation's capital for America's veterans of the Cold War.

In past wars, America celebrated victory with parades suitable to honor the returning soldier. That was never done for Vietnam, and as far as I know, it wasn't done for Korea, either. While the veterans of those wars are mostly still with us, it's past time to rectify that omission with a celebration that truly embraces their sacrifice and honors their contribution to ultimate victory over Communism.

The main reasons, I suspect, for not having a formal celebration back when the Cold War ended were (1) the way the "long, twilight struggle" ended in gradual stages and (2) a desire to let sleeping dogs lie by not rubbing Russia's face in its defeat at a time when we were trying to coax it to democracy. 15 years on, those considerations are less pressing. And it could have a salutary effect in the current struggle to remind the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan that their country has the will to win a long struggle and a long enough memory that their sacrifices won't soon be forgotten, even when we hit setbacks and ask them to fight battles that end with a whimper rather than a bang.

Whether the anniversary of the Reagan speech is used as the jumping-off point or not, of course, there's no reason why a parade honoring veterans of Korea, Vietnam and other, smaller Cold War battles would not be a genuinely bipartisan event, as there are numerous members of both parties in Congress and elsewhere who fought in those wars and would or should be interested in a formal display of honor for their former comrades in arms.

What are we waiting for?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
KATRINA: Over Her Head

Bob Somerby collects excerpts from an interview with Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, which make clear how incapable she is of answering even the simplest of questions; really, the excerpts alone tell the story. (Via NRO). This line is one no Republican could get away with:

Mayor Nagin and most mayors in this country have a hard time getting their people to work on a sunny day, let alone getting them out of the city in front of a hurricane.

And I thought Republicans were cynical about big urban political machines. (John Hawkins has more horrendous quotes from Left and Right about the hurricane).

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:17 AM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Echoes of O'Rourke

John Roberts:

Mr. Chairman, I come before the committee with no agenda.

I have no platform.

Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.

I have no agenda, but I do have a commitment. If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind.

PJ O'Rourke's 1993 speech to the Cato Institute:

The Cato Institute has an unusual political cause -- which is no political cause whatsoever. We are here tonight to dedicate ourselves to that cause, to dedicate ourselves, in other words, to . . . nothing. We have no ideology, no agenda, no catechism, no dialectic, no plan for humanity. We have no "vision thing," as our ex-president would say, or, as our current president would say, we have no Hillary.

All we have is the belief that people should do what people want to do, unless it causes harm to other people. And that had better be clear and provable harm. No nonsense about second-hand smoke or hurtful, insensitive language, please.

I don't know what's good for you. You don't know what's good for me. We don't know what's good for mankind. And it sometimes seems as though we're the only people who don't. It may well be that, gathered right here in this room tonight,are all the people in the world who don't want to tell all the people in the world what to do.

This is because we believe in freedom. Freedom -- what this country was established upon, what the Constitution was written to defend, what the Civil War was fought to perfect.

Hey, there are worse people to sound like.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 12, 2005
LAW: Another Justice From Justice?

With hearings gearing up on John Roberts, RedState's Erick Erickson, parsing the latest rumors from sources who might have reason to know, says that while Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and Judge Edith Brown Clement are off the short list to replace Justice O'Connor, Miguel Estrada (formerly of the SOlicitor General's office, like Roberts) may be back on it. (Tigercon has more background on the tragic death of Estrada's wife, the details of which I hadn't been aware of but which obviously affect Estrada's own thinking). James Taranto has the not-entirely crazy idea that Bush should instead appoint yet another DC-based former DOJ attorney, law professor and former Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh.

Interesting that so many of the candidates appear - like Roberts - to be Beltway insiders, rather than judges from outside Washington. Of course, this is partly the Bork/Souter effect: if you want to avoid a candidate with a long paper trail like Bork, yet ensure that you don't get ugly surprises as with Souter, your best choice is to take someone who is a personally known quantity to a lot of DC Republicans (the way Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justices Scalia and Thomas were - Rehnquist had been at DOJ, Scalia the head of the Office of Legal Counsel and on the DC Circuit, Thomas the head of the EEOC and - like Roberts - briefly on the DC Circuit). Of course, as Estrada and Dinh are both relatively young and many of the objections made to Estrada (including demands for memos he wrote with the SG's office) are the same as those raised against Roberts, Estrada would seem to be a particularly logical pick if Bush intends to unveil his selection before Roberts is confirmed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Show Me Don't Tell Me

Tung Yin on the absence of persuasive argument in a law professors' letter opposing John Roberts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Blue on Blue

If you missed them, two of the most biting denunciations of far-Left bloggers have come recently from their own side of the aisle: Bob Somerby on Atrios (scroll down; lots of adult language involved), and, from a few weeks back, Mark Kleiman on Juan Cole.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 11, 2005
KATRINA: A New Category

I've created a new separate category for posts on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Even as the issue is politicized, I don't really feel comfortable just logging entries on this topic under the heading of "politics".

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:54 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: Not So Fast?

Polipundit carried some very optimistic predictions on Friday, from a veteran National Guardsman serving there at the moment, about Katrina's death toll and New Orleans' recovery. A sample:

3. The Mardi Gras Carnival Parade will go on "as scheduled" for February 28, 2006.

4. Within thirty days, electricity will be restored to a majority of NOLA.

5. Within thirty days, 90% of the city will by dry enough to access by civilian SUV.

6. Dependent on the restoration of water/sewer service, of which I have no first hand knowledge to comment, large numbers of NOLA residents will be going home by Thanksgiving.

7. Ninety percent, or more, of the residents that were displaced in NOLA will eventually return to the city in search of the now greatly expanded employment prospects in construction.

Read the whole thing. If you look solely at the questions of pumping water out of the city and rebuilding, the optimistic view may well be the better bet; it can be all too easy to underestimate the human, and specifically American, capacity for rebuilding when people need to get resettled. But stories like this one, from Thursday, make me wonder:

Four persons have died in what federal health officials think was likely a bacterial infection circulating in Hurricane Katrina's contaminated floodwaters in New Orleans, and new EPA tests show the water is full of sewage and lead.

Environmental Protection Agency Director Stephen L. Johnson said yesterday that the amount of E. coli and coliform, a bacterium found in sewage, in the water was at least 10 times EPA's recommended levels. Lead levels in the water also were elevated, he said.

Sure, the water can be pumped out of the city. But the 1-2-3 punch of bacterial infections, chemical contamination, and mold could make the city uninhabitable in practice for much longer. It took a long time to knock out all the buildings contaminated by mold in lower Manhattan after September 11, and Manhattan isn't surrounded by humid swamps (recall that even before Katrina, Governor Blanco was forced to abandon the Louisiana Governor's Mansion for the summer due to a tenacious mold problem). That problem will be multiplied by the need to inspect virtually every building still standing in the city to see which ones need to be knocked down. I want to be optimistic, but I'm not holding my breath.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Equal Time for Terror?

Steven Spielberg's upcoming movie about the 1972 Palestinian terrorist attacks on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich is bound to stir controversy; I'm withholding my own opinion until I see it. But this is ridiculous:

Steven Spielberg has been criticized by the only surviving Palestinian terrorist behind the massacre at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, Germany, because the director failed to consult him over his new movie dramatization of the tragic events.

So, who did he call? Well, I'll give you one guess . . .

Mohammed Daoud was a member of terror group Black September in the early 1970s and was responsible for the deaths of 11 Israelis in Munich's Olympic Village. He has been on the run ever since. But Daoud is so angry with Spielberg's supposedly pro-Israel stance in new film Munich, he contacted news agency Reuters to put forward his side of the story. He says, "If someone really wanted to tell the truth about what happened he should talk to the people involved, people who know the truth. Were I contacted, I would tell the truth. (Israel) carried out vengeance against people who had nothing to do with the Munich attack, people who were merely politically active or had ties with the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization)."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 PM | War 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: I REMEMBER

Where I was four years ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 PM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 9, 2005
KATRINA: Show Me Life, Not Death

Jeff Goldstein collects some examples, from Andrew Sullivan and others, of Bush critics calling for the media to photograph and display the corpses of victims of Hurricane Katrina, presumably as a means of making the president look bad. (Hat tip: Vodkapundit). Goldstein notes the ghoulishness of this strategy, and its departure from the basics of human decency and respect for the dead.

But there's a more fundamental problem here: the victims of Katrina, like those killed by hurricanes, wars, terrorist attacks, and other catastrophes both man-made and otherwise, aren't just hunks of flesh made to be grist for political debates. They were our fellow human beings, and they deserve to be remembered as they were in life, not as their decayed remains are in death.

The New York Times, to its great credit, did an exhaustive, months-long series of obituaries entitled "Portraits of Grief" (now available in book form), which sought after September 11 to show, not the bodies of the victims (and heroes) of that day, but the people, the lives, who were lost to us. The media has likewise served a useful purpose in the Iraq war when it gives us, rather than casualty statistics or the Koppel-esque reading of laundry lists of names, profiles of the soldiers who have given their lives for their country. (This includes efforts made more recently to profile Casey Sheehan). In each case, the simple human truth about the departed is more than enough to sadden and, as appropriate, enrage most people about the loss of each precious human life.

After the deluge in New Orleans, it will be hard, hard work for the media to track down information about the lives of Katrina's victims, especially because so many were poor, or elderly, or sick, because reporters love to talk about poor African-Americans but don't so much enjoy talking to them, and because those who knew them are scattered, almost literally, to the four winds. And there may well be too many stories to tell them all. But New Orleans deserves its own Portraits of Grief. Tell us those stories, about life; if we are not moved, then the dead have lost their power to move us. But let the bodies of the dead be buried in peace.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:06 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 9/9/05

Well, the Mets are officially dead - when you get swept in such backbreaking fashion and then roll over the next day and play dead, it's over. Stephen Keane and Faith and Fear in Flushing had some pointed thoughts on the final collapse at Turner Field; I hadn't seen the report about the likelihood of the Mets non-tendering Vic Zambrano, but it makes sense.

On to other things:

*Will the Saints go marching out of New Orleans? This from Deadspin, the new-to-me Gawker sports blog. I'm skeptical that there are enough sodomy jokes in sports to keep a Gawker/Wonkette/Defamer-style blog in business, but these guys do have a successful track record. Personally, I drop by a few of the Gawker blogs from time to time, and almost always come away disappointed.

*Mickey Kaus asks whether the NEA is using the hurricane as an excuse to evade standards imposed by No Child Left Behind. I can see exempting kids who just arrived in your school from the tests, but exempting whole districts and states is just a little too clever a trick.

*How crazy can the Kos/MoveOn left get? Plenty crazy. I dare you to guess what they're speculating about now, before you click this link and find out. Via Llama Butchers, who think Karl Rove has been spiking MoveOn's happy juice again.

*Varifrank has a thought-provoking essay on the possibility that mass tort lawsuits will render New Orleans uninhabitable and ruin the state and city governments (via Instapundit). Meanwhile, Prof. Bainbridge and the Wall Street Journal ($) ponder how the legal system in Louisiana will survive the inundation of courthouses and law offices and the destruction of evidence and docket files.

*From a few months back (obviously), Annika's guide to the Supreme Court. Hilarious.

*You don't usually see studies linking "Marines, Korean men, gays and transsexuals", but this one does. The LA Times' effort to come up with a politically palatable explanation is very amusing.

*Will Mitt Romney's Mormonism hurt him with evangelical Christians in the GOP primary? The author is obviously ill-disposed towards conservatives generally, but there are a few points in here I didn't know about the intensity of anti-Mormon sentiment.

*The latest here and here on medical reports about the death of Yasser Arafat.

*Long profile of Bill Clinton by a sympathetic liberal writer who nonetheless picks at a few of Clinton's flaws; I had intended to comment on this, including some of the sillier anti-Bush potshots, but there's too much in here and too much else going on. Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:55 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
September 8, 2005
POLITICS: The Flood and The Recriminations, Part I

Like a lot of people on the Right, I was appalled last week at the rush of people on the Left seeking to blame anything and everything related to Hurricane Katrina on President Bush, even at the height of the disaster when partisan point-scoring should have been the last thing on anyone's mind. We saw at work two classic features of a left-wing swarm: (1) the belief that you can win an argument by being the angriest guy in the room, and (2) the effort, as we've seen so often in the past, to nail down the perception of events before the truth has a chance to lace on its boots.

Now, we see the same people reacting in shock and horror at the thought that the White House might try to get its side of the story out. Go figure.

It is, for the most part, still too early to reach any kind of definitive judgment about where the blame lies and what things can't fairly be blamed on anyone. If you don't believe me, think back to September 11, and all the times over the first few weeks after the attacks that we had to revise the things we thought we knew. (See Matt Welch here - updated here and here, via here - and McQ here on the slew of initial reports, especially regarding violence at the Superdome, that may have been overstated or outright wrong).

That being said, obviously, the effort to hold off on the fight over "who lost New Orleans" is one that can't be won. (There don't seem to be similar questions for the rest of Louisiana, Mississippi, or Alabama, none of which faced the same catastrophic breakdown of government services, nor are there questions about how New Orleans handled the hurricane itself, so much as the ensuing flooding). And in the long term, recriminations and finger-pointing will be a necessary and healthy part of the process; without that, nobody gets held accountable, and nothing gets changed. So, in the spirit of preliminary assessments, I offer my own framework for thinking about the issue. As usual, I'm trying to frame the questions; I don't pretend to have answers to all of them.

I. Primary Issues

There are four primary questions that need to be answered in the wake of the flood that devastated New Orleans: why did the city flood, why were so many people trapped in the flood, why were they without basic supplies, and why did it take so long to get supplies, evacuation and law enforcement to the people trapped in the flood?

A. Why Did New Orleans Flood?

The initial question is why the levees were breached. In part, as far as I can tell, this was a result of a long-ago decision made at multiple levels of government not to reinforce the levees beyond the strength needed to survive a Category 3 hurricane; Katrina was a Category 4 or 5 (depending on when you measure it). On the other hand, Katrina didn't score a direct hit on the city. The question of why the specific sections of the levees gave out is mainly an engineering question, and thus one that will take some time and patient investigation to figure out.

Aside from "why" is the question of "who". Apparently, the construction and maintenance of the levees had been principally a federal responsibility since the Army Corps of Engineers, in what was apparently one of its signature early successes, took over the job as part of the War of 1812 (in which the Battle of New Orleans was a key engagement), and - in a development that should be familiar to observers of federal agencies - never relinquished that role. However, it appears that much of the work is carried out by local contractors, and it's unclear to me what role the state and local governments play in implementing federally funded projects. Tom Maguire predicts that before this is over we will see the relevant local contractor investigated for corruption or other improprieties.

Some commentators have fairly asked why, as a policy matter, funding and execution of projects protecting one city in one state should be a federal responsibility, and specifically why - if Louisiana officials actually believed that the levee maintenance project was dangerously underfunded - they didn't step in with funds of their own. These are good questions in the abstract, and they do point to some local responsibility for getting serious on the issue, but in the real world, if the feds have been funding something for 190 years, it's presumptively a federal responsibility unless there is a clear statement by the Administration that the state will now be on its own.

The Bush Administration has come under fire for cutting the funding in recent years for the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, an initiative begun in 1995. It's deeply ironic, of course, that an administration that has shown so little willingness to fight to cut spending would end up in hot water for actually succeeding in the task. Still, while there may have been pork in this project - one pre-Katrina account quotes project manager Al Naomi saying that "When (former Rep.) Bob Livingston (R-Metairie) was chairman of the Appropriations Committee, we didn't have a monetary problem. Our problem was how do we spend all the money we were getting" - even most conservatives would agree that preventing catastrophic floods should not be one of the first places you look to cut the budget (As Mark Steyn observed, "why did the porkmeisters of the national legislature and national executive branch slash a request by the Army Corps of Engineers for $105 million for additional flood protection measures there down to just over $40 million, at the same time they approved a $230 million bridge to an uninhabited Alaskan island?"). Unless there's a real good explanation from Bush as to why these funds were cut (and if there was, I suspect we'd have heard it by now), he's going to deserve the criticism he gets on this.

Of course, just because Bush cut funding on the project doesn't mean that those cuts actually contributed to the breaches that flooded the city. In fact, at least one of the major levee breaches was in a concrete section that had just been upgraded. Democratic critics conceded that the funding cuts didn't cause the floods. And there is reason to believe that a genuine fix for the levees would have been decades away anyway.

And the Bush Administration wasn't alone in questioning levee-maintenance projects. The New York Times repeatedly criticized the Army Corps of Engineers' levee-building and maintenance plans on environmental grounds and called for funding cuts, and environmental groups stopped an earlier, more comprehensive project with a 1977 lawsuit. So, Bush may have some strange bedfellows in the dock on this issue.

UPDATE: Instapundit points to an article in this morning's Washington Post fingering Louisiana Senators and Congressmen for diverting hundreds of millions of dollars from flood control to other water projects in Louisiana. Louisiana Democrat John Breaux's words may be an epitaph for a generation of Louisiana's political class:

"We thought all the projects were important -- not just levees," Breaux said. "Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but navigation projects were critical to our economic survival."

And a perspective-giving excerpt:

Louisiana's politicians have requested much more money for New Orleans hurricane protection than the Bush administration has proposed or Congress has provided. In the last budget bill, Louisiana's delegation requested $27.1 million for shoring up levees around Lake Pontchartrain, the full amount the Corps had declared as its "project capability." Bush suggested $3.9 million, and Congress agreed to spend $5.7 million.

Administration officials also dramatically scaled back a long-term project to restore Louisiana's disappearing coastal marshes, which once provided a measure of natural hurricane protection for New Orleans. They ordered the Corps to stop work on a $14 billion plan, and devise a $2 billion plan instead.

But overall, the Bush administration's funding requests for the key New Orleans flood-control projects for the past five years were slightly higher than the Clinton administration's for its past five years. Lt. Gen. Carl Strock, the chief of the Corps, has said that in any event, more money would not have prevented the drowning of the city, since its levees were designed to protect against a Category 3 storm, and the levees that failed were already completed projects.

(Emphasis added).

SECOND UPDATE: John Berlau at NRO has a closer look at environmental lawsuits, including one in 1996, obstructing the building and maintenance of the levee system. Also, Rich Lowry notes a 2004 federal indictment of Louisiana officials for "obstruction of an audit of the use of federal funds for flood mitigation activities throughout Louisiana."

THIRD UPDATE: Looks like Louisiana's state and local governments didn't make levee building and maintenance much of a priority, to the point that "local and state officials did not use federal money that was available for levee improvements or coastal reinforcement and often did not secure local matching funds that would have generated even more federal funding." (Via QandO . . . really, I think I'm gonna end up linking to everything McQ has written on this in the past week; you should be over at the QandO site for all the latest on Katrina and the recriminations).

TO FOLLOW: The other three primary issues, the secondary questions, and the red herrings.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Hurricane Katrina • | Politics 2005 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: No Night Owl

How's this for a split? Mike Mussina, 2004-05:

Day games: 7-4 in 14 starts, 3.02 ERA in 92.1 IP
Night: 17-13 in 41 starts, 5.01 ERA in 244.1 IP

The odd thing is, Mussina's K/9 and BB/9 are about the same in both situations - but his HR/9 rise from 0.88 by day to 1.33 by night, accounting for the difference. Mussina hadn't shown a similar pattern before 2004, so it's hard to say if this is just random luck.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 7, 2005
BASEBALL: Blamen Looper

Well, it's too soon to give up hope for 2005 (and at this writing it's still too soon to abandon hope for tonight's game), let alone a full accounting of the goats in the event that the Mets fail to make the postseason. But I can say this: Braden Looper is very high on my list.

UPDATE: Can the same pitcher be charged with two blown saves in the same game?

UPDATE: !#^$#^ Looper. I can't really blame Takatsu, who came into an impossible situation (bases loaded, nobody out), and nearly got out of it, although it would have been nice if he'd put the game away once he got the first two outs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: Without Attribution

Mark Steyn, in a September 6 column in London's Daily Telegraph:

I say that in the spirit of the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, the Anti-Giuliani, a Mayor Culpa who always knows where to point the finger.

John Fund, writing in today's OpinionJournal Political Diary (a subscriber-only email service):

Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans has become an anti-Giuliani, a walking Mayor Culpa who wants to finger everyone but himself for his city's poor handling of its evacuation, which most infamously left 20,000 people at the city's Superdome without adequate food or security.

I think Steyn is owed a credit for that line, no?

UPDATE: Fund emails to tell me that he picked up the line from a friend who emailed from Louisiana, not knowing that Steyn had coined it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:34 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ironies of the Day

Two of them, from this AP report:

1. Now, Ray Nagin orders a genuinely mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. Great timing there. Yet, even now, we see who continues to drag their feet:

The new evacuation order has been drafted and will be issued shortly, Mr. Nagin said, even though Louisiana state officials question his authority to issue such a command. "I don't care, I'm doing it," he said. "We have to get people out."

2. Guess who said this, in calling for "an independent commission to investigate the federal response to the disaster, saying neither Congress nor the administration should do it":

"I don't think the government can investigate itself."

Yes, that's right: Hillary Clinton. Oh, the irony.

I'm heartened to see that the Senate and House are launching their own investigations; back in the days when John Dingell and Henry Waxman were committee chairmen, Congress didn't punt all of its investigative powers to secretive prosecutors and unelected commissions. It's about time Republicans acted like they were elected by the people to be in charge.

Inevitably, there will also be an "independent" or "bipartisan" federal commission to study the question, and I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, too, although if it follows the 9/11 Commission model it will consist of Kathleen Blanco, James Lee Witt, a left-wing lawyer and a handful of retired liberal Republicans. As we have seen in the past, though, such commissions tend to redirect public attention away from the facts (see Claudia Rosett on the UN Oil-for-Food inquiry, due to issue a report today) and to be treated in their bottom-line conclusions as gospel by a lazy media, even when their investigative work has been shoddy or biased. Let's make sure that the facts get a little play, too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Hurricane Katrina • | Politics 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: The Chief Is Dead, Hail To The Chief

President Bush's rapid announcement on Monday that he will nominate John Roberts to be the next Chief Justice, rather than an Associate Justice, made all sorts of sense. First, an extended period in which the president theatrically mulls the decision is a luxury that can't be afforded now, with the Court's 2005 term a month a way and attention focused on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Second, I have not located the statutory authority for this, but I understand that, by law, an open Associate Justice's slot can not be filled until after the Chief Justice has been seated. (SCOTUSBlog explains why the two nominations are distinct). Third, Roberts has the momentum behind his nomination, which Bush doesn't want to stall. Fourth, the Roberts pick can easily be justified on grounds of merit: Bush obviously picked him in the first place because he thought he was the most qualified guy available.

Oddly, given the incidence of Justices hanging on past their ability to serve, Jim Lindgren notes that Chief Justice Rehnquist is the first Justice to die while still on the Court since his former boss, the brilliant Justice Robert Jackson, in 1955.

On a related note raised by John Fund: while I don't expect the Constitution to be amended any time soon, I do think if we were rewriting the rules now from scratch, it would be prudent to have a 25-year term limit for Justices. 25 years is long enough to almost approximate the term in office of many Justices in the modern era. A fixed term in office would have a few advantages:

*Ensure regular turnover on the Court, thus improving its responsiveness to changes in public opinion (while I believe the Court should mainly follow fixed and determinable principles for interpreting the Constitution, I'm not naive enough to think we are there yet, and even so there are always some issues on which the Justices have no choice but to bring their world view into the analysis)

*Ensure predictable departures and prevent gamesmanship over when Justices will retire. No more debates over "hanging on to the next term," and elections in which everyone knows a vacancy is due.

*Reduce the incentive to appoint artificially young Justices. All things being equal, there will often be better candidates in their late 50s and around 60 than candidates in their early 40s. Life tenure, though, creates incentives for each party to tilt its picks towards younger candidates.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:04 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Crossing Over

I was watching the local NBC affiliate on Monday and you know it's not good news for the Democrats challenging Mike Bloomberg that a new poll showed Bloomberg leading the field . . . among Democratic primary voters. By a 2-to-1 margin: 43% for Bloomberg to 21% for Fernando Ferrer. And the accompanying report had no trouble finding Bloomberg supporters at the West Indian Day Parade, not normally a hotbed of Republicanism.

Like him or not, Bloomberg is a competent manager and as close to a genuinely bipartisan mayor (by New York City standards) as you can get. He'll be re-elected.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:58 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Mets Notebook

*If you've been following the team closely this season, of course, you'll know the answer to this one. But still: look at the following table and tell me which one of these players signed a $119 million contract before the season:

PLAYERAVGSLGOBP
A.287.402.335
B.269.491.349
C.267.421.331
D.254.462.328
E.247.425.332

Answer below the fold. Yes, Beltran's had injuries. Yes, he's hit well in clutch situations. Yes, he's played wonderful defense and run the bases well. Still can't avoid the fact that the Mets are not in the position in the wild card race they'd be in if Beltran was hitting like Beltran.

*Kaz Matsui is really running well now, and actually starting to hit; he looks healthy and lively for the first time in more than a year. Too little, too late, although at least the Mets now have a reputable second baseman for a few weeks.

*Shingo Takatsu looks sort of like a Japanese Dennis Cook. And David Wright looks like he could have stepped out of an old black-and-white baseball photo from the 20s or 30s. With his compact frame, Wright is built sort of like Rogers Hornsby (of course, Hornsby was even better, younger than Wright, leading the league in slugging as a 21-year-old shortstop).

*Jeff Francouer really has to be the NL Rookie of the Year, doesn't he? So much for the historical unlikelihood of a late-arriving candidate.

I'll have to do a more careful player-by-player analysis, but it's clearly the rookies like Francouer who made the difference from the Opening Day roster that my EWSL projections rated as the weakest team in a strong NL East.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:16 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 6, 2005
KATRINA: It Gets Worse

Next up in the sequence of Biblical plagues on New Orleans: e. coli bacteria in the water.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:23 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Harvard By The Numbers

This blogger was actually assigned to create a collage . . . for her first assignment in the Intro to Lawyering class at Harvard Law School. (via Althouse). This is now what passes for practical training in the legal profession?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:09 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Behind the Curve

I am now officially back at one of those points where computer difficulties are eating up most of what would usually be my blogging time. I have a few not-quite-finished posts I'll try and get wrapped and posted later in the day.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 5, 2005
KATRINA: School Supplies

There are many worthy chariities competing for attention that can help hurricane victims. Among those, one blog-driven effort you should consider is Michele Catalano's drive to bring school supplies to children displaced by the hurricane.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:37 AM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 4, 2005
KATRINA: Staying Put on Purpose

Mike Krempasky at RedState asks a painful question: what do we do about people who are still in New Orleans and refuse to leave?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:59 PM | Hurricane Katrina • | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: No Comment

I'm getting comments emailed to me that are posted on the site, but for some reason they aren't showing up in my MT or on the blog. Anybody with any idea of why or of how to fix this, please let me know (by email, not by comments).

If I can get the comments working again, I'll re-post the ones that got swallowed.

UPDATE: Here's the error message I got while trying to post a comment:

An error occurred:

Rebuild failed: Building entry 'BLOG: No Comment' failed: Build error in template 'Individual Entry Archive': Error in tag:

Use of uninitialized value in numeric ge (>=) at lib/MT/App/Comments.pm line 151.
Use of uninitialized value in concatenation (.) or string at lib/MT/Builder.pm line 141.
Use of uninitialized value in concatenation (.) or string at lib/MT/Builder.pm line 141.

UPDATE #2 (Tuesday Morning): OK, now I can't find any sign on MT of the 3,000+ comments left on this site over the past two and a half years.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:43 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 3, 2005
LAW: Rehnquist RIP

Well, the last thing Washington needs right now is another Supreme Court vacancy, but here it is: they just announced on TV that Chief Justice Rehnquist has died.

More on this later, as I have more time to think (I'm also working on a longer post on the whole hurricane-recriminations business, but I want to mull the issue a bit more). But a thought, tying the two strands together: what are the odds that Bush nominates Edith Brown Clement, who was apparently one of the runners-up to replace O'Connor, and who hails from New Orleans and currently sits in a court (the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals) whose main courthouse is presently abandoned to the flood?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Don't Say A Word

I can barely even think about the Mets at this juncture, let alone blog about them. Man, this is depressing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:22 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
September 2, 2005
KATRINA: The Bush Push

Apparenly, it took a personal plea from President Bush just to get Louisiana Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin to order the evacuation of New Orleans. Where would the city be if they hadn't done that much?

Now, if only they had used the buses, like Jeb does in Florida.

UPDATE: Yeah, still too early to lay blame. But it's worth mentioning, before the historical record gets cast in concrete.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:37 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: "U.S. Car Culture" Will Be Fine, Thank You

Only Reuters could take a news story about gasoline shortages and price spikes and entitle it, "U.S. car culture is running on empty in storm's wake", as if people driving automobiles (or 'horseless carriages,' as I suppose they are called) is some newfangled innovation of those crazy cowboys and rednecks.

I'd say people who believe that the automobile is a good thing are feeling pretty justified right now. People in New Orleans who owned cars mostly got themselves safely out of town before the storm (unless they chose to stick around). People who didn't, and were dependent upon on mass transit, wound up drowning, getting herded into the Superdome or the Convention Center or are still otherwise in harm's way, facing possible starvation as well as predation by looters and thugs. Many of them had little choice, of course - they were poor people living in a big city. But obviously, they did not wind up better off for not owning a car.

The lesson here is that anybody who can afford a car is crazy not to have one, the dreams of bicycle-riding environmentalists and central planners the world over to the contrary. In addition to its other virtues, a car can get you out of harm's way without having to depend on the government in a time of crisis.

Also note that suicide bombers regularly target trains (London, Madrid, Tokyo), buses (London, Israel) and planes (9/11, the shoe bomber) - but rarely if ever go after motorists, who remain more dispersed and therefore less vulnerable except when passing bridges and tunnels.

There remain those who resent the automobile, which puts the individual citizen literally in the driver's seat. But sometimes, the ability to get yourself out of town without waiting for the government to get you there makes all the difference.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (2) | TrackBack (4)
KATRINA: Rebuilding New Orleans

Quote of the week, from Tom Maguire:

I suspect that anyone opposed to putting up affordable housing in a toxic-waste flood plain will be denounced as racist (go figure).

And another bold prediction:

Let me throw in my own guess - eventually, the contractor who upgraded the 17th St. levee will be investigated, and the contract will be found to have been influnced by poltical intrigue. In Louisiana!

Read the whole thing. A lot of hard questions ahead, especially about what to do about all the people who lived in poverty, in crime-ridden neighborhoods, in harm's way. Try to persuade them to relocate? Put them back where they were? And, of course, who decides? And how quickly? We can afford to leave Ground Zero in lower Manhattan fallow for four years while the politicians squabble. We can't afford to do the same for the homes of hundreds of thousands of people.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:58 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 9/2/05

*Characteristically brilliant Mark Steyn column (reg. req.) taking the long view on why we should be optimistic about Iraq's future in general and its new constitution in particular, comparing it favorably to the failed EU constitution:

The Kurds drove a hard bargain and the Shia accepted it. The Sunnis did not. Sad, but not fatal. You wait around for unanimity, you wait for ever. The US framers said nine out of 13 states would be enough to proceed, and Rhode Island and North Carolina were still not on board at George Washington's inauguration. Quebec, incidentally, has still not signed the Canadian constitution.

[snip]

There's nothing wrong with the hard-fought trade-offs of smoke-filled rooms: that's what the US constitution is, and, come to that, Magna Carta. The flop constitutions, on the other hand, are those that reflect the modish unanimity of a homogeneous ruling class - like the European constitution. The Iraqi document is a very subtle instrument: it effectively uses Sunni intransigence to give the Shia majority an interest in Kurdish federalism - and, if in the end that doesn't work, supplies the mechanism for 85 per cent of the Iraqi population not to get sucked down with the hold-outs. As the aerial TV shots of looters in New Orleans remind us, at defining moments not every citizen rises to the occasion. What matters is that enough do. The Iraqi constitution understands that.

As always, read the whole thing.

*John Hawkins asks whether we really should rebuild New Orleans. A hard question, but a necessary one in the weeks to come. Louisiana without New Orleans is all but unthinkable, and abandoning cities is emotionally hard to do (the Japanese rebuilt Hiroshima, after all). But it would be wise to consider whether the city can be structurally reconfigured as a smaller and less vulnerable one.

*New Orleans-based Ernie the Attorney, who's been dealing with the aftermath of the catastrophe himself, recommends this book about the 1927 flood of the Mississippi.

*Former Red Sox Ace Mel Parnell is apparently among the missing, as is rock legend Fats Domino (UPDATE: They found Domino). While the worst impact of the hurricane and the deluge - especially in New Orleans - predictably fell on the sick, the old and the very poor, many of whom are now dead or in mortal peril, the rich and powerful weren't spared the destruction of homes: among those who reportedly lost their homes include Trent Lott, Bobby Jindal and several other Louisiana Congressmen, and the Neville Brothers. The rain, as the Bible reminds us, falls on the rich and the poor, the just and the unjust.

*Rod Dreher suggests a way we can expect help from the French in rebuilding New Orleans.

*The finger-pointing can wait for later, but McQ does have some useful background here, and more here from the Wall Street Journal.

*Lost in the flood-related news was the sudden death of supply-side guru and all-around gadfly Jude Wanniski. Wanniski wasn't always right or even rational, and he allied himself with all sorts of horrendous people and ideas along the way, but he was provocative and influential, and should be duly remembered.

*I agree with Kevin Drum's thoughts on the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Ann Althouse on Jon Stewart and Bill Maher, and these thoughts on looters from Ted Frank, Jonah Goldberg, and Instapundit (also here).

*Dean Barnett thinks Bill Weld will beat Spitzer. (via Ace). It's not likely, but it's possible, and a match between a true libertarian like Weld and a dedicated nanny-stater like Spitzer could provide an interesting contrast. Howie Carr, on the other hand, thinks the Bill Weld of 2005 is not the Bill Weld of 1990, and all but calls Weld a shiftless drunk. Obviously, the key question is whether Weld still has the fire in the belly to run a tough race against an unusually ruthless opponent.

*Ann Althouse discusses the issue of men who lose sexual desire for their wives after witnessing childbirth. My advice: as the dad, you're not delivering the baby, you're providing moral support. Stay up at the head of the bed, look your wife in the eye, and hold her hand. That's all she needs anyway.

*Interesting USA Today profile of Sandy Alderson.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
September 1, 2005
BLOG: Off Wing Off Line

Eric McErlain sends word that he's blogging at a backup Blogspot site while waiting for HostingMatters to resolve a Denial of Service attack on another customer that's disabled his site.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:27 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Charity At Home (Plate)

There's charity drives springing up all over for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and you can see a list over at Instapundit. Personally, once I sit down with my wife and figure out how much to give, I'll probably chip in to the Red Cross, which has the relevant experience in this type of thing, or possibly to Catholic Charities.

But here's one more for your attention: the Baseball Think Factory crowd is looking for volunteers and donations to bring baseball equipment to people displaced by the hurricane. It's not the most immediately urgent need, but it can do some good once things settle down a bit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:09 AM | Baseball 2005 • | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)