"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 28, 2007
POLITICS: Your Daily Dose of Glenn Greenwald's Mendacity
For those of you who may be tempted periodically to take Glenn Greenwald seriously, Patterico has a thorough, detailed and highly specific roundup of his latest breathtaking hypocrisy in attacking conservative bloggers for quoting anonymous comments on lefty blogs (more here from Jeff Goldstein), while QandO catches him in a gross distortion of a 2005 Joe Lieberman quote on Iraq.
POP CULTURE: An Oscar To Grouch About
Well, I didn't watch the Oscars on Sunday; I ended up getting sucked into an Iwo Jima documentary on PBS instead. I don't get to the movies much anymore and it's rare these days that I see anything that gets nominated (well, except for those agitprop penguins).
I live in East Hollywood. I do not like that Bush fellow. I'm worried about Global Warming. I really liked An Inconvenient Truth (except for the horror bits where Robot Al whispering his haunted memories about some river, his son, Katherine Harris, whatever). I'm really happy that lesbians rock the mic and get married and make babies with evil David Crosby's sperm; I'm on that team (well, not David Crosby's, but you get the point). But watching these people congratulate each other for their enlightened views, their activism, their spreading of "awareness," kinda makes me want to do one-handed pushups with Brent Bozell, or at least lick my hand & slap that Guggenheim kid on the back of his Gore-loving neck.
BASEBALL: Bogus Burgos?
Well, we knew Ambiorix Burgos had a live arm and was wild as all get out, but ace Royals beat writer Joe Posnanski (h/t Pinto) offers some specific cautions about Burgos, who he compares to Michigan J. Frog:
He blew 12 saves last year, but that doesn't even begin to describe the agony of watching him pitch. Tom Burgmeier, the old Royals bullpen coach, used to talk about one of his pitchers who had outrageous stuff -- every single time Burgie watched the guy flounder around on the mound he had the same thought: "You stupid son of a b***h, I would have KILLED to have your stuff."
Posnanski also isn't impressed with reports of Burgos lighting up the radar gun in Mets camp:
By the way, what kind of goof throws the ball 100 mph before the end of February? I'm not crazy, right? Isn't this like walking up to a doctor and saying, "Hey, would you mind cutting my ulnar collateral ligament? Thanks."
I don't know if Burgos pitched winter ball, but if he did he's probably loose enough to turn it up to 11. If he didn't Posnanski's right.
The Mets picked up Burgos, like Oliver Perez, largely as a project for Rick Peterson to fix. And yes, that's what they said about Victor Zambrano, though in Peterson's defense, Zambrano was apparently already injured when the Mets got him. If Peterson can turn these two around, he really is as good as his press clippings. I'll take that chance; Burgos is 23, and Posnanski makes it sound like a lot of his trouble is pitch selection and location, and a successful pitching coach for a successful organization may have more luck fixing that, as may a veteran catcher who isn't afraid to get in Burgos' face (the Royals had none of these things - I mean, with their track record developing young pitchers, would you listen to them?). Still, I have to assume there's pretty good odds that Burgos will be as bad as Jorge Julio was last season, and/or will get shipped to New Orleans (no, that doesn't sound right yet to me, either). As for Brian Bannister, Posnanski is right about his smarts but I never saw a sign that Bannister had that much upside as a big league starter.
WAR: I Will Get Fooled Again
Bill Richardson may or may not be a serious contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination - he does, at least, have far more experience in executive and foreign policy roles than the top three contenders combined - but it's a safe bet that the former Clinton Administration UN Ambassador and current New Mexico governor will play a significant role in the next Democratic Administration, and may well be a frontrunner for the VP job. So, Gov. Richardson's foreign policy op-ed piece in Saturday's Washington Post deserves some scrutiny.
Unfortunately, the results aren't pretty. Gov. Richardson wants us to use the recent nuclear deal with North Korea as a model to deal with Iran. Let's start with his description of that agreement:
The recent tentative agreement with North Korea over its nuclear program illustrates how diplomacy can work even with the most unsavory of regimes. Unfortunately, it took the Bush administration more than six years to commit to diplomacy. During that needless delay North Korea developed and tested nuclear weapons -- weapons its leaders still have not agreed to dismantle. Had we engaged the North Koreans earlier, instead of calling them "evil" and talking about "regime change," we might have prevented them from going nuclear. We could have, and should have, negotiated a better agreement, and sooner.
North Korea has no intentions of building nuclear weapons, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Saturday as he concluded three days of talks with two envoys from the communist nation.
Well, so much for that. But has he learned anything from the experience? The agreement with North Korea is an improvement over the 1994 Clinton Administration agreement because it involves North Korea's patron and powerful next-door neighbor, China. That's worth something in terms of the costs to the North Koreans of violating the agreement, or at least the costs of being publicly caught again violating the agreement. But other than that, the deal is essentially the same leap of faith, with little in the way of verifiable benchmarks North Korea can be held to. As even Gov. Richardson now concedes, the agreement doesn't even require North Korea to dismantle its weapons, plus it rewards the North Korean strategy of nuclear blackmail.
The virtue of the North Korean agreement, if there is one, is in getting a temporary delay in the day of reckoning with the North Korean threat so that more of our military and diplomatic resources can be focused on the primary theater of the current struggle against international terrorism: the tyrannies and struggling democracies of the Muslim and Arab worlds, in particular the Middle East and Central Asia. While North Korea is a serious threat in itself and - to the extent it proliferates its weapons and technology - also a part of that broader struggle, a temporary mollification of the North Korean regime, even at the price of more suffering and starvation for its downtrodden people, can help our strategic position in dealing with the major front.
But Richardson instead wants to see the Band-Aid that's been stretched over this side injury applied to the major wound. He throws around appeals to sensible propositions like "speaking credibly from a position of strength" and having "a record of meaning what you say." And, to his credit, he eschews the bizarre insistence of some Democrats that the U.S. should insist on unilateral negotiations, and recognizes that Russia would need to play the role with Iran that China does with North Korea (left unsaid is the fact that Russia appears to have no interest in taking the U.S. side in this fight). But his ultimate message is an exclusive focus on a negotiated resolution that appears to ignore the multifaceted nature of the Iranian menace:
A better approach would be for the United States to engage directly with the Iranians and to lead a global diplomatic offensive to prevent them from building nuclear weapons. We need tough, direct negotiations, not just with Iran but also with our allies, especially Russia, to get them to support us in presenting Iran with credible carrots and sticks.
Now, lining up a diplomatic coalition to pressure Iran on its nuclear program is all well and good - that's largely the path the Bush Administration has signalled in recent years - but at the end of the day, an agreement with the Iranians is no more likely to hold up than the current or past agreements with North Korea. The problem with Iran - as it was with Saddam Hussein's Iraq - is inherent in the nature of the regime, and by no means limited to the nature of the regime's armaments. Validating and rewarding that regime in exchange for nuclear concessions of dubious enforceability will only weaken our position in dealing with Iran's support of terror groups in Iraq and Lebanon. Unfortunately, Richardson - whether out of naivete or an effort to appeal to the ostrich faction in the Democratic primaries - is all too willing to get fooled again.
February 27, 2007
WAR: Carl Levin Rattles His Saber
Carl Levin is my least favorite US Senator; other Senators, like John Kerry and Chris Dodd, may have equally bad records of working at all times against the foreign policy and national security interests of the United States and taking the side of our enemies in every argument, but nobody else works as hard at it as Levin. If the New York Times was a Senator, it would be Carl Levin.
So I'm still reeling at the news that at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, Sen. Levin called for more aggressive action against Iran and Syria's meddling in Iraq, including openly advocating military action against Syria:
It's more than just - we're trying to close down the Iranian border area too. The problem is that these weapons are coming from a state which is - doesn't recognize Israel either, just like Iran doesn't. We've got to try to stop weapons coming into Iraq from any source that are killing our troops. I agree with the comments about trying to stop them coming in from Iran, I think we have to try stop them that are going to the Sunni insurgents as well as to the Shia. I was just wondering, does the military have a plan to, if necessary, to go into Syria to go to the source of any weapons coming from Syria? That are going to Sunni insurgents? That are killing our troops? ... I think we ought to take action on all fronts including Syria and any other source of weapons coming in, obviously Iran is the focus - but it shouldn't be the sole focus.
Levin also conceded that U.S. troops are needed in Iraq for "a counter-terrorism purpose" against Al Qaeda. Amazing.
BASEBALL: The Veterans Pick Nobody
Ron Santo and umpire Doug Harvey led the balloting. I generally think Santo is a solid candidate, and Harvey was so respected by the players he was nicknamed "the Lord".
The new Veterans Commitee seems designed not to work, which isn't the worst result but it would be nice to see guys like Santo, Minnie Minoso and Dick Allen get a fair shake. The balloting:
Results of the 2007 Player Ballot (62 needed for election): Santo (57 votes, 69.5%), Jim Kaat (52, 63.4%), Gil Hodges (50, 61%), Tony Oliva (47, 57.3%), Maury Wills (33, 40.2%), Joe Torre (26, 31.7%), Don Newcombe (17, 20.7%), Vada Pinson (16, 19.5%), Roger Maris (15, 18.3%), Lefty O'Doul (15, 18.3%), Luis Tiant (15, 18.3%), Curt Flood (14, 17.1%), Al Oliver (14, 17.1%), Mickey Vernon (14, 17.1%), Minnie Minoso (12, 14.6%), Cecil Travis (12, 14.6%), Dick Allen (11, 13.4%), Marty Marion (11, 13.4%), Joe Gordon (10, 12.2%), Ken Boyer (9, 11%), Mickey Lolich (8, 9.8%), Wes Ferrell (7, 8.5%), Sparky Lyle (6, 7.3%), Carl Mays (6, 7.3%), Thurman Munson (6, 7.3%), Rocky Colavito (5, 6.1%) and Bobby Bonds (1, 1.2%).
February 26, 2007
LAW: Res Ipsa Locomotor
I'm sorry, but at 100mph the cops shouldn't care what is or is not a well-established Fourth Amendment rule, they should only care about public safety. What seems to get lost here is the fact that Officer Scott's actions - ramming a car moving that fast - were exceptionally dangerous to himself, for the benefit of the public. What kind of sick society rewards that with a civil lawsuit?
BASEBALL: Quacks Like The Fonz
Add former Mets All-Star Edgardo Alfonzo to the flock of Ducks who see the Long Island team in the independent Atlantic League as a stepping stone back to the majors.
The article notes that the Ducks are managed by former Cardinals and Yankees pitcher Dave LaPoint, who hopes to try Alfonzo out at second, short and third. Me, I'd guess that the Bluefish got the better of the deal, given that Jacobsen is probably well-suited to Independent League play.
In other news, Bobby Abreu is suffering the ouchies of spring.
SCIENCE: Really Big Squid
Giant squid are cool. Accordingly, I give you: news about a "colossal" squid.
LAW: Lowered Expectations
States that have enacted constitutional amendments banning the use of racial preferences in public college admissions have seen acceptance rates for minority applicants go down. As more states consider such measures, civil rights advocates said, private colleges may inherit those students who can no longer get into public schools, or who no longer want to attend public schools with increasingly homogenous student bodies.
In a small sign of sanity - or, more likely, of the tribute vice pays to virtue - Yale officials aren't buying this logic:
But Yale Dean of Admissions Jeff Brenzel said the ripples might not make it to New Haven. Since Yale typically competes for applicants with only a small number of universities, almost all of which are private, the University’s applicants and admissions officers are insulated from the shock that the recent bans have had in California and Michigan.
Good for Yale. Granted, these are elite state colleges we are talking about, and granted, the Yale admissions office, like many in academia, is undoubtedly doing its bean-counting on a retail basis these days and learning to keep quiet about it. But even the necessity of driving race-consciousness and what is increasingly its open embrace of mediocrity underground is a victory of sorts.
BASEBALL: Age and EWSL, 2004-06
The great thing about doing something like EWSL as an ongoing project is that the data becomes progressively more stable over time: I now have three years of results to work from in evaluating how players tend to perform at each age relative to their adjusted Established Win Shares Levels, and thus can have progressively more confidence in the age adjustments I use going forward. For example, the more years of data I have, the less influenced it will be by a single generation of exceptional players born in a particular year.
Let's start with the 3-year results for the non-pitchers:
As you can see, the rapid rise of young players and their gradual fall from age 29 on is a powerful pattern, and one that grows smoother with each year's additional data. 2006 was a good year for 27-year-olds and a bad year for 28-year-olds, so some equilibrium has been restored in that regard from the prior age adjustments showing 27-year-olds flatlining but then hopping up one last time at 28. After age 32, the number of players holding jobs really starts to drop off.
The train wreck at age 35 only grew more pronounced this season. On the other hand, additional data helped bouy up the 40+ year olds, whose numbers got devastated by Barry Bonds' 2005. Here's this year's data on its own:
As I've explained before, the nature of any established performance level will exaggerate the upward and downward trajectory of player aging, since a 25-year-old is still being partly compared to his 22-year-old self, while a 35-year-old is still being partly compared to his 32-year-old self.
Now, the pitchers:
2006 was a tough year for the established pitchers, at least the under-30 set. The one-year sample sizes get really small - for example, Jon Lieber was the 36-year-old starting pitcher, Steve Trachsel and Paul Byrd the only 35-year-old starters. In general, the rule still holds that the pitchers as a group start to fall off earlier than the hitters. The 2006 data:
Overall, as consistent with past data, the age/EWSL numbers are a powerful reminder of the tides of age pulling players down from 29 onward. Which is not surprising: in baseball, as in life, everyone comes up from nothing and goes back to nothing in the end.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 AM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Waiting for Josh
Josh Johnson may not be ready for Opening Day. Johnson is crucial to the Marlins' 2007 as well as their longer-term future, so it's unsurprising that they're being conservative with him.
February 23, 2007
BASEBALL: EWSL Rookie Adjustments
In Part II of my look back at how Established Win Shares Levels fared in 2006, I'm taking a look at the rookies. Rookies - players with no significant major league track record - present a unique challenge for what is intended as a system for objectively evaluating players' major league track records. As I've noted before, EWSL uses a standard arbitrary figure for all rookies - it does not distinguish between, say, Ryan Zimmerman and Reggie Abercrombie if both are expected to hold everyday jobs. I'd like to add a non-subjective adjustment for rookie quality, but until I can get Major League Equivalency Win Shares (I don't believe they exist anywhere), I have to rely on the facts that (1) bad rookies rarely get everyday jobs and (2) good rookies often fall on their faces.
Of course, the one subjective element of this is my evaluation each spring of who looks like they have a job nailed down. One reason there were more rookies listed in 2006 was because I ran the EWSL rosters later in the year, mainly during April.
Anyway, part of the quest to make EWSL more empirical and less guesswork is that the adjustments - both the age adjustment and the rookie adjustment - get tweaked every year based on the accumulated data I have from, now, three years' worth of results. Let's look at those results:
After 2004, I had split off the rookie bench players by age because guys who break in as bench players in their 30s generally lack upside (the same isn't true of starters, since rookie everyday players age 30 and up tend to be Japanese imports). You can see a steady uptick the last three years in the number of rookies being given jobs early in the season, although bearing in mind that part of that is changes in my own estimation of who would play. Still, there's no disputing that last year had a real good crop of rookies from Day One. You can also see the miserable return from rookie starting pitchers - the good ones, like Jered Weaver and Dontrelle Willis, tend to come up a few months into the season, while with the exception of the occasional Verlander, guys who win rotation jobs early are often there more because of team need than because they are definitely ready.
I'll be using these figures, rounded off (most are pretty close to whole numbers anyway) for this year's adjustments - 11 for everyday players, 4 and 1 for bench players under and over 30, 5 for starting pitchers, 6 for relievers.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASKETBALL: RIP Dennis Johnson
Dead at 52. There are great players and there are good players, and then there are good players who are always in the right place at the right time. That was Dennis Johnson. RIP.
February 22, 2007
POLITICS: Barack Obama's Symbolic Appeals to Cannibals
To the average American, it may have seemed that Senator Obama intended to invoke Abraham Lincoln by announcing his presidential candidacy in Springfield, Illinois. But Springfield has another history - which raises certain suspicions about that announcement speech. You see, Springfield was the origin of the infamous Donner Party, whose trip to the West ended in cannibalism. And that's not all:
The 660-mile journey, also commemorated in a plaque on the kiosk, took 10 weeks, and the death toll is estimated to have been at least 40.
Was Senator Obama secretly using coded appeals to cannibals, and conjuring up the wistful nostalgia of some Americans for the days of forced resettlement of Native Americans?
Ridiculous, you scoff. But how well, really, do you know liberal Democrats' secret desires? Probably as well as The New Republic's Rick Perlstein knows those of conservative Republicans. As Perlstein writes of Mitt Romney's decision to announce his candidacy in Dearborn, Michigan in front of the Henry Ford Museum:
Well, that makes precisely as much sense as seeing Obama's choice of location for his announcement as a coded appeal to those voters with a taste for man-flesh.
Or maybe Perlstein's just responding to dog whistles.
POLITICS/WAR: John Edwards, Iran, Israel and Memory Lane
Well, John Edwards, finding himself in plenty of hot water, is now denying a report by Variety magazine of a remark by Edwards that didn't go over so well even before a Hollywood audience:
(H/T Steven Foley). As well Edwards should distance himself from that remark - not just because it's foolish but also because it would be quite a surprise to a certain then-U.S. Senator running for Vice President in 2004. Then, you will recall, Democrats wanted Iran to be dangerous so they could argue that the Iraq War was a distraction from the real security threat; in the service of that election-year talking point, Senator Edwards told the nation as follows in a nationally televised debate with Vice President Cheney:
I mean, if I can, just for a moment, tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, actually three years ago, in August of 2001, staying at the King David Hotel.
We left in the morning, headed to the airport to leave, and later in the day I found out that that same day, not far from where we were staying, the Sbarro Pizzeria was hit by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed. Six children were killed.
What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers, killed by terrorists?
They have not only the right to the obligation to defend themselves.
Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, a historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It's important for America to participate in helping with that process.
Now, if Gaza's being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped. And Israel has a right to defend itself. They don't have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don't have a partner in Arafat, and they need a legitimate partner for peace.
And I might add, it is very important for America to crack down on the Saudis who have not had a public prosecution for financing terrorism since 9/11.
And it's important for America to confront the situation in Iran, because Iran is an enormous threat to Israel and to the Israeli people.
Of course, then, Senator Edwards was a member of, and at least theoretically entitled to attend sessions of, the Senate Intelligence Committee, whereas now, he presumably has access to a really big television. So maybe he's better informed now. Or not; you see, Edwards also spoke at the AIPAC Policy Conference in May 2006:
Let's start with Iran's nuclear ambitions, which I believe is the single greatest security threat, not only to Israel, but to the United States. In fact today is a pivotal day with the IAEA meeting to send the matter to the U.N. Security Council to take action. It's about time, is what I have to say about that. For years I have argued that the United States has not been doing enough to deal with the growing threat in Iran. While we've talked about the dangers of nuclear terrorism, we've largely stood on the sidelines and the problems got worse.
I believe that for far too long we've abdicated our responsibility to deal with the Iranian threat to the Europeans. That is not the way to deal with an unacceptable threat to America, and an unacceptable threat to Israel. Iran's recent actions beginning with the reprocessing of uranium, refusing to cooperate with international inspections, makes clear that it intends to build nuclear weapons.
And the Iranian President's statements such as the despicable description of the Holocaust as a myth or his ugly pledge to wipe Israel off the map, you know, when he says these kind of things, I take him at his word. And we need to treat it as a very serious statement.
February 20, 2007
HISTORY: The Museum of The What?
You know, I hold no brief for the Confederacy, but haven't we slipped through the looking-glass when the "Museum of the Confederacy," which is a museum memorializing, well, the Confederacy, wants to drop the Confederacy from its name?
A museum, of all institutions, ought not to remove its own identity from its name.
LAW: The ADA in Action
James Pacenza, 58, of Montgomery says he visits chat rooms to treat traumatic stress incurred in 1969 when he saw his best friend killed during an Army patrol in Vietnam.
In papers filed in federal court in White Plains, Pacenza said the stress caused him to become "a sex addict, and with the development of the Internet, an Internet addict." He claimed protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Of course, he casually defames Vietnam vets in the process, with his claim that combat stress forced him into frequenting sex chat rooms at work.
UPDATE: Overlawyered has more on the case.
BASEBALL: Hope Springs Eternal
If you have not already, you should read Tom Maguire's roundup of the trial testimony in the Libby case. What remains bizarre about the case is not that perjury charges were brought where there was no underlying crime - that does happen - but that perjury charges were brought where the prosecutor was investigating a whodunit and already knew when he started the investigation who done it.
Did Libby lie? I have to say, Maguire's portrait of the testimony certainly suggests that Libby's account was probably untrue, and difficult to square with the testimony - but also that (1) it would be very hard to have enough confidence in that conclusion to convict him, especially given how much trouble the prosecution witnesses had keeping their own stories consistent over time and (2) Tim Russert probably did not tell the truth either.
RELIGION: Just a Test
Hat tip to Josh Trevino.
BASEBALL: 2006 EWSL Wrapup By Team
As I did last year, before diving into my preseason Established Win Shares Levels roster analyses, I'm going to take a quick look back at last season's. First up is the team-by-team results. For those of you who need a primer on EWSL and my annual roster roundups, go here. A few basic reminders:
*I look at 23 players (13 non-pitchers, 10 pitchers) per team, so an average team should exceed its EWSL due to the fact that most teams these days use between 30-45 players in a season.
*EWSL is an estimate of the established major league talent on a team (adjusted for age) going into a season. It's not a system for predicting the future, although it can be a helpful part of the toolkit (or at least a sanity check) in making predictions of the future.
*EWSL uses a standard figure for rookies (12 WS for rookie everyday players, 6 for rookie bench players, 4 for rookie pitchers (starting or relief)). It does not distinguish between, say, Ryan Zimmerman and Reggie Abercrombie if both are expected to hold everyday jobs. Thus, a team with a lot of high-quality rookies will exceed its EWSL. I'd like to add a non-subjective adjustment for rookie quality, but until I can get Major League Equivalency Win Shares (I don't believe they exist anywhere), I have to rely on the facts that (1) bad rookies rarely get everyday jobs and (2) good rookies often fall on their faces.
That said, basically, my analysis assumes that there are three components to team success: how much established talent is on the preseason roster, how well they perform, and how much production the team gets from guys who supplement those top 23 players with trades, rookies or scrubs. The following table shows the following columns: (1) each team's 2006 EWSL; (2) the actual Win Shares for those 23 players (includes Win Shares earned for other teams, e.g., Bobby Abreu counts with the Phillies); (3) the ratio of column (2) divided by column (1) to show how the 23 players fared relative to EWSL; (4) the team's total actual 2006 Win Shares (i.e., Wins x 3); (5) the team's Win Shares minus those from the top 23 players (in the example above this will include the negative value of, say, Abreu's Yankees Win Shares from the Phillies' "Rest" column); and (6) the ratio of column (4) divided by column (1) to show how the team as a whole fared relative to EWSL. Teams are ranked by that last column:
It should come as no surprise that the Tigers, 2006's big story, rate at the top of teams that exceeded expectations, and that the Cubs land at the bottom of the pile. As you can see, the top teams are something of a mix of teams that had great seasons and teams that had very low expectations - I was a little surprised to see the Reds and Rockies listed, for example. The Mets, on the other hand, did pretty much as expected with their roster but did better than average with guys they added on (although I should note that players overall rated at 0.968 of their EWSL, which will factor in as I re-adjust this year's age and rookie adjustments). The Dodgers rate the highest in that regard, with rookies like Andre Eithier helping out, while the Red Sox, White Sox and Mariners got the least help for their original roster. For the most part, teams that were near the top of this list last year tended to be nearer the bottom and vice versa, but the Cubs were down with the dregs for the second year in a row.
Here are the players among those on the preseason 23-man lineups of each team who were the biggest over and underacvhievers (I'm mixing those who were the biggest ups or downs by percentage or raw total):
Bear in mind again that these are full-season numbers - Jorge Julio, for example, did his good work in Arizona. Derrek Lee had the worst falloff of any marjor league player, from an EWSL of 27 to 4 Win Shares. It doesn't show here but the Rangers also took big hits from Teixera and Blalock.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:59 AM | Baseball 2007 | Baseball Studies | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
February 18, 2007
POP CULTURE: Spears' Razor
Isn't the simplest explanation for Britney Spears shaving her head that she had some hygiene-related need to do so (the word "lice" comes to mind)? I mean, we're talking about a woman who rarely appears to have washed her face or hair.
WAR: New Day, Same Spin
Senate Rejects Renewed Effort to Debate Iraq
Of course, this is Times-speak for the fact that Senate Democrats were unable to break a filibuster and force cloture and thus get a floor vote on their resolution. As you will recall, when Democrats use the filibuster to prevent Republicans from getting cloture, it's called extending debate. After all, the vote doesn't stop anybody from debating, it just prevents a vote.
I can't say I'm surprised that the Democrats use different terms to describe the same procedure depending on who is doing the filibustering. But would it be so difficult for the Times to at least pretend to even-handedness on this sort of procedural point?
February 16, 2007
BASEBALL: No Stick
As if the Nationals don't have enough problems, and as if Nick Johnson hasn't had enogh injuries, it looks like the broken leg he suffered at the end of last season isn't healing well: Johnson says he doesn't know when he will be healthy enough to play and thinks it might be June at the earliest.
Washington has to be the odds-on early favorite for the worst record in baseball in 2007.
BASEBALL: No Duca
Paul Lo Duca wants a contract extension; his deal is up at the end of this season. If the Mets are wise, they will proceed very cautiously on this one. Lo Duca is 35, and highly unlikely to repeat last season, when he batted .318; if he hits below .300, his offensive value is minimal, and he doesn't throw well. Catchers past age 35 have a gruesome record, and while Lo Duca was 29 when he made the majors and thus doesn't have as heavy mileage on his legs as some guys (I'm not sure how many games he caught in the minors) you have to figure he's a bad bet long term.
That said, catchers are in short supply, and as Casey said, you gotta have a catcher or you're gonna have a lot of passed balls. I don't believe that the Mets have anybody in their system who is ready to go, even to share time with Ramon Castro. It's certainly worth considering an extension, but the Mets should not operate on the assumption that Lo Duca is a valuable commodity.
February 15, 2007
POP CULTURE: MTV Generation Gap
If this keeps up, the network may have to fill time by showing music videos.
BLOG: Bleat Bleat
Lileks has a variety of amusing things in today's Bleat. I liked this:
BLOG: The Ultimate Beer Glass
Two-sport star Samuel Adams (hey, the slogan says "Brewer-Patriot") has unveiled the "ultimate beer glass." It's . . . shapely. Funny, I always thought the ultimate beer glass was defined as "a full one."
BASEBALL: The Real Leaker
It's always nice to be vindicated. When grand jury testimony was leaked from the BALCO investigation, pointing to Barry Bonds and others using steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, lots of people (most vociferously, Bonds' defenders) assumed that it must be, had to be, the prosecutors doing the leaking. I never did a post here on the topic, but I did respond in comment threads when I saw this point made, arguing that it was at least as likely that the leaks were coming from defense lawyers rather than prosecutors. For example, in December 2004, Will Carroll wrote:
My response in the comments:
My sense, though, is that many leaks in high-profile cases come from people lower down in the pecking order (court clerks, secretaries, word processors, etc.) who have less of an agenda and more personal or financial interest in handing sensitive information to reporters. Nothing happens in the law without a whole lot of people seeing it, and you can't watch all of them all the time.
I was too glib there about the law, by the way - a grand jury witness can only legally disclose the substance of his or her testimony, but can't, say, leak whole transcripts, at least not if they got them from the government. Obviously, my mind was heavily on Ken Starr's Lewinsky investigation of Bill Clinton - the leaks in that case almost invariably benefitted Clinton, allowing him to ride out each individual bit of the storm, where if the Starr Report had arrived out of the blue, it would have finished Clinton in one blow.
None of which is to say that prosecutors can't or don't misbehave with leaks - but it's always important to remember that there are just as often incentives to leak on the defense side as well.
In January 2005, CrimProfBlog argued that it had to be the prosecutors or the defense lawyers, and that it was unlikely to be the defense:
David Pinto linked to that analysis, to which I commented:
While David kept his opinions to himself, others were not so shy - TalkLeft's Jeralyn Merritt, for example, asserted, "I rule out the defense."
Now, the truth is out: the leaks came from a defense lawyer for Victor Conte, who - get this - was devising a deliberate fraud on the court by leaking and then moving for dismissal of the charges on grounds of improper leaks, which his motion (including his own sworn false denial of being the source of the leaks) blamed on the government.
Hey, we can all be wrong, but I think this post is a good example of the crow that should be eaten by some of the more vociferous proponents of the "it has to be the government" theory.
BASEBALL: Progress At Last
Good news for those of you who have been waiting for more baseball content on the site: I've finally at long last finished entering all the 2006 Win Shares in my spreadsheets, so I'll be starting soon to roll out my analyses and conclusions from those numbers.
And I suffer for my art: to avoid disrupting the rolling spreadsheets, which are on Microsoft Works, I've put off buying a new PC until this year's Established Win Shares Levels analyses are completed; I've been worried that there may be difficulties in transferring the data to Excel, and I assume that any new PC I buy will have Excel rather than the archaic Works (I got my current PC in October 2000, and it runs on - hold on and cringe here - Microsoft Windows ME).
February 14, 2007
POLITICS: Federalizing The Local Diner: The Curious Case For A National Minimum Wage
One of the major agenda items for the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill has been a hike in the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. Much to their embarrassment, Democrats found that they could not push legislation through the Senate controlled by the Democrat-Socialist majority without agreeing to a tax cut package to relieve some of the burden they are placing on small business. On Monday, House Democrats caved and approved the tax cuts, paving the way for the bill to become law.
The minimum wage, like all attempts at a command economy, is based upon the idea that there is an ideal "fair wage" or "living wage" that can be set by the government, not the market. Longtime observers are wearyingly familiar with the arguments on this point: liberals argue that it's unfair to allow people to work for peanuts, conservatives respond that people are free to work for what they will choose. Liberals argue that you can't raise a family on the minimum wage, conservatives respond that most minimum wage workers are young, single and/or part-time. Conservatives argue that the minimum wage throttles job growth for small businesses and entry-level workers, liberals contend that the job losses resulting from the minimum wage are nonexistent or overstated, conservatives reply that liberals are relying on quack economic studies.
Let's leave all that aside for now, and assume for the sake of argument that it is actually possible for the government to set a Platonic ideal minimum wage that provides a fairer income to workers with the minimum possible cost to job creation. That still doesn't answer three questions:
1. Why should there be a single federal minimum wage law for the entire country, covering every local labor market from Midtown Manhattan to Northern Mississippi?
2. If there really is a need for a single federal minimum wage, why does Congress nonetheless permit individual states to have higher minimum wages - and why should Representatives from those states care what the federal minimum wage is?
3. If the goal of a single federal minimum wage is to eliminate 'unfair' competition from workers willing to work for a lower wage, how do Democratic proponents of the bill expect it to succeed if it's not accompanied by stiffer enforcement directed at illegal immigrants who are the people most likely to work 'off the books' for a lower wage?
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1. Why a Single Federal Minimum Wage?
The case for a national minimum wage set by the federal government is risible. It's obviously ridiculous to suggest that labor conditions are the same everywhere - even if you did have that magic 8-Ball to tell you what is the "just right" level of government-set wages, it would be radically different from urban to rural markets, and among states and localities with drastically different costs of living. Everyone knows that you can live like a king in some parts of this country on wages that would not make ends meet in New York City.
So why try? The usual saw relied on by liberals to argue against different state regulatory environments for employment and workplaces is the "race to the bottom" - i.e., they admit that markets will work to undermine anti-business legislation but contend that if different states are allowed different rules, they will try to outbid each other in business friendliness and steal jobs from jurisdictions that keep a higher wage.
The first problem with the "race to the bottom" argument in the minimum wage context is, well, if states want to swim against the laws of economic reality, let them take the consequences. Why should other states be compelled against the will of their people to suffer the consequences?
A second problem is that minimum wage jobs actually are not all that mobile, so the net result of a single federal rule will be more to eliminate jobs than to prevent them from migrating elsewhere. Let's start with some facts about the minimum wage to explain why. As the Labor Department explains, it doesn't apply without exceptions. First, waiters/waitresses and others who get income from tips may qualify for a lower wage:
There are other exemptions:
Other programs that allow for payment of less than the full federal minimum wage apply to workers with disabilities, full-time students, and student-learners employed pursuant to sub-minimum wage certificates. These programs are not limited to the employment of young workers.
Despite these restrictions, however, the great bulk of minimum wage jobs are not manufacturing jobs but service jobs, in types of businesses that provide services on-site to local customers. Again, the Labor Department keeps detailed statisics on the characteristics of minimum wage workers, who as of 2005 made up 2.5% of the workforce (1.9 million workers), down from more than 15% when Ronald Reagan took office in 1981 (meaning, presumably, that the market has been raising wages without Congressional prompting).
When you look at types of workers, you see that just over half of all minimum wage workers (50.5%) are employed in service occupations, including a whopping 34.4% in "Food preparation and serving related occupations" and 7.1% in "Building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations." Another 16.1% are in "Sales and related occupations." Looking at industries, 41.1% are in "Leisure and hospitality," 20% in "Retail trade," and another 14.6% combined in state and local government and "Education and health services."
What does all of this mean? Well, what it means is that unlike manufacturing jobs, most minimum wage jobs can't just pick up and move to another state. West Virginia can't steal burger-flipping jobs from Chicago, because nobody wants to drive from Chicago to West Virginia for a hamburger. Or to have their hospital sheets changed or their lawn mowed. One state or locality can't steal jobs of this nature from another. If West Virginians, who have the nation's highest proportion of minimum wage workers, get priced out of these jobs, they just disappear, meaning not only the loss of employment but also the loss of local services.
That doesn't mean that variations in the minimum wage has no effect, of course. Capital can still move. To offer a practical example, Dunkin' Donuts is planning to expand its chain of stores from its Northeast base to go nationwide. I don't know whether or how many Dunkin' Donuts employees earn the minimum wage, but I do know that a national chain of coffee & donut shops will undoubtedly look at the cost of doing business in different locales before deciding where to open its stores. Decisions of that nature will be affected by the minimum wage. But since many new minimum wage jobs are created by local small businesses, a federal law that actually affects the living wage in Los Angeles doesn't so much prevent rural Texas counties from stealing jobs from LA as it does simply eliminate job creation in Texas at no corresponding job gain to LA.
2. Why Allow States To Have Higher But Not Lower Minimum Wages?
If you buy the idea that a single national minimum wage can make economic sense, why on earth would you allow some states to end-run around the federal rule by raising their own state minimum wages above the federal limit? Isn't that an admission that the federal rule is meaningless in those states - and yet if state governments in other states want to react to local labor conditions by lowering the wage below the federal line, they are prohibited from doing so. How on earth does this make sense?
Under current law, 44 states have a minimum wage equal to or greater than the federal wage. If local lawmakers in those states want to raise the minimum wage to address local working conditions, they are free to do so. This map shows the breakdown of those states - the 30 states in green have a minimum wage above $5.15/hour, and the 14 in blue are equal to the federal minimum:
Even under the new law, by the time the federal wage goes up to $7.25 in 2009, it will already be mooted by equal or higher wage laws in ten states (California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington), the highest being $8/hour in Illinois. If the federal minimum wage is not satisfactory in these locales, isn't that yet another admission that a single federal rule can't possibly get the right answer for every local labor market? And if the voters of those states - every one of them a 'blue' state represented by a lot of the Congressional Democrats supporting this bill - have taken care of the 'problem' in their own jurisdictions, why should they foist their preferred local wage policies on the rest of the nation?
3. What About Illegal Immigrants?
Finally, the case for the minimum wage is, supposedly, about preventing 'unfair' competition by workers who are willing to work for a lower wage. (After all, if employers pay a low wage nobody's willing to work for, the wage goes up). But any student of economics knows that if you artificially raise the price of something, you create a potential black market. So any plan to raise prices, to be effective, needs to be accompanied by increased enforcement aimed at eliminating the black market.
In the labor market, the black market in cheap labor is practically synonymous with illegal immigrants, who enter the country illegally and exist, for all practical purposes, beyond the reach and protection of federal workplace laws. Most of these workers came here from places where prevailing wages were a lot lower than $7.25/hour, and so they have perfectly good reasons to be willing to work for less than that. Raising the minimum wage only increases the likelihood that jobs that would now be offered to legal American citizens will instead be given to illegal aliens.
But what does the new minimum wage bill do to step up enforcement against this source of cheap, illegal labor? What are its proponents doing to keep illegal aliens out of the work force? It's the Democrats who are the most ardent advocates of protecting the position of illegal aliens. That alone should demonstrate their unseriousness about the minimum wage. (The fact that Democrats want to legalize many existing aliens is no answer to this, since they aren't proposing a practical way to avoid having such a path to legalization be seen in Mexico and other countries as an open invitation for still more illegal entry).
Even if you buy the case for a minimum wage, the idea of extending it nationally, allowing some states to render it moot by adding on their own minimum wage, and failing to prevent evasion of the minimum wage by illegal immigrant labor demonstrates to any serious observer that the Democrats aren't serious about a federal minimum wage being good or effective policy. Once again, they are just playing politics at the expense of job creation, for benefits that are at best ephemeral. All in a day's work.
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BLOG: Really Bad Idea
POLITICS: Where Is Obama?
UPDATE: On the road is where Obama has been.
WAR: Where Is Osama?
Captain Ed wonders if bin Laden is dead. Stratfor says at least he appears not to be running Al Qaeda anymore. The former US commander in Afghanistan says we don't know where he is. Morgan Spurlock, bidding to supplant Michael Moore, is making a movie about the hunt for bin Laden.
POLITICS: Voter Intimidation
Republicans, for some time now, have been pushing for fairly tame measures to prevent voter fraud, most of which revolve around requiring voters to show some form of identification and otherwise leave a record that enables a determination of who, precisely, voted. In response to these common-sense proposals and other efforts to assure the integrity of the ballot, Democrats invariably complain that Republicans are engaging in some form of voter intimidation. Apparently, according to Democrats, even the mere act of having to properly identify yourself is so intimidating as to inhibit the right to vote.
Well. Now that the Democrats are in the majority, they are hard at work on legislation in another election context that will go far beyond mere identification, and eliminate secret ballots entirely, allowing voters to be pressured, even by their co-workers and in their own homes, to vote a specific way. The legislation, involving union elections, involves a practice called "card check," and it will be the subject of a bill markup today in the House.
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Our labor organizing laws are based on the simple and fair assumption that there are rational reasons why workers want to join unions and rational reasons why they don't want to join unions, and therefore workers should be given a free choice before locking themselves into a structure of compulsory union dues and mandatory collective bargaining.
But H.R. 800, the ""Employee Free Choice Act," would change the way union organizers can form a union. Pat Cleary of the National Association of Manufacturers explains:
Now, there's a couple of problems with the card check system. One is its asymmetry: the bill doesn't provide a similar system for decertifying a union. A second is that a card check campaign may deprive employees of the opportunity to hear from both sides, if a campaign is organized before the company has the opportunity to present its side of the story. A third is the flip side of that problem - card check campaigns can actually drag on much longer than secret ballot elections, potentially exposing workers to more abuses from those employers who use abusive and illegal union-busting tactics.
But some of these are minor quibbles compared to the staggering hypocrisy of the Democratic supporters of this bill in eradicating employees' right to a secret ballot. Remember this: any Democrat who votes in favor of a "card check" system, in which union organizers are looking right over the voter's shoulder, should absolutely never be taken seriously again in arguing that far less intrusive efforts to simply identify voters who cast secret ballots in the privacy of a voting booth is somehow "voter intimidation."
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February 13, 2007
BASEBALL: Koufax by a Nose
One of the cool things about the expansion of David Pinto's database back to 1957 - you can now compare home/road splits back to the 60s. So, when outside of Dodger Stadium, was Sandy Koufax the best pitcher in baseball in 1963-66?
Yes, but not by really so much. Koufax had a 1.31 ERA at home in those years, but on the road his ERA was 2.44 to Marichal's 2.52 and Bob Veale's 2.63, and 10 other pitchers clocked in between 2.71 and 2.99.
BASEBALL: Pay Me Now or Z You Later
Carlos Zambrano wants big money now, before the season starts, or he'll become a free agent. Not hard to see where this is headed, or why - between the out-of-this-world payout to Barry Zito, a solid but manifestly inferior pitcher to Zambrano (but the only other guy who matches his combination of durability and consistent quality) and the Cubs' offseason spending spree, you can't blame Zambrano for wanting his piece of the honey pot.
POLITICS: Ted Olson Endorses Rudy Giuliani
The biggest obstacle for Rudy Giuliani in the GOP primaries is his stance on social issues, which in many cases diverges from the views of most GOP primary voters and the party's platform. And for the most part, Mayor Giuliani is not backing off those positions, most notably his belief that abortion should be legal.
For me and other socially conservative, pro-life voters who are inclined to support Mayor Giuliani, however, there is one bridge he can build to make him acceptable - appoint judicial conservatives to the federal bench, judges who are likely to leave divisive social issues to voters in the states rather than attempt to settle them through extra-textual and ahistorical readings of the Constitution.
In convincing voters that Mayor Giuliani is serious about appointing those kinds of judges, there are few endorsements better than the one he just picked up: former Bush Administration Solicitor General, Reagan Administration head of the Office of Legal Counsel and long time Federalist Society lawyer Ted Olson:
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Olson and Giuliani have been longtime friends since serving in the Reagan Justice Department from 1981-1983, when Olson was assistant attorney general in charge of the office of legal counsel and Giuliani was associate attorney general. Olson said they met with Attorney General William French Smith every morning and worked closely on a number of issues.
The support of Olson should help Giuliani in his quest to win over social conservatives who remain skeptical of his pledge to appoint strict constructionist judges.
"I've known him for 26 years and we've talked about this many times," Olson said. "He feels very strongly that people like Justice Scalia, Chief Justice Roberts, Sam Alito, Clarence Thomas, are the type of people that he would put on the court . . .I'm quite convinced that this is a genuine viewpoint that he has."
I have to express some surprise here - I saw Olson give a rousing introduction to John McCain at the Federalist Society Convention and figured he was on the McCain bus; apparently he was just being hospitable. It's a long race, and there will be many more tests ahead for Rudy's courtship of social conservatives. But today is a good day for that endeavor. Ted Olson embodies the judicial conservative movement as well as anyone outside the judiciary itself, and Rudy could do much worse than to listen to his advice.
On a less optimistic note, Rudy seems to be buying into the global warming caucus here.
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POLITICS: Name Their Accomplishments
What would you say about the presidential qualification of 14 years in the Senate, a handful of years as a state legislator, and virtually no record of legislative accomplishment? In the Republican field, that would be the resume of a mediocre candidate - less seasoned than John McCain or Newt Gingrich, less accomplished as a public sector executive than Rudy Giuliani or Mike Huckabee, less accomplished as a private sector executive than Mitt Romney.
In the Democratic field, though, that's the resume of the top three candidates put together.
On the basis of what accomplishments do these Senators ask for this job?
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Two of the Democratic candidates are very obviously unqualified for the job. John Edwards' entire resume in public life consists of six undistinguished and largely absentee years in the Senate, most of which was spent running for president. He is perhaps best known as the Democratic Senator on the Intelligence Committee who was most adamant that Saddam Hussein "has weapons of mass destruction and that he is doing everything in his power to get nuclear weapons," an assertion he now blames on everyone but himself. Certainly, Edwards played no significant role in pretty much anything that happened on Capitol Hill in his tenure there. His previous career as a plaintiffs' personal injury lawyer undoubtedly qualifies him as a debater, but it's a singularly narrow job - one can be a highly successful personal injury lawyer without ever learning how to manage more than a handful of people and without any understanding of the how to run a business, let alone a large public bureaucracy.
Senator Barack Obama lacks even Edwards' track record of building a successful career in private practice. Obama, at least, did manage to get his name attached to one item on the legislative agenda, the Coburn-Obama earmark bill, though anyone who paid the slightest attention to Capitol Hill knows that Tom Coburn did all the heavy lifting to get that issue on the radar screen. I have yet to hear any of Obama's boosters argue that the man has actually done anything to qualify him for the job; we're supposed to vote for him because he just is.
That leaves the frontrunner, Hillary Clinton. We are often told that Senator Clinton has been a good Senator, and by some measures she has - she's worked diligently to bring home money to her New York constituents. But there is nonetheless precious little to show on the national stage for her six plus years in the Senate, neither major legislative accomplishments nor even a record of leading the fight against legislation or appointments (something you might expect from a Senator who has spent a few years in the minority).
Senator Clinton does, of course, have a credential much like that of George W. Bush when he ran in 2000: familial proximity to the Oval Office. (Unlike then-Governor Bush, however, she has no independent record as a chief executive). But even there, you can point to Clinton Administration initiatives that the First Lady championed and Clinton Administration initiatives that became law, but there's not a ton of overlap between the two. For what can she truly claim credit that is worth claiming credit for?
Of course, each of these candidates will eventually lay out policy platforms, and those platforms can be debated. But when we do so, we should first ask them: what have you done for me (or anyone else, for that matter) - ever?
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WAR: Sadr To See You Go
While the Democrats debate the wisdom of the surge and the lefty bloggers deny that Iran could have had anything to do with Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, events have overtaken them:
Al Sadr commands the Mahdi Army, one of the most formidable insurgent militias in Iraq, and his move coincides with the announced U.S. troop surge in Baghdad.
Sources believe al Sadr is worried about an increase of 20,000 U.S. troops in the Iraqi capital. One official told ABC News' Martha Raddatz, "He is scared he will get a JDAM [bomb] dropped on his house."
Sources say some of the Mahdi army leadership went with al Sadr.
I guess those talking points about Sadr not being an Iranian puppet have been rendered inoperative. [UPDATE: Sadr's people say he hasn't left.]
It's almost academic now, but for those critics still obsessing over the fact that the intelligence officers who presented the weekend briefing on Iranian arming of Iraqi insurgents did not give their names or appear on camera, I present excerpts from yesterday's White House press conference, featuring a "Mr. Snow":
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MR. SNOW: What it means is that there is evidence that there's been some weaponry coming across the border into Iraq and it's being used to kill Americans. And it explains why the administration -- why our military commanders are doing what they can to try to interdict any movement of weapons into the theaters of battle so we can save American lives. It really is a -- it's a force protection issue.
So why in Baghdad? Because that's where the action is and that's where people are collecting things. Why on background? Because one of the key briefers otherwise could not participate, and we thought it was important to get information to reporters. Why then? Because the information was ripe and it had been scrubbed and therefore was ready for presentation. But I don't want to make more or less of it than it was.
MR. SNOW: Yes.
MR. SNOW: What I first would do is just point you back to the briefing. What they have are a number of serial numbers, and so on. I'd just take you back to the transcript on that. If you're looking for the granular evidence, that's what they presented.
Q But that wasn't direct evidence linking Iran --
MR. SNOW: Let me put it this way: There's not a whole lot of freelancing in the Iranian government, especially when it comes to something like that. So what you would have to do, if you're trying to do the -- to counter that position, you would have to assume that people were able of putting together sophisticated weaponry, moving it across a border into a theater of war and doing so unbeknownst and unbidden.
Q Could I just follow it just one more time? So the direct evidence would be the assumption, then, that it would have to be Iranian --
MR. SNOW: Again, what I would suggest, Victoria, if you really want to go into the details, is you go to Embassy Baghdad, because they're the ones who do the briefing. This really is -- it's a force protection matter. That's why they did the briefing. And I'm not going to be able to give you all the jot and tittles on it. That's why -- if you want to call them, or call DoD, they'll be able to give you more detail on it.
MR. SNOW: Well, number one, again, I would refer you back to the people doing the briefing. And this -- there is no question when you have these enhanced devices, these IEDs, they have them -- they're there. So you do have direct physical evidence that, in fact, the weapons are being used within Iraq. There's no question that they're being used, and they are, in fact, of enhanced lethality. And we are doing our best to respond as quickly as possible to the challenge presented by it.
April, the most important thing to understand here -- again, I think what's happening is a lot of people keep trying to hype this into a casus belli with the Iranians -- no, it is simply a matter of force protection with the United States. Our people laid out what they think -- "our people," that is, the Pentagon -- and the briefers in Baghdad laid it out. They're the ones who have the evidence. And if you want to get into the evidentiary findings, you're going to need to talk to the Pentagon about it.
Q Do you think the American people deserve a little bit more than deduction? I mean, the evidence --
MR. SNOW: I think what the American people -- what our troops deserve is somebody who is going to protect them. Now, you cannot deny these weapons exist. You cannot deny that there is presently no manufacturing capability within Iraq able to produce those kinds of weapons. Beyond that, again I point you back to Defense briefing. What the American people need is somebody who is going to say we're going to protect our people from these weapons. The weapons exist. People have got to look at it, they've got to look at what happens when they detonate. It's hard for me to argue that that's a phantom menace. And it's also a lot harder to argue to our troops, who have been getting hit by them.
Q Tony, I'm not sure you want to go back on this notion of freelancing in the Iranian government, but there's obviously a difference between saying, as they did in Baghdad, that some elements in the leadership --
MR. SNOW: Look, the Department of Defense is doing this. What I'm telling you is you guys want to get those questions answered, you need to go to the Pentagon, because they're the ones who have done the work on this.
Q But they've refused. I mean, you should be able to give us --
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, no. I didn't get briefed on it.
Q Well, there should be some kind of coordination, don't you think?
MR. SNOW: Well, actually, when you've got -- combatant commanders are out doing their work. You can pick up the phone and call the Pentagon. We'll be happy to supply numbers for you.
Q Give me the number --
Q How long have these EFPs been around, that the White House is aware of, in Iraq?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'd refer you back -- I think -- I don't want to fake it.
Q They've been reported for a few years, though.
MR. SNOW: Yes, but they've also been increasingly rather dramatically in use, I believe, if you take a look at it over the last year or so. They're a concern. But on the other hand, you've got to keep in mind, there's an attempt here to try to narrow the focus, so this becomes the grand showdown between the United States and Iran. What you have are weapons making their way in and we're going to try to stop it to protect our people. But there are plenty of other things going on. Al Qaeda is active, and you do have rejectionist cells, and you do have some activity -- you have militia activity.
And all these things need to be addressed in the context of a war. It's sort of a classic case of taking one piece and trying suddenly, boom, to make it the big story of the day or to try to internationalize it. This is what it is. They have found munitions, they've traced them to Iran. And, again, for all those further details, you can call the Pentagon and get what you need.
Q But that's not new, is it?
MR. SNOW: No, it's not -- thank you -- no, it's not new. It's not new. The concern is something that we've had for some time, and it's one of the reasons why, for instance, there's a new generation of armor that's being used for Humvees and other things.
Now, obviously, as Tony Snow repeatedly emphasized, he's not the primary source on this story, the Defense Department is, and the Defense Department is offering the detailed information on this based on evidence developed in the field. But it is nonetheless useful to point out here that this is not a couple of rogue DoD agents leaking to the press - the White House is publicly, on record, standing behind the briefing.
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WAR: Profiles in . . . Debatability
Tom Vilsack says the House Democrats lack the courage of their convictions for supporting only a non-binding resolution on Iraq - now, Vilsack, he would be the real deal:
"How many lives are going to be saved with a nonbinding resolution?" he asked rhetorically during a question-and-answer period after his speech. Facing reporters later, he said Congress has "a constitutional and moral responsibility to debate whether we should continue to fund this war."
Yes sir, we have a moral obligation to go beyond non-binding resolutions and . . . debate. Strong stuff.
WAR: The Face of Sacrifice
Whether you support the Iraq War or not, it's imperative to be reminded of the sometimes terrible sacrifices made by our fighting men and women. This picture (more in the same vein here) and the story that goes with it are a heartbreaking portrait of that sacrifice by one Marine, but inspiring as well. (H/T QandO).
BASEBALL: Omar's Steal
Kris Benson has a torn rotator cuff, forcing the Orioles to sign Steve Trachsel. I think we can now conclusively credit Omar Minaya with a steal for getting John Maine (and Jorge Julio, since cashed in for El Duque) for Benson. (Of course, re-signing Benson in the first place was a bad idea). For the record, at the time I was in favor of dumping Benson but less than enthused about what the Mets got for him - more here.
Pity poor Leo Mazzone, asked to make a rotation with both Trachsel and Jaret Wright function. If Mazzone can pull this off, he really does deserve to be the first pitching coach in the Hall of Fame.
BASEBALL: Ranking the Pitchers
Studes continues his look at the best of all time by Win Shares Above Bench, this time with the starting pitchers. The results are a little different from my own past analyses, which I probably need to update - he rates Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn and especially Red Ruffing higher than I would (all three benefitted very significantly from great run support).
WAR: Stopping the Iranians
Mark I looks at the US military briefing laying out the evidence that Iranian-manufactured weapons have been provided to forces fighting the US in Iraq, principally Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. There is fair debate about precisely how best to respond to this particular provocation. Certainly, full-scale war with Iran would be a bad thing for all concerned, and our policy for now should be aimed at raising the costs of this sort of thing to convince the Iranians that attacking U.S. troops is not in their interests. There are many different ways to do this, between overt and covert military actions and economic and to a lesser extent diplomatic screw-tightening; what we should be aiming for is reaching the point where Ahmadenijad and the other Iranian leaders wake up every morning saying to themselves "how do we get those ****** Americans to stop?" At the same time, the longstanding fact of military life is that when you hit the other guy back, you had better be prepared for him to escalate, and know how you respond next. So the next steps are perilous - but continuing to let them attack without consequence is perilous, too. Our guys in the field need to know that we don't take this sitting down.
It's been interesting to see the frantic responses from the Democrats and the left side of the blogosphere. Two of the complaints about the Iraq War, you will recall, are that (1) we have enabled the Iranians to gain undue influence in Iraq and (2) we should have dealt with Iran first. In fact, Iranian meddling in Iraq isn't news to either side of the aisle. But then, those criticisms were leveled by the people who always want to deal with any problem except the one at hand, and they've gone much quieter lately.
First up, John Kerry:
The idea that Iran wants a stable Iraq, at least in the sense that we would think of stability, is so delusional it's not even worth discussing. What needs to be done is to force the Iranians to decide that a stable Iraq is in their interests - but you can't just wave a magic wand and assume that the other side already agrees with you.
Then we have Sen. Jack Reed:
At some level, the question of who authorized war against us is beside the point. Power in Iran is diffuse - Iran is a tyranny, but not a dictatorship. The mullahs are the principal power, but they may not be any more monolithic than the Saudi royal family; Ahmadenijad holds elected office only at their sufferance, but he's not without influence. At the end of the day, though, this isn't a criminal trial in which we are trying to affix individual punishment - it's a matter of stopping something that's emanating from the borders of a sovereign state. (And color me skeptical that munitions are manufactured and distributed without the government's involvement). If we apply sufficient pressure on the regime, I have no doubt that the regime has the power to to make it stop, and if it doesn't, well, then Iran has lost control over its own territory and we need to take matters into our own hands.
A number of left-leaning sources have cited comments by General Peter Pace as somehow undermining the contents of the briefing:
In other words, Pace knows what is clear from Iraq - that Iranian-made stuff is being used against our guys. The sensitive intel part of this is tracing it to the regime, although as I said, on some level that's beside the point. One of the central defenses of terror-sponsoring regimes has been deniability - hit first, deny responsibility later. Here, we can trace the source to inside Iran - that should be enough to make the Iranians take responsibility.
Then we have Juan Cole, who disputes the accounts of Iranian support almost entirely on the basis that Shi'ites don't cooperate with Sunnis. Of course, that ignores not only the mounting problem of Shi'ite violence but also the fact that the Iranians have been supporting both sides. Which may make no sense if you are locked into academic categories, but makes eminent sense if you regard this as an exercise in power politics (after all, they are not the only ones meddling in Iraq).
Next up is Glenn Greenwald, who has a long post complaining about the lack of credibility of anonymous sources. Funny, Greenwald has very regularly relied on anonymously-sourced reports about US surveillance and detention policies and other issues that provide fodder for criticism of the Bush Administration. In fact, what is different here from the typical anonymously sourced report is that this is an official briefing with the imprimatur of the Administration, as opposed to an unknown axe-grinder. And note that the champions of Valerie Plame are suddenly unable to grasp that sensitive intelligence sources, including the identities of military intelligence personnel, are not well-served by the disclosure of their identities to the media.
The Iranian problem is indeed complex, presenting many different strands that need to be resolved. But sticking our heads in the sand while the regime that took 52 US hostages in 1979 and killed 240 Marines in the Beiruit bombing in 1983 does it again is not an answer.
HISTORY: Is That You, Abe?
February 12, 2007
BLOG: 2/12/07 Quick Links
*I'm not thrilled to see any foreign leader meddle in US domestic politics, but it is nonetheless heartening in John Howard's war or words with Barack Obama to see a reminder that the "international community" is not as monolithically anti-American as sometimes portrayed. Powerline has some useful thoughts on why Obama's response was so ham-handed. Of course, the Democrats are never as solicitous of countries that actually support our policies.
*An interesting analysis of the Hamas-Fatah accord. Via Frum. My guess as to the alternative explanations for Abbas' behavior would be "all of the above." I tend to think that the accords are a good thing simply for the fact of their existence, i.e., the fact that an Arab government sat down two warring Arab factions and got them to negotiate an agreement without the involvement of the US, the UN, Israel or financial or territorial concessions from any of the above. Hamas is still Hamas, but I still believe that while you can't negotiate about terrorism, you sometimes need to negotiate with terrorists, and it's not like there are other good alternatives. The best policy for the US is to avoid the situation as much as possible and play "show me" - i.e., make the Palestinian regime demonstrate its trustworthiness and peaceable nature before we give them anything. At least with Hamas in power, there is less pretense that they are actually peaceable or trustworthy unless they can genuinely demonstrate otherwise through deeds.
*There is little enough worth saying about the Anna Nicole Smith story; she rose to fame due to her natural physical gifts combined with tremendous ambition and a corresponding willingness to use and add to what she had, and she fell due to a lack of sense and even greater lack of discipline. A familiar Hollywood story. But Larry Miller has useful words on the litigation that will long outlive her:
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Two notes on the back end of the Mets' pitching rotation, as the pitchers report for spring training.
1. In case you missed it last week, Dave Williams is out until at least May (h/t), which is bad news for Williams, whose principal virtue is being available to pitch. Then again, an emergency starter may be more needed in June or July.
2. The optimist would point out that (1) Chan Ho Park had a 4.29 ERA before the All-Star Break last year, before his intestinal troubles brought him down, and (2) that included a 3.42 ERA against NL opponents. The pessimist would point out that he doesn't get a second shot at a first time back around the league.
FOOTBALL: The Blind Side
Just in case you may have considered not reading Michael Lewis' The Blind Side, I'm here to tell you to reconsider. The Blind Side is one of the best sports books I've ever read.
Like Lewis' previous books Liar's Poker (about Salomon Brothers in the 1980s) and Moneyball (about the Oakland A's in the past decade), The Blind Side is fundamentally a book about markets and how they interact with the people whose unique skills or insights are suddenly made valuable by those markets. In this case, it's the market for NFL left tackles who protect the end of the line of scrimmage on a right-handed quarterback's blind side from increasingly quick and dangerous pass rushers. Lewis starts his tale with a (literally) shattering anecdote, recounting in stop-motion detail Lawrence Taylor's legendary hit on Joe Theismann and noting that the Redskins' star left tackle, Joe Jacoby, was on the sidelines that night. Lewis then details the rapid rise of left tackle salaries and the ripple effect that has had on the position all the way down to high school.
Wrapped inside a book about markets, however, is a second story - a unique coming of age story that takes over the narrative. Lewis follows Michael Oher, a 16-year-old African-American kid from the worst possible part of Memphis who arrives, Tarzan-like, at an overwhelmingly white Christian school with nothing but the ideal physical size and gifts to be an NFL left tackle. And I do mean nothing: no family, no home, no education, no money, no background in organized sports, no medical history - but also, perhaps surprisingly given his background, no boiling anger, no criminal record, no bad habits. The kid was just a complete cipher. It's an amazing testament to the generosity of his neighbors that a kid who never knew where his next meal was coming from somehow made his way to 350 pounds of mostly muscle by age 16.
I've been told by more careful watchers of the NFL that Lewis has a few factual details wrong - names misspelled, dates wrong. As a narrative, the only false note in the book is a chapter entitled "Death of a Lineman," which ends with the early death from cancer of 49ers guard John Ayers; while Ayers' story fits neatly into Lewis' narrative, his death really has nothing to do with nothing, and feels tacked on for surplus emotion (perhaps it would have felt less so if not for the chapter title).
This book may be less significant than Moneyball, in that it's far less likely to stir new debate in the NFL, but it's a great yarn full of laugh-out-loud "wow" moments (I may be biased because I went into Moneyball knowing more of the story). On the other hand, Lewis does also manage to bring in more of the world outside football through his examination of a Memphis neighborhood that is staggering even by the standards of urban poverty.
Lewis was a childhood friend of Sean Touhy, the Memphis businessman who takes Oher under his wing, and so this is the second outstanding book that Lewis essentially fell into, the first being Liar's Poker, which came out of Lewis' own tenure working at Salomon Brothers. That said, he's a tremendous writer and it's a tale worth the telling.
February 11, 2007
February 10, 2007
WAR: Pressure Point
I'm not sure how you can interpret this story as anything other than the Iranians offering just enough cooperation to induce paralysis in U.S. policymakers. Certainly, from their perspective, the cost of a few of the many extremists who travel a "well-worn" route between Afghanistan and Iraq is negligible compared to the benefits of inducing U.S. inaction.
POLITICS: Correction: Dubious Intelligence At The Washington Post
Walter Pincus' Mouth Is Moving, But Carl Levin's Voice Keeps Coming Out
If you read Friday morning's Washington Post, you were unlikely to miss a story on Page A1 (that's the front page) with the dramatic headline
The article, by Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith, purported to summarize the conclusions of a report by the Pentagon's inspector general, beginning with the news that
Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included 'reporting of dubious quality or reliability' that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community . . .
Of course, the Democrats, led by Michigan Senator Carl Levin, have been making this argument for some time. What was newsworthy, and certainly what was front-page-worthy, was that the Pentagon's own inspector general seemed to agree with Levin.
Apparently, though, this is more a case of Pincus and Smith agreeing with Levin and writing up an article that appears to have been itself so deceptive and misleading from the very outset that you wonder whether anyone read the thing before publishing it besides perhaps the people in Senator Levin's office who must have been dictating this to the dutiful scribes at the Post. Because take a look at the whopper of a correction the Post has posted, essentially recanting the entire thing:
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There goes the entire beginning, theme, title, and newsworthiness of the article. All the Post has left to stand on is a "well, they sounded alike" defense:
Check this morning's Post front page for this correction. Though I will be much surprised if it gets that prominence. After all, unlike the story itself, the correction is actually newsworthy.
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POLITICS: The Temptation of Barack Obama
Already his habit of seeing every side of every question--the writerly habit that rescued his memoir from stereotype and cliche - has begun to frustrate many of his would-be allies. The liberal journalist Joe Klein, writing in Time, says he "counted no fewer than 50 instances of excruciatingly judicious on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-handedness in The Audacity of Hope." Articles in the New York Review of Books and Harper's quote the book and fret over his tendency to "equivocation."
The conclusions, though, are another matter. Those frustrated would-be allies like Joe Klein shouldn't worry. On one practical issue after another, at the end of long, tortured passages of chin-pulling and brow-furrowing, after the unexpected praise for Ronald Reagan and for the genius of the free market, the disdain for identity politics and for the overregulation of small business, there's never a chance that Obama will come down on any side other than the conventionally liberal views of the Democratic party mainstream. It turns out that much of his on-the-one-hand judiciousness is little more than a rhetorical strategy.
I caught some of Fox and CNN covering Obama's announcement speech this morning, and it was hilarious because both of them were using the news crawl at the bottom of the screen to report whatever Obama was saying - "Obama: ____." The problem is that what he was saying was an endless parade of cliches, so the breaking news crawl was annoucing things like "Obama: America is a land of hope" or "Obama: Together we can do great things." The effect was positively parodic.
WAR: The Terror War's Wider Front
In case you missed it - an unsuccessful suicide bombing in Pakistan. It's all one war, by the Islamist extremists and the tyrants against the rest of us.
POLITICS: Do No Harm
BLOG: Justice Hamburger
Ouch. Maybe they got him confused with Frankfurter.
POLITICS: Iowahawk is a Genius
Pure genius, for those of you who have followed the flap over the Edwards campaign bloggers.
BLOG: Bad Taste
BASEBALL: The Diet Squad
February 9, 2007
BLOG: Clip No More
BASEBALL: Hank Bauer, RIP
Postwar Yankees star Hank Bauer has died, at age 84. Yes, out of respect for Bauer I haven't even called them the Hated Yankees, for once. Anything and everything that was ever good about the Yankees was true of Hank Bauer.
Bauer was a tough guy, a class act who didn't complain about being consigned to a semi-platoon role (as were many talented Yankees in those days) for much of Casey Stengel's tenure (he topped 600 plate appearances only twice), often sharing time with Gene Woodling. He hit safely in 17 straight World Series games, a record untouched to this day. He was also, as George Steinbrenner put it today, "an emblem of a generation" of ballplayers, the men who came back grizzled and already in their mid-twenties to play big league baseball after the war.
Bauer was wounded at Okinawa, hit in the left thigh by shrapnel in his 53rd day on the island.
"We went in with 64 and six of us came out," Bauer said.
After his playing days, Bauer became a manager, collecting his eighth World Series ring by leading the 1966 Orioles to the first World Championship in franchise history.
"I am truly heartbroken," [Yogi] Berra said in a statement issued by the Yankees. "Hank was a wonderful teammate and friend for so long. Nobody was more dedicated and proud to be a Yankee, he gave you everything he had."
Rest in peace.
BASEBALL: Free Parking
The Mets have signed Chan Ho Park to a 1-year, $600,000 . . .
Aaaaaaaaaaaaa! AAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Run away! Fleeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Sorry. Knee-jerk reaction there. Where was I? Yes, the deal is a $14.7 million pay cut against last year's salary for Park, but it's still a major league contract.
Park passes the "better than bringing back Jose Lima" test, but not much more than that, and other than residual emotional scars from last season's starting rotation fiasco I'm not sure I see what is left that makes Park a worthwhile gamble. He's certainly a step down from, say, a rehabbing Victor Zambrano, though without the Kazmir baggage. Park's strikeout rate isn't terrible, and he had a 2/1 K/BB ratio last year for the first time since 2001, but nonetheless he's been below 7 K/9 for four straight years, so he's not going back in that direction. While he threw more strikes last season (less than 3 BB/9), he also allowed 1.3 HR/9 pitching in San Diego. He did average over six innings per start in 21 starts before being sidelined with intestinal bleeding, so I suppose he should be healthy enough to give the Mets an option that doesn't include rushing one of the youngsters.
I can live with this deal because it's cheap and because the Mets have shown some success from the habit of collecting low-cost castoffs, but I wouldn't be all that hopeful.
February 8, 2007
BASEBALL: Beane Interviewed
Blez at Athletics Nation's latest 3-part interview with Billy Beane here, here and here seems more canned and less informative than past interviews, but Beane does offer a few insights. On the rumors that he was trying to deal a starting pitcher to the Mets for Lastings Milledge:
Blez: There's obviously been a lot of speculation about the A's trading for Lastings Milledge. The rumor has been for a starter like Joe Blanton. I know you can't comment on another team's player, but how comfortable are you with the depth of the A's rotation if you lose another starter, either via a trade or injury? For example, you just traded Saarloos yesterday.
On how and more specifically when the A's new stadium in Fremont will affect their ability to pay more for players:
Blez: The stadium announcement was obviously huge news and while there is still a ton to get done, you referenced the A's being able to keep more of their homegrown stars finally. Assuming everything goes well and we're looking at a stadium possibly opening in 2011, when can fans anticipate the team starting to keep its stars?
Read the whole thing. Beane definitely conveys a sense of calm almost approaching indifference when dealing with the A's postseason struggles. He's optimistic about Daric Barton, more cautious about the returning-from-injury Dan Meyer.
POLITICS: The Money Keeps Rolling In
Increased federal revenues keep on closing the budget gap ever since the 2003 Bush tax cuts (unlike the 2001 cuts, which were back-loaded) took full effect. Funny how that keeps happening.
WAR: AQIZ On The Run
It's in the nature of wars against secretive underground organizations that they proceed fitfully. The death of Zarqawi and the capture of intelligence from his hideout last summer led to a massive roundup of his organization, featuring hundreds of arrests.
More recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQIZ) has been increasingly active again in Al Anbar, mounting another challenge to US resolve to stay and clear Iraq of foreign terrorist influence. But the worm appears to be turning once again, with a series of US raids in recent days. Via Instapundit.
FOOTBALL: Winning the Big One
BASEBALL: PECOTA Grab Bag
Yes, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA projections are out, for all you subscribers. Just a sampling:
*PECOTA luuuuuuuves Lastings Milledge. His best-case (90th percentile), neutral-park projection for 2007? 320/.396/.551 (I'll list these as BP does, Avg/Obp/Slg). His weighted mean projection? .289/.359/.476. In the major leagues, that is.
*Mike Pelfrey? Mean projection of 4.37 ERA, 6.5 K/9, 3.5 BB/9.
*Felix Hernandez? 3.62 ERA, 7.5 K/9.
*Delmon Young? .293/.336/.474.
*Melky Cabrera? More power, less OBP: .279/.344/.413.
*Joe Mauer? .322/.409/.501.
*Barry Bonds? .265/.437/.541 but only enough playing time to manage 12 home runs.
Plenty more where those came from.
WAR: A Frenchman With Backbone
It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Nicholas Sarkozy not only knows which end of the whole right-wrong thing is up, but actually believes that there is some political benefit - in France! - to doing the right thing:
"I prefer an excess of caricatures to an absence of caricatures," Sarkozy, the conservative interior minister who helped launch the French Muslim Council, wrote in a letter read out by a lawyer for the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
The letter from the presidential frontrunner, whose ministry is also responsible for religious affairs, drew an angry response from one of three Muslim groups suing the weekly.
"He should remain neutral," Abdullah Zekri of the Paris Grand Mosque said at the court hearing the case on Wednesday and Thursday and due to deliver its decision at a later date.
What is more, he is apparently not the only one:
Its first witness, Paris University philosopher Abdel Wahhab Meddeb said he laughed when he saw Charlie Hebdo's cartoon. "I urge Muslims to adapt to Europe and not the other way around. That would be catastrophic," he told the court.
"The trial against Charlie Hebdo is one of a different age," the daily Le Monde wrote in an editorial. "In a secular state, no religion and no ideology is above the law. Where religion makes the law, one is close to totalitarianism."
There may be hope yet that the French state, so advanced in its decay from the days when Frenchmen had faith in God, country and their nation's ability to stand up for itself, will at least recognize that it does not wish to sacrifice French national identity on the altar of multiculturalism.
February 7, 2007
POLITICS: The Pandagon Papers
Iowahawk's parody captures perfectly (and hilariously) the short and unhappy career of Pandagon's Amanda Marcotte as a blogger for John Edwards. This should not be rocket science: you can hire someone who writes the occasional pot-stirrer, as many bloggers do, but an unhinged, profanity-spewing lefty of the Marcotte variety is just not to be associated with a putatively serious public official.
UPDATE: Josh Trevino has a more serious take.
BASEBALL: Most Above Average
POLITICS: Mike Huckabee - The Right Man For The Wrong Job
There's nothing wrong, this early on, with having a large field of presidential candidates, even if (like me) you have largely lined up behind one of them. We still have many months ahead to test the candidates' mettle on the trail, vet their records and have a debate about issues, priorities and platforms.
But there is one man in the GOP field who should not be running: former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. There are three basic reasons why: (1) Huckabee is the wrong man to lead the national GOP, (2) Huckabee's presence in the race serves no useful purpose, and, perhaps most importantly, (3) Huckabee is needed elsewhere, in Arkansas, to run for the United States Senate.
1. Huckabee Is The Wrong Man To Nominate For President
The more I read about Huckabee, the more obvious it becomes that (a) Huckabee isn't all that conservative, especially on fiscal issues, and (b) Huckabee has his priorities wrong.
Governor Huckabee has spent much of his nascent presidential campaign on the defensive on fiscal issues, in particular - tax cuts remain the single most unifying issue of importance to the GOP and its brand identification with the public, but Huckabee almost certainly has the worst record on taxes of anybody in the Republican field. He has refused to take the Americans for Tax Reform pledge against tax hikes. The Club for Growth has issued a five-page white paper examining Huckabee's record, with significant criticism of him on economic issues, especially taxes. I encourage you strongly to read the whole thing - here are some of the lowlights:
On the Minimum Wage:
On School Choice:
He also supported President Bush's Medicare prescription drug entitlement.
As the Club for Growth notes, Huckabee's record isn't all bad, by any means - he cut property and capital gains taxes, and supports free trade and charter schools, tort reform and Social Security reform. And he does offer defenses to criticisms of his tax hikes, arguing that a tax to build new roads was needed and approved by the voters and that in some cases his hands were tied on tax and spending issues by court-ordered mandates. Still, the overall picture is far from reassuring on an array of issues of vital importance to the GOP's identity as the party of low taxes and of at least some resistance to runaway spending.
Secondly, I think I would create a system where people who wanted to further their education could offer volunteer services as young people either in the military like they have with the GI Bill -- or in some other form of volunteerism, because there really is a sense of which a lot of Americans do not appreciate their freedom. They do not really recognize just how good they've got it. This would give them an opportunity to give something back in exchange so that they wouldn't have to go to college and incur a huge level of debt in order to further their education. The reason that education is important is because without higher levels of education than a high school diploma, they're not going to be able to be competitive enough in the marketplace.
A third thing...I think I'd also pass legislation that would insure that the federal government had to live within its budget, a balanced budget amendment and that it could not balance its budget by simply passing costs on to states or local governments.
Lemme see: encouraging health and fitness; national service; and a balanced budget. If I had to pick two words to describe a platform for the federal government built around these three ideas, it would be "New Democrat." More recently, he was asked the same question in an interview with Liz Mair:
Mike Huckabee: I think the first thing is restoring a spirit of optimism to our party and to the American people. The second thing is to reignite interest in a lot of the domestic issues that really are the bread and butter issues that affect the way people live every single day of their lives. The third is trying to really put forth some common sense ideas on how do we build a safe America with not just secure borders, but [one that's] safe around the world, but do it in a way where it's not all about one side winning against another party, where it's about finding an American solution rather than just a Republican solution. Something where we can absolutely say this is America's agenda to protect ourselves, it's not the Republican agenda. We've got to quit saying Democrats don't care about our security and quit pushing them to have to retort with the same level of rhetoric. We have to start saying "what ideas can we borrow from you, which can you take from us?" The goal has to be not you're going to lose, we're going to win, but ultimately, if my future grandchildren are safer, that's what I need to think about. And that's who's going to win.
Well, that's less substantive, but the rest of the interview goes on to discuss the health theme again ("If we don't take steps to not be sick, we'll be bankrupt in a generation--we'll never make it. So it's changing to a culture of health") and education, stressing music and arts education - hardly the sort of micro-focused issues that should be absorbing the attention of the federal government. We continue to see Gov. Huckabee's nanny-state tendencies at work, something that's been apparent since he lost over 100 pounds and became something of an apostle of physical fitness.
I realize I'm cherry-picking a couple of blog interviews, but there's a pattern to Huckabee's public statements, and it's not one that stresses conservative ideas and in particular conservative priorities. After all, conservatives and Republicans generally may have a lot of internal disagreements, but it's the ability to agree on a common set of priorities that holds us together as a political coalition.
Let's look at an interview with the National Journal for another sample of Huckabee's thinking:
"If I were to say that some of it is driven by just sheer racism, I think I would be telling you the truth. I've had conversations with people that and it became very evident that what they really didn't like was that people didn't look like them, didn't talk like them, didn't celebrate . . . holidays like they do, and they just had a problem with it. Now, that is not to say that everyone who is really fired out about immigration is racist. They're not."
2. Asked directly if he believes humans caused global warming, Huckabee says that while he is "not a scientist," he thinks "we ought to act as if that is the case. There is never a downside when it comes to conserving national resources."
3. "I think every American should have a visceral reaction," he said of the USA Today story on phone monitoring. "If we don't have a visceral reaction, I'd be worried about that. Now, I might come to a conclusion that I'm willing to let you troll through my phone records if you think you're going to find Mohammed Atta. But I want to make darn sure that you're going to do that." Government, he said, should be "very careful [about] getting into the private lives of American citizens."
Again, not all of these views are necessarily objectionable - although the view that there is "never a downside" to restricting economic activity on environmental grounds is alarming - but I'm not hearing a guy who has much idea how to govern as a conservative and avoid giving your enemies the kind of soundbites they love to use to hammer the GOP with. Add to that the fact that Huckabee has zero record or national profile on foreign policy issues and is running in wartime (the foreign affairs section of his exploratory committee website isn't exactly brimming with his views on terrorism, Iraq, or any other security threats to the U.S.), and you have to wonder why anybody would consider him a serious candidate.
2. Huckabee's Presence In The Race Is Redundant
You can argue, if you like, that even if Huckabee is a neophyte on foreign affairs and a squish on fiscal policy and small-government issues, he is still needed in the presidential race to carry the banner for social conservatives generally and pro-lifers in particular. "Issue" candidates serve an important role, too, after all. But that ignores Sam Brownback. Brownback is an experienced U.S. Senator (more than a decade in the Senate) with a relatively safe seat, he's better-known than Huckabee, and he's a relentless battler for the pro-life cause and for socially conservative causes generally. If there's anybody in today's GOP well-suited to hold the leading candidates' feet to the fire in debates, it's Sam Brownback. As long as he is in the race, Huckabee is superfluous.
3. Huckabee's Party Needs Him In The Senate
Arkansas is definitely a winnable red state, having voted (albeit not by overwhelming margins) for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Republicans should be able to compete in the state. And Mike Huckabee has done just that, winning election as Arkansas' lieutenant governor in 1993 and two terms as Arkansas' governor, in 1998 and 2002; he recently left office after a decade as the state's governor. In his last election he drew 53% of the vote. He remains reasonably popular; an October 2006 poll, conducted during a low ebb of GOP popularity nationally, showed his approval/disapproval rating with Arkansas voters at a healthy 55-32.
Yet despite the favorable climate that socially conservative Arkansas presents for Republicans, the state's long Democratic roots are still hard to dislodge, and as a result Arkansas sends two Democrats to the Senate, Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln. Unfortunately, Republicans have screwed up recent Senate races against these two, including a disastrous 2002 campaign that put Pryor (son of former Senator David Pryor) in the Senate in a Republican year amidst controversy over the extramarital affair and divorce of incumbent Tim Hutchinson. Pryor drew a slightly higher percentage of the vote than Huckabee in 2002, and the Arkansas poll gives him a 50/21 approval/disapproval rating. In other words, Pryor will not be an easy guy to take down, but he can be taken (especially now that the Democrats control the Senate and can't evade responsibility), and Huckabee is almost certainly the only candidate who makes this an even race from the get-go. In a state like Arkansas, however, he's going to need to stay home and work retail to steal a march on Pryor while the latter is in Washington; spending the next year in Iowa and New Hampshire isn't likely to help.
Would Huckabee be a good Senator? Well, for all the reasons set out above, he wouldn't be a great one, by conservative standards. But he'd be an improvement over having a Democrat hold the seat, and would probably be no more irritating than other periodic apostate GOP Senators like Norm Coleman. And in a Senate divided by one seat, he could swing the partisan balance back - a significant reason to run - and could make a real difference on judges, where social conservatives need help the most.
Give up the long-shot presidential bid, Governor Huckabee. Your party needs you in the Senate.
POLITICS: The President Was Born In...
Enough serious 2008 talk for the moment - how well do you know your presidential candidates - announced and unannounced, major and minor, likely and ridiculous? See if you can match the candidates with their places of birth (Candidates and birthplaces organized alphabetically; note that there are two cities that gave birth to two candidates):
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Answers: 1-U, 2-L, 3-B, 4-B, 5-T, 6-R, 7-P, 8-H, 9-A, 10-S, 11-K, 12-J, 13-Q, 14-C, 15-D, 16-I, 17-N, 18-O, 19-M, 20-F, 21-E, 22-G, 23-O.
Note that I take at face value Kucinich's claim to have been born on Earth.
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February 5, 2007
POP CULTURE: Apple Pie
Apple Computer has settled its longstanding trademark dispute with Apple Music, the publisher of the Beatles catalogue. The good news is that this means some hope of finally bringing the Beatles to iTunes.
FOOTBALL: Super Bowl XLI
Peyton Manning seemed to spend much of last night with a look on his face that said, "hey, nobody told me the Super Bowl was going to be this wet!" Then again, that's better than Rex Grossman's look of "hey, those cars are coming at me really fast."
On the whole, from what I was able to see, it was a pretty solid game, not one of the greatest or most well-played Super Bowls but the outcome stayed in doubt into the fourth quarter, which is good. And it was worth it to see Manning finally win it just to hear the grinding of gears by sportswriters suddenly switching directions after years of branding him with the scarlet "L".
I have to think that one beneficiary of Manning's victory is Eli. Now, Eli has plenty of problems, but one less is having the burden of thinking that even if he got as good as his brother that still would never be enough to silence the critics, the boo birds, etc. This season, Eli can go back to worrying about living up to his family, not living down to it.
February 3, 2007
FOOTBALL: Irvin Yes, Monk No
I'm not ready to burn bridges over this, but I agree 100% with Ben that it's an outrage for the NFL to vote Michael Irvin into Canton over Art Monk.
UPDATE: I should add that when I saw the full list of people on the ballot, what's really outrageous is that they left out Derrick Thomas.
WAR: Jimmy Carter's Worst Nightmare
Actually, the plan is to breed these varmints of mass destruction for food. Sure, nothing could go wrong with that plan in a country that has thus far destroyed all its other methods of feeding its population.
February 2, 2007
BUSINESS: Stressing the Business Model
Viacom Inc. on Friday demanded that Google Inc.'s online video service YouTube remove more than 100,000 video clips after they failed to reach a distribution agreement.
Viacom's specific grievance against the user-driven video platform sure sounds like the dress rehearsal for a lawsuit:
"Filtering tools promised repeatedly by YouTube and Google have not been put in place, and they continue to host and stream vast amounts of unauthorized video," Viacom said in a statement.
The article notes that YouTube has reached deals with other media providers and quotes a stock analyst saying this is probably just hardball negotiations; we shall see. Obviously the risk to YouTube is, once it has a legal ruling against it on behalf of one media company its position will be that much weaker in negotiations with others.
February 1, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Obama's Trumpet
You might have missed the news, in between media reports on Barack Obama's wonderful fabulousness and media reports on Senator Obama's fabulous wonderfulness, but on Tuesday, Illinois' junior senator released his "responsible yet effective" plan for
I'll pass over the separation of powers problems in passing binding legislation; Obama is running for president, so this plan is best evaluated as what he would do in the big chair. How does the plan stack up?
The key element:
De-escalates the War with Phased Redeployment: Commences a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date consistent with the expectation of the Iraq Study Group. This redeployment will be both substantial and gradual, and will be planned and implemented by military commanders. Makes clear that Congress believes troops should be redeployed to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region. A residual U.S. presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces, and pursuit of international terrorists.
"Redeploy," of course, has no meaning here other than withdrawal. The only ways to withdraw the troops without redeploying them would be to discharge them from the military or kill them. So let's call this what Obama fears to say it is: withdrawal. Still, the "to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region" language at least recognizes that he's not talking about Okinawa.
Then there's the word "De-escalates" - which implies that the current U.S. policy constitutes an escalation. Not only does this improperly blame the U.S. rather than the parties conducting the violence, it's inconsistent with Obama's assertion elsewhere in the press release that the current conflict constitutes "somebody else's civil war." Which is it - are we escalating the war, or is it somebody else's fight we're trying to stop?
Note also the effort to hide behind the ISG for withdrawal dates that look deliberately aimed at the expectation of Democratic primary voters.
Much of the rest of the plan rehashes the same things everyone wants (training, progress on security, economic and political issues) but congeals them into demands to be enforced by Congressional oversight. Then we get to the capper:
Regional Diplomacy: Launches a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative - that includes key nations in the region - to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people, end the civil war in Iraq, and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and regional conflict. Recommends the President should appoint a Special Envoy for Iraq to carry out this diplomacy within 60 days. Mandates that the President submit a plan to prevent the war in Iraq from becoming a wider regional conflict.
Here is where Obama's Kerryite streak really comes out: "key nations in the region" obviously refers to Iran and Syria, at a minimum, so already we're talking about negotiating with these countries without openly admitting what they are doing that requires us to negotiate with them. Obama says that these foreign nations should be asked "to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people," so right there he's admitting that foreign powers are going to be handed influence in domestic Iraqi affairs, the sort of cold-blooded realpolitik that Obama's Kenyan ancestors were so frequently on the receiving end of and that any true liberal ought to find appalling. Now, diplomacy can work sometimes (and is preferable when it has a chance to do so) - if you have as much leverage as the other guy. Negotiations, after all, are war by other means. But what does Obama set as the conditions on negotiating? First, impose an arbitrary 60-day deadline (with unspecified consequences). Our adversaries, being subject to no such pressure and facing no consequences for delay, can be expected to do precisely that. Second, impose a mandate to avoid "a wider regional conflict," presumably meaning war with Iran. In other words, take the threat of force against the people we are negotiating with off the table.
The best that can be said of this plan is that it is probably not meant to be taken literally, and that Senator Obama can be forgiven, as a foreign policy neophyte, for issuing such a hash. But that's not much comfort to people who expect him to jog across the Potomac into the White House.
BASEBALL: T-Minus ...
Sure sounds like Roger Clemens, still as effective as any starting pitcher in baseball, is not ready to hang up his spikes just yet:
"I'm failing at retirement," he said. "Let's just face it. I'm failing miserably at it."
Going out before you are totally washed up is a fine thing, but going out when you are still as good as Clemens is overrated. He should pitch again this year.
LAW/POLITICS: Memorable Experiences
Ann Coulter (yes, yes, I know; standard Coulter-related disclaimers apply) offers a sensible and practical assessment of why the perjury case against Lewis Libby is so much weaker than was the case against Bill Clinton:
The exact same people who are now demanding prison for Libby for not remembering who told him about Plame are the ones who told us it was perfectly plausible for Bill Clinton to forget that Monica Lewinsky repeatedly performed oral sex on him in the Oval Office. Even if chubby Jewish brunettes aren't your type, be honest: Which of the two events would stand out more in your memory? . . .
Of course, there's also the matter of relevance. Libby was interviewed by federal agents in October and November 2003 and questioned by the Grand Jury in March 2004 - after it was already known to the Special Prosecutor that the Plame leak had come from Richard Armitage. Clinton, by contrast, was answering a series of questions that a federal judge had specifically ordered to be answered on grounds that they were relevant to an ongoing civil case in pretrial discovery, in which the core question (did Clinton sexually harass another subordinate?) had not been resolved.
Perjury being a serious crime, I'm still willing to give Fitzgerald something of the benefit of the doubt on the decision to indict, but there's no question that his evidence is significantly weaker, the defense significantly more plausible, and the case for bringing charges at all significantly more attenuated than in Clinton's case.