"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
June 30, 2008
POLITICS: The McCain September Debate Strategy: A Suggestion
An idea; a proposal: John McCain should challenge Barack Obama to a week-long set of town-hall debates (say, 4-5 of them) on college campuses when the college kids go back to school in late August/early September. Such debates could be concentrated specifically in the Big Ten schools (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio St) and other swing-state universities (U. Missouri) that can produce huge audiences in close proximity to where the candidates will already be campaigning. I'm sure MTV could be lined up to host the debates in as wide-open a format, with no pre-screening of the audience, as possible.
Such a proposal would be a win-win for McCain. College campuses are guaranteed hostile territory for McCain, but he's never feared tough crowds, and it would give him a great chance to break through the groupthink surrounding Obama. And big Midwestern state schools are large and diverse enough that no audience would be without a few College Republicans willing to ask some tough, educated questions to Obama. Obama is likely to try to duck a large number of free-form events, but if he bails, McCain can really go after him for not being willing to wade into the very youth audiences that supposedly form the core of his own support. This won't actually win McCain a ton of young voters, but it might help stem the Obama tide there as well as getting out the general message about Obama being a marketing department creation who's afraid to come out from behind his teleprompter.
As most of us will recall from our college years, owing to their youth and relative insulation from the real world, college students have a different heirarchy of values and priorities than voters who work for a living and have families to raise - in general, there are three things college students respect above all others:
1. Authenticity. John McCain is one of the least canned politicians you are likely to ever see.
2. The willingness and ability to debate just about anything, no matter how obvious or ridiculous. College kids, whether or not they are particularly studious or intellectual, love endless dorm-room bull sessions and hate old people who lack the quickness of mind and mouth (or at least mouth) of the young.
3. People who are interested in the opinions of college students.
A series of campus debates would be a perfect opportunity for McCain to show he can best Obama at all three.
June 29, 2008
BLOG: 6/29/08 Quick Links
*Price fixing does not sound like a useful solution to the hazards of maple bats. (H/T). Does anyone really think Major League ballplayers are currently using cheap knockoff bats?
*George Carlin on Kiner's Korner. And a few of his one-liners from the later stage of his career (i.e., when he wasn't high). Some of those were only funny because of Carlin's delivery, and some have become cliches by now, but he does have a few classics there. Carlin was at his best when he was being misanthropic.
*Replacing Chris Noth with Jeff Goldblum on Law & Order: Criminal Intent is not a step up. Amusingly, that photo makes Goldblum look quite a lot like Jerry Orbach, though.
*There's money in poverty, if you're a friend of Barack Obama. Decent housing's another matter.
*It's like joining a cult, except...I'm working on it....let me think ....
*Somebody on Kos tried to do a response (sans permalink) to our RedState editorial on the GOP as the party of freedom of choice, and I think I hurt my brain reading the thing. The paragraph on the salary cap is priceless, and the sad part is that the author presumably intends us to take the Jeff Spicoli quote as authoritative, as if quoting Montesquieu or something. In a similar vein, this is awfully unspecific. Why should it matter if I'm "ungrateful" to farmers - I pay for my food, and that should be enough for them just as it is for lawyers, autoworkers, toymakers, whoever.
*Interesting writeup on great NHL goalie Terry Sawchuk, who I'd never known much about. Man, that's a guy with a lot of problems and a lot of injuries.
*This is an oldie but a goodie, on Live Earth. Our old friend and Holy Cross classmate Dave Holmes makes it out of this with more of his dignity intact than most of the participants.
*I shouldn't laugh at Al Sharpton on a bicycle (in fact, I can't ride one myself), but what the heck, he's Al Sharpton.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Baseball 2008 | Blog 2006-14 | Politics 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
June 28, 2008
BASEBALL: He Chose Poorly
I really am at my wits' end, and the Mets' management must be as well, about Jose Reyes' baserunning. I mean, first and second, two outs, down 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth with Wright up, he gets picked off second base. No reason why a guy with his wheels should be that far off second - he'll be running on the play and will score on pretty much anything. Wright then hits a solo homer to lead off the next inning instead of what might have been a 2-out 3-run shot, and the Mets lose 3-2.
I wish I had count of the number of times this season Reyes has run the Mets out of an inning on a poor percentage play at second or third, often making the first or last out at third base in violation of one of baseball's cardinal rules. It's just inexcusable by this point for him not to have learned that lesson.
LAW/POLITICS: Full Disclosure
The full en banc 8th Circuit Court of Appeals handed a victory Friday to GOP Gov. Mike Rounds and the people of South Dakota, lifting an injunction sought by Planned Parenthood against a South Dakota statute that mandates disclosures to women seeking abortions about the consequences of their decisions, including disclosure of the fact that an "abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being." In no other area of the law is the Left so dedicated to preventing the full disclosure of facts to consumers. The 8th Circuit opinion, written by George W. Bush appointee Judge Raymond Gruender and joined by five other of President Bush's appointees to the bench, recognized Planned Parenthood's opposition to the disclosure of scientifically accurate facts for what it was.
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[Planned Parenthood v.] Casey and Gonzales [v. Carhart] establish that, while the State cannot compel an individual simply to speak the State's ideological message, it can use its regulatory authority to require a physician to provide truthful, non-misleading information relevant to a patient's decision to have an abortion, even if that information might also encourage the patient to choose childbirth over abortion. Therefore, Planned Parenthood cannot succeed on the merits of its claim that Sec. 7(1)(b) violates a physician's right not to speak unless it can show that the disclosure is either untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the patient's decision to have an abortion. Taken in isolation, Sec. 7(1)(b)'s language "[t]hat the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being" certainly may be read to make a point in the debate about the ethics of abortion. Our role, however, is to examine the disclosure actually mandated, not one phrase in isolation. Planned Parenthood's evidence and argument rely on the supposition that, in practice, the patient will not receive or understand the narrow, species-based definition of "human being" in Sec. 8(4) of the Act, but we are not persuaded that this is so.
The disclosure actually mandated by Sec. 7(1)(b), in concert with the definition in Sec. 8(4), is "[t]hat the abortion will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being," Sec. 7(1)(b), and that "human being" in this case means "an individual living member of the species of Homo sapiens . . . during [its] embryonic [or] fetal age," Sec. 8(4). The State's evidence suggests that the biological sense in which the embryo or fetus is whole, separate, unique and living should be clear in context to a physician, cf. Gonzales, 127 S. Ct. at 1627 ("[B]y common understanding and scientific terminology, a fetus is a living organism while within the womb, whether or not it is viable outside the womb."), and Planned Parenthood submitted no evidence to oppose that conclusion. Indeed, Dr. Wolpe's affidavit, submitted by Planned Parenthood, states that "to describe an embryo or fetus scientifically and factually, one would say that a living embryo or fetus in utero is a developing organism of the species Homo Sapiens which may become a self-sustaining member of the species if no organic or environmental incident interrupts its gestation." Wolpe Aff. Para. 6. This statement appears to support the State's evidence on the biological underpinnings of Sec. 7(1)(b) and the associated statutory definition. Planned Parenthood's only other evidence, Dr. Ball's affidavit, ignores the statutory definition of "human being." Finally, this biological information about the fetus is at least as relevant to the patient's decision to have an abortion as the gestational age of the fetus, which was deemed to be relevant in Casey. See 505 U.S. at 882. As a result, Planned Parenthood cannot meet even the less rigorous requirement to show a fair chance of prevailing, much less the more rigorous requirement applicable here to show that it is likely to prevail, on the merits of its claim that the disclosure required by Sec. 7(1)(b) is untruthful, misleading or not relevant to the decision to have an abortion.[Footnote 9] The dissent recognizes that the term "human being" "may refer to purely biological characteristics." Post at 29. Section 8(4) of the Act does just that, defining "human being" as a "living member of the species Homo sapiens, including the unborn human being during the entire embryonic and fetal ages" for purposes of the required disclosure. Like the evidence submitted by Planned Parenthood, the dissent steadfastly ignores this biology-based definition and maintains that the required disclosure is ideological in nature and, therefore, unconstitutional. By ignoring the statutory definition of "human being," however, the dissent mischaracterizes the nature of the required disclosure and concludes that it compels a physician to answer the metaphysical question of when "human life" begins. Contrary to the dissent's analysis, the Act, when read in light of the nonmisleading statutory definition of "human being," does not require a physician to address whether the embryo or fetus is a "whole, separate, unique" "human life" in the metaphysical sense.
One of the ironies of the abortion debate is that the Supreme Court in 1973 departed from Constitutional text and tradition in large part because Harry Blackmun convinced himself that he was doing the best thing from a scientific and medical perspective (Roe was famously deferential to the wisdom of doctors and derived from Blackmun's background with the Mayo Clinic), yet the state of the science had marched relentlessly in favor of the pro-life position ever since, in terms of our knowledge about the unborn fetus and the time when the child can be viable outside the womb. Which is why the constitutional argument, already shorn of textual support, has tended to focus on precedent rather than factual reality. It's good to see another court recognize that reality.
Judge Gruedner was confirmed 97-1 in 2004 (only Tom Harkin voted against him), despite grumbling about his background by Senator Leahy. Elections have consequences.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:32 AM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/LAW: News Flash: Liberal Judging Not Popular
TIME Magazine's Massimo Calabresi thinks that Barack Obama is being savvy in "moving to the center" by announcing that he sides with the conservative bloc of the Supreme Court (and at least to some extent against his own prior positions) in supporting the individual Second Amendment right to own guns and the death penalty for child rapists. Plainly, Obama is hoping for gullible reactions like that of Jay Newton-Small, who tells us:
Of course, there's little Obama would be able to do to about either ruling, even as president. So, his comments come purely as opinions that give voters an idea of where he stands on the political spectrum.
What he's hoping to avoid is the reaction of Andrew Hyman, who notes that Obama voted against Justices Roberts and Alito (who he now supposedly agrees with) and cited Justices Breyer, Ginsburg and Souter as model Justices even though he now disavows their views on these cases. As Hyman observes, don't watch what Obama says but what his preferred judges do. Because Obama sure as heck is not going to put people like John Roberts on the Supreme Court, and as Calabresi admits, Obama won't be eager to talk about that:
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Obama's run to the center surely won't stop conservatives from using the specter of a Democratic-appointed Supreme Court to try to rally support. "Its pretty clear that if he's elected and Justice Scalia or Kennedy retires that he's going to appoint someone who's very likely to reverse [the gun control decision]," says Eugene Volokh, a professor at the UCLA School of Law. Given how Obama has been responding to the recent Supreme Court decisions, however, you're not likely to hear him talking about appointing liberal justices much between now and November.
In other words, you can tell that the judges issue helps McCain and hurts Obama by watching the candidates' behavior. Why is the judges issue bad for Obama, and doubly bad when the decisions freshest in the public mind are about gun rights, a softer line on child rapists and rights for terrorists? It's not hard to see why. Nearly a third (30%) of Republicans cite judges as the #1 issue, compared to 7% of Democrats. Even before the last day's decisions, public approval of the Supreme Court has dropped to 26%, down from 41% a month ago, a shift almost certainly driven by the habeas decision. Meanwhile, polls show voters identifying Obama as liberal and McCain as conservative in greater numbers earlier in the process than the same numbers for Kerry and Bush in 2004. And few issues more perfectly capture why "liberal" became a dirty word in American politics than the collection of hot-button issues decided by the courts, especially where crime is concerned.
For Republicans, the challenge will be to remind voters that a better, more predictable and less aggressively activist judiciary, leaving more space for democratic self-government and limiting its powers to protection of the express rights granted by the text of the Constitution, is the result of Republican governance, and that Obama's platitudes are meaningless and fleeting, whereas his judicial appointments would be hard-left and permanent. For Obama, the goal is to conceal as much as possible his real agenda in shaping the courts. Because putting people on the bench who are not committed to simply enforcing what the people have already agreed to is not a winning proposition.
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WAR: The Wrong War, The Wrong Place, The Wrong Strategy
Is being stretched thin, bled dry, demoralized and defeated in the war for hearts and minds of the Muslim world by the war in Iraq a recipe for losing the war on terror?
June 27, 2008
BASEBALL: Root, Root, Root For The Road Team
Tonight's day-night doubleheader was nothing if not frustratingly inconclusive, with the Mets and Yankees both getting humiliated in front of the home crowd. One lesson, clearly, is that it's not a good idea to take home runs away from Carlos Delgado; he remembers.
Pedro's stuff actually looked pretty good tonight, but somehow didn't translate well. I'm one more bad outing from actually starting to worry about him rather than making excuses.
BASEBALL: Things Joe Morgan Used To Know
Joe Posnanski, who's been working on a book on the 1975 Reds, notes that Joe Morgan's Luddite tendencies seem to represent a curdled cynicism left over from his playing days, when he was far more enlightened:
I cannot tell you how many stories I have read where Morgan is trying to explain to some reporter why on-base percentage is the most important statistic, why slugging percentage is so telling, why it isn't important how MANY stolen bases you have but how often you are successful.
Random note here: one of the more horrifying things I have heard was earlier this season when President Bush was in the ESPN box and Bush confirmed for John Miller that he had, in fact, once offered Morgan a front office job with the Rangers.
LAW: In Print
I get quoted by Reuters on one of my cases. It was a busy day, yesterday.
BASEBALL: The Man
Like him or not, it's pretty clear that the revival of the previously floundering Yankees coincided almost perfectly with the return of Alex Rodriguez; the Yanks dropped to 20-25 and 7.5 games back on May 20, A-Rod's first day back from injury, and have been rebounding ever since, going 22-11. A-Rod hasn't done it alone; while he's batted .352/.443/.672 since his return, Giambi has hit like the 2000-2001 Giambi (.346/.447/.663), Damon has hit .413/.464/.524, and Matsui and Posada have been tearing it up as well (the full lineup here). The pitching staff's been less spectacular (other than Joba and Mariano), but Pettitte has been pitching well the continuing revival of Mussina has been a big contributor as well; Mussina, Pettitte and Rivera have combined for an 88-17 K/BB ratio in that stretch.
By the way, this may not be that surprising a stat for a guy who has mainly worked as a late-inning setup man, but for his career, the Yankees are now 36-8 in games where Joba appears. For a contrast, the Red Sox record in 2007-08 when Okajima pitches is 69-29; the Mets' record in that period when Heilman pitches is 63-56.
June 26, 2008
POLITICS: "I didn't go around wielding a bunch of clout."
...and the entire city of Chicago goes under the bus, along with the whole Illinois Democratic Party. Barack Obama never really knew you:
"You will recall that for my entire political career here, I was not the the endorsed candidate of any political organization here," the Democratic presidential hopeful said at the Westin Hotel downtown. "I didn't go around wielding a bunch of clout. My reputation in Springfield was as an independent. There is no doubt I had friends and continue to have friends who come out of the more traditional school of Chicago politics but that's not what launched my political career and that's not what I've ever depended on to get elected, and I would challenge any Chicago reporter to dispute that basic fact."
Well, so much for Obama touting his experience as a significant player in the state legislature. Of course, Obama's managed to make his records as a State Senator disappear, and aside from his war speech and his first book, it's awfully hard to find any evidence of his public statements before 2004. Presumably, his Illinois record on guns will be next down the memory hole.
Aside from his own record, it's not hard to see why Obama wants nothing to do with his old friends and allies, now that even Illinois Democrats are talking about impeaching their own governor (more here), among the many scandals and fiascoes surrounding the Illinois Democrats. (Maybe the socialist New Party will still have him). Of course, the Chicago Sun-Times isn't fooled enough to avoid mentioning this:
Obama friend Tony Rezko was convicted of corrupting state government, but Obama was never implicated and has returned contributions Rezko made to his Senate campaign. Obama did run as an independent Democrat but worked closely with state Senate President Emil Jones, an old-school organization Democrat. Obama runs for president with the full blessing of Mayor Daley.
"Worked closely" is, I guess, a euphemism for Jones basically creating most of Obama's legislative record by adding Obama's name on other people's bills, and bringing home a whole lot of Obama-directed pork ever since. As Jones once said, "I'm gonna make me a U.S. Senator":
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Jones appointed Obama sponsor of virtually every high-profile piece of legislation, angering many rank-and-file state legislators who had more seniority than Obama and had spent years championing the bills. ...
Before championing a big legislative pay increase, Illinois Senate President Emil Jones provided himself with tens of thousands of dollars in interest-free loans from his campaign fund.
Emil Jones, the City of Chicago and the Illinois Democratic party, come on down and join the crowd:
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LAW/POLITICS: A Good Day For The First Amendment, Too
Justice Alito's opinion this morning in Davis v. FEC won't get as much attention as Heller, and breaks a lot less new ground, simply holding that Congress can't set up one set of contribution-and-expenditure campaign finance rules for everyone and then a second set of rules giving an unequal advantage intended to 'level the playing field' for candidates whose opponents are able to self-finance all or part of their campaigns (the so-called "Millionaires' Amendment," one of the more egregiously incumbent-protective features of McCain-Feingold). The Court's 5-4 majority (you can guess the lineup) didn't tinker with any of the existing and misguided structure of campaign finance regulation that's existed since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo opinion, as Justice Alito was careful to note that the parties had not asked the Court to reconsider Buckley. Instead, the Court rather pointedly told Congress that if it had made a mess of campaign finance regulation, that's Congress' problem, not the Court's.
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First, the Court made clear that it wasn't buying Congress' justifications for the amendment:
The burden imposed by Sec. 319(a) on the expenditure of personal funds is not justified by any governmental interest in eliminating corruption or the perception of corruption. The Buckley Court reasoned that reliance on personal funds reduces the threat of corruption, and therefore Sec. 319(a), by discouraging use of personal funds, disserves the anticorruption interest. Similarly, given Congress' judgment that liberalized limits for non-self-financing candidates do not unduly imperil anticorruption interests, it is hard to imagine how the denial of liberalized limits to self-financing candidates can be regarded as serving anticorruption goals sufficiently to justify the resulting constitutional burden.
Then, we get to the meat of Justice Alito's analysis:
The Government maintains that Sec. 319(a)'s asymmetrical limits are justified because they "level electoral opportunities for candidates of different personal wealth." ... Our prior decisions, however, provide no support for the proposition that this is a legitimate government objective...
Justice Alito also wasn't buying the idea that we have too darn much irresponsible political speech in this country:
Justice Stevens would revisit and reject Buckley's treatment of expenditure limits. ....The Government has not urged us to take that step, and in any event, Justice Stevens' proposal is unsound. He suggests that restricting the quantity of campaign speech would improve the quality of that speech, but it would be dangerous for the Government to regulate core political speech for the asserted purpose of improving that speech. And in any event, there is no reason to suppose that restricting the quantity of campaign speech would have the desired effect.
And the majority opinion made clear that if campaign finance reform is creating adverse unintended consequences (the law of unintended consequences not being subject to Congressional repeal), maybe Congress should rethink the whole apparatus, rather than create even more problems trying to fix the ones it's already created:
[T]he Government contends that Sec. 319(a) is justified because it ameliorates the deleterious effects that result from the tight limits that federal election law places on individual campaign contributions and coordinated party expenditures. These limits, it is argued, make it harder for candidates who are not wealthy to raise funds and therefore provide a substantial advantage for wealthy candidates. Accordingly, Sec. 319(a) can be seen, not as a legislative effort to interfere with the natural operation of the electoral process, but as a legislative effort to mitigate the untoward consequences of Congress' own handiwork and restore "the normal relationship between a candidate's financial resources and the level of popular support for his candidacy."
The majority made clear that the Court wouldn't stand in the way if Congress decided to get out of the business:
There is... no constitutional basis for attacking contribution limits on the ground that they are too high. Congress has no constitutional obligation to limit contributions at all; and if Congress concludes that allowing contributions of a certain amount does not create an undue risk of corruption or the appearance of corruption, a candidate who wishes to restrict an opponent's fundraising cannot argue that the Constitution demands that contributions be regulated more strictly. Consequently, if Sec. 319(a)'s elevated contribution limits applied across the board, Davis would not have any basis for challenging those limits.
Not a total victory for opponents of restrictions on free speech in political campaigns, by any means, but Davis at least suggests that a majority of the Supreme Court recognizes the pompous idiocy of campaign finance regulation for what it is.
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BASEBALL: To Ash You Shall Return
Peter Abraham summarizes the problem with unsafe, easily-splintered maple bats, and - sadly - why they are yet another thing that, as was so long true for steroids and the DH rule, (1) should be subject to immediate rulemaking by the Commissioner but instead (2) will likely be held hostage indefinitely by the players' union in the hopes of getting the owners to make some concession in return for a ban. Which is not to suggest in either case that the owners are pillars of virtue, just that so long as the collective bargaining process is in the way, considerations of the best interests of the game take a back seat to the grim zero-sum logic of the bargaining table. You can see, by contrast, how the game's control over umpiring has improved greatly since the umpires' union was for all intents and purposes broken by the owners.
David Pinto suggests that Bill James has argued for requiring all players to use identical bats - I'm not sure if this is a reference to the Historical Abstract's essay on the size of bat handles vs. barrels of something more recent...certainly, there should be some allowance for the size of the batter (one needn't make Luis Castillo and Adam Dunn use exactly the same bat), but it does seem entirely reasonable, and likely to end the arms' race towards ever-narrower-handled and more-fragile bats, to standardize the equipment more; the pitcher doesn't get to choose the baseball, after all. James has been arguing for years that the whip-handled bats have been as big a factor in the offensive upsurge of the last 15 years as smaller ballparks and more muscular hitters; a restoration of a little of the tradidtional balance of power on that front would not be a bad thing either.
LAW/POLITICS: Waiting For Heller
The Supreme Court will hand down the DC gun control/Second Amendment case, DC v. Heller, this morning around 10am. I won't be covering the opinion when it comes down, but SCOTUSBlog will have the first breaking reports, and my RedState colleagues will be looking at the opinion and its political ramifications. (I had looked at the tea-leaf-reading predictions here and here).
UPDATE: Note that Barack Obama is now rendering his prior position on the case inoperative, although it remains to be seen if he will similarly flee from his long record of support for drastic gun-control measures, and of course, as with yesterday's death penalty decision, don't listen to what Obama says, watch what the kind of judges he would appoint actually do.
June 25, 2008
HISTORY: April 16, 1178 B.C., Around Noon
LAW/POLITICS: 5-4 Supreme Court: Raping A Child Not Really As Bad As Democracy
The Supreme Court today, in Kennedy v. Louisiana, found that the Eighth Amendment bars the death sentence of a man who brutally raped his 8-year-old stepdaughter, causing traumatic physical injury (decency doesn't permit quoting here the Court's discussion of the facts on p. 2 of its opinion), to say nothing of the emotional trauma. The decision was 5-4, with Justice Kennedy writing the opinion joined by the Court's liberal bloc. The decision is significant in three major main ways:
1. It essentially bars the death penalty in all cases that do not result in the death of the victim, with the exception of "offenses against the State."
2. It explicitly confirms that the Court's reliance on an 'evolving national consensus' against the death penalty in specified circumstances is truly a one-way street; the Court frankly admits that unless there is strong evidence of a national consensus favoring the death penalty for a particular crime at a particular time, the Court will permanently bar every state from using the democratic process to impose such a penalty at any time in the future.
3. It rejects the notion that state legislatures are competent to come up with any sort of safeguards, a conclusion much in line with the Court's recent view that Congress is incapable of determining procedures for the handling of alleged enemy combatants. The assertion of judicial supremacy inherent in this conclusion is staggering.
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1. No Death Penalty For Non-Homicide Crimes
Justice Kennedy's opinion began with a decidedly ahistorical reading of the Eighth Amendment, a document written at a time when basically all felonies were punishable by death:
[P]unishment is justified under one or more of three principal rationales: rehabilitation, deterrence, and retribution....It is the last of these, retribution, that most often can contradict the law's own ends. This is of particular concern when the Court interprets the meaning of the Eighth Amendment in capital cases. When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint.
Applying this view of the death penalty's permissible scope, the Court concluded that the rape of a child just isn't bad enough to justify an execution:
It must be acknowledged that there are moral grounds to question a rule barring capital punishment for a crime against an individual that did not result in death. These facts illustrate the point. Here the victim's fright, the sense of betrayal, and the nature of her injuries caused more prolonged physical and mental suffering than, say, a sudden killing by an unseen assassin. The attack was not just on her but on her childhood. For this reason, we should be most reluctant to rely upon the language of the plurality in Coker, which posited that, for the victim of rape, "life may not be nearly so happy as it was" but it is not beyond repair. ... Rape has a permanent psychological, emotional, and sometimes physical impact on the child. ...We cannot dismiss the years of long anguish that must be endured by the victim of child rape. It does not follow, though, that capital punishment is a proportionate penalty for the crime. The constitutional prohibition against excessive or cruel and unusual punishments mandates that the State's power to punish "be exercised within the limits of civilized standards."
Note that the Court offers no further explanation of why the death penalty is disproportionate to such a horrible crime. The Court's expressed concern for the awfulness of child rape is just so much window-dressing, to be given no real analytical weight against the ipse dixit of the present state of five 'consciences':
Consistent with evolving standards of decency and the teachings of our precedents we conclude that, in determining whether the death penalty is excessive, there is a distinction between intentional first-degree murder on the one hand and nonhomicide crimes against individual persons, even including child rape, on the other. The latter crimes may be devastating in their harm, as here, but "in terms of moral depravity and of the injury to the person and to the public," ...they cannot be compared to murder in their "severity and irrevocability."
Evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society counsel us to be most hesitant before interpreting the Eighth Amendment to allow the extension of the death penalty, a hesitation that has special force where no life was taken in the commission of the crime. It is an established principle that decency, in its essence, presumes respect for the individual and thus moderation or restraint in the application of capital punishment.
The Court left for another day, however, the death penalty as applied to crimes that extend beyond individual victims:
We do not address, for example, crimes defining and punishing treason, espionage, terrorism, and drug kingpin activity, which are offenses against the State.
Now, personally, I have a good deal of sympathy with the idea that, for a variety of reasons, the death penalty is best employed against these sorts of crimes. But it's revealingly statist as well as inhumanly insensitive and legally nonsensical to impose a rule of Constitutional dimension that says that dealing drugs is worse than raping a child.
2. Democracy Stops Here
The real challenge in Kennedy, as I have noted for some time, is that unlike prior decisions that restricted the use of the death penalty against the mentally retarded or underage offenders based on an alleged 'evolving national consensus,' - a position that, in flagrant violation of Article V's express provision for how a specific number of state legislatures may change the meaning of the Constitution through the amendment process - in this case, the trend, however modest, has been for states to add the death penalty for crimes like child rape.
The Court examined the evidence of such movement and found it - like so many things in the democratic process - fitful and inconclusive:
The evidence of a national consensus with respect to the death penalty for child rapists, as with respect to juveniles, mentally retarded offenders, and vicarious felony murderers, shows divided opinion but, on balance, an opinion against it. Thirty-seven jurisdictions - 36 States plus the Federal Government - have the death penalty. As mentioned above, only six of those jurisdictions authorize the death penalty for rape of a child. Though our review of national consensus is not confined to tallying the number of States with applicable death penalty legislation, it is of significance that, in 45 jurisdictions, petitioner could not be executed for child rape of any kind. That number surpasses the 30 States in Atkins and Roper and the 42 States in Enmund that prohibited the death penalty under the circumstances those cases considered.
In general, this sort of nose-counting is precisely the stuff of the democratic process and no business of the judiciary. But the Court determines that there are simply not enough states to stand in its way:
Respondent insists that the six States where child rape is a capital offense, along with the States that have proposed but not yet enacted applicable death penalty legislation, reflect a consistent direction of change in support of the death penalty for child rape. Consistent change might counterbalance an otherwise weak demonstration of consensus. .... But whatever the significance of consistent change where it is cited to show emerging support for expanding the scope of the death penalty, no showing of consistent change has been made in this case.
How does the Court respond to the lack of a consensus? By finding that a consensus to the contrary must exist!
After reviewing the authorities informed by contemporary norms, including the history of the death penalty for this and other nonhomicide crimes, current state statutes and new enactments, and the number of executions since 1964, we conclude there is a national consensus against capital punishment for the crime of child rape.
Well, as long as five Justices count the votes, what are you going to do about it? The majority expressly rejects the idea that the messy business of finding consensuses should be left to the representatives of the people whose "consensus" is being announced, and instead announces a default presumption against the death penalty wherever a clear national consensus does not exist in its favor, regardless of the consensus within individual states:
[The difficulty of determining the direction of the states] has led some Members of the Court to say we should cease efforts to resolve the tension and simply allow legislatures, prosecutors, courts, and juries greater latitude. ...Our response to this case law, which is still in search of a unifying principle, has been to insist upon confining the instances in which capital punishment may be imposed.
Note that the lack of "a unifying principle" does not restrain the Court from reaching a conclusion that is both categorical and intended to be a permanent restraint on further evolution of the People's consensus:
Our determination that there is a consensus against the death penalty for child rape raises the question whether the Court's own institutional position and its holding will have the effect of blocking further or later consensus in favor of the penalty from developing. The Court, it will be argued, by the act of addressing the constitutionality of the death penalty, intrudes upon the consensus-making process. By imposing a negative restraint, the argument runs, the Court makes it more difficult for consensus to change or emerge. The Court, according to the criticism, itself becomes enmeshed in the process, part judge and part the maker of that which it judges. These concerns overlook the meaning and full substance of the established proposition that the Eighth Amendment is defined by "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."... Confirmed by repeated, consistent rulings of this Court, this principle requires that use of the death penalty be restrained. The rule of evolving standards of decency with specific marks on the way to full progress and mature judgment means that resort to the penalty must be reserved for the worst of crimes and limited in its instances of application.
The reference to "full progress and mature judgment" is a particularly ominous one for fans of popular self-government and limitation of the Court's powers to those enumerated by prior agreement of We the People.
Ironically, the Court also bats away the suggestion that some states may have feared to enact the death penalty due to suggestions in prior decisions that it could be struck down:
[R]espondent contends, it is possible that state legislatures have understood Coker to state a broad rule that covers the situation of the minor victim as well. We see little evidence of this. Respondent cites no reliable data to indicate that state legislatures have read Coker to bar capital punishment for child rape and, for this reason, have been deterred from passing applicable death penalty legislation. In the absence of evidence from those States where legislation has been proposed but not enacted we refuse to speculate about the motivations and concerns of particular state legislators.
Note that the Court is comfortable finding a consensus of the people, but not discerning the intentions of legislatures.
The position of the state courts, furthermore, to which state legislators look for guidance on these matters, indicates that Coker has not blocked the emergence of legislative consensus.
We conclude on the basis of this review that there is no clear indication that state legislatures have misinterpreted Coker to hold that the death penalty for child rape is unconstitutional. The small number of States that have enacted this penalty, then, is relevant to determining whether there is a consensus against capital punishment for this crime.
3. Never Trust The Legislature
The final piece of the Court's holding that I'll deal with only briefly here is its concern that the death penalty could not be applied with sufficient safeguards to child rape, given the relative (national) rarity of its application:
Evolving standards of decency are difficult to reconcile with a regime that seeks to expand the death penalty to an area where standards to confine its use are indefinite and obscure.
Once again, the Court simply does not trust legislatures, unlike courts, to deliberate and develop rules and standards. But those state legislatures simply do not have five votes.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:35 AM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
June 23, 2008
BASEBALL: Rising To A Challenge
Question of the day - can you name the four major league teams that are at least 5 games over .500 against teams with winning or .500 records?
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2. The Red Sox 29-21 (.580 in 50 games).
3. The Angels 24-17 (.585 in 41 games).
4. The Mets 18-13 (.581 in 31 games). Yes, those Mets.
No other AL team has a winning record against non-losing teams; three other NL teams do, the Cardinals (12-9), the Marlins (15-12), and the Cubs (12-11). Worst records against winning teams? The D-backs (7-18, .280), the Nationals (16-33, .327), the Rockies (14-28, .333), the Mariners (18-34, .346), and the Royals (18-32, .360).
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POLITICS: Left vs Left
McCain and Obama are both left-handed, as have been every U.S. president since Ford except for Carter and George W. Bush. One quibble with this article:
The trait is also not exclusive to winning candidates: Vice President Gore is left-handed, as are past presidential contenders Robert Dole, John Edwards, Bill Bradley, and Ross Perot. A prominent New Yorker who flirted with a White House bid, Mayor Bloomberg, is a lefty.
I'm fairly certain that Dole started out right-handed, and only favors his left because of the war injury that rendered his right arm useless. So, he's not really a useful example.
FOOTBALL/WAR: George Martin Still Rules
BASEBALL: Role Reversal
You know, one thing that's been driving me up the wall lately is the media's newfound effort to turn Willie Randolph into a martyr (best example here, and while I can't fault the Daily News for jumping at the exclusive, there's also Randolph's own maudlin account). I never bought into some of the more heated criticisms of Randolph, but I accepted the fact that the time came when he simply had to go, as unpleasant as the process of dumping a manager mid-season is. Yet somehow, the same media that spent the past year and a half burning effigies of Randolph now wants to make the man out to be some sort of innocent victim of a dire conspiracy. The truth is a lot less dramatic, in all directions.
June 20, 2008
WAR/POLITICS: Obama Retreats On FISA
I asked yesterday how Barack Obama, who opposed the FISA bill last time it came around and specifically opposed the telecom immunity provisions, would handle the compromise by which nearly the same bill has now passed the House and will return to the Senate with sufficient votes to pass. You will recall the emphatic nature of Obama's statement in opposition:
I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.... No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.
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Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. ... After months of negotiation, the House today passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people.
The left-wingers who supported Obama and thought he would actually take a stand rather than issue some empty words have now joined that crowd under the Obama bus. Welcome to the general election, folks. Hope you didn't actually believe that "Hope" and "Change" meant a new and different kind of candidate. Obama may be just as left-wing as you are - by all indications, he is - and just as immune to understanding the way the world works, but he does know how to read polls, and he doesn't have much experience standing his ground under fire. So, while his statement pretty much admits that his "lines that cannot be crossed" have in fact been crossed, he's just not going to do anything about it:
There is ... little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.
Obama leaves open the suggestioin that he might try to alter the bill before it reaches the President's desk:
[The bill] does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses.
Of course, if he means he will do that now, that would bust up the compromise and get us back to square one - and there are already enough Senators on board with telecom immunity that no such thing will happen unless Obama uses the influence of his position as head of his party to bend the Democratic caucus to his will (another thing he has no record of ever doing). You know and I know that if he starts off from a position of saying he "support[s] the compromise," that's not gonna happen. It's a hollow threat.
If Obama means that when he gets elected he'll restore the ability to sue the telecom companies, well, he is probably relying on Hope that his supporters don't know that it would be an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers to reopen what will by then be final judgments.
So at the end of the day, when Obama says that a line can't be crossed, and it then gets crossed, how can we summarize his response? I think Jim Carrey's character in Liar, Liar summarized it well:
Fletcher: You scratched my car!
Today, Obama's spinelessness is in service of our national security, so I applaud it. Let's just hope we never see the day when his spine is what we depend on to protect our security.
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June 19, 2008
BASEBALL: Badly Dunn
Pinto notes two related problems with Blue Jays GM and, we were told, Billy Beane protege JP Ricciardi: first, the release of Frank Thomas has worked out badly, a move I thought questionable and badly-explained at the time and that Beane obviously recognized as a buying opportunity. (H/T). Second, Ricciardi has ripped Adam Dunn, questioning Dunn's desire for the game and his low batting average, the kind of justifications that generally precede a team backing away from a player without an especially good reason for doing so. I can understand why you would not want nine guys like Dunn on your team. He does have some significant holes in his game. But like the caller Ricciardi was responding to said, the Blue Jays are not exactly overflowing with guys who produce Dunn's kind of combination of power and patience - the team leader in HR has 8, Vernon Wells and Rod Barajas are the only guys slugging over .434, and Lyle Overbay's the only guy on the team with 30 walks. Toronto is slugging .376 as a team; the starting left fielder is slugging .303.
That said, the bigger concern with Dunn is not overvaluing his bat when translated to a new ballpark. Dunn's career line of .242/.373/.494 on the road is good, but lags pretty far behind his career .252/.390/.545 line in Cinci, most of that compiled in Great American Ballpark, where he has hit .254/.387/.561.
WAR/POLITICS: BREAKING: FISA Deal
Jed Babbin reported the rumors this morning and explained why telecom immunity is a sticking point, and the WSJ is now reporting ($) that in the House, at least, a deal has finally been struck to move a 'compromise' FISA bill. You should read the whole thing; here's how the WSJ describes the telecom immunity provision:
The agreement would also pave the way for [telecom] companies ... to shed the nearly 40 lawsuits they face for allegedly participating in a prior version of the NSA program... To win immunity, they would have to pass review from a U.S. District Court.
UPDATE: The Politico has the story along with the text of the compromise bill. The House is scheduled to vote tomorrow.
Provisionally, this seems like a win for national security and a win for the GOP, and a defeat for the far Left, the 'netroots,' and the plaintiffs' bar. The bill, if passed, will institutionalize even under an Obama Administration surveillance that has previously been conducted only because President Bush ordered it. On the presidential level, the deal sounds like one that John McCain will happily fall in with, and vindicates his longstanding position that the President, regardless of what he can do, should go to Congress for authority on surveillance. And it puts Barack Obama in a tough spot: if Pelosi and Reid are marshalling their troops behind it (even though they both personally oppose the deal), and he opposes them, he will yet again be shown to be an extremist outside the mainstream of his own party; yet if he supports the deal, he will have flip-flopped on his prior votes against FISA bills that contained telecom immunity.
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Here's McCain's 2006 statement urging Bush to go to Congress, and RedState's editorial. Here is Andy McCarthy's great summary of the state of play on this issue, and the McCain camp's response. And here is a roundup of the votes the last time this went to the Senate (with Obama among the bitter-enders on the far Left, as usual), and Obama's prior statement on the issue:
I strongly oppose retroactive immunity in the FISA bill.... No one should get a free pass to violate the basic civil liberties of the American people - not the President of the United States, and not the telecommunications companies that fell in line with his warrantless surveillance program. We have to make clear the lines that cannot be crossed.
Lastly, lest I focus too much on the presidential race, a big round of applause is due to the House and Senate Republicans who have fought hard for this day and held the Democrats' feet to the fire.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2008 | War 2007-14 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Where The Girls Are
You may or may not believe in the theories propounded by Mark Steyn and others as to the powerful effects that demographic changes will have on the future of the world in general and the relative balance of power between Europe and the Muslim world in particular, but there's no denying that demographic trends are a powerful historical force that influences every other aspect of the world - quite simply, you can't look meaningfully at what the people want or are capable of doing until you know who the people are. A nation's people really are it's most important resource, without which all other resources, from capital to natural resources to strategic location, will lie fallow or fall to other hands.
There are a lot of different ways to slice the demographic data. Steyn often uses birthrates to explan the dramatic differences between growing populations in places like Yemen and rapidly aging and shrinking ones in the old Soviet Union and Western (especially southern) Europe. But while the birth rates are probably the best data point, I fear that some observers tend to write them off because they are trends, and trends after all can change.
Another way to look at the numbers, though, is that once a year is over, there's a fixed number of children born in a country, and while you can add more by immigration - which in many cases changes the fundamental nature of the population if done in numbers large enough to move the needle, trend-wise - and you can subtract for infant mortality or other calamities, basically you have a hard, fixed, historical number. Russia can increase it's 2009 birthrate but it can't change the number of children born in Russia in 2006 - and that number will be part of the baseline for future population growth or decline. Trends plus time equal history.
What follows is a look at some of those hard numbers.
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In measuring potential for the future population of a country, the most important number is how many young women will be of childbearing age at any particular point in time. While young people of both genders have a variety of contributions to make (the number of young men, specifically, tends to be useful in projecting a country's immediate miliary capacity), but the most basic fact of life is that only women can give birth to the next generation, and they do so one child at a time (unlike young men, who of course can at least in biological terms father large numbers of children per year). So for the purpose of projecting the limits imposed by current reality on future population trends, the best metric is the number of little girls, who will grow up in time to be the mothers of the next generation.
Using the 2007* figures from the CIA World Factbook, here are the top 35 countries (plus the EU, which the Factbook gives a listing separate from its member states) ranked by number of girls age 15 and under, along with each nation's current population rank.
You can see how dramatically some of the rankings are changing, and in particular how implacably the population of India is pulling away from the pack. At the same time, recall that some of the fastest-growing youth populations are in desperately poor countries where poor health conditions impose a cap on growth - I've marked with an asterisk any country with infant mortality rates above 75 per 1000, as those countries are likely to see less long-term growth than the number of young girls would otherwise indicate. For now, at least, I'll present the data without a lot of additional analysis.
Among the top 51 from 2007 (the ones above Yemen), the following countries didn't make this list, with the rough number, in millions, for girls 15 and under:
What would be the economic impact of population growth? Well, that's much more speculative, but let's just, as a back-of-the-envelope estimate, look at what happens if you take the numbers in the chart above and multiply them by current per-capita GDP numbers. Note that this isn't a ranking of the whole world, just of the countries in the top chart, and it's not total GDP, just GDP per capita multiplied by the number of young girls:
The effects here may not seem like a dramatic shift in the global balance of power, but when you then factor in how population changes as well as pre-existing trends are likely to affect per capita GDP, the picture can get a good deal more interesting.
* - I ran these numbers a few months ago; only in the last week or two did the site update to 2008 numbers.
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June 18, 2008
BLOG: What Would We Do Without The Internet?
To answer practical questions.
June 17, 2008
WAR/POLITICS: No, We Can't Beat The Terrorists?
Another Day, Another Obama Aide. Not The Richard Danzig Obama Knew?
No day is complete without an Obama aide doing something that Barack Obama will sooner or later have to disavow, and this time it's an old favorite variety: the foreign press quoting a national security adviser speaking the counsel of defeatism:
Richard Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Clinton and is tipped to become National Security Adviser in an Obama White House, told a major foreign policy conference in Washington that the future of US strategy in the war on terrorism should follow a lesson from the pages of Winnie the Pooh, which can be shortened to: if it is causing you too much pain, try something else.
In a subtle break from Mr Bush's belief that the war on terror can be won, Mr Danzig, who is a Pentagon adviser on bioterrorism, warned that while the West can defeat individual terrorist groups and plots, it can never entirely remove the threat posed by nuclear proliferation or the prospect of bioterrorism.
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Pooh Bear is a justly beloved children's character, but of course the Hundred Acre Wood is never inhabited by by anything more menacing than bees and bad dreams (either of which is more than a match for the gentle-hearted Pooh). Not exactly the mental image most folks need at a time when you have Obama supporters lauding him as the antidote to tough guys and action heroes. It seems so long ago, does it not, that the Democrats would nominate a man who could say (and mean) things like this:
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
Barack Obama would say to John F. Kennedy: No, we can't.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:18 PM | Politics 2008 | War 2007-14 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Midnight Massacre
It's not 1977, but the Mets waited for deep into last night to finally sack Willie Randolph, Rick Peterson and Tom Nieto and install Jerry Manuel as interim manager.
I've been skeptical of firing the manager in midseason, and installing Manuel pretty much guarantees that no dramatic change is really at work, since Manuel's been at Randolph's side through all of this. That said, the team was going badly enough that you can't fault the team for cutting bait, and by this point the whole when-will-Willie-go drama had reached the point of no return; you can't leave a man twisting in the wind like that. The team had to either unambiguously give him the rest of the season, or be done with it.
I'm not a fan of getting rid of Peterson. His tenure has seen its share of successes and failures, and in some cases (e.g., Oliver Perez) successes followed by regression. But he's clearly a sharp and talented pitching coach, and of course he can't be held responsible for the failures of the offense.
POLITICS: Is Barack Obama A Woman?
Seriously, you can't make people like this up:
[A] Barack Obama versus John McCain match-up still has the makings of an epic American gender showdown. ... The question asked by this American Sphinx to all who dared enter the halls of leadership was, "Are you man enough?" This year, Senator Obama has notably refused to give the traditional answer.+++
Senator Obama, for his part, will not be cast as the avenging hero in "The Rescue" any time soon ...He doesn't seem to want the role. You don't see him crouching in a duck blind or posing in camouflage duds or engaging in anything more gladiatorial than a game of pick-up basketball. If Mr. Obama's candidacy seeks to move beyond race, it also moves beyond gender. A 20-minute campaign Web documentary showcased a President Obama who would exude "a real sensitivity" and "empathy" and provide a world safe for the American mother's son. Mr. Obama is surrounded in the video by pacifist - not security - moms.
As Moe Lane notes, Faludi and the New York Times probably think they are helping with arguments like this.
June 16, 2008
WAR/POLITICS: "I've Never Said That Troops Should Be Withdrawn"
He was against withdrawal before he was for it. H/T. This was April 2004. Note that by early 2007, Obama had moved in the direction of calling for precipitous withdrawal just as the Bush Administration was moving in the opposite direction, increasing our active troop presence....the facts went one way, the Democratic primary voters went the other, and that's where Obama followed. (If you are keeping score, this replaced the subdued, cautious Obama of 2004 with someone more like the Obama who in 2002 pandered to his audience by singling out the Jewish members of Bush's national security team for blame them for the war).
Fast forward to 2008, and is Obama willing to reconsider his position in light of changed facts on the ground? Even Bush, stubborn as he is, agreed to do that in late 2006, when he acceded to the "surge" and accompanying change in counterinsurgency tactics. But Obama refused to even visit Iraq, afraid of what he might learn there (he's taken a similar approach with his refusal to educate himself about Afghanistan). Until this:
So, now, caving to political pressure from McCain, Obama has had to agree to go visit Iraq and Afghanistan. And, in a modest concession to reality, he's now using improved conditions on the ground (as a result of the policy McCain championed and Obama opposed) to justify...continuing to argue for doing what the Democratic primary voters wanted. At the same time, he apparently had to engage in yet another round of Obama-and-his-advisers-disavow-each-other, as Obama today stressed his commitment to withdrawal to the Iraqi foreign minister after this report came out on Friday:
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign managers had reassured Baghdad that if Obama is elected he will not dramatically change Washington's policy towards Iraq and will take into account the opinions of the commanders in the field.
Whatever this is, it's not leadership.
POLITICS: The Sharpton Shakedown
There are few more reprehensible people in American politics than former Democratic presidential and Senate candidate Rev. Al Sharpton, a man whose litany of public sins and scandals stretches from slander to anti-Semitism to theft to tax evasion to incitement of lethal riots and deadly arson. By Sharpton's own admission in response to a federal investigation that resulted in a raid of his offices in December, "I have probably been under every investigation known to man and I can't remember a time that I've not been under investigation." No decent person would embrace this man.
Of course, Sharpton played his own role in this year's Democratic primaries, playing the 'bad cop' who darkly threatened disorder and litigation if the DNC ruled in favor of Hillary Clinton on the disputed Florida and Michigan delegations. These were not idle threats, as many establishment Democrats recall how Sharpton's falling-out with a pair of white Democrats who had defeated minority candidates in racially-divisive primaries (Bob Abrams, who beat Sharpton in the 1992 Senate primary, and Mark Green, who beat Fernando Ferrer in the 2001 Mayoral primary) contributed to their defeats in the general election. Of course, the DNC caved, awarding Hillary her Florida delegates but effectively handing the nomination to Obama with its ruling on Michigan; mission accomplished. And Gothamist notes that Sharpton's National Action Network does not lack for friends, or at least supplicants, in high places in the Democratic establishment:
Sharpton's organization, a non-profit founded to promote black civil rights, holds a yearly, influential conference in April (last year a who's who in the Democratic party attended, from former President Bill Clinton to Senator Barack Obama, from Senator Hillary Clinton to DNC chair Howard Dean) and attracts corporate sponsorship.
Given his background, the latest news on Sharpton, via an investigation by the New York Post, should surprise absolutely nobody, but it's an instructive look nonetheless in Sharpton's business as usual.
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As the Post notes, Sharpton has skillfully parlayed his record of threats of boycotts and bad publicity into a torrent of cash from corporate America. It's highly unlikely that the many respectable companies named in the piece are stocked with admirers of Sharpton's work, given how frequently his efforts are wrong, irresponsible, immoral, illegal and/or dangerous. Instead, it's quite clear that these corporations have quite reasonably calculated that paying off Sharpton is a cost of doing business:
In November 2003, Sharpton picketed DaimlerChrysler's Chicago car show and threatened a boycott over alleged racial bias in car loans.
A businessman who hired Sharpton as a consultant says the flamboyant leader skillfully persuades CEOs by wielding the statistic that African-Americans spend $738 billion a year.
And of course, NAN is now under investigation:
NAN, a tax-exempt nonprofit, closely guards its corporate largesse. Most companies also keep the sums secret, and some would not divulge them. The corporations interviewed by The Post viewed their relationships with NAN as friendly and beneficial.
While it's encouraging when companies stand up to the likes of Sharpton, it's understandable that many of them prefer the modest (to their shareholders) cost of buying him off. But political 'leaders' who were genuinely serious about Hope and Change and reforming the old, business-as-usual ways of corruption and racial divisiveness would have nothing to do with the likes of Sharpton. Certainly, if anyone has the juice with the African-American community to stand up to Sharpton, it is Barack Obama. Is that too much to ask? Or will Obama add Sharpton to the list of friends, associates and allies he 'never really knew'? Stay tuned.
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POLITICS: Blogger Endorses Obama
BASEBALL: Met-a-phor Alert
BASEBALL: The Best Pitcher In Baseball?
Best in the business is a fleeting title, but it's also one that's earned over at least some period of time. I've been thinking lately about whether Johan Santana, for a few years now pretty much the undisputed best pitcher in the game, still deserves the title. Let's start by looking back over the past two years to get a sense of who has been the top of the game in that time; you will see just three pitchers who have averaged 200 innings a year since June 16, 2006 with an ERA below 3.47:
If you think slicing at mid-season too arbitrary, we can go all the way back to the start of 2006, raising the bar along the way to 450 innings. This gives us five pitchers below 3.39:
Of course, Smoltz is no longer part of this discussion, given that he's out for the rest of the season. Lackey really doesn't quite measure up either, although he has come back quite better than expected this season from an early injury.
Peavy looks impressive at first, but over the longer period his ERA advantage evaporates despite pitching in a great pitcher's park, and he's 60-80 innings behind the leaders. Realistically, it really is a two-horse race between Santana and Webb at this stage. Santana strikes out more batters and thus is less dependent on good defense, as you can see from his lower rate of unearned runs (if you include those, Santana bests Webb 3.29-3.44), while Webb allows far fewer home runs and thus gives his defense more chances to help him. On that evidence, I'd be disinclined to hand off the title to Webb, since Santana's better-equipped to do it all on his own.
On the other hand, if you go back just a year, you get seven pitchers below 3.48:
When you look at the numbers that way, Webb begins to take a decided advantage; he's gaining on Santana and pulling away from the crowd. And for one reason: despite playing in a great HR park, Webb has allowed the fewest HR/9 of any pitcher in baseball with 200 innings over the past year (Chien-Ming Wang is the only one close), while Santana is sixth from the bottom (although with just 1 HR allowed in his last 5 starts, there are signs he's getting the problem under control). I don't know if that's quite enough time to crown a new king, but with Santana's velocity off this season from past years, I think if I had to make the call right now, today, I'd take Webb.
It's early yet to start looking at Webb through the prism of great pitching careers, but you'll note that his comps through age 28 (i.e., the end of last season) already include three Hall of Famers (Jim Bunning, Gaylord Perry and Bob Gibson), plus David Cone, and Webb's ERA relative to the league is much better than any of theirs.
June 15, 2008
BLOG: 6/15/08 Quick Links
*The idea of a steroid blacklist is not implausible, but it's not the simplest explanation, especially where Barry Bonds is concerned: it seems more likely that no team wants the PR headache and distraction of the disgraced, indicted Bonds. And with guys like Jay Gibbons, there's the double issue of "will he still be any good if he's not juicing?"
Here are the important numbers:Big Brown (2008 Kentucky Derby): 2:01:82 Affirmed (1977 Kentucky Derby): 2:01 1/5 Secretariat (1973 Kentucky Derby): 1:59 2/5
*Drill, drill, drill. It's not the long-term answer, but it's appalling that the U.S. insists on preferring to import Saudi and Venezuelan oil rather than do the sorts of routine oil exploration and development that's done everywhere else in the world. Note Gingrich's point about offshore drilling in enviro-conscious Norway.
*The NY Times on the dangers of an inexperienced candidate for president. You know, a lot of Bush-hating liberals respond to questions about Obama's experience by noting Bush's relative inexperience compared to some past candidates...but even if you insist on ignoring the advantages Bush had over Obama, I have to ask: are you saying now that Bush worked out just fine? Because that wasn't what I heard from you up to now.
In the course of writing the book, you and your co-author, Bryan Garner, consulted more than a dozen judges. Did you learn anything about the habits of your colleagues?
I'd have to think that would be counterproductive in a lot of cases where the briefs are loaded with references back to complex facts and defined terms in the beginning, but it's a caution to lawyers to consider how a brief looks like from the back to the front.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 AM | Baseball 2008 | Blog 2006-14 | Other Sports | Politics 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
June 13, 2008
BASEBALL: Carlos In The Citi
Matthew Artus at Always Amazin' had a good post the other day on how Shea seems to be more homer-friendly this season, perhaps due to changes in the wind patterns brought about by the construction of Citi Field. Let's look specifically at how the change has affected Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado, in recent years the two Mets batters most hurt by Shea - here are their combined home/road splits for 2006-08 (for Runs and RBI I projected the 2008 numbers out to 81 home and 81 road games):
As you can see, though not driven by homers, Dos Carlos are having arguably their best year together at home, or at least comparable to 2006, and that's serving to mask how far they have fallen off on the road.
POLITICS: Corrupt Democrat Watch
We've started a new series over at RedState - as I explain in the opening post, conservative blogs have not done nearly enough with the vast array of material that comes out regularly about corruption and scandal among Democrats - national, state, local - and we need to play catch-up on that. You can check out this week's installments thus far here, here, here and here.
June 12, 2008
POLITICS: Guantanamo and A Tale of Two Campaigns
As Chief Justice Roberts pointed out, the core issue in today's detainee decision is the struggle between the power of Congress and the power of the courts: it's not whether the U.S. has the right to detain enemy combatants, and not whether non-U.S. citizen detainees have access to legal process to challenge their detention, but simply whether Congress has a right to define and limit those procedures (as it did by statute in 2005 and 2006), or whether the Supreme Court has absolute authority to require that all procedural rules be determined by the district courts and reviewed by the Supreme Court. For this President and his successor, however, the bottom-line question remains what to do with enemy combatants: continue to hold them at Guantanamo or some similar facility subject to the new procedures, go back to Congress for yet another set of rules, or perhaps ship more detainees off to other countries to handle in their own way.
In a serious world, we'd expect presidential candidates to present competing visions of how to answer both sets of questions. But the responses of the McCain and Obama campaigns to today's decision shows that each is too busy struggling in their own ways with the politics of this issue to address it meaningfully.
Let's start by noting the fact that the two statutes struck down by the Court today were passed by the U.S. Senate, in which both candidates sit. The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, a rider to military appropriations, among other things provided a set of procedures, and limited judicial review, for detainees challenging their enemy combatant status. It passed 90-9, with both McCain and Obama voting in favor. The Court today held "those procedures are not an adequate and effective substitute for habeas corpus." The Military Commissions Act of 2006 specifically precluded the DTA's procedures from being evaded by recourse to habeas corpus review, and eliminated the Supreme Court's jurisdiction over such cases; it passed 65-34, with McCain voting in favor and Obama voting against. The Court held today that the MCA "operates as an unconstitutional suspension of the writ."
How did the candidates respond to the decision? First, the McCain response, as related by Michael Goldfarb at the McCain Report (the excellent official campaign blog):
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: It obviously concerns me. These are unlawful combatants, they are not American citizens, but -- and I think that we should pay attention to [Chief J]ustice Roberts' opinion in this decision -- but it is a decision the Supreme Court has made. Now we need to move forward. As you know, I always favored closing of Guantanamo Bay and I still think that we ought to do that.
The rest of Goldfarb's post smacks Obama for voting against Roberts. You can tell that Goldfarb would like to go harder after the Court's decision, but the campaign and the candidate are constrained by McCain's own Gitmo-bashing, and so while McCain's response sides with Roberts and the statutes McCain voted for, it has to be somewhat muted on the pragmatic consequences of the decision because McCain isn't really clear on what he himself would do with those detainees.
Obama, meanwhile, is off in his own little world, unconstrained by the facts but therefore unwilling or unable to confront McCain over McCain's actual position:
Today's Supreme Court decision ensures that we can protect our nation and bring terrorists to justice, while also protecting our core values. The Court's decision is a rejection of the Bush Administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo - yet another failed policy supported by John McCain.
It's not clear what Obama means here. First, if the DTA's procedures are themselves "a legal black hole," and if he agrees with the Court that they are inadequate to satisfy due process, why on earth did Obama vote for them? Second, he's ripping McCain for "support" of Bush's Guantanamo policy, completely ignoring the fact that McCain has been calling for some time for shuttering the place. Third, if Obama means that McCain "supported" Bush's policy by voting for the DTA and the MCA, what about Obama's own vote for the DTA?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 PM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2008 | War 2007-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Unintended Consequences
I don't have nearly the time and space here to do justice to today's opinions on enemy combatants, starting with the decision in Boumediene v. Bush, extending habeas corpus to foreign nationals detained at Guantanamo (which I partially summarized over at RedState as it broke, before I had to stop to deal with a decision of the Court in which I was directly involved). I'd highly recommend the scathing dissents of Chief Justice Roberts, who explains why the Court should not have decided that the Congressionally enacted procedures provided to detainees were inadequate without either (1) seeing how those procedures worked in practice or (2) explaining in any detail how the procedures required by the Court would be different, and Justice Scalia, who explains why the Court got the basic question of the historical scope of habeas wrong and illustrates the lethal consequences of today's decision.
But I'd like to highlight two points from today's opinions that illustrate some unintended consequences, and why in the end they may not accomplish the results claimed for them. Specifically, today's decisions will hasten the process of handing off detainees to foreign governments while protracting rather than accelerating the legal process for determining the status of detainees.
The first comes from the Court's less-publicized unanimous decision today in Munaf v. Geren, which held that while habeas extends to U.S. citizens detained by the Multinational Force-Iraq, the writ cannot be used to prevent the U.S. from transferring U.S. citizen detainees to the Iraqi government if it has warrants for their arrest for, essentially, being enemy combatants:
Munaf and Omar are alleged to have committed hostile and warlike acts within the sovereign territory of Iraq during ongoing hostilities there. Pending their criminal prosecution for those offenses, Munaf and Omar are being held in Iraq by American forces operating pursuant to a U. N. Mandate and at the request of the Iraqi Government. Petitioners concede that Iraq has a sovereign right to prosecute them for alleged violations of its law. Yet they went to federal court seeking an order that would allow them to defeat precisely that sovereign authority. Habeas corpus does not require the United States to shelter such fugitives from the criminal justice system of the sovereign with authority to prosecute them.
(Presumably, the same rule would apply to non-citizens). This, despite the fact that the Iraqi justice system is obviously not precisely equivalent to our own in terms of procedural protections. The Court also rejected the idea that a U.S. court could prevent transfer of the prisoners based on their claim that they might be tortured by the Iraqis, although the Court did note that there was not a record of a likelihood of torture, and three Justices would have left the door open for courts to review "whether substantive due process bars the Government from consigning its own people to torture."
What does this mean? Well, it means that detainees at Guantanamo could be transferred out of the reach of the new habeas process if the governments of Afghanistan, Iraq or other allies (some of whom have been known to swiftly behead such people upon their transfer) request that we do so. In other words, if the new procedures prove onerous in practice or run the risk of revealing classified information to our enemies, the unintended consequence of the decision to strike down procedures enacted by the U.S. Congress may be instead to substitute procedures provided by the Afghan or Iraqi governments. (Can you say, "rendition," boys and girls? I knew you could!) Even five Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court cannot repeal the law of unintended consequences.
The second point, on the question of swift justice, is explained by the Chief Justice in Boumediene:
The Court is ... concerned that requiring petitioners to pursue "DTA review before proceeding with their habeas corpus actions" could involve additional delay. ...The nature of the habeas remedy the Court instructs lower courts to craft on remand, however, is far more unsettled than the process Congress provided in the DTA. See ante, at 69 ("[O]ur opinion does not address the content of the law that governs petitioners' detention. That is a matter yet to be determined"). There is no reason to suppose that review according to procedures the Federal Judiciary will design, case by case, will proceed any faster than the DTA process petitioners disdained. On the contrary, the system the Court has launched (and directs lower courts to elaborate) promises to take longer. The Court assures us that before bringing their habeas petitions, detainees must usually complete the CSRT process.... Then they may seek review in federal district court. Either success or failure there will surely result in an appeal to the D. C. Circuit - exactly where judicial review starts under Congress's system. The effect of the Court's decision is to add additional layers of quite possibly redundant review. And because nobody knows how these new layers of "habeas" review will operate, or what new procedures they will require, their contours will undoubtedly be subject to fresh bouts of litigation. If the majority were truly concerned about delay, it would have required petitioners to use the DTA process that has been available to them for 2 1/2 years, with its Article III review in the D. C. Circuit. That system might well have provided petitioners all the relief to which they are entitled long before the Court's newly installed habeas review could hope to do so.
Of course, the question as to whether additional delay is a bad thing depends on whose intentions are at stake. For a detainee who is actually improperly held in custoday, delay is a bad thing, because it means more time in Gitmo. But for those who are genuinely enemy combatants, more delay is wonderful - more ability to tie up U.S. personnel and resources in courtroom battles, more publicity for their "cause," more grinding down of U.S. morale as expensive court proceedings drag on and provide political fodder for critics of the mission and the military. Like the exclusionary rule in criminal procedure (which excludes illegally seized evidence of guilt but gives no remedy to the innocent), the Court has managed to create a perverse system that burdens anyone who might actually be deserving of a remedy, while rewarding those who seek to game the system to the disadvantage of the nation. Gee, thanks.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Law 2006-08 | Politics 2008 | War 2007-14 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
June 11, 2008
BASEBALL: Tale of Two Joneses
Even knowing this, seeing it in print is amazing: over the past 365 days, Chipper Jones is batting .379/.465/.628. And at the far end of the scale is his old teammate Andruw, batting .207/.292/.363. You'd never know that Chipper's the one who is 36, and Andruw 31.
Really, I don't even know what to say after last night's Mets fiasco. Certainly we have further evidence that, while Duaner Sanchez has looked good at times this year, he's nowhere close yet to being a reliable clutch reliever; there are still too many days he has nothing at all. But the Mets' hole has gotten enormously worse now that they are chasing the Phillies rather than the Marlins. It has started to get late early.
POLITICS: Sister Souljah For President!
Oklahoma Democratic Congressman Dan Boren's announcement that he won't be endorsing Barack Obama is a moment of clarity. For much of the campaign, people have been waiting to see how Barack Obama would pivot away from pandering to the Democratic primary electorate to a general election stance. Waiting for him to "triangulate" some distance from his base, waiting for a "Sister Souljah moment," like in 1992 when Bill Clinton denounced that otherwise undistinguished rapper for her comment that black people should take a week off from killing each other and kill white people instead. Obama has had to flee under pressure from his own chuch, he's had to disown or distance himself from a variety of his associates, but those were forced, grudging acts; in no case has he gone out of his way to demonstrate his independence from left-wing dogma, and on some issues (like school choice) he has instead come crawling back timidly after seeming to question the Left's orthodoxy.
By now, it is clear: unlike Clinton or John McCain, when Obama is involved in triangulation, it will be his own party comrades triangulating away from him. Remember, Clinton made such a splash in 1992 precisely because these things had not been done in the past - Dukakis, Mondale and McGovern never did anything to divorce themselves from the Hard Left of the party. By now, it is clear: there will be no Sister Souljah moment by Obama because he is Sister Souljah, the very sort of peace-at-any-price, you-can-never-have-enough-tax-hikes, abortion-in-and-out-of-the-womb zealot that other Democrats need to run away from. Boren's not the first, and he won't be the last one.
June 10, 2008
POLITICS: No Obama-Strickland
Well, cross off Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland from Obama's potential VP list, as he has ruled out running in the most unambiguous terms. For a variety of reasons, I always thought he was an unlikely pick. Strickland on Obama's chances in Ohio:
When asked to rank the degree of difficulty of Obama carrying Ohio, Strickland says: "I would say somewhere around 5 in a scale of 1 to 10. I think it's, I just think it's a challenge because of the nature of our state."
Ohio as a true tossup sounds about right at this stage. As in Virginia, the Ohio GOP has made a terrible mess of its own house, and that combined with the perenially weak Ohio economy has given Democrats an opportunity in the state. But McCain's relatively popular in Ohio, and Obama got crushed there in the primaries. Much will turn on turnout, as the polls consistently show a McCain lead among likely voters, but a strong Obama position in polls of all registered voters. (One wild card: Bush won an unusually high proportion of African-American voters in Ohio in 2004 - 16% compared to 9% in 2000 - due perhaps to the same-sex marriage ballot initiative and the support of Ken Blackwell; that won't happen against Obama).
BASEBALL: The Big K
MT ate my last post this morning, so let me just summarize:
*The Reds are on pace to strike out 1,298 batters this year. Four starters and five relievers are hanging around a batter per inning.
*The all-time record is 1,404 by the also-Dusty-Baker-managed 2003 Cubs. Hopefully, the Reds young pitchers will fare better over the long haul.
POLITICS: The New Jimmy Carter
Given John McCain's and Barack Obama's ages, and Obama's "cool" branding, there was already inevitably going to be a generation gap in the voting in this year's election, but I have to believe that you are going to see a particularly sharp divide over one line: voters who are old enough to remember Jimmy Carter.
I've noted previously some of the similarities between Carter and Obama's combination of idealism, good-government rhetoric and timid and pessimistic worldview. I'm basically at the tail end of the generation that remembers the disaster of the Carter years: I'm 36 and I remember yellow ribbons and "America held hostage" and gas lines and inflation (i.e., the cost of a 2-liter of Pepsi at the supermarket kept going up) and Afghanistan and 'malaise'. I can still picture one of those Scholastic publications we were assigned in 4th grade - little red paper-covered magazine with a big graphic on the front of Carter, Reagan and John Anderson over the White House, and short summaries inside of their general positions on the major issues. We watched Reagan's inauguration in school, and the assassination attempt as well.
Of course, it's not just Carter that Obama's a rerun of:
That's why the whole Obama phenomenon, despite some of its new racial trappings, is so comfortably familiar to GOP activists and strategists. Republicans know how to face off against Carter, Mondale, McGovern, Dukakis, Cuomo, Dinkins, etc. We've seen this movie before. Even in 1976, the GOP put on a furious stretch run as the public got a closer look behind Carter's platitudes, and he ended up winning the election by 2 points after leading by more than 30 in July polls.
PS - This is a classic. But he forgot the top level, "Commander in Chief"
BASEBALL: Prior Damage
David Pinto links to some interesting speculation that Mark Prior's shoulder woes may have begun with a 2003 collision with Marcus Giles. Note that while Prior had a great second half in 2003, it's still possible that this was the beginning of the damage that would reveal itself later (interestingly, Giles also had a monster second half that year and also hasn't been the same player since).
POP CULTURE: Indiana Jones of the Fourth Kind
I took the kids Saturday to see the fourth Indiana Jones movie, and I must say, it exceeded my expectations, which I had worked to keep modest. You have to remember that the original Indiana Jones movies were not such film legends because they were compelling human drama or fantastically realistic; rather, they succeeded because they offered three things:
1. A classic action hero (I know I was a minority in enjoying Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but the film was nonetheless a vivid reminder of how much a film like that loses when it has a bland hero instead of a charismatic swashbuckler);
2. Non-stop action that keeps you on the edge of your seat too consistently to allow for reflection on the amount of disbelief you have to suspend; and
3. A tongue-in-cheek attitude towards the fact that this is a movie; they were supposed to be a fun throwback to the action films of the 30s and 40s, and all three of the originals had their share of explicit winks to film convention or homages to specific films of old.
I was reminded of this by recently re-watching them. All three are still a lot of fun, but there's still plenty that's outright preposterous, from the action sequences to the romantic dialogue to the 'monologuing' villains to the inevitable deus ex machina supernatural ending. Temple of Doom, which may have been my favorite of the three when I saw it in the theater as a young teenager, has undoubtedly aged the worst and/or holds up the worst when watched as an adult (it's also the most politically incorrect of the three), although the opening action sequence remains a classic.
On to the new installment (a few very mild spoilers, but the main spoilers will be below the fold). First of all, Harrison Ford's still got it. He looks great for his age, but he definitely looks his age (65); he basically defines "grizzled" at this point. And he's still got some of the old charm, much moreseo than in interviews with the real Ford, who has been a crusty old man for years now. That said, Indy comes off as more serious and sober now, which is inevitable with the passage of years (we're reminded early on that Indy's father has died - Sean Connery chose not to return for the film - as has Indy's professorial colleague Marcus Brody, played by the late Denholm Elliott; John Rhys-Davies' absence is not explained, and mercifully Short Round does not turn up). We are definitely given to believe that in the years between 1939 and 1957, treasure hunting and womanizing have had to take a back seat to the grim business of defending the free world from Nazis and Communists, a reality that's consistent not only with the world's history at that time but with why Lucas and Spielberg originally set the first three films before the outbreak of world war, when it was still possible for an American rogue to travel the world and fight the bad guys without a lot of friendly military help or polarized local resistance. Indy by now, like Han Solo in the later Star Wars flicks, has largely been absorbed into the chain of command. In fact, an early plotline about Indy being the victim of a sort of McCarthyism (in today's Hollywood, you can't have Commie bad guys without a little McCarthyism, even as late as 1957) serves mostly to ensure that Indy can function once again as a free agent.
The second really crucial decision was bringing back Karen Allen as Marion Ravenwood to be Indy's love interest rather than pair up Ford with some young starlet. Not only does this spare us the spectacle of a woman in her twenties or thirties falling for a guy twice her age, but by bringing back the best of Indy's old flames, we get to skip almost entirely over the whole process of flirtation and courtship, which almost invariably goes down badly in a George Lucas film, and stick to the action. When you see Indy and Marion together, you don't need to be sold on their immediate attraction; it's baked into the characters and our history with them. And the 56-year-old Allen is still appealing, even cute if you can apply that word to a woman her age who - like Ford - definitely looks her age.
The movie has plenty of fun action sequences, my favorite being a lengthy, rollicking chase sequence in the Peruvian jungle that borrows very liberally from the speeder bike sequence in Return of the Jedi and features the meanest ants since Them. Early on, we also get to see Indy one-up Jack Bauer by surviving the shockwave from a nuclear blast, which is amusingly ludicrous.
Lucas and Spielberg, as children of the 50s (in Lucas' case, also a veteran of the first wave of 50s nostalgia with American Graffiti), lovingly slather on every detail, both realistic and cliched, to evoke the time period, from Elvis to malt-shop bobby-soxers to "I Like Ike" to the Red Scare. There are more than a few obvious tips of the hat (some literal, some figurative) to the prior movies as well as to other films. The most obvious is when Shia Lebeouf, with his hair compulsively slicked back to look like a ringer for James Dean, makes his first appearance dressed exactly like Marlon Brando in The Wild One:
More spoilers below
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Of course, the ultimate homage is the way the movie's ending apes Close Encounters of the Third Kind, from the look of the aliens to the flying saucer. On the whole, the alien bit was hokey but necessary; the decision to have Indy marry Marion at the end was more in the nature of a forced sentimental sendoff (I assume there won't be a fifth film), with the line at the end about so much being lost in the waiting an obvious nod to the audience at how long it took to get this one to screen. And as for the nuclear blast scene, I still came away thinking that lead-lined refrigerator or no, Indy's gonna have one nasty case of radiation poisoning.
Some of the other cliches were insanely predictable: of course, as in Raiders and Last Crusade, we get villains undone by their lust for knowledge and power flowing from the supernatural, and of course, as in Last Crusade, we also see a double agent refuse Indy's hand in the collapsing temple out of a lust for treasure.
Anyway, on the whole, despite some of the quibbles, the movie was a lot of fun, and well worth the price of admission.
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POLITICS/LAW: In Case You Missed It
June 9, 2008
FOOTBALL: Strahan Retires
A blow to the Giants, even with his successor in place. Strahan definitely retires as one of the great Giants on a franchise with a long and distinguished history of outstanding defensive players.
BASEBALL: Legends, Unclassified
Dugout Central has two interesting pieces, one an interview with John Paciorek (Tom's brother, who famously reached base in all five of his Major League plate appearances), the other an argument for Bill James for the Hall of Fame, which seems like a no-brainer to me - I'd put him in with Alexander Cartwright and Henry Chadwick myself, since an innovator is just as valuable as a pioneer.
POLITICS: Ding Dong
Republicans and conservatives should not let go entirely the departure of Hillary Clinton from the national stage, possibly permanently as anything but a Senator, without some expression of joy. Many of us came to a grudging respect of Hillary during the Democratic primaries, for her sheer tenacity and willingness to ruthlessly exploit Obama's most obvious vulnerabilities. But she remains a loathesome figure for so many reasons, and as Peggy Noonan reminds us, it is a good thing to at long last put the Clintons behind us. It is, more broadly, a good thing simply to move on, whether you like them or not, from the Clintons and the Bushes, simply because so much of political discourse gets locked into justifying or besmirching the past. Of course, we still fight about Reagan's legacy, or FDR's, for that matter, but not with the same intensity now that the protagonists are no longer personally at issue in the next election.
Yes, there's a downside to turning back on the dynasties. Hillary might well have been the stronger general election candidate than Obama, and certainly the more experienced one. The GOP primaries suffered from the visible absence of Jeb Bush, who absent his family ties to the current president would almost certainly have been the natural frontrunner, after 8 years as the successful, popular, conservative, and articulate governor of a major 'swing' state that he has largely transformed into a dependably solid GOP stronghold, and even after repeatedly demonstrating his expertise in the specific area where his brother took the greatest hit to his reputation (hurricane-response management).
But while I think Noonan consistently overplays her antipathy to Bush and understates the radically ideological nature of the Obama campaign (like so many observers, she seems more interested in Obama as a symbol than as a human being campaigning to do an important job and enact specific policies), I have to agree with her that saying goodbye to all that has to be a healthy thing for the country, at least for now.
HOCKEY: Hasek Hangs Em Up
Dominik Hasek has retired, after being part of his second Stanley Cup title team. I don't profess to follow hockey that closely, but surely given his amazing longetivity and some of his eye-popping numbers (since they started keeping track, Hasek is the career leader in "save percentage"), I'd assume he has to be a significant part of any conversation about the greatest goalies in NHL history.
FOOTBALL/LAW: Commerce? We're Students!
You know, I'm not really an expert on this particular corner of antitrust law, so maybe I'm missing a good, persuasive argument for why this rule makes sense, but I have to express some cognitive dissonance at the Sixth Circuit throwing out a lawsuit by a former Kentucky assistant football coach on the grounds, among others, that the NCAA rule enforcement process is not subject to the antitrust laws because it does not involve commercial activity:
In order to state a claim under the Sherman Act there must be a commercial activity implicated....the appropriate inquiry is whether the rule itself is commercial, not whether the entity promulgating the rule is commercial.... Although the question before us is whether the enforcement activities of NCAA violate the Sherman Act and not a particular rule, the analysis must focus on the enforcement action itself and not NCAA as a commercial entity....Bassett's Complaint contains considerable information on the size and scope of college football and the revenues generated by it. The Complaint is wholly devoid of any allegation on the commercial nature of NCAA's enforcement of the rules it determined Bassett had violated. Bassett's Complaint contends NCAA's enforcement process violated its own due process requirements and, as a result, constitutes a Sherman Act violation. We find Bassett's Complaint lacks the critical commercial activity component required to permit application of the Sherman Act.
I'm not saying the rule should be different, since there is much to be said for keeping NCAA decisions of this nature from turning into federal lawsuits. But one gets the sense that the salami is being sliced rather narrowly here.
June 8, 2008
BASEBALL: Making History (Of A Sort)
As for today's fiasco, I turned away for a minute from a 6-4 lead and it was 8-6...Billy Wagner sure has had awful timing for a guy who is otherwise having a fine year.
June 7, 2008
BASEBALL: Bury The Tigers
The news that Jeremy Bonderman is done for the season is about the official nail in the coffin for the massively underachieving Tigers. More on this to follow, but there was probably no greater unexpected disappointment than Detroit's starting rotation this season.
SPORTS: Spanning The World No More
June 6, 2008
POLITICS: Pick Your Favorite Part of the Farm Bill! Bipartisan Socialism and The Audacity of Corporate Welfare.
Farm policy, although it's complex, can be explained. What it can't be is believed. No cheating spouse, no teen with a wrecked family car, no mayor of Washington, DC, videotaped in flagrante delicto has ever come up with anything as farfetched as U.S. farm policy.
So yesterday, the United States Senate voted to pass into law H.R. 6124, the "Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008," already passed by the House, in both cases by a veto-proof majority, rendering irrelevant the belatedly principled stand of President Bush, who promises a veto.* Chances are pretty good that your Congressperson and at least one of your Senators voted for this atrocity, which passed the House 306-110 and the Senate 77-15, despite valiant efforts to slow down the bill by Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn. Like all really horrendous things to come out of Washington, this load of legislative fertilizer has broad bipartisan support. So give thanks for the hardy few Senators - 13 Republicans and two Rhode Island Democrats - who voted "no" (as well as the lengtier list of their 98 Republican and 12 Democratic House counterparts you can find here):
Bennett (R-UT), Hatch (R-UT), Coburn (R-OK), Collins (R-ME), DeMint (R-SC), Domenici (R-NM), Ensign (R-NV), Hagel (R-NE), Kyl (R-AZ), Lugar (R-IN), Murkowski (R-AK), Sununu (R-NH), Voinovich (R-OH), Reed (D-RI) Whitehouse (D-RI)
In case you are wondering, John McCain and Barack Obama missed the vote, but McCain says he would have vetoed the bill "and all others like it that serve only the cause of special interests and corporate welfare" and because farm subsidies threaten free trade, whereas Obama is proud to support precisely the kind of legislation that has made Washington so roundly popular with the public (in Obama's statement, he says "I applaud the Senate's passage today of the Farm Bill, which will provide America's hard-working farmers and ranchers with more support and more predictability." So much for "Change").**
Anyway, in honor of this occasion, I ask you to submit your vote for your favorite provision of this new federal law, which your elected representatives have enacted on your behalf. See, Democracy works! Read On...
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So, here's the bill, if despite Congress' fumblings I have the right link from the Library of Congress website (the page with the Senate roll call vote directs you there). Let's meet the 18 contestants - I don't mean to suggest that the bill is all bad, or on the contrary that these are necessarily the worst offenders; they're just the ones that jumped out on scanning the bill's titles:
Title I, Sub. A, SEC. 1104. AVAILABILITY OF COUNTER-CYCLICAL PAYMENTS. Provides for payments to farmers of specified crops "if the Secretary [of Agriculture] determines that the effective price for the covered commodity is less than the target price for the covered commodity." For example, if the price of Oats falls below $1.44 per bushel, the oat farmers get to make up the difference with taxpayer money. Don't you wish Congress did this for your business? Oh, the fun we lawyers could have!
Title I, Sub. C, SEC. 1303. AVAILABILITY OF DIRECT PAYMENTS FOR PEANUTS. Yes, the bill also provides "direct payments" (i.e., regardless of the market price of the crop) for some specified crops, to make sure that if you grow peanuts, you get taxpayer dollars, win or lose! And you still get to sell the peanuts! Win-win!
Title I, Sub. D (Sugar), SEC. 359k. ADMINISTRATION OF TARIFF RATE QUOTAS. Enforces tariffs on sugar. Wonder why unhealthy high-fructose corn syrup is so popular? (Seriously, look at an ingredients list some time). Well, Congress is a good place to start. One reason is because tariffs on imported sugar keep prices artificially high, leading producers of sodas and snacks to substitute cheaper HFCS. Yay for Congress and Barack Obama for supporting this government interference!
Title I, Sub. E, SEC. 1509. FEDERAL MILK MARKETING ORDER REVIEW COMMISSION. I've discussed before the wonderful federal milk marketing order process, which involves a Cabinet secretary in a price-fixing scheme. Any Congress worthy of the job would tear what Dick Armey long ago called "Our Socialist Farm Policy" up by the roots. But this is Washington, so here's the solution: appoint a 14-member "Federal Milk Marketing Order Review Commission" to study the issue for two years and report back to Congress on whether the price-fixing process is working out well enough.
Title I, Sub. F, SEC. 1611. PREVENTION OF DECEASED INDIVIDUALS RECEIVING PAYMENTS UNDER FARM COMMODITY PROGRAMS. Asks the Secretary of Agriculture to implement federal regulations to stop paying dead farmers. The necessity of this provision speaks volumes about these programs.
Title I, Sub. F, SEC. 1621. GEOGRAPHICALLY DISADVANTAGED FARMERS AND RANCHERS. What, you ask, is a "geographically disadvantaged farmer"? Apparently, it's somebody who started a farm so far off in the middle of nowhere that it's too expensive to transport the crops to anybody who will buy them. You know, that should usually be a sign to go into another line of business, like maybe drilling for oil or telemarketing or something. But no - Congress will pay your shipping costs with taxpayer money!
Title II, Sub. E, SEC. 1238I. FARMLAND PROTECTION PROGRAM. Commits the Secretary to "establish and carry out a farmland protection program under which the Secretary shall facilitate and provide funding for the purchase of conservation easements or other interests in eligible land....by limiting nonagricultural uses of that land." So not only are we paying people to grow unprofitable crops in unreachable locations, fixing retail prices and taxing the bejesus out of the competition, we're going to spend taxpayer dollars to buy even more farmland that nobody has managed to make economically viable in the 400 or so years that people have been farming here.
Title II, Sub. J, SEC. 2902. NAMING OF NATIONAL PLANT MATERIALS CENTER AT BELTSVILLE, MARYLAND, IN HONOR OF NORMAN A. BERG. "Any reference in a law, map, regulation, document, paper, or other record of the United States to such National Plant Materials Center shall be deemed to be a reference to the Norman A. Berg National Plant Materials Center." Now, Mr. Berg sounds like a nice fellow, but no piece of huge, wasteful legislation would be complete without this sort of commemorative fiddling.
Title IV, Part I: RENAMING OF FOOD STAMP ACT AND PROGRAM: renames the "Food Stamp Act of 1977" the "Food and Nutrition Act of 2008" and renames "food stamp program" the "supplemental nutrition assistance program". Which, presumably, still gives you stamps you exchange for food, but now we are "striking 'food stamp recipients' and inserting 'supplemental nutrition assistance program recipients.'"
Title IV, Part III SEC. 4111. NUTRITION EDUCATION. If living on food stamps isn't unpleasant enough, Congress wants to nag you to spend them on vegetables, too: "State agencies may implement a nutrition education program for individuals eligible for program benefits that promotes healthy food choices," of course at the expense of the rest of us.
Title IV, Sub. C SEC. 4302. PURCHASES OF LOCALLY PRODUCED FOODS. Encourages school lunch and similar programs to buy locally grown food. Whether or not their locale is "geographically disadvantaged." You would think local jurisdictions would want to do this anyway, unless they have their own reasons not to, without federal meddling.
Title V, Sub. A, SEC. 5005. BEGINNING FARMER OR RANCHER AND SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED FARMER OR RANCHER CONTRACT LAND SALES PROGRAM. As if the rest of this bill doesn't already convince us that we are supporting farmers who don't know how to make money producing the very stuff of life itself, the government wants to pay ignorant amateurs to get in the business by "guarantee[ing] a loan made by a private seller of a farm or ranch to a qualified beginning farmer or rancher or socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher."
Title VII, Sub. A SEC. 7112. EDUCATION GRANTS TO ALASKA NATIVE-SERVING INSTITUTIONS AND NATIVE HAWAIIAN-SERVING INSTITUTIONS. Hey, what's federal legislation without a little race discrimination?
Title VII, Sub. D, SEC. 7415. CONSTRUCTION OF CHINESE GARDEN AT THE NATIONAL ARBORETUM. A vital national security interest, I am sure.
Title VII, Part III, SEC. 7527. STUDY AND REPORT ON FOOD DESERTS. Which apparently means places "with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly lower-income neighborhoods and communities." A study is commissioned, but Congress already knows what it wants recommended:
(3) provide recommendations for addressing the causes and effects of food deserts through measures that include--
This might be more encouraging if it didn't come at the back end of a bill finding every imaginable way to jack up food prices and distort free markets. But hey, maybe at the end of this they will tell local communities to slash the minimum wage for grocery baggers, let Wal-Mart build big stores without union labor, and otherwise stop throwing up governmental barriers to entry. Or, they will just recommend more
Title X, Sub. D SEC. 10401. NATIONAL HONEY BOARD - proposes a vote to split the existing Honey Board: "referenda on orders to establish a honey packer-importer board or a United States honey producer board," and "ensure that the rights and interests of honey producers, importers, packers, and handlers of honey are equitably protected in any disposition of the assets, facilities, intellectual property, and programs of the existing Honey Board and in the transition to any 1 or more new successor marketing boards". Because honey just can't sell itself without federal marketing! This provision made Pooh Bear cry.
Title XI SEC. 11013. NATIONAL AQUATIC ANIMAL HEALTH PLAN. "The Secretary of Agriculture may enter into a cooperative agreement with an eligible entity to carry out a project under a national aquatic animal health plan." Federal money for health care for the creatures of the sea!
Title XIV, SEC. 14013. OFFICE OF ADVOCACY AND OUTREACH. "The duties of the Office shall be to ensure small farms and ranches, beginning farmers or ranchers, and socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers access to, and equitable participation in, programs and services of the Department" - in other words, a federal office to make sure we give the maximum taxpayer dollars to farmers who not only don't know farming but don't know how to beg for federal money. Presumably, we will be hiring on our payroll a bunch of
** - Oh yeah, Hillary also missed the vote but supports the bill.
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June 5, 2008
BASEBALL/LAW: Watch For Bats
The New York Court of Appeals (the state's highest court) today affirmed the dismissal of a baseball-related personal injury suit:
While at a ballpark, plaintiff sustained injuries when a baseball player in an off-field on-deck batting circle struck her with a bat. Because plaintiff concededly observed batting equipment and players swinging bats in the area where the accident occurred, the Appellate Division correctly held that she had assumed the risk of her injuries, and properly affirmed the Supreme Court order dismissing the complaint.
The fact description is pretty sparse, but this seems a sensible enough rule at least in cases where the batter didn't throw the bat and she just got too close to somebody swinging a bat.
FOOTBALL: Most Fierce
CBS Sportsline sent me an email promoting this contest to name....the "Most Fierce NFL Mascot."
At least they didn't say "Most Fiercest." Be thankful for the little things.
As for the contest, other than Pat Patriot I was blissfully ignorant of any of the macots. Football just doesn't lend itself to mascots that well, especially pro football. Although I suspect "Raider Fans" will win the poll.
BASEBALL: Doomed in Seattle
Pinto links to a Seattle report suggesting that John McLaren is probably toast. I'd add that in the worlds of politics and law you see the same dynamic noted by the Seattle writer:
Now, I have a firm belief about managers and coaches who go bonkers. I call it the Cuckoo Principle. When they go cuckoo, that's it. They're done. It works in almost every case, except for Guillen. The White Sox manager is incessantly cuckoo and blessed with the cushion of a World Series. But even his time will arrive soon.
PS - McLaren is a good data point for not sacking the manager in mid-season without a ready replacement. Yes, Hargrove quit, but the point is that McLaren was not the long-term answer for Seattle.
POP CULTURE: Catch That Pigeon!
Your nostalgia for the day:
BASEBALL: 10 Cent Beer Night
Paul Jackson at ESPN.com has a lengthy and entertaining look back at how cheap beer went wrong one night in Cleveland in 1974. I found this detail, harking back to the 1932 opening of Municipal Stadium, fascinating:
Their new home, the first sports venue built entirely with public financing, seated 74,400 fans -- making it by far the largest stadium in America at the time -- and sacrificed comfort for quantity. First announced in 1928, the scale of the building led to rumors that Cleveland might bid for the 1932 Summer Olympics, which eventually went to Los Angeles. Though such a proposal wasn't submitted, the fact that Cleveland's civic leaders would even dream of an Ohio Olympiad suggests that, at the time, this was a city squinting into a bright future.
Read the whole thing. Soak in the irony of the "winning" manager of a game forfeited on account of unruly drunks being Billy Martin.
June 4, 2008
SCIENCE: Appealing To Our Imagination And Aspirations
POLITICS: Obamomentum - End-of-the-Primaries Edition
Now that the Democratic primaries are finally over, let's take one last look at the charts I have been running for some time now (see here, here and here) of the Democratic presidential primary popular vote totals for the months of March, April, May and now June. (Source: RCP, except I used CNN's updated figures for Montana) - "margin," of course, is Obama's margin of victory/defeat in each primary:
In other words, Obama ends the last 3 months of the primary season more than 600,000 votes in the hole, losing the popular vote decisively to Hillary over a stretch of 16 primaries in which 13 million votes were cast. In percentage terms, Hillary's 4.52% margin of victory for that period is larger than the general election margins of Bush over Kerry in 2004, Carter over Ford in 1976, Nixon over Humphery in 1968, Truman over Dewey in 1948, and just a point smaller than that of Clinton over Bush in 1992. He lost six different primaries by margins of 100,000 or more votes. All this during the time period when he should have been sealing the deal with Democratic voters after having taken what looked at the time like a decisive, momentum-tipping lead in mid-February. The final insult was losing South Dakota, a state he was widely projected to win and in which he led decisively in the few polls taken until the last day or two before the election, and which cast its ballots while the vultures were visibly circling Hillary's campaign.*
It's Obama's weakness in that period even within his own party that has to be troubling to Democrats pondering his chances in November. Recall that Obama faced virtually no serious scrutiny until he pulled within 20 points of Hillary in the national popular vote in mid-December in the immediate aftermath of Oprah's campaign appearances on his behalf (he didn't pull within single digits until after he won Iowa); it was only after he was christened the clear frontrunner that he started to take serious fire, beginning in late February and early March with Hillary's "3 a.m." ad, the Goolsbee/NAFTA flap, and of course the Rev. Wright story, and continuing with the accumulation his radical left-wing associations, his endless stream of verbal flubs, and his ever-growing list of friends, mentors and staffers cast under the bus. Jay Cost has a great series of posts (start here) on the demographic breakdown of how and where Hillary beat Obama; consider this, among his many charts, looking at the states Bush won in 2004 that the Democrats would have some hope (and, obviously, need) to pick off in 2008:
That there is not much of a winning coalition in most parts of this country.
Let's also wrap up my look at turnout, using the same baseline as before (the number of votes in 2006 for House Democrats in the state) - this time, I'll just run the chart just for the same time period (the full chart and explanation of sources is here), but leaving out Puerto Rico, where I used a different and ultimately inaccurate baseline to capture the relatively disappointing turnout:
Turnout started to tail off after the early May primaries. In general, through the primaries and caucuses (especially caucuses), Obama tended to do better in the lower turnout states, but we see here that at the very end, he did better in Montana, which had fairly robust turnout, than in South Dakota, where even adjusting for the fact that Stephanie Herseth's 2006 victory may set an unrealistically high bar for turnout, the turnout was quite low.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2008 | Poll Analysis | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Not A Moment Too Soon
Let's just lay down a marker here: the Mets were 28-28 before Pedro returned last night.
Yes, we saw vividly in last year's stretch run that adding Pedro, even Pedro pitching very well, is no cure-all, and yes, he's still got to stay healthy the rest of the way. But it sure is good to have the old master back.
June 3, 2008
BASEBALL: Bad Omen
You really don't, if you're a Nationals fan, want to see Ryan Zimmerman and Dr. Andrews mentioned in the same article.
BASEBALL/LAW: A Win For Fantasy Sports
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal by Major League Baseball Advanced Media and the players association in their case against CDM Fantasy Sports. The justices' decision ends a bitter legal fight that lasted more than three years.
Read the whole thing for the implications.
June 2, 2008
POLITICS: Nobody's Too Far Left For Obama
Erick Erickson has a dynamite, exclusive and exhaustively researched post on the nature and history of the socialist New Party, whose endorsement Obama sought and received in his initial 1996 run for the Illinois State Senate. A must read. Make sure you follow as well the link to Rick Moran's post.
Note that the website Moran links to, the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, carried this charming endorsement for Obama for Congress in 2000:
Barak Obama is serving only his second term in the Illinois State Senate so he might be fairly charged with ambition, but the same might have be said of Bobby Rush when he ran against Congressman Charles Hayes. Obama also has put in time at the grass roots, working for five years as a community organizer in Harlem and in Chicago. When Obama participated in a 1996 UofC YDS Townhall Meeting on Economic Insecurity, much of what he had to say was well within the mainstream of European social democracy.
The more you look, the more you see.
BASEBALL: Verrry Disappointing
Oliver Perez is really not making himself a compelling case for a big contract in the offseason.
BASEBALL: Your Stat of the Day
HR by 2B, NL East, entering tonight's action:
June 1, 2008
POLITICS: Puerto Rico Polling
Just a note: I'll update the Obamomentum charts after Tuesday's balloting. From CNN's report on Hillary's victory in today's Puerto Rico primary, it appears that turnout was much, much lower than my back-of-the-envelope projection from the 2004 general gubernatorial election, but Hillary's margin of victory was still 142,000 votes due to her overwhelming 68%-32% margin. In other words, this is the sixth time in three months that Obama has lost a primary by 100,000+ votes.
UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini notes the wide margin by which Hillary's victory exceeded late polls. There are a number of possible explanations for this - perhaps the polling was done poorly, perhaps people who say they will vote for Obama are just disproportionately unlikely to show up to vote, perhaps people even in Puerto Rico are unwilling to admit on the telephone that they are not voting for Obama - but it does rather undermine the idea that Obama's persistent underachieving of the polls and exit polls is just a feature of racist white people.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:47 PM | Politics 2008 | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Michael Kinsley Does Not Get It
Michael Kinsley thinks that Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn are not really such a big deal except to the extent they inadvertently helped Republicans:
Ayers and Dohrn never posed any real threat to U.S. national security. Their asinine chatter about killing people and their anti-American sloganeering were as ineffective as their bombs. But they did real harm. Their victims were liberals: the millions of people who were part of the mainstream antiwar movement and who later voted against Ronald Reagan...perhaps you can imagine how infuriating it was to the organizers of the big marches on Washington--struggling to keep them peaceful--that there were people of the left effectively in cahoots with the Nixon Administration, determined to undermine all those efforts.
Um, no. Kinsley admits right up front in the article the violent radicalism of the Weather Underground and related organizations and their (and, specifically, Dohrn's) implication in, among other atrocities, the 1981 Brink's armored car robbery at the Nanuet Mall in my hometown, a robbery that killed Nyack Police Officer Waverly Brown, Nyack Police Sergeant Ed O'Grady and Brink's security guard Pete Paige, who collectively left behind three widows and six fatherless children, the youngest six months of age. I can promise you that I would not associate willingly with the likes of Ayers and Dohrn if they were on fire and I was carrying a bucket of water. Nor would most of the people who remember the Brink's case. Kinsley and Obama, perhaps, were still too angry about Nixon and Reagan to care.
The problem with folks like Ayers and Dohrn was not that they made the political lives of liberals difficult. Their real victims were the people killed by their organization. I vividly remember the Brink's robbery; it was the biggest news story ever in Rockland County. When I worked at the Rockland DA's office for a summer they took us to see the evidence, including the super-thick windshield glass from the armored Brink's truck that had a huge hole blown in it by their shotguns and M-16s.
So, maybe Ayers and Dohrn were not actually going to bring the United States to its knees. They did quite enough harm, thank you. Tim McVeigh never posed any real threat to U.S. national security, either. Nor did Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, or the Klu Klux Klan. Would Kinsley be unconcerned about a presidential candidate who counted those associations among his friends? Maybe next he'll just explain it away as a necessary part of politics, like pandering to Marxists.
Kinsley instead suggests that at worst Obama is sorely lacking in....judgment:
If Obama's relationship with Ayers, however tangential, exposes Obama as a radical himself, or at least as a man with terrible judgment, he shares that radicalism or terrible judgment with a comically respectable list of Chicagoans and others--including Republicans and conservatives--who have embraced Ayers and Dohrn as good company, good citizens, even experts on children's issues. Northwestern created a "family justice" center for Dohrn to run. Ayers is a "distinguished professor" at the University of Illinois. They write Op-Eds and are often quoted in the Tribune, where, if they are identified at all beyond their academic titles, it is usually as "activists" who have never abandoned their noble ideals.
Barack Obama: judgment no worse than that of Chicago academics and newspapermen. What an endorsement.
I'll leave you with some people who one would have preferred to associate with, but who don't seem to be the types that run in Barack Obama's circles:
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Police Officer Waverly Brown, 45, sipped his coffee while sitting in the diner on Broadway in the village of Nyack, New York on the afternoon of October 20, 1981. Nyack was a small community of 6,000 people situated on the banks of the majestic Hudson River. Officer Brown, known to virtually everyone as "Chipper," was a popular figure in the village, especially to young people, who frequently saw him as a counselor and friend. He was on the job for 13 years and, since the retirement of another African American, Officer Brown was the only black cop on the 22-man force. He served in the United States Air Force after the Korean War and later both his daughters also joined the military. When he finished his 20 years with the police, Chipper planned to retire to Virginia where he owned a house and some land. He was a solid six feet tall, had an easy smile and loved to garden and cook. He finished his coffee, tipped the waitress and walked out to his parked police unit.
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