Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
October 31, 2008
POLITICS: Big Money

Just to tie up a loose end from yesterday's post on Obama's money machine: only a quarter of his donations are from under-$200 donors, compared to 31% for Bush in 2004 and 37% for Kerry in 2004. So the myth that Obama's enormous financial advantage comes from small-dollar donors is just that, a myth.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:36 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
October 30, 2008
POLITICS: The Credit Card Fraud Campaign

I have not spent nearly enough time on this issue, but given the centrality of Barack Obama's amazing internet fundraising machine to everything he's been able to accomplish in the primary and general elections, it's been staggering to discover the extent to which his website has been deliberately designed to permit donations without the safeguards other campaigns and online businesses use. A lot of credit goes to Kenneth Timmerman of Newsmax (more here) for beginning the serious investigation of Obama's sources of funds - Newsmax has run a lot stories over the years that have contributed to its devalued credibility as a source, but on this one it was dead-on, as subsequent investigations have confirmed. The Washington Post had a piece yesterday giving an overview of the various types of illegal fundraising that the structure of the website enables:

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.

Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

+++

In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore and cannot be traced to a donor.

The problem with such cards, campaign finance lawyers said, is that they make it impossible to tell whether foreign nationals, donors who have exceeded the limits, government contractors or others who are barred from giving to a federal campaign are making contributions.

+++

The Obama team's disclosures came in response to questions from The Washington Post about the case of Mary T. Biskup, a retired insurance manager from Manchester, Mo., who turned up on Obama's FEC reports as having donated $174,800 to the campaign. Contributors are limited to giving $2,300 for the general election.

Biskup, who had scores of Obama contributions attributed to her, said in an interview that she never donated to the candidate. "That's an error," she said. Moreover, she added, her credit card was never billed for the donations, meaning someone appropriated her name and made the contributions with another card.

If you are keeping score at home, that's five different kinds of illegality that can come from reduced security on the web:

(1) Donations by foreign nationals
(2) Donations in excess of legal limits
(3) Identity theft/credit card fraud, resulting in donations of stolen funds
(4) Donations by domestic individuals not entitled to give money
(5) Donations by individuals whose identity may be embarrassing to the campaign

Moreover, it appears that - as has traditionally been true of voter fraud - it will be exceptionally difficult to follow the trail to apprehend the real donors, precisely because of the use of false or stolen identities. In fact, it may take some time to even get a handle on the scope of the problem.

How'd the campaign do this? RedState's tech guru, Neil Stevens, walks through some of the technical changes that had to be made to the standard website credit-processing system, a subject that has produced something of a cottage industry in the right side of the blogosphere in the last week or two, and which I haven't adequately covered in the links above - more here (with a roundup and explanation of methods, most notably disabling the Address Verification System), here, here, here, here. It's quite clear not only that the campaign has not had adeqaute safeguards in place but that routine ones were deliberately disabled, and their vague response has basically been "trust us." New politics, indeed.

Remember: Obama's campaign is itself his only executive experience (he has claimed it as significant experience himself), and fundraising is the single most impressive thing his campaign has done, the core operation from which everything else flows. And at the core of his web-money machine (as Mark Steyn notes, the web has done two-thirds of Obama's fundraising in September) is a deliberate effort to permit evasion of the law. Whether Obama personally authorized that or not, it is very much relevant in evaluating how he has conducted his campaign. After all, if he's elected, a lot will happen on his watch without his express permission. And the people inside his campaign are likely to be the same ones holding jobs in his Administration.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 29, 2008
POLITICS: O-Fomercial

Jonathan Last on Obama's informercial: "Never before have I noticed how wonderful commercials are. It's not until you're forced to go without the Geico cavemen for 30 straight minutes do you realize how much you appreciate them."

For those of you, like me, with no desire to watch the thing, sit back and watch the master at work in the same 30-minute ad format - here he is on the October 27 before Election Day 1964, then a 53-year-old private citizen standing in to make the case his party's presidential nominee had been trying and failing for months to get across to the American public, the "A Time For Choosing" speech:

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BASEBALL: And So It Ends

World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, for only the second time in 126 years.

Not the way I wanted this season to end - it's been a rough 7 1/2 weeks all around - but congrats to the Phillies phans out there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:24 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Robbing Peter To Pay Peter

So Charlie Rangel and other New York Democrats want a federal bailout for state and local governments:

"Our hope is that the leadership of both parties will be able to confer and come back after the election, and see what we can do to provide assistance to our local and state governments, as we have been able to do for our banking and finance industry," Rep. Rangel said at the outset of a committee hearing Wednesday on stimulus discussions.

State governors and local officials testifying at the hearing put forward to lawmakers a wish list worth tens of billions to help shore up their finances. Their argument: we didn't create the financial mess, and we need Washington's help to get out of it.

"The failure of our federal regulatory system has caused too many innocent bystanders to suffer," said New York Gov. David Paterson at the hearing. "Just like the financial services industry, we need a partner in the federal government in order to help stave off an impending calamity and stabilize our fiscal condition."

New York faces a $47 billion budget shortfall over the next four years, and it is far from alone as states face unprecedented expenditures even as the economic recession shrinks their revenues.

This is nonsensical.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:26 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part III of III: John McCain and Joe Biden

III. John McCain: The Zeal of the Convert

Given the length and public nature of John McCain's career on the national stage, I won't go here through his record in the depth that I explored those of Gov. Palin and Sen. Obama. But I will lay out a number of examples that show the sharp contrast between McCain's approach to situations calling for integrity and Barack Obama's.

Senator McCain's former, false friends in the media used to paint him as some sort of secular saint, a man who infused politics with a unique brand of noblity that elevated the grubby business of Washington to a higher plane of bipartisanship, reform and self-sacrifice. St. John the McCain was always a myth; we should put not our faith in politicians, and nobody gets as far as McCain has in national politics wholly unsullied by politics and all that comes with it. But if McCain the saint is a myth, McCain the public servant is nonetheless an admirable figure who has passed many tests of fire (in some cases, literally). McCain looks more rather than less impressive when we view him through the justifiably jaded eye that should be cast on any politician.

McCain has been, in his words "an imperfect servant" of this country; I will not try to convince you otherwise, and will deal up front with the two major and deserved blots on his reputation. I will not try to convince you that over 26 years in politics he's been above consorting with lobbyists, accepting endorsements from unsavory people, pandering to constituencies, or changing positions when it suits his needs. But however you define the negative features of "politics as usual," we expect our Presidents to have that quality that allows them to rise above it - perhaps not every day on every issue, but often enough, and forcefully enough, and in spite of enough slings and arrows that we can have confidence that they can be trusted to stand up for us even when it's hard to do so, even at great cost.

There is no question that McCain has shown, over and over and over again, his ability to do just that. He's publicly called out waste and corruption, even in his own party. He's taken on powerful vested interests on the Left and the Right - not just wealthy and well-connected ones but grassroots interests as well. McCain may not fight every battle that needs to be fought, but he will always be fighting, and he will not be afraid to take on targets that can hit him back.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 28, 2008
POLITICS: Party Loyalty and Its Limits

We have something of a matched set of editorials from the Directors up at RedState, on the one hand condemning the disastrously bad judgment of Republicans and conservatives who have failed to oppose Obama, and on the other hand urging Alaska voters to vote out Ted Stevens and Don Young.

Leon Wolf also looks at the common thread between the two stories: Colin Powell's appearance as a character witness for Ted Stevens and endorser of Obama. Powell has fought for a lot of good things in the past two decades, but he's pretty well turned his back on all of them at this point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
October 27, 2008
BASEBALL: It's Not Sunny In Philadelphia

I can almost hear the Rays fans tonight:

You mocked our domed stadium.

You derided our domed stadium.

You told us how much prettier yours was than our domed stadium...

UPDATE: I believe this may be the first suspended game in the modern postseason, and certainly the first time it has happened to an elimination game in the World Series. In the years before lights, there were, of course, World Series games called for darkness - Game One in 1907 was called 3-3 after 12, Game Two in 1912 was called 6-6 after 11, and Game Two in 1922 was called 3-3 after 10, all of which were declared ties. The most famous weather event in World Series history was Game Seven in 1925, played in Washington between the Senators and Pirates; as I described that game in an essay on the 1925 Pirates:

Although they were forced to rely on their pitching while the team was twice handcuffed by a 37-year-old Walter Johnson in the World Series, the Pirates' knack for hitting the ball with authority finally paid off handsomely in one of the wildest Game 7s in World Series history, played in a torrential downpour at Forbes Field without the benefit of lights. The Pirates mauled Johnson, battering out 15 hits, including 8 doubles and two triples (the 25 total bases absorbed by Johnson in going the distance is a World Series record unlikely to be broken), including the game-winner, a 2-run ground rule double by [Kiki] Cuyler into the darkness in right field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth (Goose Goslin said later that he never even saw where the ball went).

There were other disputes over fair/foul and strike calls in the darkness and the rain, unsurprisingly. Henry Thomas, in his book Walter Johnson: Baseball's Big Train, recounts at p. 282 the scene with the Senators leading 6-4 after six innings:

As the sixth inning ended, a waterlogged [Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain] Landis, enduring the downpour from his box seat, turned to [Senators owner] Clark Griffith, sitting next to him. "You're the world champions," the commissioner told him. "I'm calling this game." Incredibly, Griffith talked him out of it. "No, you can't do it," he replied. "Once you've started in the rain you've got to finish it."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:57 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Dean Barnett, Rest in Peace

Bill Kristol has the news here; this was the end of a long battle with cystic fibrosis. I'll repeat what I said earlier: Dean was one of the good and decent guys on the web, from his start as a pseudonymous baseball and politics blogger at SoxBlog to his tenure blogging with Hugh Hewitt to his gig at The Weekly Standard. I didn't always agree with Dean - he'd been a driver for Mitt Romney during Romney's 1994 Senate campaign and was a big believer in Romney as a presidential candidate - but I always respected his opinions.

Some samples of his writing:

*Defending the Federalist Society.

*Savaging Dinesh D'Souza's book "The Enemy at Home".

*Defending The Weekly Standard against George Will.

*Wondering - oh, how long ago this was! - why John Kerry kept invoking John McCain. And arguing here, here, here and here about the idea that Kerry was a smart guy. I believe it was his posts on the topic of Kerry's intellect that put Dean on the map.

*Reflecting on the Red Sox World Championship in 2004.

*This December 2004 post and the ones above it, on cystic fibrosis.

UPDATE: Hugh Hewitt offers a eulogy. And Allahpundit and Ed Morrissey remember Dean here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: By Any Means Necessary

Looks like government computer "accounts assigned to the office of Ohio Attorney General Nancy H. Rogers, the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency and the Toledo Police Department" were all used to dig up dirt on Joe the Plumber. The investigation at the Cuyahoga County Child Support Enforcement Agency is continuing.

So much for the little guy. He doesn't stand a chance against Obama.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (39) | TrackBack (0)
October 23, 2008
POLITICS/BUSINESS: Opening Your Mouth And Removing All Doubt

Megan McArdle advises Matt Taibbi to stop. And has some good advice for people who only tuned in to the financial world during the credit crisis:

No one who did not know what a CDO was before the crisis should be opining as to the causes or the possible solutions. And anyone who tells you that they understand exactly why this happened, why we got this crisis instead of the dollar crisis we were expecting, and what kind of regulations will unquestionably fix it, is definitionally too ignorant to be opening their mouth.

The funny thing is Taibbi ranting about the institutional market for securities backed by bad loans...while at the same time refusing to address the bad loans themselves except to deny they had any role. That failure of basic logic alone is hilarious.

The overextension of housing credit, which formed the collateral for the various instruments whose loss of value set off so many other dominos falling, was, by definition, at the root of the crisis. Now, was the root of the crisis the only cause, or the only thing we ought to avoid repeating? Are there other, second-order aspects of the system that made it more vulnerable to the contagion from loans to un-credit-worthy borrowers based on overvalued real estate? Of course not, and as McArdle says, the fact that we can piece together some significant contributors to the crisis does not equate to understanding fully why it happened.

Then again, while I understand McArdle's call for a cool, academic assessment of the multiple factors involved after we get more data, that approach is entirely impractical in the middle of a contested election, in which both sides are naturally going to have to answer voter questions about what happened and why. It would be political malpractice for Republicans not to make the (accurate) point that the roots in the lending/housing market are the part of all this in which bad public policy played the most direct role in distorting the market away from its natural equilibrium. And it's likewise a slam dunk to point out that had Republican-led legislative efforts to rein in the GSEs not been stymied in the 2001-2005 period, the situation would have been, at a minimum, much more tractable to deal with, and that Democratic opponents of such efforts had longstanding financial and ideological reasons to oppose them.

I kept meaning to do a longer post on the inevitable (even if McCain wins) mania for more regulation, although I could just as easily refer you to McArdle's entire blog for that. Here, for example, she points out the obvious fact that regulators are human and not generally wiser than the businesses they regulate:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:18 PM | Business • | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: At The Trop

Last night's loss by the Rays drops the all-time World Series home record of teams in domed stadiums to 12-3. The Twins went 8-0 at the Metrodome in 1987 & 1991 (and 0-6 on the road), including the legendary Morris-Smoltz Game 7 in 1991, and the Blue Jays went 4-2 at home in 1992-93 (and 4-2 on the road), including the Joe Carter game. All four dome teams won the Series.

This is actually only the second World Series in my lifetime (after 2000's Subway Series) in which I have already visited both ballparks (Serieses where I've been to both subsequent to the Series? 1986, 1981, 1977-78, and if you go back before my lifetime and include Old Yankee, 1963. The longest-ago Series where the two parks are still standing is 1918, of course.).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:40 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Oh, Joy

More goodies to expect from a Democratic president and Congress:

*Elimination of tax breaks for 401(k)s in favor of a government system.

*Bailout for Obama's buddies in the ethanol industry. (Yes, this one comes from Bush's Agriculture Department...but just remember that McCain is Big Ethanol's least favorite Senator, while Obama is its favorite).

*Obama says that taxes are bad, so he has a plan to reduce state and local property taxes by sending $25 billion to state and local governments. He will get the $25 billion from...voluntary charitable donations?

*Eliminating year-end bonuses that provide the bulk of compensation to employees on Wall Street and the backbone of the tax base for New York State and City.

*A replay of the foreign policy blunders of the early Kennedy years all the way down to the management style.

Meanwhile, here, here, here and here (and look at this and this), we are starting to see some very significant commonalities between Obama's phony or foreign donors, the donations made through credit card fraud, the phony voters ... and given the deliberate decision not to take the most basic steps to prevent these things from happening, it's not looking like isolated incidents at this point.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:02 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (54) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Mixed Blessing

Stories like this one, from Ben Smith, are encouraging to people hoping for an Obama victory (all stories from Ben Smith are), but really you have to wonder what kind of stable platform for governing a man gets when he's banking on supporters voting for just the color of his skin. Every time Obama supporters make the "historic" argument, they are basically pushing their man further onto a foundation of sand that won't hold up in office. Which is, of course, why - if he wins - the crucial political issue of the next four years will be whether Obama succeeds in changing the electorate and the political process to avoid having to face the disillusionment of voters who voted for him without agreeing with his record or platform.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:37 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 22, 2008
BASEBALL: There Is Still Only One National Pastime

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 PM | Baseball 2008 • | History • | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: "Is that socialist? Are you a Muslim?"

Via Ed Morrissey, watch as Obama economic advisor Austan Goolsbee* tries to defend "refundable" tax credits to people who pay no taxes as not being welfare because it's limited to non-taxpayers who meet a "work requirement"** - and then inexplicably snap at McCain economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin that the McCain health care plan also includes refundable health care credits***, concluding "Is that socialist? Are you a Muslim?"

So update your "red is the new black" racism-decoder rings, because the Obama campaign now intends to argue that refundability=socialist=Muslim. Or you can just cut to the core of their argument: everything is off limits.

What is funny is the sheer desperation of this attack - it's the sort of thing frustrated campaigns say when they are on the ropes. Which leads to one of two possible conclusions:

(1) The Obama camp, despite good polls and outward confidence, thinks it's losing and is scared.

(2) The Obama camp is confident of victory but will nonetheless resort to cheap accusations of racism even when challenged on the most technical points, just out of habit and because it's easier than arguing in good faith. A conclusion that does not bode well for the next four years.

Pick one, you can't pick neither.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Nobody Knows Nothing

If you go here, here, here, here, here, and here, you can pretty much cover the landscape of arguments for why the polls simply can't be trusted this year.

I'm not in the group that says McCain is secretly winning and the polls are a gigantic false-flag psy-ops program designed to discourage GOP turnout. We know, after all, that whatever the biases of various people and institutions involved, the final polls in 2004, properly understood, were highly accurate, and the 2006 polls were mostly so as well (2002, less so). Neither am I in the group that attributes potential poll inaccuracy entirely to Obama's race - while that may well be a factor, I think there are fair arguments that run deeper to polling methodology, and I also think Obama's inexperience, the absence of a candidate from the incumbent administration, the massive new-voter operation by the Obama camp, the Palin wildcard (this has to be the first time ever that a VP pick drew nearly the same convention speech audience as the POTUS nominees and the VP debate outdrew the POTUS debates, and now she's delivered the biggest ratings for SNL in 14 years) and the sudden, late external shock of the credit crisis are all reasons why public sentiment may be more volatile and harder to get a fix on than usual.

Polls are not votes. They are evidence. The likely answer from the evidence we have remains that McCain is losing and likely to lose; I'm not going to cocoon myself or anyone else from that (there's a reason why candidates who say "the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day" usually end Election Day with a concession speech). But there is more than enough uncertainty out there that I endorse wholeheartedly the view that the last thing Republicans and other McCain supporters should do is get discouraged and throw in the towel before every stop is pulled out to win this thing. You gotta be in it to win it.

UPDATE: Geraghty notes here and here the panicked frenzy of attacks he gets from the Left whenever he suggests that some polls are showing a closer race than the conventional wisdom (or the bulk of polls, for that matter). I chalk this up partly to the Online Left's longstanding view that the winner of any argument is the person who can demonstrate the greatest degree of anger, but it's certainly a curious phenomenon coming from people who would seem to have every reason to be confident and no particular reason to take time from their day getting angry at a conservative pundit for showing a glimmer of optimism. Unless you do buy into the view that such people really are banking very heavily on a demoralized opposition.

SECOND UPDATE: It appears that the AP poll showing Obama up only by one has a 4-point advantage for the Democrats in the party-ID breakdown. For anybody who has followed the polls this year, that's the single biggest question: when you factor in GOTV and whether the likely-voter screens and all have or have not accurately predicted who will vote, will the party ID numbers look like 2006, when a terrible climate for Republicans still produced just a 3-point advantage in party ID for Democrats in the exit polls? Or will it be more like a double-digit advantage in party ID, figures we have not seen since the 1970s? Note that the Geraghty posts I linked to up top show very few examples of dramatic changes in party ID year to year. Even in Jay Cost's chart of registered voter ID, the biggest swings are about 7 or 8 points in some years, 1984 and 1994 for the GOP and 1996 for the Democrats. It may well be that 2008 really will show a historic realignment away from the position the GOP held in 2006 (which was already awful, the worst Republican year in a decade), but just bear in mind that it has to be for the bulk of this year's polls to be accurate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 PM | Politics 2008 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
October 21, 2008
POLITICS: Department of Entirely Predictable Consequences

Don't say we didn't warn you if Obama gets elected and tries the same sort of thing:

Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.

Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

"People who were already able to afford health care began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free," said Dr. Kenny Fink, the administrator for Med-QUEST at the Department of Human Services. "I don't believe that was the intent of the program."

Wow, if you give something away for free, people won't want to pay for it anymore! Nobody could possibly have seen that one coming.

Read the whole thing. H/T Ironman

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:31 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Better Pen

Following up on the issue of the Rays' improvement in keeping runs off the board, Jay Jaffe at Baseball Prospectus studies the issue ($) and concludes that since 1954 - as far back as BP's database goes - they had the largest single-season improvement by a bullpen by two different measures.

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POLITICS: "The most accessible of the four candidates"

That would be...Gov. Palin.

Granted, none of the four has the kind of open relationship with the media that McCain had for many years before he reorganized his campaign under Steve Schmidt, accepting as the price of a more disciplined message operation the end of his bantering ways with the traveling press.

UPDATE: Of course, one could write volumes on the questions Obama hasn't been asked.

Here's one set of questions we didn't hear at the McCain-Obama debates: Is there a war on terror? Do we plan on staying on the offensive against radical Islam? Or are we pursuing a strictly localized war in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan against the Taliban and the remnants of the old Al Qaeda leadership, and otherwise dealing with the rest of the region and the world as a series of discrete and localized issues unconnected by ideological struggle?

That set of questions was the predominant issue in the 2004 election. We got questions on individual foreign policy areas, but the central question of our overarching strategy in this war, and whether we will even continue prosecuting it as such after January 20, never cameup in the debates. I think we can all offer an educated guess as to what Obama's answer is, but it would have been nice to put the question to him before a national audience.

SECOND UPDATE: Just to pick one example: Patterico notes a contrast between an LA Times profile of Palin's college career and the absence of interest in Obama's time at Columbia. Tom Maguire and Andy McCarthy have more thoughts on that particular omission. (Amusingly, the LA Times says nobody remembers Palin from college, but then goes on to quote at length from three college classmates and a competitor from the beauty pageants she competed in to pay tuition. And a side note about the photo: the 80s called, they wish to apologize to Gov. Palin). Meanwhile, a number of Obama's friends from that period refuse to talk. I referred to this "missing witness" problem the other day in the Joe the Plumber post - with Obama there's a long track record from his past of people who won't talk or can't be located (Byron York had that problem even with his State Senate colleagues), as well as ongoing stonewalls and/or destruction of records (as Jim Geraghty relates here, here, and here), even articles suddenly disappearing from the web (see here and here). It certainly seems as if there is a concerted and continuing effort to protect Obama from reporting on his past.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:36 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Entrenchment

We have a Directors' editorial over at RedState on the many ways in which Obama and the Democrats are likely to seek partisan entrenchment as a primary goal if Obama wins the election, especially if he gets a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Everything on the list has made prior appearances in Obama's agenda and/or the agenda of his Congressional and activist allies. I'm sure most Obama voters don't think they are doing so, but there is a very real possibility that a vote for Obama will be a vote to hand permanent power to the left wing of the Democratic party.

The core question I always ask in politics to determine how agitated to get is how long it will take to undo something. Obviously, my personal short-term concern with an Obama presidency is the vast damage he can do to national security in short order and the personal consequences for my physical security, and I'm not real thrilled about getting my taxes jacked up, either. And no matter how you slice it, the consequences to the judiciary are deeply and lastingly alarming for democracy (we are still dealing with Carter appointees to the federal bench, and even some LBJ appointees). But I think the list fairly well captures my larger concern, which is that the system will be changed such that persuading the current electorate that Obama has been a failure will be insufficient to get rid of him.

If you disbelieve us, I'd advise you to clip and save the list and judge three years from now how many of the things on the list have been at least seriously attempted. I guarantee you that we'll see a move on the first item, the card check bill, within the first 60 days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (60) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Calm in the Storm

One of the more surreal arguments made on behalf of Obama is that he showed us something meaningful about his temperament by his handling of the credit crisis. It's certainly the case that we judge potential presidents by how they have been tested in crisis, and that we have no previous experience by which to judge how Obama handles crises other than hard times on the campaign trail. On the trail, the answer has generally been to see Obama get snippy, lash out in passive-aggressive fashion (at "bitter" Pennsylvanians, or with remarks like the "lipstick on a pig" line or similar efforts to personally provoke Hillary), duck debates and the press, and play the race card again and again and again to deflect criticism.

But the essential requirement for proving your mettle in a crisis is that you have to believe you are facing a crisis - and for Obama, the credit crisis wasn't a crisis at all. It was the best thing that happened to him all year. It was manna from heaven at a time when he was trailing in the polls, and at present it looks likely to deliver him to the White House in spite of his manifold errors and weaknesses as a candidate. As Jay Cost noted, for historical reasons there was pretty much no way the GOP could avoid taking damage from a banking crisis under any circumstances, much less while controlling the White House. Obama's main challenge was avoiding being seen visibly doing cartwheels.

Second, let's consider how Obama actually managed the crisis:

(1) Stay calm.

(2) Remain at a distance from where the crisis was being handled unless directly summoned there.

(3) Continue going about his usual daily routine.

(4) Avoid hands-on involvement in making sure things got done.

(5) Leave things uncritically in the hands of incompetent leaders in his party on the assumption that they'll call him if they need him.

In a word, exactly to the letter how Bush handled Hurricane Katrina.

This is not reassuring.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Random Thought of the Day

Am I the only one who thinks David Price reminds me an awful lot of Tim Duncan?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 20, 2008
BASEBALL: Not With Their Bats

In 2007, Tampa Bay scored 782 runs and finished 8th in the league in scoring, scoring 98.6% as many runs as the average AL team.

In 2008, Tampa Bay scored 774 runs and finished 7th in the league in scoring, scoring exactly as many runs as the average AL team (the AL average dropped from 4.83/game to 4.78/game).

What changed, obviously, was all the pitching and defense. The Rays reduced their runs allowed from 944 runs, the highest in MLB, to 671 runs, a staggering 28.9% reduction in a single year.

Bleg - I'm thinking of looking for historical comparisons to see what precedents there are for a team reducing its runs allowed so dramatically in one season (I had looked briefly before the season while scoffing, obviously prematurely, at Baseball Prospectus' notion that the Rays would do just that, but now we have a genuine point of comparison). Can anyone tell me if a study has been done on that? I may have missed it if somebody looked at this already and don't want to reinvent the wheel if it's already been done somewhere else.

Anyway, if you boil that down even further you see how much of their success is pure glove:

YearHR/9BB/9K/9ERAUERADERF%
20071.253.587.525.530.41.650.980
20081.023.257.063.820.33.708.985

Rays pitchers reduced their homers buy a good chunk this year and cut their walks, and those are certainly steps forward, but they also struck out fewer batters - but the dropoff of 300 fewer hits allowed and 27 fewer errors is mainly attributable to radically improved defense, as they went from the MLB-worst .650 Defensive Efficiency Rating on balls in play to an MLB-leading .708. The dropoff in unearned runs reflects that.

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POLITICS: No Third Terms

Just for the record, while I end up voting to re-elect Mayor Bloomberg if he ends up on the ballot next fall - depending on the alternatives, and in all likelihood there won't be many good ones - I think it's a bad idea to repeal the city's two-term limit for mayors. Those limits are in place for a reason: anyone who remembers Ed Koch's third term can tell you that the diminishing returns in terms of both quality and integrity on a Mayor's subordinates accelerates pretty rapidly by the time you get into a 9th year in office. By and large, Bloomberg's done a solid job trying to consolidate the gains made by Mayor Giuliani (h/t) and make incremental reforms, albeit with his own share of drawbacks, but really 8 years of almost anybody is enough.

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POLITICS/RELIGION: Disbelieving Obama

One of the recurring themes of the Obama campaign is that his supporters dismiss anything they find inconvenient in his record, platform or statements on the trail on the theory that he was just doing or saying stuff he doesn't believe to pander to somebody else, whereas when he says something I like, that of course must be what he really means. Only the shallowness of his record - the fact that he's almost never had to stick to any one position under enough fire to prove that he means it, never had to build a record of deeds and not just words - enables people to sustain this sort of wishcasting, which Iowahawk brilliantly skewered in his "who are the rubes?" post (for the Harry Potter fans, Tom Maguire has compared him to the Mirror of Erised in which one views one's deepest desires). It's almost a willful choice to get suckered. Obama gave millions of dollars to Ayers and ACORN and joined the New Party? Just needed to pander to the far left. Obama spent 20 years with a racist, America-hating preacher? Just needed to pander to African-Americans who thought he wasn't black enough. Obama spent years cozied up to and trading favors with the Chicago machine? Just needed to buy their support...of course, he's really a reformer. Etc.

It doesn't stop with his shady associates - Beldar finds example after example of this in the Washington Post's endorsement of Obama:

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BASEBALL: Treasure Beyond Price

Well, the nation last night got its formal introduction to David Price, and barring injury we're going to see a lot more of the man who is generally regarded as the best pitching prospect in baseball - Price's pennant-clinching ninth inning probably cements him a key, K-Rod-in-2002 type role in the Rays' pen in the World Series, and he left veterans like Mark Kotsay and Jason Varitek (granted, not exactly Ruth and Gehrig at this stage of their careers) looking sadly overmatched.

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October 17, 2008
POLITICS: Never Question Obama

Obama Knocks

Don't answer that door!

You will find no better illustration of the hazards of simply asking a question Barack Obama doesn't want to answer than the frenzy on the part of Obama's campaign and his allies in the media and the Left blogs to attack Joe the Plumber. The amazing thing is, this isn't a guy who was set up by one of the campaigns to tell a sob story that had to be checked. Obama was going door to door, he met this guy who was playing football in his yard *. Joe said he'd like to be more successful and buy his own business, and asked Obama why that meant he should have to pay higher taxes, and Obama gave his now-infamous answer that "I think that when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody." John McCain responded by retelling that story in the debate to illustrate Obama's instincts for redistribution, and both candidates ended up using Joe as an example of how their various plans would affect small businesspeople.

But fearful of the damage caused by Obama's answer, the Obama camp and its surrogates have gone on the attack against this ordinary citizen from Toldeo:

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POLITICS: Obamises, Obamises: Are His Tax And Spending Plans Real, or Not?

The media and the Obama campaign have repeatedly told us that the economy is the only issue in this campaign, and that Barack Obama's proposals, rather than his record, are the only way to judge him on the economy. If they mean it, they will demand that he clarify where he stands on the promises at the core of his tax and spending platforms.

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October 16, 2008
BASEBALL: Sox-Rays Open Thread

OK, since I have admittedly been deficient in delivering baseball content lately - an open thread for readers who want to kick around tonight's game.

UPDATE: BJ Upton goes deep! 2-0 Rays. Upton is part of the real disjunct with the Rays - this team was ninth in the AL in runs scored, but they really can be a better offensive team than that when you consider the off years and/or injuries to Upton, Crawford, Baldelli and Longoria, all of whom are now healthy.

UPDATE: Two more homers, from Pena and Longoria (again), and it's 4-0. Dice K does not have it.

5-0.

7-0. Papelbon in a 7-0 game. That says it all, doesn't it?

UPDATE: BIG PAPI WILL NOT GO QUIETLY! 3-run homer, 7-4 Rays.

7-6 after Drew goes deep. Wow, this is a game. And that's why you use Papelbon down 7 in a game like this.

Tie game! Amazing. It's 2004 all over.

Best Joe Morgan line ever: Miller: "Can you analyze Joe Maddon's managing tonight?" Morgan: "You don't want me to do that."

Unfortunately, he then proceeded to.

Ball gets by....Gross! Red Sox win! Red Sox win!

That was some amazing baseball. Man, the Red Sox are drawing on their vast account at the karma bank.

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POLITICS: Obama on Ayers: Hey, Everybody Was Doing It

Here is what Barack Obama said last night about Bill Ayers and Obama's role in handing over millions of dollars to "education" programs designed by Ayers, long an advocate of using education for purposes of left-wing indoctrination:

Bill Ayers is a professor of education in Chicago.

Forty years ago, when I was 8 years old, he engaged in despicable acts with a radical domestic group. I have roundly condemned those acts. Ten years ago he served and I served on a school reform board that was funded by one of Ronald Reagan's former ambassadors and close friends, Mr. Annenberg.

Other members on that board were the presidents of the University of Illinois, the president of Northwestern University, who happens to be a Republican, the president of The Chicago Tribune, a Republican-leaning newspaper.

And here is an earlier statement by Obama:

The suggestion that Ayers somehow dominated the policy or direction of the bipartisan Challenge Board, imprinting it with radical views, is absurd. The Annenberg Challenge was funded by Nixon Ambassador and Reagan friend Walter Annenberg. Republican Governor Jim Edgar, who wrote to Walter Annenberg to encourage the creation of the Challenge, joined Mayor Daley to announce the formation of the Challenge and his administration continued to work closely on education reform with the Board.

There are two main problems with Obama's response. One is that Obama is basically passing the buck for his own decisions to other people - undoubtedly a preview of his presidential leadership style, like during the bailout vote when he essentially did nothing to help his party pass the bill when it came up for the original vote. The other is his effort to conflate the national Annenberg Foundation with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge; Obama served as chairman of the board for the latter.

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BASEBALL: Grumble, Grumble, Congratulations, Grumble, Grumble

If you were wondering, no, I didn't have the heart to watch the Phillies wrap up the pennant last night.

Boy, this has been a fun last five weeks, hasn't it?

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October 15, 2008
POLITICS: Left Unsaid

Quick impressions of tonight's debate:

1. Well, basically we got through 3 debates without a really dramatic, game-changing gaffe or jaw-dropping moment. Ironically, it's precisely because these were unusually good debates that they will probably not be remembered as well as some past ones (although the 2004 presidential debates didn't produce many memorable moments). Obviously, on the whole that's good news for Obama regardless of who performed better in any individual debate.

2. McCain's a good debater. We saw that again tonight - never at a loss for words, witty, likes to press the attack on the issues. If he has a flaw as a debater in general, it's a tendency to talk too fast and try to squeeze too much into a single answer. Those are the skills he developed from many years on Meet the Press and the Senate floor.

The problem is that McCain's used to debating Senators about the issues. He's not used to street fights where you have to call BS on the other guy to his face. While I accept that for various reasons McCain was the stronger general election candidate, we needed somebody like Rudy Giuliani in these debates, someone who was willing to call out not just Obama's policy platform but the entire concept of Obama as president - the relentlessly outside-the-mainstream left-wing record, the lack of experience, the machine politics, the intimate ties to extremists. We seem to have found ourselves in a situation where the truth about Obama is itself so outrageous that it's beyond the pale of political discourse to mention it. He did effectively support infanticide by voting against a bill to reverse existing practice in Illinois that left it to abortionists to decide what to do with babies born after a botched abortion, leading to their deaths. He did give tens of millions of dollars to a terrorist to educate kids. Etc. And Obama gets to shake his head in dismay that anyone would be so rude as to point these things out.

3. As to Obama, I do give him credit that he's become much smoother than he was even as recently as the Saddleback Forum in August. Probably his best line tonight was about how health care "will break your heart again and again." And I think he did outfox McCain on some of the health care debate sections. That said, he also told some seriously outrageous whoppers (like repeating false media claims about crowds at McCain events), he changed back and forth between $200,000 and $250,000 as the floor for his tax hike plan (I guarantee you it will go far, far lower if he's elected)...it was noticeable that Obama would not say Palin was qualified to be president, but of course he couldn't say flatly she's not, since she's more qualified than he is by any reasonable measure.

4. I agree with Ace that there's just a world of difference between what was said at the debate and what was unsaid. McCain did, by and large, do an excellent job (other than the health care discussion and his typically McCain-ish obsession with negative ads and campaign finance, although I was glad that he called out Obama on his baldly dishonest radio ads on immigration and stem cells, neither of which Obama could hope to defend) on the things actually said. I think he has to come out the winner on the spending debate, where I believe most voters would like his embrace of the label as the guy who'll finally go after the federal budget with a hatchet. And on taxes (hooray for Joe the Plumber!). And on trade and energy, too. And he did finally tell Obama flat out that he's not running against Bush.

But he let Obama off the hook on way too much. The killer line on the abortion debate was that Obama may say he's not pro-abortion, but he supports ending the 28-year-old ban on subsidizing it with taxpayer money - if you actually oppose something, you don't subsidize it. The killer line on Ayers is that what matters is the money Obama gave him to educate kids. The killer line on Obama's tax cut plan (other than the general unlikelihood of the whole thing) is that it's basically a welfare plan - when you are cutting checks to people who don't pay taxes, that's called spending. The killer line on Obama generally is that he's too liberal, too extreme where McCain is mainstream - on issue after issue, there's a conservative position, a moderate position, a liberal position...and an Obama position. And that you need to judge him on his record. The killer line of the entire campaign, really, is that on the two largest issues of Obama's short career in the Senate (winning the Iraq War and preventing the financial crisis), McCain was proven right, and indisputably so, and Obama was proven wrong, and indisputably so. And McCain didn't drop those hammers on Obama - he hit those points, but he didn't tie them up in a bow.

I suppose it's true that voters want to hear issues at debates, not about records. But Obama really is all talk - it's wholly speculative to say what he will actually do.

McCain's now going to go back to the slog in the trenches. I still don't wholly trust the polls (I don't write them off, but there's a definite grain-of-salt factor), and history tells us that the debates are sometimes not what moves the needle in the closing weeks. Republicans should not lose hope, because this race can still get tighter and that creates opportunities on Election Day. But the chapter in which the debates might have changed the game is over.

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POLITICS: Spinning Anger

While we are on the subject of things that get written for reasons other than the relationship they bear to the truth, those of us who remember the successful effort to demonize Republican success in 1994-95 as "a temper tantrum," "angry white men," etc. (all the way to Bill Clinton essentially blaming the Oklahoma City bombing on Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh) see the same campaign ramping up again with media claims that Republican voters are dangerously unhinged and the only cure is to stop saying bad things about Barack Obama's record.

If you have been following this "story," it's helpful to have a few reminders that a lot of these stories are based on misreporting, and that there are plenty of examples of this and worse on the Left side (really, after the last 8 years of Bush hatred and the outpouring of venom and slime directed at Sarah Palin, is "which side has more unhinged angry people doing and saying vile things" really the hill the Left wants to die on?).

There are, in fact, angry, crazy people on both sides, and this is in fact the point in the electoral calendar when a lot of people's emotions are running high. The decision to make a media narrative out of one side at precisely the moment when Obama badly wants to delegitimize any criticism of his record and his past...well, it's just a story someone wants you to hear.

UPDATE: Some may quibble with my view that Obama is afraid of being called on his record and his past - how can he be afraid, he's winning? - but of course it's precisely because he's ahead at this point that he's afraid of McCain doing anything that will alter the trajectory of the race. When you're losing, you don't try to lock down the dynamics of the race in a way that makes it hard to go negative.

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POLITICS: Today's Word Is "Erratic"

This Message Brought To You By The Letter "O"

It's not a secret or a surprise that people on both sides of the political aisle try to drive stories and common themes, but one of the things that's especially amusing about the Left is the willingness of Democratic talking heads and lefty bloggers to mindlessly parrot verbatim the talking points handed down by their campaign, in the hopes of driving particular words into the news coverage. And it appears that the word of the moment being slapped on McCain is "erratic" - in contrast to the serene (sorry, "steady") inactivity of Barack Obama.

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October 14, 2008
POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part II of III: Sen. Barack Obama

In Part I of this series on the "Integrity Gap" between the two national tickets, I looked at Governor Sarah Palin's record of integrity in public office - her battles against corruption and wasteful spending, even by the powers controlling her own party in her home state of Alaska - even when she was putting her career at risk. As I explained, integrity is not just about honesty - it's also about one of the crucial presidential character traits, toughness. Palin has proven that she doesn't back down no matter who she has to take on.

In Part II, I will look at Senator Barack Obama, who is easily contrasted to Palin because they have careers of similar length in both local and statewide office, in states controlled largely by their own party. I have previously explained here why Obama lacks every kind of experience that we usually rely upon to test the character of potential presidents and teach them the lessons they will need to govern, and I've explained here why the flurry of flip-flops at the outset of his general election campaign raises questions specifically about his toughness, his principles and his convictions. During the recent financial crisis we got a taste of Obama's leadership style in crisis: do nothing and hope he can shift the blame to somebody else.

Nearly all of Obama's appeal requires his supporters to take on faith that he will do things he has never done. But on the question of whether Obama will ever take a meaningful stand against corruption or waste in his own party or stand up to vested interests and ideological extremists on his own side, we have a certain answer: he has bypassed too many opportunities to do so already. To the contrary, Obama is so thoroughly marinated in extremism and corruption that it would be nearly impossible to extricate himself and still have a meaningful identity left.

Given the length of this post - at over 21,000 words, it runs more than twice the length of Part I and 33% longer than my entire five-part series on Mitt Romney from the primaries - it was necessary to break the body of the post into six separate volumes that follow this introduction:

Obama's Rootless Ambition looks at the influences that shaped Obama before he ran for office.

Obama and the Extremists looks at his relationships with left-wing radicals and how they were an integral part of his rise in politics.

Obama and ACORN looks at his intimate relationship with a network of community organizers with a pervasive record of voter fraud and deep involvement in the subprime housing crisis.

Obama and the Machine looks at Obama's long, deep and multifacted partnership with machine politicians in Chicago and Springfield.

Obama and the Favor Factory looks at Obama's routine practice of trading favors with his political benefactors.

Obama, "New Politics" and Principles looks at the illusory nature of Obama's "new politics," his absence of a record of fighting tough battles on principle, and wraps up and concludes the series.

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: Rootless Ambition

Chapter two of seven.

II. Barack Obama: The Greasy Pole

Note on sources: You can follow the links here, as I've linked to sources for nearly all the factual assertions, and mark additional sources with an asterisk *. Where appropriate I've indicated sources whose credibility I was uncertain of, but have generally tried to avoid citing much in the way of rumor. Fairly late in the game in assembling this post, I picked up David Freddoso's book The Case Against Barack Obama, which examines a lot of these same issues in more depth and with copious footnotes. I'm indebted to Freddoso's book for pointing me to additional sources in a handful of places, and for stories I'd missed like the Stroger saga, although in most cases I've cited additional web-based sources besides the book. I'd recommend the book and I refer the reader where possible to stories Freddoso has written up at more length.

Barack Obama talks a good game about being a reformer, a good government, "new politics" guy. But somehow his priorities never extended to actually doing anything that would rock the boat in Chicago politics or get in the way of his climb up the greasy pole of the Chicago machine. Instead, his rise has depended on the exchange of favors with crooked patrons and extremist friends and on the forebearance of the machine.

You will often hear Obama's defenders argue that his ties to this or that extremist or corrupt figure is an isolated aberration, an example of "guilt by association"; that the various favors he dispensed with public money and private charitable foundation funds are nothing unusual in politics. But when you look at Obama's record and biography taken together, what you see is that the favors, the extremists and the machine ties are all inextricably intertwined, and that far from being isolated incidents, Obama's modus operandi of mutual back-scratching with radicals and crooks extends to nearly every aspect of his life and career - his family, his faith, his home, his jobs and education, his significant election victories and legislative "accomplishments," his closest advisors and most important mentors, the money and organization that made up his campaigns.

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Extremists

Chapter three of seven.

B. The Extremists

To avoid being mistaken for a sellout, I chose my friends carefully. The more politically active black students. The foreign students. The Chicanos. The Marxist professors and structural feminists and punk-rock performance poets. We smoked cigarettes and wore leather jackets. At night, in the dorms, we discussed neocolonialism, Franz Fanon, Eurocentrism, and patriarchy. When we ground out our cigarettes in the hallway carpet or set our setereos so loud that the walls began to shake, we were resisting bourgeois society's stifling constraints. We weren't indifferent or careless or insecure. We were alienated.

But this strategy alone couldn't provide the distance I wanted, from Joyce [a former girlfriend] or my past. After all, there were thousands of so-called campus radicals, most of them white and tenured and happily tolerated. No, it remained necessary to prove which side you were on, to show your loyalty to the black masses, to strike out and name names.

-Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, describing his choice of friends as a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles, which he attended for two years. He also wrote about "socialist conferences I sometimes attended at Cooper Union" after transferring to Columbia, and "went to hear Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely Carmichael of SNCC and Black Power fame, speak at Columbia." Carmichael, of course, was a famous Sixties radical, a subject that apparently interested Obama as early as his college years.

If Obama was going to pursue his dreams of political activism, he wasn't going to follow the route of Sarah Palin and Joe Biden in relying on his roots to his home town, nor did he have John McCain's advantage of a famous war record. He was going to need a political base that would accept an outsider, and needed to bring something to the table. And this is how he built one. The groundwork for Obama's entree into Chicago politics was laid through networking in the very same radical chic circles he described in the passage above. There's not adequate space here to revisit in full the left-wing radicalism of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, Bernadine Dohrn, Fr. Michael Pfleger, the New Party, Alice Palmer, Rashid Khalidi, Khalid al-Mansour, and others in Obama's circle, but the thumbnail sketches and links below should clue you in to the common theme - Obama carefully cultivated an image as a friend of Sixties radicals, race-baiters, Marxists and worse. Maybe this was due to the same romantic impulse of his college years and maybe it was craven political opportunism, but the record shows how firmly he ingratiated himself with these people, with the result that he gets endorsements to this day from avowed Communists. * Even as a presidential candidate, Obama is willing to lend his appearance and good name to the operations of wholly disreputable far-left figures like Al Sharpton. *

Yet while Obama was adept at showing one face to the hard left, he and the organizations he worked with were also acutely aware of the need to present a more respectable face to the broader community, as the Woods Fund noted in a report on its grant to ACORN (more on which below):

Indeed, the report brags about pulling the wool over the public's eye. The Woods Fund's claim to be "nonideological," it says, has "enabled the Trustees to make grants to organizations that use confrontational tactics against the business and government 'establishments' without undue risk of being criticized for partisanship."

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: ACORN

Chapter four of seven.

C. ACORN

Obama & ACORN

The left-wing group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national umbrella group of, well, community organizers, sits at the intersection of Obama's ties to extremists and his ties to machine politics. ACORN is indisputably Sixties-style "New Left" in its orientation, pursuing what Sol Stern describes as an agenda of "undisguised authoritarian socialism." The group has both money and foot soldiers, as it "uses banking regulations to pressure financial institutions into massive 'donations' that it uses to finance supposedly non-partisan voter turn-out drives." See here for a more thorough description of the mischief ACORN plays in forcing banks to make subprime loans. And:

In one of the first book-length scholarly studies of ACORN, Organizing Urban America, Rutgers University political scientist Heidi Swarts describes this group... as "oppositional outlaws." Swarts, a strong supporter of ACORN, has no qualms about stating that its members think of themselves as "militants unafraid to confront the powers that be." "This identity as a uniquely militant organization," says Swarts, "is reinforced by contentious action." ACORN protesters will break into private offices, show up at a banker's home to intimidate his family, or pour protesters into bank lobbies to scare away customers, all in an effort to force a lowering of credit standards for poor and minority customers. According to Swarts, long-term ACORN organizers "tend to see the organization as a solitary vanguard of principled leftists...the only truly radical community organization."

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Machine

Chapter five of seven.

D. The Machine

Chicago politics, of course, have been famously corrupt and totally dominated by the Democratic machine since beyond living memory. (In Illinois at the state level, corruption is endemic and bipartisan: "four of the last nine governors have been indicted on charges of corruption, and three were convicted"). This is the city where top aides to Mayor Daley were convicted in May 2006 of federal felonies for rigging hiring in city jobs. It's a city where an alderman who pleaded guilty in August to a "general practice" of shaking down real estate developers was caught on tape saying "Most aldermen, most politicians are hos.". (A Rezko-linked alderman, in fact, who is the daughter of a Rezko-linked housing developer once represented by Obama's law firm * * - small world, indeed). It's not an uncommon sentiment (several aldermen found it necessary to hold a press conference stating that they were not, in fact, hos).

The Chicago machine is nothing if not an equal opportunity honeypot; machine corruption and its close cousin, racial/ethnic politics, has endured over decades as different ethnic and racial groups have taken their turns running the city, all the while doling out favors within their wards. The current machine is topped by Mayor Daley, two decades in office and the son of the city's most notorious mayor; at the state level, it envelops Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich.

To all appearances, Barack Obama's home neighborhood of Hyde Park - affluent, academic, ethnically diverse - should be a natural base for that rare breed in Chicago, the real reformer, with the independence to not only stand aloof from the politics of the greased palm and the dead voter, but actually make that politics more difficult:

The neighborhood invariably elects a goo-goo alderman who pulls killjoy stunts like, you know, asking to see what's in the mayor's budget before voting on it. The most famous, Leon Despres, who just turned 100, once spent five days at Trotsky's place in Mexico City.

Of course, as noted above, Obama's original district also extended to what Salon calls "the weary black neighborhoods to the west, with threadbare street corners that might hold a liquor store, or a chicken shack. (It did not include Trinity United.)." (Todd Spivak, who covered Obama in 2000, says Obama's district "spanned a large swath of the city's poor, black, crime-ridden South Side")

Certainly Obama frequently postured as a political reformer in Illinois ("My reputation in Springfield was as an independent"), as well as in the U.S. Senate. Was that posture any more, or any less, genuine than his posture as a friend of left-wing radicals? I don't know the answer to that either; I only know that Obama, with his sights set beyond Hyde Park, made sure never to get in the machine's way. "Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, notes that, while Mr. Obama supported ethics reforms as a state senator, he has "'been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic.'" The Chicago Sun-Times isn't fooled either:

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.

As we shall see, this is not the half of it.

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: The Favor Factory

Chapter six of seven.

E. The Favor Factory

With the expansion of federal intervention in the economy that will inevitably follow the current financial crisis - ranging from the $700 billion financial industry bailout to the $25 billion auto industry bailout to the federal government investing billions directly in major banks - there will be even more opportunities than usual for the next Administration to use federal dollars to reward friends and cronies instead of serving the taxpayers. Indeed, House Democrats tried in the bailout package to earmark proceeds to go to Obama's old friends at ACORN, and succeeded in subsidizing ACORN in the housing bill that passed in July. It's important that the next White House be resistant to opening the favor factory for business.

Senator Obama now claims that he will be a good steward of federal taxpayer money - such a good steward, in fact, that he'll be able to cut spending enough to offset every dollar of his many hundreds of billions of dollars of planned new spending programs. But his record throughout his career shows him to be a man who has always been quite liberal in every sense of the word in using public money and private charitable money to reward his friends, and who is wholly disinclined to saying "no." Obama knows how the favor factory works, and he isn't shy about using it.

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POLITICS: Obama and the Integrity Gap: "New Politics," Principled Positions, and Conclusion

Chapter seven of seven.

F. "New Politics" In Old Wineskin

Obama's supporters like to shift the conversation away from his record at all costs and focus on his campaign. One of the principal themes of that campaign has been his commitment to "a 'new politics for a new time' shorn of partisanship and division," exemplified by a higher standard of integrity in campaigning, what John Dickerson of Slate called "a national seminar for 16 months on changing politics and shedding the old insider way of doing things." Frankly, I pity anyone who was ever foolish enough to believe in that, but at any rate, even if you leave aside the traditional "who lied more and said meaner things about who," you can see that Obama's campaign has repeatedly broken the very promises that underpinned the "new politics" theme:

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October 12, 2008
POLITICS: Beldar on the Branchflower Report

I'll have more detail on this later in the week after I've finished with the big Obama post. In the meantime, here's Beldar, who has actually followed this story from the outset and has read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Obama Rumor Mill

If you go out on the web you will find with Barack Obama, as with any national political figure, a broad spectrum of charges ranging from the indisputably true to the undeniably crackpot, and plenty in between. Here's two of the hot recent ones that fall in the gray area, as well as one example of how the mainstream media can follow up on stuff like this.

This essay by Jack Cashill argues somewhat convincingly that Dreams of My Father had the assistance of a ghostwriter, and more speculatively that the ghostwriter was Bill Ayers. I don't know a lot about Cashill but the essay is basically in the category of "plausible but unproven speculation." On the upside, Cashill doesn't make any really uncheckable assertions of fact other than his linguistic analyses (which could presumably be rechecked by MSM sources), so you can apply your own judgment.

Then we have this report sourced out of the Daily Mail in London suggesting an extramarital affair by Obama. (H/T Ace, who applies the Andrew Sullivan standard). Aside from Clinton and Gary Hart, we've had rumors of this kind in the past with Kerry, McCain (aside from the known affairs on his first wife, that is), George H.W. Bush, Palin and John Edwards, and only the Edwards one panned out. I don't put much stock in this or think the media should report it without investigating and getting the facts right. But I would hope they do seriously investigate stuff like this even when it's about Obama.

Then we have this September 29 report from Ken Timmerman of Newsmax about Obama's lack of financial controls and resulting receipt of large numbers of shady and quite likely illegal campaign contributions, including from foreign sources. Newsmax is not the most credible of sources - I generally don't cite their work unless it can be corroborated - but Timmerman, too, made clear what his sources were (FEC records) and you had to wonder why no major media outlets had tried the same thing. Shamed by Newsmax, which the IHT version of this credits, the New York Times ran basically the same investigation and seems to have come to basically the same conclusion, albeit without bringing themselves to address the more problematic foreign-donor angle. But it's a key example of the major media lacking the initiative to do basic due diligence on Obama until a fringe-y right-wing source delivers them a completed story on a platter.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:04 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (55) | TrackBack (0)
October 10, 2008
POLITICS: Not The ACORN He Knew

Obama & ACORNI'll cover this in more detail in a few days in Part II of my series on the Integrity Gap between the two tickets, but as the evidence mounts* of the involvement of the left-wing community organizer group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) in extensive voter fraud across multiple states, Barack Obama has tried to minimize his involvement with ACORN and the critical role it played in his rise in the world of the Chicago political machine.

Obama's "Fight the Smears" campaign website denies any ties to ACORN other than his representation of the group in a 1995 lawsuit:

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN community organizer.

Fact: Barack was never an ACORN trainer and never worked for ACORN in any other capacity.

Fact: ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration drive Barack ran in 1992.

As the Cleveland Leader points out, this is flatly contradicted by an article written by ACORN head Toni Foulkes, which was conveniently removed from the internet (a common practice in the drive to scrub all evidence of Obama's career prior to 2004) after it was quoted by Stanley Kurtz of the National Review and other sources, while the rest of the articles on the same site remain up:

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October 8, 2008
BLOG: Say A Payer For Dean Barnett

I would echo every word Ed Morrissey writes in this post. I take some pleasure in Dean's success since I was one of the early people to link to him at SoxBlog before he hit it big and ended uo at The Weekly Standard (and, sadly, left the baseball part of his blogging days behind). He really is one of the good and decent guys on the web.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:38 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stay Class-Conscious, Barack Obama

From the annals of silly, and perhaps revealingly silly, arguments - an email from the Obama campaign following last night's debate repeats a line he's used before:

I will fight for the middle class every day, and -- once again -- Senator McCain didn't mention the middle class a single time during the debate.

It's true that Senator McCain didn't use the words "middle class." But let's go to the transcript and look at what he did say:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
October 7, 2008
POLITICS: The Second McCain-Obama Debate

Who won this one? Well, it depends where you stand, where you think the candidates stand, what they were trying to accomplish and whether you saw the first debate.

The elephant in the room for those of us who follow these things carefully - and for the candidates - was Obama's recent surge in the polls. Obviously that colors everything, in the sense that it creates the sense that McCain needs to slaughter Obama rather than just beat him on points. I think McCain did a better job in this debate than Obama did in several respects (slightly moreso than in the first debate, although much of the debate was almost literally a replay of the first debate) but if you think he needed to flatten Obama and utterly destroy him in a single night, he didn't do that. As in the first debate, both candidates basically did what they wanted to do, but I give the advantage to McCain mainly because he was much more able to throw Obama on the defensive and dominate the body language of the debate.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hey, Big Spender

Stanley Kurtz has been doing tremendous work on Obama's ties to Bill Ayers lately, but his examination of Obama's Chicago years doesn't end there. Given the sharp contrast presented by the first debate - when John McCain called for across the board spending cuts to tighten our collective belts for the coming recession, while Obama's effort to answer the same question found him launching into a barrage of new spending he intends to promote - it's useful to look back at Kurtz's reportage on Obama's spending record as a State Senator:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:07 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Obama: Yeah, OK, Maybe I Kinda Sorta Did Know Ayers Was A Terrorist

In light of the mounting common-sense evidence of the total implausibility of Barack Obama's claim to have not known that Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were not just terrorists but nationally famous terrorists when he worked with Ayers in the mid-1990s (including funnelling millions of dollars to left-wing "education" projects under Ayers' control, giving a favorable blurb to Ayers' book, and holding a crucial reception to launch Obama's political career at Ayers' home), Obama campaign manager David Axelrod is now partially backing down on what Obama knew but continuing to deny when he knew it:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:45 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 10/7/08 Quick Links

*As Glenn Reynolds would say, they told me that if George W. Bush was re-elected, billionaires would have a veto over political speech...you really should watch that SNL skit if you can before it is deep-sixed permanently. It's so rare for late-night comedy to take on the Democrats' policies, rather than just gingerly needling their personalities.

*Via Ace, we have Patterico on the track of an LA Times report that simultaneously refused to report McCain's criticisms of Obama on the economic crisis while accusing McCain of being afraid to talk about the economic crisis. I heard a radio report last night on WINS that did exactly the same thing - it quoted McCain and Palin's lines about Obama's integrity but not McCain's specific factual charges about Obama and the economy, accused them of "dredging up dirt" and then pivoted to Obama talking about the economy...you could not make this stuff up. It's why McCain needs to do his own dirty work tonight.

*On the other hand, thumbs up to CNN for this, which calls out Obama's untruths about Bill Ayers, and includes new reporting quoting Alice Palmer, the leftist state senator who Obama succeeded in office:

The Obama camp and its media allies have used a couple of rhetorical strategies to deal with this. One is to talk solely about occasional meetings; believe nothing you hear from anyone who refuses to address Stanley Kurtz's reporting (which CNN actually reveals here) on Obama steering millions of dollars to Ayers' left-wing "educational" programs. Another is to claim that Ayers and Dohrn were somehow obscure figures (who just happened to be profiled periodically by national newspapers) and that Obama had no reason to know they were terrorists...of course, even aside from the fact that their background was well known in Hyde Park, Erick at RedState notes the extensive publicity about the Weather Underground at the time of the 1996 Democratic Convention in Chicago, and there's also the fact that Obama was living in New York attending Columbia University in October 1981 during the Brink's heist, which was huge front-page news in New York for months. The Brink's case is why I immediately knew who these people were when Obama's ties to them surfaced, and I'm ten years younger than Obama. One of the defendants in that case was Kathy Boudin; when Obama dealt with Ayers & Dohrn, Boudin and her husband were in prison and Ayers and Dohrn were raising her son as their own. I may not think much of Obama but even I don't think he was obtuse enough not to have known who these people were.

(Note to Obama supporters insistent on denying that this story means anything: please first have the decency to admit Obama's lying about it).

UPDATE: Want another piece of the puzzle? Kathy Boudin's brother Michael was a lecturer at Harvard Law School when Obama was there (in fact, he was my antitrust professor). Did Obama take his class? Michael Boudin is, of course, an infinitely more respectable figure than his sister - he'd served in the Reagan Justice Department and in 1992, shortly after Obama graduated, Judge Boudin was appointed to the federal appellate bench by George H.W. Bush - but his family ties were the sort of thing one would routinely discuss about a member of the Law School faculty.

*Ross Douthat argues that Republican appeals to social issues, or even ads that were accused of being racially divisive, have tended to be effective only when they were grounded in concrete economic or safety concerns. Meanwhile, when it's racist to criticize Barney Frank, well, the word has lost its meaning. One liberating feature of this campaign is that Republicans have been accused of being racist for pretty much every single thing that has been said or done, or at least every thing that was even remotely effective...after a while even the most timid of Republicans have to accept that the charge will get made no matter what means that it should not act as any sort of a restraint or deterrent on political dialogue. I mean, if it's racist to criticize Barney Frank and Bill Ayers, if it's racist to connect Obama to a multimillionaire CEO and former Cabinet official, if it's racist just to show video of Obama in front of backdrops he himself chose, well, the word is apt to lose all its meaning.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:03 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Yes, We...Can?

So far as I can tell, nobody in the history of modern polling has won a presidential election from as big a hole as John McCain now stands in, at last check a national polling advantage in the neighborhood of 5 points for Obama. Now, if you are a betting man, surely you like your odds on Obama. But does that mean that the race is over? Perhaps, but not necessarily. While the circumstances are of course different, we have seen two past Republican campaigns, neither of them headed by the most dynamic of campaigners, provide examples of strong closing-month performances.

The most obvious recent example was 1996. The Gallup poll, which admittedly is one of the more volatile polls (Obama presently leads it by 8) on October 6/7, 1996 showed Bill Clinton with a commanding 22 point lead, 56-34 over Bob Dole with 5 points for Ross Perot (the first of two debates was on October 6). Four days later, after the first debate and the Vice Presidential debate, that lead was 57-34 (Clinton +23). In an October 14-15 poll, conducted on the eve of the second, October 16 debate, Dole pulled much closer (48-39, Clinton +9), but as late as October 20-21 the poll showed Clinton up 19, 52-33 with 8 for Perot. Dole then began his serious charge, pulling above 40% for the first time on November 4-5, to finish at Clinton +11 (52-41-7), and ended up at Clinton +8 on Election Day, 49-41. Dole thus ended up shaving as much as 15 points off Clinton's lead in less than a month.

Then there's 1976. Jimmy Carter had, of course, famously led by 34 in one midsummer poll...in a poll conducted September 24-27 (the first debate was September 23), Carter led 51-40 (+11), but in one conducted September 27-October 4, that lead dropped to +2, 47-45. Carter widened his lead to +6 on October 8-11 after the famous "Democrat wars" gaffe by Bob Dole in the October 6 VP debate, led +6 (47-41) on October 15-18 (the second debate, with Ford's Poland gaffe, was October 15), was still at +5 on October 22-25 (the third debate was October 22), but an October 28-30 poll for the first time showed a Ford lead, 47-46. On Election Day, Carter won 50-48.

Polling today is more sophisticated, of course, and there are other distinguishing factors as well. On the one hand, the 1996 election had a third party candidate who surged up to double digits in late October, and Dole was running so far behind a still-strong GOP Congressional brand (Republicans held both Houses of Congress through that race) that a good deal of his late surge was just natural Republicans coming home. Some of the same was true of Ford's surge. On the other hand, the 1996 race should have been much less volatile than this one - it matched a 3-decade Senate veteran with a sitting president in a time of peace and prosperity - yet the polls showed significant movement late in the game. 1976 was more similar to the present race, as it pitted a moderate Republican running in a time when the GOP brand was as destitute as it has been since the New Deal, matched against a relatively green and unknown opponent. And of course, this year's race involves not only an unprecedentedly inexperienced and far-left presidential candidate and times of economic uncertainty and foreign war but also the triple complicating factors of no incumbent, Obama's race, and McCain's age coupled with Palin being not a whole lot more experienced than Obama. Those are all reasons why we might expect more, rather than less, real underlying volatility in voter preferences in addition to the possibility that the polls themselves are having trouble measuring the race. And at the end of the day, while it may at first glance seem harder to push upward in the polls against the headwind of a bandwagon once the media has (correctly) called the race for the frontrunner, as in 1996, there is a difference in the degree of difficulty between pulling up close to 50 and breaking through it.

Again: none of this should be reason for Republicans to celebrate - as I said, nobody in a hole like this has actually won a race. But history tells us that voter preferences can still shift in the last month, and if Obama's lead now is accurately reflected by the RCP average of +5.3, it is still very much worthwhile for McCain-Palin and their supporters to fight on to the end.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2008 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: In a Just World, This Would Be The End of EJ Dionne

From today's Best of the Web, one of the classic examples of replacement-level, conventional wisdom-spouting liberal punditry makes a complete fool of himself in his rush to pronounce himself superior to Sarah Palin:

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October 6, 2008
POLITICS: It Is Brung

McCain, after two weeks of unwisely pulling his punches while Congress worked on the bailout package and his opponent made partisan hay instead of phone calls, is now going for the jugular. Quite possibly too late, but really, when there is one overwhelming issue in an election, and you were right about it and your opponent was wrong, and he was in bed with the people who had an interest in him being wrong, it is advisable to point that out. Let's hope he pounds this theme home tomorrow night.

I'm sure the response will be the usual chorus of claims that Obama's time in the U.S. Senate was a long time ago, doesn't matter, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, and by the way: this is just hilariously off-message.

PS: What are the two biggest decisions of Obama's short Senate career? This and the surge in Iraq. He was wrong on both, and McCain was right on both.

UPDATE: Video below the fold. After all his delay, McCain is relishing this line of attack:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:21 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
October 5, 2008
BASEBALL: These Are The Saddest of Possible Words

I really do have to feel for the Cubs fans today. I mean, there are more wrenching ways to end a season, as I have been forcefully reminded the past three years, but this was a team that had a sufficiently long run as the best record in the league that their long-suffering, century-without-a-championship fans, really had good reason to expect a long march through an exciting postseason, with a good shot at the NL pennant for the first time since 1945 and a fighting chance to reclaim the World Championship at last...and three games in, they are just gone with hardly a ripple, without winning a single game. It's just so deflating. Even the Mets in 1988 and 2006 went seven games, and in 2006 they had won the NLDS first. For Cubs fans, it's just...empty.

Do Cubs fans have a long period of success ahead of them to recover from this? I'm not so sure. Ramirez and Lee are still in their primes and Soto is young, but Theriot, Soto and Mike Fontenot, who may have had a career year this season (he's 28 and his career minor league slugging % is .437), are the only significant non-pitchers under 30. The rotation depends on the much-the-worse-for-wear Zambrano and the brittle Rich Harden. Other than Harden, Fontenot and DeRosa there aren't a lot of guys here who obviously can't repeat their 2008 seasons next year, but this is also not a team stocked with young talent in bloom.

Wait 'til next year.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:45 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
October 4, 2008
POLITICS: Whitewashing Ayers

We should not be surprised, exactly, that when the NY Times finally deals with the Bill Ayers story, it tells it entirely from the Obama campaign's preferred point of view...Stanley Kurtz looks at what is left out. Sample:

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BASEBALL: Say What?

One of the broadcasters on the Brewers-Phillies game actually just said, on national television, that Geoff Jenkins left the Brewers because he got tired of watching young players like Jeromy Burnitz and Carlos Lee come out of the Brewers system and then leave.

Wow. Reminds me of the time Howard Cosell said during a Monday Night Baseball Mets-Reds game in about 1986 that Keith Hernandez had begged him not to mention on the air that Keith's lifetime batting average was .152. I'd love someday to ask Hernandez how he kept a straight face for that one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:50 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Hit and Run

I've admittedly been in hiding a bit on the baseball front the past few weeks, partly out of bitterness/depression over the end of the Mets season, partly with stuff going on at work, and of course partly due to being wrapped up in the election and the bailout and having some labor-intensive posts on the topics (I have some long-brewing baseball posts as well but none that are close to completion).

Anyway, hope to be back on the beat at least in time for the LCS...for now, about the last bit of news the Mets bullpen needed was an arrest warrant out for Ambiorix Burgos for killing two women in a hit and run accident (although perhaps needless to add, for perspective it helps to remind yourself that this turned out worse for the women than it did for the average Mets fan). I assume this is curtains for Burgos' baseball career.

UPDATE: If it makes you feel any better, Brian Bannister had a 5.76 ERA this season. Actually Bannister seems like a good guy, I hope he rights the ship, but it's a reminder that a good head without a real good arm isn't really that much more useful than the opposite.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:16 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
October 3, 2008
POLITICS: Palin's Night

Q&A on last night's highly-anticipated Vice Presidential debate:

(1) Is Sarah Palin a Blithering Moron?

Why no, in fact; amazingly, it turns out that a politician who has won six elections, served in public office for 13 years, participated in more than a dozen debates for statewide office two years ago and is the most popular Governor in the nation is actually perfectly capable of handling herself on her feet. But thanks anyway to those of you who worked so hard to make that the question everyone was asking and to reset expectations to exactly where they were entering her convention speech. The Left didn't see that they were marching into a trap in 2004, but then they keep making the same mistake year after year after year even when we are telling them to their faces what they are doing.

Palin had one hit-and-miss interview with Charlie Gibson and a bad one with Katie Couric, but very few presidential candidates, even successful ones, have avoided having those kinds of days (Obama, for example, has often been tongue-tied and stammering in interviews; his debate performance Friday was well above his usual standards). That said, the gaps in her knowledge of national politics is an object lesson in why Governors, often elected to the Presidency, are rarely elected Vice President (Spiro Agnew is the only one since Coolidge).

Palin wasn't quite the masterful populist she is on the stump or was at the Convention, but she was close. There were a few moments of fractured grammar ("What I want to argue about is, how are we going to get there to positively affect the impacts?"), a few episodes of falling back on generalities, and of course more than a few missed opportunities, but overall her performance was quite good indeed, and got back to the roots of why she's such an effective politician. Some of that is mannerism - Biden talked to the moderator, Palin to the camera, and Palin was confident and bouyant, even on one occasion winking at the audience - some is her down-to-earth persona and ability to handle hot-button issues with a low-key, conciliatory tone, and some is simply the willingness to keep returning to hammer home a core theme, which in this case first and foremost was Obama's plans to jack up taxes in the teeth of an oncoming recession (ironically, Biden pretty much fatally undermined the fiscal plausibility of his ticket's tax hike strategy by repeatedly reasserting how few people it would be aimed at. That's exactly why nobody who is remotely familiar with Democratic politicians or with Obama's spending plans expects the lower limits on the tax plan to hold). There were no awkward pauses, no gaffes, nowhere she looked unprepared - she changed the subject on a number of occasions, but like McCain in the first debate, it had the effect of forcing Biden (who like Obama has a lawyer's inability to resist responding to everything) to play on her turf.

Of course, Palin's tendency to use generalities will come in for fire from the people who spent months swooning whenever Barack Obama read the words "hope" and "change" off his TelePrompter, but that can't be helped.

Some of Palin's best moments, despite the less than perfect syntax, came on things like global warming and same-sex marriage, where she was able to articulate positions that have one foot firmly planted in the conservative camp but with a nod to moderate positions as well. And of course, she again resisted efforts to take Henry Kissinger's name in vain - it's hilarious to me that Kissinger, of all people, is still an issue in multiple presidential debates 32 years after leaving office (then again, Biden brought up Mike Mansfield). And she handled pretty much all of the foreign policy questions flawlessly, threw some good shots at Biden over his past criticisms of Obama (unfortunately we didn't get to hear him put on the spot about his nutty plan to cut Iraq into three separate countries). She was very effective in arguing that Biden is running against Bush instead of the actual ticket ("there you go again pointing backwards again. You preferenced your whole comment with the Bush administration. Now doggone it, let's look ahead and tell Americans what we have to plan to do for them in the future.") The one trap she generally avoided being baited into was testing the depth of her knowledge of McCain's 26-year legislative voting record.

The lowlight of Palin's performance for me, at least, was when she kept saying that "there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street. And we need to stop that." Threatening to punish Wall Street after the events of the past month is like threatening to punish the Branch Davidians after Waco. Another discordant note, but an example of how Palin was more liberated last night, was on education, where her answer was all about teacher salaries, more funding and loosening the standards of No Child Left Behind - in contrast to McCain's platform, laid out in detail in his Convention speech but basically ignored since then, of school choice, standards and accountability.

Palin benefits, of course, from being the running mate, so she doesn't have to carry as much of the argumentative, persuasive load. But she did a good job last night.

(2) Was Joe Biden...Joe Biden?

Surprisingly no, and in ways that were both good and bad for him. Stylistically, Biden seemed old, tired and grumpy; Biden can be quite charming and very much the happy warrior himself, and there was little of that in evidence. The mike picked him up emitting Al Gore-style exasperated sighs while Palin was talking on one or two occasions. Like McCain on Friday, he warmed up (or more properly, thawed out) as the evening went along. On the upside, while Biden had some moments that were amusing to knowledgeable viewers, he didn't really produce any of the gasp-inducing gaffes that have been his signature for so many years, and of course, like McCain, he wore the mantle of his long experience effortlessly.

Although this debate was, like the first one, quite lively, it was also considerably more detatched from the truth, and Biden was mainly at fault for that - hammering John McCain inaccurately for being anti-regulation; falsely claiming that Obama's Iraq plan was the "same plan that Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq and George Bush are now negotiating," when Obama's plan called for complete withdrawal by March 2008; confusing a windfall profits tax with a severance tax; claiming, absurdly, that McCain was voting to cut off funding for the Iraq War when he voted against an amendment to a funding bill. And when Biden said, "[t]hat's the fundamental change Barack Obama and I will be bring to this party, not questioning other people's motives," well, he must not have read Obama's 2002 war speech, in which Obama did just that as the centerpiece of his argument:

What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income - to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

Biden also probably went a bit too far in suggesting that Obama needed him as training wheels:

Barack Obama indicated to me he wanted me with him to help him govern. So every major decision he'll be making, I'll be sitting in the room to give my best advice.

One of the more jarring moments, and maybe people at home didn't pick this up, was when Biden suggested that we should have repeated Reagan's greatest mistake (one McCain made a point of noting his 1983 opposition to) and sent troops into Lebanon:

When we kicked -- along with France, we kicked Hezbollah out of Lebanon, I said and Barack said, "Move NATO forces in there. Fill the vacuum, because if you don't know -- if you don't, Hezbollah will control it."

And I think Biden overreached in his assumption that Americans are opposed to all of Bush's foreign policy; I suspect even among people who don't like the Iraq War you'd find a fair amount of support for his approach to Iran, Israel, Pakistan, etc. That said, if I was the McCain campaign, the commercial I'd want to cut of Biden was this line about foreign policy: "Talk. Talk. Talk." Well, there's your Obama foreign policy in a nutshell.

(3) Was Gwen Ifill Biased?

Ifill wasn't a terrible moderator the way Chris Matthews was during the primaries, nor had I expected her to be based on the Cheney-Edwards debate four years ago. Still, you would not have had a ton of difficulty figuring out whose side her sympathies lay with. Biden got the last word in and overran his time finishing a sentence an astounding number of times, whereas she cut Palin off at the knees in mid-sentence when Palin was on a roll reciting examples of McCain's push for more regulations: "Look at the tobacco industry. Look at campaign finance reform...." Or when she sneered at Palin, "Governor, are you interested in defending Sen. McCain's health care plan?" And she did ask one truly awful question:

Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

This was a terrible question because it's so inside-baseball, relating to an arcane legal dispute nobody much follows who isn't an obsessive political junkie. If she wanted to ask a more open-ended question about Cheney's view of executive power and secrecy, that might have been enlightening. As it was, it was Biden who got his answer all wrong - besides asserting incorrectly that the executive power is set forth in Article I of the Constitution (maybe Biden needs 36 more years in the Senate to get up to speed on that one) and that the VP may "preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote." That's not quite as bad as former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson not knowing the permanent members of the UN Security Council, but it's staggering that a guy who has been in the Senate that long and spent years heading the Judiciary Committee and grilling Supreme Court nominees would blow such basic concepts of constitutional law.

(4) Will It Matter?

Let's be frank here: McCain is now behind in all the important polls, and has lost significant ground since his high point around September 12-14. The overwhelming reason for this has been the credit crisis that has been the financial equivalent of the Madrid train bombing, working naturally against the party in power in the White House pretty much regardless of all other facts and circumstances, and pretty much sweeping consideration of every other issue out of the spotlight. The drawing out of the bailout debate has only worked to the Democrats' advantage. With a month to go in the race and a fair amount of additional things that could happen, it's premature to declare that this is the end of the line, but it does mean that McCain needs game-changing events; the ticket just scoring two more narrow debate victories like the first two won't be enough unless we get another external shock to the system and/or Obama does something really stupid. Of course, that was really never possible with this debate, since there was no realistic way to mortally wound Obama's ticket by something Biden did; the best Republicans could hope for was to reestablish Gov. Palin, and that worked out pretty much as well as one could have hoped. Which leaves to McCain the job of taking out Obama.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2008
POLITICS: The Integrity Gap, Part I of III: Gov. Sarah Palin

I have previously discussed at length the extent to which the public mood has focused on the issue of integrity in this presidential election. If anything, the recent credit crisis has heightened that concern - frankly, the public doesn't understand the crisis and isn't convinced the candidates do, either, but wants reassurance that the next President will be above outside influence in dealing with its aftermath and preventing similar economic crises in the future.

Now, you may not be interested in the integrity issue, or at any rate may be voting primarily on other issues; certainly I have other things much higher on my priority list. But if this is truly an election about who has the independence to bring about change in Washington, this is an issue the campaigns cannot ignore.

One of the most basic ways in which a candidate can demonstrate the integrity voters are looking for is to build a record of standing up to corruption and waste - and doing so even when it appears in his or her own party, or on the part of his or her own allies or backers. This is not just a matter of honesty and prudence, but of toughness and courage. Let me offer a contrast between the two tickets on this issue - an Integrity Gap that Obama simply can't surmount and can only hope to obscure. If you look at the record of the McCain-Palin ticket and compare it to the Obama-Biden record in this regard, it really is no contest. I will start with the junior members of the two tickets. Governor Sarah Palin, in her short career, has fought many battles against her own party's entrenched interests; Senator Barack Obama, in a career of similar length and scope, has consistently looked the other way, and worse. Sen. Obama simply lacks the courage and the record of accomplishment of Gov. Palin. Today I will look at Gov. Palin's record; in Part II I will deal with Sen. Obama. Part III will deal with the senior members of the two tickets, Senator John McCain and Senator Joe Biden.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (66) | TrackBack (0)
October 1, 2008
POLITICS: Full Disclosure

A number of conservatives, led by Michelle Malkin, are up in arms now about the fact that the moderator of the vice presidential debate, Gwen Ifill, has a book coming out January 20, 2009 - Inauguration Day - entitled "Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." You can read Malkin's post for the full details of why this clearly gives Ifill a financial interest in there being an "Age of Obama" commencing January 20, to say nothing of her sympathies for her subject.

Moe Lane and Beldar are completely right here: this doesn't mean Ifill should be replaced at the last minute, likely with some other liberal journalist, and it doesn't mean Gov. Palin should be forced to eat into her precious debate time pointing the conflict out - but ethically, Ifill really must disclose to the national audience her book, its title and subject and release date at the outset of the debate, and let the viewing public decide if that tells them anything about the moderator.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)