"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 30, 2009
BASEBALL: Take A Ride on the Redding
Anyone who watched the train wreck of Tim Redding's outing today has to be depressed at the news that Oliver Perez has been sent back to Port St. Lucie with a bum knee, leaving Redding in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Jon Niese being 0-4 with an 8.04 ERA at Buffalo (Freddy Garcia's is 8.18) leaves the Mets with fewer options still.
O Pedro, where art thou?
POP CULTURE: The Best Sellers
Interesting list from Yahoo of the best-selling artists (by albums sold) of the decade. It says something about the state of rock that the top seven are two rappers, three country artists, Britney Spears and The Beatles, although there are still a handful of rock acts on the chart.
POLITICS: Credit Where Credit Is Due
George W. Bush, on being thanked for his AIDS initiatives in Africa: "Don’t thank me, thank the taxpayers of the United States of America."
May 29, 2009
WAR: Fear and Responsibility: A Response To Glenn Greenwald
So Glenn Greenwald, responding to a post of mine on Twitter in his column at Salon, refers to me as a "right-wing warrior-blogger". If I was unfamiliar with Greenwald's work, I might think perhaps that he had confused me with one of RedState's resident warriors, Jeff Emanuel or streiff or Caleb Howe; I'm a lawyer, not a warrior, and the closest I have been to a war zone was the day terrorists flew an airplane into my office, an experience I'm not in any hurry to relive or to see anyone else subjected to.
As it happens, this is of a piece with the typical Greenwald style:
Right-wing super-tough-guy warriors project some frightened, adolescent, neurotic fantasy onto the world -- either because they are really petrified by it or because they want others to be.
I won't call this an argument, in the sense of being a connected series of statements intended to establish a definite proposition; it's just shtick. Rather than bother trying to persuade, Greenwald is content to pander to his simple-minded audience's desire to see his adversaries insulted. And the choice of the "fear" taunt is tied to one of the lingering obsessions in Greenwald's writing, his fixation on masculinity.
But let's take up the ad hominem on its terms, not so much to defend myself as to explain why people like me do not think like people like Greenwald. Is it irrational or somehow unmanly of me to "fear" that terrorists could cause harm if brought into this country? Would I be better to adopt Greenwald's pose that terrorism is a "frightened, adolescent, neurotic fantasy"? Let me put it this way. First, I think I have, personally, a very rational basis for considering veterans of Al Qaeda training camps to be dangerous people. But you don't need to have been personally affected by the September 11 attacks to want to prevent terrorists from causing physical harm to yourself or others. To keep this on a personal level, I have a home in a community, New York City, which happens to be Al Qaeda's top target. I feel a special sense of attachment to and responsibility for the community I live in, and wish to see it protected (they even used to have a word for this feeling, it began with "p"). It's easy for Greenwald to be cavalier about terrorist threats to the United States, since last I heard, he does not live here; he's been living in Brazil for years. I also have a family, a wife and children. And it's true: no man, no matter how brave or cowardly, can know true fear until he has responsibility for the lives of his children. Greenwald, so far as I know, has no wife to worry about and no offspring other than the multiple internet personalities he created to sing his own praises. If we must humor Greenwald's dreary obsession with masculinity, perhaps he could learn something: what manhood is really about is using what strength we have to protect those entrusted to our care. And the first obligation of a man since time immemorial is also the first obligation we entrust to our government: to protect and defend against physical threats, especially from those who mean us and ours harm. Worrying about those threats is a sign of responsibility.
Let us proceed then to the merits of the argument.
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In response to Greenwald's argument for closing Guantanamo Bay to the effect that there is absolutely no danger in bringing its inhabitants onshore to the territorial United States, I noted, among other things, my prior writings on the attack by an imprisoned jihadist (Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist who was awaiting trial for the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania) in Manhattan on prison guard Louis Pepe. Greenwald's initial responses, on Twitter? First this (emphasis mine):
Some right-wing blogger - @baseballcrank - answers that in 2001, a Muslim attacked a guard. Is there anything the Right doesn't fear?
"A Muslim." Now, personally, while I recognize that a man like Salim derives his murderous ideology from his religious beliefs, I would not simply equate a high-ranking Al Qaeda terrorist with "a Muslim." But Greenwald wasn't done; his high dudgeon prompted him to Tweet again:
Right-wing blogger: 8 years ago, a Muslim prisoner attacked a guard so now all Muslims must be kept in cages on a Cuban island with no trial.
Emphasis, again, mine. Now, besides insisting that there is no distinction between Al Qaeda and "all Muslims" he falsely attributes to me a sweeping position bearing no resemblence to reality. But hey, it's his shtick, he can do what he wants with it. Greenwald liked this latter formulation so much he worked it into his column's discussion of my response, even putting the whole thing in italics:
[T]hat's a perfect distillation of the fear-wallowing right-wing mindset: hey, one time, 9 years ago, a Muslim Terrorist attacked a prison guard, so now we have to keep all Muslim Terrorist-prisoners in cages on a Cuban island with no trial because I'm too scared to keep them in an American prison.
Greenwald's column argues that (1) there are already a number of terrorist prisoners held in U.S. maximum security facilities without incident and (2) there's no shortage of prison violence as it is among non-terrorist prisoners. Both of these facts are true enough as far as they go, but neither gets him where he wants to go. To begin with, Greenwald obdurately refuses to face up to the central contradiction in his argument: he treats the security threat as if 100% of GTMO detainees will be automatically remanded, indefinitely, to SuperMax facilities. But that flies in the face of the whole reason why he objects to GTMO in the first place, which is that he wants the detainees tried in the justice system, which inevitably involves the risk that some will end up released or acquitted. He can't argue on the one hand that they are no danger because they will all be permanently, securely incarcerated in an escape-proof hole and at the same time that some of them should be set free. Greenwald has, of course, his own arguments for why he thinks there's no risk that evidentiary and procedural issues would lead to dangerous terrorists being released (or, as in the case of one recent conviction touted by the Obama Administration, sentenced to no more than 15 years), but he readers demand no more of him, and it would expose the holes in his supposed logical syllogism to explain this.
Greenwald also acts as if the detainees will be magically teleported, Star Trek style, from GTMO to their final destinations in SuperMax. But of course, in the real world, prisoners have to be transported into and around the United States, then held locally pending trial, entailing frequent trips to the courthouse. It was in such a local prison, the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan, where Salim attacked Pepe. While prison breaks are not as common or easy to execute in the real world as in Hollywood's imagination, it's unquestionably true that a prisoner poses a greater harm to others and a greater threat of escape when being transported or held in a local facility, even a local military facility not designed for such inmates. Consider the federal security precautions the City of Alexandria needed just to handle the trial of one man, Zacarias Moussaoui, as a result of which local (Democratic) officials and businesses are eager to avoid any more terror trials:
Moussaoui, who spent 23 hours a day inside his 80-square-foot cell, was constantly monitored and never saw other inmates. An entire unit of six cells and a common area was set aside just for him.
The 450-inmate jail was locked down every time Moussaoui was moved to the back of the nearby courthouse in a heavily armed convoy. Traffic was stopped as snipers watched from rooftops.
These precautions are common sense reactions to the reality that as bad as the most dangerous felons are, terror detainees present significantly greater threats. Let's consider the ways:
-They are willing to engage in suicide attacks and believe they will go to eternal paradise if they die killing infidels. This separates them from the typical violent felon who at least has a strong instinct for self-preservation. The savagery of the attack on Pepe is a sample of this; another is the practice of jihadists in the field of feigning surrender so they could get close up and explode bombs to take themselves with their captors. Does any serious adult believe that there's no distinction in the level of security needed to handle such people?
-They have a specific ideological hatred for the U.S. government and, thus, its employees, that goes beyond the ordinary attitude of drug dealers or gang bangers who regard the government principally as an obstacle.
-They are connected to international organizations with money and weapons and a powerful motivation to make trouble.
-They may continue to have valuable information they want to share with their un-captured comrades. Greenwald mentions the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman, but he neglects to mention the fact that the Sheikh's lawyer was convicted of helping him communicate his continued advocacy of terror attacks to his followers:
Prosecutors say she and two co-defendants helped her former client, imprisoned blind cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, transmit messages to the group's leaders in defiance of prison restrictions.
Stewart defended Rahman, the Islamic Group's spiritual leader, against 1993 charges that he plotted to blow up the United Nations, an FBI building, two tunnels, and a bridge in New York City. He was convicted and is serving a life sentence in a high security prison, where Stewart had numerous meetings with him.
-They may seek to radicalize other prisoners they come in contact with, a concern expressed by the director of the FBI. The recent incident of synagogue bomb plotters who had converted to a violent, radical strain of Islam in prison underlines this dynamic, although in their case the catalyst seems to have been a radical imam influential in the state prison system rather than fellow prisoners.
Assuming a 100% prosecution and conviction rate, none of these security obstacles is necessarily insuperable, as the Moussaoui experience shows: all you need to do is massively expand the manpower and resources dedicated to guarding each individual at all times, expend large amounts of prison space to keep them in solitary at every juncture, severely restrict their contact with outsiders and other inmates, surround them with federal personnel trained in handling the specific problems created by these kinds of detainees, and bring entire communities to a grinding halt every time you move them. In other words, try to replicate as nearly as possible a moving Guantanamo for each individual prisoner. Which raises again what exactly the point is of such an exercise, when the far more logical solution already exists for accomplishing all of these goals by holding the detainees collectively in a military installation designed and repeatedly reviewed and revised to fit the unique security challenges. Unless the point is just to give Glenn Greenwald something to do shtick about.
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POP CULTURE: Johnny Still B Goode
There really is no possible objective way to measure the greatest rock n' roll song of all time, but pretty high on any list would be whether a song was so essential that just about everybody who's ever picked up a guitar had to try their hand at it. I say you can't go wrong with the original, primordial, classic rock standard that's one of the very few songs of the 1950s that sounds as fresh today as it did five decades ago (warning, the volume of these is variable):
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May 28, 2009
POLITICS: Castles of Sand
The Wall Street Journal looks at the severe falloff in tax revenues from millionaires in Maryland after the state socked them with a new, higher tax rate for the purpose of closing a budget gap, a move hailed at the time by supposedly big-thinking liberals. Somehow, Maryland liberals were surprised that this didn't work out:
One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates.
The easy partisan divide on this issue is over how much of the decline in revenues is attributable to millionaires leaving the state or voluntarily reducing their taxable income (by working less or hiding money in tax shelters) as opposed to the effects of the recession, which the WSJ notes as an obvious contributing factor. But that's only one problem with sharply progressive tax rates; the Journal notes a structural problem that is at least equally serious in times of recession, as New York and California in particular are discovering to their grief. Specifically, the surplus annual income and investment returns of the wealthy tend to be much more volatile year-to-year than the great mass of incomes earned by average citizens.
Let's consider an illustration: in a boom year, the stock market rises 20%, and housing prices rise 30%. Lots of people (proportionately to the number of millionaires) make big gushing spigots of money from this, not just capital gains from sales but commissions, year-end bonuses, the whole gamut of ways people profit in eye-popping amounts from a boom. The average guy sees some extra money too, but he's less likely to see a dramatic percentage increase in compensation. Despite some variations across different boom era, by and large, this has always been true.
When booms turn to busts, though, the high-end incomes are the hardest hit in percentage terms. We think of down times as being harder on the average worker because in human terms they are: it's a lot worse to lose your job than to go from making $10 million a year to $800,000. But when unemployment goes from 5% to 10%, the dropoff in the tax rolls isn't that dramatic, especially given that a lot of those lost jobs were people paying little or no income or capital gains taxes to start with, and so the state budget literally does not feel their pain. Whereas collections from high-end incomes can and do drop off far more than 5% in a year, as the Maryland example illustrates. Here in New York, investment banker bonuses that were once the core of the state and city tax bases evaporated overnight. Put simply, taxing the rich is the least recession-proof revenue-raising strategy you could design.
This would be problematic enough if the federal and state governments were trying to sustain a stable income and socking away the extra money for a rainy day (Gov. Palin in Alaska did something like this with the revenue from oil boom years, but Alaska too is subject to the laws of political gravity). Instead, Congress and the states tend to create new permanent claims on temporary income in the best of times, creating long-term self-perpetuating entitlement and spending programs and hiring more unionized workers. (The Obama 'stimulus' bill combined the worst of both worlds, giving states temporary revenues while demanding that they use them to permanently increase funding obligations, and doing so during a recession). This tax-on-the-boom, spend-through-the-bust philosophy is designed for certain failure; it's not possible it could ever succeed.
Yet, that's exactly how all tax-the-rich systems are designed. And no amount of failure will ever teach their proponents anything.
LAW: The Hazards Of Blogging A Subject You Do Not Understand
I don't know whether Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post is a lawyer, but from this post I have to assume not - and that he really should have talked to a lawyer before publishing it.
The main thrust of Linkins' post is his argument that Justice Scalia in his 2002 opinion in Republican Party of Minnesota v. White somehow endorsed the notion that it's appropriate for judges to make policy. (I have discussed before the importance of that opinion in judicial-nomination fights for a different reason: Justice Scalia noted that the restrictions in question imposed a nonsensical distinction between what a judge can say before and after announcing a candidacy for judicial office, and in so doing explained why it is silly to question whether a judge is "impartial" simply because he or she has previously stated views about what the law is.)
So, did Justice Scalia defend the making of policy by judges? It's true that nobody really disputes that at the margins, a judge in many cases will be involved in some level of policymaking and policy considerations, and that some of the questions courts must resolve entail the judges' view of how the world actually works. Justice Scalia, however, would seem a curious witness to call on this point, as he is the figure in American public life most associated with the view that the legitimacy of a court's decisions depends upon limiting judges' discretion to the maximum possible extent and never losing sight of the fact that the Constitution and federal statutes are democratic enactments whose interpretation must at all times conform to what the people understood they meant at the time they became law.
Let's look at the quotes Linkins chooses and why they are - assuming Linkins was writing in good faith - so hilariously misguided.
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White involved a Minnesota statute restricting speech by candidates for elected judicial office, which Justice Scalia (writing for the Court), characteristically found to be inconsistent with the unambiguous free speech guarantees of the First Amendment. Linkins selects the following quote (emphasis his):
This complete separation of the judiciary from the enterprise of "representative government" might have some truth in those countries where judges neither make law themselves nor set aside the laws enacted by the legislature. It is not a true picture of the American system. Not only do state-court judges possess the power to "make" common law, but they have the immense power to shape the States' constitutions as well. See, e.g., Baker v. State, 170 Vt. 194, 744 A. 2d 864 (1999). Which is precisely why the election of state judges became popular.
Taking the language in bold first, Justice Scalia was talking about the common law. For the non-lawyers out there, a lot of areas of state law are common law, i.e., judges apply rules developed by judges. This is true of contract law, or personal injury law, for example. State legislatures can and do add their own rules, and judges aren't unconstrained in making common law - the weight of precedent is important in areas where judge-made law has developed over centuries - but a common law court indisputably can and does make policy. Quite sensibly, Justice Scalia notes that in light of this legitimate policymaking power, the citizenry in electing state court judges should be allowed to hear their policy views.
That has nearly nothing to do with the role of the federal courts, however, where Judge Sotomayor and Justice Scalia both sit. It has been established law since the 1930s - it's one of the first things every law student learns - that there is no such thing as general federal common law. There are some discrete areas of federal common law - maritime law, federal contractor law, etc. - but the big ticket issues for the Supreme Court are its constitutional and federal statutory dockets. In point of fact, Justice Scalia has been an opponent of the expansion of federal common law (see his 1994 opinion for the Court in O'Melveny & Myers v FDIC). Still less is the power to make common law a legitimate way for judges to approach the Constitution.
Scalia's reference to state-court power over state constitutional law is, to put it mildly, not an endorsement of the sort of judicial policymaking he has long railed against, as the citation to the Vermont Supreme Court's decision in Baker - which compelled Vermont's lawmakers to accept same-sex civil unions on questionably creative state constitutional grounds - should have signalled to the attentive reader. His perhaps-subtle point was, rather, that voters should get to hear more from judges precisely because they have lately been in the habit of taking issues away from elected officials as they did in Baker. The final sentence of the quotation makes that rather explicit: voters want to elect judges to stop them from making policy against the voters' wishes.
Then we have a further extended quotation from footnote 12 of the opinion (it's a footnote to that same paragraph dealing simply with rebutting further arguments by the dissents):
Although Justice [John Paul] Stevens at times appears to agree with Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg's premise that the judiciary is completely separated from the enterprise of representative government, post, at 3 ("[E]very good judge is fully aware of the distinction between the law and a personal point of view"), he eventually appears to concede that the separation does not hold true for many judges who sit on courts of last resort, post, at 3 ("If he is not a judge on the highest court in the State, he has an obligation to follow the precedent of that court, not his personal views or public opinion polls"); post, at 3, n. 2. Even if the policy making capacity of judges were limited to courts of last resort, that would only prove that the announce clause fails strict scrutiny. "[I]f announcing one's views in the context of a campaign for the State Supreme Court might be" protected speech, post, at 3, n. 2, then-even if announcing one's views in the context of a campaign for a lower court were not protected speech, ibid.-the announce clause would not be narrowly tailored, since it applies to high- and low-court candidates alike. In fact, however, the judges of inferior courts often "make law," since the precedent of the highest court does not cover every situation, and not every case is reviewed. Justice Stevens has repeatedly expressed the view that a settled course of lower court opinions binds the highest court. See, e.g., Reves v. Ernst & Young, 494 U.S. 56, 74 (1990) (concurring opinion); McNally v. United States, 483 U.S. 350, 376--377 (1987) (dissenting opinion).
Emphasis again Linkins'. Obviously, this is simply a continuation of the point about the state judges who were at issue in White (plus Justice Scalia is obviously trying to throw some of Justice Stevens' own prior views back at him, without necessarily endorsing them).
Supreme Court fights involve the basic, core issue of the legitimacy of judicial power and the ultimate scope of democratic self-government. Because of that, and because the core concept of legitimacy is one that can and should be understood by ordinary citizens, I would not argue that the issues at hand should be left solely to the lawyers to argue about. But just as pundits and bloggers sometimes need to talk to military people before making mistakes about matters within the sphere of military expertise, it's a good idea to ask a lawyer before you go quoting judicial opinions. You might, like Jason Linkins, end up making a fool of yourself.
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POLITICS: Harry the Insult Comic Senator Strikes Again
I have previously catalogued Harry Reid's penchant for petty insults of political opponents, and that was before he started complaining about the voters smelling bad. Well, Reid has a new one: quoting himself in his book calling Barbara Bush a "bitch."
UPDATE: Oops, read too quickly before posting, Reid is quoting Bentsen. So, not on the level of some of his prior insults.
POP CULTURE: And Now For Something Completely Different
This video, featuring an appearance by Kelly Clarkson on what appears to be German TV, cracked me up for some reason...picture a foreign pop star who speaks barely any English appearing on David Letterman, with the attendant awkwardness and translation problems, and ending up in one of his stunts, and you start to get the effect.
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UPDATE: I should add, by the way, that I actually like Clarkson's new album quite a bit... it's kind of cheesy, of course, but I'll take a little too cheesy over a little too hip and ironic any day of the week. Oddly, I had never had any familiarity with her music until maybe a month ago (I have never watched American Idol, although through the usual pop culture osmosis I have a general idea of who wins every year). More broadly, I have a terrible time locating new music to listen to, given the parlous state of rock these days.
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BASEBALL: F-Mart Blue Light Special
Necessity makes a fool of the best laid plans, but I'm still ambivalent at best about Fernando Martinez being rushed to the majors, and even moreso after watching him fail to run out a popup last night (I think it was only last night, this week has blown my sense of time). Martinez has been an impressively touted prospect since he batted .333/.389/.505 in the Sally League at age 17 in 2006, but at every step since then he's put up decidedly mediocre numbers until arriving at Norfolk this season, where a recent hot streak pushed him to .291/.337/.552. Yet the Mets keep promoting him, on the theory that the numbers are good for his age.
There are four drawbacks to this approach. Number one, of course, is if it turns out the guy's not the age you thought he was. Number two is if his growth stalls - Andy Marte, for example, dined out on the "good for his age" bit until he ceased improving. Martinez is more athletic than Marte, but it's still a concern. Number three - exemplified by the popup incident - is if the prospect doesn't work hard enough on the details of his game because he knows he doesn't have to earn promotions. Immaturity is a universal at Martinez' age, and even the most dedicated young athletes sometimes need to be pushed to get everything out of their talent. And number four is the problem of getting overwhelmed and never really mastering the levels he's at - Martinez has never learned to steal bases despite good speed, and with the exception of one 3-game stop he's never drawn more than 47 walks per 600 plate appearances at any level, while consistenly averaging about 2.7 strikeouts per walk. (The fifth problem is arbitration eligibility, but that's less of an issue for a team like the Mets).
That's not to say that rapid promotions are all bad - it more or less worked out for Jose Reyes (although in the interim the Mets suffered through terrible plate discipline from Reyes as a leadoff hitter in his early years, plus he's never entirely gotten away from annoying mental mistakes). I'm generally all for skipping levels if a guy has had great results at AA. But once the immediate emergency passes in right field, I'd like to see Martinez put together at least one season of really being a consistent minor league hitter before bringing him into the big leagues for good.
May 27, 2009
POLITICS: Metaphor Overload
The Obama Administration in a nutshell:
May 26, 2009
POLITICS/LAW: I Forgot
POP CULTURE/BASEBALL: I Pity The Pirates
POLITICS: Clearing The Field
Anthony Wiener has dropped out of the Democratic primary to face Mike Bloomberg. H/T That leaves two relatively weak candidates against the Bloomberg juggernaut...if you're outside NY, you can't really grasp the massive scale of Bloomberg's ad campaign six months from Election Day when he has no opponent yet and won't for some time. I have to believe his election will be a formality.
LAW/POLITICS: SCOTUS Prediction
Just to get on record before the expected announcement at 10:15 this morning, I will be shocked if Obama does not pick Judge Diane Wood of the Seventh Circuit for the Supreme Court. Wood is a veteran federal appellate judge, she's female, she's a relatively low-key personality (usually an asset in confirmation hearings), she's reliably liberal, and he knows her personally from Chicago. Downsides? Well, Obama, like Bush, wants badly to name the first Hispanic Justice, but there are always multiple considerations in picking a Justice; Bush never got there either, and Obama may well have one or two more picks in the next few years. Otherwise, the main downside - if you consider it one - is that Judge Wood's record will put the abortion issue front and center even more than the usual SCOTUS battle.
UPDATE: No sooner had I written these words than the word came down that Obama has instead chosen Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor.
I'm going to need to be very cautious in writing about this nomination battle, for professional reasons. Let's just say that everyone with any interest in making a fight of this nomination is very happy with this pick.
SECOND UPDATE: Ruffini notes that Obama is making this announcement the same day the California Supreme Court is set to decide whether to throw out the verdict of the people of California in supporting Proposition 8, the anti-same-sex marriage proposition. Unclear whether Obama is hoping to preempt the issue, but the net result will likely be a sudden shift of focus to social issues.
May 24, 2009
BASEBALL: How Citi Plays
In case you are wondering, here are the early returns on Citi Field.
Mets batting at home: .287/.368/.432, 4.95 R/G, Home run every 55.07 plate appearances.
Mets batting on the road: .285/.366/.407, 4.81 R/G, Home run every 66.08 plate appearances.
Don't have the pitching splits handy, but it's hard to see much of an effect there yet. If that variation in homers keeps up over a full season, we'll have a little better basis for declaring it a good home run park.
BASEBALL: Win Call, Lose Closer
Very dramatic win last night for the Mets, with an excellent performance by Pelfrey and the game-winning homer awarded to Omir Santos in the 9th inning only after review of the instant replay showed (correctly) that the ball hit off the top of the Green Monster above the orange line. Nonetheless, I have to fault Gary Sheffield for not running harder and thus not being in position to score if the ball had been ruled a double. Sheffield's been a professional baseball player for 24 years now, you'd think he'd have absorbed a basic lesson like not assuming a ball in the air leaves the park. But you can't teach an old dog new tricks; Sheff has turned into a very valuable guy to have (at least for now) with Delgado out.
The bad news is K-Rod. Just when they get Putz back again after yet another brief absence, K-Rod collapses from back spasms:
Rodriguez...was put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a local hospital following the 3-2 win over the Red Sox.
That doesn't sound very encouraging.
UPDATE: The Post's Twitter feed says K-Rod is moving around without a wheelchair this morning, which is...supposed to be good news.
May 22, 2009
WAR: Joe Biden Doesn't Know What's In The Box But He Can't Resist Opening It
Ah, what would we do without Joe Biden?
So will Obama fulfill his vow - announced amid great fanfare in an executive order on day two of his presidency - to close the facility by January 2010? "I think so," Biden responded, according to Newsweek's Holly Bailey.
You know, we could just try not opening the box. That's the problem with throwing away things that already work just to score PR points. What could go wrong? Only one way to find out, after all!
I hadn't heard Wanda Sykes' joke about Biden but it's a keeper, and unlike most of her routine that night, both funny and true:
"God forbid that Joe Biden falls into the hands of terrorists....We're done. Oh, they won't even have to torture him. All they have to do is go, 'How's it going, Joe?'"
Mary Katherine Ham suggests a Moynihan line Biden might want to keep handy. On a daily basis, in fact.
BASEBALL: Size Matters
Yes, bigger players hit longer home runs. Another data point against those who argue that steroids, which clearly help build muscle mass, have no effect on the ability to hit for power.
POLITICS: Conservatism's Essential Element
What is the essential element of conservatism?
I have had a number of conversations and arguments on this question in recent months, as befits a movement doing its time in the wilderness. The responses by Beldar, Prof. Bainbridge and arch-libertarian Brink Lindsey to Judge Richard Posner's provocative blog post on the subject of conservative intellectualism is only the latest installment in this debate, but a good excuse to weigh in on my own.
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First up, there are those who argue that the core of conservatism is the intellect, the use of reason. These tend, by and large, to be the economic conservatives, doing constant battle with the Left's efforts to repeal the laws of economic reality to cater to demagogic appeals to "fairness" and blatant nonsense like protectionism and minimum wage and rent control laws. Or the legal conservatives, struggling to hold the line for the consistent application of the rule of law in the face of appeals to "empathy." (Judge Posner, being the dean of the economic-analysis-of-law movement, sits neatly at the intersection of both). Or, at times, the national security hawks, arguing for more cold-eyed realism and fewer appeals to the self-abnegating moral vanities of the moment.
All of these have their point. Reason and intellect have a vital role in conservatism. But the intellect, taken alone, carries its own dangers and limitations. Polls regularly show that Americans with post-graduate educations tend to be less, rather than more conservative, and that's been true for years. Conservative intellectuals in particular have often been late to join the populist waves that have given political conservatism its greatest victories. More broadly, intellectuals are rightly notorious for building castles in the air that have neither appeal nor connection to the common man and the world he inhabits. Intellectuals as a class have fallen prey to nearly all the worst ideological fads and enthusiasms to sweep the Western World since 1789. Too often, as Beldar notes, intellectuals have left themselves defenseless against moral monstrosities and the seductions of power (especially where the ideology in question offers to give power to intellectuals as a class). A conservatism solely of the intellect can be a powerful force in a debate society, but it will never be either politically resonant or wholly trustworthy with power.
The failings of intellectuals give rise to the opposite argument: that the weakness of liberalism, which conservatives must remedy, is precisely that it is a sterile intellectual creed, reducing man to his wants and his biological imperatives and neglecting what really animates the human animal: pride, anger, fear, love of family and country and all that is dear and familiar. Law-and-order and national-security conservatives will tell you that the Left's legalisms leave it unable to grapple with the true threats posed by dangerous men and too limp to appeal to legitimate needs and methods for gaining the people's loyalty and redressing their injuries. We have people on the left these days who want to bring terrorists to our shores and put them in our prisons, and cannot for the life of them understand why anyone would object to that, because they have locked themselves so thoroughly into their own mental straitjackets that they can't use simple common sense. Students of patriotism will tell you that men will fight for their homes in ways that they would never fight for international abstractions. Students of culture will tell you that all the studies and programs in the world are no substitute for what a man will do for his family if government stops trying to substitute itself for his role. Critics of abortion will tell you that the cold utilitarianism of the "pro-choice" movement and its clinical approach to the most powerful force known to humanity - a mother's love for her child - leaves women who make that fatal choice with an emotional wound they may never entirely salve. Critics of big government argue that central planning and the rule of experts is doomed to grief because it passes the point where a man is willing to be nagged.
The heart is indeed a powerful and mysterious thing, one that must be accounted for in public policy. But the heart can be an even more treacherous guide than the mind, more prone to romantic fantasies that are all the more inexplicable when the madness passes. Conservatives may thrive at times on their connection to deep emotional currents, but they are just as often called upon to curb them.
A further school of thought is that the core dividing line between conservatives and liberals is faith. Mind and heart alike may be powerful tools, but they can only be properly guided by an informed conscience, which is a gift from God. The devotees of the role of faith in conservatism have polls on their side: even in the worst of times, regular churchgoers are conservatism's most faithful core. Strong religious faith is a powerful indicator of being conservative, moreso even than having a family, a mortgage or a job. Turning from politics to policy, certainly there is much to say for the view that a society that loses its faith loses its conservatism and, ultimately, its moral bearings and even (as Mark Steyn is wont to observe) its desire to populate the Earth with the next generation.
But faith alone is too narrow a definition. Religions are notoriously fractious and factional, so while a political consensus can be built on broadly shared moral foundations that themselves are the products of faith, one cannot be built directly on faith itself. And in any event, many faiths simply don't provide the answers needed to grapple with the myriad banal matters of politics, and are rightly suspicious of entangling themselves in trying to answer them. Conservatives may include many people of faith, but to get how conservatism works, something more earthbound is required.
Reason, emotion, and faith are all important. But the crucial and distinctive element of conservatism is experience. There's a reason why people in general tend to grow more conservative as they age: partly because they have more responsibilities and pay more taxes, yes, but also because they have seen more of life. That process is only a microcosm of the broader conservative belief in tradition: not tradition as nostalgia or fear of the unknown, but rather tradition as the proving ground of human experience, the ultimate laboratory of humanity. Experience, as the saying goes, is the school of mankind, and he will learn at no other.
Principles and Ideology
Defining conservatism as the product of experience is not to deny that conservatism, American-style at least, has general and indeed indispensable principles: patriotism, individual liberty, free enterprise, the rule of law, protection of innocent life, the centraility of faith to an informed conscience and a meaningful life. But it is experience and tradition that guide us as conservatives in applying those principles in the real world and in resolving the tensions when those values conflict.
It is also true that the conservative movement has room within it for a variety of ideologies. But conservatism itself is a philosophy, not an ideology, and every kind of ideology on the Right comes to grief when it loses its moorings in experience and tradition. Judge Posner, for example, has for years espoused - in media ranging from his judicial opinions to his blog posts - probably the most sophisticated version of one conservative ideology, the relentless search for economic efficiency and the application of that same methodology to every aspect of life. Now, the search for efficiency-maximizing rules is a useful lens for analyzing problems, but man does not live by efficiency alone, and the public wisely tends to balk when told that it should accept results people view and unjust or cold-hearted for no other reason than that it's the most efficient way of doing things.
Likewise, libertarianism is a vital element of every conservative's intellectual toolkit; the libertarian questions are the ones we need our representatives to never stop asking. Why does the government need to be doing this? Why the federal government, not states or localities? Is the problem caused by what the government is already doing? Can private business provide a solution? Should individuals bear the costs of their own choices? These are essential lines of inquiry, and the libertarian skepticism they embody is of great value. But libertarianism has only questions, not answers; it is not a workable program so much as a Socratic exercise. Just try going to your local town or city council meeting and suggesting privatizing the fire department if you want an illustration of what happens when dogmatic libertarianism collides with common experience. Even when we ask the best of questions, if we want the answers, we must look to the world as it is and historically has been.
Translating Experience Into Policy
The conservative preference for reliance on life experience manifests itself, procedurally, in four major ways: a preference for democracy over rule by judges and other 'experts'; a preference for free markets over centralized planning; a preference for federalism over one-size-fits-all centralized government; and respect for tradition in all things.
Democracy may not seem like a point of controversy in modern America, but it is, and conservatives time and again end up standing on the side of increasing the power of democracy in its long struggle against centralized, unaccountable authority.
Now, conservatives generally do not fetishize democracy for its own sake. Many conservatives would share Winston Churchill's observation that the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. Indeed, it's not hard to find conservatives who would, at least in theory, be perfectly happy to live under a monarchy if it respected liberty, free markets, the rule of law and the other virtues treasured by conservatives. The Founding Fathers themselves were mostly content to call themselves loyal subjects of the King so long as their established rights were respected. Experience, not ideology, taught them otherwise.
Yet, conservatives in modern America are not only staunch defenders of democracy, they are often - as in the case of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush - eager to evangelize it around the world. Why? Because long experience has shown that, in Churchill's more famous phrase, it is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. The good king may be preferable to messy democracy, but the good king is a rare breed - one is far from guaranteed to get a good king at the outset, and even if you do, he is subject to the corrupting temptations of power and difficult to be rid of without bloodshed if he goes astray. Democracies are, we know from experience, less apt to make war on one another, and more pliable in correcting their own errors. When coupled with the separation of powers, democratic governments are also, whatever their periodic failings in this regard, less likely to make dramatic changes generally and specifically less apt to toss away long-recognized rights of the citizen and long-established forms of common sense. As George Orwell wrote in explaining the deficiency of government by so-called experts:
The immediate cause of the German defeat was the unheard-of folly of attacking the U.S.S.R. while Britain was still undefeated and America was manifestly getting ready to fight. Mistakes of this magnitude can only be made, or at any rate they are most likely to be made, in countries where public opinion has no power. So long as the common man can get a hearing, such elementary rules as not fighting all your enemies simultaneously are less likely to be violated.
Democracy's virtues arise from that connection to the common man, who is valuable not because there is great virtue in being "common," but simply because the common man, being more numerous than the uncommon man, has more opportunities to learn from his mistakes. Democracy draws from a broader pool of human experience than other forms of government, by involving the greatest number of people in the making of decisions, thus bringing to bear the most wisdom (the most folly, too, but individual decisionmakers are hardly immune to folly).
This is precisely what separates it from the liberal/progressive model by which the wisdom of the people and their representatives is considered suspect if it collides with the "conscience" or judgment of a much smaller number of experts. This is especially blatant when judges arrogate to themselves the power to decide things like what rights are "fundamental" or what punishments are uncivilized, even when the public has voted them into law. Abrogation of democratic enactments by judges is unconservative in three ways: it substitutes the experience of the few for that of the many; it is often based solely on appeals to a narrow type of reasoning, rather than the competing judgments of reason, emotion, faith, tradition and experience that inform the views of the populace as a whole; and it involves pronouncing rules that are inflexible and hard to change if proven faulty through trial and error. Conservatives do, of course, recognize that sometimes the judiciary is charged with restraining the popular will - but the judiciary acts legitimately in doing so only when it is bringing to bear the popular judgments of prior generations. The core concept of conservative judicial review is to invoke constitutional limitations grounded in tradition and blessed at some time in the past by the people - in short, to say that the judgment of the people today must give way only to a judgment made with greater reflection by the people in the past. Yet the Framers of the Constitution nonetheless allowed for the possibility - in Article V's amendment process - that the people could always win out in the end over their predecessors, but only if their determination to change the constitution was sufficiently sustained and widespread. This vision of gradual and broad-based change over time is precisely the opposite of the progressive vision of sudden, jolting, permanent revisions by small numbers of legal specialists.
And the judiciary is hardly the only area where liberal/progressives seek to erode democratic decisionmaking and its necessary companion, democratic accountability (i.e., the means for the people, upon deciding that something has been tried and hasn't worked, to hold responsible the people ultimately in charge); the proliferation of independent agencies, the rise in power of unelected international institutions, the creation of this or that permanent mandated legal entitlement, and the use of the federal government to relieve states of direct responsibility for financing their own spending are all destructive of the basic principle that the best decisions are those made by the most people and subject to their continual review as experience warrants.
In foreign affairs, the enthusiasm for democracy has sometimes created controversy within as well as without the conservative movement. Critics are apt to decry President Bush's view of the value of democratizing Iraq and other Middle Eastern states as being unduly utopian social engineering. The critique is not a totally unfair one and outside the scope of this article to resolve, but there is nonetheless a powerful argument in favor of the Iraq War and the subsequent democratization of Iraq precisely on the theory that the war was about removing the obstacle of a bad government and replacing it with the kind of government that has been proven by experience to be the best option across many different cultures over the past several decades. As I have written before, the conservative argument is that since men can change governments more easily than governments can change men, the best one can do to address the problems of dysfunctional Arab Muslim societies is to remove the obstacle of a problematic centralized government and give the people the space to work things out on their own - a model more consistent with the American Revolution, as well as those in Eastern Europe, rather than the French or Russian models whereby a new government seeks to compel society to fit its theories.
(2) Free Markets
The conservative enthusiasm for free markets is, at the end of the day, simply another aspect of conservative enthusiasm for democracy. Both have their failings, but the idea in each case is that the individual decisions of the many from their own experience, when added together, will produce more reliable value judgments over time than the dictates of the few, however well-intentioned or technically proficient. Free markets for products, for investment capital, and for labor are the ultimate example of trial and error - and they work only when the error part is permitted to exact its price. The U.S. auto industry, for example, has been brought to its knees over time by the consumer and investor markets' judgment of the industry's product line and cost structure. Expecting an 'auto czar' with no background selling cars to pronounce a different verdict is the classic triumph of hope over experience.
Louis Brandeis famously referred to American state legislatures as "laboratories of democracy." Brandeis was no conservative, but he understood that the best way to promote progress in government over time was to start small, test ideas in one place and see if they work before imposing them across the nation. Federalism in the United States is an accident of history, but then conservatism is all about accepting the accidents of history if time tests them and finds them useful. What makes the conservative preference for federalism consistent with the preference for democracy and free markets is the idea that, yet again, the states provide a broader base for decision-making and a wider scope for stress-testing different approaches: 50 state legislatures are better than one, and state and local lawmakers, being closer to the people they govern, are more apt to make decisions based on local experience rather than ideology. States and localities can and do make terrible mistakes, but the nation as a whole is not saddled with them so long as other states and localities are free to witness the experience and choose a different path. On economic issues this is obvious: different tax and regulatory structures produce different results, and over time people and businesses migrate to the ones that produce results they prefer. On social issues, the nation would have a much more stable basis for resolving debates about, say, same-sex marriage or legalized marijuana if there was more confidence that differing localities could experiment with different rules without having to export them nationwide. Even on those issues where the federal government was ultimately needed to forcefully intervene, like slavery and Jim Crow, federal action did not come until there had been decades of experience with free states or states without segregation to offer a positive model to provide a contrast.
Perhaps the classic distillation of the antithesis of conservatism is the line popularized by Robert F. Kennedy that "some people look at the world as it is and ask why; I look at the world as it could be and ask why not." Now, this credo is a wonderful one for the inventor, the entrepeneur, the academic opening a graduate seminar. Asking "why not" is a fine way to stretch the mind to seek ways to try new things and find new answers.
But it's a horrible way to make public policy, which always must be rooted in knowing why the world is as it is. Conservatives can love theory, and experiment with all sorts of intellectual exercises, but fundamentally the only sustainable basis for conservatism is to offer solutions that have already been proven to work in the real world. That doesn't mean conservatives are slavish devotees of the status quo; far from it. Edmund Burke's famous dictum that a society without the means of change is without the means of its own conservation is as true today as it was 220 years ago.
The difference between the Burke worldview and the RFK worldview is respect for tradition. I've listed tradition fourth among the ways in which conservatives put the value of experience into practice for a reason: to emphasize that it's only one of several tools used by conservatives to determine what works and what doesn't, what is and isn't consistent with human nature, what solutions can be implemented without massive unintended consequences. But it remains experience's ultimate proving ground because it draws on an even larger sample size of human judgments and human life experiences than democracy or markets or federalism. Social, cultural, political, religious, legal and economic traditions incorporate within them the vast sweep of thousands of years of trial and error; as GK Chesterton was fond of saying, tradition is the true democracy, superior to the tyranny of whatever generation happens to be walking around at a particular moment. Human beings do things in particular ways for reasons they often do not even understand or think about because someone before them tried and witnessed the results. Liberals may love calling themselves pragmatists too, of course - but a pragmatism that discards tradition deprives itself of the raw material to test whether a purportedly pragmatic solution actually works.
What is most ironic about the Left's disdain for tradition is that it emanates from the same people who are most strident about the sacrosanct and unquestionable nature of Darwinian evolutionary biology. I have no quarrel with evolution as a scientific theory, but to recognize the basic mechanism of natural selection is by necessity to admit the value of tradition as a fundamental organizing principle of nature: that which works over time prospers, and that which does not falls by the wayside. Tradition, properly understood, is not statis; it is change, but change over time by constant experimentation with the new and comparison of its results to the old. It is growth that is organic to the human family. It is the school of mankind; and all the dictates and mandates of government can make us learn at no other.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Conservative successes in politics and policy have always been rooted in experience, in offering solutions that were consistent with the common experience of voters and that stood in contrast to the liberals' impractical efforts to bend the world to fit their theories. Conservatives rose from the 1960s to the high water marks of 1980 and 1994 by connecting with real worries about liberal theories run amok in law enforcement, tax, and welfare policy, and by offering solutions that were easily connected to common sense experience and historical tradition and/or were successfully tested locally. Obituaries of Jack Kemp, for example, noted that his view of the supply-side virtues of reducing marginal tax rates was based on study of how John F. Kennedy's tax cuts worked in the 1960s. By contrast, conservatives under George W. Bush struggled when the public was unconvinced that we were being conservative: when voters believed the Iraq War or Social Security reform to be unduly ambitious rather than in line with the lessons of experience and tradition. A conservative resurgence under the current government is most likely to depend on public recognition that the Democrats are doing things that just don't, in common experience, make sense.
Conservatives going forward should not take this lesson as a reason never to propose big ideas and big solutions, but the movement's many ideological factions can best sell themselves to the public by respecting the value of experience. Take control at the local or state level to test-run ideas (one reason why Barack Obama has fought so hard to compel GOP Governors to accept stimulus money and spend it as he wants it spent is precisely to prevent any Governor from offering a different model). Explain to voters why and how conservative proposals are consistent with things that have worked in the past, and why and how the left's ideas seek to impose ideology on reality rather than the other way around. Principles are fine things, but the voters by and large see our principles as secondary to a decent respect for how things work and what people are really like.
The conservative may seek to promote many good values, but liberals too have their own values. The conservative may make moving appeals to reason, emotion and faith, but liberals have their own appeals. The conservative may offer a hopeful vision of the future, but liberals offer their own vision and their own hope. At the end of the day, what makes conservatism both distinct and viable is not the castles it builds in the air but the roots that hold it deep in the ground. The essential element of conservatism is that by learning from experience and tradition, it reflects the world as it really is.
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May 21, 2009
HOCKEY: Teh Cup
This iconic silver trophy, which is handed out each year to hockey's champion, carries with it the marks of another, quieter history -- decades of botched spellings, spacing gaffes, repeated words and the unsightly results of attempts to fix them.
May 20, 2009
Scott Schoenweis' wife found dead by their 14-year-old daughter. No further details at this point, but really, further details won't do any good. Very sad no matter the cause.
BLOG: The Juggling Act
Congrats to Ted Villa and Nancy Snow Villa, two of my old friends from college, who got a prominent writeup in today's Wall Street Journal (it's on page D1 of the print edition) about how they juggle their business and care for their three children in shifts.
POLITICS: Star Power
I missed this one in my post the other day on Rubio and Crist - watch this clip of Marco Rubio in action and you can see why people have been excited about him for some time. Note - as becomes obvious when he pulls out a crumpled roll of paper to read the Kennedy quote - the absence of a TelePrompter.
H/T. John McCormack offers some samples of Crist speaking for contrast. Crist's not terrible, and of course he's won a couple of statewide races as Governor and AG, but he's a pretty unexciting politician with no identifiable principles. I'm guessing he'll focus on ignoring Rubio as hard as he can.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:23 PM | Politics 2009 | Politics 2010 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: All Class
BUSINESS: The Business of News
You really need to read Francis Cianfrocca's take on the economics of the media and why it has radically changed.
POLITICS: Meet The New Brownshirts
Intimidation, home invasion and the not-too-subtle threat of physical violence - by community organizers closely allied with governmental power and receiving taxpayer money. It's not a pretty combination:
Bruce Marks doesn't bother being diplomatic. A campaigner on behalf of homeowners facing foreclosure, he was on the phone one day in March to a loan executive at Bank of America Corp.
The goal of this sort of thing, of course, is to thoroughly politicize business decisions from top to bottom of the economy, squeezing out as far as possible the role of independent business judgment and for the benefit of favored constituencies and politicians (see here for one of the more egregious examples by one of the nation's most notorious practitioners of political extortion, and here for a similar example of the use of strong-arm street tactics). And the results will be predictable: together with the move to limit credit card fees, the Democrats and their activist allies will put businesses to the choice of (1) extending bad credit in exchange for insufficient returns to cover the risks, for the purpose of currying political favor and keeping the brownshirts away from their homes and families, or (2) getting out of the business altogether. (Allahpundit notes the third choice of shifting costs onto good credit risks, but there's only so much blood to squeeze from that stone directly, except insofar as it's done indirectly by using taxpayer money to bribe the banks).
It's not a good thing for liberty, not a good thing for the economy, and ultimately not a good thing for the integrity of a government that gets too comfortable pulling the strings.
May 19, 2009
POLITICS: Dumping Dodd
The reasons for wanting Chris Dodd gone from the Senate are too numerous to recount here; briefly speaking, Dodd has been wrong on basically every national security issue for the past three decades, he's got ethical problems out the wazoo, and while he was in bed with anyone and everyone connected with the financial crisis, he spent a year living in Iowa on a delusional presidential campaign instead of doing his job overseeing the Senate Banking Commitee. Rob Simmons, a moderate former GOP Congressman, is the leading candidate to replace Dodd, and is doing a drive to get past 400 online donations (he's pretty close already) by close of business today. So, I'll do my part here:
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BASEBALL: Infield Of Holes
Last night's Mets loss in extra innings was ... well, you can call it many things, but surprising would not be one, not when they faced a first-place (albeit Manny-less) team with the following lineup:
Angel Pagan - LF
At least we have not yet been treated to Tatis at shortstop, where he is apparently now considered an option with Alex Cora on the DL.
The Mets' record may look good, but they have some serious issues to deal with. One is what to do about first base. The NY Post reports that "Carlos Delgado's surgery this morning was successful" and the Mets "expect him back in 10 weeks." That's good, but there's still a lot of season in 10 weeks. This is, unfortunately, a terrible time for Nick Evans to have been sent back to extended spring training because he was batting .093 at AAA. One solution may be to use first to get more playing time for Tatis, and another is using Murphy there more to get better gloves in the outfield, but those are probably stopgaps. Murphy really might end up as the longer-term answer at first than picking up a journeyman veteran like the suitcases-always-packed Aubrey Huff, but there's little enough reason to think Murphy can hit enough to be a league-average first baseman or better.
Then there's Reyes, who had just started getting hot when he got hurt, batting .444/.516/.630 in his last 7 games. John Harper thinks the Mets should bail on Reyes because of his mental lapses, but on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being Stan Musial or Jackie Robinson and 10 being Manny Ramirez, Reyes can't possibly be more than a 5 or 6 in terms of doing things to drive the manager nuts. His current injury is the first time he's been out of the lineup for any real time in years - the past 4 seasons, he's averaged 158 games and 741 plate appearances a year. Showing up on time and producing cover a multitude of sins. And I do think he's gotten a little better with time. Yes, Reyes can still make you tear your hair out at times, but it's just nonsensical to suggest that a contending team with no other options at short part with a 26-year-old with Reyes' talent and track record.
Reyes is a unique player: he's one of only three players ever to hit 15 homers and steal 50 bases in the same season as a shortstop, and one of only seven to hit.300, hit 15 homers and steal 30 bases as a shortstop. Being that Hanley Ramirez is on both lists, it's hard to really find a parallel to project his development forward, the closest possibly being Barry Larkin. Baseball-Reference.com's ten most similar players at the same age includes only one guy (Roberto Alomar, a much more patient hitter) who was within 100 steals of Reyes at the same age.
Deval Patrick's HopeChange 1.0 act is running to its logical conclusion of broken promises and tax hikes. Don't miss clicking the graphic on the left.
BASEBALL: Having A Bad Weeks
The news that Rickie Weeks is out for the season with a wrist injury is a sad turning point of sorts on a couple of levels. Weeks has always been a talented player, but with limitations - defensive problems, injuries, offensive inconsistency. He's shown power, speed, plate patience and decent batting averages, but has rarely put them all together in the same season. At 26 and off to his best start with the bat, Weeks looked like he might make this, at last, the year when he could put it all together and give the Brewers a couple of really high-quality seasons.
Now, of course, he faces long rehab on his wrist, and undoubtedly will be rusty, especially in the field, when he returns. Add to that the depletion of the Milwaukee rotation over the last few years - Sheets, Capuano, Sabathia - and despite a 24-14 record, that sound you hear may be the Brewers' window of opportunity to put together a championship-quality team with this talent core (Fielder, Weeks, Braun, Hart, Hardy, Gallardo, Sheets and Capuano) closing for good.
May 18, 2009
POLITICS: The Case For Not Letting Up On Speaker Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi has had a very bad stretch over the issue of what she knew, and when, about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." She still seems not to have learned that it's a bad idea to get in a public spat with people who collect secrets for a living. Her ever-shifting explanations of what she was briefed on and when, culminating in Thursday's press conference (in which a visibly shaken Speaker repeatedly re-read her prepared statement in answer to questions by a suddenly skeptical press corps) have left her credibility in tatters and her story wholly incoherent. The latest blow came today as Leon Panetta, her former House colleague and now Obama's CIA director, produced a memo today disputing Pelosi's contention that the CIA lied to her.Nancy Pelosi has had a very bad stretch over the issue of what she knew, and when, about waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques." She still seems not to have learned that it's a bad idea to get in a public spat with people who collect secrets for a living. Her ever-shifting explanations of what she was briefed on and when, culminating in yesterday's press conference (in which a visibly shaken Speaker repeatedly re-read her prepared statement in answer to questions by a suddenly skeptical press corps) have left her credibility in tatters and her story wholly incoherent. The latest blow came today as Leon Panetta, her former House colleague and now Obama's CIA director, produced a memo today disputing Pelosi's contention that the CIA lied to her: "CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, describing 'the enhanced techniques that had been employed.'"
Just as bad for the Left, her flagrant hypocrisy on this issue has badly undermined their core argument for prosecuting members of the Bush Administration. Recall that the theory behind such prosecutions is that waterboarding is so obviously "torture" that no reasonable person could conclude otherwise - yet here is the leader of their lawmakers in the House declaring that she very reasonably assumed that if Bush Administration lawyers had cleared the practice, it must be legal. (Charles Krauthammer makes this point as to the moral argument). That's an impossible circle to square, and it means the cries of "war criminal" now have to be seriously muted and nuanced if the most left-wing Speaker in memory is not to be sacrificed to a left-wing crusade.
It's too soon to tell what sort of lasting damage will be done to Pelosi as Speaker. I'm not generally one to declare a politician dead the minute a bad story breaks. More likely, as happened to Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, it will take multiple blows to bring down Pelosi, and the impetus will have to come from the rank and file of her own caucus, which seems disinclined to toss her under the bus just yet (even if the heir apparent, her longtime rival Steny Hoyer, has been fairly unsubtly measuring the drapes in the meantime).
That said, there's a school of thought among Republicans that because Pelosi is a polarizing figure with obvious weaknesses, we should fear pushing too hard because the Democrats will be weaker for having her around their necks next fall than if she's gone (one hears similar sentiments about Chris Dodd, David Paterson, and Deval Patrick, among others). Let her twist in the wind, these voices say. But even aside from the legitimate interest in exposing dishonesty and hypocrisy on the part of a sitting Congressional leader, the hard calculus of political hardball says otherwise. Of course, in any debate there are arguments that work and those that don't, and in this particular debate there are punches that may need to be pulled for legitimate national security reasons. But Republicans serious about winning political battles going forward should not ease the pressure on Speaker Pelosi out of some misguided hope that leaving her wounded is better than finishing her off.
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There are two reasons for this. The first is the brutal calculus of political hardball: when you have the enemy down, you finish her off, lest she recover and be stronger, and your ammunition stale, by the time you fire again. You don't let her get up and catch her breath and try to get her own counter-narrative out. You can't predict the flow of events, and you can't predict with certainty how much damage any particular charge or revelation might do, so better to use what you have when you have it, and get the most you can. This is how the Democrats took on Gingrich and DeLay and, for that matter, Bush - and the accumulation of damage eventually took its toll. There are rare exceptions to this rule: for example, Rahm Emanuel knew for months in 2006 that he had 100% damning stuff on Mark Foley, but since it was so damaging and Foley was a comparatively small fish by himself, it made sense for Rahm to keep quiet and have the story go off closer to the election. But that's the exception, not the rule.
Second, even if - as seems more likely - this story doesn't really have enough juice to take out Pelosi all by itself, it's undeniably become a serious distraction. And that itself is a thing of great value right now. Quick: in the past three decades, how many times has a political party passed a major domestic policy priority through legislation more than six months after taking control of the White House or one or more Houses of Congress? I don't know the answer either, but I'm pretty sure it's "not many." This is a point I have noted in regard to the Bush Administration, and it's just as true of the Democrats: they will not have an unlimited window of opportunity in which to nationalize health care and pass a ruinous cap-and-trade program, major tax hikes, EFCA, and other significant priorities. The clock is already ticking four months into the Obama Administration, with the summer recess gradually creeping closer and a potential major battle brewing over the Supreme Court. Every day that the Speaker is tied up defending herself over an issue the Democrats thought would help them is a day that her attention, and the headlines, are pulled away from the rest of the legislative agenda. Even Republicans who would like to keep Pelosi around another year for electoral advantage have to realize the even greater priority on stopping that agenda now, for the good of the country.
The Pelosi story has mostly taken on a life of its own by now, and/or is being driven by sources in the CIA or elsewhere in the intelligence community; much of this is in any event beyond Republican control. But if Republicans get the opportunity to keep the heat on the Speaker, they should.
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BASEBALL: Every Breath You Take
POLITICS: Taking Down Corzine
WaPo looks at the race to the June 2 New Jersey GOP Gubernatorial primary, as corruption-busting former US Attorney Chris Christie faces off against conservative Mayor Steve Lonegan for the chance to go after the unpopular Jon Corzine. In contrast to some of the other races this year, I happen to think the GOP should go with the more moderate Christie in this one, especially since a guy who made his name indicting scores of corrupt New Jersey politicians (the bulk of them Democrats, of course, but by no means all of them) is the right choice to clean up Trenton.
It's noteworthy that despite obituaries for the GOP in the Northeast, there are GOP Governors in Connecticut, Vermont and Rhode Island and a significant shot at the statehouse in New York and New Hampshire (in Massachusetts Deval Patrick's in dire trouble but more likely to lose a primary), as well as a fighting chance to pick up Senate seats in New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, maybe even Delaware. Most all of those races will turn largely on the national mood in 2010 (or in Corzine's case, this fall), and it's wildly unlikely that Republicans will sweep them, but the obituaries may yet prove premature.
POLITICS: With Biden, There Is No Such Thing As "Undisclosed"
Providing an object lesson on the hazards of sharing secrets with a man who has no unexpressed thoughts, the undisclosed location is undisclosed no longer:
[W]hile recently attending the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, an annual event where powerful politicians and media elite get a chance to cozy up to one another, Biden told his dinnermates about the existence of a secret bunker under the old U.S. Naval Observatory, which is now the home of the vice president.
According to [Eleanor] Clift's report on the Newsweek blog, Biden "said a young naval officer giving him a tour of the residence showed him the hideaway, which is behind a massive steel door secured by an elaborate lock with a narrow connecting hallway lined with shelves filled with communications equipment."
LAW/BUSINESS: PCAOB and Sarbox In The Dock
The Supreme Court this morning granted certiorari in Free Enterprise Fund and Beckstead and Watts, LLP v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, et al., No. 08-861 on the Court's docket. The case will be briefed over the summer, heard in the Fall (after, among other things, Justice Souter's retirement, assuming all goes on schedule) and decided some time between next December and July 2010. Given that my firm and/or my clients may well end up being involved in the case, I won't try to handicap its success or get too far into its merits, but know this: the issue before the Court presents important questions generally about the scope of separation of powers restrictions in economic regulation, and specifically about the constitutionality of a key provision of Sarbanes-Oxley and, potentially, could threaten the entire statute.
Last August, a divided panel of the DC Circuit rejected a separation of powers challenge to the provision of Sarbanes-Oxley governing the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board's appointment. For the uninitiated, PCAOB promulgates accounting rules for public companies. The core question was whether the PCAOB's powers were such that constitutionally, its members should have been directly accountable to the President under the Appointments Clause. Judge Judith Rogers, joined by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, found that the statute did not unduly dilute the executive branch's control over the PCAOB:
We hold, first, that the Act does not encroach upon the Appointment power because, in view of the [SEC]'s comprehensive control of the Board, Board members are subject to direction and supervision of the Commission and thus are inferior officers not required to be appointed by the President. Second, we hold that the for-cause limitations on the Commission's power to remove Board members and the President's power to remove Commissioners do not strip the President of sufficient power to influence the Board and thus do not contravene separation of powers, as that principle embraces independent agencies like the Commission and their exercise of broad authority over their subordinates.
Slip op. at 3 (emphasis added). In short, the court found "no instance in which the Board can make policy that the Commission cannot override" and thus no undue intrusion on the President's power, acting through the SEC, to control the PCAOB. Id. at 33.
Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented, on essentially similar grounds to Justice Scalia's masterful (but lone) dissent in the 1988 independent counsel case, Morrison v. Olson (the Independent Counsel case), although he also argued that the constitutional problems here go beyond those in Morrison:
The President's power to remove is critical to the President's power to control the Executive Branch and perform his Article II responsibilities. Yet under this statute, the President is two levels of for-cause removal away from Board members, a previously unheard-of restriction on and attenuation of the President's authority over executive officers. This structure effectively eliminates any Presidential power to control the PCAOB, notwithstanding that the Board performs numerous regulatory and lawenforcement functions at the core of the executive power. So far as the parties, including the United States as intervenor, have been able to determine in the research reflected in their exhaustive and excellent briefs, never before in American history has there been an independent agency whose heads are appointed by and removable only for cause by another independent agency, rather than by the President or his alter ego. But that is the case with PCAOB members, who are removable for cause only by the SEC - and it is undisputed that the SEC as an independent agency is not the President's alter ego.
The reason why the Free Enterprise Fund's lawsuit raised particular eyebrows is because of the lack of a "severability" clause in Sarbanes-Oxley, a standard provision that allows a statute to avoid being struck down if just one part of it is declared unconstitutional, thus presenting the possibility that the court would have had to declare the entire Sarbanes-Oxley statute unconstitutional (or, alternatively, raising the question of what power a court has in such a large and complex enactment to strike down only a part of it).
May 15, 2009
BASEBALL: Robbed Blind
Video, if you missed it, of Jayson Werth stealing home on Russell Martin's throw back to the mound after having stolen second and third:
You'd think a guy who already had three steals in the game would be watched a little more carefully.
BASEBALL: Home Bitter Home
When new stadiums have flopped in the past -- that is, when the public has come to loathe them or their teams haven't benefited from them -- it's generally been for one of four reasons, say historians, sports executives and fans. Either the stadium catered too much to affluent fans, or too little, or had dimensions or weather conditions that negatively affected play.
The new Yankee Stadium has seemed cursed from the beginning, as if Babe Ruth disapproved of the abandonment of the house he built. That it opened during a recession, with a major-league-high $72.97 average price for a nonpremium ticket (up 76% over 2008, according to Team Marketing Report) has created contempt among fans who otherwise love the team.
It's a bit early to write an obituary. The Hated Yankees still have a deep team and one whose financial advantages make it likely they will be competitive at any give point in the future. It's not the stadium's fault that A-Rod got hurt (or Nady or Posada), or that Rivera and Jeter are showing their age, or that Teixeira is hitting .202, or that Burnett, Wang and Hughes have a collective ERA of 9.39 on the road this year (although the park can be blamed for Sabathia, Pettitte and Joba, who collectively have an ERA of 6.00 at home, where they average 1.31 HR/9 and 4.12 BB/9, compared to an ERA of 2.67 on the road, where they average 0.51 HR/9 and 3.08 BB/9).
The new stadium is, of course, designed not to seem new, unlike Citi Field. The main thing the Yankees need to do, which they have already started, is bring ticket prices in line with economic reality. The rest is likely to simply be a reflection of fans' patience with the product on the field.
May 14, 2009
WAR: Lebanon and Hezbollah, Syria and Al Qaeda
Michael Totten warns that the ever-shifting landscape of Lebanese coalition politics could lead to a Hezbollah victory in June's elections. And Bill Roggio reports that the Treasury has officially designated a senior Al Qaeda leader in Syria as a terrorist subject to asset freezes and other sanctions, which of course will come as news to those who insist that Al Qaeda exists only in Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Shammari, who is better known as Abu Khalaf, is known to recruit suicide bombers from North Africa and aids in setting up their travel arrangements into Syria and ultimately Iraq. “The facilitator recruited a few suicide bombers, who attempted to travel to Iraq," the Treasury press release stated.
Roggio notes that stopping Al Qaeda infiltration into Iraq from Syria was one of the major elements in progress in Iraq over 2007-08:
Syria has long supported or looked the other way as al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents used the country as a transit point and safe haven for fighters entering western Iraq. More than 90 percent of the suicide bombers who have entered Iraq since the insurgency began in 2003 have been estimated to have entered Iraq via Syria.
Needless to say, the U.S. needs to be keeping the pressure on to prevent a revival. As I've long argued, we don't need to stay in Iraq forever to help the Iraqis keep the lid on their own people, but as long as foreign enemies are sending people across the borders to try to destabilize the country, it's still very much America's business to stop them. As both sides recognize, a reasonably stable, democratic Iraq is a major strategic and propaganda victory for the United States, while the opposite is a major strategic and propaganda victory for Al Qaeda. We've come a very long way towards our goal, but the job is not done yet.
WAR: Maybe Running A Country Is Harder Than Making Promises
[D]espite the fact that Obama promised, even immediately after inauguration, that closing GTMO would be one of his Administration's first priorities, it is clear that Obama still does not have the foggiest idea what to do about it. He appears to be more or less committed to actually closing the physical facility in Guantanamo bay (in order to give the appearance of keeping his campaign promise), but he has realized that the thing which made GTMO most objectionable to his most dedicated supporters, i.e., indefinite detention away from communication with the outside world, is necessary to the security of this country. So what does he do now? The answer is evident: he has no clue.
Ah, the burdens of adulthood. Read the whole thing.
POP CULTURE: Red Shirt Boogie Blues
This could be a metaphor for any number of things in different walks of life, but really it's awesome enough to deserve its own post:
May 13, 2009
WAR: "Do What You Have To Do"
From 2004 - my, how tunes change:
May 12, 2009
POLITICS: Charlie Crist Picks A Fight Republicans Don't Need
Republicans are going to have a lot of challenges and a lot of opportunities in the 2010 elections. One thing the party needs to do is get our best candidates into races we can win; another is to make sure we hold the easy races and avoid bloody and ideologically divisive primaries in the tough ones; a third is to make sure we can raise adequate funds to support all the races we need to contest; and a fourth is to promote the young stars of the party who will represent its future.
Charlie Crist disregarded all of that when he announced that he was dropping out of the race for re-election as Governor of Florida to enter the primary to replace retiring Republican Senator Mel Martinez. And NRSC Chairman John Cornyn, by immediately endorsing Crist, signalled that he encouraged this sort of behavior. Shame on both of them for putting Crist's personal ambitions above the good of the party. Let us count the ways in which Crist's decision is bad for the Florida GOP and the national party:
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(1) Crist Is Abandoning His Post.
This is the underreported aspect of what Crist is doing, on the national level - but it's not going unnoticed in Florida. The GOP has held the Governor's mansion in Florida for 11 years now, through two highly successful terms of conservative Governor Jeb Bush and now the more moderate Crist enjoying the fruits of the Bush-built party. Crist hasn't been an especially great Governor, but he's popular enough and he's handled managerial aspects of the job (e.g., hurricanes) pretty well. He'd be a very strong favorite for re-election in 2010, likely running unopposed for the nomination and allowing the Florida GOP to put the bulk of its efforts behind the Senate race and the down-ticket races. And holding the statehouse is especially critical, with redistricting on the horizon after the 2010 Census - for the future of the party at the state level as well as in the House, the Governor's mansion may even be a bigger deal than the Senate, which is saying quite a lot. Anyone with a passing familiarity with how political parties work should know this, which is what makes it so infuriating that the NRSC wants Crist out of the Governor's race.
The Miami Herald lays out the ramifications down-ticket, where Crist's maneuver opens up a chain reaction of contested races for Republican-held offices:
Besides Crist and Sink, the other statewide elected officials expected to seek new office are Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson, both likely to run for governor.
The only party leaders who would encourage Republicans to take this course are Barack Obama and Howard Dean.
(2) Crist Is Throwing His Weight Against A Rising Star
For all the talk about ideas - and ideas do matter quite a lot - political parties win and lose elections with people. And when you have good people on your team, you want them to succeed and advance.
Marco Rubio is one such person. Only 38 years old, the charismatic, Miami-born Cuban-American Rubio - a lawyer and father of four - has risen swiftly in his decade in Florida politics, serving as a City Commissioner for the City of West Miami before entering the Florida House, where he served four terms, served first as Majority Whip during the last redistricting, then Majority Leader and finally Speaker of the Florida House before term limits forced him out of the job in 2009. You can read more here on Rubio, and watch him in action:
And announcing his Senate run:
Rubio is everything older Republicans like Crist should be encouarging: he's young but already experienced as a leader, he's telegenic and a good speaker, he's conservative, and yes, he's Latino, a demographic that a more inclusive Republican party would be reaching out to, not spurning. Here's the reaction from the conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund:
We are highly disappointed that the Republican establishment would slam the door on Marco Rubio, who is the kind of candidate that the GOP should be eagerly supporting. We have heard a lot of talk about how the party wants to find qualified Hispanic candidates to run for office but in the end we see once again that this is nothing but lip-service. Additionally, as conservatives, we are doubly troubled that Rubio has been so swiftly brushed aside by the powers that be. Republicans cannot be a governing majority again until they earn more Hispanic votes, and this move certainly does not help them in this regard.
Charlie Crist has talked a good talk as Governor about promoting diversity, but here we have a guy who is every bit as qualified as Crist to hold statewide office as a legislator - and rather than find a way to co-exist with him, Crist bolts his own job to try to stop Rubio. So much for outreach.
(3) Crist Is Picking An Ideological Battle
Florida is one place where the moderates and the conservatives have, by and large, managed to get along pretty well, as illustrated by statewide victories by the likes of Bush, Crist, Martinez and McCollum, men who certainly don't see eye to eye on every issue. By running Crist for re-election and Rubio for the Senate, Republicans could send a clear message to voters that the state party remains big enough for both groups. Instead, Crist is jumping into a messy, expensive primary race that will split the party into clearly-defined ideological camps and is bound to leave hard feelings on both sides. Moderate Republicans can complain all they want about the Pat Toomey primary challenge to Arlen Specter, but make no mistake: in this race, it's the moderate picking a fight to muscle out a conservative in a state where there is no serious question that conservatives have won and can continue to win races statewide.
(4) Crist Is Leading The Wrong Way
Finally, to be blunt, Crist is wrong on the biggest issue of the day: whether Republicans should oppose President Obama's plans to massively increase government spending and government control of health care, banking, energy, the auto industry, and indeed virtually every aspect of the U.S. economy. His embrace of the wasteful $787 billion stimulus package is the first step in a political Jim Jones act, by which Republicans abandon the clear distinctions that give voters any reason to choose Republicans over Democrats. It's one thing for Crist to be a moderate back home in Florida, where he has to work in a coalition with other Republicans, but it's entirely another to send him to Washington on a platform of joining the Democratic coalition on one issue after another. The party simply can't survive if it's identified with Obama's agenda, and why would such an opposition party appeal to anybody?
Finally, John Cornyn has proven that he has learned absolutely nothing from the fiasco of 2006, when the GOP lost close Senate races elsewhere after pouring millions into a primary race to prop up Lincoln Chaffee. You don't cannibalize key offices like the Florida Governorship to recruit candidates, and you certainly don't do so to poke a stick in the eye of the party's base by creating a contested primary against a rising star who appeals to a crucial demograpic. It's a loser move all around.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Politics 2009 | Politics 2010 | Comments (33) | TrackBack (0)
May 11, 2009
POLITICS/LAW: How Republicans Should Oppose Obama's Supreme Court Nominee
At this writing, we do not know who President Obama will nominate to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court, and so it's impossible to anticipate precisely how much Republican opposition his pick will meet with, or for that matter whether any Democrats will be opposed.
Nonetheless, of this much we can be sure, from Obama's own history and prior statements as well as that of his party: Obama is highly likely to select a nominee who will do a terrible job as a Supreme Court Justice, in terms of (1) following the reasoning process that we Republicans and conservatives believe is the legitimate and appropriate way for a Justice to decide cases and (2) reaching what Republicans/conservatives would regard as the correct results in interpretiting the Constitution and federal statutes.
So, the President is likely to do something Republicans legitimately and seriously disagree with, and which will do lasting damage to the nation. How then to respond? Here, sight unseen of the nominee, I can offer two main suggestions.
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I. Get To The Merits
Republicans in recent battles over judicial nominees, especially those conducted while the GOP held a strong majority in the Senate, have had an unfortunate tendency to fall back on proceduralism. That means making arguments primarily along the lines that if a candidate is "qualified," he or she should be given a floor vote by the Senate, without getting into matters of judicial philosophy or ideology.
This is perhaps the best tactical approach if you control the White House and need to apply pressure to wavering Senators, given that there's a fairly broad bipartisan popular consensus that is at least vaguely in favor of deferring to the President in the judicial selection and confirmation process. But as a matter of long-term strategy, it's terribly short-sighted.
Sure, arguments about merit, like this Pejman essay, are important. Lack of qualifications was ultimately what turned me and many others who had no particular ideological reason to oppose her against Harriet Miers. But qualifications are not the core issue. Let's say I was starting a team that aimed to win a championship, and I asked you whether LeBron James was more qualified than Albert Pujols. You could not answer that question without first asking me whether I'm playing basketball or baseball - because the two men make their living trying to accomplish completely different things.
The simple fact is that Republicans have a fundamentally different view of what judges are trying to accomplish. And so, ipso facto, a judge who is highly intelligent and experienced may be "qualified" in the abstract, but is guaranteed to perform poorly if he or she is not even trying to do the things those of us on the Right believe are the essentials of the job.
Obama has been known to say things like this in describing what a Justice should be like:
We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criteria by which I'm going to be selecting my judges.
Now, empathy is not a bad thing in the abstract (although a little empathy for the unborn, the soldier, the cop, the Christian, the victim of crime or terrorism among others, might offer some balance to that picture), but in terms of putting it as the centerpiece of a judicial philosophy...well, imagine how liberals would feel if George W. Bush had said the most important thing in a judge was being patriotic or a good Christian. Just because something is an important value for people or government officials generally doesn't mean it's the job of the judiciary.
Republicans disagree fundamentally with the view that "empathy" is a Justice's primary job. Instead, we believe that the job of judges is, at its core, to recognize that all legitimate exercises of judicial power derive from the consent of the governed. That job is carried out by figuring out what exactly the people - acting directly or through their elected representatives - agreed to when they enacted the Constitution and federal statutes. Making that determination doesn't decide 100% of the issues presented to the Supreme Court, of course, but it's the bedrock foundation without which the Court's exercise of power is fundamentally illegitimate, and the Court must decide that question, and determine if it disposes of all the issues at hand in a case, before it proceeds to any other question. But Obama and his allies simply refuse to be bound by the need to limit themselves to such constraints on their power.
The Republican position has a lot of popular appeal, much more than the competing view of judicial imperialism (that the judiciary should stop the elected branches from doing things that violate the judges' moral and public policy views) and, worse yet, transnational progressivism (i.e., the notion that American law should conform and ultimately subject itself to European/Canadian-derived "international" law without regard to the consent of the American people). Republicans have a winning philosophical argument on the merits, one that goes to the very core of our continuing status as a democracy; we should not fear to make it.
Perhaps the best evidence of the enduring popularity of judicial conservatism is the other side's perennial and often-desperate attempts to blur this distinction and appropriate its language. Justice Stevens has been known to claim that he is a conservative, which is the highest tribute that can be paid to judicial conservatives: a man who is closing in on the status of oldest and longest-serving Justice prefers the conservative label to one that would distinguish his jurisprudence from that of his critics. For a recent example, Gordon Silverstein at the New Republic peddles the myth of Justice Souter as a "real" conservative, which he frames as adherence to judicial precedent but by which he really means one who never makes liberals unhappy. Orin Kerr explodes that myth. A sample:
[T]he two Justices on the current Court who vote most frequently with each other are often Justice Souter and Justice Ginsburg. Looking at the current Supreme Court Term, for example, the Souter/Ginsburg pairing is the most common: They have fully agreed with each other 88% of the time. The next closest pairings are Scalia/Roberts at 83%, Roberts/Alito at 81%, and Thomas/Scalia at 79%.
This is even before you consider the numerous occasions on which Justice Souter has not adhered to precedent, ranging from recent reversals on the 8th Amdment to Lawrence v. Texas, just to pick a few of the more sensational examples.
Putting the argue-the-merits approach into practice, of course, doesn't mean ignoring short-term tactics entirely. Certainly, we should want to win the battle ahead. But tactics are not everything, and the odds against victory are prohibitive: even if Obama picks a poor nominee who generates significant Democratic opposition, the fact remains that he has close to 60 votes in the Senate; he'll get some choice of his eventually, whether it's his first choice or not.
Thinking strategically, therefore, Republicans and conservatives should prioritize, not immediate tactical advantage, but long-term victory, by focusing on educating the public about how Obama's nominee departs from the proper and legitimate interpretation of the law and how the visions of the two sides differ on this issue. Elections have consequences - and the loser of the election should not hesitate to point out what those are.
II. Be Willing To Apply The Obama Standard
Many of us on the Right have long argued, on principle, against the filibustering of judges. Personally, while I'm comfortable with using the filibuster to delay floor votes on a nominee to ensure the gathering and dissemination of sufficient information about the nominee, I regard it as an important practice for the Senate, as a matter of courtesy and tradition, to give the President an up-or-down vote on all his nominees.
But let's face it: we had a long national argument on that point, and we lost. The other side didn't adhere to that view of deference. In the 2008 election, we nominated a candidate who voted in favor of every SCOTUS nominee during his career, ranging from Bork to Ginsburg; the Democrats nominated a man who participated in numerous filibusters of appellate nominees, voted to filibuster Justice Alito, and voted on the merits against the two SCOTUS nominees (Roberts and Alito) to come to a vote during his brief tenure as a Senator. Orrin Hatch led the way in convincing Senate Republicans to give a fair vote and deference to the selection of Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, and left-wingers are still using that against Republicans. Republicans should make explicit that they will give Obama's nominees only so much deference as he himself was willing to give.
Jeff Sessions, himself at one time a victim of Democratic obstruction in the Senate back when he was nominated for a federal appellate judgeship, has signalled that the GOP is not necessarily gearing up for a filibuster. I don't have a problem with this statement. First of all, it's traditional to at least profess a willingness to keep your options open. Second, as Karl Rove points out, Senate rules currently require that any nominee win at least one vote of the minority party on the Judiciary Committee, and with the loss of Arlen Specter from the minority, the pickings could be slim even without a filibuster. And third, there's a lot on the table in the Senate; if Republicans can accomplish their mission of educating the public, and if they are prepared to vote against the nominee on the merits, there may not be a point in a fruitless filibuster vote.
All that said, Republicans shouldn't rule out the filibuster. There comes a time when unilaterally standing on a principle the other side doesn't respect, out of courtesy and tradition, is just self-defeating. And in the long run - maybe not now, given how close the Democrats are to 60 votes, but sooner or later - Republican resistance could decide the Democrats on changing the rules themselves to make it easier to get judges confirmed. As with other efforts to rely on brute force, it is better to compel this to be done openly, in full view of the public. And new rules - unlike courtesy or custom - are something Republicans can use down the road to re-establish the balance they wanted all along.
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BASEBALL: Not Parting The Wieters
If you're wondering, Matt Wieters is hitting pretty well at AAA, batting .301 with a .404 OBP - perfectly respectable numbers for a guy in his second year of pro ball a step removed from the majors, and entirely consistent with his top prospect status. But Wieters is slugging just .422, with only one homer.
Reason again to remember that even the best young players can't automatically be projected to come out of the gate as established stars.
BASEBALL: Soria Arm
Joakim Soria's trip to the DL is a bad omen for the Royals on three levels. One, last year's Devil Rays notwithstanding, your Cinderella teams generally need to avoid significant injuries, and they've already lost Alex Gordon for a long time. Two, KC has enough solid arms in the bullpen - Juan Cruz will be closing for now - that the Royals shouldn't take too much of a loss from a two-week absence, but a team with as thin a talent core as the Royals can't afford to see Soria go the way of BJ Ryan or Eric Gagne. They will have to cross their fingers that the precautionary DL trip is just that. And three, there's a real temptation right now to run Zack Greinke into the ground. The 25-year-old has tossed 4 complete games in 7 starts, which is a lot these days for a young pitcher early in the season. His fantastic efficiency has been a big factor - he's cleared 110 pitches three times this season but has topped out at 115, which really is not that much. But lacking his closer could tempt Trey Hillman to push him further, and that could be a very bad thing.
POLITICS: The Court Jester
It ain't exactly the biggest story in the world, but it's a symptom: Andrew Breitbart nails the difference between the Bush years, when comedians like Stephen Colbert came to the White House Correspondents' Dinner to mock the president, and the Obama years, when they come to fawn over the president and wish harm to his enemies while he laughs. Even Mike Lupica recognized that Wanda Sykes' jokes were over the line and, frankly, barely jokes at all - yet Obama laughed at them, because they were aimed at his enemies.
May 8, 2009
POLITICS: Sanford Takes The Heat
Over at RS we have a writeup of a blogger conference call with Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina. It was the first blogger call he'd done, and was a pretty informal 45-minute chat.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:10 PM | Politics 2009 | Politics 2012 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Thou Shalt Not Mock Obama's Mustard
This is just hilarious. Even the mildest of needling brings out this response from the Left. HuffPo describing Obama's trip to a hamburger joint as "historic" is precious.
Stretching the science to sell 'climate change.' The politicization of science proceeds apace.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:57 PM | Enemies of Science | Politics 2009 | Science | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Worst Story Evah
Blogger Curt Schilling (well, OK, yeah, yeah) doesn't buy the I-didn't-know defenses:
I was never a fitness freak or gym rat - those are the guys that measured every milligram, count every tablet in their regimen. Yet somehow we’re hearing these same people talk about being struck momentarily stupid when West African bullfrog semen is found in their blood. "What? How'd that get there????" Their routines, from reps to nutrition are as mapped out as scouting reports. They eat a certain way, train a certain way, and they play a certain way. There is no 'black hole' or 'hidden formula' happening in these instances.
BASEBALL: Some Slump
David Wright, widely viewed as being mired in the worst slump of his career, is batting .314/.408/.490 this season, including .406/.487/.750 with 9 RBI in his last 9 games.
Yes, I know, Wright's striking out a lot with men on base. It's a long season, and I refuse to panic; his career batting line remains .312/.396/.542 with men on base, .299/.393/.498 with men in scoring position. The guy who should be getting the grief is Reyes, who is hitting .246/.326/.351 thus far. People notice Wright whiffing with men on base, they don't notice the bases being empty in innings Reyes starts by making out. I'm not freaking out about Reyes either, given his history (I expect him to warm up soon), just saying if you need a target, he's a better one.
I have finally given in and joined Twitter. Find me at @baseballcrank
BASEBALL: Things Even Manny Must Know
BASEBALL: The Very Good DiMaggio
Dom DiMaggio has died at age 92; the Globe looks back. (I had recently noted him among the handful of star players still living in their 90s, but lists of that nature are by definition fleeting). My column on the Hall of Fame and the tablesetters looked at DiMaggio, who was a similar player to Brett Butler but had his career interrupted by war. RIP.
May 7, 2009
WAR/POLITICS: Democratic Spin on GTMO Stupid Even By Standards of Democratic Spin
Goldfarb notes this hilarious attempt to claim that Republicans opposed to moving detainees from Guantanamo into their districts are - wait for it - insulting America's corrections officers:
ON GUANTANAMO, GOP DISPARAGES MEN AND WOMEN WHO KEEP OUR COMMUNITIES SAFE
Let's review the varieties of stupid here.
1. This statement assumes that 100% of the detainees will continue to remain locked up, and of course if you believe that, why not just improve the prison they are in? In fact, the whole point of this exercise is to release some detainees entirely and send others into the criminal justice system, where they may be acquitted or have cases dropped against them, in many cases because of how evidence was gathered against them under wartime or battlefield conditions.
2. The Democrats presume to speak for all prison guards as being thrilled to take these guys on. I am guessing that's not the case. Ask Louis Pepe. Ask why our allies are balking at taking them. Ask the people of Alexandria, Virginia what additional precautions had to be taken just to hold one of them.
3. I love the line about "communities that depend economically on prison facilities" - leave it to the Democrats to look at holding jihadists as a jobs program.
4. Does anybody but Democratic politicians actually believe that jihadists are no more dangerous than your usual criminal? Hmmm, we have prisoners who are willing to engage in suicide attacks, believe they will go to eternal paradise if they die killing infidels, specifically hate the U.S. government, and are connected to international organizations with money and weapons. You don't think they are a greater security risk than your typical prisoner, even in maximum security? Really?
POLITICS: How Reagan Made Himself Reagan
The recent flap over Jeb Bush talking about leaving Reagan behind has been overblown - Jeb's point is that the GOP needs to sell its ideas, not just the Reagan brand, and that's obviously true as the man himself recedes into memory for a lot of the electorate.
Steve Hayward, though, has an excellent point that should be drilled into the heads of GOP candidates everywhere:
[A]ll those folks who claim to be Reaganites would take the time to sit down a study the man's methods - not his ideology - more seriously. As we now know, he worked extremely hard, studying the issues in depth and preparing and practicing his speeches at great length. I'm frankly appalled at the low level of rhetorical skill displayed by most GOP politicians today. It is not just a matter of talent; talent helps, but Reagan showed that hard work is the key ingredient. Too many of our would-be party leaders today are simply lazy, and think they can coast through speeches and media appearances with little forethought. Finally, Reagan lived by an old show-business adage - always leave your audience wanting more. His speeches were often memorable because they were relatively short. You could fit five of Reagan's state of the union speeches inside one of Bill Clinton's or George W. Bush's. (This means you, Governor Palin, whom I heard in Anchorage in March making a rambling hour-long speech that someone at my table rightly described as "Castroesque.") So try this out, GOP leaders: Shorter speeches. People will remember more of what you say, and want to hear you say more later. This really isn't rocket science. Heck, it isn't even political science.
Very few politicians bring together all the elements of communication Reagan did: specific ideas, backed by specific facts; inspiring rhetoric, well-delivered; good use of humor, whether planned, ad-libbed, or by knowing when to use planned ad-libs; brevity; warmth; respect for the audience's intelligence. I still think Rudy Giuliani is the closest we have to that, although Rudy's too hard around the edges to match Reagan's personality. But then, rhetorical skill actually wasn't the weakness of the GOP field in 2008. On the Democratic side, Obama is a match for Reagan at soaring rhetoric, but he rarely communicates the kind of concrete, memorable messages backed by facts that Reagan deployed, and he doesn't really switch gears well to being funny or folksy or warm; all his best stuff is in the tone of the JFK Inaugural.
Bush and Obama are both proof of the adage that hard work matters - Bush is a famously poor speaker, but his big set-piece speeches that he worked at usually came off well; Obama is notorious for hemming, hawing and bumbling when away from his TelePrompter (which he uses in many situations where Bush might have been well-advised to try one), but he performed well in the debates with McCain when he put the effort into it.
Most of the major GOP future stars have the potential to be really excellent communicators, but each will need to work on something different, like Gov. Jindal with the TelePrompter. Hayward's advice would be well-taken by all of them.
BASEBALL: Manny Being Barry
Say it ain't so: Manny Ramirez suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drug test.
This is a bad thing, but in one way a good thing: it's the first such suspension that really has a chance to unsettle a pennant race. The steroids horse is way too far out of the barn, in my view, to punish people retrospectively. It's never going to be possible to say with certainty, looking backwards, who used what, who was clean, and what difference was made in their careers. Certainly, we can look askance at the really unnatural Bonds-like career patterns, but ultimately, I think the sportswriters will have to recognize that the drugs are just another generation's unique playing conditions, and the Hall of Fame will adjust accordingly.
But putting real teeth in the enforcement mechanism going forward at least will move us towards having a little more confidence in a clean game in the future. A real suspension for a real star is the wake-up call that's needed to get the public to believe it's a real effort.
You may remember the flap over the Secret Service limitations on where protestors could set up near George W. Bush, and the wailing about "free speech zones" being an unconscionable restriction, etc. I have yet to hear anybody (1) complain about the Secret Service's policy since Obama took over or (2) explain how the policy changed, as I suspect it has not. Like so many routine government activities, it's only objectionable when it's Bush.
Anyway, this is a slightly different story - about a private sign-making company, not a government agency - but it's nonetheless revealing: a billboard company refused to allow signs to call President Obama "pro-abortion," insisting on altering the billboards to "pro abortion choice." You can go click the link to see the proposed and amended billboards.
First of all, this is ignorance. Obama has long supported taxpayer funding to subsidize abortions. It is simply not possible to support taking money from taxpayers to pay for a thing, causing more of that thing to happen, and then argue that you are not supporting the thing itself. Taxpayer funding is a far cry from live and let live (it's something Obama opposes for, say, sending black children in failed DC school districts to private schools - he must regard abortion as more desirable than a good education). Add in efforts to squeeze Catholic hospitals that have moral objections to performing abortions, and Obama's famous crack about how he would not want his daughters "punished with a baby," and it's just nonsensical to deny that Obama is, if words have any meaning whatsoever, pro-abortion. The fear of saying so about anybody is revealing, though - it's a recognition that being pro-abortion is a bad thing, which of course is not the case if you believe, as supporters of legal abortion must, that the act does not take a human life.
(A digression: when Sarah Palin talked recently about the choice to keep her youngest child, liberals argued that this was a concession - isn't it wonderful, some of them argued, to live in a country that allows such choices? Um, no. Using cocaine and driving drunk are illegal, but we still speak of not doing them as being moral choices. If a teenager from a bad neighborhood refuses to join a gang, we can celebrate the positive moral choice without saying, "isn't it great to live in a country where teenagers get to choose whether or not to join violent, drug-dealing street gangs?" No, it's a tragedy.)
Second, the reluctance to allow open discussion of the issue is symptomatic of something Justice Scalia has noted at the Supreme Court level: the systematic bending of all other rules and customs, much as happened in the days of slavery, to protect the practice of abortion, from unique rules for protests around clinics, to laxer regulation of clinics, to distortion of the language itself. The same people calling for displaying graphic photos of interrogation of detainees or who want soldiers' coffins on the front page of the newspaper without the consent of their families are the ones who are horrified by the idea that any image should be displayed of abortion, the ones who even recoil at showing pictures of live unborn children in the debate. The unwillingness to face the language itself is a symptom of the recognition that some things can't really be defended.
May 6, 2009
BASEBALL: Not So Fast
Rob Neyer looks at the Royals' HR & BB numbers and pitcher Ks and wonders if they might be for real. He makes some good points about why they are better this year even aside from Greinke's monster start, but I don't see how it's really sustainable - they don't have a whole lot of new guys doing established things, nor young guys developing. Mike Jacobs does give them some more power, but he's the only guy on the team on pace for 20+ HR, while I am very doubtful that Coco Crisp will draw the 126 walks he's currently on a pace for.
Improvement? Yes, the Royals may manage that even without Alex Gordon. But I don't see how this team will end the year anywhere near the top of Neyer's "Beane Count."
BASEBALL: Animated James
May 5, 2009
POLITICS: Why Republican Unity On Spending Matters
While the defection of Arlen Specter to the Democrats had a number of causes, the proximate cause was that his support of the Obama stimulus bill brought Pat Toomey off the fence and into a primary race Specter would have lost. Jim DeMint followed this up with a provocative WSJ op-ed arguing for more purity in the GOP caucus in sticking to small-government principles and opposing big federal spending. There's been a lot of hand-wringing about whether the Toomey run and the views of people like Sen. DeMint mean the GOP has become too narrow and exclusionary to appeal to moderates. (Leave aside Barney Frank saying the same thing on the other side). As a deep-blue-state Republican, I have always been a believer that the GOP needs to have some flexibility in the demands of party loyalty if it is to have a tent big enough to contain a majority governing coalition; sometimes our elected officials need to treat our principles as a compass, not a straitjacket. But broad generalizations about "conservative" and "moderate" miss the fact that politics is situational. And the political situation we find ourselves in today demands that the GOP have a strong preference, in every jurisdiction, for candidates who will hold the line on spending.
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How We Got Here
Let's start by briefly recapping where we have been. The Reagan Revolution did not spring ex nihilo from the mind of the Gipper; it was the culmination of decades of pent-up, un-responded to public disapproval of high taxes, big spending, heavy regulation, and extravagant and flagrantly unsuccessful welfare policies. What finally cleared the way for Reagan was unified Democratic governance and the mess it made under Jimmy Carter. Reagan, of course, was a genuine conservative on all fronts, but even Reagan had to pick his battles, leaving some segments of the party happier with him than others. Eventually, a combination of bad decisions, weak leadership, bad economic circumstances and political tides brought down Reagan's successor; at the core of the fall of George H.W. Bush was the loss of credibility that came about when he broke his pledge not to raise taxes, leaving voters in peacetime without a reason to distinguish him from his opponent.
But then Bill Clinton came to town, jacked up income taxes and came perilously close to imposing a ruinous energy tax plan and a disastrous government takeover of health care. Strong GOP opposition helped derail the latter two plans, and restore a clear contrast between the parties. The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 - like the Reagan one triggered under unfied Democratic governance - was largely about small government, taxes and spending, and the spending hawks got their turn at the head of the party from about 1995-98. They had some signal successes, including reducing federal spending to below 21% of GDP for the first time since Watergate, a benchmark it has stayed below until this year. But they were also outmaneuvered by the elusive Clinton, and after Clinton declared that "the era of big government is over" and worked with them to balance the budget (with a big assist from the late-90s tech boom), public enthusiasm waned.
The GOP responded by nominating George W. Bush, who accused the GOP Congress of "balancing the budget on the backs of the poor" and set about relegating the spending hawks to the back of the bus with the immigration hawks. Instead, Bush built a winning coalition in 2000, 2002 and 2004 on the three pillars of national security, taxes and social conservatism. With a war on, the spending hawks swallowed more of this than they generally wanted to.
Bush's record on domestic discretionary spending was never as bad as it was portrayed - certainly the contrast to Obama has reminded us of that - and he did try things (like Social Security reform) that would have made a difference if they'd passed, and some of his individual initiatives are defensible on the merits ... but DeMint aptly summarizes how the Bush-era GOP's cumulative effect, combined with a handful of Capitol Hill scandals that unsurprisingly tended to arise from allocation of federal spending, eroded the GOP's distinctive message of taking better care with other people's money and thus respecting the freedom over one's own property that forms the foundation of all other liberties:
No Child Left Behind didn't win us "soccer moms," but it did cost us our credibility on locally controlled education. Medicare prescription drugs didn't win us a "permanent majority," but it cost us our credibility on entitlement reform. Every year, another Republican quality was tainted: managerial competence, fiscal discipline and personal ethics.
Now, we come full circle. Once again, the Democrats have unified control of the government. Once again, they are on a spree, jacking federal spending up to 26% of GDP in a single year, blasting the deficit into orbit, rolling out plans for more taxes and regulations, plotting to nationalize health care and tax energy. Once again, the popular anxiety and anger is out there, as the voters wonder whether anybody has a better answer. Who should they call?
How We Get Out
In short, the current situation calls for the party to once again - as it did in 1980 and 1994 - re-emphasize spending discipline, lower taxes and less intrusive government. The fact that this is an especially powerful message when the Democrats are running things is not coincidental. But to do so, the GOP needs to convince voters of two things: first, that what the Democrats are doing is really bad; and second, that the GOP, if given more power, will actually do something and not just posture, fall back into bad habits or go along with the Democrats. And with the small megaphone of a legislative minority, Republicans need to paint in bold strokes to get heard at all.
This is why party loyalty on this issue is so critical at this time. If a lot of Republicans sign on to Obama's bills, he will have a leg up in claiming to the public that he's not really up to anything dramatic. He knows that - it's why he tried so hard (if ham-handedly) to get Republicans to support the stimulus, and why he has tried so many legal maneuvers to compel unwilling Republican governors to accept stimulus funds and thus make it seem as if they approved of the whole idea all along. (And it is, in fact, hard even for true believers to say no to the money when the federal government has effectively already taken it from your constituents and is only asking if they want a little piece of their own money back). Only a united front can match through actions what the President - by virtue of the bully pulpit - gets to say in words.
And to rebuild the GOP brand on this issue, party unity is also critical. Contrast the ever-controversial issue of abortion. It is well-known that the GOP is the pro-life party. But voters also know and understand that some Republicans - like Rudy Giuliani, or like Specter before he switched - are not pro-life. It's not difficult to accept that dichotomy: pro-choice Republicans call themselves "pro-choice," and so voters can discern the difference without a lot of difficulty and without unduly watering down the party's longstanding identification with opposing abortion.
Spending is different. All Republicans, and most Democrats, run around saying they are opposed to excessive government spending. Northeastern Republicans, in fact, have tended to excuse their views on abortion, in fact, by intoning that they are "socially liberal but fiscally conservative." What are voters supposed to believe when they hear those terms? Only what the parties can prove by their actions. If voters are unhappy with Democratic policies on spending, taxes and regulation, and they see that a bunch of Republicans voted for all those things, they will reasonably conclude - and Democrats will be happy to tell them - that Republicans don't really oppose them or that Republican opposition is somehow not realistic. "Don't listen to those guys, they just want to change who spends the money." If the GOP runs a bunch of candidates who deviate from the party line on opposition to Obama's spending plans, they water down the message of everyone who does.
The special election in NY-20 should be a wake-up call. Republicans ran a candidate who (1) was tied to the bloated, corrupt and incompetent Democrat-dominated state government in Albany, where the GOP has not done much to draw contrasts on spending discipline and its close cousin, public integrity; (2) failed to take a clear, early stand against the stimulus bill; and (3) attacked the Democrats' businessman candidate on liberal-populist grounds as an outsourcer who created the wrong kinds of jobs for the wrong kinds of people. Somehow, we were surprised that this didn't work.
And that's why even a GOP that can ill afford to lose another Senate seat is better off running Pat Toomey than Arlen Specter. Because right now, under today's political circumstances, the only road back in the short term or the long term is to offer an unambiguous message to the voters: if you are not happy with how the majority is doing things, you have a choice.
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Daffyd on the meddling, incompetence, leaks and excessive partisanship of the Congressional Intelligence committees. We're closing in on the day when Democrats will demand 24/7 live C-SPAN coverage of the CIA.
POLITICS: Great Moments in Presidential Oratory
May 4, 2009
BASEBALL: The New Doug Sisk?
If there's been one constant for most of the three decades I've been a Mets fan, it is that there is nearly always at least one guy in the bullpen who is really, really unpopular with the fans, and usually for good reason. After he walked in the winning run in extra innings against the Phillies this Saturday, the early lead for this position in 2009 seems to have been cemented by Sean Green.
My original concern about Green was his pronounced tendency to run off the rails the last two months of the season, but at this rate, with an 8.76 ERA and 18 hits and 8 walks allowed in 12.1 IP, he may not make it that far.
Looking back, since 1980, a Mets reliever has walked at least a batter every two innings (4.5 per 9) 13 times, most recently Aaron Heilman in 2008. Doug Sisk and Armando Benitez each did it three times, but Benitez at least offset the walks with truckloads of strikeouts, and in the end his unpopularity had more to do with home run balls. Green could be the new Sisk.
Sisk in some sense got a raw deal from the fans - through his second full season with the team (1984) he had a 2.12 career ERA despite his nearly 2-to-1 BB/K ratio, thanks to not giving up home runs. And in 1986-87 he was modestly effective after getting his control under control. But the 1985 season, when he posted a 5.30 ERA on a team with no other pitching holes that lost a tight pennant race by 3 games, combined with general fan frustration with a guy who just couldn't throw strikes, earned him permanent infamy. Sisk's ERA+ of 66 that season is the second-lowest of the last 40 years among Mets relievers to appear in 40 or more games, with only Lee Guetterman in the lost season of 1992 being worse (the only other guy below 73 in a season when the team was competitive was Mel Rojas in 1998). (If you are wondering, the worst reliever ERA+ ever with at least 40 appearances is 49 by Ron Davis for the Twins and Cubs in 1986, narrowly edging Vic Darensbourg in 1999)
Green will need to turn things around pretty shortly if he wants to stay on the roster, much less stay above Bobby Parnell on the depth chart.
May 2, 2009
POLITICS: RIP Jack Kemp
Just saw this reported: Jack Kemp, a giant of the modern conservative movement, has died after a bout with cancer. Kemp never won national or even statewide office, and his gravelly wonkishness wasn't always the epitome of charisma, but his political career was a testament to the power of ideas, simple ideas like human freedom and the potential of the individual to do better for himself than the government could ever do for him. He was an inspiration to everyone who believed that the interests of government are not the purpose of government. Ronald Reagan inspired many people in politics, but Reagan didn't get to be Reagan alone, and then-Congressman Kemp was one of the people who inspired Reagan's belief in the transformative incentive power of reducing taxes on the last dollar of income earned. Before entering politics, Kemp was a heckuva quarterback, compiling a 65-37-3 record as a starter in the AFL, playing in championship games for LA and San Diego before winning two AFL titles for the Buffalo Bills. Kemp was also the rare HUD secretary who left office well-regarded rather than under investigation or indictment. He was added to the GOP ticket in 1996 when Bob Dole realized his campaign needed ideas - and Jack Kemp, though an ordinary guy, not an intellectual, was synonymous with ideas. And he was, most of all, a happy warrior, like Reagan - a guy who took visible joy in politics because he always believed that if you gave people the ability to keep their own piece of the pie, we'd all have a larger pie to divide. He was, in every sense, a true heir of the Party of Lincoln. He will be missed.
May 1, 2009
BASEBALL: Anonymous Tip
Color me skeptical that A-Rod with the Rangers was tipping pitches for his friends among opposing middle infielders. I'm not saying it's not true, but first of all the sourcing is anonymous - I continue to be skeptical of anonymously sourced reports. Second of all, the article notes that infielders do this routinely to tip each other off, so it's totally impossible to rebut this and entirely possible that A-Rod was misinterpreted.
That said, if this report is true, this is worse than anything Pete Rose ever did. You don't throw at bats, no matter the score.
POLITICS: Michelle Antoinette and the Don't-Go-To-The-Mall Administration
Obama explains that she and her husband made the choice to give up lucrative jobs in favor of community service. "We left corporate America, which is a lot of what we're asking young people to do," she tells the women. "Don't go into corporate America. You know, become teachers. Work for the community. Be social workers. Be a nurse. Those are the careers that we need, and we're encouraging our young people to do that. But if you make that choice, as we did, to move out of the money-making industry into the helping industry, then your salaries respond."
Michelle Obama has taken casual to a haute new level.
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It goes without saying that a Republican First Lady who showed up at a food bank during a recession wearing $540 sneakers would never hear the end of it, let alone one who had lectured voters on learning to make do with less. But you know, it goes deeper than that. Remember how Barack Obama relentlessly mocked George W. Bush, in the tone of a petulant teenager who can't believe what Dad told him to do, for advising Americans to "go shopping" after September 11? Well, President Bush was absolutely in the right: the nation needed reassuring, and it needed to both sustain the consumer confidence and consumer demand that are the engines of our economy, and demonstrate to the world that we don't change our routines to satisfy terrorists.
Now, with consumer demand in the worst slump in most of our living memory, one of the things we need most of all from the White House is reassurance that it's OK to - you guessed it - go shopping. But President Obama, who has tiptoed up to that line a few times, can't quite bring himself to sound like Dad now that he's the one in the driver's seat. So, Michelle shops, while consumer demand drops. And then what happens? We get Joe Biden giving us the "we're all gonna diiiiiieeeeee" alarm on the Today Show, telling people that he'd advise his family to avoid malls, planes, and trains. It's OK if you go, mind you, but not Joe's family. So much for projecting calm in a crisis.
Somehow, no matter what the state of the U.S. economy, the Michelle Obamas in and around the government will always manage to get their fancy French sneakers. I don't begrudge them that - but I do wish they acted as if they felt the same way about the rest of us.
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