Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
November 30, 2009
POLITICS: Handy Summary

The Politico's John Harris neatly summarizes the seven building narratives about Obama that are hazardous to his political health. What Harris perhaps misses is the extent to which the narratives, even the apparently contradictory ones, form a seamless whole.

Meanwhile, Greg Sargent, the Washington Post's in-house left-wing activist, argues that Harris is wrong because American exceptionalism and national security issues in general are passe. File that one under "by all means, keep telling yourselves that."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:11 PM | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Corporate Farmfare

Francis Cianfrocca at the New Ledger makes a startling point writing on an issue I have addressed at some length before: the excessive government involvement in America's farm policy. He argues that if you look at the numbers, the Agriculture Department's budget is larger than the profits of the entire U.S. agriculture sector.

I don't agree with his provocative conclusion that the industry would vanish without subsidies, but it would surely be compelled to adapt.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 25, 2009
BASEBALL: Looking for Stupid

With the baseball writers inexplicably having gotten all the major awards right, one has to dig deeper for examples of blazing stupidity in end-of-season awards, but Jonah Keri finds one in Topps naming their all-rookie catcher. Matt Wieters? Nope. Omir Santos.

I suppose there's no downside in Omar calling up the Orioles to see about a deal, but even the Angelosi aren't that stupid.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Passage To Asia

Christopher Badeaux at the New Ledger looks at Obama's trip to Asia and what it says about the goals, if any, of his foreign policy.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:19 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
November 24, 2009
WAR/LAW: Ignorance of History

Ed Morrissey has some fun with an article contending that if trials were good enough for the Nazis, they should be good enough for Al Qaeda - but completely ignoring the fact that the Nuremberg trials were military commissions without the full panoply of criminal procedures available today in federal court.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:33 PM | History • | Law 2009-14 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Yes, She Can?

Bush pollster Matthew Dowd looks at why he thinks it's possible - not likely, mind you, but possible - for Sarah Palin to win the White House in 2012. (H/T) Along the way he reminds us that John Kerry was one of the few challengers in memory to lose a race against an incumbent that may actually have been winnable:

Gallup polls over the past 60 years show that no president with an approval rating under 47 percent has won reelection, and no president with an approval rating above 51 percent has lost reelection. (George W. Bush's approval rating in the weeks before the 2004 election hovered around 50 percent.) The 2012 election will be primarily about our current president and whether voters are satisfied with the country's direction.

Who the Republican candidate is, and his or her qualifications and abilities, will matter only if Obama's approval rating is between 47 and 51 percent going into the fall of 2012. Interestingly, in the latest Gallup poll Obama's approval rating was at a precarious 49 percent.

As an aside, historically, the single biggest factor suppressing a president's approval rating is a high unemployment rate. That's bad news for the Democrats in the short run, as most economists expect double-digit unemployment to persist through Election Day 2010 (economists are not always right about these things, but that's what they're seeing now). Some natural improvement in the economy is already underway (even with some downward revisions, GDP grew by 2.8% last quarter) by natural operation of the business cycle, but it's unlikely that Obama will be able to resist doing more to interfere with that, like jacking up taxes. My guess is that he's going to end up just openly adding a lot of people to the federal payroll to try to reduce unemployment.

Dowd also notes that Obama is already the most partisanly polarizing president in recent years, an astounding accomplishment given the rancor that surrounded his precedessors:

The gap between Obama's approval rating among Democrats and among Republicans is nearly 70 percentage points -- a higher partisan divide than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush experienced. Obama's agenda and actions this year, and some mistakes, have solidified this divide.

Anyway, getting back to Palin, I'm not sure Dowd really put much effort into making the case that she can win over independents in a general election beyond the obvious observation that if Obama's in enough trouble, he can be beaten (there are counterexamples to this in lower-level races: I recall Gray Davis' approval rating was around 24% when he was re-elected in 2002). It seems to me that if you think that Obama will mostly win or lose the election himself, you either (1) pick the person you'd most like to see be president regardless of electability (that would argue for somebody like Mitch Daniels or Haley Barbour) and/or (2) pick the lowest-risk candidate (that may be Tim Pawlenty). It would not counsel picking the most electrifying, polarizing, controversial, high-risk candidate in the field.

Dowd's suggestions for Palin's path to follow are a mixed bag. It's strange for him to criticize her for too many public appearances after she spent months doing little in public view but updating her Facebook page - and contradicts his next point about getting out more - but I agree that at some point she has to start doing serious, substantive appearances to sell people on her grasp of the issues. Like it or not, even if voters don't understand complex issues themselves, they do want to know that the president does, and they will need reassurance if Palin runs that she genuinely knows what she's getting into. That may be doubly true if the impression continues to solidify that Obama has screwed up as a result of his inexperience. I'd add to his list that if she wants to run, or even to have an ongoing role in national poilitics, she's sooner or later going to need to find people outside Alaska that she can trust - policy advisers, people to help her organize and communicate, etc. My advice, at least, is one of the lessons I took from watching Bush: pick people who are loyal to the conservative movement and its goals, not people who are mostly personally loyal. In the long run, loyalty to ideas is more enduring and a better guarantee of quality work.

Personally, I haven't picked a horse to back yet (I'm probably more enthused about Daniels than anyone right now, and I use "enthused" advisedly), and continue to caution against others choosing up teams before November 2010. I still go back and forth on the two related key questions: do you try to beat Obama with a candidate who comes at him from above (i.e., a more sober, experienced and modest leader), or below (i.e., a fiery populist who rebels against his desire to use government to change America rather than the other way around)? The former would be likely if the election's mainly about foreign affairs, the latter if it's a rebellion against Big Government. Palin is obviously in the latter camp. Do you confront his pop celebrity status with a candidate who exudes some glamor or excitement of his/her own (again: Palin), or do you try to counter-program with a candidate who is deliberately dull and stolid and promises less drama and fewer grand ambitions? The available personnel will probably be the biggest driver in the decision anyway, but how people want to answer those questions will go along way towards deciding whether Palin, if she runs, has a chance of being the nominee.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:31 AM | Politics 2012 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
November 23, 2009
POP CULTURE: Makin' Some Noise

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent look at Tom Petty as he prepares for the release of a live retrospective:

What at first sounded like drudgery, Mr. Petty says, digging through 30 years of concert recordings for the coming "Live Anthology," turned into an "adventure." Engineer Ryan Ulyate made the first pass through the recordings in the Heartbreakers' vault, including some old analog tapes that first needed to be baked in an oven before playing to prevent disintegration. He assembled an iTunes library of some 3,500 songs, then pulled out hundreds of potential highlight tracks for Messrs. Campbell and Petty to assess. "It's amazing how the best take really shines compared to everything else," the singer says.

While the recordings prompt memory flashes from each era, Mr. Petty says, it's tough for him to recall specific concerts. One, however, stands out as perhaps "the worst gig" his band ever played, which somehow yielded the standout version of "I Won't Back Down." In 2007, at a benefit concert for the American Museum of Natural History in New York, the Heartbreakers performed beneath the museum's giant blue whale. The posh audience ignored the band as they performed an acoustic set, capped with the defiant song which (to Mr. Petty's chagrin) has become a perennial fight song for campaigning politicians. Mr. Petty resented the indifference of the crowd of "billionaire kinds of people, many of whom you'd know," he recalls, acknowledging that this might have fired up the band. "At least I got a good track out of it," he says.

Read the whole thing. The Journal poses the question why Petty doesn't get the sort of reverence that follows Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan or other "rock gods," but to me it's kind of obvious: he's never been an innovator or influential; he's always been content with being a meat-and-potatoes rock n'roller making good records and putting on good shows (as I noted when I recently tallied up my concert-going experiences, I saw him live at the Worcester Centrum in early 1990 on the tour for his best album, Full Moon Fever, and it was a really good show). Plus, Petty's a wierd-looking guy with a quirky voice, so he never got the pop culture cache of being a matinee idol type (although he put both his look and sound to great use in his legendary video for Don't Come Around Here No More).

Anyway, there's nothing wrong with making lots and lots of really good music; not everybody has to be a pathbreaker. Within his own "roots rock" genre, I'd rate Petty ahead of the likes of Mellencamp and Bob Seger but behind Bruce; the artist he's probably most comparable would be Creedence (plus, I think of them together because Petty's a Southerner who sounds like a Californian and John Fogerty's a Californian who sounds like a Southerner).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:43 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (37) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Everyone Is A Critic

Want an illustration of problems faced by putting terrorists on trial that don't arise in military commissions or in ordinary criminal prosecutions? Try this:

A legal team is going to New York to prevent the use of evidence provided by Germany in seeking a death penalty. Berlin wants to ensure that promises made by the US are kept if the suspects are found guilty.

A team of observers from the German government is going to New York to oversee the trial of five suspects accused of orchestrating the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, the news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday.

The federal trial of the suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four co-defendants was announced on November 13 by the US Justice Department. The government also asserted that it intends to seek the death penalty if the accused are found guilty.

Germany, which does not have a death penalty, provided evidence for the trial on the condition that it could not be used to support a death sentence. Several members of the al Qaeda cell that planned and executed the attacks of September 11 were previously based in the northern German city of Hamburg.

"In this case we will observe very closely that the given assurances are kept," Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

Now, we can certainly tell the Germans to mind their own damn business, but since the entire point of this exercise is good PR with the "international community," that's not going to advance the purpose of the trial.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:26 PM | Law 2009-14 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
November 21, 2009
BASEBALL: Ray of Offense

In 2007, the Tampa Bay Rays finished last, 30 games under .500. In 2008, they won the AL pennant. In 2009, they went 84-78 and missed the playoffs.

How much variance was there in their offense to explain those? Let's look first at the raw numbers of how the team's offense performed, compared to the league average:

TmR/G 6HRSBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGGDP
TBD4.831871314854513240.2680.3360.433119
20074.90161973553610530.2710.3380.423137
TBR4.781801425062612240.2600.3400.422111
20084.78162943553710600.2680.3360.420136
TBR4.961991946164212290.2630.3430.439104
20094.821831103955010940.2670.3360.428130

Then, each season's numbers translated into the 2009 context, for uniformity of context:

R/G 6HRSBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGGDP
20074.752131495355913760.2640.3340.438113
20084.822031665664112630.2590.3400.430106
20094.961991946164212290.2630.3430.439104

As you can see, the offensive context has fluctuated, but when you adjust for the league, Tampa's offense has shown gradual, year-on-year improvement, albeit not dramatic improvement, with the offense becoming incrementally more patient, more successful making contact, and less dependent upon the home run ball. But clearly, the major variable over the past three seasons has been the pitching and defense, not the offense.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:23 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 20, 2009
POLITICS: The Arsenal of Medicine

If you're wondering where health care dollars go in this country, the invaluable Phil Klein reminds us:

Raymond Raad, a resident in psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and co-author of a new Cato study, presented evidence showing that the United States leads the world in the development of drugs, medical devices, and other advanced treatments. For instance, between 1969 and 2008, 57 of the 97 Nobel Prizes in medicine and physiology -- or nearly 60 percent -- were awarded to people who did their research in the U.S., and nine of the top 10 medical innovations between 1975 and 2000 were developed here. But ... once these products are developed in the U.S., they become widely available and improve health care outcomes around the world.

Read the whole thing, and remember: that's the system the Democrats are trying to tear down and replace with one more like the European countries that depend almost as heavily on American medical and pharmaceutical innovations as they do on American military protection. In both cases, the arguments for the superiority of a European model that is unsustainable on its own depend on somebody else assuming the role of America. And nobody's volunteering for the job.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:17 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Special Night, Beard That's White...

I'm posting this one just so I can use a sentence I'm sure I will never use again:

I prefer the Raffi version to the Bob Dylan version.

The NY Daily News has more.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:55 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 11/20/09

*Lots of interesting stuff out there on Sarah Palin and her book tour. the Daily Beast looks at how Palin's book and tour are a one-woman economic stimulus package. Obama's organization wants a part of that action too: Organizing for America says Palin's book tour is "dangerous," so please give them $5. As liberal writer Ezra Klein notes of the Palin coverage:

Liberal sites need traffic just like conservative sites, and the mainstream media needs traffic more than both. And Palin draws traffic. This is actually pretty good revenge for a politician who hates the media. The press had a good time showing Palin to be a superficial creature who relied more on style than on substance, and in getting the media to drop everything and focus on her book tour, she's proving that they're much the same.

Amazingly, two positive Palin pieces at Salon, and neither of them written by Camille Paglia: a favorable review of her book and a look at what she means and why she's not going away as a public figure.

And witness the McCain campaign's crack rapid-response team in action: more than a year after the election, the NY Times finally gets to talk to the stylist who bought the Palin family's clothes, and admits that Palin had nothing to do with the money that was spent.

*Mitt Romney takes apart how Obama's inexperience has led to his failure to set clear priorities and resulting lack of focus on the war and the economy while he pursues as-yet-unfinished health care and cap and trade bills and failed efforts to salvage the campaigns of Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds. It's a mark of how inexperienced and incompetent Obama is that he can be lectured credibly on these points by a 1-term governor like Romney and a half-term governor like Palin. Michael Gerson looks in more detail at the mess that is Obama's decision-making process in Afghanistan.

*Another glorious victory for the stimulus:

The Southwest Georgia Community Action Council, after receiving about $1.3 million in funding from The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, reported creating or saving 935 jobs in their Head Start preschool program that only employs 508 people.

*Byron York looks at why Eric Holder is refusing to disclose how many Justice Department lawyers have previously represented the other side in the war.

*Patterico, as usual, is a man not to tangle with, and he remorselessly dismantles an LA Times columnist over the latest Breitbart ACORN videos. It's a facepalm with egg and crow!

*Jonathan Karl notices a $100 million payoff to Louisiana in the Senate healthcare bill to buy Mary Landrieu's vote. John Conyers, in griping about Obama's posture on the House bill, speaks about "the Barack Obama that I first met, who was an ardent single-payer enthusiast himself."

*Michael Rosen looks at Al Franken's so-called "anti-rape" bill that would preclude arbitration of sexual harrassment and various negligence-based employment claims. As Rosen notes, given that the law already bars arbitration of claims arising from rape, whereas the things it would actually change are much less dramatic, it is flatly false to describe opposition to the bill as being "pro-rape" - but then, that's pretty much Franken's M.O.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:48 AM | Blog 2006-14 • | Law 2009-14 • | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2012 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
November 19, 2009
SCIENCE: It's A Mammoth

An interesting look back at the demise of large North American mammals and its impact on the ecosystem.

H/T

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:09 PM | Science | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Dear Fred Thompson: Let's Not Do This Again

I have a lot of respect for Fred Thompson, and in this particular case I think his point is precisely correct on the merits, but there are just some things that opponents of the President shouldn't say during wartime, and maybe it's just bad phrasing or just being provocative, but this is one of them:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Twice As Nice

The baseball writers for once got both Cy Young Awards right. One thing that jumps out as a sign of the times: neither 15-game-winner Tim Lincecum nor 16-game-winner Zack Greinke (both of whom were "supported" by weak offensive teams) had so much as 25 decisions.

Looking at Greinke's ERA+ of 205, tied for the 31st best league/park adjusted ERA of all time with Addie Joss' 1908, I was reminded to go back and look at how many of the 35 pitchers to post an ERA+ of 200 or better did it more than once. Here's that list, by number of seasons being twice as good as the league:

5-Pedro Martinez
4-Walter Johnson
3-Roger Clemens
2-Christy Mathewson
2-Greg Maddux

A short list indeed, and one that rather eloquently makes the case for the top 3 names on that list being on any short list of the greatest pitchers the game has known. Surprisingly, Lefty Grove did it only once, Sandy Koufax never did. So yes, just by ERA relative to the league and park (leaving aside, obviously, the difference in workload), Greinke was better this year than Koufax ever was. Think about that one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:19 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW: Gee, I Had Not Thought of That

Lindsey Graham exposes the extent to which Attorney General Holder simply doesn't have a well-thought-out plan for how to handle interrogations of captured enemy combatants in a way that makes a rational distinction between those who should be given Miranda and other warnings in preparation for civilian prosecution, and those who should not. It's impossible for anybody involved in battlefield detentions to watch this video and come away with any sort of guidance from the nation's chief law enforcement officer. As a number of people have pointed out, whatever this is, it isn't the rule of law.

UPDATE: And Leahy doesn't even think there's any value in interrogating bin Laden.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:54 AM | Law 2009-14 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 18, 2009
LAW: Alito Speaks

I had the pleasure of hearing Justice Alito speak at the Federalist Society Convention a few years back; I didn't make it this year, but apparently he was again both entertaining and insightful, and Above the Law has a recap. H/T. A highlight:

Referring to [then-Judge Sotomayor's] opening statement, Alito said, "There was not a word in that statement that was controversial, but that's not how it was received by her progressive audience." He cited as an example a post on the Federalist Society's Web site by Georgetown law professor Louis Michael Seidman, in which Seidman wrote, "I was completely disgusted by Judge Sotomayor's testimony today. If she was not perjuring herself, she is intellectually unqualified to be on the Supreme Court. If she was perjuring herself, she is morally unqualified."

"And those were the words of one of her supporters," Alito said. "I had a lot of opponents, but I never had any supporters like that."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 PM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Big Media, and Hegemon

The second of my posts to get picked up at CBS News is up, this one the item on the polls on the terror trials.

Also, we're ramping up a new foreign policy blog, "Hegemon," over at the New Ledger. Not much content yet, but my first post is up, on whether it matters if the President has friends among foreign leaders or not.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:54 PM | Blog 2006-14 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 17, 2009
WAR: The Governor Dissents

Add New York Governor David Paterson - surely, no right-winger - to the list of critics of trying Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in Manhattan, and he adds an additional concern, that the expense and additional security will interfere with the endlessly-delayed plans to rebuild on the Ground Zero site:

"This is not a decision that I would have made. I think terrorism isn't just attack, it's anxiety and I think you feel the anxiety and frustration of New Yorkers who took the bullet for the rest of the country," he said.

Paterson's comments break with Democrats, who generally support the President's decision.

"Our country was attacked on its own soil on September 11, 2001 and New York was very much the epicenter of that attack. Over 2,700 lives were lost," he said. "It's very painful. We're still having trouble getting over it. We still have been unable to rebuild that site and having those terrorists so close to the attack is gonna be an encumbrance on all New Yorkers."

H/T James Taranto, who wonders why we're just hearing all this now if the White House warned Paterson six months ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:23 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/LAW/POLITICS: The Public's Not Buying The Trial

Here in New York, the Obama Administration's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other Al Qaeda terrorists in the civilian justice system in downtown Manhattan has garnered plenty of well-earned criticism, including from New York's leading anti-terrorism experts like Rudy Giuliani, Michael Mukasey (who handled the blind sheikh trial as a district judge before becoming President Bush's third Attorney General) and Andrew McCarthy (who was one of the prosecutors), and Long Island Congressman Peter King. And not just from the Right; even arch-liberals like Daily News sportswriter Mike Lupica have weighed in against the decision. Now the people are being heard from, and while the polls as usual show some diversity of opinion, the public is deeply skeptical of this enterprise even before it gets underway, let alone after what promises to be many months of grandstanding by the terrorists, gridlock in lower Manhattan, possible setbacks in the prosecution and the hemmhoraging of scarce resources on the trial(s) (as my retired-NYPD dad put it: "there's going to be plenty of overtime for the cops.").

The critics' bases for opposing a trial are numerous, and several of them are reviewed by Erick here. And the polls now show those criticisms are shared by a majority of the nation's voters and a significant minority even in liberal New York City, with the rest uncertain.

To quickly summarize the case against the trials:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:43 PM | Law 2009-14 • | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Silverdome Fire Sale

The death of Detroit continues, as the Potiac Silverdome, onetime home of the Detroit Lions, sells for a mere $583,000 to an unidentified Canadian company:

The sale of the Silverdome takes a large financial burden off the hard-hit city of Pontiac, which has fallen on hard times, with budget shortfalls and high unemployment. Earlier this year, GM announced it would close a truck plant, taking about 1,400 jobs from the city.

As a result...Pontiac could ill afford to continue paying $1.5 million in annual upkeep for the stadium. With a private owner, the property "will go back on the tax rolls," he explained.

The 80,000-seat Silverdome was the biggest stadium in the National Football League when it was built in 1975 for $55.7 million. The stadium, which sits on a 127-acre plot, is also the former home of the National Basketball Association's Detroit Pistons.

The stadium reached its football zenith in 1982 as the site of Super Bowl XVI, when San Francisco's 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals...

Despite its rich history, the stadium has seen little use since 2002, when the Lions concluded their last season there.

Sad.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:30 PM | Business • | Football • | Politics 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: David Obey Messes With Joe

President Obama, February 24, 2009, justifying his "stimulus" plan to a joint session of Congress:

I know there are some in this chamber and watching at home who are skeptical of whether this plan will work. I understand that skepticism. Here in Washington, we've all seen how quickly good intentions can turn into broken promises and wasteful spending. And with a plan of this scale comes enormous responsibility to get it right.

That is why I have asked Vice President Biden to lead a tough, unprecedented oversight effort - because nobody messes with Joe. I have told each member of my Cabinet as well as mayors and governors across the country that they will be held accountable by me and the American people for every dollar they spend. I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent.

How's that working out? So badly, now, that even David Obey, the liberal Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is looking to lay the blame on the Administration before it lands on him. A lot of observers have been assuming all along that with the Democrats currently headed in the direction of a very bad midterm election in 2010, Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, would sooner or later try to triangulate the Congressional Democrats, moving towards the center to let them take the fall for the failures of big-spending, big-taxing, big-regulating, big-bailouts, big-favor-giving liberalism. But maybe at some point, they will triangulate him first.

We've already seen how unemployment has just kept getting worse with the stimulus than Obama projected without it (red dots represent the actual unemployment rate, the other two lines are the Administration's projections):

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:44 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
November 16, 2009
POLITICS: Malfunction


Obama's Home Teleprompter Malfunctions During Family Dinner

H/T HotAir.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Losing the Rabbit Ears

I haven't watched Sarah Palin's Oprah interview yet, but the Anchoress has and is unimpressed, specifically regarding Palin's attitude towards her media antagonists (including the AP, which assigned 11 reporters to come up with some fairly flimsy "fact-checks" of Palin's book):

I know Palin is a tough, frontier spirit, and that serves her well in many ways, but she needs to learn to delegate the punches, so that she can remain above the fray, or she will never get past this guarded, watchful, overly-cautious and defensive vibe that rang out of her like waves from a tuning fork on the Winfrey show, today. She has to know that someone else will throw the punch for her, and she has to learn to be okay with that.

Read the whole thing, as she's got more on the topic. This is one of the emerging critiques of Palin among people on the Right who are more or less sympathetic to her: she's a natural politician who connects well with people (obviously an Oprah interview is going to be mostly about the personal, not hard political issues; those interviews will be another day), and she's been horrendously mistreated by the media, and yes, George W. Bush provided an object lesson in what happens to people who never push back at critics or the media, but at some point, she's not going to go to the next level politically until she learns to let go of a lot of the criticism and let it wash over her.

We've seen with Obama what happens when a thin-skinned candidate gets through the election with minimal scrutiny and only in office really has to respond to criticism, with the result of demonizing individual critics and TV networks, using crude sexual terms like "teabagger" to describe ordinary citizens upset with his policies, taking the rostrum of the House to call his critics liars over a bunch of legislative provisions that were subsequently amended to acknowledge those criticisms, organizing campaigns to try to dismember organizations like the Chamber of Commerce that stand in his way, etc. By 2012, Americans are going to want a candidate whose response to critics is not Obama's style of peevish vendettas. If Palin wants to challenge Obama, she will have to convince people that she's not just tough enough to hit back, but sometimes tough enough to smile and take a punch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:20 PM | Politics 2009 • | Politics 2012 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Meaning of Jobs "Created," Part II

Somewhere in these 57 states, there exist Congressional Districts between sight and sound, in which Barack Obama is "creating jobs" that do not exist for constituents of Congresspersons who do not exist either, reports Jonathan Karl of ABC News:

Here's a stimulus success story: In Arizona's 9th Congressional District, 30 jobs have been saved or created with just $761,420 in federal stimulus spending. At least that's what the website set up by the Obama Administration to track the $787 billion stimulus says.

There's one problem, though: There is no 9th Congressional District in Arizona; the state has only eight Congressional Districts.

There's no 86th Congressional District in Arizona either, but the government's recovery.gov Web site says $34 million in stimulus money has been spent there.

In fact, Recovery.gov lists hundreds of millions spent and hundreds of jobs created in Congressional districts that don't exist.

Read the whole thing (did you know the Northern Mariana Islands had 99 Congressional Districts? Neither did I.)

I can't wait for these guys to run the Census, can you?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:10 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Meaning of Jobs "Created"

The Washington Examiner spots the pattern from multiple news reports:

More than ten percent of the jobs the Obama administration has claimed were "created or saved" by the $787 billion stimulus package are doubtful or imaginary, according to reports compiled from eleven major newspapers and the Associated Press.

Based only on our analysis of stimulus media coverage in the last two weeks, The Examiner has created this interactive map to document exaggerated stimulus claims. The map, which will be updated as new revelations appear, currently reflects an exaggeration by the Obama administration of about 75,000 jobs, out of the 640,000 jobs supposedly "created or saved."

Read the whole thing, and don't miss clicking on the link for the map. Ah, well, it's only $787 billion, I'm sure there's more where that came from.

UPDATE: My favorite, of course: "A $1,000 grant to purchase a single lawn mower was credited with saving 50 jobs."

ANOTHER FAVORITE from the Sacramento Bee's report, including a quote that sums up government budgeting in a nutshell:

The California State University system received $268.5 million in stimulus funds and claimed that the money allowed them to save over 26,000 jobs or half its workforce. But when pressed, the California State University system admitted they weren't really going to lay off half their workforce, and that in fact few or none of these jobs would have been lost without the stimulus. "This is not really a real number of people," a CSU spokesman said. "It's like a budget number."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:48 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 13, 2009
WAR: The Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Lower Manhattan Reunion Tour

Pardon me if I am seeing red this morning:

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and four others accused in the attacks will be put on criminal trial in New York, Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to announce later Friday.

WHAT IN THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?

So, Barack Obama will be staging his own New York production of Chicago, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as Roxy Hart ("You had it coming, you had it coming, you only have yourselves to blame...." ). We will be treated to months upon months of front page headlines giving a platform to this lunatic war criminal. The courthouses and City office buildings in lower Manhattan (City Hall, the state courts, the immigration offices, the Court of International Trade, the US Attorney's Office, the DA's office, and the main city office building that does marriage licenses and the like are all within about a two-block radius of the federal courthouses and the Metropolitan Correctional Center) will be snarled with massive security, as if lower Manhattan needs more traffic and more armed men. We'll have to have pretrial hearings on the inevitable countless motions about how KSM was apprehended and the evidence against him collected, undoubtedly to the detriment of vital sources of intelligence, like when we lost the ability to track Osama bin Laden by cellphone after our tracing of his calls was revealed by a prosecution under the DOJ Criminal Division then headed by...Eric Holder. And that's even before he starts in on the sob stories about being waterboarded. I'm not seriously concerned that KSM stands any chance of being acquitted, but a hung jury? It only takes one person with extreme political or religious views, one juror who just can't abide the death penalty (even assuming Obama's DOJ pursues it). Just imagine the controversy, if there are Muslims in the jury pool, over what questions prosecutors are permitted to ask them and whether they can be challenged. And of course, it sends the message to our enemies that there's nothing you can do to us that will get you sent through a process rougher than the one we used on Michael Vick or Martha Stewart.

I know I have spoken and written many rough things about Obama, but as Michael Moore would say, most New Yorkers voted for the man - why is he doing this to us?

It's impossible, really, to caricature this White House; even Josiah Bartlett didn't run through this many liberal stereotypes in his first season. Obama needs new writers. Blow up the World Trade Center and kill 3,000 Americans? Jail! Don't buy health insurance? Jail! Win the Nobel Prize for doing jack squat. Travel to Copenhagen to beg and grovel unsuccessfully for the Olympics, and pledge to go visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but blow off traveling to Berlin to commemorate the victory of freedom over Communism (then give a tepid speech on the subject that refuses to acknowledge Ronald Reagan). Commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland by unilaterally abandoning missile defense installations in Poland. Insult and disdain one faithful ally after another - Britain, India, Israel, Poland, Colombia, you name it - and cozy up to our enemies, with nothing to show for it - nothing to show for anything he's done in foreign affairs. All but ignore democratic protests in Iran while supporting an illegal effort by Honduras' president to stay on beyond the end of his term. Suddenly complain about corruption and electoral fraud in Afghanistan, while seeking the favor of Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadenijad and Vladimir Putin - heck, Obama endorsed half a dozen people in Chicago more corrupt than Hamid Karzai. On and on and on we go, with President Apology constantly straining to run down his country's record and talk up the propagandized view of history of its enemies. He's taken more time to "evaluate" General McChrystal's recommendations about Afghan policy than it took George W. Bush to invade Afghanistan and capture Kabul after September 11. It would be funny if it wasn't tragically stupid and bound to get people killed. There is no mistake of our past that Obama is unwilling to remake.

If there's an upside to all this, after months of watching KSM up close, even liberal New Yorkers may be ready to give Dick Cheney a medal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:15 AM | Law 2009-14 • | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (90) | TrackBack (0)
November 12, 2009
POLITICS: Latest Connecticut Poll: Good News For Simmons, Bad News For Dodd, Obamacare

The latest Quinnipiac poll of Connecticut voters is out, and while it is (standard disclaimer) only one poll, it shows bad news for Chris Dodd, good news for his strongest challenger, Rob Simmons, and bad news for President Obama's health care plan.

Here's the topline result on Simmons vs Dodd:

Former Connecticut Congressman Rob Simmons has an early lead in the Republican primary race for the 2010 U.S. Senate contest and runs better than any other challenger against Sen. Christopher Dodd, topping the Democratic incumbent 49 - 38 percent...

Former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon gets 43 percent to Sen. Dodd's 41 percent...

Even potential Republican contenders with almost no name recognition and almost no Republican primary voter support give Dodd a run for his money.

Simmons leads a Republican primary matchup with 28 percent, followed by McMahon with 17 percent. No other contender tops 9 percent and 36 percent are undecided.

Connecticut voters disapprove 54 - 40 percent of the job Dodd is doing, compared to a 49 - 43 percent disapproval September 17, and say 53 - 39 percent that he does not deserve reelection.

The poll shows Dodd with a favorable/unfavorable rating of -15 (38-53) among men and -25 (34-59) among Independents, and a re-elect number of -24 (34-58) among men and -32 (30-62) among Independents, the latter mirroring the showing of Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds among Independents.

It's still somewhat early to judge whether any of the other Republicans in the race would be electable against Dodd; clearly, Simmons, as a moderate former Congressman, has a very real shot of winning this race, as he's polling basically where Chris Christie was polling at this stage against Corzine. And bear in mind, this was a poll of registered, not likely voters; the likely-voter screens almost always help the GOP candidate, especially since 2010 will be an off-year election in which polls are consistently showing that voters on the Right are far more motivated and energized. Here's the poll's sample:

From November 3 - 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,236 Connecticut registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. The survey includes 474 Democrats with a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points and 332 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points.

I don't have offhand the overall registration breakdowns for CT. The sample here is 38.3% Democrats, 34.8% Independents and 26.9% Republicans, as compared to 2008 exit polls showing an electorate 43% Democrats, 31% Independents and 27% Republicans. So, Republicans aren't oversampled here; whether the poll oversampled Independents at the expense of Democrats depends on whether you think 2008 turnout is representative of what the electorate will be going forward.

Anyway, time will tell as to whether the other GOP candidates can credibly challenge Simmons. McMahon is clearly well-funded, and her pro wrestling background suggests some familiarity with the kind of populist appeal that made Jesse Ventura a governor, but Ironman at Next Right, a close observer of the CT political scene, thinks she is a poor stump speaker and too close with Rahm and Ari Emanuel and Lowell Weicker to be trusted, including a $10,000 donation to the DCCC in the fall of 2006 while it was pouring money into CT to help defeat Simmons and Nancy Johnson (McMahon herself didn't vote in that election). $3 million in state tax credits for WWE and a heavy WWE lobbying presence in the state capitol are also not the kind of resume lines that are likely to help a populist campaign against the goodies-collecting Dodd. All of which adds up to more reason why McMahon will have a long way to go to convince GOP voters that she's a better option against Dodd than Simmons.

As for Connecticut's other Senate seat, up again in 2012 and presently held by an incumbent from the Connecticut for Lieberman party, Jay Cost has argued that the 2006 race shows that Lieberman needs to win over Republicans and conservative-leaning independents to keep his job, and that this helps explain his opposition to Obamacare:

18% of all voters [in 2006] were self-identified Republicans who voted for Lieberman. 14% of all voters were self-identified conservatives who voted for Lieberman. Simply put, Lieberman won that 2006 race in large part because conservative Republicans voted for him, not Schlesinger.

This means that Lieberman now has to win over voters well to the right of his old electoral coalition from when he was a typical Democrat. Losing the support of the left means he must go looking for conservatives, whom he managed to find in sufficient numbers three years ago. So, suppose Lieberman antagonizes conservatives in his home state so much that they get behind a more viable candidate in 2012. That Republican wins 20% of the vote rather than 9%. If the Democratic nominee can replicate Lamont's 39%, Lieberman would lose.

The Q poll strongly supports Cost's thesis - Lieberman's poll profile is essentially that of a liberal Republican at this point, and Connecticut voters are far more skeptical of the Democratic health care plan than they are of Obama in general:

By a 51 - 25 percent margin, Connecticut voters say Sen. Joseph Lieberman's views on issues are closer to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party. There is agreement on this among voters in all parties.

Voters approve 49 - 44 percent of the job Lieberman is doing. He gets 74 - 20 percent approval from Republicans and 52 - 40 percent approval from independent voters, but Democrats disapprove 62 - 31 percent.

Voters say 64 - 29 percent that Democrats should not strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship if he joins Republicans in a filibuster against the Democrats' health care reform.

Connecticut voters approve 58 - 35 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, but they disapprove 48 - 45 percent of the way he is handling health care.



Note also that the poll shows that voters trust a Republican over Dodd on the health care issue, 43-37. And this is a liberal northeastern state; today's Q poll in Ohio, which shows some encouraging news for Rob Portman, has voters disapproving of Obama's health care plan by 55-36 and Obama's approval rating running lower than the Democratic Senate candidates.

As a final footnote, recanvassing shows that Bill Owens - who ran against the House health care bill, although he then voted for it as soon as he was sworn in - has lost a significant part of his margin of victory over Doug Hoffman (who also ran against the House bill) in NY-23. Even assuming that the net result of the recanvassing doesn't lead to any efforts to challenge the legitimacy of Owens' election, the dwindling margin of victory undermines efforts to make much hay of Hoffman's loss, and offers yet another data point - from the Northeast, no less - to suggest that support for Democrats and their health care plan is faltering almost everywhere.

If Connecticut is turning into dangerous turf for liberal Democrats and their big government schemes, that should be a sign to encourage opponents of big government everywhere to get in the game.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:11 PM | Politics 2009 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 11, 2009
BASEBALL: It Was A Great Year Except For The Playing Baseball Part

I had assumed that Ken Griffey jr would retire after hitting .214 this season, to preserve some dignity, but apparently he not only wants to return in 2010, but has convinced the Mariners he's enough of an asset to give him a contract comparable to his 2009 salary of over $3 million Why?

Griffey returned to the Mariners in 2009 under rookie manager Don Wakamatsu and almost single-handedly transformed what had been a fractured, bickering clubhouse with his leadership, energy and constant pranks....

"He went beyond anything that I would have expected," Zduriencik said.

Griffey even turned formerly reclusive star Ichiro Suzuki into a smiling, joking teammate. He had neckties made for road trips bearing Wakamatsu's likeness. He also had the Mariners wearing ties bearing his own likeness and the words "World's Greatest Teammate" for one midseason flight out of Seattle.

"His influence, the presence he has -- there are players on this ballclub who are very excited to know they are going to be teammates again with Ken Griffey Jr.," Zduriencik said.

The Mariners even carried Griffey off the field on their shoulders immediately following October's season finale.

That's all to the good, and by and large Griffey's been one of the good guys in his career; yes, he's been prone to whining and self-centeredness at times, especially in mid-career, but some of that comes with being told from your teen years that you are going to be a superstar, and it being right. On the whole, he's a guy I've always liked and rooted for, and it's good to see he's grown into a real clubhouse leader in his later years.

But it might help the Mariners to replace Griffey with someone who can provide a little more than a nice personality.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:09 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
November 10, 2009
WAR: Don't Ask

Ace looks at one of the obvious lessons from the Fort Hood massacre. Now, there are inevitably a few people calling for a blanket ban on Muslims in the military (indeed, Dr. Hasan was one of them), and for a variety of reasons that should be obvious, that's going too far. The harder question is, should the military be acting more aggressively to root out servicemembers with jihadist sympathies before this sort of thing recurs, and what steps it should be taking to conduct such investigations.

But the easy question is what should be done when the evidence is open and obvious that a member of the military sympathizes with the nation's sworn enemies rather than his own country. That's exactly what was present here, and a climate of politically correct fear seems to have inhibited anybody from doing anything about it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:59 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (28) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Bill Simmons, the People's Sportswriter

Will Leitch has an excellent column up at Deadspin on Bill Simmons and his rise to bestselling author status. H/T Aaron Gleeman. A sample:

A large part of Simmons' appeal has always been that sense that you knew him, that somehow you were invested in his success. Malcolm Gladwell and Chuck Klosterman will sell more books in their lifetime than Simmons, but people don't wait in lines spanning around the block just to have them sign their book like they do for Simmons. (A search for photos of Simmons brings up hundreds of shots of him posing with fans.) ...But it's what fans have always done with Simmons, even those who purport to hate him. Simmons turned into an indie rock band from the early '90s. "He's hanging out with Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon now? SELLOUT!" We treated Simmons like he was a guy from our neighborhood who made it big, like it was important that he remember the little people who got him there. In a way, he kind of was.

Leitch is right, although of course it's a little hard for me to have the same perspective; Leitch didn't even read Bill on the Boston Sports Guy site in the pre-2001 era, whereas - as longtime readers will recall - I wrote on the site for over a year. I've been reading Bill's stuff since we were on the college paper together in the early 1990s. While I've enjoyed a lot of his writings on ESPN.com, they were nothing new to me, because I knew his writing style so well by then. And given our common background at Holy Cross and how long I've known him, Bill basically is a guy from my neighborhood.

Leitch's larger point, though, is one I've made repeatedly over the past decade about writers, politicians, musicians, and the blogosphere in general. There's no substitute for a conversational tone that draws the reader/listener/viewer in. There's no substitute for being truly, comfortably yourself - maybe a slightly more eloquent, witty or composed version of yourself, but people can tell when you are talking to them the way you would talk to your friends, and when you are just writing or talking at them. The latter is usually a sign that you are taking yourself too seriously and/or disrespecting your audience. I always personally feel my writing is much stronger - not just my blog writing but my legal writing as well - when it feels more conversational. Bill James was probably the first writer I really and truly absorbed that lesson from - and even to this day, James' fans are so dedicated to the man's work not only because of his insights, his wit and wisdom, or his scientific rigor, but because his writing was always a frank conversation where he'd go off on tangents, discuss petty feuds with his adversaries, gripe about what was on the radio, etc. You felt, just from reading the annual Abstracts, like you knew the guy. And Bill Simmons' writing does the same thing, and thus has generated the same loyalty, especially from people who remember when Simmons, like James, was essentially self-publishing his work and living on a shoestring to do it.

It's true, as Leitch says, that Bill has faced more backlash as the years have gone by, inevitably due to a combination of his success and ubiquity, people getting tired of his signature style, and the fact that it's hard for a die-hard Boston fan to keep the same underdog appeal when the Red Sox, Celtics and especially Patriots are rolling up title after title. But that comes with the territory. Bill's had great success and he's earned it by being the sportswriter the fans wanted to be.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:06 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Um, Never Mind

Ramesh Ponnuru notices how Obama's latest remarks expose the falsehood of his previous statements about the impact of abortion on the health care bill. Among other things, when Obama stood in the well of the House of Representatives and called liars anyone who criticized the pre-Stupak Amendment bill on abortion grounds, we now know he was extending that accusation to 64 House Democrats.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:58 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Democrats Divided on Abortion

A funny thing is happening on the way to the impending health care showdown, as the Democrats try to turn the newly-passed House bill into something that can pass both Houses of Congress: Democrats are divided over abortion, and their divisions threaten to wreck the bill. With government-run health care having passed the House with only a 3-vote margin of victory, 60 votes needed in the Senate, and pro-life and pro-choice Democrats both vowing to go to war over the bill's abortion provisions, the whole legislative initiative can be put at risk by even a small number of defectors.

The Democrats' divisions over abortion may surprise casual observers. If you've tried getting your news from the mainstream media any time in the last three decades or so, you have undoubtedly seen more variations on the headline "Abortion Divides GOP" than you could count. The basic narrative is usually some variant on the notion that the Republican Party would be one big happy family if it weren't for those awful pro-lifers. The MSM will write stories from this template at the drop of a hat, with the goal of feeding a larger narrative that one side of the abortion debate is "divisive" and that this problem is a Republican problem because being a pro-lifer is synonymous with being a right-wing woman-hating extremist. The idea that there might be broader bipartisan support for the pro-life movement seems never to have occurred to the media.

That's where this weekend's vote over the Stupak Amendment, which amended the House version of the health care bill to bar federal health care dollars from being spent on abortions, comes in.

Presumably believing her own rhetoric about pro-lifers being beyond-the-pale extremists whose opinions no longer matter in today's Democratic-run Washington, Speaker Pelosi had fought for months to resist any efforts to prevent taxpayer dollars from being used to finance abortions under Obamacare. This recalcitrance belied President Obama's repeated rhetorical efforts to convince the public that the bill was abortion-neutral, and created a political problem even the New York Times was forced to acknowledge: especially since the 2006 and 2008 elections, in which Rahm Emanuel recruited many Democratic candidates to run in districts where the pro-life cause is strong, there are once again a fairly substantial number of Congressional Democrats who call themselves pro-life, and they really do not want to be compelled to choose between voting against a health care bill and voting in favor of taxpayer funding of abortion. The ultimate vote in the House on the Stupak Amendment drew surprising Democratic support: 64 votes, contributing to the measure's resounding 240-194 victory. This reality came as a shock to pro-choice hardliners like Connecticut Democrat Rosa DeLauro:

[W]hen Pelosi announced late Friday that she would allow an amendment strictly limiting insurance coverage of abortions, it touched off an angry yelling match between DeLauro and another Pelosi confidant, California Rep. George Miller, and tears from some veteran female lawmakers, according to people in the room.

Some of the lawmakers argued that Pelosi was turning her back on a decades-long campaign by female Democratic members in support of abortion rights. Miller rose to Pelosi's defense, which resulted in an angry confrontation between him and DeLauro, said the sources.

Miller told DeLauro that there were "more pro-life votes in the House than pro-choice" and that abortion-rights advocates had better acknowledge that reality.

By this morning, this was entrenched as a Democratic talking point, as California's Loretta Sanchez repeated on Morning Joe that even with a wide Democratic majority, pro-lifers are in the majority in the House and the pro-choicers have only about 150 votes.

Now, longtime pro-life activists are justifiably somewhat skeptical that "pro-life" Democrats really ever mean it. While there have at times been true warriors for the pro-life cause in the Democratic Party, notably the late Pennsylvania Governor Bob Casey (who fought all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade in 1992), the usual pro-life Democrat tends to be a mushy-middle sort who isn't up to change the Roe status quo and will choose party loyalty in any difficult battle over, say, the composition of the Supreme Court, but at the same time is willing to sign on to restrictions at the extreme margins of the issue, like partial-birth abortion and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

But the health care bill, by virtue of its intrusive nature, makes neutrality impossible, and thus may have pushed a number of these reluctant pro-lifers into a position where they had no choice but to vote for what they profess to believe. Contrary to what Obama claims, true neutrality is not possible when the government gets so deeply entangled in an area of life as this bill proposes to get the government into the provision of health care. Such a bill cannot be "pro-choice" in the sense of leaving mothers to make their own decision on their own private dime; it can only be pro-abortion, by providing federal subsidies for abortion coverage, or anti-abortion, by denying them where in the past they may have been funded by purely private insurance.

The Stupak Amendment "would bar anyone receiving a federal subsidy from purchasing a private plan that covers elective abortion. In addition, under Stupak, the public plans would not be allowed to offer abortion coverage prohibited under the Hyde amendment." Pro-choicers claim that this is actually an expansion of the Hyde Amendment's scope and would squeeze out private plans that cover abortion - but they somehow miss that that's how the bill would work with regard to everything it touches, not just abortion. As Phil Klein puts it:

[T]he need for the controversial measure is a direct consequence of liberal efforts to have the government take over the health care system. The amendment, proposed by Reps. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Joe Pitts (R-PA), would merely extend protections under current law that prevent taxpayer funding for abortion through government health care programs such as Medicaid. The only reason the Stupak-Pitts amendment would apply restrictions to the private market is that the government would be drastically expanding its role in the private market as a result of the health care legislation.

Currently, women are able to purchase private health care plans that cover abortion because it remains a legal procedure and we still have a private market for the sale of health insurance. But if the House Democratic health care bill becomes law, individuals will only be allowed to purchase health insurance through a government-run exchange. And because millions of Americans will be using government subsidies to purchase insurance through the exchange, suddenly lawmakers get to have a say on what kind of private insurance policies individuals can purchase. In addition, the federal government would be directly operating one of the plans, known as the "public option."

In short, pro-life Democrats were left no other option than to demand a clear affirmative prohibition on the use of federal funds to subsidize abortion. Politico reports that Stupak threatened to vote against the bill unless his amendment was included and that "a big bloc of anti-abortion Democrats were threatening to derail the entire bill unless party leaders agreed to stronger restrictions" demanded by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has pushed for health care legislation but refuses to support it without something on the lines of the Stupak Amendment. In all, 42 Members of the House (including the lone GOP vote for the bill, Joseph Cao) voted for both the Stupak Amendment and the final bill, well in excess of the 3-vote margin for error provided by the bill's ultimate 220-215 victory. Stupak told the Wall Street Journal that he has more than enough votes to scuttle the whole bill if his amendment is removed:

"We won because [the Democrats] need us," says Mr. Stupak. "If they are going to summarily dismiss us by taking the pen to that language, there will be hell to pay. I don't say it as a threat, but if they double-cross us, there will be 40 people who won't vote with them the next time they need us - and that could be the final version of this bill."

In the Senate, the health care bill already faces a rocky road; the death of Ted Kennedy and Joe Lieberman's vow to join the GOP filibuster of the bill leave the Democrats starting with 58 votes (59 if they can get Maine Republican Olympia Snowe to stay on board with the bill), and Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson says he needs the Stupak Amendment in the bill to support it:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) wants to see abortion language as restrictive as the Stupak amendment in the health care reform bill, his spokesman told POLITICO Monday.

"Senator Nelson is strongly prolife and was pleased the Stupak amendment passed with such strong support," Thompson said in a statement. "He believes that no federal money - including subsidies or tax credits - should be used to buy insurance coverage for abortion. This is a very important issue to Senator Nelson and it is highly unlikely he would support a bill that doesn't clearly prohibit federal dollars from going to abortion."

Thompson said Nelson could not support anything less than Stupak amendment.

In terms of strategy, Nelson is still evaluating options, Thompson added.

The last line is significant: the bill needs 60 votes to overcome a filibuster but only 50 "yes" votes, and unlike Lieberman, Nelson hasn't vowed to filibuster. Nor have we heard a firm answer from putative pro-lifers like Gov. Casey's son, now a Pennsylvania Senator, or from at-risk Senators like Blanche Lincoln who need to face strongly pro-life electorates to get re-elected (Sen. Reid is himself nominally pro-life but not expected to do anything about it).

Lest you believe that the Democrats can hold the wavering pro-lifers in place by maintaining the Stupak Amendment, however, the pro-choice hardliners are also threatening to kill the bill unless it's removed. As the Washington Post reported:

Rep. Diana DeGette (Colo.) said she has collected more than 40 signatures from House Democrats vowing to oppose any final bill that includes the amendment -- enough to block passage.

"There's going to be a firestorm here," DeGette said. "Women are going to realize that a Democratic-controlled House has passed legislation that would prohibit women paying for abortions with their own funds. . . . We're not going to let this into law."

The Post's in-house left-wing activist, Greg Sargent, has a copy of the letter. DeGette has the pledged support of at least one member of the House Democratic leadership:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), the Democrats' chief deputy whip in the House, said that she and other pro-choice lawmakers would work to strip the amendment included in the House health bill that bars federal funding from going to subsidize abortions.

"I am confident that when it comes back from the conference committee that that language won’t be there," Wasserman Schultz said during an appearance on MSNBC. "And I think we're all going to be working very hard, particularly the pro-choice members, to make sure that’s the case."

Senate pro-choice Democrats, led by Barbara Boxer, have similarly drawn a line in the sand:

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said that 60 votes would be needed to strip the current health care bill of its abortion-related language and replace it with a version resembling that passed by the House of Representatives on Saturday. And, in an interview with the Huffington Post, the California Democrat predicted that pro-choice forces in the Senate would keep that from happening.

"If someone wants to offer this very radical amendment, which would really tear apart [a decades-long] compromise, then I think at that point they would need to have 60 votes to do it," Boxer said. "And I believe in our Senate we can hold it."

"It is a much more pro-choice Senate than it has been in a long time," she added. "And it is much more pro-choice than the House."

Boxer's reading of the political landscape might seem like the hopeful spin of an abortion-rights defender. But it was seconded by a far less pro-choice lawmaker, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)

"It would have to be added," sad the Montana Democrat of an amendment that mirrored that offered Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) in the House. "I doubt it could pass."

Boxer is relying on Senate procedural rules regarding the original bill, as opposed to the conference report, but in either event, as in the House, the battle over the original bill will be a warning shot about what could possibly pass both Houses following a conference:

Currently, the Senate bill's language would allow for insurers participating in a health care exchange to cover abortions so long as they ensured that federal funds are not used to pay for the procedure. An amendment similar to Stupak['s] effort -- which was offered by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) -- had already been voted down in the Senate Finance Committee.

To re-introduce such a provision, Boxer said, 60 senators would be required to cut off debate on the floor. And the votes for that, she said, likely won't materialize.

Some pro-choice Democrats, led by Lynn Woolsey, Chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are not just looking to strip the Stupak Amendment, but calling as well for an investigation of the Catholic Bishops' role in the Amendment, a posture that effectively would require them to investigate the Bishops' coordination with 64 of their own Members.

Unsurprisingly, given his extreme record on abortion, President Obama seems to have joined the chorus looking to water down or remove the Stupak Amendment, although in the end it seems unlikely that Obama has much say in the process, given that he's likely to vote for just about anything he can call a health care bill:

Saying the bill cannot change the status quo regarding the ban on federally funded abortions, the president said, "There are strong feelings on both sides" about an amendment passed Saturday and added to the legislation, "and what that tells me is that there needs to be some more work before we get to the point where we're not changing the status quo."

+++

"I want to make sure that the provision that emerges meets that test -- that we are not in some way sneaking in funding for abortions, but, on the other hand, that we're not restricting women's insurance choices," he said.

(Asked about the president's position, press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to offer anything clearer than this)

At the end of the day, for all the conservative hand-wringing over Speaker Pelosi's short-term tactical victory in allowing a vote on the Stupak Amendment and thus enabling passage of the bill through the House, the political reality remains: there may not be enough votes to pass the final bill with the Stupak Amendment, because of intransigence from pro-choice Democrats, and there may not be enough votes to pass the final bill without the Stupak Amendment, because of intransigence from pro-life Democrats. And that's even before we get to the fissures among the Democrats and with the public at large over taxes, spending, individual mandates, the public option, tort reform, immigration, and euthanasia.

There are two ensuing lessons for Democrats, if that turns out to be the case. One is that a Democratic majority in this country is only possible if Democrats make real, rather than just rhetorical, concessions to the pro-life movement. And the other is that, for all of the grand ambitions of progressives, any bill that drives this far and this deep into American life is bound to expose long-dormant fault lines in any political coalition.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:51 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2009
BASEBALL/HISTORY: A Veteran

ESPN talks to Ralph Kiner about his World War II-era military service as a Navy pilot. The one baseball note I'd either forgotten or not noticed before was that fresh out of the military, Kiner hit 13 home runs in spring trainining in 1946 to make the Pirates.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:45 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 6, 2009
WAR: There Is A History Here

Streiff has a must-read post putting the Fort Hood shootings in their historical context within the U.S. military: "[w]hat has happened in the past 6 years is that assurance that the men in uniform were if not loyal Americans at least loyal to their comrades has been shattered."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:19 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: A Man of Indeterminate Religion

I'll hopefully have more at another juncture on the Fort Hood shootings and what they do and don't mean. But for now, it's enough to observe some of the more absurd examples of media efforts to avoid discussing not only the shooter's Muslim religion but - of greater significance when the two are taken together - the extensive record of red flags regarding his jihadist and anti-American, anti-US military sympathies. David Forsmark looks at the typically ludicrous coverage ladled out by Keith Olbermann and others at MSNBC, while Patterico catches the LA Times trying to conceal its initial effort at hiding the facts from its readers.

Meanwhile, via Allahpundit, note efforts like this one from BradBlog, and this segment on the Rachel Maddow show, to blame conservatives for a death of a federal worker in Kentucky that authorities now believe was a suicide. Note how Maddow, despite obviously not having all the facts, immediately speculated that this was "a crime related to anti-government sentiment" and trying to draw inferences from the federal government's behavior to support that argument.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:27 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Free Agents 2010

The NY Post has the full list of possible free agents this offseason.

The Mets have only one free agent they may have concerns about losing, and that's Delgado. Really, all decisions about 2010 flow from Delgado - they can try to stick with the hand they have and keep him, bring in another veteran for at least a stopgap, or just go younger.

The first base options aren't superstars, but Adam LaRoche might be a decent short-term pickup, there's always Aubrey Huff, and of course you could roll the dice with Nick Johnson's health (Jim Thome would bring all the same downsides that Delgado has, plus he's an even worse defensive option; ditto Jason Giambi).

The other main area where the Mets might go for some relatively high-profile help would be starting pitching, but aside from John Lackey, the options include some extremely high-risk gambles like Erik Bedard and Rich Harden. Doug Davis would be more the low-impact type of signing. John Smoltz looks like a high-risk, low-ceiling gamble, although his K/BB ratios remained strong.

There's also setup men and corner outfielders...I don't see the Mets pursuing Vlad Guerrero, but you never know. The Angels shelled out $19 million over two years for Bobby Abreu, which seems like a reasonable deal for both sides; Abreu looked solid enough this season to assuage immediate concerns about his age, but he could still go south at any minute.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:54 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 5, 2009
BASEBALL: 27 Yankees

A fitting end, to a baseball season of unremitting agony, all the way down to the Hated Yankees' fans getting to taunt Pedro, who arrived without his fastball. While Pedro pitched well enough down the stretch (3.63 ERA, 37/8 K/BB ratio) and put on a respectable showing overall in the postseason (3.71 ERA, 16 K in 17 IP), I have to wonder if it's just time for him to hang it up while he can go out on something resembling a high note, if he's out of gas starting his third game in a month.

I will say that Much as I hate the Yankees, I cannot hate Matsui; he's the Japanese Tommy Henrich. But I will hate Matsui quite a lot if he is a Met next year, because he will hit .233 with 8 HR and 47 RBI. Fortunately, it looks more like he'll stay in the AL even if the Yankees let him go.

As for Mariano Rivera, you just have to tip your cap; he was automatic again to the end, even at 39, even for the two-inning save. He ended up this season lowering his career postseason ERA to 0.74. Small sample sizes or no - Mariano's never thrown more than 8 innings in a postseason series - he has now appeared in 29 postseason serieses, and his ERAs for those serieses break down as follows:

4:50: 1 series (1 HR in 2 IP in the 1997 ALDS vs the Indians)
3.00: 2 serieses
Between 1.12 and 1.93: 7 serieses
0.00: 19 serieses

The only players to hit postseason homers off Rivera in 133.1 postseason innings are Sandy Alomar in 1997 and Jay Payton in 2000.

Neither here nor there, but to update a figure I have cited before, the Yankees are now 20-3 in World Series play under Democratic presidents, 7-10 under Republicans. Since their first pennant in 1921, that's 20 championships, 23 pennants and 26 postseason appearances in 41 seasons under Democratic Administrations, 7 championships, 17 pennants and 22 postseason appearances in 48 seasons under Republican ones.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:35 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: Absurdity

I'm so accustomed to interviews with German magazine Der Spiegel producing anti-American quotes from American politicians and entertainers that it's a breath of fresh air to read this marvelous interview with Charles Krauthammer, especially at the obviously staggered reaction of the interviewer. The parts dealing with Obama's foreign policy are the best parts of the interview.

I'm not sure, however, I quite agree with this:

The analogy I give is that in America we play the game between the 40-yard lines, in Europe you go all the way from goal line to goal line. You have communist parties, you have fascist parties, we don't have that, we have very centrist parties.

That's true to some extent, especially as far as comparing the governing center of each of the two U.S. parties to the overall European landscape. But the governing coalitions in European politics differ far less from each other than the Democrats and the Republicans do. Margaret Thatcher notwithstanding, Reaganite conservatives are a rarity in Europe, where the conservatives are largely socialist and the fascists are (as fascists generally are) even more socialist. That remains true even today, as the prevailing trend in many European countries is to the right of the current leadership in the U.S.

I love that Krauthammer mentions perhaps my favorite elected Republican, Paul Ryan, as a presidential candidate, but realistically Ryan's still young, and if it's ever possible to win the White House from Congress (Obama proved that perhaps the only way a Senator gets elected is by running against another Senator who's been in the Senate longer), 2012 doesn't look like that year.

Also, Krauthammer's analogy of Bush to Truman, while by no means original, is better-argued than I've generally seen it:

I think Bush actually handled the Iraq War better than Truman handled the Korean War. For one thing, the number of losses is about one-tenth. Secondly, he made the right decision with the surge. Thirdly, if Iraq turns out well, meaning becomes a country fairly self-sufficient and fairly friendly to the West, it will have a more important effect on the West than having a non-communist South Korea. The Middle East is strategically a far more important region.

Bush's worst mistake was the conduct of the Iraq war in the middle years -- 2004-2006 -- and the attempt to win on the cheap, with a light footprint.

On the other hand, I think he did exactly the right thing after 9/11. Look at the Patriot Act, which revolutionized how we deal with domestic terrorism, passed within six weeks of 9/11 in the fury of the moment. Testimony to how well Bush got it right is that Democrats, who now control Congress and had been highly critical of it, are now after eight years reauthorizing it with almost no significant changes.

Afghanistan is more problematic. Our success in overthrowing the Taliban in 100 days was remarkable. It's one of the great military achievements of all time. On the other hand, holding Afghanistan is a lot harder than taking it, and to this day we are not sure how to do it. But the initial success in 2001-2002 did decimate and scatter al-Qaida. It is no accident that we have not suffered a second attack -- something no one who lived in Washington on Sept. 11 thought possible.

I'm sure he will be rehabilitated in the long term.

Clare Booth Luce once said that every president is remembered for one thing, and that's what Bush will be remembered for. He kept us safe.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:28 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
November 4, 2009
BASEBALL: Game Six Open Thread

In case I don't get to post something later this evening. As usual, if I am home watching the game I will probably be Twittering updates.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:48 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Yes, All Politics Is Local

Republicans are - rightly - crowing this morning about the GOP's victories in the New Jersey Governor's race and a battery of races in Virginia from the Governorship on down and what they say about the turn in the national mood, if not in a pro-Republican direction then at least in a direction that's sufficiently hostile to the Democrats that voters in states won by Obama and dominated by the Democrats in the last few years are willing to give individual Republicans another chance.

But the key word there, even in an across-the-board sweep like happened in Virginia, is individual. There remains an ongoing battle on the Right over how Republicans choose which candidates to support - who voters and the national party organs should back in primaries, when and whether to support third party candidacies, etc. It's a battle intensified by Doug Hoffman's loss in the NY-23 race after the NRCC-backed candidate, Dede Scoazzafava, ended up swinging the race to the Democrats when she endorsed Bill Owens. But in making sense of such debates, this is a point that cannot be stressed enough: no matter how favorable or unfavorable the overall national climate may be, no matter what ideological compass you want the party to follow, you can't ever overlook the importance of the individual candidates and the conditions they run in. I said it in 2008 with regard to presidential campaigns, and it's true as well of races for Governor, Senate or House: ideas don't run for president, people do.

This point is overlooked by naysayers arguing that this or that position on a particular race is hypocritical or compels a similar result in other races - e.g., if you support the challenger you must always support the challenger; if you support the moderate, you must always support the moderate, etc. Hugh Hewitt eviscerated David Frum in a hugely entertaining segment last week over a column making a similar argument; I highly recommend reading the whole thing, but this excerpt from the Frum column is a sterling example of the kind of blinkered thinking I'm talking about:

Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this week offered a stern condemnation of this fratricide on his popular program, calling the third-party candidate:

"... a wrecker, a selfish 'look at me' poser ... It takes an outsized ego to look at poll after poll that puts you behind not one but two candidates by more than 10 points and still declare yourself in the hunt.

"Whoops! Sorry, rewind. Fzzzzwwwwvvvvwwwzzzp. That was an editing error. Hugh Hewitt was not blasting Doug Hoffman, the third-party candidate in New York. In fact, Hoffman is the darling of talk radio and Fox News, which have helped to spread Hoffman Fever for the past few weeks.

"No, Hewitt was attacking the third-party candidate in New Jersey's gubernatorial race, an independent named Chris Daggett who has drawn votes from the official Republican standard-bearer, Chris Christie.

"From the point of view of most Republican commenters online and on the air, party loyalty is a highly variable principle. As they see it, third-party races by liberal Republicans who want to combine environmental protection with fiscal responsibility are selfish indulgences. But third-party races by conservative Republicans who want to combine pro-life appeals with their economic message? Those are completely different. Those are heroic acts of principle."

This is idiotic. I'll get to the specific races below, but how can a guy like Frum write this and not notice that Doug Hoffman had a serious chance to win his race - as it turned out, he ran Scozzafava out of the race, drew 45% of the vote and lost a narrow defeat after Scozzafava endorsed his opponent - while Daggett regularly polled below 15% of the vote - often in single digits - and ended up drawing just 6% of the vote in the general election?

Let me illustrate, by discussing several examples from the 2009 and 2010 races, how a principled, pragmatic conservative approach can lead to supporting a variety of different candidates.

NY-23

The hottest debate for now is over the special election in NY's 23d Congressional District, long held by moderate Republican John McHugh until he stepped down to accept a position in the Obama Administration. The GOP, without a primary, selected as its candidate state assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, but Doug Hoffman challenged her on the Conservative line and ended up running her out of the race before losing narrowly himself. The NRCC spent almost a million dollars backing Scozzafava, who was also backed by Newt Gingrich and other establishment figures, but RedState and other conservative commentators and blogs, including national figures like Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty, joined the revolt and lined up behind Hoffman.

In the abstract, a moderate Republican may well have been the better fit for NY-23. But there were a number of practical reasons why Scozzafava was a bridge too far for conservatives (Jay Cost summarizes the broader problems with her selection here). She had longstanding ties to ACORN and its cat's paw, the Working Families Party of New York. Her husband was a ranking official in a left-leaning union. She wasn't just a moderate but a liberal on economic and social issues. She turned out to be a thunderingly incompetent candidate. She had no party loyalty to offset her ideological leanings - she refused to promise to remain a Republican in office, held talks about switching parties in the state legislature, and ended up endorsing the Democrat. And conservatives had never been given a voice in the nominating process, so a third party challenge was the only way to revolt against the party establishment's candidate.

And perhaps worst of all, and a desperately under-covered aspect of this special election as well as the one to fill Kirsten Gillibrand's seat in New York's 20th District in April, Scozzafava has spent more than a decade in New York's State Assembly. ACORN ties are bad enough, but the most radioactive association possible right now in the State of New York is with the notoriously corrupt, dysfunctional state legislature. Yet the GOP ran the State Assembly Minority Leader, Jim Tedisco (a 23-year veteran of the Assembly), for Gillibrand's seat, and now Scozzafava. Unsurprisingly, in a climate of pervasive anti-Albany sentiment, both went down to defeat in otherwise winnable races. The nominations of Tedisco and Scozzafava represent a catastrophic failure to understand local sentiment. Conservatives who supported Hoffman, while recognizing that he, too, was an imperfect candidate, saw that at least as a political outsider, he'd have the credibility to speak to the populist revolt against the unholy alliance of Big Federal Government, Big State Government, Big Labor, and Big Business against the ordinary taxpayer.

NJ-GOV

In New Jersey, by contrast to NY-23, most of us on the Right fell in behind the more moderate candidate, Chris Christie, against both a primary challenge by Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and a third-party challenge, mostly from the Right, by Chris Daggett. Again, we would have liked a strongly conservative candidate, but balanced that against a left-leaning electorate that might be more open to a moderate. But in this race, things were different.

First, Christie's no liberal, just a guy who shied away from taking conservative stances - or, for that matter, detailing very much of his platform at all (he'll come to office with a strong mandate to fight corruption and resist tax hikes, but anything else he wants to do, he'll need to sell the voters on from scratch). Second, unlike Hoffman, Daggett jumped into a race where there had already been a full and fair opportunity for a reasonably well-funded and credible primary challenger (Lonegan) to offer the voters a choice, making the selection of Christie inherently more legitimate and a third-party run more obviously sour grapes designed to split the vote (as it turned out, the Democrats ended up doing robocalls for Daggett). Third, while a political novice, Christie's an impressive guy, a good debater with a regular-Joe demeanor and a hard-won statewide reputation for prosecuting corruption as US Attorney. And fourth, Christie comes to office without any negative baggage in the form of past associations with the activist Left or past positions defending outrageous examples of overspending and overreaching by the federal government.

With the Right mostly united behind him, Christie was able to reach enough independents and moderates to win the race.

Virginia

The primary races were less divisive in Virginia this year, but it's worth mentioning here: Virginia's been increasingly dominated by the Democrats, who won the state in the presidential election in 2008, won Senate races in 2006 & 2008, and won the Governor's races in 2001 & 2005. More than a few voices counselled for moderation in statewide races in Virginia, but the GOP instead picked a slate of unapologetic, bold-colors conservatives (Bob McDonnell for Governor, Bill Bolling for Lt. Governor, and Ken Cuccinelli for Attorney General), each of whom won by nearly a 20-point margin. And local dynamics were a significant factor: the state GOP had lost credibility with the voters for its tax-hiking, big-spending ways, so running moderates would only have underlined the extent to which the party hadn't learned its lessons.

NY Mayor

In a normal electorate, Republicans would regard Mike Bloomberg as the sort of liberal barely-a-RINO deserving of a primary challenge - besides his left-leaning views on a number of issues, he literally only joins the party for election years, and offers zero support to the party city-wide. Plus, a lot of voters didn't like his decision to amend the city charter to run for a third term. But not only due to his vast wealth did he avoid a serious primary challenge: New York is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, so running a conservative challenger (even a conservative-on-some-issues candidate like Rudy Giuliani) is a tough sell absent an enormous crisis, plus Bloomberg's basic managerial competence and the fear of what a liberal Democrat would do on the two biggest issues in City politics (crime and taxes) is enough to convince most NYC conservatives, like me, to fall in (however grudgingly) behind Bloomberg.

FL-SEN

This one I have discussed before at length: the GOP establishment has thrown its weight behind moderate Florida Governor Charlie Crist against conservative former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio in the race to succeed Senator Mel Martinez. There are all kinds of reasons to prefer Rubio: Florida's been welcoming territory for conservatives for the past decade; Rubio's both young and experienced (by Senate candidate standards) and a much better speaker than Crist; a Rubio nomination would be a symbol of inclusiveness given his Cuban heritage, an important factor given Florida's demographics; and while Crist's overall profile is moderate, he's made the crucial error of over-associating himself with the Big-everything Obama agenda, including his support for the bloated stimulus bill. On top of that, because Crist is the sitting Governor and hasn't been willing to criticize the sitting president's economic agenda, as a matter of campaign strategy he has no Plan B to fall back on if Floridians are unhappy with the state of the state's economy. Unsurprisingly, Crist's approval rating has been eroding, leaving Rubio already the stronger candidate in general election matchups against the likely Democratic opponent. And that opponent, Kendrick Meek, is the final piece of the puzzle: he, like other Democrats mentioned as possible challengers, will run not as a moderate but as an arch-liberal, making it much easier for the GOP to run a conservative and still appeal to voters in the political middle.

CA-SEN

The California Senate race to unseat Barbara Boxer is a much tougher call than the Rubio-Crist race. There are a number of reasons why I initially expected to back former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina over California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. First, California's a liberal state, and Boxer's an incumbent; despite Boxer's generally weak poll numbers (she frequently gets less than half of all voters interested in re-electing her, a danger zone for incumbents), either candidate will have a brutally tough road ahead to actually win the race, but the more moderate Fiorina would seem the more natural fit. Second, California and Boxer are especially obsessed with abortion; if I recall correctly, no pro-lifer has won a statewide election in two decades. Third, Fiorina is a woman, a political outsider, a former media darling at HP and much more well-known than DeVore.

But along the way, I ended up siding with a number of other RedStaters in endorsing DeVore. Why? The biggest factor is that I'm just not convinced that Fiorina is a strong candidate - despite the inital good press she was fired for poor performance at HP, and she was sacked by the McCain campaign for her blundering as a spokeswoman. The abortion issue is less of a divide than you might believe; while pro-lifers seem suspicious of her on the issue, Fiorina describes herself as pro-life, so she'll face the same barrage from Boxer on the issue as DeVore. DeVore, by contrast, seems like an energetic candidate who's spent a lot more time in the trenches over the past year.

The temper of the times matters. An entrenched incumbent like Boxer can be beaten in a state that normally favors her only if there's a populist wave to the Right - and the candidate better positioned to ride that wave is Devore, with his ear attuned to the Tea Party movement, not Fiorina, the failed CEO with the golden parachute.

The state of the state party matters too. The California GOP has deep divisions between its persecution-complex-carrying moderate wing and its disaffected conservative activist base. Even if the Senate race is a loss, the best way to fire up the activists - especially against a candidate as famously arch-liberal, nasty, arrogant and dim-witted as Boxer - so as to have them out to vote in the governor's race and down-ticket races for House seats and the state legislature is to run a candidate who will take the fight to Boxer root and branch, and that factor too favors DeVore. And as discussed below, I expect the more moderate Meg Whitman to win the nomination for Governor and will probably support Whitman. A tag-team of Whitman and DeVore on the ballot is a balanced ticket that shows both wings of the party that they are valued by the state party, and will help defuse momentum for any sort of third-party challenge being mounted by either wing.

CA-GOV

To all appearances, the California Governor's race is a replay of the Senate race: a moderate, female business executive (Meg Whitman) against a male conservative elected official (State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner). And it's true: Whitman's had some awful rookie mistakes (she's spoken glowingly about Van Jones and her first major political donation, made with warm words, was to Boxer), while Poizner, also a successful business executive in his own right, seems an impressive guy.

But this isn't the Senate race. Whitman was a massively successful businesswoman as the founder and CEO of eBay, and by all accounts is a fiercely disciplined woman. The Governor's race is for an open seat, with Arnold Schwarzenegger term-limited, so picking a candidate with a good chance to win is paramount. The absence of Boxer from the race will enable Whitman to run an inherently less polarizing campaign. And, as I said, running one moderate and one conservative statewide will best unify a party that notoriously lacks unity.

I could go on. There will undoubtedly be decisions for conservatives to make in Senate races in states like Illinois and Delaware, for example, that will likely shake out in favor of more moderate candidates; there will be others where it will make more sense to go with a more conservative, more populist candidate. But you get my point: the assessment of which candidate to back in a conservative-vs-moderate race is not one to make on automatic pilot. Even if you prefer to always back the conservative, the practical considerations of each race and each set of candidates needs to be evaluated. This is such an obvious point that it shouldn't need to be emphasized, but it does.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)
November 3, 2009
POLITICS: Barack Obama: Not Helping Democrats

There will be much debate in the morning about whether or not the bad results for Democrats in the Governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey - both states where Barack Obama campaigned for the Democrat and the Democrat sought to join himself at the hip with Obama - reflect public anger at Obama and his Administration. This is an interesting debate, but let us not miss a critical point:

Obama tried to help Deeds and Corzine, and was unable to do so. He can help nobody but himself. And that fact alone is hugely significant.

Democrats will point to exit polls showing that Obama retains a healthy approval rating among those who went to the polls in today's two battleground states. But one of the signal exit poll items was pointed out by Jake Tapper: in NJ, which Obama carried by 15 points a year ago, 19% of the voters told exit pollsters they were casting ballots in support of Obama, and 20% against. In other words, even in a very pro-Obama electorate, he was a small net drag on the Democratic candidate, and certainly no help despite campaigning ardently for Jon Corzine.

This is consistent with what we've seen nationally: Obama remains personally popular (if far less so than on his Inauguration Day, which remains the high point of his presidency), but his popularity doesn't rub off on his policies, much less on other Democrats, especially white male Democrats like Deeds and Corzine who have no claim to being historic symbols of national progress. The record turnout among racial-minority and youth voters generated by the 2008 Obama campaign was not replicable in 2009 without his personal presence on the ballot. And of course, the same will be true in 2010, when Obama himself is not personally on the ballot and will again make every effort to explain helpfully to other Democrats that they lost their jobs for reasons unrelated to his precious historic personal popularity.

The revelation that Obama cannot help other Democrats get elected is, of course, bound to affect his ability to govern; he can't convince wavering "Blue Dog" Democrats that supporting him in return for his campaign appearances in their districts will do any more for them than it did for Jon Corzine or Creigh Deeds. But then, so long as people like Barack Obama, maybe it doesn't matter so much to him if he actually accomplishes anything. After all, he is "change." Just don't expect a lot of Democratic incumbents to consider that a bankable asset in the future.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:03 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Jim Moran and the "Taliban"

Arlington/Alexandria Democrat Jim Moran is always a reliable source of lunacy and foolishness; examples include blaming the Iraq War on Jews (Moran has an exhaustive rap sheet of anti-Semitism) and pushing to get Guantanamo detainees tried in his district over the objections of local Democrats.

Monday, at a Creigh Deeds rally, Moran was on hand to prove that there is no cause so lost that he won't contribute some crazy to it:

U.S. Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.) likened the Republican ticket in Virginia this year to Afghanistan's radical Taliban movement in comments broadcast Sunday by WAMU radio.

At a get-out-the-vote rally in Fairfax County, Moran said: "I mean, if the Republicans were running in Afghanistan, they'd be running on the Taliban ticket as far as I can see."

Of course, when it comes to fighting the actual Taliban, Moran's position is a lot more, er, nuanced; it turns out that his view of the US military's presence in Afghanistan is closer to the Taliban's than to the GOP's:

Jim Moran, a Democratic member of the US congress, said "the majority of Democrats will continue to support President Obama, but that's not to say we're going to continue on the course in which we're going".

"Right now we need a better strategy ... It is clear that Afghanistan does not lend itself to a military victory, it's about economic development, it's about building civil society. The military presence clearly is a problem in itself," he said.

Still, he added that while Pelosi was right in saying there was "no appetite" for sending more US troops to Afghanistan, "there's no appetite for taking cod liver oil but sometimes you have a situation where you just have to grimace and swallow it".

When Bob McDonnell starts blasting the perfidious influence of the Jews, bemoaning the U.S. overthrow of Saddam and complaining that the US military presence in Afghanistan is a "problem," maybe it will be time to consider comparing him to the Taliban. In the meantime, maybe Jim Moran should stick to pushing around women and children and leave the Taliban-hunting business to people who are serious about it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:40 PM | Politics 2009 • | War 2007-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Election Day 2009

Today will be the first real test of the public political mood a year after Obama's election, three years into Democratic control of Congress, with elections for Governor and state legislators in New Jersey and Virginia (in each of which the Democrats have held the Governorship for 8 years), the New York City Mayor, and the special elections in New York's 23d Congressional District and California's 10th.

Some of these are easy calls. Bob McDonnell is running away from Creigh Deeds in Virginia, with the main question being the length of McDonnell's coattails in the legislature; the latter, rather than any serious belief that Deeds can be rescued, is why President Obama has campaigned hard for Deeds (control of the statehouses in a handful of big states, Virginia and New Jersey among them, will be crucial in redistricting following the 2010 census). Mayor Bloomberg should easily be re-elected. The GOP should gain at least some seats in the NJ Legislature. CA-10 is likely to go to the Democrats.

The others are harder to call. Jon Corzine's in terrible straits, an unpopular, scandal-tarred incumbent heading a notoriously corrupt state party, and as a result he has polled above 43% in one poll in the RCP index all year (an early October Rasmussen poll that had him trailing 47-44). Even Nate Silver isn't willing to predict a Corzine victory. But the Democrats have been pouring resources into making robocalls in favor of third party conservative/libertarian candidate Chris Daggett, hoping to split the vote. If forced to make a prediction, I'd predict that Christie will get more votes today, but Corzine will win the race by means of a recount. The usual rule of thumb holds that if the polls are within 5 points, a NJ Republican can't overcome the way New Jersey politics works on the ground.

As for NY-23, the race is fluid, but a number of late polls seem to show that the collapse of support for ACORN- and union-backed "Republican" Dede Scozzafava following her withdrawal from the face and endorsement of the Democrat has mostly benefitted conservative candidate Doug Hoffman, so I'd cautiously predict a Hoffman victory large enough to avoid a recount.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION/POLITICS: The Anti-Catholic Times

Archbishop Dolan, the new Archbishop of New York, takes the gloves off regarding the New York Times' persistent anti-Catholicism and its role in the Left's larger public campaign against the Church (which is not to say that every Democrat is anti-Catholic, but when you encounter virulent hatred of the Catholic Church it's almost always from left-wingers, and when you encounter efforts to use the force of government against the Church, especially its ability to run schools and hospitals consistently with its teachings, it's almost always from the Democrats).

It's worth reading the whole thing. One example he cites is wholly typical of the double standard applied to sex-abuse cases, which the Left would have you believe is primarily a Catholic clergy problem; as Archbishop Dolan notes, this perception is fed mainly by playing up such cases in the Catholic Church while systematically downplaying such cases in other faiths, in the public schools, and elsewhere (contrast the defenders of Roman Polanski and Michael Jackson to the broad-brush treatment of the entire Church commonly meted out by anti-Catholic bigots):

On October 14, in the pages of the New York Times, reporter Paul Vitello exposed the sad extent of child sexual abuse in Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish community. According to the article, there were forty cases of such abuse in this tiny community last year alone. Yet the Times did not demand what it has called for incessantly when addressing the same kind of abuse by a tiny minority of priests: release of names of abusers, rollback of statute of limitations, external investigations, release of all records, and total transparency. Instead, an attorney is quoted urging law enforcement officials to recognize "religious sensitivities," and no criticism was offered of the DA's office for allowing Orthodox rabbis to settle these cases "internally." Given the Catholic Church's own recent horrible experience, I am hardly in any position to criticize our Orthodox Jewish neighbors, and have no wish to do so . . . but I can criticize this kind of "selective outrage."

Of course, this selective outrage probably should not surprise us at all, as we have seen many other examples of the phenomenon in recent years when it comes to the issue of sexual abuse. To cite but two: In 2004, Professor Carol Shakeshaft documented the wide-spread problem of sexual abuse of minors in our nation's public schools (the study can be found here). In 2007, the Associated Press issued a series of investigative reports that also showed the numerous examples of sexual abuse by educators against public school students. Both the Shakeshaft study and the AP reports were essentially ignored, as papers such as the New York Times only seem to have priests in their crosshairs.

As he notes, there remains pending legislation in Albany to repeal the statute of limitations for sex-abuse cases against the Church, and of course - given the near-impossibility of defending such antique cases (this is why we have statutes of limitations in the first place) - this would be financially ruinous for the Church in many places at a time when it's already in financial straits during a recession. The Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware recently became the seventh US Diocese to file for bankruptcy. But that's precisely the point - it's why the bill pushed by the Democrats in Albany doesn't apply the same treatment to the public schools.

There are, of course, many valid criticisms of the Church's institutional handling of sex-abuse cases, but let us be serious: the critics on the social Left were never interested in those cases except as a club with which to beat the Church, as evidenced by their continuing disinterest in similar cases not involving the Catholic Church.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 PM | Politics 2009 • | Religion | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Game Five

Quick thoughts:

-Good Burnett followed by Bad Burnett has been pretty much the story of his season, and really of his career. Really, given that the Hated Yankees' middle relief has been so bad, it's been hugely important that until last night, they hadn't had a starter knocked out of the box before the sixth inning. Pettitte and Sabathia will need to come up strong on short rest to avoid having more games get away before Rivera arrives (you can be sure Mo will appear to start the 8th if there's a lead in Game Six).

-The gonging home run Liberty Bell at Citizens Bank Park is pretty freaking cool in a big game, at night, with a packed house. I could almost picture Chuck Barris coming for Phil Coke.

-I would not have any trust at this point in either Pedro or Hamels pitching at Yankee Stadium. The advantages all favored Pedro in Game Two: rest, some element of surprise on hitters who hadn't faced him in years, the pressure all on the Yankees. All of those are reversed this time. I'll be very surprised if this goes to a Game Seven.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:12 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Does Not Need More Cowbell

A dramatic reading of the Lady Gaga song "Poker Face" by Christopher Walken:

Genius. Even granting that many good songs would not hold up well under this sort of treatment...ouch.

H/T John McCormack

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 2, 2009
BASEBALL: Expected Goats

The World Series often produces unexpected heroes and goats. But thus far, the goats, at least, of the 2009 World Series have been exactly who Phillies phans might have expected from the 2009 regular season: Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge.

The Yankees couldn't do anything with Cliff Lee in Game One, and the Phils couldn't touch the revived AJ Burnett in Game Two; these things happen. But when Philly got to Andy Pettitte early in Game Three, that was their opportunity, and they're behind the 8-ball now in large part because the man who was supposed to be their ace this season, Hamels, just wasn't up to holding a 3-0 lead, coughing up a 2-run homer to A-Rod in the 4th before being KO'd by a 3-run rally in the 5th highlighted by Pettitte's RBI single.

What ailed Hamels this year? This is a guy who was 15-5 with a 3.39 ERA in 2007, only 14-10 but with a 3.09 ERA in 2008. At 25, he should be one of the top starters in the game, yet he slumped to 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA.

The evidence of a dramatic falloff is hard to find in Hamels' HR/BB/K per 9 IP data:

2007: 1.2 HR, 2.1 BB, 8.7 K
2008: 1.1 HR, 2.1 BB, 7.8 K
2009: 1.1 HR, 2.0 BB, 7.8 K

As you can see, the dip in Hamels' strikeut rate came in 2008, not 2009, and otherwise he's been exactly the same pitcher. The Hardball Times lists Hamels' xFIP (a fielding-independent ERA measure) for the past four years as 3.91, 3.53, 3.78 and 3.75. In other words, with an average defense, Hamels has been the same pitcher all along - never as good as his best ERAs, nor as bad as his worst (another sign that 2008's ERA was an outlier: Hamels allowed 11 unearned runs compared to 3 in 2007, 2 in 2009). His groundball/flyball percentage has also remained somewhat stable, although his percentage of line drives allowed among balls in play shot up (along with the lower K rate) from 19.4% in 2007 to 21.8% in 2008, before dipping to 20.8% this year. Basically the whole difference is that the Defensive Efficiency Rating behind him (percentage of balls in play converted to outs) went from a stellar .721 in 2007, to an astounding .741 in 2008, to a poor .683 in 2009. That being said, even if Hamels' problems this year were bad defense and/or bad luck, they stayed with him in Game Three.

Game Four will be controversial because of the decision to start Joe Blanton rather than Cliff Lee on short rest (a decision that also means Hamels will start if there's a Game Seven). But Lee has, so far as I can tell, never started a game on three days' rest, let alone two in a row, and it's not like Blanton's been terrible this year. I can understand the decision. But the game ultimately came down to Lidge vs Mariano Rivera, and we all know how that ends. Lidge has had a seesaw career since his catastrophic 2005 postseason, and this year has been all saw, to the point where the Phillies should hope he goes the Jay Howell route and gets suspended for the rest of the series. Unlike Hamels, there's no mystery with Lidge: he went from 0.3 HR/9, 4.5 BB & 11.9 K in 2008, when he was 4th in the Cy Young balloting, to 1.7 HR, 5.2 BB & 9.4 K this year. But for good measure, the DER behind him also cratered from .704 to .645. (On the whole, the Phils' DER this year was off only slightly, from .695 to .691, but other than JA Happ, all the really high DERs were behind the Phillies' middle relievers).

The final point: I have not run the numbers or seen if anyone has, but this Series has to be approaching the all-time record, if not shattering it, for percentage of the total runs scored in the Series that are scoring on home runs.

PS: On the other hand, it's ironic that the team using only 3 starters is the one having trouble getting middle relief help.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:29 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)