"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
In Print Archives
March 21, 2019
BASEBALL: Tom Seaver: The Perfectly Balanced Pitcher
NR, in the magazine's April 8 issue: Tom Seaver: The Perfectly Balanced Pitcher
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | Baseball 2012-Present | Baseball Columns | In Print | Writings Elsewhere
July 12, 2018
LAW/POLITICS/HISTORY: Revenge for Merrick Garland?
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | History | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2018 | Writings Elsewhere
May 11, 2018
BASEBALL: The Misery of the Mets fan
NY POST: The misery of the Mets fan (in this morning's paper)
February 15, 2018
POLITICS/LAW: Every solution to mass shootings inevitably involves a serious trade-off
Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:00 AM | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2018 | Writings Elsewhere
November 2, 2017
WAR: Yes, radical Islamic terrorism is different
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 AM | In Print | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
July 31, 2017
POLITICS: The Pocketbook Party
June 15, 2017
POLITICS: Who's to Blame for Political Violence?
LA Times: Who's to blame for political violence?
My take on the Steve Scalise shooting.
May 16, 2017
LAW/POLITICS: In Hate-Crime Prosecutions, Thoughts Shouldn't Matter
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 AM | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
March 14, 2017
POLITICS: Let's Normalize Trump
LA Times: Let's Normalize Trump
March 6, 2017
POLITICS/LAW/HISTORY: Trump and the Emoluments Clause
My latest NR magazine piece: Foreign Entanglements, on Trump and the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | History | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2017 | Writings Elsewhere
February 20, 2017
POLITICS: The Gerrymander Myth
My latest NR magazine piece, on gerrymandering: The Gerrymander Myth.
October 10, 2016
POLITICS: Bobby Jindal's Fiscal Record
My latest NR magazine piece, on Bobby Jindal's fiscal record in Louisiana.
August 1, 2016
POLITICS/WAR: Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy Failures
Most of my NRO content can be found now on my NR author page, although I probably should update the links here more often anyway.
My first article in the magazine (subscription-only, and those aren't linked in the author archive): Hillary Clinton's Foreign Policy Failures
Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:33 PM | In Print | Politics 2016 | War 2007-18 | Writings Elsewhere
June 2, 2016
POLITICS: We Get the Candidates Our Undignified Media Deserve
February 18, 2016
LAW: Antonin Scalia's Political Philosophy
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Reviews of Justice Antonin Scalia’s career tend to focus on legal philosophy and political outcomes. But generations from now, Scalia's writings will still be studied for his political philosophy: his practical understanding of how and why American government works, and doesn't. And the battle over his replacement will ironically illustrate those same themes.
Scalia often said that separation of powers and federalism were the most important parts of the Constitution: Without those checks on accumulated government power, individual rights would never be safe. He was fond of noting that plenty of countries (even the Soviet Union) had fine-sounding Bills of Rights that were dead letters because no power could make the government respect them. He shared James Madison's cynical (or is it realistic) view that sooner or later every branch of government would expand its powers as far as the others would let it. But he added his own counterpoint: Elected officials would gladly trade away power to avoid accountability.
Two lone 1988 dissents set the tone. Morrison v. Olson let judges appoint an independent counsel to exercise the executive power of prosecution and limited the president's authority to remove him. Scalia thundered that this not only invaded the president's executive powers, it also diffused accountability, allowing runaway partisan prosecutions for which nobody need answer to the voters. That's what undermined Kenneth Starr's investigation a few years later: conducted without the political legitimacy of a congressional or Justice Department investigation, it was dumped in the lap of a Senate that blanched at taking responsibility for its conclusions.
Mistretta v. United States upheld the sentencing guidelines promulgated by the United States Sentencing Commission. Scalia argued that nothing so important as criminal sentences should be farmed out to an independent commission that was neither Congress nor a court of law, and presciently predicted:
I foresee all manner of "expert" bodies, insulated from the political process, to which Congress will delegate various portions of its lawmaking responsibility. How tempting to create an expert Medical Commission (mostly M.D.'s, with perhaps a few Ph.D.'s in moral philosophy) to dispose of such thorny, "no-win" political issues as the withholding of life-support systems in federally funded hospitals, or the use of fetal tissue for research.
Scalia's 1992 dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey warned that the Court's own arrogation of power over abortion cases would lead the Senate to retaliate with more litmus tests for nominees:
[I]f in reality our process ... consists primarily of making value judgments ... confirmation hearings for new Justices should deteriorate into question-and-answer sessions in which Senators go through a list of their constituents' most favored and most disfavored alleged constitutional rights, and seek the nominee's commitment to support or oppose them.
Scalia crusaded for years to rule part of the Armed Career Criminal Act unconstitutionally vague. His 2011 ACCA dissent in Sykes v. United States highlighted legislative incentives:
[A]s the volume [of federal crimes] increases, so do the number of imprecise laws. ... Fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts legislation is attractive to the Congressman who wants credit for addressing a national problem but does not have the time (or perhaps the votes) to grapple with the nittygritty.
In Talk America, Inc. v. Michigan Bell Telephone Co., a 2011 case involving FCC regulations, he warned that vague regulations were even worse than vague laws:
[W]hen an agency promulgates an imprecise rule, it leaves to itself the implementation of that rule, and thus the initial determination of the rule's meaning ... deferring to an agency's interpretation of its own rule encourages the agency to enact vague rules which give it the power, in future adjudications, to do what it pleases.
Scalia's often acid critiques of the Court's abuse of "legislative history" instead of focusing on statutory text were likewise driven by his practical sense that it is ridiculous to treat the horse-trading business of lawmaking as if it reflected a single "legislative intent" shared by hundreds of legislators. Laws are what they say, not what someone or other "meant." As he wrote in 2011 in DePierre v. United States, "[e]ven if [a witness] had not lectured an undetermined number of likely somnolent Congressmen on 'the damaging effects of cocaine smoking on people in Peru,' ... we would still hold that the words 'cocaine base' mean cocaine base."
Scalia's federalism opinions similarly stressed the Framers' divisions of power and the clear lines of accountability they promoted. From his 1997 majority opinion in Printz v. United States (striking down part of the "Brady Bill" requiring state officials to run federal handgun background checks) to his 2012 opinion on Obamacare's Medicaid expansion in NFIB v. Sebelius, Scalia warned that dragooning states into running federal programs would leave voters unsure who to blame if they went awry.
In a final irony, Scalia's view of power will be graphically demonstrated by the fight over his replacement. The stakes are so high because the closely-divided Court has acted as Scalia so often railed against: expanding its control over as many areas of life and law as it could reach, sometimes with the cooperation of political branches that quietly preferred to let unelected judges take the heat for tough decisions. The once-decorous dance between the president and the Senate in nominating and confirming judges was built on a series of precedential norms, which have broken down over the past several decades under the merciless logic of power.
The likely result: The president will insist on a nominee unacceptable to the majority of senators, and the Senate will refuse to lift a finger to confirm. The battle for control will strip bare many previous fictions, leaving two branches of government fighting openly to limits of their power. As Scalia wrote in Morrison, "Frequently an issue of this sort will come before the Court clad, so to speak, in sheep's clothing: the potential of the asserted principle to effect important change in the equilibrium of power is not immediately evident, and must be discerned by a careful and perceptive analysis. But this wolf comes as a wolf."
Dan McLaughlin is a lawyer in New York City.
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December 16, 2015
POLITICS: Fifth Debate Analysis and Boyd Strategy Essay
My longest deep dive of the year, from the theories of John Boyd: Military Strategist Explains Why Donald Trump Leads - And How He Will Fail
In the LA Times: To understand Donald Trump, look to Europe
Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:55 AM | History | In Print | Politics 2015 | Politics 2016 | Writings Elsewhere
July 10, 2015
BLOG: Welcome Back, Blog!
I've been neglecting this blog rather badly for altogether too long - the archives say I haven't posted here since September 21, 2014. I've been busy in the interim on Twitter, of course, and publishing elsewhere. I probably need to post archived versions of some of those posts here. For now: links.
I will start with The Weekly Standard, where I have this issue's cover story, just posted today: Giving Thomas His Due, on Justice Thomas' opinions over the past year and what they tell us about his philosophy.
Then there's The Federalist, where I tend to post my longer essays these days. I ran a lengthy 5-part essay prior to the Obergefell decision, "Can Gays And Christians Coexist In America?". Part I looked at the Biblical reasons why Christians believe in one-man-one-woman-for-life marriage. Part II looked at the history of Catholicism and other Biblical Christianity in the battles over slavery and Jim Crow. Part III looked at the Christian concept of scandal and the battle between liberty-based and equality-based views of "LGBT rights." Part IV looked at the legal arguments over the rational basis for distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex marriage. And Part V traced possible ways forward for coexistence post-Obergefell, which admittedly are not looking especially promising at the moment.
The First Principle Of U.S. Foreign Policy looked at various approaches to our foreign policy.
Others from the fall, including some of my poll-analysis posts:
Polling Postmortem: The Best And Worst Senate Polls Of 2014 (I keep meaning to run the companion piece on the Governors races before 2016 polling heats up).
Do Democrats Always Win Close Statewide Elections? (covers the 1998-2013 elections; I should update this with 2014 results).
And of course, if you missed it last time, my essay on how History Is Not On The Democrats' Side In 2016 is still an important read on the coming election, undoubtedly the most significant piece I will write on the 2016 election.
The Rise & Fall of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina - I wrote this a few weeks back, but it's very relevant to today's news.
Reading Tea Leaves on the 2015 Supreme Court Term - Basically just some educated speculation on who would write what and when, which ended up having mixed results.
Democratic Party Now Literally Selling Hate - a Father's Day gift post!
Bernie Sanders, Deodorant and Diversity - a meditation on central planning and markets.
Marco Rubio Recounts The History of Obama’s Treatment of Israel - quick hit on a great Rubio floor speech. Rubio isn't my first choice in 2016, but he's done nothing but impress this year.
From the fall:
2014 and Republican Morale - a GOP victory lap and a reflection on what it meant.
The Breakers Broke: A Look Back At The Fall 2014 Polls - A personal victory lap on my 2014 poll analysis and how it relates to the polling controversies of 2012.
The 2014 Polls And The 2012 Exit Polls - An earlier look at the same topic and at some specific issues with exit polling and poll methodology.
BREAKING: Supreme Court Takes Obamacare Subsidies Case (on King v Burwell).
First Cut: 7 Polling and Elections Lessons From 2014 (Immediate 2014 election aftermath)
Why I Voted Yes On Question 1 (NY) (Election Day post on a NY ballot initiative)
A Sad and Desperate Attack on Chris Christie - Actually a fairly deep dive on voter fraud controversies.
Introducing The Senate Breakers Report - September 26, 2014, the start of my Fall 2014 stretch drive when I started getting too busy to cross-post here.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 PM | Blog 2006-Present | In Print | Law 2009-18 | Politics 2014 | Politics 2015 | Politics 2016 | Poll and Election Analysis | Writings Elsewhere
August 31, 2014
POLITICS: Quoted in the Wall Street Journal
WSJ front page, "Senate Control Comes Down to Eight Races":
Recent election data supports the belief that Democrats dominate in the closest races. Since 1998, Democrats won 13 of 16 Senate and governors’ races that were decided by one percentage point or less, according to a recent analysis by Dan McLaughlin, a lawyer, on the conservative website the Federalist.
September 17, 2010
POLITICS: Posting Up
I have a column in the NY Post this morning on the great missed opportunity that is 2010's Republican Party in New York (it's on p. 25 of the print paper).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:58 AM | In Print | Politics 2010 | Writings Elsewhere | Comments (41) | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2001
WHY BASEBALL STILL MATTERS: My September 11 Story
On Tuesday, they tried to kill me.
I am ordinarily at my desk between 7:30 and 8:30 in the morning, in my office on the 54th floor of one of the World Trade Center's towers. Tuesday, I was running late - I stopped to vote in the primary election for mayor, an election that has now been postponed indefinitely. Thank God for petty partisan politics.
Around 20 minutes to 9, as I have done every day for the past five years, I got on the number 2/3 train heading to Park Place, an underground stop roughly a block and a half, connected underground, to the Trade Center. The train made its usual stop at Chambers Street, five blocks north of my office, where you can switch to the local 1/9 that runs directly into the Trade Center mall. The subway announcer - in a rare, audible announcement - was telling people to stay on the 2/3 because the tunnel was blocked by a train ahead of us. Then he mentioned that there had been "an explosion at the World Trade Center."
Now, I grew up in the suburbs, so maybe I'm not as street smart as I should be, but after living in the city a few years, you develop a sense of the signs of trouble (like the time there were shots fired in the next subway car from mine). I didn't know what the explosion was, maybe a gas leak or something, but I knew that I was better off getting above ground to see what was going on rather than enter the complex underground. So I got off the train to walk to work.
When I got above ground, there was a crowd gathering to see the horror above: a big hole somewhere in the top 15-20 stories of the north tower (having no sense of direction, I thought that was Number 2 at the time, not Number 1 where my office was), with flames and smoke shooting out. I quickly realized it would not be safe to go into the office, despite a number of things I had waiting for me to do, so as I heard the chatter around about there having been a plane crash into the building (onlookers were saying "a small plane" at that point) and a possible terrorist attack, I turned away to start looking for a place to get coffee and read the newspaper until I could find out what had happened. That was when it happened.
The sound was a large BANG!, the unmistakable sound of an explosion but with almost the tone of cars colliding, except much louder. My initial thought was that something had exploded out of the cavity atop the tower closer to us and gone . . . where? It was followed by a scene straight out of every bad TV movie and Japanese monster flick: simultaneously, everyone around me was screaming and running away. I didn't have time to look and see what I was running from; I just took off, hoping to get away from whatever it was, in case it was falling towards us. Nothing else can compare to the adrenaline rush of feeling the imminent presence of deadly danger. And I kept moving north.
Once people said that a second plane had hit the other tower, and I saw it was around halfway up - right where my office was, I thought, still confused about which tower was which - it also appeared that the towers had survived the assault. I used to joke about this, telling people we worked in the only office building in America that had been proven to be bomb-resistant. I stopped now and then, first at a pay phone where I called my family, but couldn't hear the other end. I stopped in a few bars, calling to say I was OK, but I still didn't feel safe, and I kept moving north. In one bar I saw the south tower collapse, and had a sick feeling in my stomach, which increased exponentially when I saw Tower Number One, with my office in it and (so far as I knew) many of the people I work with as well, cave in. Official business hours start at 9:30, but I started reeling off in my head all the lawyers who get in early in the morning, and have for years. I thought of the guy who cleans the coffee machines, someone I barely speak to but see every day, who has to be in at that hour. I was still nervous, and decided not to think about anything but getting out alive. A friend has an apartment on 109th street, so I called him and kept walking, arriving on his doorstep around 1 p.m., and finally sat down, with my briefcase, the last remnant of my office. I had carried a bunch of newspapers and my brown-bag lunch more than 120 blocks. The TV was on, but only CBS was broadcasting - everyone else's signal had gone out of the Trade Center's antenna.
Finally, the news got better. I jumped when there were planes overhead, but they were F-15s, ours. American combat aircraft flying with deadly seriousness over Manhattan. My wife was home, and she had heard from people at the office who got out alive. It turns out that my law firm was extraordinarily lucky to get so many people out - nearly everyone is now accounted for, although you hold your breath and pray until it's absolutely everyone. The architect who designed the towers - well, we used to complain a lot that the windows were too narrow, but the strength of those buildings, how they stayed standing for an hour and an hour and a half, respectively, after taking a direct hit by a plane full of gasoline - there are probably 10 to 15,000 people walking around New York today because they stayed up so long.
By Wednesday night, the adrenaline was finally wearing off, and I was just angry. They had tried to kill me, had nearly killed many of the people I work with, and destroyed the chair I sit in everyday, the desk I work at and the computer I do my work on. And that's before you even begin to count the other lives lost. Words fail to capture the mourning, and in this area it's everywhere. I finally broke down Thursday morning, reading newspaper accounts of all the firemen who were missing or dead, so many who had survived so many dangers before, and ran headlong into something far more serious, far more intentional. My dad was a cop, my uncle a fireman. It was too close.
The mind starts to grasp onto the little things, photos of the kids and from my wedding; the radio in my office that I listened to so many Mets games on, working late; a copy of my picture with Ted Williams (more on that some other day); the little Shea Stadium tin on my desk that played "take me out to the ballgame" when you opened it to get a binder clip, the new calculator I bought over the weekend. All vaporized or strewn halfway across the harbor. The things can mostly be replaced, they're just things, but it's staggering to see the whole context of your daily routine disappear because somebody - not "faceless cowards," really, but somebody in particular with a particular agenda and particular friends around the world - wants you dead.
There's a scene that comes to mind, and I'm placing it in the Lord of the Rings because that's where I remember it, but feel free to let me know if I've mangled it or made it up. Frodo the hobbit has lived all his life in the Shire, where the world of hobbits (short, human-like creatures) revolves around hospitality and particular etiquette and family snobbery and all the silliest little things, silly at least in comparison to the great and dangerous adventure he finds himself embarked on. Aragorn, one of the Men, has been patrolling the area around the Shire for years, warding off invading creatures of all varieties of evil. Frodo asks Aragorn, eventually, whether he isn't frustrated with and contemptuous of hobbits and the small, simple concerns that dominate their existence, when such dangers are all at hand. Aragorn responds that, to the contrary, it is the simpleness and even the pettiness of the hobbits that makes the task worthwhile, because it's proof that he has done his job - kept them so safe and insulated from the horrors all around them that they see no irony, no embarrassment in concerning themselves with such trivial things in such a hazardous world. It has often struck me that you could ask no better description of the role of law enforcement and the military, keeping us so safe that we may while our days on the ups and downs of made-up games.
And that's why baseball still matters. There must be time for mourning, of course, so much mourning, and time as well to feel secure that 55,000 people can gather safely in one place. The merciful thing is that because, save for the Super Bowl and the Olympics, U.S. sports are so little followed in the places these evildoers breed - murderous men, by contrast, have little interest in pennant races - that they have not acquired the symbolic power of our financial and military centers. But that may not be forever.
But once we feel secure to try, we owe it most of all to those who protect us as well as those who died to resume the most trivial of our pursuits. Our freedom is best expressed not when we stand in defiance or strike back with collective will, but when we are able again to view Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as the yardsticks by which we measure nastiness, to bicker over games. That's why the Baseball Crank will be back. This column may be on hiatus for an undetermined time while the demands of work intrude - we intend to be back in business next week, and this will not be without considerable effort - but in time, I will offer again my opinion of why it would be positively criminal to give Ichiro the MVP, and why it is scandalous that Bill Mazeroski is in the Hall of Fame. And then I'll be free again.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 PM | Baseball Columns | Blog 2002-05 | In Print | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)