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Politics 2007 Archives

December 3, 2007
POLITICS: Quick Links 12/3/07

*Charles Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg on the complete and total vindication of President Bush and other opponents of public funding for embryonic stem cell research.

*Spitzer's DMV strikes again:

Arno Herwerth, a 21-year veteran of the New York Police Department, said he requested the "GETOSAMA" plates earlier this month to send a political message. He said he was surprised to hear, after receiving the plates, that the DMV wanted them back.

In a Nov. 15 letter to Herwerth, the agency cited a regulation prohibiting plates that could be considered "obscene, lewd, lascivious, derogatory to a particular ethnic group or patently offensive."

Oh, really - offensive to whom?

*Of all the planted-question issues with the debates (see here, here and here), this video of Obama unwittingly giving away that he knew a questioner is perhaps the funniest.
It's like something out of Matlock.

*Hillary throws stones from a glass house:

Clinton closed out her Sunday with an appeal to voters in Bettendorf to caucus for her, but earlier in Cedar Rapids, she took Obama to task over his health care plan and disputed his claim he doesn’t take lobbyist money.

When a reporter asked whether she is suggesting Obama has “issues of character, the New York senator said, "I'm going to let voters make that decision but it’s beginning to look a lot like that. It really is."

For those of us old enough to remember the Clintons and their surrogates arguing incessantly that character is wholly irrelevant to the presidency and that campaigning on such issues is a sign of being defeated on the issues - heck, go back and watch "The American President," their propaganda movie devoted to this theme, albeit while re-casting the facts in the most favorable possible light - this is hilarious, as is this:

Clinton said she wanted to win the caucuses — and, next year, push the state into the Democratic column in the general election.

"I want a long term relationship," she said. "I don't want to just have a one night stand with all of you."

*And, for a little humor, this, via Ace. We've all been on the other end of conversations like this, though perhaps rarely quite so graphically.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:29 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
November 25, 2007
POLITICS: Billion-Dollar Marty

When I looked at the long list of tax hiking Democratic Governors back in the spring, I gave an incomplete grade to Maryland's new Democratic Governor, Martin O'Malley, not out of any illusions about whether he was anything but a standard-issue tax-and-spend liberal but simply because he hadn't done anything yet.

Well, no need to wait longer for the verdict. E.J. Dionne, predictably, hails O'Malley's billion-and-a-half dollar tax hike, passed earlier this week:

Facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley -- who offered the above observations in an interview -- led the legislature this week to approve $1.4 billion in taxes and $550 million in spending cuts. It's been a long time since we've seen that kind of balance from the federal government.

At the same time, the legislature extended health coverage to 100,000 residents and approved new money for transportation, education and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. . . .

The final budget package contains its share of questionable concessions to this group or that. The middle class bears more of the burden of the tax increases than O'Malley had hoped. The income tax hike for those earning over $500,000 a year -- the rate goes from 4.75 percent to 5.5 percent -- is a modest step in the right direction.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:56 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 22, 2007
POP CULTURE: Hollywood's "Social Conscience" In A Nutshell

Julia Roberts designs Armani bracelet for World AIDS Day. Mother Theresa should have been so virtuous.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Politics 2007 • | Pop Culture | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: ...And A Tax Hike

As if he hasn't had enough stumbles, NY Governor Eliot Spitzer is now considering breaking outright his campaign promise not to raise taxes, which he previously bent rather severely with proposed business tax hikes and aggressive sales tax enforcement against Native Americans. He's apparently pondering an income tax hike:

Governor Spitzer is considering a proposal to raise income taxes on wealthier New Yorkers, according to a labor-backed political party that is pushing for the increase....

Support for a tax increase is coming from one of Mr. Spitzer's firmest backers, the Working Families Party, a grassroots operation financed by a coalition of labor unions and community groups....

Party leaders have not finalized details of the plan, but they are expected to call for raising the income tax rates of New Yorkers earning at least $200,000 to $500,000 a year.

This is on top of Spitzer's new plan to tax Internet sales and new MTA fare hikes. Because really, the first thing people think of in New York is that taxes are so low and the business climate is so friendly...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:43 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 16, 2007
POLITICS: If It's Possible, All Three of Them Will Lose

Mark Cuban challenges Bill O'Reilly to debate him with Keith Olbermann as the moderator. Via Hot Air.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:38 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
November 9, 2007
POLITICS: We Were Just Kidding About That Democracy Business

Apparently Gov. Corzine intends to go forward with his stem cell plan even after the voters rejected it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:00 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
November 7, 2007
POLITICS: NJ Voters Reject Corzine's Half-Billion Dollar Stem Cell Boondoggle

Democrats nationwide have been operating on the assumption that taxpayer funding for stem cell research is endlessly popular with the voters (for all the talk of "banning" research on embryonic stem cells, remember that nobody has advanced a serious proposal to make such research illegal; the issue is whether to spend taxpayer money on it despite the substantial moral/ethical objections of a significant number of taxpayers).

Yesterday in New Jersey, that theory was put to the test, and appears to have gone down in defeat before what is usually accounted as a liberal Northeastern electorate:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:09 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
November 2, 2007
POLITICS: Edwards on Hillary

Devastating anti-Hillary ad put out by John Edwards:

Via Stop Her Now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:01 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 1, 2007
POLITICS: Stone Cold Politics

Matt Labash's Weekly Standard profile of GOP political operative Roger Stone is one of the funniest, most fascinating things you are likely to read about a practitioner of politics at its most bare-knuckeled (the man has a tattoo of Richard Nixon on his back). I'd be here all day if I started to excerpt it, so I'll just say: read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:51 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links

*As the comments to this post noted, the Bush Administration is obviously producing good economic news to distract the media from the progress being made in Iraq.

*I find your lack of conservatism disturbing.

*I'm no Obama fan but this T-Shirt sold to benefit his campaign is pretty clever.

*Definitely not safe for work.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 31, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Rue-less Joe

The ant-war wackos who tried, and failed, to throw Joe Lieberman out of the Senate now have to live with the fact that Lieberman is free to say what he thinks - and whatever his sorrow-not-anger shtick, I suspect he is relishing being a thorn in the side of his former party's presidential contenders.

Lieberman is dead right about the irresponsibility of Senators who voted to deny the role of Iranian units in arming terrorists:

"I thought it was so direct, factual, based on evidence the U.S. military has given us of the involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in training and equipping Iraqi extremists who… have been responsible for the killing of hundreds of American soldiers."

Chuckling a bit, apparently in disbelief, Lieberman asked, "How can you vote against a request that the administration impose economic sanctions on a group that the U.S. military has presented us ample evidence is a terrorist group killing American soldiers?"

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:19 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
October 30, 2007
POLITICS: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Michael Gerson

Remember the scene in Wedding Crashers where Owen Wilson tells a woman he's trying to seduce, "You know how they say we only use 10 percent of our brains? I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts"?

Read everything Michael Gerson says to yourself in Wilson's voice and imagine he's saying it to get a girl in bed. It makes so much more sense that way.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:08 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
October 28, 2007
POLITICS: The Joys of Democratic Governance

Congressional Democrats have been discovering, after 12 years out of power, that actually governing is a lot harder and less fun than griping from the cheap seats; but as long as George W. Bush is in the White House, they retain a convenient scapegoat for the gap between their rhetoric and reality.

Democratic governors, the numbers of which have proliferated in recent years, have no such luxury; having sold the pie in the sky, they actually have to bake it. I've been warning of this since the spring in regard to tax hikes, and Eliot Spitzer's disastrous illegal-immigrant-driver's license plan is only one of many other examples of Democratic governors reminding people why there were so many Republican incumbents in the first place.

Add now the Chicago Tribune to the list of the disenchanted, to the point of arguing that the Rod Blagojevich era demonstrates why Illinois needs a mechanism to recall a governor:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:29 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
October 26, 2007
POLITICS: Out Foer Himself

If there is one thing we have definitvely learned from the whole Scott Beauchamp episode, it's that Franklin Foer is a cretin.

Relatedly, we have also been reminded of one of the central lessons of the Plame affair: nepotism and secret-keeping don't mix.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 25, 2007
POLITICS: Will Hillary Abandon Spitzer Over Illegal Immigrant Driver's Licenses?

I've written previously here and here about NY Governor Eliot Spitzer's foolhardy and politically disastrous plan to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens, and NY Senator Hillary Clinton's evasive response to questions about the plan that "I know exactly what Governor Spitzer's trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he's trying to get people out of the shadows" and "it's unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue," wink, wink, while, as Jim Geraghty notes, sending her chief strategist out to argue that the families of illegal immigrants "may be the most powerful political force in the country," nudge, nudge.

But just because a Clinton takes a non-position doesn't mean it can't change, and the NY Post's veteran Albany correspondent, Frederic Dicker, reports that a panicked NY Democratic Party is planning to throw Spitzer under the, er, steamroller - and some believe that Sen. Clinton may end up getting on board with that effort:

Top Democrats fear that Gov. Spitzer's controversial plan to grant driver's licenses to illegal aliens has endangered their party's candidates across the state -- and even threatens the presidential prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton, The Post has learned.

A half-dozen senior Democrats told The Post that Spitzer's licensing plan is producing what one called "a mass exodus" away from the party's candidates that may lead to unexpected losses in November's local elections.

They are also warning that growing voter unhappiness with Spitzer on the licensing and other issues - illustrated in several recent polls - could carry into next year and end the Democrats' hope of winning control of the GOP-dominated state Senate.

"The driver's-license issue is a killer for us in the suburbs," a senior party strategist said. . . .

+++

Another senior Democrat predicted that Sen. Clinton, who has repeatedly refused to say whether she backs Spitzer's plan, would soon be forced to reject it.

"The immigrant license issue is one of the most politically dangerous in the nation, and Hillary will have to come out against it," the Democrat said.

H/T Geraghty. Stay tuned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:21 AM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
October 19, 2007
POLITICS: That Ol' Clinton Straddle

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to document the undocumented by giving drivers licenses to illegal aliens has been yet another fiasco for the Empire State's unpopular new governor, bleeding his support even among Democrats who are in the country legally and leading other Democratic officials to keep their distance. But what does New York's junior senator, running now for President, think of the state's unilateral effort to hijack federal immigration policy? Up to now, Hillary Clinton has been quiet on the subject, but in an interview she finally had to answer the question:

I think it's important to bring everybody out of the shadows. To do the background checks. To deport those who have outstanding warrants or have committed crimes in the United States, and then to say to those who wish to stay here, you have to pay back taxes, you have to pay a fine, you have to learn English, and you have to wait in line. And I hate to see any state being pushed to try to take this into their own hands, because the federal government has failed. So I know exactly what Governor Spitzer's trying to do and it makes a lot of sense, because he's trying to get people out of the shadows. He's trying to say, "O.K., come forward and we will give you this license."

But without a federal policy in effect, people will come forward and they could get picked up by I.C.E. tomorrow. I mean, this can't work state-by-state. It has to be looked at comprehensively. I agreed with President Bush and his efforts to try to approach this. He just didn't have the political capital left by the time he actually got serious about it.
And it's unfortunate that too many people are using this to demagogue the issue, instead of trying to solve it: you know, people in politics, people in the press, and there's a kind of unholy alliance.

Spitzer's camp immediately rushed to claim this as support:

"We are gratified that many state leaders understand the security value of bringing people out of the shadows and into the system," said spokeswoman Christine Anderson.

The NY Times and NY Daily News, however, recognized this for what it is: a typically Clintonian effort to have it both ways without answering the question and taking some responsibility for the answer. What else is new?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:44 AM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
October 18, 2007
POLITICS: Breaking New Ground

Whenever you think unhinged political rhetoric has reached its lowest possible point in this country, Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-CA, of course) manages to burrow to a new low, this time in debating the SCHIP bill:

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
October 17, 2007
POLITICS: Lake Woebegon Arithmetic

From George Will's column today:

SCHIP is described as serving "poor children" or children of "the working poor." Everyone agrees that it is for "low-income" people. Under the bill that Democrats hope to pass over the president's veto tomorrow, states could extend eligibility to households earning $61,950. But America's median household income is $48,201. How can people above the median income be eligible for a program serving lower-income people?

Incidentally, though there are some very significant differences, Will also notes that Hillary Clinton's 401(k) proposal does contain some crucial concessions to the Right's longstanding arguments for Social Security reform:

Clinton's idea for helping Americans save for retirement is this: Any family that earns less than $60,000 and puts $1,000 into a new 401(k)-type plan would receive a matching $1,000 tax cut. For those earning between $60,000 and $100,000 the government would match half of the first $1,000. She proposes to pay for this by taxing people who will be stoical about this -- dead people -- by freezing the estate tax exemption at its 2009 level.

A conservative case can be made for something like Clinton's proposal. It is a case for reducing the supply of government by reducing demand for it, and doing so by giving people ownership of enlarged private assets as a basis for their security. It is a case for raising the nation's deplorable saving rate and simultaneously encouraging the nation's economic literacy and temperance by giving more people a stake in equities markets.

George W. Bush made this case in his advocacy of personal accounts financed by a portion of individuals' Social Security taxes and invested in funds based on equities and bonds. When he proposed this, Clinton stridently opposed him, and not just because she thought it would undermine Social Security's solvency and political support. She also said it was a dangerous gamble that would make retirement insecure by linking retirement savings to the stock market. Echoing a trope from Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, she said investing retirement funds in the stock market was a "risky scheme."

Today her Web site calls her proposal a way to save for "a secure retirement." After an undisclosed epiphany, she belatedly recognizes that 401(k) funds invested in equities are a foundation for security.

Of course, Clinton - as usual - is proposing this in addition to Social Security (while she has been suggesting that Social Security taxes be raised, as well as estate taxes and all the various other things she proposes to pay for with new taxes), and like many Clinton plans it involves careful slicing and dicing of the economy via "targeted" tax cuts. Still, the movement is in the right direction.

The great strategic error that Bush made in 2005 on the Social Security battle was in many ways a reprise of the WMD fiasco in the run-up to the Iraq War: he banked on the wrong arguments and gave short shrift to the better ones. Bush tried to argue that personal, semi-private* accounts were necessary to fix Social Security's projected shortfalls. The problem is, we are already in a hole on Social Security benefits that are owed without the ability to pay for them under current tax/benefit policies, and the personal-accounts system would do nothing to make the hole smaller; all it would do is stop digging new holes for the future. That's a great virtue of the proposal - it would make the system perpetually self-financing, rather than financed on a Ponzi scheme footing of using current receipts to pay current benefits without any necessary connection between the two - but Bush oversold the extent to which it could pay for the massive unfunded debts we already have.

*Semi-private in that the accounts are subject to private control and ultimate ownership; they would still be part of a mandatory government program.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:46 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Megan McArdle vs. Bad Pro-Abortion Statisics

As usual, not a fair fight.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: I Love Political Correctness

Sometimes it's just so cute. Apparently, according to Lynne Cheney, Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. "The common ancestor was Mareen Devall, who the Chicago Sun-Times said was a 17th century immigrant from France." (Noted in the Diaries here).

The wire story by Reuters explains why this is surprising:

The two men could hardly be more different. Cheney is an advocate for pursuing the war in Iraq to try to stabilize the country, while Obama wants to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Yeah, that's the first thing I would notice to look at them ...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:44 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
October 15, 2007
POLITICS: Best Maureen Dowd Column Ever

Granted, it's a low hurdle, but Dowd hands over most of her column to Stephen Colbert, with hilarious results:

Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream is driving a bulldozer into The New York Times while drinking crude oil out of Keith Olbermann's skull...

+++

Bad things are happening in countries you shouldn't have to think about. It's all George Bush's fault, the vice president is Satan, and God is gay.

There. Now I've written Frank Rich's column too.

Read the whole thing. What makes Colbert so funny when he's on is the two-sided nature of the satire (of the type Jon Stewart himself used to do): the ability to satirize right-wing blowhards of the Bill O'Reilly variety while using that persona to throw legitimately funny barbs at the left. It's harder than it looks.

Also: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 7, 2007
POLITICS: From The Department of Badly Timed Awards

Don't use the men's room at the Idaho Hall of Fame.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:19 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Al Franken Spending Money But Not Getting More Well-Liked

The graphic comes from this Brian Maloney story, which goes through how Franken has outraised Norm Coleman in the race for Coleman's Senate seat but has been burning through cash (in part because Franken still has a serious primary opponent, wealthy trial lawyer Mike Ciresi) to the point where Coleman has twice as much cash on hand, $5 million to $2.45 million.

The result:

Republicans gloated that while Franken burned more than $1 million in the second quarter, a recent Minnesota Poll gave him only a 27 percent favorable rating, compared with 52 percent for Coleman, who faces his first reelection test next year.

H/T HotAir. Coleman's is one of the Senate seats we need to hold in 2008; hopefully, he will get some help from this sort of bumbling by one of his potential opponents.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:54 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 2, 2007
POLITICS: Spitzer Loses Interest In Law Enforcement

NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer has kicked up yet another firestorm with his latest genius idea, to issue drivers' licenses to illegal aliens:

All New Yorkers are now entitled to earn a driver's license, regardless of immigration status, under an administrative policy change Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced Friday.

The controversial change was hailed by supporters as a necessary measure to make roads safer, increase the number of insured drivers and protect immigrants' rights. Opponents said it will threaten homeland security and could put driver's licenses in the hands of terrorists.

Reversing a post-9/11 state policy that made it impossible for undocumented workers to obtain licenses, Spitzer and Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner David Swarts said Social Security numbers no longer will be required to obtain a license. A passport or other valid identification can be used instead. The initiative is aimed at identifying unlicensed drivers on the roads. The DMV estimates that could include 10,000 people.

"I applaud the DMV and Commissioner Swarts for making this common-sense change that deals practically with the reality that hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants live among us and that allowing them the opportunity to obtain driver licenses in a responsible and secure manner will help increase public safety," Spitzer said in a statement.

+++

New anti-fraud measures will be implemented to increase the security of licensing, officials said. The DMV will use new document verification technology, photo-comparison tools, and staff specially trained in foreign-source identifications. People need to prove New York residency to obtain a license.

+++

The Social Security number requirement was implemented in 1995 as part of an effort to punish parents for not paying child support. In 2002, the state began allowing people ineligible for Social Security numbers to apply for licenses. A subsequent administrative policy change required proof of ineligibility from the Social Security Administration, a document only available to legal immigrants, thus making it impossible for illegal immigrants to get licenses.

Unsurprisingly, this issue has unified New York's Republicans and Conservatives, ranging from Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani to State Senate President Joe Bruno to erstwhile Republican Mayor Mike Bloomberg to the state's bumptious Conservative Party:

"Today's directive to the Department of Motor Vehicles to no longer require provide Social Security numbers, or proof that they are eligible for Social Security cards, will certainly make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain valid identification to blend into society," said Michael Long, state chairman of the Conservative Party.

The State Senate isn't just talking, either, and it looks as if it may have the votes to force a showdown with the ham-handed Spitzer:

In an effort to stop what they deem an ill-advised order from Governor Spitzer that could jeopardize the safety and security of New Yorkers, the New York State Senate will act on legislation next month to prohibit the state from issuing drivers licenses to illegal aliens. The legislation would require a social security number or proof of authorized presence in the United States to obtain a New York State drivers license.

"The Senate has made its' opposition to the Governor's plan very clear," Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said. "The Senate passed a bill earlier this year that would have prevented illegal aliens from obtaining drivers licenses and we will act on a new bill when we return for a special session next month to stop the Governor’s plan. We need the Assembly to join us. We need the Speaker to bring the Assembly back into session, pass our bill, and deliver a strong message to the Governor that the people of this state oppose his plan and it must be stopped."

+++

The legislation the Senate will take up next month is similar to bills proposed by Senator Frank Padavan (Queens) that would require applicants for a drivers license or non-driver identification card, to submit satisfactory proof to the Department of Motor Vehicles that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law (S.74); and legislation (S.6250), passed by the Senate in June, sponsored by Senator John Flanagan (R-C, East Northport), that would require the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to obtain proof from any applicant for a drivers license or nondriver identification card who cannot provide a social security number, that they are ineligible for a social security number. The Assembly did not act on this bill.

More here from a Staten Island Republican, and here for more from Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola, who insists he will not follow the new policy:

"I've been with the DMV 20 years, I've seen a lot of crazy things. This is the worst," Merola said of the governor's plan. "My stomach is in knots. I just don't understand how I can issue a driver's license to a person who can't prove they're here legally. If they want to put 'undocumented' across the top of it, that would be just fine, but they went just the opposite.

"Osama bin Laden could be standing in my lobby and I'd have to give him a driver's license."
He said licenses issued by his office after Monday no longer have a temporary stamp that show license holders are not permanent, legal residents meaning the licenses are good for eight years though the driver may no longer be legally in the U.S. by then.

After Pataki's 2002 order, Merola said, county clerks collected Social Security numbers from drivers' license applicants and checked the numbers against Social Security records. They found 120,000 cases of bogus Social Security numbers that were used to apply for driving privileges.

Giuliani, who has been under fire from Mitt Romney for policies tolerant of illegal aliens while Mayor but who has been running on a platform of requiring better identification of those who enter the country legally, ripped the plan:

"I think it would just create an even further level of fraud and confusion in what is already a very confusing picture," said Mr. Giuliani . . .

"The reality is there is so much traffic in false documents that creates part of this problem," he said. "It is the reason I am so much in favor of a tamper-proof ID card for people who come in from foreign countries and want to work here."

Like Mayor Giuliani, I'm sympathetic to the problem of how you deal with a large illegal alien population without exacerbating the problem by having - in this case - scores of uninsured drivers on the roads. But so long as the drivers' license is used as a proxy identification card for broader purposes (which it will be in practice for some time despite federal efforts to improve on the situation), licenses that do not in any way reflect on their face that they were issued without proof of legal residency will only make the situation worse. Spitzer seems to have forgotten yet again that New York is particularly vulnerable to terrorism:

Certain facts about terrorist operations are beyond dispute, and as the 9/11 Commission noted, one is that terrorists cannot function without I.D. The sixty-three authentic U.S. driver's licenses the 9/11 terrorists held (from Virginia, Florida, Maryland and other states) permitted them to blend in as ordinary U.S. citizens; permitted them to rent cars, open bank accounts, rent hotel rooms, obtain credit cards, etc. They used them when purchasing flying lessons. And on the morning of 9/11, their U.S. licenses were the "valid ID" that got them on board the planes they used as missiles.

Those authentic, U.S. issued drivers licenses were the tools that allowed the terrorists to hide in plain sight among millions of other illegal aliens and to obtain all the goods and services they needed to plan, rehearse, finance and carry out their attacks.

Naturally, Spitzer's allies on the Left are lining up behind him - the AFL-CIO, the NY Civil Liberties Union, and of course, the NY Times. These are, of course, the same folks who invariably line up to protest requirements that even the most basic forms of identification - such as, yes, the drivers' license - be presented before you can vote (an issue now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court). All of which suggests the real priority here, which is to find new and different ways to enlarge the Left's political base outside of the pool of U.S. citizens.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2007
POLITICS: Hey, Big Spender

When you adjust for inflation and remove defense spending and entitlements, which recent presidential terms had the highest and lowest rates of discretionary government spending growth?

discgrowth-nodefense-bypresident-cpi.JPG

Neil Stevens has the full story. Remember to consider changes in control of Congress during terms, notably Reagan's second (the Senate went Democrat) and Clinton's first (the 1994 elections); it takes three parties (the White House, the House and the Senate) to spend, and credit and blame alike need to be shared.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:14 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
September 24, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: Fraud By The Left To Smear The War Effort

An admission of guilt:

A Washington man, whose claims to have slaughtered civilians as a U.S. Army Ranger in Iraq were seen by millions on YouTube, admitted in federal court in Seattle today that he was a fake and a liar.

Jesse Adam Macbeth, 23, pleaded guilty to charges he faked his war record. "He was in the Army for 40 days before he was kicked out of boot camp for being unfit," said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey C. Sullivan. "He was never in Iraq."...

Macbeth's story of killing men and women as they left a Baghdad mosque included claims that he was a U.S. Army Ranger and had received the Purple Heart for injuries suffered in combat in Iraq.

+++

His interview was translated into Arabic and distributed in the Middle East, said the U.S. attorney.

"Macbeth's lies fueled hostility to our servicemen in Iraq and here at home," Sullivan said.

H/T

That's the end result of lies like those of Jesse MacBeth or Scott Thomas Beauchamp: they assist the enemy, who of course depends on winning in the propaganda war battles that can not be won against American soldiers in the field.

For shame.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:01 PM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
September 21, 2007
POLITICS: Paul Krugman's Dream World

Paul Krugman apparently has a blog at the NY Times site (now that they are giving it away for more than it is worth), and Tom Maguire actually read an entire post there, on how Krugman's utopia - reduced income inequality - requires a revival of the FDR years. Maguire:

Of course, as a policy prescription, urging Dems to inflict a depression and world war on the rest of us in order to achieve Krugman's vision of greater income [equality] may seem a bit harsh, so I can see why he shies away from that.

+++

Krugman wants to return us to a happy place we reached by way of war and depression, a place where minorities and women could not work, and where illegal immigrants toiled in the fields but nowhere else. And he wants to pretend that is not how we got there, and not where we were. Good luck. Let's hope his subsequent blog offerings show a bit more of a basis in reality.

Good luck with that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Statist Impulse

Emily Bazelon pens a perfectly good two-paragraph column about why it's more dangerous to ride in a car with your seat reclined...but somehow just can't resist turning it into a two-page screed on why government regulation is needed to protect ignorant consumers from avaricious automakers who don't want to warn you not to use one of the features in your car.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:26 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2007
POLITICS: Harry Reid Draws A Line In The Sand

One of the basic rules of political power is never to stake everything you have on a fight you are not sure of winning. But with rumors swirling that former Solicitor General and Reagan Justice Department official Ted Olson might be tabbed as the next Attorney General, the Senate Majority Leader yesterday laid down an ultimatum on which he was willing to stake the full prestige of his office:

"Ted Olson will not be be confirmed by the Senate," Reid said after a Capitol news conference. "I intend to do everything I can to prevent him from being confirmed as the next attorney general."

Reid may well be betting on a sure thing, as the rumor of the day is that Olson is no longer the frontrunner for the job, perhaps due to White House concerns over a messy and difficult confirmation process for Olson in spite of his stellar resume, unquestionable qualifications for the job, past confirmations by the Senate and undoubted ability to best any Judiciary Committee Senator in verbal combat. But for a Senate leader who has accomplished little and failed at many of his goals since gaining the majority, betting it all that Ted Olson will never be confirmed is a risky gamble.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
September 10, 2007
WAR/POLITICS: The September 10 Party

Nancy Pelosi is visiting Ground Zero today to promote...a health care bill. No, you couldn't make this up if you tried:

The speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will meet with Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Spitzer today and tour the World Trade Center site on the eve of the sixth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The trip coincides with a new proposal, the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, a bill to be introduced tomorrow in Congress that would provide comprehensive medical coverage and financial compensation to those who became ill after being exposed to dust at ground zero.

Now, I'm not necessarily opposed to compensating people, especially those who worked (formally or informally) for the government in clearing the site and got sick as a result. Although of course with any such bill creating a new spending entitlement there will be issues of how exactly the government will decide what sort of proof is required to tie illnesses or claimed illnesses to the site.

But it's so typical of the Democrats that they are most comfortable dealing with soldiers, cops, firemen, etc. when they can get away from endorsing anything they actually do and treat them solely as passive victims to be nursed by the federal government.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 AM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (17) | TrackBack (0)
September 7, 2007
POLITICS/LAW: Because He's The President And You Are Not, That's Why

Senator Webb wants to know why Bush nominated an attorney who wasn't on a list submitted by Webb for the Fourth Circuit.

Elections=>Consequences.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:27 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Neither A Surgeon Nor A General

Koop.jpgYuval Levin had an interesting article in the most recent National Review (subscription only) explaining, against the backdrop of recent charges by Congressional Democrats of undue politicization of the Surgeon General's office, that the Surgeon General job really has nothing else to do but make politically provocative pronouncements, given that the real responsibilities of the office have long since been given away to the Department of Health and Human Services and subsidiary agencies like the CDC and NIH:

When the post was created in 1871, the surgeon general was head of the Marine Hospital Service, which cared for American merchant sailors. Under the first surgeon general, John Maynard Woodworth, the MHS took the form of a uniformed pseudo-military service, and was assigned some crucial public-health responsibilities, most notably the maintenance of quarantines. In 1889, the larger U.S. Public Health Service was created, and the surgeon general was made its head. The MHS, meanwhile, was folded into the PHS and became its Commissioned Corps, a uniformed service assigned to help prevent the spread of disease and bring medical care to areas in need. Today, it continues to perform these functions through its roughly 6,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists, engineers, and other uniformed officers.

The surgeon general's duties, in short, fit the grandeur of his title. But since 1953, when another reorganization created the cabinet-level office now known as the Department of Health and Human Services, the surgeon general's duties have gradually contracted. In 1968, the responsibility for running the PHS was moved to the assistant secretary for health, to whom the surgeon general now reports.

This is much the same problem that besets the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. All government agencies are inherently political to one extent or another, but agencies that have no real executive responsibilities have no check on becoming simply mills for churning out propaganda.

Levin's argument, which is worth reading at length, is that the Surgeon General has basically come to be an oracle of public health, one of the last bastions accepted by the Left - along with environmentalism - for the role of public moralizer (albeit the kinds of morals promoted on the Left). But really, the article can just as easily be read as a brief for abolishing the office entirely. There are more than enough agencies already charged with actually carrying out the job of improving public health. We shouldn't have to pay another one to preach the government's gospel to us.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 31, 2007
POLITICS: Compare and Contrast

Rod Dreher offers some pointed exemplars of why it's preferable to raise teenagers in a culture, or subculture, that is supportive of avoiding unmarried teen sex than, well, the culture in which so many teens in this country are saturated. It's another example of why we can't let the periodic failings of individual political or religious leaders convince us to abandon the goal of defending virtue.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:07 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
August 28, 2007
BASEBALL/POLITICS: When The Bronx Was Burning

cover.bronx.jpg I recently finished reading Jonathan Mahler's book The Bronx is Burning, the companion piece to ESPN's miniseries of the same name concluding tonight (which I have not had the opportunity to watch). The title comes from the final collision between Yankee mayhem and civic disorder, when Howard Cosell intoned "There it is, ladies and gentlemen, the Bronx is burning," as a massive fire raged in view of the TV cameras during Game Two of the 1977 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

The book is well-done and a brisk read, and successfully weaves together the story of Reggie Jackson's first year with the Yankees with a series of portraits of the political scene and atmosphere in New York City in 1977. Since I was five years old at the time I remember a lot of this stuff only in an impressionistic fashion, but the 1977 Yankees were really the first baseball team I hated - the first baseball team that was really bought on the market in the fashion that is at least partly true of all successful teams since - and the summer of 1977 was about the time I started to understand that there was something seriously wrong with the City of New York. Mahler does a fine job of bringing both to vivid life.

The key storyline, though told in large part from Reggie's point of view (Billy Martin and Thurman Munson are dead, and Steinbrenner's old and not talking), is as much Billy's story as Reggie's, and in some ways is more sympathetic to Martin than to Jackson, who comes off as even more of an insufferable egomaniac than I had remembered, which is saying quite a lot. Reggie hadn't really started to feud with George yet, so the battle lines are Reggie vs Billy, Billy vs George, Reggie vs Thurman, Billy vs himself, and Reggie vs the press and his own big mouth. At the end, Reggie's 3-homer game to win Game Six and the World Series is Reggie's triumph, but merely a respite for Billy, who suffered the same constant threat of being fired the following year until George finally sacked him in July.

If Mahler's treatment of the baseball side can be faulted, it's for an unduly narrow focus; whether out of a desire to avoid re-covering ground previously trod in many other books or due to a drive to produce a quick and compact book, he leaves a lot of famous one-liners on the cutting room floor and focuses so entirely on the Reggie and Billy stories that he either ignores or relegates to a single supporting anecdote many of the colorful characters on that Yankee team - Mickey Rivers, Sparky Lyle, Graig Nettles, Lou Piniella, Mike Torrez. You would never know from reading the book that Nettles led the team in homers and Lyle won the Cy Young Award. (Fran Healy gets more ink in the book than Nettles). He also inexplicably leaves out the single best line of 1977 for tying the action on the field to the city's meltdown, Lenny Randle's crack after the blackout of '77 cancelled a Mets home game a month after the trading deadline: "I can see the headline now: Mets trade Kingman, call game for lack of power."

Since Mahler's subject is the Yankees he skips quickly through the other huge New York baseball story of 1977, the Mets trading Tom Seaver, and it's also where Mahler (who I presume is a liberal) makes his most tin-eared gaffe of the book, referring to Seaver's nemesis Dick Young of the New York Daily News, the Lavrenti Beria of the New York baseball press corps, as "the press box equivalent of a neoconservative," proof if any were needed that Mahler (like many on the left) has no clue what that word means.

As for the political side, I didn't count pages but Mahler actually appears to spend less than half the book on baseball. While he takes in a lot of different threads in the City's horrible summer as well as the cultural ferment beneath (from Studio 54 to punk rock to the development of SoHo), there are two major episodes in the book (the July blackout and the Son of Sam manhunt), one major running theme (the 1977 Democratic mayoral primary) and one minor theme (January 1977 was the beginning of Rupert Murdoch's ownership of the NY Post). On the latter, Mahler is unsparing on the Post's reckless tabloid attitude towards the truth and towards its readers, but seems to recognize that the introduction of a right-wing tabloid into a liberal city with liberal papers was nonetheless a very healthy development. One detail I had forgotten, that Mahler discusses in the course of the transformation of the Post back to its Hamiltonian roots and away from its more recent incarnation as a sleepy liberal paper: its film critic when Murdoch bought the paper was Frank Rich.

The dramatic high point of the book is Mahler's treatment of the chaos that surrounded the slightly more than 24-hour blackout in July, the looting and arsons that did for New York's image (and self-image) what Rodney King did for LA in 1992 and Hurricane Katrina did for New Orleans in 2005. It's all here, concentrated in his account of the blackout from the streets of Bushwick: the wholesale destruction of local business, the cops arresting more people than the system could process and having to resort to just beating guys until their nightsticks broke to keep a poor substitute for order, the collective suicide of whole communities. I was actually amazed, on reading this, that the blackout wasn't longer; we've had longer ones since 1977 but without the same social meltdown. In that sense, as in many other ways, the book is an inadvertant campaign commercial for Rudy Giuliani, just as is Tom Wolfe's novel Bonfire of the Vanities, set a decade later; Mahler's portrait of a city whose social structure and self-confidence were wrecked by liberalism stands in stark contrast to the city as it has been since the mid-1990s.

As for the mayoral race - which was entirely determined by the Democratic primary - Mahler traces the improbable rise of Ed Koch and the self-destruction of Bella Abzug as the city began to rebel against the hapless liberal status quo.* Most notably, Mahler returns again and again to the opportunities handed on a platter to Mario Cuomo - endorsements he could have had, themes he could have pressed, voting blocs he could have wooed - and how Cuomo frittered them away in his pride, arrogance and stubbornness. As in 1994, a major contributor to his downfall was his insistence, even obsession, with martyring his political career over his determination to impose his moral objections to the death penalty on an unwilling populace (a stance ironically at odds with Cuomo's later claim to be morally opposed to abortion but unwilling to impose his own morality).

All in all, not by any stretch a comprehensive history of the period or the Yankees, but a fine attempt to bring together all the elements that created the mood of the city in which Reggie, Billy and George made headlines.

* - New York in 1977 had a Democratic Mayor, City Council, Governor, State Assembly, President, Senate and House, plus a U.S. Supreme Court dominated by liberal Republicans (Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens), a liberal Democrat (Marshall), moderate Republicans (Burger, Powell, Stewart), and a moderate Democrat (White), with only one conservative (Rehnquist). Only the Republican-led State Senate was any sort of counterweight.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:15 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
August 27, 2007
POLITICS: Gonzales Out

The Attorney General steps down, joining Karl Rove and Tony Snow as August departures from the Bush Administration. Whatever his other merits or faults, Gonzales had to be one of the most politically incompetent people ever to hold such a high position in Washington. It's hard to think of anything he touched in six and a half years in Washington that didn't end up getting President Bush the worst possible press (with the arguable exception of when he advised Bush not to put Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court).

I have to assume that Larry Thompson and/or Michael Chertoff will be the replacement. Both are quality guys, although not without their faults - Chertoff alienated a lot of conservatives during the immigration battle and took some heat for Hurricane Katrina.

UPDATE: Chertoff seems to be the rumored candidate...his record at Homeland Security has been checkered, and I always thought he was more suited for the AG job anyway. But like Gonzales he has a serious political tin ear. Of course, a Chertoff nomination means having to get a new Homeland Security head as well. Apparently Paul Clement will run DOJ for now, although I'm sure he will be more than happpy to get back to his day job as Solicitor General as fast as he can.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:59 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
August 17, 2007
BASEBALL/POLITICS: You Must Not Read the Sports Pages Too Often

Posted by Dr. Manhattan

Ross Douthat is exactly right. I have seen variations of Brad DeLong's complaint over the years, and every time it only makes me wonder whether the complainer has ever read the sports pages.

I wrote about some related topics on my own blog a long time ago (a piece much of which, ahem, has been massively overtaken by events). One item that still holds up is the common creation myth of the Bill James revolution and the blogosphere generally - the outsiders rising up against the hidebound (baseball/political/media) establishment and changing the game. This paradigm applies equally to the liberal blogosphere that arose after I wrote my piece and the conservative blogosphere from the heady days of early 2003. There is a reason that Benjamin Wallace-Wells, in profiling Markos Moulitsas for the Washington Monthly, compared Moulitsas to Bill James.

Posted by Mike Rogers at 1:20 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 31, 2007
POLITICS: Two Cheers For The Hypocrites

A few weeks back, Washington DC buzzed with the news that Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a conservative Republican, admitted (a step ahead of public disclosure, possibly by hard-core porn magnate Larry Flynt) that he had frequented a prostitute. The response on the left was numbingly predictable, attacking Vitter not for his immorality but on grounds of hypocrisy because of his socially conservative campaign themes and voting record, such as his opposition to same-sex marriage. A common theme was the idea that Vitter should not be able to argue again for such positions, because his private sins compromised his public positions. Even Glenn Reynolds got into the act, suggesting "How about moving to make prostitution legal in the District instead [of apologizing]? It would be an appropriate penance, and D.C. would be a . . . fitting . . . place to start."

This is wrong, and dangerous. Our politicians and civic leaders have never been saints, but the punishment for their sins should not fall on the rest of us. I would much prefer to see a wicked man be a hypocrite and vote for what is right and good, rather than choose consistency and advocate for wrongdoing.

The left's argument on this front - usually implicit, sometimes made explicitly - is that immoral behavior, especially in matters sexual, proves that moral standards are impossible to satisfy, and thus that the whole project of promoting virtue is a fool's errand. Go and do what feels good, you can't be expected to know better.* But nobody ever said that moral standards are easy, or the history of human behavior and philosophical and religious thought wouldn't be littered with battles over what is right and wrong and how to get people to choose the former.

Moreover, the critics set an impossibly high standard when they claim that a moral failing in one area should cause a man to abandon the advocacy of virtue in others. Thus, we hear that Bill Bennett, because he has had a gambling problem, should not be heard to speak on other issues of public and private morals, ranging from sexual mores to drugs to obstruction of justice. But with rare exceptions, the same logic isn't applied to the champions of vice. The left never argues that figures like Madonna or Hugh Hefner, just to pick two examples of people who have built decades-long careers on championing sexual immorality, are hypocrites because they don't also have gambling problems. Pursuing this asymmetrical line of reasoning can only have the result of unilaterally disarming one side. If only saints can defend right and good and virtue, they will be undefended, while the ranks of the defenders of wrong and sin swell to bursting.

In any event, the left's champions are no less frequently guilty of advocating standards they don't follow or impose on themselves. They call for limits on the use of energy, while galavanting around in private jets and high-powered SUV motorcades. They argue that society benefits from keeping poor kids in public schools without a choice to leave, while sending their own kids to expensive private academies. They hire picketers and leafleters to protest low wages and benefits, and pay them a pittance and no benefits. They press for strict gun controls, then hire armed private bodyguards of their own. The greatest moral controversy in recent memory, the Clinton impeachment, came about when a variety of rules created by moralizing liberals - the independent counsel statute, sexual harrassment litigation, liberal rules of discovery in civil litigation - were turned against one of their own, with predictable howls of outrage.

None of this is to suggest that a man's private immoral or illegal behavior is irrelevant to his fitness for public office. Voters certainly have to judge the totality of a candidate's character - moreso in the case of candidates for executive or judicial positions, who exercise broader individual discretion, but it's not irrelevant for legislators either - and the private and public behavior are all a part of this. The fundamental question Louisiana voters will need to ask about Sen. Vitter is whether this changes their view about his ability to do his job, keep his promises and avoid misusing his office. You don't take the public man in isolation, but neither do you take the private man in isolation; the whole must be examined and judged as one.

But in asking that question, Sen. Vitter's continued willingness to fight for the things he campaigned on should be a plus. If you are a Louisiana voter who thinks prostitution is bad for your community, why should you have to live with it because of a Senator's private sins? If you are a Mississippian who thinks racial preferences are bad policy, why should you have to live with them because of Trent Lott's mouth? In fact, the courage to stand up for the right thing to do even when it exposes you to the hypocrisy charge is one of the most important attributes of a leader, the facet that makes it possible to pursue justice and virtue without constantly checking to trim your positions to fit your own failings. Consider the "chickenhawk" charge, the assertion that Presidents Clinton and Bush should have been hesitant to use military force, not having served in combat themselves. It was apparent, watching Clinton at work, that while he sent the military hither and yon on 'humanitarian' interventions, he was nonetheless hypersensitive to the argument that he should avoid using the military, precisely because of his own personal history; it is equally obvious that Bush does not put stock in such arguments, and makes his calls as he sees them. I much prefer to see Republicans who will stand up against abortion, for example, regardless of the state of their private lives, than those who feel that they have to take a squishily pro-choice position because they fear the scrutiny of the anti-moral scolds.

It takes a truly twisted perspective to see a man who commits private sins while arguing in public for virtue, and choose to take issue with the latter.

So, two cheers for the hypocrites. Even if they don't do right by themselves or their families - even if, at times, they deserve to be punished by the law or defeated at the polls - they should still be proud to have done the right thing in their time in public service.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
July 30, 2007
POLITICS: More Links 7/30/07

*Minnesota Democrats acting like jerks, again.

*Gonzales vindicated. Well, on one count, anyway. He has a gift for trouble, though; I don't know anybody who still has faith in his competence. And anyway, an investigation of top-secret programs involves, you know, top secret information. Unless smoking out that information is the entire point.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:46 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 7/30/07

*Pedro Feliciano's meltdown on Saturday can probably just be chalked up to nobody being perfect (Wagner, whose ERA is down to 1.39, is almost certainly overdue for one of those games), but with Joe Smith down in the minors, it's also a reminder that guys like Feliciano can go south on you in a hurry if overworked. The Mets don't have the juice for a Mark Teixeira deal at this point, so the deal they need to make is for another arm in the pen.

*Via Bob Sikes: Bill Robinson has died. Robinson always seemed like a classy guy, and as a ballplayer he was (along with Mike Easler) one of the guys rescured off the scrap heap in mid-career to help build the Pirates into a championship team in the late 70s and early 80s: Robinson was a 31-year-old .235/.386/.281 hitter and busted ex-prospect when he came to Pittsburgh, but batted .276/.477/.313 (114 OPS +) over 8 seasons at Three Rivers. RIP.

*David Pinto makes an excellent point about changing sizes of ballplayers: scrappy little Craig Biggio is the same listed height and weight as Willie Mays and Carl Yastrzemski.

*For all the guff David Wright takes, recall that in 2007, he is batting .295/.516/.423 with runners in scoring position and .333/.611/.400 in the late innings of a close game.

*I banged out a quick column on Spitzergate last week that I never got around to cross-posting here. Mindles Dreck and Prof. Bainbridge both point out that Spitzer would not have cared whether corporate executives claimed, as he does now, not to have known of their subordinates' misconduct.

*Ryan McConnell aptly sums up my feelings about Glavine:

I'll be honest: I hated when Steve Phillips and the Mets signed Tom Glavine five years ago. I thought it was a stupid, misguided attempt to steal away a rival's player and a complete waste of money. But, while Glavine's never been a personal favorite -- I'm Irish, grudges don't fade as easily for us -- he's far outperformed any reasonable expectations of him while behaving in the most professional, likeable manner possible. He may not be dominant any more, and he seems particularly prone to giving large leads away lately, but I'll always remember the tremendous performance he turned in during last year's playoffs. And I'll be thrilled to see him finally achieve his 300th win.

He also quotes this bizarre statement from Wallace Matthews:

Historically, he may be the best pitcher the Mets have had on their staff since Tom Seaver was run out of town 30 years ago...

How soon they forget. Has Matthews never heard of Pedro Martinez?

*Jaw, meet floor: Byron York notes Obama's pledge in last week's debate "to meet, one-on-one, in his first year as president, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashir Assad, Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro, and Kim Jong Il."

They never learn. They never, ever, ever learn.

*There are many reasons to doubt the veracity of TNR's formerly pseudonymous mil-blogger Scott Thomas Beauchamp, but Megan McArdle, as usual, cuts to the root of why the stories set off people's BS meters even beyond the parts (e.g., the Bradley dog-hunting tales) that seemed to clash with physical reality:

It beggars belief that 100 or more people silently watched some pottymouthed privates taunting a cripple who had acquired her injuries in the line of duty. I'm moderately well-versed in the stories about battle-hardened veterans committing atrocities in World War II. I've never come across a single story about making fun of your own side's wounded.

Atrocities, and just plain barbaric behaviour, do happen, even on the good guys' side. But the fact that they happen doesn't mean that anything can happen. AFAIK, the taboo behaviours soldiers engage in tend to fall into fairly well-defined patterns: rape, pillage, looting, revenge exacted on innocent but handy targets, graveyard jokes, taking trophies from the enemy dead. There's a kind of primitive logic to them that may sicken you, but still ultimate[ly] makes some sort of emotional sense. Beauchamp's stories defy that logic, which makes me distrust them.

*This study doesn't sound too promising by itself, but it is true that fantasy baseball is a great microcosm of how humans learn and adapt - getting your butt whipped in a fantasy league, and the desire to avoid doing so again, is a great motivator for not just gathering information but also learning how to sift between the useful and the fool's gold (similarly, I have crammed years of lessons about, say, the value of on base percentage into the past year by playing Strat-O-Matic with my son).

*John Kerry, Genocide Denier.

*Yes, Bush has been more stymied than Clinton in getting judges through the Senate.

*Who else but James Lileks would describe the young Hugh Hefner as being "built like a bag of yardsticks"?

*Bonobo apes: not so politically correct after all (somebody tell Maureen Dowd!).

*How Roger Clemens ruined Michele Catalano.

*Crazy Pooh.

*Hanson is back. I actually thought those guys had talent, if not much depth to them (unsurprising, at their age back then). I'll be interested to see if they've done anything useful with it now that they have grown up.

*Shockingly, Justice O'Connor's case-by-case approach to the law has left her jurisprudence with little influence now that she is not there to vote on particular cases.

*NCLB - hated on the Left, distrusted on the Right, but getting results?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-13 • | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
July 10, 2007
POLITICS: How's That Workin' Out For Ya?

I'll have more on the David Vitter saga later, but in the meantime, I just had to laugh at this angle to LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's affair with a newscaster:

The new mayor was actually born Antonio Villar. In 1988, he and his new wife, Connie Raigosa, combined their surnames into the more colorful, but less pronounceable, Villaraigosa.

So, what's his name now?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:17 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
July 5, 2007
POLITICS: The Libby Fallout

Patterico offers up criticisms of the Libby commutation. Now, I should start by saying that I'm not necessarily a huge fan of the decision; I still think there was an arguable case for prosecuting Libby and that he was probably guilty, but the decision to commute his prison sentence nonetheless strikes me as a reasonable call, and maybe the right one. I mostly enjoyed the spectacle of the brain-bending hypocrisy of the people who think anything less than years in prison is too small a price for perjury...but also that being guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice should be no obstacle to staying president and even being returned to the White House in 2008; people who think that this pardon is some horrible abuse of power, yet pardoning fugitive traitors for cash and terrorists for votes is no reason not to vote Clinton again in 2008.

Anyway, for background I'll repeat here what I said in the comments of the last thread:

My two cents, since I was too busy to comment when the verdict came down? First, I think Libby's conviction will be overturned on appeal due to the limitations on his ability to impeach the star witness against him, Tim Russert. Second, I do think Libby was trying to hide the truth, but I also think he suffered from a lousy memory and that Russert was untruthful - I doubt very strongly that he intended to tell a story that much at odds with the chronology, I think he misremembered what happened and tried to shade it further. That's not a defense of Libby, it's just what I think happened. Also, I have never ripped Fitzgerald, and I'm not joining the caucus that says he was horribly abusive, but I do think all things considered he should probably have pulled the plug on his investigation once he knew who the leak had come from. He didn't prosecute Armitage, which strongly suggests that he knew that there was no legal basis for a prosecution based on the leak. Instead, he called Libby and Rove and others repeatedly to the grand jury for no other reason than to investigate their statements to the FBI. Under the circumstances, that strikes me as a waste of resources and poor prosecutorial judgment. And I do think the people in the media he chose not to question strongly suggests there were answers he wasn't interested in hearing.

That said, Patterico - who was in favor of the prosecution - offers three main criticisms of the commutation. One is that Bush didn't work through the usual pardon process (in fact, he seems to have reached the decision while fishing with Vladimir Putin). This strikes me as a minor quibble in this case; the main purpose of the process is to vet the submission that goes to the president to make sure that he gets a fair presentation of the facts rather than the slanted perspectives of one side in a criminal case. Here, Bush was already familiar with the players and the facts (we all are, by now, but Bush knows them personally). Granted, the process also provides another benefit (the professional staff can provide perspective on how similarly situated defendants are sentenced), but fundamentally, this was a judgment call Bush was well-entitled to make himself.

The second criticism, from Orin Kerr, is a little more substantial: that Bush has scarcely used the pardon power at all (no doubt in large part due to the bad odor from the previous Administration), and thus this is more in the nature of special treatment than is usually the case for presidential pardons of associates of the President.

That's a fair argument, but at bottom I think the motive here is Bush's belief - as has been the belief of past presidents, fairly or otherwise - that Libby would never have been prosecuted in the first place were it not for his political position (it was only the political firestorm over the Plame leak that forced the appointment of a Special Prosecutor in the first place). High executive branch appointees do get special treatment the rest of us don't, but they also face a risk of criminalization of their daily activities that ordinary people don't. It cuts both ways. On some level, letting Libby go to jail would have been a legitimazation of the kind of criminalization of foreign policy that the Democrats specialized in during the 1980s, and that is a kind of calculus that makes this decision wholly unlike the situation of ordinary criminal defendants.

Third, Patterico argues that the GOP will pay a terrible political price. Maybe I've grown more cynical after the 1990s, but I doubt it. Bush is unpopular, to be sure, and the Democrats have had great success with the "culture of corruption" mantra in convincing the public that the Republicans are up to their eyeballs in shady land deals and defense contracts and freezers full of cash, plus Democratic candidates are busy working to mislead the public about what Libby was actually prosecuted for. But first of all, this is an instrumental argument - that Bush should have let the electoral impact of the decision govern his judgment. Second, I think political people consistently underestimate the built-in cynicism of the average voter with regard to politicians. Third, this story hasn't had nearly the cache with voters that it has with bloggers, who have obsessed about it endlessly since July 2003 (I've certainly posted about it enough, and I'm far from one of the most obsessed bloggers), and there will be a lot of other water under the bridge by November 2008. Fourth, the Democrats remain highly likely to nominate Hillary.

Bush had a tough decision to make. I think he made a reasonable call, given the nature of the underlying prosecution and the political origins of the entire investigation.

UPDATE: WSJ Law Blog says that some criminal defendants will be asking judges for the same treatment Libby got. But judges are not the president; the pardon power has always been the exception to the rule of law.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
July 2, 2007
POLITICS/LAW: Bush Commutes Libby Sentence

Just hours after the DC Circuit affirmed the order requiring Scooter Libby to face jail time pending the appeal of his conviction, President Bush used the presidential pardon power to commute Libby's sentence, thus sparing him jail time while leaving in place the conviction - in other words, an unsentenced conviction for a victimless crime:

President Bush Monday spared former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby from going to prison for 2 1/2 years for obstructing the CIA leak investigation, a White House official said.

The official said Bush "has commuted the prison sentence ... leaving intact the probation and fines handed down by the court."

"That means he is not going to jail," the official said.

Now, we get to hear what Hillary Clinton thinks about the proper uses of the pardon power and whether losing your high position in federal office is insufficient punishment for perjury.

UPDATE: What do I mean by "victimless crime"? Libby was convicted for misleading an investigation into a whodunit where the investigators already knew whodunit and didn't prosecute. Granted, Libby's false statements to the FBI (unlike his grand jury testimony) preceded Fitzgerald's appointment and Armitage's confession, but even so, the "harm" to the investigation was pretty fleeting and had no real consequence.

I don't underrate the seriousness of perjury, but in sentencing, or using the pardon power, you consider mitigating factors. Unlike the Paula Jones case, no individual litigant was harmed by obstruction of the discovery process. And unlike the Sandy Berger case, there was no successful coverup.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:13 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (68) | TrackBack (0)
June 21, 2007
POLITICS: Finally, A Man Harry Reid Can Respect

Was it the pork? The filibusters against civil rights? The white sheet?

Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid calls Robert Byrd "this unusually brilliant man."

Well, that's a change of tune. Consider what Harry the Insult Comic Senator has had to say about a number of other distinguished public servants:

Reid on Justice Clarence Thomas:

I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.

Reid on General Peter Pace:

Pace is also a yes-man for the President. I told him to his face, I laid it out last time he came in to see me. I told him what an incompetent man I thought he was.

Reid on General David Petraeus (here and here):

I don't believe him. . . isn't in touch with what's going on in Baghdad.

Reid on President Bush: "a loser" and "a liar"

Reid on Alan Greenspan: "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."

Reid on Bill Frist: "no institutional integrity"

Given the company, I'm quite certain I'd rather be criticized by Senator Reid.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
June 20, 2007
POLITICS: Independent Mike and The First Law of Third Parties

So Mike Bloomberg's brief membership in the Republican party has ended, now that he made the cover of Time Magazine. (H/T)

Bloomberg and the GOP were always a marriage of convenience; a lifelong Democrat until he ran for Mayor, Bloomberg is your basic Northeastern centrist, liberal on social issues, fiscally moderate, but disdainful of the interest-group pathologies of the Democratic Party. The marriage made sense for both sides: Bloomberg needed a party and found an easier path in the GOP, which lacked longtime officeholders to get in his way; the GOP needed a successor who wouldn't dismantle the progress - especially on law enforcement - made by Rudy Giuliani, and wouldn't be beholden to the Al Sharptons of the world. By running as a Republican, Bloomberg made both sides happy, without ever really governing as a genuine Republican as opposed to a neoliberal. Now that he is term-limited from running again, the reason for the marriage has evaporated.

That said, the biggest winner from this announcement is Eliot Spitzer. Bloomberg would have been a formidable challenger for the governor's mansion, running as a self-financed, widely-known, moderate Republican with executive experience but no ties to Albany. I can't see him taking out an entrenched incumbent as an independent, and his decision to leave the party suggests a disinterest in going in that direction.

Speculation is rife, of course, that Bloomberg has his eye on national office. Think he will run even a semi-serious third party campaign for president? Think again. Remember the first, and perhaps only, rule of even modestly noteworthy third parties in our system: they must be organized around some issue on which the two major parties agree. The gravitational pull of the major parties is too strong to overcome simply by fielding a candidate who is charismatic (as the bloodless Bloomberg most assuredly is not - it's not that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Bill Clinton, it's that he lacks the warmth and empathy of Mike Dukakis) or who picks a different set of positions from the menu than either major party candidate. I've argued for some time that the sweet spot for an impact third party in 2008 would be anti-abortion, anti-war, anti-immigrant, anti-spending, anti-trade and perhaps anti-racial preferences - in short, a candidate with populist appeal to isolationist, socially conservative blue-collar voters - and almost none of that describes Bloomberg. I can't think of any issue on which he is likely to dissent alone from a consensus shared by the two major parties' nominees, and without that he would lack a rationale other than "let's elect a really, really rich guy."

Despite his various forays into nanny-state-ism, Bloomberg is, by New York City standards, not a bad mayor; like I said, he's a technocratic caretaker who has done a lot to consolidate Mayor Giuliani's gains. But he will not get 10% of the vote in any state in November 2008 if he runs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 AM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: What Are You, On Crack?

No, I can't really top Ace on the Thomas Ravenel story.

Tough week for Rudy Giuliani - Ravenel was the top elected official in his South Carolina campaign, while tops in Iowa was Jim Nussle, who is now headed to DC to be the Budget Director.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:55 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
May 30, 2007
POLITICS: Kerry Campaign Busted Spending Limit - On Customized Jets

Kerryplane.jpg

Dignity. Integrity. Duty.

Aw, heck, why not just blow it all on fancy airplanes?

Sen. John Kerry broke spending limits by nearly $1.4 million during his 2004 presidential bid, including some funds spent on customizing his campaign jets, a Federal Election Commission draft audit concludes.

The FEC could rule that Kerry's campaign must reimburse the government. Because his general election campaign was taxpayer funded, Kerry would have to pay back the U.S. Treasury.

Much of the disputed money was spent on customizing jets used by Democratic presidential nominee Kerry and his running mate John Edwards, according to auditors.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:26 PM | Politics 2004 • | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
May 22, 2007
POLITICS: Tax Amnesty For Illegal Immigrants: Paying Taxes is For Suckers

As I have explained at great length before, there are two types of amnesty for violations of the law: complete amnesty, meaning no penalties whatsoever, and partial amnesty, by which people are absolved from consequences for lawbreaking for some penalty less than the full force of the law. It's been obvious for some time that the current immigration bill would provide a partial amnesty for people currently in the U.S. illegally. For people who oppose any type of amnesty, that's reason enough to oppose the bill. For people like me, who are willing to support a 'legalization' process under the right circumstances, the question is the details. But one thing should be absolutely non-negotiable: anybody who wants to stay in the U.S. legally has to pay their taxes.

The bill currently under discussion appears to fail that test. The immigration bill would bestow a massive tax amnesty on illegal immigrants. The supporters of this bill think that you, as an American citizen, should pay taxes - but illegal immigrants can become legal residents without paying their own share. This is scandalous. The bill should be rejected for that reason alone, and its supporters should be made to explain why they didn't want illegal immigrants to pay the taxes they already owe.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 21, 2007
POLITICS: Forget the War, Taxes, and Abortion

John Hawkins, who I usually respect, is joining the caucus that is ready to blow up the Senate GOP over immigration. As I have said, I'm not thrilled with where we seem to be headed on this issue, and I understand the concern of people who think that more immigration will damage the GOP electorally (and help offset the Democrats' natural demographic disadvantage that flows from being the party of people who don't bear or beget children).

But I can't sign on to going bonkers over this issue. There's a war on. There are still fundamental differences between the parties on scores of core issues - taxes and economic liberties, life, the courts, the rule of law. Face it, we have lived with bad immigration policy for decades. We should fix that - but it's not the end of the world if we don't, and electing Democrats, of all people, won't help.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:42 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 18, 2007
POLITICS: Why Harry Can't Reid

Regular readers will know that immigration isn't exactly my top issue. The system is broken in many ways, unfair to legal immigrants, impotent in the face of mass illegal immigration and unlawful entry by criminals and terrorists, and lethargic and undermanned even when it takes action, but I remain skeptical that our political system is even capable of dealing seriously with these issues. I'm in favor of comprehensive reform, but only if it contains real enforcement teeth; I'm OK with more legal immigration and fine with allowing present illegals to become citizens, but only if there is a substantial price of entry paid for the privilege of citizenship (I discussed the "amnesty" issue at much greater length here).

All that said, there is no reason whatsoever for the Senate to be rushing a vote on the massively complex immigration bill when there will barely be time for Senators to read the thing and no ability for the public to examine its provisions and peaceably assemble to petition for redress of grievances with the bill.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
May 17, 2007
WAR/LAW: Sandy Berger Won't Say

Allahpundit notes that Sandy Berger has surrendered his law license rather than face cross-examination about his destruction of original classified documents to obstruct the investigation of the 9/11 Commission. Allahpundit thinks that Berger would have been able to assert the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering those questions, but I'm not so sure; after all, he has already been sentenced for the conduct in question, and in light of the Double Jeopardy Clause the right against self-incrimination no longer attaches after sentencing.

Unless, of course, there are other crimes he could still be charged with besides the ones he was convicted and sentenced for.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:12 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Eliot Spitzer's Pro-Abortion Zealotry

Most of you should be familiar by now with the Seven Stages of Liberal Legal Activism:

1. It's a free country, X should not be illegal.
2. The Constitution prohibits X from being made illegal.
3. If the Constitution protects a right to X, how can it be immoral? Anyone who disagrees is a bigot.
4. If X is a Constitutional right, how can we deny it to the poor? Taxpayer money must be given to people to get X.
5. The Constitution requires that taxpayer money be given to people to get X.
6. People who refuse to participate in X are criminals.
7. People who publicly disagree with X are criminals.

We have known since very early on in Eliot Spitzer's tenure in public office that he was a pro-abortion zealot who would stop at nothing to serve the financial interests of the abortion industry. The only question now is whether New York's Governor is at Stage Six or Stage Seven.

Read On...

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:06 PM | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 | Comments (10) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Shenanigans

Patterico responds again to the idea (see here, h/t here) that voter fraud is a non-existent problem simply because it is hard to get criminal convictions for voter fraud. More background in this post, and that's before we even get to some of the voter-turnout figures for cities like Philadelphia and Milwaukee (I've never heard a legitimate explanation as to how a large city can have voter turnout in excess of 100%).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
May 16, 2007
RELIGION/POLITICS: Jerry Falwell's Legacy

Like a lot of conservative pundits, I could exhaust my server with examples of things Rev. Jerry Falwell said that I would not want to associate myself with, the short summary of which is that for much of his career, he was not a political asset to the conservative movement. (Go here, though, for one example of me defending Falwell on theological grounds)

But a man's passing has a way of focusing attention on the big things he did with his time on this Earth, rather than the raw, rough edges of his public statements. And an article in the current New Republic inadvertantly gives Rev. Falwell a legacy any man would be proud to leave behind:

The Catholic Church was the first to attack abortion: Even before Roe, the Church hierarchy coordinated a parish-by-parish effort to stop any sort of reform bill, including those for therapeutic abortions. This predominantly Catholic movement didn't broaden into the more ecumenical one we know until the late '70s and early '80s, when Protestant evangelicals first joined in. In 1978, Jerry Falwell preached his first sermon on abortion; a year later, the newly formed Moral Majority put abortion at the top of its list of secular humanist scourges. Two years later, Ronald Reagan was the first presidential candidate in U.S. history to run on a party platform that condemned abortion.

R.I.P.

PS - That TNR piece also claims - revealingly, of the dehumanized mindset that sets in on this issue - that partial-birth abortion isn't a big deal because "only" 2,200 of them are performed a year . . . how, I ask, would the writer of that piece respond if a conservative said that "only" 2,200 deaths from the Iraq War per year was too small a number to be of concern to anyone, or that "only" 2,200 executions a year shouldn't be enough for anyone to care about.

I thought so.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2007 • | Religion | Comments (20) | TrackBack (0)
May 4, 2007
POLITICS: You Get What You Vote For (And You Pay For It Too)

taxes.jpgThe 2006 elections brought us eight new Democratic governors, plus the re-election of 11 Democratic incumbents. Nobody should be surprised, however, to see that several of those governors are reaching for Democrats' favorite cure for all ills: higher taxes. Let's take a look at some of the Democratic governors who think taxes just aren't high enough, as well as a few who have learned their lesson (and one Republican who hasn't):

The Main Offenders:

Illinois: Rod Blagojevich

Following his re-election, Gov. Blagojevich proposed the largest tax increase in Illinois history, "a tax on businesses at every step in providing services or products," carrying an estimated $7.6 billion price tag and supporting a plan "to boost spending on health insurance, schools and pensions," a plan that has drawn stiff bipartisan opposition in the state House and even led Chicago's Democratic Mayor to blast Blagojevich for jacking up taxes and using anti-business rhetoric.

Michigan: Jennifer Granholm

Michigan voters knew, with the state's economy badly lagging behind the nation as a whole, that they were voting for more of the same by re-electing Gov. Granholm. But apparently deciding that the business climate wasn't bad enough, she is proposing $1.5 billion in new taxes, and threatening cuts to essential services to get the state legislature to play along. "Granholm favors a 2-cent service tax that would tax everything from haircuts to car washes. An across-the-board sales tax increase is also an option," and she insists that a hike in income taxes is the only other alternative. Michigan retailers are crying foul.

Pennsylvania: Ed Rendell

Affable big-city machine politicians like Rendell, handily re-elected after a challenge by Lynn Swann, become a lot less likeable once the tab comes due. Rendell proposed upping the sales tax from 6 to 7 percent, which would put Pennsylvania second only to California in sales taxes, and continue a sharp upward trend in the state's tax burden. Two thirds of the hike was earmarked for new spending, with a third offsetting planned property tax cuts:

About 40 percent of the $1.246 billion in new revenue would go toward expanding the $1 billion a year in property-tax reductions that slot-machine gambling is eventually expected to generate; the rest would be used to finance other state programs.

The increase would not expand the sales tax to items other than those currently taxed.

A failure to get a sales tax increase approved by the Legislature would likely spell doom for many of the new programs, or program increases, in Rendell's proposed budget, which includes significant increases in welfare spending and in education.

That proposal looks dead now due to opposition in the legislature, though legislators are split on whether to support other tax increases or to support the hike if the whole thing is earmarked for property tax cuts. Rendell had also proposed other tax increases:

Rendell's $27.3 billion budget includes proposals for . . . increasing waste-disposal fees from $6.25 per ton to $9 per ton to help the state's hazardous site cleanup fund and establishing a new electricity usage tax of $0.0005 on kilowatts of energy used per hour to help fund an energy independence program. It also proposes taxing oil companies 6.17 percent on their total profits and taxing businesses that do not provide health insurance to their employees 3 percent of their annual payroll to fund state health care.

All of this is intended to pay for "a 3.6 percent or $948-million increase in spending growth."

Colorado: Bill Ritter

While he stumbled in recent years, Colorado's former GOP Governor Bill Owens was rightly lionized for the hard line on taxes and spending that had earned him a National Review cover calling him "America's Best Governor". Central to that effort was the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which restricts the ability of Colorado state government to raise taxes.

So of course, Owens' Democratic successor, Bill Ritter, is looking for ways around TABOR, setting up a possible constitutional crisis in Colorado. The proposal Ritter supports - and which passed the state Senate on a largely party-line vote - would strip away built-in protections against property tax hikes driven by increased property values:

Under current law, mill levies, which are used to calculate property taxes, ratchet down as property values rise, because of an interaction between the 1994 School Finance Act and various constitutional provisions, including TABOR.

By freezing mill levies, Senate Bill 199 would prevent the state budget from shouldering more of local education costs every year when property-tax receipts would either level out or decrease under the ratchet-effect.

Preventing a decline in mill levies, however, could mean a significant increase in property taxes for Mesa County residents.

The median value for a single-family home in Mesa County rose 29.8 percent, from $151,000 two years ago to $196,000 this year, according to figures released Tuesday by the Mesa County Assessor's office.

Call it what you will, but a bill to cause taxes to go up 29.8% when they otherwise would not certainly sounds like a tax hike to me. And it will to Colorado homeowners, too.

Massachusetts: Deval Patrick

Deval Patrick reclaimed the "Taxachusetts" governors' mansion for the Democrats for the first time since Michael Dukakis, and what's on his menu? First, closing "loopholes" to increase business taxes by some $500 million, though he is proposing a commission to nail down the specifics:

The Patrick administration proposes seven changes to corporate tax codes that would:

-Generate about $136 million in revenue by curbing the business practice of shifting income to out-of-state subsidiaries to avoid Massachusetts taxes.

-Yield $99 million in new revenues by requiring businesses to "check the (same) box" or conform their corporate identities between state and federal tax returns.

-Require that Internet resellers pay hotel and motel room occupancy taxes, producing an estimated $5.6 million for the state and $4 million for municipalities.

-Ensure that businesses pay the full sales tax on leased equipment, possibly generating about $28 million.

-Tax insurance companies on non-insurance revenue as well as premiums - currently, an insurance company is only taxed on premiums and not subject to tax on non-insurance revenue - for an estimated $14 million.

-Require recipients of the state's refundable earned income tax credit to live or work in Massachusetts, generating an estimated $2 million.

-Prevent companies from avoiding the real estate transfer tax when property is sold by placing the real estate in a subsidiary business entity and selling the interest in that entity rather than the underlying real estate, raising an estimated $12 million.

Business leaders say the tax changes would put them at a competitive disadvantage. They point to the fact that the state's annual corporate taxes have risen by more than $800 million in the past four years, largely because of previous rounds of corporate tax changes.

Patrick's administration "explains that these are not anti-business but a matter of fairness and shared responsibility." He also wants to open up new avenues of local taxation (a plan opposed by the state Senate's leading Republican):

Patrick's plan would allow communities to raise meals taxes from 5 percent to up to 7 percent; lodging taxes could be raised from 9.7 percent and 12.45 percent (for Boston, Cambridge and Springfield) to 10.7 percent and 13.5 percent. Patrick has proposed a separate idea allowing communities to tax telecom companies' properties.

Maine: John Baldacci

Baldacci, re-elected in 2006, wants to raise $131 million with a $1-a-pack hike in the cigarette tax (don't you love when Democrats propose regressive taxes on a product people are addicted to? At least it's a concession that this is one activity that won't go away if you tax it, though it can be evaded if you can drive to another state.) Some fellow Democrats disagree and think the alcohol tax should be raised instead, or want to "put more of the tax burden on visitors to the state." Republicans have been opposing any new taxes, while Democrats play chicken with business taxes:

Sen. Karl Turner, R-Cumberland, a member of the Appropriations Committee, said Republicans on the panel have worked out a list of proposed cuts to bring the budget into balance without raising taxes.

"That said, we need Democratic votes to pass a budget as much as they need Republican votes," he said.

Democrats also made it clear they realize the budget process will be a series of trade-offs, and they all but called a proposal to reduce the Business Equipment Tax Reimbursement program by 5 percent a year a bargaining chip in the coming negotiations. Maine Chamber of Commerce President Dana Connors was upset that the program might be used in the budget process as a bargaining chip.

"This creates that same problem we have had year after year with predictability and sustainability," he said. "I am deeply concerned about it."

Wisconsin: Jim Doyle

The purplest state in the nation in the 2004 election re-elected Democrat Jim Doyle last year, campaigning on a platform of (among other things) not raising taxes, while the state legislature is split. Now, the bill is coming due, with perhaps as much as $1.75 billion in new taxes. As one state Republican explained:

Suder got down to the brass tacks of Doyle's proposal, $7.6 billion in new spending and borrowing over the biennial period.

In a handout, Suder showed if the state maintained its current spending levels and proposed revenue collections for 2007-09, there would only be a $320 million shortfall to be made up by tax increases or spending cuts.

If Doyle's budget were approved as is, the typical Wisconsin family of four would see an increase in fees, property and other taxes and bonded state debt of $5,613.

+++

[The budget includes] a tax on small business owners who file quarterly business forms by mail . . . and taxes on music downloads, e-mail greeting cards and soda purchases.

Republicans have opposed those new taxes. Doyle wants a staggering $1.25 per pack increase in the cigarette tax. And he proposes a 2.5% gasoline tax that is bound to be passed on to consumers one way or another:

A tax on oil companies proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle could be passed through to consumers at the gas pump, according to an analysis by state tax officials cited in a conservative group's new report.

Doyle has proposed taxing oil companies an estimated $272 million over two years and pledged he'll keep the costs from being passed on to Wisconsin consumers by fining or even jailing oil company executives who try to do so.

Oregon: Ted Kulongoski

Oregon has a $1 billion budget surplus, so what does the state's newly re-elected Democrat governor, Ted Kulongoski, want to do? Raise what some estimate as up to $1.6 billion in new taxes. To pay for a vast new healthcare spending plan, he proposed an 84.5 cent hike in, yes, the cigarette tax. But while Democrats control both houses of the state legislature, tax increases require more votes than the Democrats have, and so the cigarette tax hike bit the dust when only one Republican joined all 31 Democrats in the state House in supporting it.

New Hampshire: John Lynch

New Hampshirites may have a longstanding reputation for their flinty opposition to taxes and spending, but with Democrats controlling the legislature for the first time in over 80 years, Democratic Gov. John Lynch, re-elected in 2006, apparently doesn't share that view. Lynch proposed what some called an increase of 15-17% in state spending, and the state House passed a budget that raised spending 11% (compared to a Lynch proposal decribed as a 9% hike), plus tax hikes:

[L]awmakers approved two new tax increases: a 45-cent increase in the cigarette tax, to $1.25 a pack, and a 4 percent increase in the real estate transfer tax, raising the rate for home buyers and sellers from $7.50 to $7.80 each per $1,000 of home value. The House also voted to raise the state portion of the vehicle registration fee by $6.

On the tax side, "Lynch had proposed a 28-cent cigarette tax hike and a larger fee hike on registering large trucks." Republicans have denounced the tax hikes, and only two Republicans voted for the new budget.

Tennessee: Phil Bredesen

Gov. Bredesen rightly won plaudits in his first term for his centrism (he has resisted calls for a state income tax), and times are rich in Tennessee; the governor admitted in a recent address to the General Assembly that "I have never had a year with as much new money as we have before us now." Yet, he is standing by his request to triple the cigarette tax to pay for education spending, a 40-cent-a-pack hike that has drawn stiff opposition from Republicans who say taxes should not need to be increased in good economic times.

The Mixed Bags:

Iowa: Chet Culver

Iowa Democrats in the legislature proposed 20% increases to the state sales and use taxes. Iowa's new Democratic governor, to his credit, opposed the plan, which bit the dust, but ended up signing a $127 million increase in cigarette taxes to pay for new spending:

[One Iowa Republican] said a record wage and benefits increase of $1.8 million to state employees was too much, while Seymour criticized that 625 new state jobs will be created in the year beginning July 1. . . .

The senators slammed the growth in the state budget of 10 percent in one year, rising to more than $5.8 billion. Further, there are built-in spending increases of $557 million for next year and $656 million for 2009, they noted, saying that kind of growth is not sustainable.

New Mexico: Bill Richardson

There are any number of reasons to be alarmed by the thought of Bill Richardson as the Commander-in-Chief, but give the man his due: on taxes, he's as good as a Democrat with national aspirations is likely to get, compiling at worst a checkered record on taxes. He came into office in 2003 promising supply side tax cuts in income and capital gains taxes. After signing an income tax cut that slashed rates from 8.2% to 4.9% over five years, though, he backslid in raising other taxes and fees over the following years, including "tax increases on everything from cigarettes to fuel and a complicated, Dickensian, and later repealed surcharge on nursing home beds--all totaling a net tax increase of roughly $174 million through fiscal year 2006, according to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform." This year, he championed a popularly enacted $49 million sales tax hike to fund the construction of a Virgin Galactic spaceport in southern New Mexico.

New York: Eliot Spitzer

Eliot Spitzer surprised a lot of people when he promised on the campaign trail not to raise taxes after 12 years of Republican management in Albany. His record on the job has been more mixed, though not as bad as some of his Democratic cohorts. In March, Spitzer drew criticism from Mayor Bloomberg for a proposal to raise some $2 billion in taxes on banks (a crucial industry in New York City) through the closing of "loopholes," once again to finance a big-spending budget. The final budget backtracked significantly on those tax hike proposals, and contained a mixed bag for business taxes:

The budget does reduce the corporate tax rate from 7.5 percent to 7.1 percent and cuts the tax on manufacturing income to 6.5 percent from 7.5 percent. It also reduces the corporate alternative minimum tax from 2.5 percent to 1.5 percent. The moves will help save New York companies $150 million, according to the governor's office. Other changes, however, will close what Spitzer has described as "loopholes" that allowed companies to shield income from state taxes. The changes will generate about $450 million in new revenue for the state. That means a net tax increase for businesses, Duerr says.

Spitzer is not done hunting for new sources of revenue, including squeezing stores owned by Native Americans in upstate New York to pay more in sales taxes. Spitzer has proposed property tax relief but is opposing a GOP plan to increase tax rebates for senior citizens.

Maryland: Martin O'Malley

Filling Bob Ehrlich's shoes in Maryland isn't easy, and newly elected Governor Martin O'Malley has tried to avoid pulling the trigger on new tax hikes even against the weight of Maryland's left-wing state legislature, opposing a hike in property taxes from 11.2 to 12 cents. But it ain't over yet:

"In the months ahead, I think we need to look at our entire tax structure and make it more modern, inclusive and fair," O'Malley (D) said...The state is required to set the residential tax rate by May 1.

Rising assessments across much of Maryland mean most homeowners will pay higher property taxes during the fiscal year that begins July 1, despite the board's action to hold the line.

O'Malley also declined to support legislative proposals for a 50% increase in the gas tax and a $1 a pack hike in cigarette taxes.

The liberal Baltimore Sun preferred the property tax hike to a proposal still in circulation for a 20% hike in the sales tax.

O'Malley has, in fact, drawn criticism for moving slowly in general (some calling him "O'Molasses"); the jury is still out on whether he will follow the lead of his tax-hiking brethren.

Kansas: Kathleen Sebelius

Kansas, as you would expect, has Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature, and has formed a bipartisan consensus (including Governor Sebelius) around low taxes:

On the topic of taxes, it was again a good year to be a business lobbyist in Topeka. The Legislature helped business with an estimated $135 million tax reduction over the next five years with the phase-out of the franchise tax, and an unemployment tax reduction worth $176 million.

This year, the Legislature helped out the little guy, too, at least the elderly little guy. Social Security is now exempted from state income tax. And senior homeowners on a fixed income got a tax cut, too. Poor families of any age will be eligible for state assistance on insurance premiums.

Still, Republicans are worried that overspending will erode this policy in the future. And Gov. Sebelius, re-elected in 2006, has announced that she will continue her years-long push for a 50 cent hike in the cigarette tax to pay for new health care spending.

Arizona: Janet Napolitano

After major tax cuts she signed in 2006, albeit after negotiating down Republican proposals for larger cuts, newly rele-ected incumbent Napolitano urged a go-slow approach on Republican legislators looking for further cuts in 2007:

Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, has argued that the state should measure the impact of those cuts before enacting more, but she has not commented recently about where tax cuts figure into budget negotiations.

More recently, the Republican state House passed $62 million in new tax cuts, but Napolitano has endorsed a bipartisan Senate bill that does not include them. In general, Napolitano has acceded to the reality of Arizona's anti-tax mood.

The Good Guys

Not every Democrat is on the wrong side of the tax issue. Here are some who have learned to buck their party's orthodoxy on taxes:

Arkansas: Mike Beebe

Mike Huckabee's successor is off to a good start on taxes, signing into law some $200 million in tax cuts ranging from sales and property taxes to income taxes on low income earners and taxes on manufacturers' energy use.

Oklahoma: Brad Henry

Oklahoma has the nation's lowest tax burden, something the recently re-elected Gov. Henry applauds, and has previously enacted tax cuts still to come online. While Gov. Henry recently vetoed a budget bill passed by the legislature (which is divided among the two parties), tax hikes were not on anyone's radar and further cuts remain possible.

Ohio: Ted Strickland

Losing their way on taxes was a big part of the Ohio GOP's dramatic downfall in 2006, and especially with the GOP still holding the legislature, that lesson has not been lost on new Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland's new budget won unanimous support in the Ohio House, thanks in no small part to a popular increased property tax exemption for senior citizens, paid for with windfall money from the 1998 tobacco settlement. Strickland is also considering tax breaks for companies that are losing money, although one can debate whether that is really spending disguised as a tax break.

The Heretic

Jodi Rell of Connecticut

Finally, I should add here that at least one newly elected Republican governor has been every bit as bad as any Democrat. Jodi Rell of Connecticut got re-elected in a landslide largely by avoiding the Republican label, but now she runs a serious risk of destroying the GOP's low-tax brand in her state for a generation by proposing a massive 10% increase in the state income tax, while state "Democrats' proposal would raise even more money but would also cut taxes for the middle class . . . [and] increase state spending by 10.4 percent and increase taxes by $1.6 billion" by hiking the top tax rate by 40%. A hardy band of Republicans in the state legislature has proposed a "No Tax Increase Budget" that includes no tax hikes, but with 2-to-1 Democratic majorities in both houses, don't expect much. Connecticut voters have been stuck with an echo, not a choice.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:56 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
April 25, 2007
BASEBALL: Hunter Becomes Hunted

In light of the Torii Hunter situation, I think what MLB needs to do is retroactively clarify the rule to apply a lower punishment for minor violations. The current punishment is disproportionate to these facts - you can't suspend Hunter for three years. At the same time, if the rule is on the books you have to enforce it, and can't be selective about it. And while the punishment seems especially draconian for a guy who apparently didn't even know of the rule (I'd never heard of it before), I'm not at all comfortable writing into a prophylactic rule of this nature an "out" for guys who claim they didn't know.

This is off topic but this is another reason I've long thought the campaign finance laws were a farce. Back in the 90s, both Newt Gingrich and Al Gore (and they weren't the only ones, witness Tom DeLay's legal difficulties) got in trouble for rather technical campaign finance violations. In both cases their supporters argued that (1) such technical violations couldn't possibly be grounds for prosecuting such important elected officials, (2) they could not have known they were breaking the rule, there was no controlling legal authority, and (3) those laws hadn't been enforced in that way in the past (in Gore's case an 1886 statute nobody'd ever been prosecuted under). Regardless of the merits of the two cases, it seemed to me then and still does that if the laws are vague or technical enough, or the penalties disproportionate enough, that you would blanch at throwing an important person you support in the slammer for breaking them, then they have no business on the books. The same goes here - if you don't think Torii Hunter should be suspended for three years over a couple cases of champagne, change the rule.

PS, Hunter was making good on something he had said last year - did MLB know then, and if so why didn't anyone warn him?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:39 PM | Baseball 2007 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/POLITICS: McGovern Agrees With Cheney

In response to Dick Cheney's recent comparison of today's Democrats to the McGovernites of 1972, George McGovern himself responds:

I do agree with Cheney: Today's Democrats are taking positions on the Iraq war similar to the views I held toward the Vietnam War.

Of course, this moment of candid agreement comes in the middle of a long, screedy op-ed basically reiterating that McGovern and Cheney don't agree on very much. But inasmuch as this is virtually the only point in the op-ed where McGovern deals with the specific charge levelled by Cheney, it's a significant concession.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 23, 2007
POLITICS: Fair and Balanced

This NY Daily News report is, no doubt, a preview of our own 2008 press coverage:

French pick woman to face rightist in prez race

Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal advanced yesterday to a runoff vote that will pick a president unlike any France has seen before: a hard-edged reformer pledging a new start, or a woman promising a healing touch.

+++

Royal, 53, perfectly coiffed and dressed in a chic white suit, urged supporters last night to choose a path to a "new France" that cultivates "human values" and cares for the less fortunate.

"I refuse to cultivate fear," she said in a slap at Sarkozy, whose law-and-order image has made him a hated figure in Paris' troubled suburbs, rocked by riots that spread across France in the fall of 2005.

+++

Many are predicting violence anew if Sarkozy is elected. Some voters blamed a strong anti-Sarkozy vote for yesterday's unprecedented 84% voter turnout.

+++

But can a woman be elected president of chivalrous France, where Chirac still routinely greets women - even German Chancellor Angela Merkel - with a kiss on the hand?

"It doesn't bother me, but I don't the think the country is ready for it yet," said Frederic, 30, a white-aproned waiter who watched the results on TV at the Socialist Party office.

"Of course, yes, France is ready," countered Sarah Renzineb, 33, an unemployed Royal supporter from Paris. "Yes, yes, yes!"

But the press has no agenda. Just reporting the facts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:32 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 11, 2007
POP CULTURE: Sticks and Stones

So the Rutgers women's basketball team held a team press conference yesterday to respond to Don Imus:

Rutgers' outraged coach, C. Vivian Stringer, wiped away tears as she recounted her own battles with racism and said she won't let Imus "steal our joy."

Then each player stood up, walked over to the microphone and introduced herself.

Towering over her teammates, Vaughn gave a cheery "Good morning, everyone." But her broad smile faded as she opened up about the hurt she feels - as an African-American and a woman. "I'm not a ho, I'm a woman. I'm someone's child," she said.

The decision to hold this press conference is a horrible failure of leadership on the part of Stringer and anyone else in the athletic and academic establishment at Rutgers who let this happen.

To recap, for those of you just tuning in, radio 'shock jock' Don Imus is in hot water, and justifiably so, for referring to the Rutgers women's hoops players as "nappy headed hos," and a fair debate is to be had as to whether this proves that Imus is

(a) a racist and/or sexist;
(b) a boor and a moron with no sense of propriety;
(c) a cranky old coot whose brain is permanently addled by drugs having a 'senior moment' on the air;
(d) an aging shock-radio guy trying desperately to stay relevant by talking like a 22-year-old rapper; or
(e) my personal favorite, all of the above.

I'm not here to defend Imus, as his remark was indefensible, and besides, Imus endorsed and relentlessly touted Kerry in 2004, so let the Left defend him. On the other hand, as I have long argued, not everything that is indefensible is necessarily a capital crime. Imus has, appropriately, been given a two-week suspension for the same reason you hit the dog with a rolled-up newspaper when he poops on the living room rug. Whether he should be fired depends on what you think more generally about shock-jock radio, since this kind of thing is basically an occupational hazard of employing people like Imus. Of course, there's also the fact that Imus isn't funny (granted, I've never been a regular listener, and I first heard him around 1980 so I may be selling his early work short, but in my book a guy who is unfunny for going on three decades is not funny).

But here's the thing: whether or not they think they are just in the business of winning ballgames, college coaches are role models to their players. College students are at a particularly impressionable stage in their lives: finally old enough to first start to see adults as peers rather than distant authority figures, they naturally begin to model themselves on whomever they meet that most impresses them. Most college athletes - and I assume this is true of the Rutgers women as well - will not become professional athletes, and thus are preparing themselves for life and jobs in the real world. It is incumbent on their coaches to teach them lessons that will help them there.

Imus' remarks were crude and ugly, but the lesson Stringer should have been sending these young ladies is that they say a lot about Imus but nothing about them. Different people handle these things differently, but a coach worth his or her salt could have played this at least two perfectly reasonable ways. One is to laugh it off with the traditional "sticks and stones" attitude, and show the players that this really shouldn't mean anything to them; there will always be people who say inappropriate and mean-spirited things in life, and you shouldn't take that seriously. A more combative personality of the Bobby Knight variety would respond by taking some personal public potshots at Imus, drawing the story away from the players and into coach vs. shock jock; this would teach the players the valuable lesson that when somebody sucker punches your people, you hit them back in kind and teach them a lesson.

What you do not do is call a press conference like this:

"I want to ask him, 'Now that you've met me, am I ho?'" said Rutgers center Kia Vaughn of the Bronx. "Unless they've given 'ho' a whole new definition, that's not what I am."

Declaring that Imus has "stolen a moment of pure grace for us," the wounded women spoke out for the first time about Imus' racist radio remarks.

"This has scarred me for life," said guard Matee Ajavon of Newark. "I've dealt with racism before. For it to be in the public eye like this, it will be something I will tell my granddaughter."

Somebody gave these young women the message - or at least failed to disabuse them of the notion - that they should take Imus' words seriously, take them to heart. This press conference was a show of the coach and the players wallowing in Imus' words, embracing them, and thus elevating them as if any serious person would think less of them - rather than of Imus - for what Imus said. This story should never have been about the players, because Imus' words were generic (indeed, that's precisely why they were offensive). It's the Culture of Victimology at its most destructive, teaching these young women that they should consider themselves to have been genuinely maligned by an aging boor and to seek out the status and posture of one to whom a deep wrong has been done and who is owed.

Put more succinctly, when someone calls you a 'nappy headed ho,' you should not feel the need to call a press conference to deny it. Maybe these young women don't know that - but if they don't, it was the business of someone in a position of authority to teach them. Shame on Vivian Stringer and Rutgers University for failing to teach them that.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Basketball • | Politics 2007 • | Pop Culture | Comments (26) | TrackBack (0)
April 4, 2007
POLITICS: Raise The H-1B Cap

Lost in the perennial debate about amnesties, guest workers and lettuce-pickers is the H-1B visa, an economically vital program to let highly educated professionals who already have jobs lined up to enter the country to do them:

There's currently an annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, which allow foreigners with a bachelor's degree in their area of specialty to spend up to six years working for companies in the United States. Up to 20,000 more visas are available for foreigners with advanced degrees from U.S. universities.

Whatever your thoughts on immigration more generally, these workers - many of them with advanced high-tech degrees and in great demand by U.S.-based businesses who are trying to onshore employees instead of offshoring facilities - are an exceptionally valuable economic resource our government should be encouraging. And as this year's H-1B lottery, which yet again was massively oversubscribed in record numbers from the very first day it opened (this Monday) shows, the dynamism of the U.S. economy is attracting far more of these workers than our government will permit into the country:

A spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services told CNET News.com on Wednesday that the estimated 150,000 petitions received by the agency as of Monday afternoon--and an as-yet uncounted number that came in on Tuesday--set a record for the first days of a new application round.

Yes, you read that right: more than half of the applicants just on the first day will be turned away. Some of those opportunities may not knock a second time.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (25) | TrackBack (0)
March 25, 2007
POLITICS: Bloggers Use New Technique

If by "New Technique" they mean "actually reading stuff before writing about it." But this article is correct that a lot of the news-management techniques of the Clinton White House, which were predicated upon manipulation of the behavior and habits of the mainstream media, would have been markedly less effective if there had been a blogosphere back then.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:23 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Yes, Virginia (and New Mexico), There Is Such A Thing As Voter Fraud

Stuart Buck notes a DOJ report detailing 95 people charged with voter fraud in the United States between 2002 and 2005, leading to 55 convictions.

And those are just the ones who got caught, and by prosecutors willing to make these difficult cases stick.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:21 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
March 22, 2007
POLITICS: The Roving Eye

At least one Reuters cameraman might consider moving his focus a little higher:

Legs.jpg

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
March 20, 2007
POLITICS: Why I Love Megan McArdle's Blog

Just go read the latest in her back-and-forth with Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias on school choice. (Better yet, read the whole series).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:57 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
March 12, 2007
POLITICS: Starting Early

I was watching the Mets-Marlins preseason game yesterday (the one that ended a 5-5 tie in 11 innings) and caught the tail end of an ad touting one of Eliot Spitzer's initiatives, I think his health plan, and saw this tagline at the end: "Paid for by Spitzer 2010."

And people say the presidential candidates are starting early.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:14 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
March 5, 2007
POLITICS: Anathema

Following up on my initial reaction here, I agree with this 100%, and this too. An excommunication of Ann Coulter from the organized conservative movement is overdue, both for tactical reasons and as a matter of basic moral hygeine.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:32 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (21) | TrackBack (0)
March 2, 2007
POLITICS: Friday Afternoon Poll: Electric Al Gore Edition!

Take the Goreland poll:

What is Al Gore doing in his house to use all that electricity?
Playing Dr. Frankenstein.
Trying to make the Earth warmer on purpose so people will believe him.
Frying himself peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
Creating something even more awesome than the internet.
Turning a DeLorean into a time machine.
Posting lots of comments on lefty blogs about BusHitler.
Playing Donkey Kong until his eyeballs bleed.
Developing weapons of mass destruction. We must invade!
Recounting the votes, over and over and over and over.
  
Free polls from Pollhost.com
Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:16 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (39) | TrackBack (0)
LAW/POLITICS: Bad News For Libby

Bad news, I think, for Scooter Libby:

Jurors asked for the definition of "reasonable doubt" Friday after completing a shortened, eighth day of deliberations Friday in the perjury trial of ex-White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

"We would like clarification of the term 'reasonable doubt,'" jurors wrote. "Specifically, is it necessary for the government to present evidence that it is not humanly possible for someone not to recall an event in order to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

I think that's bad news for Libby because Judge Walton will tell them no, the standard for conviction isn't that high, and that will swing the one/several/all jurors who are leaning to acquit under that definition.

My guess is, that note was written in pique to get an answer that can be used to bludgeon a holdout into voting to convict. If you own shares in Libby getting acquitted, sell.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:52 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 28, 2007
POLITICS: Your Daily Dose of Glenn Greenwald's Mendacity

For those of you who may be tempted periodically to take Glenn Greenwald seriously, Patterico has a thorough, detailed and highly specific roundup of his latest breathtaking hypocrisy in attacking conservative bloggers for quoting anonymous comments on lefty blogs (more here from Jeff Goldstein), while QandO catches him in a gross distortion of a 2005 Joe Lieberman quote on Iraq.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 20, 2007
POLITICS/LAW: Rashofitz

If you have not already, you should read Tom Maguire's roundup of the trial testimony in the Libby case. What remains bizarre about the case is not that perjury charges were brought where there was no underlying crime - that does happen - but that perjury charges were brought where the prosecutor was investigating a whodunit and already knew when he started the investigation who done it.

Did Libby lie? I have to say, Maguire's portrait of the testimony certainly suggests that Libby's account was probably untrue, and difficult to square with the testimony - but also that (1) it would be very hard to have enough confidence in that conclusion to convict him, especially given how much trouble the prosecution witnesses had keeping their own stories consistent over time and (2) Tim Russert probably did not tell the truth either.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:43 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2007
POLITICS: Federalizing The Local Diner: The Curious Case For A National Minimum Wage

One of the major agenda items for the new Democratic majority on Capitol Hill has been a hike in the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour to $7.25/hour. Much to their embarrassment, Democrats found that they could not push legislation through the Senate controlled by the Democrat-Socialist majority without agreeing to a tax cut package to relieve some of the burden they are placing on small business. On Monday, House Democrats caved and approved the tax cuts, paving the way for the bill to become law.

The minimum wage, like all attempts at a command economy, is based upon the idea that there is an ideal "fair wage" or "living wage" that can be set by the government, not the market. Longtime observers are wearyingly familiar with the arguments on this point: liberals argue that it's unfair to allow people to work for peanuts, conservatives respond that people are free to work for what they will choose. Liberals argue that you can't raise a family on the minimum wage, conservatives respond that most minimum wage workers are young, single and/or part-time. Conservatives argue that the minimum wage throttles job growth for small businesses and entry-level workers, liberals contend that the job losses resulting from the minimum wage are nonexistent or overstated, conservatives reply that liberals are relying on quack economic studies.

Let's leave all that aside for now, and assume for the sake of argument that it is actually possible for the government to set a Platonic ideal minimum wage that provides a fairer income to workers with the minimum possible cost to job creation. That still doesn't answer three questions:

1. Why should there be a single federal minimum wage law for the entire country, covering every local labor market from Midtown Manhattan to Northern Mississippi?

2. If there really is a need for a single federal minimum wage, why does Congress nonetheless permit individual states to have higher minimum wages - and why should Representatives from those states care what the federal minimum wage is?

3. If the goal of a single federal minimum wage is to eliminate 'unfair' competition from workers willing to work for a lower wage, how do Democratic proponents of the bill expect it to succeed if it's not accompanied by stiffer enforcement directed at illegal immigrants who are the people most likely to work 'off the books' for a lower wage?

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:57 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Voter Intimidation

Republicans, for some time now, have been pushing for fairly tame measures to prevent voter fraud, most of which revolve around requiring voters to show some form of identification and otherwise leave a record that enables a determination of who, precisely, voted. In response to these common-sense proposals and other efforts to assure the integrity of the ballot, Democrats invariably complain that Republicans are engaging in some form of voter intimidation. Apparently, according to Democrats, even the mere act of having to properly identify yourself is so intimidating as to inhibit the right to vote.

Well. Now that the Democrats are in the majority, they are hard at work on legislation in another election context that will go far beyond mere identification, and eliminate secret ballots entirely, allowing voters to be pressured, even by their co-workers and in their own homes, to vote a specific way. The legislation, involving union elections, involves a practice called "card check," and it will be the subject of a bill markup today in the House.

UPDATE: Vice President Cheney says President Bush will veto the card check bill.

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:53 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
February 10, 2007
POLITICS: Correction: Dubious Intelligence At The Washington Post

Walter Pincus' Mouth Is Moving, But Carl Levin's Voice Keeps Coming Out

If you read Friday morning's Washington Post, you were unlikely to miss a story on Page A1 (that's the front page) with the dramatic headline

“Official's Key Report On Iraq Is Faulted

'Dubious' Intelligence Fueled Push for War




The article, by Walter Pincus and R. Jeffrey Smith, purported to summarize the conclusions of a report by the Pentagon's inspector general, beginning with the news that

Intelligence provided by former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith to buttress the White House case for invading Iraq included 'reporting of dubious quality or reliability' that supported the political views of senior administration officials rather than the conclusions of the intelligence community . . .

Of course, the Democrats, led by Michigan Senator Carl Levin, have been making this argument for some time. What was newsworthy, and certainly what was front-page-worthy, was that the Pentagon's own inspector general seemed to agree with Levin.

Apparently, though, this is more a case of Pincus and Smith agreeing with Levin and writing up an article that appears to have been itself so deceptive and misleading from the very outset that you wonder whether anyone read the thing before publishing it besides perhaps the people in Senator Levin's office who must have been dictating this to the dutiful scribes at the Post. Because take a look at the whopper of a correction the Post has posted, essentially recanting the entire thing:

Read More »


Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:32 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 8, 2007
POLITICS: The Money Keeps Rolling In

Increased federal revenues keep on closing the budget gap ever since the 2003 Bush tax cuts (unlike the 2001 cuts, which were back-loaded) took full effect. Funny how that keeps happening.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:19 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
February 1, 2007
LAW/POLITICS: Memorable Experiences

Ann Coulter (yes, yes, I know; standard Coulter-related disclaimers apply) offers a sensible and practical assessment of why the perjury case against Lewis Libby is so much weaker than was the case against Bill Clinton:

The exact same people who are now demanding prison for Libby for not remembering who told him about Plame are the ones who told us it was perfectly plausible for Bill Clinton to forget that Monica Lewinsky repeatedly performed oral sex on him in the Oval Office. Even if chubby Jewish brunettes aren't your type, be honest: Which of the two events would stand out more in your memory? . . .

Here are some simple illustrations. If Clinton had been asked how many sexual encounters it took for him to remember Monica's name (six) and he got the answer wrong, it would not be perjury since, like Monica's name, it's an easy thing to forget.

If Clinton had been asked whether he talked to Rep. Jim Chapman and then to Rep. John Tanner, or to Rep. Tanner and then to Rep. Chapman while Monica was performing oral sex on him in the Oval Office and he got the answer wrong, that would not be perjury because it's not relevant to the investigation. (Correct answer: Chapman, then Tanner.)

But when Clinton was asked under oath -- in a case brought by Paula Jones under the law liberals consider more sacrosanct than any passed in the 20th century, Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act: "Mr. President ... at any time were you and Monica Lewinsky alone together in the Oval Office?" and he answered, "I don't recall," that was perjury.

Of course, there's also the matter of relevance. Libby was interviewed by federal agents in October and November 2003 and questioned by the Grand Jury in March 2004 - after it was already known to the Special Prosecutor that the Plame leak had come from Richard Armitage. Clinton, by contrast, was answering a series of questions that a federal judge had specifically ordered to be answered on grounds that they were relevant to an ongoing civil case in pretrial discovery, in which the core question (did Clinton sexually harass another subordinate?) had not been resolved.

Perjury being a serious crime, I'm still willing to give Fitzgerald something of the benefit of the doubt on the decision to indict, but there's no question that his evidence is significantly weaker, the defense significantly more plausible, and the case for bringing charges at all significantly more attenuated than in Clinton's case.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 PM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)
January 25, 2007
POLITICS: Webb's Fiction

Jonah Goldberg notes that while Jim Webb was citing a single, flimsy poll to suggest military disagreement with the Iraq War generally, among the details he left out was this, from the same poll: "Almost half of those responding think we need more troops in Iraq than we have there now."

UPDATE: Greyhawk has more detailed analysis. I don't doubt that there are liberal, antiwar Democrats in the military just like anywhere else, but it's silly to suggest that anything like a majority of the military is where Webb is on the war. The problem with the Democrats' worship of identity politics (e.g., the "chickenhawk" meme) is that it requires them to believe that the people fighting the war agree with them.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:18 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Ultimate Opening To A NYT Book Review

I guess the best that can be said of this opening paragraph of a NY Times review of "Supreme Conflict," a new book on the Supreme Court, is that it leaves no doubt as to the reviewer's, er, perspective:

Even as more commentators on both the left and the right are using the adjective "incompetent" to describe the administration of George W. Bush, historians like Douglas Brinkley, Sean Wilentz and Eric Foner have begun to argue that Mr. Bush is in contention for the title of worst president in history, citing reasons like the metastasizing war in Iraq, a ballooning deficit, the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina and a widening credibility gap.

In the second paragraph, the reviewer mentions the book.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:33 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
January 23, 2007
POLITICS: State of the Bush Administration

We're having another debate over at RedState, this one on what Bush should say tonight. My contribution is here. In particular, don't miss Thomas' post expanding on the political folly of Bush's health care proposal and Academic Elephant's post on a story Bush should tell.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:58 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
January 19, 2007
POLITICS: And So It Begins

Not for the last time, I am sure, House Democrats vote to raise taxes. Naturally they start with a politically unpopular target: domestic oil companies. The new taxes and fees, of course, raise the costs to domestic producers, thus benefitting their foreign competitors. Nice work. Hopefully, someone is keeping close track of how many times each of the newly elected Democrats ends up voting for a tax hike of one sort or other.

This aspect of the bill could be interesting:

The legislation "amounts to a taking of private property" by forcing oil companies to renegotiate leases they view as valid contracts, [Rep. Don Young, an Alaska Republican] said.

The bill would bar companies from future lease sales unless they agree to renegotiate flawed leases issued in 1998-99 for deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Because of a government error, the current leases do not contain a trigger for royalties if prices soared, as they have in recent years. As a result, the companies have avoided paying $1 billion in royalties so far and stand to avoid an additional $9 billion over the life of the leases, the Interior Department says.

The caselaw is narrowly divided over the circumstances under which government can change the terms of business with its contractors without incurring liability, but if all that's being done is to refuse future business as an incentive to renegotiate, I would think that doesn't amount to a taking of vested contract rights. But the devil will be in the details.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:19 AM | Law 2006-08 • | Politics 2007 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
January 12, 2007
POLITICS/WAR: Keeping Their Stories Straight

Mary Katherine Ham's video on Dick Durbin's Iraq speech (responding to President Bush), juxtaposing Durbin's speech with a long series of quotes (mostly leading Democrats contradicting whatever Durbin is saying) really has to be seen to be believed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:44 PM | Politics 2007 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 9, 2007
POLITICS: Party Like It's 1993

Yes, the Democrats will revert to their old ways without missing a beat. The fools are those who thought otherwise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:41 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
January 8, 2007
POLITICS: Fielding Dreams

I have to admit, this news would be more amusing if this had turned out to be true.

Still, you can never go wrong with more Reaganites.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 4, 2007
POLITICS: Continuing Story of Nukes Gone To The Dogs

In its own way, the Bush Energy Department's inability to fix the security problems at Los Alamos may help the political future of Bill Richardson, given the extent to which those failures in the first instance represent one of the major black marks on his record (his role in the creation of the UN Oil-For-Food fiasco is another story).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Politics 2007 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Craig Whitney and Gerald Marzorati

If you are keeping track of names of journalists who act like slippery partisan activists, those should be added to the list, according to NY Times public editor Brian Calame's scathing expose of a NY Times Magazine piece on abortion in El Salvador. You have to read the whole thing, but it's all there: the running of a check-able falsehood, the use of a local stringer who was a paid activist with a stake in the controversy, the disinclination to let the readers know the truth once it was discovered.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 AM | Politics 2007 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
January 3, 2007
BLOG: Flipping the Calendar

As usual this time of year, I'm creating new categories for the new year. This is especially important for those of you who come here directly to the baseball category page, which should now be here. Update your bookmarks accordingly. Also note that posts about the 2008 presidential race will be in the Politics 2008 category.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 AM | Baseball 2006 • | Baseball 2007 • | Blog 2006-13 • | Politics 2006 • | Politics 2007 • | Politics 2008 • | War 2006 • | War 2007-12 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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