"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
March 31, 2003
POLITICS: Market Failure?
Donald Luskin has a pair of interesting posts on the California energy crisis of 2001, the recent FERC report on same, and Paul Krugman's misreading of both.
WAR: NOTES OF CAUTION
Conservative pundits have had a lot of fun with the media's panic over the first whiff of grapshot in the present war. The refrain has been a series of wise remonstrances: war has ever been thus; nothing ever goes entirely according to plan; and, in any event, by any reasonable standard, we are succeeding faster and at more lopsided casualty rates than any military invasion of a country of anywhere near comparable size in history.
That's all true, and I agree that -- while there's certainly plenty of good to say about some of the war coverage -- the media is being ridiculous in a number of ways. But in determining whether this war was a good idea in the first place, the question of whether the war is going to involve the sacrifice of a substantial number of American lives and the wreaking of a substantial amount of damage on Iraq (including killing some Iraqi civilians) is not a ridiculous question. Why? There are a couple of reasons worth remembering, but one is that the advocates of war, myself included, explicitly argued and continue to argue that war is just here because the harm caused by war is outweighed by the harm in doing nothing. Obviously, if the harm caused by the war were to be much more substantial than people may have thought, they wouldn't be crazy to rethink their positions.
There's a corollary here for the other side of the domestic debate, though. We should also remember that every sign that Americans are flinching at the casualty reports is something that will help the enemy. The Baathists' strategy is entirely premised on being bailed out if the American public turns against continuing the war. I'm not a fan of branding people unpartiotic simply for saying this war is a bad idea and will be costly, but you can't just ignore that political opposition to the war is the critical element of the Iraqi regime's strategy. The Republican Guard can't save them; Tom Daschle, R.W. Apple and their British counterparts could, if things go a certain way. Critics of the war should, before they criticize, ask two questions:
1. What will be the result if we throw in the towel as a result of my criticism?
2. Will it be worse than continuing to fight?
If the answer to #2 is "yes," that doesn't mean no criticism, ever. There will be plenty of time for criticism after the war, especially with Bush up for re-election next year and a very high likelihood that the war will be over well before then even if it doesn't go particularly well. The question during wartime is, who will be helped by this criticism? You can call me a McCarthyite for pointing this out, but the balance of rights and responsibilities in the area of free speech does change in wartime.
Unfortunately, most of the war's critics have a rather unrealistic view of the balance of dangers here; I'd hazard a guess that many of them think #2 is so bad that nothing could be worse. But now that the war's started, the cost of backing down has escalated tremendously. Remember, even from the beginning, there was an element of national face-saving (not Bush family face, but the nation's) in refocusing on Saddam's continued defiance of the U.S. after September 11. It was obvious that the U.S. could no longer to tolerate, smack in the middle of the Middle East, a nation that broke treaties with us, fired at our aircraft, spread anti-American propaganda, and generally gave us the finger, all while abusing everybody within reach of the regime and financing the region's open sore on the West Bank. Even without WMD and without ties to international terror, there was a certain logic to confronting Saddam to make an example of him to people who "back the strong horse," in bin Laden's terms, and to those who expected Americans to fear conflict after the bad examples of the Iranian hostage crisis, Somalia, even our retreat from Beirut after Hezbollah opened a score with the United States Marine Corps that has yet to be settled. Maybe that justified the war by itself and maybe it didn't, but it was always a subtext of the run-up to war, and one that I think is reflected in deep public support for the war as an anti-terror effort despite controversy over whether we had enough evidence to support a search warrant of the billionaire dictator's palaces. If we turned back now without deposing the Iraqi regime, it's not just a handful of Republicans who would permanently lose credibility; it's the whole country, and all our enemies would be hugely emboldened.
Bearing those costs in mind, maybe the war's critics can ask themselves: Is my criticism of the war plan now -- before we've even seen the whole thing play out, or close to it -- really necessary? If your goal is to stop the war with the defeat of America's policy of regime change (which has been our national policy since 1998), and you've thought through everything that means, OK, go ahead, but be prepared for entirely fair criticism in response that you have chosen to advocate a policy of defeat for your nation at the hands of a bloody tyrant. But if your goal is to inflict political damage on the president for what you believe is his mishandling of this or that issue in the conduct of the war - please, please, can't it wait?
WAR: WHO'S NEXT?
The Command Post has the latest on tough words from Colin Powell to Iran and Syria in a speech to AIPAC, from the Jerusalem Post. And here's a revealing interview with Bashar Assad, from MEMRI. The Syrian regime is clearly one of the 8 rogue regimes that needed to be changed, one way or another, after September 11:
1. The Taliban
WAR: THE FORGOTTEN ANGLOS
We've heard much these last few months from commentators about Jim Bennett's "Anglosphere" concept: how the US, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and to some extent Ireland and South Africa are bound together by a common language, common traditions of culture, government and the business climate. It seems to me that most of the formulations, though, have omitted one very important country that shares strong cultural bonds to the US in particular; that has a parliamentary democracy and similar legal system; that shares in the modern drive to an information-based economy; and where English is widely spoken (if not necessarily as a first language) and connections to English-speaking media, opinion and culture are deep and run in both directions: Israel.
Of course, the Israelis are hardly Anglo-Saxons, ethnically, but proponents of the concept have consistently stressed that it is common language and culture, not ethnicity, that unifies the Anglosphere and gives it the dynamism to incorporate immigrants of all colors. And the emotional bonds betwen Israel and Britain or Australia are, to put it mildly, not strong. But the core notions of the Anglosphere are the free flow of information -- through mass media, the internet and personal interactions -- and a common set of cultural experiences, both of which are plenty true of Israelis. In the world of opinion journalism, the ubiquity of Israeli pundits and columnists here -- and vice versa -- is an important indicator of ties between the US and Israel in a way we just don't see with, say, Germany or France. Opinion polls and other popular measures in the US reflect this: Americans increasingly recognize in Israel a mirror image of ourselves, except more beleaguered and beset by hostile neighbors. (I suspect that history will show September 11 to be a watershed here, when Americans started to feel like Israel). As a result, the alliance with Israel, like that with the other Anglosphere nations, runs much thicker than temporary self-interests.
BASEBALL: Box Scores
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . . . box scores.
BASEBALL: The Blue Jays' ads
The Blue Jays' ads calling for fans to boo Hideki Matsui are pretty tasteless, albeit all in good fun. But are they trying to create an excuse to boo that will distract from the possibility that they will boo the Star Spangled Banner?
BASEBALL: 2003 Pre-Season Predictions
OK, pre-season prediction time, before we're underway in earnest. I'll be brief:
The Musick of the Spheres shall not be interrupted. The Sox have the guns for a strong challenge to a Yankee team that will need to offset age and injury on the pitching staff with some serious production from newcomers Hideki Matsui and Jose Contreras. But the Yanks still have more depth, and the Red Sox are . . . well . . . the Red Sox.
This could be a hugely stratified division, with 2 or possibly 3 horrendous teams, and two well-matched contenders slugging it out for the 90-92 wins needed to win the division. The Twins have one advantage: with no real weak links in their rotation, they may be better suited than the Sox to just pulverize the weak sisters. Believe nothing good you hear about Kansas City pitchers until you see results.
This division could be even tighter than in the past, and has no bad teams. The Rangers still lack quality pitching, the Angels are unlikely to be as injury-free as last season (Troy Glaus' wrist injury is worrisome), and the Mariners could really show some age this year on Edgar, Moyer, and the bullpen. That leaves Oakland, although I'm once again suspicious of their offense (I suspect that Durazo won't live up to the hype -- he's a great hitter but a huge injury risk).
WILD CARD: I'll say Boston over the West contenders.
Yes, the Braves have baseball's best outfield, and they have Maddux and Smoltz and Cox and Mazzone. But I have little faith that the Mike Hampton Experiment will be a smashing success; this team has overcome a lot in the past, but the rotation anchors were always there. No longer. It may well have been time to let Glavine go, but they'll be hard pressed to replace his and Millwood's production, to say nothing of the trick of repeating last year's bullpen miracle with another new cast.
If Millwood is healthy and anything like last year, he will add much-needed stability to the Phils, who have three other talented starters in Vincente Padilla, Randy Wolf & Brandon Duckworth (assuming Duckworth gets healthy). This team has big question marks -- the bullpen is scary, and Marlon Byrd and Jimmy Rollins will be big variables --but the additions of Thome and Millwood makes them the favorite.
The Mets could also win the division if EVERYTHING breaks right -- there are plenty of good old players here, any one of whom could recapture old glory once more. They could also collapse even further. More likely is that some guys bounce back and others don't, and the team slogs in at 84 wins. The fact that David Cone is now the fourth starter is horrifying.
The Marlins just don't have the hitting to keep up.
The Cards are easily the class of this division. I am VERY high on the Cubs Prior-Wood combo (I'm more skeptical of Matt Clement sustaining his success). The Cubs, Astros and Reds are all somewhat similarly situated, athough Cincinnati's pitching is suspect. I strongly suspect that Barry Larkin and Craig Biggio are both just about finished. The Brewers are just hopeless; the Pirates aren't, but they've got a long way to go.
Inertia. The D-Backs' old pitchers and the Giants' bats will keep them in the hunt (San Francisco's additions of Alfonzo, Durham and Cruz should partly offset the losses of Dusty Baker and Jeff Kent). Much will still depend on Barry Bonds staying in the stratosphere; if Bonds bats .295/.595/.428 (his career averages), this team is toast. The Dodgers could improve if Kevin Brown stays healthy and is Kevin Brown again -- certainly they've helped themselves by adding Fred McGriff to replace Karros -- but I don't see a division favorite, either in pitching depth or on offense.
WILD CARD: Oooh, tough. I'll go with the Giants, although I'm courting danger by ignoring the Braves here.
No pre-season postseason picks; that's a fool's errand given the length of the current postseason.
March 30, 2003
WAR: Ralph Peters
Plenty of links to this elsewhere, but another reminder that one of this war's must-read commentators is Ralph Peters, now writing in the NY Post.
WAR: Quote From the Front
Quote from the front: "Frankly, Marines only watch Fox News anyhow."
March 29, 2003
WAR: Hegemonists For War
Note that Bush has recently received statements of support for the war from Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods & Lance Armstrong. (Of course, Armstrong is effectively a federal employee, given that his cycling team is sponsored by the US Postal Service; you have to love a guy who wears the USPS American Eagle logo while cycling across France).
My thesis? Each of these guys is used to being disliked for being totally dominant. Thus, they sympathize with the need for the US to go about its business no matter how many people hate us for our successes.
BASEBALL: Roto 2003
So, last weekend I did my rotisserie draft. First, I should warn you that a draft conducted via chatroom is a disaster waiting to happen. Part of the problem was that we had a lot of people (myself included) who hadn't used chat rooms before or hadn't registered with AOL. Then, AOL didn't work, so we all had to switch over to Yahoo!, which involved 12 guys (11 teams and the commissioner) turning on a dime to register with a new provider. The delays involved were substantial, and then people started getting randomly kicked out of the Yahoo! chat, until we switched back to AOL. The result was an auction much longer than the usual in-person auction.
Second, the draft went fast when it was moving, and we had 11 teams rather than 12, and I was unusually unprepared this year; you will see from the results that I made some obvious mistakes. If you find reading about other people's Roto teams hopelessly boring -- I don't blame you -- you can skip the rest of this post. But, for sake of full disclosure, here's this year's team (traditional Roto categories, AL-only, $260 budget):
P Bartolo Colon $23 (Risky; Colon's plunging K rate scares me, but he'll win a lot).
Reserves (You can tell I was concerned about my starting pitching).
A couple of refreshers: This Lileks column is worth re-reading for a reminder of who the bad guys are, and this Instapundit post is a useful reminder of why one man's terrorist is not necessarily another man's freedom fighter.
BLOG: Big Changes Coming
Some big changes coming around here -- watch for more to come, but activity on the blog and the Projo column may be relatively quiet for a few weeks in the interim.
March 28, 2003
WAR/BASEBALL: A Familiar Pattern
David Pinto has an item from Edward Cossette at Bambino's Curse noting that the emotional roller-coaster coverage of the war has followed a pattern familiar to anyone who's followed the Boston media's coverage of the Red Sox over the years.
March 27, 2003
WAR: OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF TYRANTS
Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, on relations between Syria and the United States: "On positions where interests meet, the Americans are well with us, but on positions where interests differ, they want us to go along with them and we do not."
That's our relationship with everybody, folks.
Left/liberal blogger Atrios calls American soldiers, including the 101st Airborne, "Morons" in this and the following post.
WAR: Talking Up The Enemy
Every time Bush talks about how tough the war with Iraq is, I keep thinking he sounds like Lou Holtz before the Notre Dame-Navy game.
WAR: Anarchists Are Coming To Town
WAR: Same Old Song
Prediction: the same people who are now saying "I told you that the Iraqis will make this fight tougher than we expected" will, when victory arrives, tell us that the Iraqi regime was so weak, outgunned and bound to collapse from within that we should never have considered it any kind of threat meriting war.
So remember what they say now.
March 26, 2003
I have to say, one ordinarily doesn't think of dolphins as being important to a war in the desert.
BASEBALL: Extending The Unit
You have to like the Diamondbacks' 2-year deal with Randy Johnson; with the possible exception of Barry Zito, Johnson's as good a risk as there is among starting pitchers over the next two years. The really interesting question will be whether Johnson, now 39, can defy the odds to get the 76 more victories he needs for 300, which is a good 5 years' work at least.
POLITICS: Tax Cut Cuts
Larry Kudlow thinks there's no reason for tax-cutters to panic over the Senate's vote slashing the "size" of the President's tax cut package to $350 billion from $725 billion. This is all inside baseball type stuff, as he points out; there's still plenty of time for the conference report to decide the ultimate fate of the tax cuts. A few thoughts:
+This should qualify for Kaus' competition for sneaking a story out in the fog of war - the Dems get to vote for higher taxes while nobody's looking.
+The vote was on the overall size of the package as measured by static revenue estimates -- but that tells us very little about what the final package will look like. To my mind, the most important parts are that the package should accelerate whatever cuts are going through, and should cut dividend taxes to give the stock market a shot in the arm.
+The "static" revenue estimates are, of course, fraudulent, and everyone knows it, not least because they assume that nobody changes behavior in response to tax cuts (which is idiotic) but also because they rest on predictions of the unpredictable several years down the line. Unfortunately, that's the only way Washington measures these things (what ever happened to the idea that a GOP Congress would change the scoring system? That's far more important and far-reaching than most of the other things Congress does).
+This is partly a response to the House increasing the size of Bush's proposal, which is also a negotiating position.
+It'd obviously be very good to totally eliminate the dividend tax, since a tax that's repealed is much harder to restore than it is to raise a tax that's been cut. But Bush was originally expected to propose just cutting it in half. Which gets to the strategic issue: yet again, Bush has shifted the terms of debate to whether he gets the whole tax cut package or just another big tax cut. Once again, the Democrats are reduced to wasting their fire on the boldest initiatives, and have to concede most of the ground Bush really wants.
But, of course, we know Bush isn't that smart, right?
March 25, 2003
BASEBALL: Ken Rosenthal on the Hated Yankees
Ken Rosenthal says the Hated Yankees won't repeat, but he admits that he expects them almost certainly to make the playoffs, and as we all know, what happens in October can be unpredictable.
March 24, 2003
Axis? What axis?
UPDATE: I haven't seen this reported anywhere else, so I'm not sure it's really all that credible.
WAR: The Willing
WAR: Lileks on the Beeb
"While driving around on Saturday, the Beeb ran a clip from a Brit spokesman describing a battle, then ran the Iraqi blabberjaw insisting that Iraqi forces were still engaged in battle, killing the enemy, and that the Loser Zionist Rumsfeld tongue should be accursed and struck with shoes, and we should all hope that monkeys defecate in his moustache, etc. Then came a guest from Warshington, and the presenter said “so who should we believe, then?” A charitable listener would ascribe the brief, stunned pause that followed to the natural lapse in transatlantic communications."
Read the whole thing.
WAR: Where We Are Today
I have only limited patience with punditry at present; it is plenty hard enough just to find out what is happening out there, let alone figure out what it all means. Like the song says, theyr'll be time enough for counting when the dealin's done. That said, here are a few of my very un-expert thoughts:
*Those of us who advocated this war argued that the great mass of the Iraqi people would welcome us and gladly throw off their chains, and that at least very large parts of the Iraqi military would not fight. Events so far have neither confirmed nor denied this conclusively -- certainly there have been many surrenders and there were warm welcomes in some of the liberated towns -- but we should not be surprised that there are some bitter-enders who fight on, and perhaps some pockets of the civilan population that resent our coming. In any totalitarian system, there are those who benefit from the regime's depradations, and who rightly fear the coming of the dawn. But the passage of time and opportunities for others to surrender should have a clarifying effect on our willingness to unleash immense violence on those who choose to fight on.
*I would very much not want to be in the shoes of those Iraqi armored columns that are rumored to be assembled to the southwest of Baghdad, unconcealed by mountainous terrain and unsheided by civilian populations. Barring a surrender, like Napoleon's vaunted and battle-hardened Old Guard at Waterloo, they are likely to be shredded by artillery nearly to the last man. I wonder if they are essentially sitting-duck decoys designed to maneuver the Allied forces into fixed coordinates so as to prepare for a chemical or biological attack that will be unleashed on Allied and Iraqi positions alike.
*As far as war-fighting strategy, the world will very much be watching the approach to Baghdad; although American troops have proven highly effective in urban warfare (see Panama), nobody wants to have to resort to street fighting unless absolutely necessary, and Baghdad is a much larger city than Mogadishu or Panama City (I believe it is even larger than Stalingrad circa 1942-43).
*The apparent mistreatment of American POWs and the use of fake surrenders to ambush Allied troops only underscores the ridiculousness of the 'Saddam can be deterred' school of thought. Of course, a regime such as this will violate international norms -- even those, like conventions on the treatment of POWs and the traditional rules of surrender, that are norms defined more by self-interest than by morals or high ideals -- because it cares little for the consequences to its people. The Iraqi regime is willing to encourage such steps for two reasons:
1. It knows that the limits of U.S. reprisal are bounded by our own internal norms, regardless of how badly our enemies behave. We don't use chemical weapons on civilian populations and would not do so even if the same was done to our civilians. The same applies to maltreating POWs.
2. We should expect that it is a critical element of any strategy by the Iraqi regime to make it more difficult and dangerous for Iraqi soldiers to surrender peacefully. Mass surrenders are the worst that can happen to the regime if it wants to go down in a blaze of glory and discredit the invading forces.
March 21, 2003
WAR: Tush Hour
I have to say that reports that "anti-war" protestors were holding up traffic in the evening rush hour (to say nothing of the rest of their antics). . . that just staggered me. I mean, nobody who has both a job and a family could ever consider doing such a thing. Keep hard-working people from their families? By definition, such a protest reveals its complete unfamiliarity with the lives of people who work for a living. Which is unsurprising. Of course, a lot of the protestors are just that -- protestors, professional malcontents or mentally incurious college students, people whose interest in protesting far exceeds their concern for whatever it is they happen to be protesting for or against.
Maybe I'm overreacting here because I work long hours and would hate like hell to be prevented by these goons from seeing my children before their bedtime . . . but, well, I should be indignant. This is wrong. And it's proof that the protests are basically just a way of lashing out at the whole world of jobs, families, and yes, responsibilities. The world of people who don't take a dump in the street.
POP CULTURE: Crikey!
Seen at CVS tonight: 'Croc Hunter' Valentine's Day cards (25 pack!), amazingly, still left over from Valentine's Day. What were the odds of that?
March 20, 2003
BASEBALL: Alan Schwartz on Talent
Alan Schwartz has a fun roundup of the high watermark in recent history for talent at each non-pitching position.
WAR: SADDAM DISARMED!
SADDAM DISARMED! (Link via Instapundit)
WAR: San Francisco
BASEBALL: Crudale Overboard
The Cards have apparently sent Mike Crudale to the minors -- the same Crudale who had a 1.88 ERA last season, allowing just 3 homers and 57 baserunners in 52.1 IP last year, while striking out 47 -- on the basis of six bad innings of spring work. I haven't seen Crudale pitch this spring, so maybe his mechanics are totally shot, but doesn't that seem like an overreaction?
Apparently, we didn't get Saddam last night, but we got his contact lenses.
BASEBALL: Mariner Fifth Starter
BASEBALL: Reboulet Works on Batting Skills
A few years ago somebody gave a "Most Boring Headline" award to a story captioned "Worthwhile Canadian Initiative." This would have to be the baseball equivalent: "Orioles' Reboulet Works on Batting Skills"
POLITICS: Forgotten Men
Two African-American cops are murdered on Staten Island, and Al Sharpton and friends, the supposed 'champions' of the community these cops came from, are silent. Tireless NYPD advocate Heather MacDonald has the story. (Link via Kaus).
WAR: Change Follows Rumsfeld Suggestion
Mark Steyn's mantra for the post-September 11 world: Change Follows Rumsfeld Suggestion.
POLITICS: His People
Turns out that John Kerry embraced his Jewish heritage for the jokes.
WAR: Here's The Flip
Rich Lowry has a great column on the trap the Democrats are walking into in North Korea, one they are constitutionally incapable of recognizing and from which the only escape is shameless flip-flopping and perhaps some very careful parsing of prior statements. Stuff like this keeps Tim Russert in business.
March 19, 2003
WAR: Can You Tell The Difference?
A friend who listens to Howard Stern wrote me this a few days ago:
Howard Stern had a contest where listeners had to call up and answer questions to win a prize. The questions? Howard would read a quote and the listener would have to guess whether it was from a terrorist or from a Hollywood celebrity. Outstanding stuff, and truly bashing the Hollywood fools. Just imagine this: Howard reads some quote extraordinarily critical of the US and predicting long-term demise of the US. Listener says "Terrorist!" Howard responds, "NO!!!......I'm sorry, that was a quote from Sean Penn!"
WAR: What To Do
Worried about terrorism at home? Click here for an explanation of all you need to know about homeland security.
WAR: Day One Buzzwords
Buzzwords of the night: "target of opportunity," "package," "shock and awe," "decaptitation." Tom Brokaw says the war in Iraq will be perhaps the most televised event in world history. (Gee Tom, there was this thing that happened in broad daylight in lower Manhattan about a year and a half ago -- it was on all the news . . . )
WAR: Stark Raving Loony
With our troops in harm's way, San Francisco Democrat Fortney 'Pete' Stark picks today to declare that any U.S. bombing in or around Baghdad would be "an act of extreme terrorism.". I first saw this report early today and the online poll was running 49-48% in favor of Stark's sentiments, but after a link from Drudge, it's now 67-32 against.
WAR: Blair's War Message
Finally, war. Time to rip the scab off -- painful, but necessary. Tony Blair neatly explains why:
"Just consider the position we are asked to adopt. Those on the security council opposed to us say they want Saddam to disarm but will not countenance any new resolution that authorises force in the event of non-compliance. That is their position. No to any ultimatum; no to any resolution that stipulates that failure to comply will lead to military action.
"Looking back over 12 years, we have been victims of our own desire to placate the implacable, to persuade towards reason the utterly unreasonable, to hope that there was some genuine intent to do good in a regime whose mind is in fact evil. Now the very length of time counts against us. You've waited 12 years. Why not wait a little longer?"
"Our fault has not been impatience. The truth is our patience should have been exhausted weeks and months and years ago. Even now, when if the world united and gave him an ultimatum: comply or face forcible disarmament, he might just do it, the world hesitates and in that hesitation he senses the weakness and therefore continues to defy. What would any tyrannical regime possessing WMD think viewing the history of the world's diplomatic dance with Saddam? That our capacity to pass firm resolutions is only matched by our feebleness in implementing them. That is why this indulgence has to stop. Because it is dangerous. It is dangerous if such regimes disbelieve us. Dangerous if they think they can use our weakness, our hesitation, even the natural urges of our democracy towards peace, against us. Dangerous because one day they will mistake our innate revulsion against war for permanent incapacity; when in fact, pushed to the limit, we will act. But then when we act, after years of pretence, the action will have to be harder, bigger, more total in its impact. Iraq is not the only regime with WMD. But back away now from this confrontation and future conflicts will be infinitely worse and more devastating."
"11 September has changed the psychology of America. It should have changed the psychology of the world. Of course Iraq is not the only part of this threat. But it is the test of whether we treat the threat seriously."
"To fall back into the lassitude of the last 12 years, to talk, to discuss, to debate but never act; to declare our will but not enforce it; to combine strong language with weak intentions, a worse outcome than never speaking at all. And then, when the threat returns from Iraq or elsewhere, who will believe us? What price our credibility with the next tyrant? No wonder Japan and South Korea, next to North Korea, has issued such strong statements of support."
"What will Saddam feel? Strengthened beyond measure. What will the other states who tyrannise their people, the terrorists who threaten our existence, what will they take from that? That the will confronting them is decaying and feeble. Who will celebrate and who will weep? And if our plea is for America to work with others, to be good as well as powerful allies, will our retreat make them multilateralist? Or will it not rather be the biggest impulse to unilateralism there could ever be. And what of the UN and the future of Iraq and the Middle East peace plan, devoid of our influence, stripped of our insistence? This house wanted this decision. Well it has it. Those are the choices. And in this dilemma, no choice is perfect, no cause ideal."
"Tell our allies that at the very moment of action, at the very moment when they need our determination that Britain faltered. I will not be party to such a course. This is not the time to falter. This is the time for this house, not just this government or indeed this prime minister, but for this house to give a lead, to show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists who put our way of life at risk, to show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing."
Read the whole thing.
BASEBALL: Bubba Takes The Bronx
Not sure I understand how the Yankees trading Rondell White for Bubba Trammell makes sense for either team. Both are righthanded and coming off awful years; Trammell's a bit younger and doesn't have White's notorious injury history; I believe White's a bit better with the glove, and is generally a better hitter. Not a lot of difference, except that (1) White makes twice as much money and (2) Trammell has a club option for another year on his contract. Unless the Yankees are picking up part of the tab for White, I can't see why the Pads gain from adding $2.5 million in salary for a guy who will need to have a good backup ready, and while I've always liked Trammell, he doesn't bring anything new to the table. One result should be that Mondesi will be around in NY now at least until Matsui settles in and Juan Rivera gets his feet wet.
BASEBALL: They Don't Make 'Em Like They Used To
March 18, 2003
BASKETBALL: Watch For The Cross
Mike Francesa, on Mike & The Mad Dog yesterday, on the best candidate for a high seed getting upset: "Marquette, by Holy Cross." Francesa calls Ralph Willard's Crusaders "a pain in the butt to play."
GO CROSS GO!
March 17, 2003
BASEBALL: Old Hat
It makes sense for Piazza to appeal the 5-game suspension for charging the mound against Guillermo Mota, especially since accepting the 5-day break later might at least give him some needed rest in May or June. But why does ESPN.com use a picture of Mota from the Expos with this story? The guy's been with the Dodgers for over a year now.
BASEBALL: Roto alert!
As longtime readers may know, I've long been in a rotisserie baseball league (12-team AL-only league, traditional roto categories, non-keeper, auction league). For a variety of reasons, we are one or two teams short this year. While we usually draft in Manhattan, this year we are drafting via AOL Instant Messenger on Saturday, March 22 (provided I can figure out the instant messenging technology by then).
If you are interested in joining the league or know someone who is, let me know; you can reach me at baseball_crank -at- yahoo.com.
BASEBALL: Wise Man
Tommy John surgery for Matt Wise. I've always liked Wise for his control record, but the Angels didn't exactly struggle last year without him.
BASEBALL: Making It Count
I guess it helps him make the Phillies' roster, which is the important thing, but you have to figure it's frustrating, if you are Ricky Ledee, to waste a nine-RBI day on a spring training game.
BASEBALL: Sky High
So, if the Mets play in Mexico City all year, Tom Glavine can pretend that it's just the altitude, right?
March 15, 2003
Prayers, please for Tug McGraw.
POP CULTURE: Saw Doctors Rock!
Well, one non-baseball entry . . . I went to see the Saw Doctors last night at Irving Plaza in lower Manhattan. (Apparently, according to their website, the Galway-based band played at a St. Patrick's Day luncheon the day before in DC for President Bush, Dennis Hastert, and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern). They put on a raucous show, and you can't beat a small venue like that.
Frankly, there's no rational reason why the Saw Doctors aren't international superstars; they're that good, and their mainstream pop-rock sound could appeal to basically any audience other than hard-core hip-hoppers or metalheads. I only recently got into them, so I didn't know all their songs, but most of the ones I hadn't heard were catchy enough to sing along to or at least keep time with after one verse. Probably the most similar recent American band is the Gin Blossoms (who are, by the way, still touring some 6-7 years after their second and last album), but the Saw Doctors' up-tempo stuff is a bit livelier.
The crowd looked to be overwhelmingly Irish-American, as you would imagine, and there was particular enthusiasm for some of the band's blood-and-soil anthems to their native land. There's an exceptionally strong, romantic attachment to Ireland among second- and third-generation Irish-Americans; it's not just the Irish, of course (Italian-Americans, among others, have a similar pull to their Old Country). But it's mistaken to see it as something artificial; there's still a deep emotional attachment, even for people who have never laid eyes on the land of their ancestors.
March 13, 2003
Few sports 'heroes' have let down their fans as badly as Kirby Puckett, who managed, by words and deeds over a period of nearly two decades, to convince us that he was not just an outstanding baseball player but a uniquely good guy. Twins fan and prolific baseball blogger Aaron Gleeman tells us why it hurts so much.
BASEBALL: Run Away!
I was watching last night's Mets-Dodgers game, and the announcers were already talking up the bad blood between Mike Piazza and Guillermo Mota when Mota threw at Piazza. Then he drilled him, and Piazza went into George Brett-Pine Tar mode. Absolutely berserk, eyes popping out, and squaring to punch out Mota. Most baseball fights, guys throw wild roundhouses; they don't know how to fight or don't mean to get into a serious fistfight (A major exception was Ray Knight, a former Golden Gloves boxer in his youth; Knight threw a real pro's punch at Eric Davis in the Mets' famous 1986 brawl, snapping Davis' head back like a punching bag). Piazza, though, was squared up like he meant business, and Mota, tall as he is, threw his glove and turned tail and ran. Nolan Ryan, he ain't. Mota fled all the way into the dugout to get away when Joe McEwing, Jeromy Burnitz and Ty Wigginton went after him, and wound up leaving the park early to avoid a further incident. McEwing got stomped on along the way, but if you're Joe McEwing and they throw at your team's biggest star, you do that. As the papers have noted, Mota and Piazza had one of these blow-ups last year; what I can't seem to locate, but seem to remember, is whether the Mets' feud with Mota goes back to his Expos days (you'll recall some of the epic battles between Turk Wendell and Vladimir Guerrero in recent years).
March 11, 2003
BLOG: An Announcement
An announcement: unless something really outrageous compels me to break silence, I'm pulling the plug on non-baseball content on this blog until . . . well, at least until (1) my rotisserie baseball draft on March 22 and/or (2) the war finally starts. I may keep the ban in place until Opening Day. Basically, I've gotten sick of the same old war debate -- there's no more persuasion to be done, and no more real news to report -- and the whole subject has kept me from getting geared up mentally for baseball season. And isn't that the very freedom we're fighting for? Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom to Pretend The Mets Are Going To Be A Contending Team While I Still Can . . .
LAW/POLITICS: Rethinking Bush v. Gore
On the flight, I caught up on a fascinating draft law review article by Peter Berkowitz and Benjamin Wittes, defending the Bush v. Gore decision against an attack by Laurence Tribe (the article is a working paper and hasn't been cleaned up for legal citation, but I assume it's fair grounds for comment since they put it on the web; link courtesy of Stanley Kurtz at NRO).
The thesis of the article is that both the majority and concurring opinions in Bush, despite the scorn heaped on them from liberal legal academics, were at least reasonable resolutions of the issues before the Court. The authors are careful to point out that the Court really could have gone either way on the Equal Protection ground and could likewise have declined to hear the case at all; they are more definitive in arguing that (1) Tribe is totally wrong and overwrought in claiming that the terms of the Twelfth Amendment (which gives the Senate the job of counting the electoral votes) barred the Court from considering the issue (they note that Tribe himself did not make this argument in representing Gore before the Supreme Court); (2) that the Florida Supreme Court's decisions were not only unreasonable but a clear departure from the statutory scheme and (3) that this departure gave strong support to the concurring justices' conclusion that the recount procedures that were ordered violated Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.
They make two particularly interesting arguments. First, they note that Tribe essentially concedes all the key points of federal law -- i.e., that a sufficiently arbitrary or extreme departure from state law or from equal treatment of voters could justify overturning a recount under both the Equal Protection Clause and Article II -- and thus that his quarrel with the Court is really about Florida law and the facts of the case. This, alone, shifts the ground of the dispute away from the idea that the Court bent or twisted constitutional law, and onto the ground where the Court's critics are on their weakest ground, which is in trying to defend the Florida Supreme Court and the Gore camp's absurdly biased legal strategy. They particularly note the utter lack of justification for the Florida Supremes in counting only a partial recount of Miami-Dade County that tilted to the county's most heavily Democratic precincts.
Second, they note that the Florida Supreme Court was completely unjustified in disregarding the clear statutory mandate of deference to Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris' reading of the election laws, which the Court's critics have apparently elided by looking solely at the recount provisions of the Florida election code and ignoring that the Secretary of State was given authority to interpret the entire election code. This is not the kind of mistake that experienced law professors should make, at least not if they're being intellectually honest.
The authors clearly sympathize more with the Article II argument, and the more I read about the issue, the more I agree with them.
A few of the federal law questions are not addressed by the authors, such as Bush's standing to intervene and raise the Equal Protection challenge, which after all involved not his rights but the rights of the voters (on the other hand, if anyone had standing to raise the Article II issue it would have to be the candidate or possibly the electors). I'd also be interested to see a discussion of whether the political question doctrine would ever justify a federal court in vacating the state court remedy rather than deciding that a political question unsuitable for court decision must therefore be resolved by the state courts.
BLOG: Air Travel
I flew in to Atlanta over the weekend for a wedding. Two observations:
+I got through airport security with a bunch of uni-ball pens in my carry-on bag; this surprised me a bit, since the pens could clearly be used as lethal weapons in a pinch. Still, for precisely that reason, I was glad to have them.
+I wasn't sure the crowd at LaGuardia was paying attention to Paula Zahn's show on the TV overhead until Jonah Goldberg mentioned how PETA was protesting the designation of France, Germany and Belgium as the 'Axis of Weasel' on the grounds that it was unfair to weasels. That drew a big laugh -- ah, the American street.
POLITICS: Kerry v. Sharpton?
Speaking of John Kerry's burdens as frontrunner, TNR argues that he's the one Democrat who can take the short-term heat for denouncing Al Sharpton in the primaries. True enough, as far as it goes; but the problem with Sharpton is November 2004, when he could decide he's been 'disrespected' and pull the plug on Democratic efforts to get out African-American voters in New York and possibly other cities as well. That could hand New York State, at a minimum, to George Bush, and possibly undercut Chuck Schumer's re-election as well if he's facing a decent opponent (if I'm Schumer, I'm quietly doing everything possible now to secure the loyalty of the black churches outside of Sharpton). There are a number of states where even a small swing in the African-American turnout could give Bush the state -- Louisiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Missouri. Losing New York, of course, would be a death blow to any Democrat's hopes of winning the White House, and as I've argued before, the combination of a conservative upstate climate and the intense focus of NY City voters on the war on terror could easily put NY in legitimate play for Republicans on the presidential level for the first time since 1984.
BASEBALL: Murderer's Row
For just a sampling of Alan Trammell's cause for despair at his new job as Tigers' manager, check out this Detroit News writeup on the Tigers' center field prospects. I think he'll be on the phone with Chet Lemon shortly. (Link via Baseball Primer's Clutch Hits).
POLITICS/WAR: Jim Moron
I can't resist the temptation to pile on Jim Moran, the idiot Democrat congressman from Virginia and (I am embarrassed to add) alumnus of my own Holy Cross College, who had a Trent Lott/Cynthia McKinney moment last Monday:
"If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," Moran said, in comments first reported by the Reston Connection and confirmed by Moran. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."
Moran's a fool, and should be shown the door in 2004, like Earl Hilliard and McKinney before him; hopefully his largely white constituency will have the same good sense that Hilliard's and McKinney's African-American constitutents showed, and will dump him in the primaries. In the meantime, the Democratic party could use to have at least someone prominent denounce the guy (John Kerry, as a former Irishman, might take a whack).
March 10, 2003
BLOG: GREAT MOMENTS IN TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS
I recently received one of those scam emails asking me to help a person purporting to be "Mr samuel savimbi of Angola," purportedly the son of Jonas Savimbi, transfer $25 million out of accounts in the Netherlands. Anyway, here's the key sentence:
I got your contact through"The world bussness journal" when i was desperately looking for a thrust worthy person to assist me in this confidential bussness.
I had no idea that the "world bussness journal" considered me "a thrust worthy person." You learn something new every day.
BASEBALL: Milton Lost
The chief grounds for optimism in Twins-land this year was the hope that any return to earth for the bullpen and some of the outfielders would be cancelled out by a return to health for the team's Big Three starters. With Eric Milton now out 4-6 months, those hopes are fading. Much will now ride on the emergence of Johann Santana.
WAR: Kinsley's Smear
Michael Kinsley, who should know better, argues that the Iraq war is all about oooooooiiiiiiiiiilllllllllllllll. Oh, he claims he's not saying that, but this is as close as Kinsley ever gets to saying anything directly. What's breathtaking, as usual with glib and simplistic critiques of the Bush Administration's Iraq policies, is the failure to address so many key points, including: (1) the roots of terror in the despotisms of the region, and the need to revolutionize the area; (2) the whole 12-year history with Saddam; and (3) the substantial differences between Saddam and North Korea.
POP CULTURE: Do As I Say
POP CULTURE: That Guy
Bill Simmons likes to write about "That Guy" actors, familiar character actors you see over and over but never know their names. Here's one I finally bothered to look up: James Rebhorn (Here's a picture)
LAW: How Justice Scalia Really Feels
Justice Scalia, on his decisions striking down anti-flag-burning laws under the First Amendment: "Just between you and me, I don't like scruffy, sandal-wearing, bearded people who go around burning the United States flag, and if it were up to me, I would ban it." (Link via Antioch Road).
WAR: The North Korean Standoff
Steven den Beste continues to argue with regard to North Korea, as Michael Ledeen does in the case of Iran, that the regime is tottering on the edge and could implode if we make the right moves. Unlike Ledeen, who has extensive (if murky) sources in Iran, den Beste is working principally from an analysis of the regime's own behavior. Charles Krauthammer seems less optimistic, although he agrees with the basic strategy of trying to buy some time at least until the Iraq crisis has passed. Both theses, hinging on North Korea's need to create a sense of crisis to wrangle new concessions, are supported by the latest report of the test-firing of a missile at Japan. Of course, what's bizarre about the whole spectacle is the North Koreans repeatedly taking aggressive acts towards its neighbors, who -- locked in a sort of international battered-wife syndrome -- keep insisting that the North is no threat. As Krauthammer aptly notes, this is a rational strategy if their goal (much like that of our European 'friends') is to delay until the North is able to threaten the U.S. directly, in hopes that this will lessen the threat to its neighbors.
March 9, 2003
BLOG: I'm Back
I'm back from my trip to Atlanta; more on that later as time permits.
March 6, 2003
Liberal blogger Atrios is outraged, rightly, at vicious anti-Semitic and pro-Hitler statements made by the Reverend Moon. This is nasty, nasty stuff, and totally inexcusable.
Atrios has another point in mind: discrediting the crusading conservative newspaper Moon owns, the Washington Times. Like a lot of bloggers on the left, he wants to analogize this to the crucial organizational role played in annti-war protests by ANSWER and other groups run by Communists.
I don't buy the analogies, for two reasons:
1. The anti-war movement pretends to be a popular mass movement; much of its efforts have been directed at getting publicity for the size of the crowds it draws, etc. Thus, it's exceptionally relevant to show that such a movement is being directed by Stalinists.
2. The anti-war movement has invested a huge amount of emotional capital in criticizing and demonizing the motives and financial backing of those who support war, usually as a way of avoiding the merits. Turnabout is always fair play.
Again, I'm not disagreeing with Atrios' condemnation of Moon, just his preferred use of the information.
WAR: Tuesday's Lileks
Tuesday's Lileks on the kidgitprop being pushed on his 2 1/2 year old daughter (i.e., "root causes," multilateralism, etc.) is another classic. For my part, I've told the kids (3 and 5) that our soldiers will be going to fight a war soon, that Saddam is a very bad man who killed a lot of people, and that they will have to kill him or put him in jail. My son understood, although he did need reassurance that nothing would happen to him. I'm not gonna hide the truth (as opposed to September 11, which we had to hide from the kids because they knew where I worked).
WAR: Kurtz Follow-Up
Once again, don't miss Stanley Kurtz's followup on North Korea, including some links to a few people who criticized his earlier analysis.
POLITICS: Which Biased Media?
Mindles Dreck with some thoughts on Alterman, Bernard Goldberg, and media bias; of particular significance is his observation that the leftist critiques of the media come from people who are quite far to the left, and who think of mainstream Democrats as being "conservative." It's also worth noting that the two sides focus on different issues: Goldberg is talking about social issues, while Alterman and his ilk seem obsessed with labor-management disputes.
WAR/POLITICS: Liquid Resolve
WAR: Howard Stern at War
A friend who listens to Howard Stern notes that Stern had praise yesterday morning for Bush's foreign policy. Basically: (1) he's doing what needs to be done, and if you had half a brain, you could see that; (2) it fell into his lap because "previous presidents" didn't have the nerve to do anything about it; and (3) he's clearly not doing this just to be re-elected, since there's a big risk that events in North Korea and/or Iraq could result in him not being elected.
Guys like Stern can be pretty conservative on foreign policy and crime issues, much like a lot of non-political people, and as a result can be a good barometer of public opinion on that stuff. Just listen to this recent analysis on Slate:
The No. 1 morning radio show in most big cities has more listeners-way more-than The Tonight Show has viewers. And that morning show, in most cases, is a talk show. But it's not Rush or even Dr. Laura and her pinched morality. No, it's the guys liberals and conservatives alike deride as "shock jocks": frivolous, foul-mouthed, fabulously popular-Howard Stern, Chicago's Mancow, and their more overtly political cousins, Don Imus and the morning mayor of black America, Tom Joyner. . . . AM talk-Rush, Dr. Laura, Hannity-targets middle-aged white guys. Surprise: They tend to be conservative. But FM talk-Stern, Joyner, Mancow, Don and Mike in Washington, Tom Leykis in Los Angeles-scores with young men, guys who like their radio on the risqué side, with a bulging menu of sex jokes and a powerful message that this is America and you can do whatever you want. Hint to Democrats: You may not like to admit this, but these are your voters.
WAR: More Enemies
Add Pakistan's Jamaat-e-Islami party to the enemies list, if they weren't already; the group's spokesman praises bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Muhammad as heros.
Barbara Boxer: "People have to wake up in this nation . . . We cannot take for granted the gifts we have. And right now, these gifts are going back to the store, and the refunds are going into the pockets of the privileged." Uh, does that mean that Boxer thinks that America's "gifts" are indulgences granted by the wealthy? Or, specifically, that our "gifts" are really all wealth redistributed from the welalthy by taxes? (I suspect the latter). (Registration required; link via OpinionJournal)
Martin Kramer notes that America's academic experts on Iraq have been useless in explaining the current conflict because none of them have studied the current regime.
Ron Rosenbaum has a penetrating look at Michael Ledeen's hero, CIA mole-hunter James Jesus Angleton, including his role in the Cold War and his relevance today.
BLOG: Flame War
I think the moral of this story is, don't mess with den Beste.
March 5, 2003
WAR: Ted Sez
Ted Kennedy says "inspections are working." Gee, I feel much better now.
Let's think about what this means. If you buy the idea that disarming Saddam is enough (which I don't -- I'm for regime change anyway), presumably you mean removing all his WMD and disarming him of such weapons permanently. Let's look at just two problems with this:
1. Most of the weapons involved can be moved around pretty easily . . . hell, if the inspectors are so good that a handful of them can spot any weapon the size of a toaster oven in a country the size of California, we should hire them to replace the whole damn DEA. I mean, just tons of cocaine comes into this country every year, and we still don't have enough cops, DEA agents, etc. to find it all. And we run this $^!$#^! country. In the real world, as opposed to the short-term world of a single news cycle, I can't see how you can realistically certify permanent compliance with less than a permanent occupation of Iraq by an army of inspectors.
Two examples. First, ask Ted K. what would happen if Roe v Wade was overturned - I gar-on-tee he'd launch into tales of back-alley abortions to come by the thousands. I'm sorry, a functioning abortion clinic is a heck of a lot harder to hide than a couple dozen cannisters of mustard gas that are being saved up for a rainy day. Ted tells us, we could never stop all the abortionists (I'm actually skeptical of this, but let's accept it for the sake of argument). Yet, this tiny band of inspectors will find all the weapons?
Second, did Ted K. support the Brady Bill, and does he support 'ballistic fingerprinting'? Why do we need a bunch of bureaucratic requirements to track guns when we could just hire five hundred gun inspectors to locate all the guns in the United States, now and forever?
You see my point. In domestic law enforcement, we don't pretend that a quick look by a tiny coterie of inspectors is a guarantee that we can find everything we're looking for. Why should we buy the same argument for a foreign country?
2. So, we let's say disarm Saddam. Then we leave, with him still in power, sanctions lifted, his germ/chem/nuke scientists still in the country . . . does anyone really think he would never try to get the same weapons again???
WAR: A "nonthreatening message"
So, let me get this straight: we are sending North Korea "a nonthreatening message" by . . . moving a bunch of bombers into their neighborhood??? Boy, is that ever a masterpiece of diplomatic doubletalk.
March 4, 2003
WAR: Kurtz: The Horror
This Stanley Kurtz piece on the inevitability of war with North Korea is a chilling must-read; Kurtz makes a very good argument that this is, militarily speaking, a case for a tactical nuclear first strike, because (1) we need to hit the Yongbyon reactor now, before NK's nukes become portable; (2) the immediate response would be an artillery barrage that would level Seoul; and (3) the only way to preempt that barrage is a nuclear first strike on the hardened bunker positions of the NK army along the DMZ. Still, even the most hardedned of hawks have to recognize that the ramifications of such a decision would be horrifying, in terms of international opinion and perhaps domestic opinion as well. More on this later.
BASEBALL: Art Work
Projo's Art Martone (registration required) has some insightful observations on the Red Sox.
LAW: Diarmuid O'Scannlain
Howard Bashman has 20 questions with Ninth Circuit judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain. Key quote, on the metastatic growth of the Ninth Circuit and its docket: "we are losing the ability to keep track of our own precedents."
WAR: Khalid Shaikh Muhammad
The capture of serial killer Khalid Shaikh Muhammad is rightly hailed as proof that the United States can, in fact, "walk and chew gum at the same time" in fighting Al Qaeda while preparing to invade Iraq, regardless of what you hear from Democratic politicians and lefty bloggers who claim that supporters of war with Iraq are "OBJECTIVELY PRO BIN-LADEN." Some people (like Ross Douthat and Mickey Kaus) have argued that we should not have publicized Muhammad's arrest, since the announcement gives terror operatives whose identities he (or his laptop) might reveal time to run for cover. But personally, I tend to see it another way: announcing his capture will make it harder to catch these guys, yes, but in the short run it should ruin their operational capacity -- which is more important, really. We know who they are, we'll find them eventually. In the meantime, they are back on their heels at just the moment when they'd love to strike us and may have been planning things.
Also, how completely tone-deaf to US and non-Arab opinion generally are these guys if they think it's a good idea to hit Pearl Harbor?
Finally, the NY Times points out that Muhammad's governing obsession is with Israel. More proof that the security of the U.S. and eradication of anti-Israel terrorism are really not separate issues.
WAR: The Careerists
Although he spins it in the opposite direction, Josh Marshall has great news in the Bush Administration drumming out career employees in the national security apparatus whose opposition to Administration policy makes them part of the problem.
WAR: Iranian Election Results
Iranian election results, showing a setback for 'reformers' amidst plunging voter turnout, suggests growing dissatisfaction with the reformers' empty promises. Of course, the mere fact of free elections makes Iran more complicated than your typical totalitarian country. The questionn is whether this is another sign that only revolution, not reform, will change the regime.
BASEBALL: Gil Hodges For Hero
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) continues its bizarre campaign for Gil Hodges for the Hall of Fame. The Journal doesn't really pretend that Hodges' case is based on his playing accomplishments:
[T]he Hall of Fame is not just about numbers. Its rules plainly state that in addition to athletic ability, membership is also to be measured against "integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to the team." In all of these categories Gil Hodges, a decorated Marine veteran of Guadalcanal, is in a league all his own. So much so that Hodges's Hall of Fame candidacy may be the only issue that has found Rudy Giuliani, Yogi Berra, the columnist Richard Reeves, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and this editorial page all on the same team. In an age where Americans have become cynical about their professional athletes, here's hoping that the game that calls itself the National Pastime might soon have the wit to embrace one of the few within its ranks truly deserving of the word "hero."
Uh, well, yeah, Hodges was a hero and a role model. So was Eddie Grant. Hodges is hardly unique in being a war hero; the Hall has already enshrined combat veterans like Yogi, Ted Williams, Warren Spahn, Grover Alexander, and Bob Lemon. The supplemental criteria to the contrary, it's not the Hall of Integrity and Sportsmanship. Hodges was a fine player and a good man, but the Hall has enough problems managing the criteria it already uses; enshrining a guy primarily for his "integrity, sportsmanship, [and] character" would only add to the confusion. A greatful nation -- and two greatful boroughs -- thank you, Gil. That should be enough.
POLITICS: McCarthy, Objectively
WAR: My Point Is
Slate's Will Saletan with a column that says . . . nothing, as far as I can tell.
POLITICS/LAW: Eenie Meenie
Kathleen Parker on a lawsuit claiming that "eenie meenie miene mo" is an irretrievably racist phrase giving rise to liability for damages. She's not kidding, unfortunately.
As you can see above, we've reached 10,000 page views! A milestone of sorts, albeit a reminder of how small this blog is compared to some of the bigger ones.
March 3, 2003
BASEBALL: BP 2003
I recently picked up my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2003. A few thoughts:
1. The book now has actual stats, not just context-translated stats. I attribute this nod to conventional baseball-book practice mainly to the desire to snag more market share among the lucrative Rotisserie Baseball player market, as well as to the opportunity presented when the popular STATS, Inc. Handbook was pulled from the market by its new publisher.
2. No EqAs! EqA may well be a well-thought-out system, but I always found the translation into a batting average-type number distracting; I prefer measuring sticks like Runs Created/27 outs or Offensive Winning Percentage that enable you to explain the stat's thrust to a non-stathead without sounding like a monumental dork ("see, it's this measurement of offensive value pegged to a batting-average style scale . . . ") As with a few of the missing metrics, like the pitcher W-L approximations, I wonder if part of the idea was to make more things available only on the $39.95 subscription-only website.
3. No Pitcher Abuse Points. Personally I found the PAP system somewhat useful, but it was always obvious that the system was just a warm-up to a more systematic study. I suspect the PAP system was killed off by Will Carroll; I haven't digested much of Carroll's work yet, but he seems to be taking seriously a systematic study of injuries, a fruitful area for inquiry.
4. I like the new PECOTA projection system (I assume the acronym is a homage to Bill Pecota). As with most systems of this type, I don't have the technical expertise to judge the system itself, but as for its governing assumptions, I like the move to advance Bill James' Similarity Scores by looking at a player's prior 3 years rather than just his cumulative career numbers (this is a particularly significant advance for players over 30), as well as the system's recognition that it's projecting a range of possible outcomes and telling you the odds of each, rather than just making a single "projection." (It also seems that there are, for hitters, fewer stunningly optimistic projections, which especially in the case of young players has been a problem for past Prospectuses; you had to discount rookie projections if you were relying on BP for a Roto draft or risk getting roasted).
One minor bone to pick: Nate Silver identifies Similarity Scores as having been introduced by Bill James in The Politics of Glory, his Hall of Fame book published in the mid-1990s, when in fact -- although I couldn't immediately locate the reference -- James introduced them in one of his Abstracts back in the 1980s.
5. The snider-than-thou random potshots on non-baseball topics still appear throughout the book, and have started to wear real thin on me; it's not really a good idea to heap gratuitous insults on subjects that are not at hand, in my opinion, since you never know what your audience thinks about other topics, and why limit your baseball audience? (I know James did this stuff too, but he at least always had an air of the cranky professor giving up his personal biases and going off on long tangents, rather than just tossing out anonymous hit-n-run one-liners). On the other hand, the book seems almost conciliatory in dealing with baseball management -- the comment on Steve Phillips is a good example -- which could suggest a new humility, or could suggest that these guys are more 'insiders' now, more dependent on (and interesting in becoming) baseball insiders, and less willing to be nasty to them.
BASEBALL: THE NEVERENDING STORYLINE
NY Times, March 2003: Compares David Cone comeback to Tom Seaver's aborted 1987 comeback.
Bill Simmons, July 2001: Compares David Cone comeback to Tom Seaver's aborted 1987 comeback.
March 1, 2003
POLITICS/LAW: That Depends What The Meaning of 'Impartial' Is
I think I'd have to agree that, especially if I'm a prosecutor, I wouldn't want Bill Clinton on a jury.
WAR/POP CULTURE: Sonic Jihad
John Hawkins of Right Wing News catches up on an appalling pro-terrorist album cover (for the album "Sonic Jihad") and matching lyrics by rapper Paris.
POP CULTURE: Another Farewell to Mister Rogers
Ross Douthat has the best eulogy I've read for Fred Rogers.