"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
May 30, 2003
WAR: WMD or Not WMD?
The conservative/pro-war side of the commentariat and the blogosphere has been disappointingly silent in dealing with the absence of findings of weapons of mass destruction. It's understandable; the allies haven't found what we expected them to find, and nobody wants to concede anything yet if we might learn a more favorable truth later.
I feel a long post on this coming on. For now, Kathleen Parker, one of the wisest and most temperate of conservative pundits, has some thoughts on the subject.
BASEBALL: No Relation To Wendell
Highway robbery for the Red Sox in getting the talented 24-year-old fireballer Byun-Hyung Kim from Arizona for Shea Hillenbrand, assuming that Kim is healthy, that is (he just got off the DL). Granted, I'm heavily biased towards sidearmers, but Kim has a higher upside, he's younger than Shea and still reasonably cheap (he makes $3.25 million; Hillenbrand's a bargain at $407,000), and the Sox already have another guy who plays Hillenbrand's position; Hillenbrand can't do anything that Bill Mueller can't. I think this is an absolute steal. Granted, Hillenbrand's guts & attitude have made him a better player than he looks on paper, but he's still a guy who won't have a great average or power numbers, never walks, doesn't steal bases and isn't a great fielder. In the minors he was a mediocre hitter, an awful fielder and often injured. It's true that pennants have been lost for the want of guys like Hillenbrand, but he's still basically a much easier commodity to replace than Kim.
I liked Kim as a starter, and it appears the Sox may stick with that even if they could use a closer. Kim has a less than stellar record against the Yankees, but then, Scott Brosius isn't around to torture him anymore.
Baseball Prospectus lists most-similar players to each guy at same age. Hillenbrand's #1 is Frank Malzone, but #4 is more intriguing for history-minded Sox fans: Danny Cater. Think he'd be worth dealing for a closer?
Kim's comps include Bruce Sutter (#2), Tom Hall and Luis Tiant (his most similar, by far, is Scott Williamson).
BASEBALL: Joe D.
Great article on Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak -- not the 56-game streak, but the professional-record 61-game streak he had in the Pacific Coast League in 1933 (link via Clutch Hits). What's particularly impressive is that the streak started when Joe D. was basically a nobody, a right fielder batting .250 two months into his first professional season and playing in the best minor league in the country. 70 years ago today was his coming-out - DiMaggio had gone 1-4 on May 28 in the second game of a doubleheader, but May 30 was the turning point:
DiMaggio went 6-for-10 -- with a double, triple and home run -- in a doubleheader in Seattle. In those days, a series was a week-long affair, and DiMaggio recorded multiple-hit games in four of the Seals' next five against Seattle.
A star was born.
One thing that almost certainly made the streak easier, especially for a raw rookie, was the PCL's practice of 7-game serieses, which meant seeing the same starting pitchers twice in a week.
POLITICS: The Man Who Came To Dinner
Lately I've been thinking that the one good thing about Hillary! and her presidential ambitions is that it would keep Bill from campaigning for a repeal of the 22d Amendment.
Naturally, I was wrong.
I'm actually not opposed, in principle, to Clinton's proposal (changing the limits to two consecutive terms rather than two terms per lifetime). But still . . . I mean, please, just go away.
POLITICS: Times-Bashing Roundup
You may have seen some of these:
Andrew Sullivan: "The choice at the Times is between frauds and ideologues."
"Yes, you can take some stringer's notes and compose a story, but the difference between that an[d] a piece you wrote from your own research is the difference between a Penthouse Forum letter and your recollection of your wedding night."
May 29, 2003
BASEBALL: Dunn Strikes Out
Joe Sheehan's all upset about Bob Boone benching Adam Dunn over his strikeouts and low batting average ("every game he starts on the bench is another notch in the argument that Boone should be fired. "). I'd agree with Sheehan that Dunn should, as a general matter, be playing everyday given his .569 slugging average. But consider:
1. It's May. If Boone is trying to get a message to Dunn, now's the time to do it.
2. Dunn entered the series in Atlanta in a horrendous 2-for-22 slump.
3. Dunn's .321 on base percentage is too low for a corner outfielder, something I'm sure Sheehan would recognize if Dunn was hitting .285. Because Dunn's hitting .222, Sheehan's quick to defend him on a theory of "Boone's overempasizing batting average." Yeah, maybe; but Dunn does need to hit better than .222 if he's going to get on base enough for the Reds to get anywhere. If a benching for a few days in May gets his attention, that may well be worth it.
BASEBALL: Hating Clemens
Bill Simmons was back in the zone Tuesday with some classic Clemens-hating smack talk. Michele at A Small Victory agrees (along with a great picture), and she's a Yankee fan. David Pinto adds his two cents. Art Martone hands over the soapbox to Lyford for a thorough attempt to rebut Art's homage to Clemens as the Red Sox' greatest pitcher (I still agree with Art on that one).
I'd raise an interesting question for Sox fans, though: would you rather have had Clemens' career with the Sox, followed by his post-Sox career, or Dwight Gooden's career with the Mets, followed by his post-Mets career? Leaving aside, for the moment, the fact that the Mets won a World Series with Gooden (in which Gooden pitched terribly but to which Gooden contributed heavily by his brilliant pitching in the NLCS)?
I'd take Clemens, even with the bellyaching and the betrayal. Gooden was even more disappointing; he gave the Mets some great years in the 80s, but he was in steep decline by the time Clemens hit his peak (1990-92). He was a huge embarrassment with his drug problems. Unlike Clemens, he'll never make the Hall of Fame. He even threw in a no-hitter, something the Mets have never had, with the Yankees.
WAR: Cool Story
POP CULTURE: Meet The New Judge
The NY Daily News calls David Schwimmer "the Judge Reinhold of his generation".
POLITICS: Goldberg's Back
Not that he went anywhere, but a classic Jonah Goldberg column yesterday on the NY Times' latest attempt to determine whether young Republicans are actually human. Jonah's work has tended to be more serious lately, as befits the times; this one's more of the old G-File style of full-out mockery.
May 28, 2003
BASEBALL: Jeter and the Yankee Staff
What ails the Yankees? Many things, at the moment; among others, they remain next to last in Major League Baseball (to the woebegotten Rangers defense) in converting balls in play into outs. But since I've raised this issue before, I thought I'd ask again: what is Derek Jeter's glove worth?
Yankees with Derek Jeter in and out of the lineup:
OUT: 3.53 ERA, 0.30 URA, 9.02 H/9, 0.55 HR/9, 2.32 BB/9, 7.68 K/9, .305 BIP%
(URA=Unearned Run Average)
Here are the raw totals:
OUT: 23-10, 295.1 IP, 296 H, 18 HR, 76 BB, 252 K, 126 R, 116 ER, 278/912 BIP
CONCLUSION: Well, you can't blame Jeter for the dropoff in strikeouts and the rise in walks and homers by Yankee pitchers. And the sample size is still fairly small; the Yankee offense has dropped off from 5.93 R/G to 5.16 R/G in the same period, and nobody would argue that Jeter is bad for the offense. But with Jeter in the lineup instead of raw, error-prone rookie Erick Almonte, the Yanks have given up a noticeably higher percentage of hits on balls in play (.317 to .305) and allowed 40% more unearned runs. Clearly, Jeter's return has not been part of the solution.
May 27, 2003
Just posting this to pass on our condolences to David Pinto, whose mom passed away this morning.
BASEBALL: Vina Down
May 26, 2003
LAW/POLITICS: Judges And Politics
Josh Marshall, who's been hung up on redistricting in Texas lately, argues:
Many of those who are defending -- professionally or otherwise -- the DeLay power-grab are arguing that courts simply should not be involved in drawing congressional maps, period. . . . we have an established system and DeLay & Co are changing it . . . the courts-out-of-elections mantle hangs rather heavy on a crew whose president owes his office to a judicial ruling.
Hmmmm. Dr. Marshall's memory of Florida 2000 is rather selective indeed if he expects us to believe that Al Gore would have won Florida if only the courts hadn't gotten involved! For those who have forgotten: there was a long established practice in presidential races of respecting the Election Day outcome, even when (as was the case in 1960 but not in 2000) there were credible bases to believe there had been fraud by the winning party. It was the Bush camp that argued all along that the courts shouldn't be involved in picking presidents, and it was the Gore team that pushed at every turn for a larger role for the court system, including asking the courts to disregard express statutory language enacted by the Florida Legislature and to disregard rulings of the Florida Secretary of State, to whom substantial authority was delegated under the Florida statutes.
In a similar vein, Yale law professor Jack Balkin has been arguing on his blog lately that Democrats are justified in breaking down traditional barriers in another way -- by filibustering appellate court nominees on purely ideological grounds -- because of their anger over Bush v. Gore. Balkin makes the hypocrisy/inconsistency charge a centerpiece of his argument that
[t]he five conservatives were the least likely, one would think, to extend the Warren Court's equal protection doctrines in the area of voting rights. Indeed, one member of the majority, Justice Scalia, is on record as opposing novel interpretations of the Equal Protection Clause that undermine traditional state practices. It is hard to imagine that if the parties had been reversed-and Vice-President Gore had been ahead by 537 votes-the five conservatives would have been so eager to review the decisions of a Republican Florida Supreme Court that was trying to ensure that every vote had been counted. The unseemliness of Bush v. Gore stems from the overwhelming suspicion that the members of the five person majority were willing to make things up out of whole cloth-and, equally importantly, contrary to the ways that they usually innovated-in order to ensure a Republican victory . . . The Justices could have avoided the appearance of a conflict of interest by simply remaining out of the fray . . .
(emphasis added). The quotation is from a Virginia Law Review piece by Balkin and Prof. Sanford Levinson.
Of course, "traditional state practices" is precisely what was not at issue in Bush v. Gore; the central and inescapable fact about the case is that it involved the Court's review of a judicial remedy, one crafted after the election, without any statutory basis, without precedent in history, and without anything but arbitrary standards to guide its implementation. I've posted here my reaction to Bush v. Gore written the day after it was decided, and the more I read about the case, the more I stand by my initial gut reaction to the decision; here's the key excerpt:
"[T]he Court went out of its way to limit this to the facts at hand, and to show how the current system wasn't so much discriminatory as it was lacking in any rational basis. Far more to the point, as far as consistency with conservative principles is concerned, the Court made clear that its decision does not (at least on its face) apply to the conduct of elections generally ("The question before the Court is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections"). Rather, the Court's decision focuses in on, and arguably applies a higher standard for, judicial proceedings to review elections ("[W]e are presented with a situation where a state court with the power to assure uniformity has ordered a statewide recount with minimal procedural safeguards. When a court orders a statewide remedy, there must be at least some assurance that the rudimentary requirements of equal treatment and fundamental fairness are satisfied") (emphasis added). The net result is to counsel state as well as federal courts to be more circumspect in the future in ordering remedies in election cases where the remedy has not been explicitly set out in advance in a statute. It is this aspect of the decision that essentially constitutionalizes the James Baker Doctrine: you can't go to court to change the rules after the election."
In that sense, the Court's decision is deeply and profoundly conservative, and it is not surprising at all that the conservatives on the Court would have found the Florida court's approach so troubling, and so hazardous in its gravtitational pull of courts into what Balkin calls the "low politics" of partisan side-taking. By imposing a higher standard of scrutiny on post hoc judicial remedies in election cases, the Court has (admittedly, at some cost to its own short-term credibility with the public) erected a barrier to the use of courts, state or federal, in such adventures in "low politics" in the future.
As to the idea that the Justices could have "remain[ed] out of the fray" -- that's an awfully convenient bit of ledgermain, given that the matter had already been pushed into the court system. This is why I find it particularly laughable that some commentators have invoked the political question doctrine in this context: the doctrine says that some issues are just not suitable for courts to resolve. How can you apply that to say that courts can not review what are judicially crafted remedies in the first place?
What was clear to me at the time -- something that should have been familiar to any practicing litigator, though perhaps less so to a law professor -- was the extent to which the Court was reacting to the procedural posture of the case and the behavior of the court below.
Read More ¬Ľ
The Court, particularly Justice O'Connor, acted as if they saw the antics of the Florida Supreme Court as being irresponsible and unprecedented; the Court's view in its second decision in the case clearly appeared to be colored by the Florida Supreme Court's insistence on rewriting the deadlines for the protest phase in its initial decision. Balkin, in a Yale Law Review piece on the case, dismisses this possibility mostly on the grounds that the Court did not level any accusation of "invidious motive" at the lower court - but such things are commonly unsaid in appellate opinions that reek of mistrust of a runaway court below.
Consider this exchange, from the oral argument:
BOIES: ... I think, at that point, then you can conclude that what it has done is it's changed the law. But I think the standard is the standard this court has generally applied in giving deference to state supreme court decisions.
O'Connor, remember, was a state legislator herself; it is unsurprising that she would be particularly offended by the cavalier attitude of the Florida Supreme Court towards state statutes. And as I've noted before, the Court was wise to be more skeptical than usual of the state court below, because the siren song of what Balkin calls "low politics" is all the stronger when a state court's decision will have an impact that reaches outside its own state.
Getting back to Balkin . . . oddly, the Balkin-Levinson Virginia Law Review piece 's reference to "traditional state practices" cites in a footnote to Scalia's dissent in the case regarding admission of women to the Virginia Military Institute - which is very much a case where the federal courts sought to change traditional practices of long standing in a state, rather than simply prevent a judicial remedy forged after the fact from creating its own new reality. In other words, it's a red herring.
In fact, the Virginia Law Review piece says little about the substance of Bush v. Gore at all; for that, you need to go to Balkin's Yale Law Review article. The Yale piece goes in some detail on the Florida statutory arguments, and I won't rehash all that here; it's sufficient to note that I've discussed another law review piece at some length that I found a good deal more persuasive on the matter. (Either way, it is clear that the questions of Florida law can not be separated from the federal constitutional issues).
But the guts of Balkin's argument, and the core of his disagreement with both the majority and the concurring Justices, is his insistence that the Court drew an improper distinction between state courts and state legislatures, while failing to give adequate respect to the difference between state law and federal law. Which is why his protests are ultimately so ironic. Because if Bush v. Gore has any lasting impact on the law, it will be - as Justice Stevens recognized - to draw more firmly a line that places state and federal courts on one side, and legislatures on the other, and a "Do Not Cross" sign in the way of courts of all types. And for anyone concerned about keeping courts out of elections, that's a good thing.
¬ę Close It
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:53 AM | Law 2002-04 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 25, 2003
WAR: The African Front
AfricaPundit's been blogging lately on the war on terror in Africa, and the need for more focus on the activities of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and other terror groups in the region. Sadly, his links are broken (^#!$#%! Blogspot), but check out the stories he links to, including this WaPo article on U.S. Marine operations in Kenya, this one on Al Qaeda's ties to the Liberian regime.
May 24, 2003
BASEBALL: Sell High?
Maybe you've noticed, maybe you haven't, but Robby Alomar's putting together a decent year; even after a fairly slow week, he's still sporting a .361 OBP and a slugging average near .400, he's leading the team in walks and runs scored, and he hasn't been caught stealing in 5 attempts. Lesson: sell. Alomar's still got a big name, and with just this year on his contract, a contending team should be willing to take a flyer. Candidates:
Minnesota: Not known for big spending, and they've got a young 2B with a good glove in Luis Rivas. Still, Rivas' .285 OBP leaves much to be desired. Not likely - with that division, why spend the money now? - but the Twins could be more interested come late July, when they'd have to eat only 2 months salary.
Oakland: Similar story, and less likely, but they did spring for Ray Durham last year. Depends how Mark Ellis is faring in July.
Philly: They're certainly spending, and a rebuilding team doesn't worry about trading aging veterans at the end of their contracts to divisional rivals. Plus, as I've mentioned before, moving Placido Poilanco to a utility role would be an upgrade. Another team that's likely to wait it out.
Cubs: The Grudz is batting over .300, so no hurry here, either. But with a mediocrity like Grudzielanek at second and Bobby Hill buried in the minors, Alomar would be a good fit for the stretch run.
St. Louis: This one has been rumored, but it only makes sense if Fernando Vina's really finished. They, too will wait and see, but they may be more interested in Benitez; with Izzy still out, the team leader in saves is Cal Eldred.
Los Angeles: Maybe your best bet; the Dodgers are starved for offense. But Alex Cora, despite his pre-2002 history, has actually hit well last year and this one. Thus, again, they'll be in no rush.
CONCLUSION: Mets have little choice but to hang on to Alomar and hope he's still motivated and playing well in July. If he's hitting above .280 on the 4th of July, there will be plenty of takers.
May 23, 2003
WAR: Um, Yeah.
What Meryl said. Of course, assassinating Arafat isn't necessarily the most practical option; we could always arrest him, since the U.S. has evidence of Arafat ordering the murder of U.S. diplomats in the early 1970s, when (I could be wrong about this) the U.S. didn't grant him any special diplomatic status.
The Bush Administration, of course, will do no such thing, and for reasons of the larger picture, that's probably for the best. But for Israel, not so much.
WAR: Iran and Al Qaeda
This report may be just one of those non-events that gets leaked periodically from our intermittent talks with the mullahs. Or, maybe, something more.
WAR: Alfonse D'Chirac
If you think about it, Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder are the Al D'Amato and Gray Davis of Europe. Chirac, like D'Amato, is a machine politician who's gotten away with being a little bit cheesy and a little bit sleazy by dint of boatloads of chutzpah and a talent for finding opponents who self-destruct in divisive battles with extremists and third-party candidates.
Schroeder, like Davis, is a hack with no redeeming virtues, neither liked nor respected even by his supporters; like Davis, his main skills are demonizing foreign opponents (Bush, Enron) and lying about the budget.
(Link via Samizdata)
BASEBALL: A Barn-Burner
Great Mets-Braves game tonight, and proof positive that you don't always need a good team to have good baseball games. But having an aggressive team, a team that actually cares, helps an awful lot. Of course, almost any game that ends with the tying run thrown out at the plate is, by definition, a good game.
Maybe the Mets should play Burnitz in center more often, given the grand slam tonight. Then again, it was the defensive switch to Shinjo that made the difference at the end of the game. Either way, it's an embarrassment to Roger Cedeno to see an aging power hitter covering center while Cedeno is stuck in right.
POLITICS: Son of Blair
Reading the New York Observer's bizarre interview with Jayson Blair and its story on his quest to make money off his own misdeeds brought to mind a few points:
1. I had initially been deeply skeptical of why the U.S. Attorney's Office would get involved in something like this, where you'd think that Blair had been punished enough by being fired, publicly humiliated, and almost certainly never working in journalism again. Now, I'm not so sure; at a minimum, there's got to be a way to keep him from laughing all the way to the bank with the proceeds from a book based on his fraud.
2. Consider Blair's taunt: "I fooled some of the most brilliant people in journalism . . . Theyíre all so smart, but I was sitting right under their nose fooling them." Maybe Tim Blair's theory was right: "if I worked for the NY Times, I'd be tempted to destroy its credibility too. Here's to Jayson, the Evil Blair, bringing them down from the inside!."
3. An alternative and banal explanation for the federal prosecutors' interest in the case: Blair freely admits he was using cocaine. Let's say they drop the anvil of a big grand jury investigation on him over the fraud on the Times, then they start asking: hey, maybe you can tell us who your dealer was. A plausible explanation of the feds' motives? Maybe.
LAW: Solum v. Balkin
If you haven't been following the ongoing debate between law professors Lawrence Solum and Jack Balkin about the proper method of constitutional adjudication and judging in general, I'd suggest you go and catch up: Solum's latest salvo, which has links to the earlier posts by both sides (scroll down to Tuesday's post on "Fear and Loathing in New Haven" if the Blogger links are busted) is an excellent illustration of how serious legal theory and jurisprudential philosophy can be written in a style that is chatty, conversational, accessible, and immensely entertaining. Balkin's last post argued, in a nutshell, the usual argument of legal academics on the left: that you have to drink their Kool-Aid and abandon hope of following the Constitution as it was written, or you don't get a lot of the results that we've come to take for granted as popular precedents. I had read this and thought, "I know this isn't right, but I can't quite put my finger on the precise problem with it." Solum has the answer.
POLITICS: The Clinton Bitter-Ender
Christopher Hitchens' review of Sid Blumenthal's new book is now available online. Fortunately, adherents of the permanent campaign to the contrary, someone still remembers what the battles of that sorry era were all about. Hitchens details the extent to which Blumenthal has given himself over so thoroughly to Clinton that he is unable to even address many of the most inconvenient facts. My favorite passage:
I always thought that it was very clever of Clinton to make a mystery where none existed about when, and even where, he had touched Monica Lewinsky. Since his denial was made partly under oath, and involved a legalistic definition even of certain orifices and appendages, it necessitated a minute inquiry. And this allowed Clinton's defenders to paint his critics-his critics-as "obsessed with sex."
May 22, 2003
POLITICS: The Agenda-Setter
Or, as Glenn Reynolds would put it, oh, that liberal media: Michael Kinsley admits what conservatives have been complaining about for years: the vast influence of the New York Times in setting the agenda for news organizations everywhere, a position of "near-universal dependence" that gives the increasingly left-leaning Times power far beyond its own circulation:
[M]uch or even most American news reporting and commentary on national issues derives - uncredited - from the New York Times. . . Even if you don't read the Times yourself, you get your news from journalists at other media who do. The Times sets the news agenda that everyone else follows. The Washington Post and maybe one or two other papers also play this role, but even as a writer who appears in the Washington Post -- a damned fine newspaper run by superb editors who are graced with every kind of brilliance, charm, and physical beauty - I would have to concede that the Times is more influential. . . it is the imprimatur of the Times or the Post that stamps the story as important before sending it back down to other papers - as well as up to the media gods of television.
In fact, I would go so far as to cite both the Times' longstanding liberal slant and its influence on the national media agenda as Conservative Truth #2 in my continuing series.
POLITICS: The Base
Instapundit cites an article worrying about Bush's ability to motivate the conservative base. This is mostly bunk. The article cites conservative worries about the GOP's tepid efforts to cut spending and the growth of government, but this isn't nearly as important to the base voters as war, judges and taxes. Concerns about the judiciary are more significant, but I have no doubt that that issue will escalate as we grow closer to 2004, especially if one or more Supreme Court slots open up. And the idea that Bush's foreign policy is unpopular with the GOP base is just unhinged from reality.
BASEBALL: Mike on OPS'
Mike's Baseball Rants runs the numbers to see what is, historically, the best measure of offense: batting average, on base percentage, OPS, or Rob Neyer's modified OPS', which weights OBP more heavily than SLG. Unsurprisingly, for most of baseball history, it's OPS' - OPS - OBP - SLG - Avg.
A couple interesting observations:
1. Historically, OPS beats plain old OBP by only a narrow margin.
2. As I noted in my May 2001 column on the Ichiro phenomenon, batting average really was the best measure of offense back in the 1870s, but the changes in the game in the 1880s & 1890s (dropping the number of balls for a walk from 9 to 4, cutting down errors, moving the mound back) brought enough walks and extra base hits into the game to change that.
3. The correlation of any of the stats to team runs scored was lower in the 1880s, 1890s, and 1910s than in later years, and dropped off sharply again in the 1980s & 1990s. Slugging average also had a brief heyday in the 1980s. Why? This is just a guess, but I think that the Earl Weaver-Gene Mauch tug of war had something to do with it: stolen bases and other 1-run strategies were on the rise in the 1960s-70s, but by the 1980s, there were large divergences between teams in the use of such strategies, and that may have undermined the relationship that would exist between traditional base-advancement measures and team scoring (i.e., some teams were losing a lot more baserunners than others).
Or maybe it was just that the Red Sox hit into so damn many double plays.
Either way, I'd be interested to see whether there's a particular type of team that tended to deviate more from the expected relationship between OPS' and runs.
(Mike's post is the one titled "You're So Money, Baby!", if you have trouble with the Blogger permalinks. Mike, come over to Movable Type: all the cool kids are doing it! Make you feel good!)
BASEBALL: Ouch, Ouch, Ouch
Mike Piazza's "groin muscle is . . . folded up like an accordion."
WAR: Be Vewwy Qwiet, We'we Hunting Canawds
Stuff like this is why newspaper people hate the internet. Or at least, why lazy, nitwit columnists do.
POLITICS: Who Is Neo?
Great G-File yesterday wrapping up a 3-part series on media misunderstanding and abuse of the term "neoconservative." Money quote: "Victory has many neocons, failure few - and all Jewish."
May 21, 2003
BASEBALL: Rocket Fumes
So Roger Clemens wants to go in the Hall of Fame as a Yankee. Thankfully, the Hall took back the decision over what hat is on the plaque after the controversy over Dave Winfield basically auctioning off his hat to the Padres.
Now, if Clemens said "Blue Jays," you might consider it reasonable. Maybe. But Clemens' HOF ticket was fully written by the time he came to NY. I mean, seriously:
Clemens' career in Boston: 192-111 (.634), 3.06 ERA
Clemens' career in Toronto: 41-13 (.759), 2.33 ERA
Clemens' career in NY through 2002: 60-27 (.690), 4.01 ERA
Clemens' best ERA in NY has been 3.51, half a run higher than his career ERA before he arrived in NY. Nobody can seriously think he should enter the Hall in a Yankee hat, and it's pure spite against his old teams that Clemens would even consider such a thing.
OTHER SPORTS: Sorenstam's Gamble
I just don't see the point in the PGA trying to ban women in response to Annika Sorenstam entering a PGA event, or in Vijay Singh refusing to play against her. This isn't Billie Jean King playing a washed-up has-been and declaring "victory" in "the Battle of the Sexes," and it isn't about a woman demanding a right to special treatment. As long as she hits off the same tees as the men, she has every right to play. Phil Mickelson said it best: "I look at the PGA Tour as being the tour for the best players in the world," not just the best men. Men will always dominate the PGA anyway; where's the harm in letting the best woman see how far she can go?
May 20, 2003
BASEBALL: Kinney Can
Far from the madding crowd, one of this year's real success stories is former Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Matt Kinney, having a fine year for the Brewers. With a solid outing last night (8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K) Kinney is now 3-3 (an accomplishment for the 16-29 Brew Crew) with a 3.43 ERA, and his overall line is more impressive: 57.2 IP, 44 H, 6 HR, 19 BB, 51 K.
The 26-year-old Kinney's had little prior success at the major league level, although the Baseball Prospectus blamed last summer's struggles on shoulder tendinitis that sapped his velocity. Hopefully he can handle the increasing pitch counts that are coming his way: 108, 109, 91, 110 and 116 in his last five starts. That's still a pretty moderate workload, but if he hangs around 115 most nights out, that may start to take a toll on a guy who's not accustomed to a full season major league workload.
BASEBALL: The Poor 44, Part 2: 113-118
This is Part Two of a series on the worst-hitting everyday players of 2002.
108-124: The Weak Spots (Stats listed as Avg/OBP/Slg (OPS))
2002 with Cardinals/Phillies: .288/.330/.403 (733 OPS) (604 PA)
Polanco's actually playing everyday, but his time has been restricted by injury. You can do worse than Polanco, as we shall be reminded as we descend the list. And nobody's more aware of this than the Phillies, who for the last several seasons have suffered through Marlon Anderson (695 OPS) at 2B. Last season, Polanco played 131 games at third base; this season, he's been used exclusively at second, which immediately moves him from "critical lineup hole" to "slightly subpar player." On top of that, Polanco - always a good hitter for average - has been walking more this season (he's also been hit by 5 pitches compared to 8 all last year), and as a result has brought his OBP up to a respectable .359.
VERDICT: Polanco's still better suited to utility duty; he's still not a guy who will hit for much power, draw a lot of walks or hit .300, but he murders lefthanded pitching (.368 this year, .341 the prior 3 seasons). But the Phillies have intelligently (if expensively) addressed the situation by moving Polanco to second to replace Anderson with David Bell. That, at least, is progress.
2002 with Dodgers: .281/.330/.402 (731 OPS) (614 PA)
Yes, Paul LoDuca; the rookie sensation of two years ago has left those 25-homer days only a memory. LoDuca hit .281 last season as an everyday catcher in Dodger Stadium, and there are some indications that he was playing hurt.
VERDICT: While his overall numbers are disappointing, you wouldn't consider replacing him, and the Dodgers - short as they are on bats - haven't. They did bring in a shell of the former Todd Hundley, who's scarcely played. LoDuca, like Polanco, has helped himself this season by walking more, and if that holds up, he'll recapture a little more of that 2001 magic.
2002 with Pirates: .246/.322/.408 (730 OPS) (518 PA)
2002 with Brewers: .257/.332/.397 (729 OPS) (500 PA)
Ye wasteful spendthrifts, repent! Young and Hammonds are still working off their horrendous contracts, although "working" for Hammonds is a relative term; he's back to his usual position on the DL. The Pirates have at least taken Young out of the lineup, albeit to replace him with a younger Kevin Young (Randall Simon).
VERDICT: These guys are done as everyday players. Anyone with half a brain would have seen that they were never worth the many millions these purportedly poverty-stricken teams showered on them. The Brewers may try to play Hammonds when healthy, but John Vander Wal (even at his own advanced age) remains a better option with the bat, and Hammonds lacks the glove to challenge the weak-hitting 26-year-old Alex Sanchez in center field.
2002 with Dodgers: .257/.303/.426 (729 OPS) (624 PA)
My first baseball blog post, last August, argued that Beltre had made The Leap, pointing to his .372/.410/.649 AVG/OBP/SLG line over the prior month. I've been at a loss as to what's happened to him; maybe the abdominal surgery has never quite healed? One likely culprit that's at least partially responsible: plate discipline.
BB/K Per 600 PA, and OPS:
Hmmmm. Sometimes, it really is that simple. And notice that it's not the strikeouts, which have been fairly level; it's the fact that his walks fell off the cliff in 2001 and have not recovered.
VERDICT: You don't give up on a guy like Beltre quite yet, but the words "Fernando Tatis" are starting to sound familiar. At a minimum, the Dodgers shouldn't build their pennant race plans around the assumption that he'll just bounce back.
2002 with Devil Rays: .254/.330/.396 (727 OPS) (633 PA)
Cox is off to Japan, freeing up at bats for . . . well, actually for Travis Lee.
VERDICT: I'd always expected better from Cox, who had good minor league numbers and hit well in 2000 before regressing, particularly in the power categories. Replacing him with the punchless Lee isn't much, if any, improvement.
POLITICS: Why Tacitus Is Not A Democrat
A lot of liberal bloggers have been trying to get Tacitus, their favorite conservative, to switch sides. In this excellent post, he explains why he can't and won't.
My own list would put the judiciary a clear second (behind national defense).
POLITICS: One More Observation
Christopher Caldwell, on Jayson Blair and the Times:
The Times has been drifting more and more towards front-page stories on trends and passions and tough-to-capture states of mind. This is what leads to all the talk about "resonating pain" and "acute hurt" and (as the Times puts it elsewhere in its Blair account) "emotionally charged moments." Some of these stories are backed up with polling numbers, some with a handful of sources speaking in the abstract. And many are excellent. But they do not stand and fall on facts and they are the farthest thing from all the news that's fit to print. They're the door through which Jayson Blair's devious idea of journalism entered the nation's greatest newspaper.
May 19, 2003
BASEBALL: 300 Wins
The Baseball Primer's Chris Dial argues that the 5-man rotation is innocent of charges of killing off the 300-game winner; in fact, he argues that the 5-man rotation may have helped guys get to 300. After all, as I've noted before, Clemens could still be followed by Maddux and Glavine, especially if Glavine can get out of Queens by August.
Dial starts with the obvious: only three 300-game winners started their careers between from 1920 and the mid-1960s. The 300-game winner was thus rare before the mid-60s.
There's a bunch of factors at work here, and clearly a larger one is the fact that modern pitchers don't go as deep into games. But Dial says in the comments:
The 300-G winners from the 60s didn't get 40 starts per season over their careers. Okay, Niekro and his knuckleball would start more often. Seaver *never* started more than 36 games in a season. There would be 3-5 pitchers each season that got more than 36 GS, but not one per team or anything. By 1974, the 5-day rotation was in full use.
I decided to look more closely at the six guys from the 70s who made it to 300. Let's say you capped all their seasons at 35 starts each - where does that get you? For each pitcher, I prorated Wins/Starts down to 35 starts (ignoring the fact that they sometimes made relief appearances):
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1. Steve Carlton, 329 Wins
Carlton started more than 35 games in a season 9 times; prorating his starts, that got him an extra 16 wins. Net: 313 wins.
2. Nolan Ryan, 324 Wins
Ryan started more than 35 games in a season 5 times; prorating his starts, that got him an extra 10 wins. Net: 314 wins.
3. Don Sutton, 324 Wins
Sutton started more than 35 games in a season just 4 times; prorating his starts, that got him an extra 6 wins. Net: 318 wins.
4. Phil Niekro, 318 Wins
Niekro started more than 35 games in a season 9 times; prorating his starts, that got him an extra 15 wins. Net: 303 wins. But then, in the late 70s, Niekro was starting every third or fourth day in what was otherwise an irregular rotation; none of the other Braves pitchers started 40 games a year in those days. If Niekro were pitching today, he might do the same thing.
5. Gaylord Perry, 314 Wins
The one beneficiary, and the one guy in the group who's almost as much a 60s as a 70s pitcher. Perry started more than 35 games in a season 10 times; prorating his starts, that got him an extra 18 wins. Net: 296 wins.
6. Tom Seaver, 311 Wins
Seaver started more than 35 games in a season just 4 times, and it was 36 each time; he really was in a 5-man rotation, albeit one that worked around his schedule. Prorating his starts, that got him an extra 2 wins. Net: 309 wins.
It's true that the 300-game winners of the 70s mostly got there without much help from the 4-man rotation, but they did each get a few extra wins they wouldn't have otherwise had.
¬ę Close It
BASEBALL: Piazza Down
I'd say the injury to Piazza is the straw that broke the camel's back, but let's face it: that camel's been face down in the sand for a very long time now. Let the rebuilding begin! I'd have to say it's even time to trade Piazza; the good news, in a sense, is that the injury will probably prevent the Mets from dealing Piazza until Steve Phillips has been fired and replaced with somebody with a rebuilding plan beyond "let's bring in more guys in their late 30s who make $10 million a year."
POLITICS: Ignoring Incentives
Following up further on my post on Conservative Truth #1 - that the results of government initiatives will inevitably be affected by how the initiative changes individual incentives - I couldn't have asked for a bettter illustration of how some purportedly mainstream liberals completely ignore this point than this op-ed piece in last Thursday's New York Times by Yale Economics Professor Robert J. Shiller. Shiller argues that inequalty of wealth is "truly frightening":
According to the Census Bureau, the bottom 40 percent of American families earned 18 percent of the national income in 1970, but by 1998 they earned only 14 percent ó and that figure could fall to 10 percent before too long. On a global scale, too, inequality is a problem. Per capita gross domestic product in India in 2000 was only 7 percent of that of the United States, and for China the figure was 11 percent. Such a difference could increase the possibility of greater inequality within America.
(Note that he identifies America's wealth relative to other nations as a problem, which becomes more ominous when you examine his proposed solution). The "cure":
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[F]uture tax brackets and rates should be contingent on the extent of future inequality. Tax law should be based on a principle that might be called inequality insurance: the taxes would be collected in such a way as to insure that the level of inequality, after taxes and transfers, does not exceed the levels present when the law was enacted. If such indexing were put in place today, the brackets and rates would adjust whenever inequality worsened beyond today's levels.
If the nature of the economy changes, and a small number of people capture the lion's share of pretax income, then the tax rates on them would automatically rise, and the tax rates on lower-income people decline, until today's level of inequality was restored. Higher taxes on the high incomes would be imposed exactly at a time when the few are suddenly becoming enriched relative to the many. There would be no delays while politicians debated whether taxes should be raised or cut.
This is just daffy. Shiller blandly asserts that "[t]he new system could be designed so it would always be just as easy for people to attain the same relative economic status that the upper segments of society enjoy today. There is no reason to worry that more wealthy people will feel any less of an incentive to work hard than they do now." But his automatic-tax-hike program would surely place an escalating burden on high earners, and throw in an added level of uncertainty to boot. Worse, the program has only a fig leaf of concern for people at lower income levels; the program has absolutely nothing to do with raising the overall standard of living and everything to do with freezing the ceiling on today's highest earners in place forever.
Then there's this:
Reframing the tax system in this way could help deal effectively with one of the world's most serious problems, which is the potential for growing inequality. Highly talented, educated and hard-working people living in less developed countries often earn only a small fraction of what their counterparts in advanced countries earn. As Americans increasingly compete on a world market, there is a serious risk that their jobs will be given to people overseas and their incomes will drop precipitously ó producing sudden profit opportunities for other Americans and creating sharp increases in inequality here.
So, we should tax ourselves more if other nations prosper?
This is an economist from one of the nation's leading universities, writing in what is supposed to be the nation's leading newspaper, and yet he completely ignores everything we know about the effects of high taxes on human initiative. Unbelievable.
¬ę Close It
POLITICS: Blair Wrapup
I was debating whether to write more on the Jayson Blair affair. The bottom line: yes, as I've already explained, race was a legitimate story here even before Howell Raines admitted it, even though I don't think it was the only or necessarily even the main reason for the problem. This was clearly something of a perfect storm of blind spots at the Times (affirmative action, the "star" system, Blair's sucking up to top management, etc.), but two additional features of the modern workplace have attracted perhaps too little notice:
1. The union. Blair belonged to a guild with a collectively-bargained contract:
In April 2002, according to Raines, the Times issued Blair a formal warning saying that further errors "could lead to your separation." Raines notes that people on the outside have wondered why Blair wasn't fired at that point. However, says Raines, the Times' guild contract prohibits summary dismissal for anything short of plagiarism for personnel, like Blair, working in the "intermediate reporter" program.
I'm not totally against unions, which have important uses, but one of their worst features is the tendency to protect the incompetent and the corrupt from being fired.
2. The ADA culture. The Times' own exhaustive account (now archived - you can't read it online anymore) points in two directions on this. On the one hand, there's at least the implication that Blair may have had severe emotional problems and/or a drinking problem (note the passage that says Blair "was unavailable for long stretches" without further elaboration); it is left unexplored to what extent this was known and ignored. Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a company that knows an employee has such problems actually finds itself less able to discipline that employee for fear of legal liability, even when common sense says that the guy's problems getting the facts straight are probably not coincidental.
But here's the whopper: when Blair was assigned to the sniper case, under national editor Jim Roberts, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd - the men who run the Times
did not tell Mr. Roberts or his deputies about the concerns that had been raised about Mr. Blair's reporting. "that discussion did not happen," Mr. Raines said, adding that he had seen no need for such a discussion because Mr. Blair's performance had improved, and because "we do not stigmatize people for seeking help."
You see the problem: it's not just that Raines didn't tell Blair's new boss that he had personal problems, but that he didn't tell him about Blair's problems with the truth because it might lead to questions about his personal problems or somehow relate to his "seeking help." In other words, by seeking psychological help, Blair - just like many of the worst offenders in the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandals (an apt analogy made by many commentators) - was able to build a protective shield around his professional problems.
I could say more; but Lileks has the last word on two other loose ends from the Blair scandal.
May 17, 2003
WAR: GROMs Away!
News coverage of GROM, the Polish Special Forces, is interesting because it suggests that the Poles understand the idea of niche marketing. Look at it this way: leaving aside defending one's own soil, which everyone has to do and for which everyone in Europe depends to some extent on the United States, the question you have to ask about international influence is this: how does a country exert influence if it has modern skills and technology but doesn't have the resources to be an independent military power? How do you get bang from a limited military buck?
The answer chosen by Poland is to develop a useful segment of military capability -- elite Special Forces -- that can be drawn on by the U.S. and/or the broader international community in larger operations, or can exert behind-the-scenes influence on developing situations. Special Forces units are smaller, cheaper and less visible than, say, infantry divisions, so it's easier to build them without a big public presence, a strain on the budget, or a huge recruiting drive. But modern war has grown very dependent on Special Forces, because of the shift in emphasis to defeating shadowy forces and the need to forestall invaded countries from destroying themselves (e.g., the threat of Iraq firing its own oil wells). And countries like the U.S., with no matter how big their militaries, may thus find it very helpful to be able to call in allied Special Forces units during times of crisis, especially crisis on multiple fronts. That gives the Poles a chip to get in the game, and as we've seen, it has made them a bigger player in Iraq's reconstruction.
BASEBALL: Bill James Chat Wrap
Bill James, the master himself, made an appearance over at ESPN.com the other day. Some highlights:
Jake (Mountlake Terrace, WA): Bill, can we gleam anything from the Win Shares system after only 40-odd games, or is it a tool that's truly accurate after a full 162-game schedule?
Bill James: Nothing. Win Shares are a tool used to analyze a season after it is over. They have no relevance at all to a moving object.
* * *
Jake (Mountlake Terrace, WA): Kansas City Royals: will they merely settle in as a slightly-above .500 team, or will they crash and burn like the 2001 Minnesota Twins? How do you see the young pitchers progressing (or regressing)?
Bill James: I don't honestly see tham as being any better than they have been. Pena has very significantly re-educated a bunch of the young pitchers, many of whom frankly don't look anything like they did last year. This is ONE step toward making them good major league pitchers--but it is just one step along a long road.
(Looks like Jake was hogging the chat)
* * *
Jason Rose (Chicago): What players would you say are the most valuable commodities in all of baseball, taking into account everything (talent, age, contract status, expected durability)? I would say 1) A Rod, (2) Vlad Guerrero and (3) Mark Prior.
Bill James: I think I would be Prior ahead of Guerrero, but that's a REAL good list. I don't know that there is anybody else who would break up that top three.
* * *
Bill James: I don't know; when did you get the last one? I'll have a book to a publisher next spring. . .don't know when it will appear.
* * *
Jordan: There's been a lot of chatter about moving Piazza to 1B. My feeling is that he's of more value as a catcher even with all the stolen bases, especially with offense at such a premium for the Mets. What's your take?
Bill James: I'd move him, and let Mo Vaughn catch. I think he'd throw out about as many runners, and it would be more entertaining to watch.
* * *
Kevin (Harrisburg, PA): Bill, do you think the comparisons of Randy Wolf to Glavine are legit?
Bill James: Yes. If you put Wolf on the Braves, he would win 18-20 games.
Read the whole thing.
May 16, 2003
BASEBALL: Not So Smooth
Aaron Gleeman's Johan Santana Liberation Watch reads as follows:
Is it rude of me to point out that this omits the inconvenient fact that Santana is walking 4.5 men per 9 innings?
I agree with Aaron's larger point - heck, I've got Santana on both of my rotisserie teams, myself - but he's not Randy Johnson, not yet at least.
BASEBALL: Not Enough Hurt To Go Around
The White Sox have spent the season wallowing in mediocrity in a weak division. Quietly, though, Frank Thomas is back: back to walking a ton, back to the big power numbers, and closing in on .300 (he's currently at .279/.566/.438). And as I've previously noted, D'Angelo Jimenez is having a great year; Esteban Loaiza is 7-1 with a 2.05 ERA; and Damaso Marte is having another fine year out of the bullpen, with 4 saves, a 1.80 ERA and a 17-6 K/BB ratio, and looks likely to wind up wresting the closer's job from Billy Koch for the balance of the season.
What's not working? On the pitching side, as usual, the back of the Chicago rotation is a horror show of inexperienced and overmatched starters; Jon Garland and Josh Stewart have been deplorable. But Mark Buerhle, despite a respectable ERA, has also been alarmingly ineffective: Buehrle has allowed an unearned run per 9 innings, and his peripheral stats are ugly - 58.1 IP, 63 hits, 8 HR, 21 BB, just 25 K. Buehrle just isn't fooling anyone.
On the offensive side: impatience. Behind Thomas and Jimenez, nobody's averaging a walk per 10 plate appearances. Carlos Lee, who drew 75 walks last year, has regressed to just 7, leaving him with a paltry .295 OBP; Joe Crede's been twice as impatient and, along with Paul Konerko, hasn't done anything with the bat.
Up, and down; down, and up. With tonight's victory, they're 20-20. The Sox aren't out of anything, not in mid-May in a weak division. But they're treading water.
POP CULTURE: Hendrix Joined By Bassist
Noel Redding, the bass player for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, has died at age 57 of undisclosed causes.
May 15, 2003
BLOG: Smell Like I Sound
Oh, you know I can't resist a good internet quiz:
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BASKETBALL/BASEBALL: RIP Dave DeBusschere
Not much time for blogging this morning, but I would recommend the New York Daily News coverage of the death of Dave DeBusschere yesterday of a sudden heart attack at age 62, including a fine Mike Lupica tribute. (You can get DeBusschere's baseball stats here, including his career ERA of 2.90).
May 14, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: National Disgrace
From a review of Sid Blumenthal's new book by Joseph Lelyveld in the New York Review of Books, hardly a conservative source, on Blumenthal's account of Kosovo:
Even after the staff has been shaken up and Clinton is supposedly master in his own house, speechwriters stick a line promising not to use ground troops in Kosovo in his speech to the nation and Sandy Berger, his national security adviser, fails to take it out. Clinton, we are told, is furious because his options have been limited (though it then takes him more than two months to allow other options to be prepared). Berger is "snookered" by the Pentagon when it forces the NATO commander who had been too blunt in his demand for ground troops, General Wesley Clark, into retirement. "I'd like to kill somebody," Clinton tells Blumenthal.
Um, shouldn't the President of the United States read his own policy speeches before he gives them? Or was he too busy on other parts of the speech to care about the national defense parts? You know, the boring stuff? (And remember, this is an account by one of Clinton's friends).
You never know where the buck will stop. Clinton, it seems, is a prisoner of his own administration, in addition to having to face a baying press and savage opposition. Nowhere is this more the case than in the President's "intense battle with terrorism, a mostly secret war that was largely screened from the public." FBI director Louis Freeh, a Clinton appointee, becomes "a prime mover of scandal promotion against the Clinton administration," to the point that "Freeh's hostility to the White House dictated his lack of cooperation with the war against bin Laden." Clinton wants to do more than fire a few cruise missiles at the al-Qaeda leader; he wants to drop special ops troops into the mountains of Afghanistan in a surprise attack. Powell's successor as chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Henry Shelton, recoils from his commander in chief's idea, saying such an attack would be too risky.
Clinton could always have fired Freeh, if he really believed this and thought the war on terrorism was as important as the battle for high approval ratings. Obviously, he didn't.
And who says a president can't overrule his military commanders? Nobody told George W. Bush that.
(Link via The American Scene)
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:19 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: A Plea For Help
I got the following email last night, and thought I'd pass it along; I don't know that much about this story, although news reports on the web seem to suggest that this is for real:
[O]n February 22nd, 2003, Carl Riccio, my cousin, a 17 year old junior at Watchung Hills High School in NJ, broke his neck during a high school wrestling match. Carl was an undefeated wrestler and a star baseball player. This tragedy made headline news across the country. These accidents occur only twice a year in the sporting world.
If you're wondering why I'm not much in a mood to write about baseball this morning . . . don't ask.
BASEBALL/POLITICS: Fields of Cash
SO, IT TURNS OUT that Major League Baseball has been berry berry good to members of Congress (about 60/40 to the Democrats), notably Dick Gephardt and James Sensenbrenner (the latter is chairman of a committee that oversees baseball's antitrust exemption), although frankly the amounts of money involved (at least for the individual members) isn't that much (you can't buy a guy like Gephardt for $5,000).
Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:00 AM | Baseball 2002-03 | Politics 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Race and Blair
Some commentators have argued that there's something wrong or pernicious in raising questions about whether affirmative action had anything to do with the New York Times' willingness to keep promoting Jayson Blair in the face of mounting evidence that he was incompetent and/or dishonest. There are, to my mind, two obvious reasons why this is a story:
1. It is awfully hard to explain, rationally, why he got away with this, given the huge number of people who expressed doubts or even called for him to be fired. When rational motives fail, try invidious ones. If the shoe fits . . .
2. Had this happened at a less self-righteously PC publication than the Times - say, The New Republic, for example, let alone a conservative paper like the Wall Street Journal - the race point might have been ignored by most commentators. Scam artist being black: not a story. Scam artist being black and working for a paper that loves to talk about its own 'diversity' and editorialize in favor of affirmative action: story. I guarantee that's why people like Kaus and Howard Kurtz are quick to read it this way. In that sense, conservatives have jumped on the Times for this for precisely the same reason liberal commentators jumped on Bill Bennett (albeit with the difference that a massive fraud on the public is a wee bit bigger deal than a guy spending his own money on slot machines): because the Times has been such a scold on issues of race and trumpeted its own willingness to promote "diversity," there's a natural impulse to put them on the spot when a beneficiary of such programs blows up in the paper's face.
And in one very important respect, that instinct has been dead-on: although its now-famous probe of itself referred, among other things, to the fact that "[t]he Times offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom," the Times has steadfastly resisted the idea that any preference was given to Blair that would not have been given had he been white.
You must see the problem for the Times: the paper has repeatedly editorialized that it's perfectly OK to use even the stark racial preferences exposed in the Michigan affirmative action cases - but when pressed, the Times is unwilling to admit that it would give preference to an inferior journalist on the basis of race! In other words, when the paper's own credibility is on the line, it won't stand up for racial preferences, even when the alternative explanation is that the Times just doesn't give a damn about the quality of its newspaper.
Can there be a better illustration of why racial preferences are immoral? When even their most determined champions won't admit to them in the harsh light of day? Bill Bennett, at least, never preached in favor of gambling. The Times wants to discriminate on the basis of race - but only in secret, wink-wink, nudge-nudge. That, in the end, is a much bigger story than one reporter.
POLITICS: . . . and Liberal Craziness
Part of the goal of kicking off the Conservative Truths series was as a way to distinguish the sane and reasonable types of people on the left from the bitter-enders who refuse to concede an inch to reality. There are Liberal Truths as well, and perhaps I'll post some if I can't get someone to bite on running an opposing series that has some sense to it.
The first response I got was revealing of the kind of attitude that conservatives often make fun of, usually to the response from liberal commentators that "nobody really thinks that." But here it is in print, and I swear I'm quoting this guy directly:
Liberal Truth #1: Tax cuts are government spending just like the military and welfare are government spending. It takes government revenue and spends in on a certain program. In this case, the money is spent every year on certain income earners in order to (supposedly) get them to reinvest the money in businesses and production. Tax cuts allot a certain portion of government revenue to supplanting taxed income, leaving the government with less money than it had before - in other words, the government's money is spent on tax cuts.
Wow. Cutting taxes lets you keep "government revenue." Your income, or the return on your investments, is "the government's money." Only out of the goodness of the government's heart does it let you keep any of it at all.
Sanity check: who is it that works for the money? And, come to think of it, whose government is it anyway? If I quit my job, can the government come after me next year and say I still owe the same amount of taxes? This ain't child-support we're talking about; I don't owe the government any obligation, and there's no Platonic ideal of 37% or 50% or 75% marginal tax rates that's being defiled by rate cuts. It's my money, and while society has a right to ask me to chip a portion of it in to pay for various necessities, that doesn't mean that the government has a claim on howsoever much it wants.
Now, when you move away from tax rates to some of the more complicated deductions ("do this and you can keep X that we otherwise would have taxed"), I'm more sympathetic to the argument that you've really got a spending program in disguise as a tax cut. But the basic idea that cutting taxes gives away "the government's money" -- well, that's a sign of a complete loss of perspective on which of us exists for the other's benefit. It's our money, and it's our government.
POLITICS: Conservative Truths . . .
Well, looks like the kickoff of my "Conservative Truths" series really knocked over the beehive, attracting a bunch of comments here and over at CalPundit's site, and we had by far our biggest traffic day ever on Monday (391 unique visitors), which had to be the result of the link from Kevin Drum (although we'd set records on Thursday and again on Friday, in part due to a link from Steven Den Beste).
The buzz is a good thing; the long-term goal here is to build a framework for making sense of political arguments. (Some people weren't happy with the level of generality in my observation about incentives, but the idea here is mostly to work on a general level and refer specific posts back to the theory).
If I made one mistake, it was picking the dividend tax cut, which is intensely controversial and on some level unpredictable in its effects, as the prime example; a more obvious example is simply the Congressional Budget Office scoring system, under which you traditionally assume that there will be no changes in behavior resulting from a tax cut and no economic growth flowing therefrom; the Democrats must be quite aware that these projections are bogus, and yet they and their friends in the media have tended to treat these numbers as gospel truth. And, of course, the entire Great Society welfare system was constructed essentially without regard for how the system would change incentives to work and to keep families together; the failure to account for the incentive effect of such programs was the Achilles heel of the entire initiative.
Another famous example was the luxury tax imposed during the Bush I years; the Democrats argued that they could soak the rich buyers of yachts, but instead, yacht consumption dropped by 70%, with devastating effects on the yacht-building industry, and had to be swiftly repealed. (Granted, The American Prospect argued that the tax still brought in several times more revenue than projected, but that didn't do the guys at the dock much good). The refusal of Democratic policy-makers to consider incentive effects in the way they develop and promote their initiatives remains one of the critical dividing lines between the two major parties.
May 13, 2003
BUSINESS: Not For Thee
Mindles H. Dreck thinks it's funny that the New York Times, even after getting burned by Jayson Blair, is willing to call for onerous regulations of Wall Street while it couldn't live with even modest internal controls for its own business. Of course, Wall Street handles other people's money - but then, as I often see in my law practice, a single Times article can launch a huge and costly lawsuit that can take years to get rid of.
WAR: Intermission Over, Return to Your Seats
The suicide bombings in Riyadh mark the resumption of hostilities and the return, apparently, of Al Qaeda. Although this attack is reminiscent of the Khobar Towers attack, the choice of targets is hugely significant; as far as I can recall, nothing like this has happened in the Saudi capital before. Reports indicate that this may actually be a sign that we are getting real cooperation from the Saudi government. That has to be good news; the failure to confront terrorists is not the only failing of the Saudis, but given how few options we have for replacing them, the collapse of the mutual understanding between the Saudi regime and terror groups like Al Qaeda has to be a good thing.
May 12, 2003
BASEBALL: The Poor 44, Part One
Now, I'm not the biggest fan of OPS - On Base Plus Slugging - as the be-all & end-all of batting stats, but as long as you recognize its limitations, it's one of the quickest and easiest ways to sum up a player's offensive contributions.
According to ESPN.com, 151 players qualified for the batting title in 2002 (an average of a little more than 5 per team, so we're really looking at the core regulars here, not everyone with something like a full time job) and 107 of them posted an OPS of 750 or better (equivalent to a .350 OBP and .400 slugging, or .330 OBP and .420 slugging, or whatever). In today's game, that's just the cover charge - below a line like that, chances are, you're not contributing with the bat. That leaves 44 players who rarely came out of the lineup but who just didn't cut it with the bat. If you are looking for lineup problems in need of solving, you'd expect that these guys should be it. Let's look at the list and see where the holes were last year, and how many of them have actually been fixed; I'll start with numbers 108-112:
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Stats listed as Avg/OBP/Slg (OPS) (Plate Appearances); 2003 stats through 5/11/03; age as of July 1, 2003
108-124: The Weak Spots
2002 with Orioles: .233/.338/.404 (742 OPS) (627 PA)
Like a number of players on this list, Mora is a utility man -- and a good one -- miscast as an everyday player, especially if he's used (as he was more often than not last season) as an outfielder. By drawing 70 walks and absorbing 20 hit by pitches, Mora showed himself able to get on base a bit even while batting .233.
Mora's playing time has been cut back a bit this season: he's played a good deal of left field and some shortstop, but nothing resembling regular time at any position. Perhaps in part as a result, Mora has started fast for the second straight year.
VERDICT: Keeping him from becoming a fixture in the lineup would be a good sign, but the Orioles' other options are slim pickings.
2002 with Blue Jays/Yankees: .232/.308/.432 (740 OPS) (628 PA)
Before the season, I figured that the odds were against Hideki Matsui being disappointing enough to justify keeping Mondesi and his mega-million contract around, and I would have gone twice for that if you'd told me that Nick Johnson would be slugging .531 with a .469 OBP in the middle of May. But the Hated Yankees dealt away Rondell White, sent Juan Rivera back to Columbus, and handed the everyday right fielder's job to Mondesi. And while Matsui has struggled, it's Mondesi who has responded with by far his best season (so far) since 1997.
VERDICT: Stranger guys have had huge comeback seasons in their 30s, and Mondesi has always been seen by insiders as a guy who didn't live up to his physical tools. The Yanks decided not to give Mondesi away (with his contract, he can't be traded for fair value), and they've been richly rewarded.
2002 with Cubs: .248/.312/.425 (737 OPS) (559 PA)
This is the Alex Gonzalez who used to be with the Blue Jays, if you're not keeping score at home. People seem to have finally given up on him as a promising hitter after years and years of hype and only one, injury-shortened payoff in early 1999. As a shortstop, Gonzalez' 737 OPS wasn't really that awful, so with few other options in the pipeline, the Cubs' willingness to stick with Gonzalez is defensible.
Like the first two guys on the list, though, Gonzalez has started with a bang in 2003, albeit to a less dramatic extent. His power numbers are mostly unchanged and his walk rate is up only slightly; instead, Gonzalez has lifted his batting average 35 points while cutting his strikeout rate very sharply, from 159 per 600 at bats to 104 per 600 at bats.
VERDICT: Probably another tease; cutting your strikeouts by almost a third in one year is not a feat often accomplished, especially for a veteran whose batting line has been mostly unchanged for nearly a decade. Early surges in batting average, unaccompanied by a change in any other skill, is the least likely trend to hold. Still, if Gonzalez hits .265 instead of .248, the Cubs will be happy.
2002 with Royals: .248/.330/.406 (737 OPS) (531 PA)
Want a reason to doubt the Royals? Start with Michael Tucker, another decent if past-his-prime bench player who found everyday time for a dead-end franchise. That's not a misprint above: the Royals really are on a pace to give Tucker almost 700 plate appearances. Tucker's career 771 OPS is about midway between his numbers of last season and this one.
VERDICT: This team will go nowhere over the long season unless they get more playing time for Dee Brown at Tucker's expense.
2002 with Astros .253/.330/.404 (734 OPS) (627 PA)
How far the mighty have fallen. The Astros responded to Biggio's decline with a radical move: pushing him further leftward on the defensive spectrum, from second base to center field. Ordinarily, this would just makes his weak bat a bigger problem, unless (1) Biggio is a major defensive upgrade in center (this seems unlikely, although at least he got Berkman out of center field) or (2) he hits a lot better, which as of yet he hasn't. Of course, the Astros chose option (3), bringing in a serious slugger (Jeff Kent) to play second, but that still means Biggio is clogging an outfield slot that could go to a young masher.
VERDICT: I'm not sure if Biggio's really finished as a hitter; David Pinto notes that he's been on fire lately. But his overall numbers are consistent with what we've seen the last two years, and that's not much, especially when you factor in Minute Maid Field (in fact, the move from the low-scoring Astrodome to high-scoring Enron/Minute Maid has masked exactly how far Biggio has fallen from his prime). I'd say this is one problem that still needs fixing.
5 players, all 5 still in their jobs. Next time, we'll see how long the trend holds.
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BASEBALL: DePodesta For GM
Rotted in the roots, the team has developed three good players in the last 15 years. Of them, only Edgardo Alfonzo contributed anything to the 1999Ė2000 postseason teams.
Right on the money. The A's brain trust understands the foundation of the game, and whether Phillips does or not, he hasn't acted on it. New management is needed, and DePodesta's reputation suggests that he'd be the best guy for the job (especially considering he's more likely to take it than Billy Beane is).
Is DePodesta worth giving up a top prospect like Jose Reyes or Aaron Heilman? I think I'd say yes. A good GM is worth more than any player (I wouldn't say the same about managers). It's a steep price to pay, but worth it.
BASEBALL: Dodger Blues
An interesting breakdown on the Dodgers' offensive woes and dominant pitching: in 16 home games (through Sunday), the Dodgers have drawn 39 walks and issued 47; in 22 road games, they've drawn 72 walks and issued 71. In other words: 2.69 BB/team/G at Dodger Stadium, 3.25 BB/team/G on the road.
Despite this, in the short season thus far, Dodger Stadium has not lived up to its traditional status as a pitcher's park; the team is batting .275 at Dodger Stadium as opposed to .243 away, and has a slightly higher home ERA (2.88 to 2.81). Result: the Dodgers and their opponents are scoring 3.63 R/team/G at Dodger Stadium, 3.23 in Dodger road games.
In other words: it's not the park. It's the hitters.
POLITICS: Ever Hear of Vietnam?
Couple of quick comments to this article about a speech given by Ted Sorensen (registration required):
1. Most importantly, why is it newsworthy? Does the Times provide equal coverage to speeches in favor of the war that are given by former Eisenhower speechwriters?
2. He conveniently forgets Vietnam. I suppose that was LBJ's fault, or better yet, Nixon's?
3. He states, "He added, "It will be the law of the jungle in which every warlord has his own weapons of mass destruction, and the first or biggest bomb wins." But, wasn't part of the reason we went to war with Iraq to avoid this?
POLITICS: Good Enough For the People of Massachusetts, But . . .
You know, sometimes I think I could make a living on this site just keeping an eye on the doings at my alma maters, Holy Cross and Harvard. This controversy, in which students at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard are protesting the selection of Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as commencement speaker, is just rich with idiocy:
[A]bout 100 of the school's 500 graduating students, and another 20 who are not graduating in June, signed a petition criticizing the choice because, they say, the governor is more businessman than public servant, lacks international stature, and has displayed a ''profound lack of courage'' in office.
So Romney "lacks international stature." Since when is running the freaking Olympics not "international"? Maybe they should've invited the US ambassador to Canada (Paul Cellucci)? That's an international job.
The students' letter to the dean recommended several other speakers, Republicans among them, who they said ''exemplify personal sacrifice and service to the public,'' including Christine Todd Whitman, Environmental Protection Agency administrator and former New Jersey governor; Senator John McCain, Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The sense of entitlement here is staggering. I mean, I know the K-School is a big deal, but isn't it possible that some of these people were, you know, busy? My college graduation, we had an obscure bureaucrat from the National Institute of Health. My Harvard Law School graduation, the university speaker was a different obscure bureaucrat from the National Institute of Health. At the Law School's separate graduation ceremony we had Ted Turner, who was drunk, off his meds or both (he started rambling about how "we should never have split the atom. Those are dangerous little buggers.") The Governor's coming to speak at your school. That's not bad.
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[A]t a school where a growing number of graduates go into public service, they said, the speaker should have a clear commitment to the public sector.
* * *
''It might be more reasonable in a few years, when [Romney] has a record in office, but it's not the right time now,'' said Rabin.
The Kennedy School, founded to train students for careers in government service, has struggled in the past decade to balance the lure of the private sector with its public mission, as a significant number of graduates have used their Kennedy degrees to land high-paying jobs in business. School officials have sought to reverse the trend, and earlier this year, Harvard became the first university in the nation to establish a schoolwide fund to encourage more graduates to take lower-paying jobs in public service.
Ric Arthur, a third-year student from California who plans to go to work for a nonprofit film production company after graduation, said the selection of Romney feels out of step with the priorities of the school.
''With most students heading toward a life in public service, people question whether a career businessman and new politician has the experience to speak to our concerns,'' he said.
Now, the crux of the matter: Romney was a career businessman! The Shame! These people obviously aren't old enough to remember Romney's Senate campaign. But what scares me is the idea that it is positively bad to be a businessman. I mean, government service is a noble calling, but it really frightens me to hand governmental power to people who think that people who work in the private sector are to be looked down on, which is the attitude that comes through here. (Of course, it might occur to more thoughtful observers that Romney went into private business precisely to make some accomplishments of his own before running for office, since his dad had been Governor of Michigan and at one point was seen as the front-runner in a presidential primary campaign.)
The Kennedy school should be training people who understand that the private sector is ultimately the iceberg in our society, and government is the tip. Sounds like some people aren't getting the message.
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POLITICS: CONSERVATIVE TRUTH #1
First in a series.
As you may have noticed, one of my running themes here of late has been the difficulty of finding intellectually honest people on the other side of political arguments. This is particularly infuriating because I know plenty of decent, honest people who are politically liberal. Yet, the combination of professional Democrats and leftist bloggers too often leaves me feeling like I'm dealing with people who are immune to both reason and reality.
Liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans, or Left and Right - however you define the two sides - disagree on a lot of basic assumptions about how the world works. Some of those gaps can't be bridged by even the most fair-minded commentators. But on others, one of the things that drives me berserk is when the other side just refuses to admit to something that is frankly impossible for a reasonable person to argue with.
So, in an effort to focus on the things I see as litmus tests for honest commentary, I'll be starting a periodic series on The Conservative Truths and The Conservative Beliefs. Both are things that many or most conservatives believe; the former are those that we feel any intellectually honest liberal or leftist should have to admit. (I would, of course, welcome a similar initiative by someone on the other side). I'm not putting them in any particular numerical order.
Today, we start with Conservative Truth #1: Incentives matter. Government initiatives that give rewards or punishment as a result of individual or corporate behavior will change people's incentives and therefore, applied to a large population, will change behavior. The result is that any estimate of the effects of a government program will be erroneous if it fails to take account of the incentive effect.
This seems astoundingly obvious, and yet discussions by politicians and the media of the effects of things like tax cuts, welfare plans and health care plans have far too often completely ignored the incentive issue. About the only time you hear the Democrats admit that taxing something will change it is when they tax smoking - the one good whose sales won't be much affected by taxes because the buyers are addicted. Congress has for many years institutionalized this resistance to reality by "scoring" the revenue effects of tax cuts or tax hikes on the assumption that nobody ever changes their behavior in response. And critics of tax-cutting Republicans invariably cite these transparently fraudulent estimates as Exhibit A on the "cost" of tax cuts. How can an honest person take such criticisms seriously?
Now, for Conservative Belief #1, and I'll classify this as a Belief because I recognize that it's more controversial: that the incentive effects following from most government initiatives are, in general, larger and more powerful than the dollar size of government intakes or outflows on the initiative. Here's an example:
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Democrats often propose "temporary" tax cuts as a counter to long-term rate cuts. The problem with a "temporary" tax cut is that it ignores the fact that the incentive effect is the centerpiece of conservative thought on tax cuts. Yes, tax cuts are good because they push cash into the economy and stimulate demand, and for that purpose, the more cuts for the low end of the income spectrum, the better. And yes, tax cuts are good because they push cash into the hands of investors and stimulate supply, and for that purpose, the more cuts for the high end of the income spectrum, the better. And yes, there is (although quantifying it is intensely controversial) a wealth effect where cuts targeted at the stock market will make people feel richer and more optimistic about the economy.
But the #1 reason for tax cuts is to affect incentives, or more properly (from a conservative or libertarian perspective) to remove tax-driven distortions from incentives. An explicitly short-term tax cut is not only useless but counterproductive for that purpose: the now-you-see-it-now-you-don't cut will drive more people to arrange their affairs to get the short term cut rather than to get long-term growth.
Critics have charges that Bush's dividend tax cut plan (the big tax initiative of the day) is too tilted to wealthy shareholders. Even crediting this sort of study (I'm skeptical but I haven't looked under the hood myself), if you look at incentives, the obvious effect of a dividend tax cut is to encourage people to put more money in stocks, and specifically to encourage those eeeevil top however-many percent to invest their income (after it's been sliced the first time by high marginal rates) in stocks. (I'm leaving out the reason why dividend cuts got pushed onto the agenda in 2002, which is corporate-governance related). More investment in equities is precisely how to stimulate supply and job growth.
You may disagree with the idea that stimulating investment is better for the economy than passing out spending money. Fair enough. But you simply aren't making a serious argument if you ignore the difference between the improved incentives to invest under a dividend tax cut and the absence of any positive incentives from a temporary cut.
In short, the cash-to-spend/cash-to-invest debate is two ways to look at how far the tax cut dollar will go. But changing incentives doesn't just affect the dollar that's been cut; it affects the calculus for every dollar in the economy. That is why conservatives argue for rate cuts rather than 'targeted' relief: changing incentives is the one and only way to get more bang than just the size of the cut multiplied by some X or Y effect that's linked to the number of dollars put back in the economy. In other words: Incentives matter.
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POLITICS: Tax Cut Silence?
Matthew Yglesias asks why more conservative bloggers haven't rushed to defend Bush's tax cut plan. Leaving aside the obvious fact that he mostly cites self-identified libertarians, there's an obvious reason why many bloggers focus on war and legal and social issues rather than economics, which is that arguing about taxes and spending is awfully number-intensive. In the specific case of spending, it's easy enough to look at the aggregate numbers and see that the government is spending too much on the domestic side, and similarly to highlight press reports about the worst abuses. But wading through the budget to figure out exactly where the most money is wasted is exceptionally time-consuming work. Which is why most of us, even when we support tax cuts, are apt to focus our fire more on other issues.
May 11, 2003
POLITICS: Stuff Your Sorrys In A Sack, Mister
I know I'd finished up with the Bill Bennett controversy, but this quote struck me as interesting on a number of levels, so I'll just present it without further comment - here's Bennett, speaking to Ronald Reagan just before a speech Reagan was to give on the Iran-Contra affair:
"Word is you're going to take responsibility and acknowledge mistakes, and that's fine. But, sir, don't underestimate what your enemies want from you. They want you to humiliate yourself; they want the hair shirt. But you can't do that, sir. You're the leader of the free world. You're the leader of a great and proud country, and you can't abase yourself . . . if you don't give them what they want they'll say you didn't go far enough. That'll be the line."
(From Peggy Noonan's indispensable book What I Saw At The Revolution)
BLOG: The Power of the Post
Check out the jump in sites linking to Bill Hobbs' blog between May 8 and May 10 for a graphic illustration of the power of a good post to attract attention in the blogosphere.
For our part, we've now evolved all the way up to Slithering Reptiles, at #676 in the Blogosphere Ecosystem.
May 10, 2003
BLOG: Happy Anniversary To Me
This week was so busy, I forgot to celebrate a milestone that passed on Monday: my three-year anniversary as an internet columnist. Here's my first piece, from May 5, 2000, on a proposed baseball rule change. Of course, back then, I had never heard of a blog (and people like Glenn Reynolds were still completely unknown), although my columns were running on the Boston Sports Guy website, which really did all the things you would expect from a blog - a daily battery of links accompanied by snide commentary, a breezy, first-person interactive dialogue with the readers - and wound up making Bill Simmons, the site's proprietor since the mid-90s, into one of the earliest internet-only celebrities. My location and format have changed since then (although I've owned the www.baseballcrank.com domain for almost the whole 3 years), moving to the outskirts of Big Media (the Providence Journal) and back. If you're new to the site, check out the "Baseball Columns" category - while some of the stuff is dated and I'm far from getting all the old stuff loaded, there are a number of pieces there that I'd humbly submit are still worth reading.
BASEBALL: Phillips and the Duke
If there's a lesson from the last two years of Steve Phillips with the Mets and the last two seasons Dan Duquette spent in Boston, it's this: the minute the GM starts to worry about being fired, he should be. Phillips and the Duke both had their strong points as GMs, but both gave in to panicked overspending on declining veterans when they reached the point where they were more worried about the back page than about the long haul.
WAR: History of Israel
I found these guys through Den Beste: Setting the World to Rights has the first installment of a basic history of Israel. Looks like a good read if you are sketchy on some of the history.
BASEBALL: Estes on the Edge
The Cub Reporter says Shawn Estes has saved his job in the Cubs' rotation, for now. Ah, just wait and see. Estes is one of those guys who's very good at pulling off a good start or two when he needs it to stay employed, but if his past few years is any indication, he'll keep spiralling downward as the season goes on.
POLITICS: Clinton's Principles Abandoned!
Jonathan Chait complains that Bush-hatred "has made liberals embrace principles . . . to which the Clinton administration never adhered."
Is there any other kind of principle?
According to a recent poll, adulthood begins at age 26. One interesting finding: respondents, on average, said that people should get married at age 25.7 and have children at age 26.2.
You do the math.
May 9, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: AWOL Bush? Not Exactly
Back before I decided that it was mostly a waste of my time to read the most popular far-left blogs, I used to be bothered by the incessant accusation that George W. Bush had been AWOL from his service in the Texas National Guard and had thus essentially gotten away with avoiding his commitment to serve. This bothered me for two reasons:
1. I considered the charge a serious one, if true. Military commitments must be kept. Maybe it doesn't evince the sort of anti-military cast of mind as Clinton's adventures in draft avoidance and protest on foreign soil, but it doesn't speak well of a commitment to keep the most important sorts of promises to soldiers.
2. Nobody who I viewed as having any credibility ever addressed the accusations (positively or negatively), which makes it hard to get a fix on whether it has any substance (although that's usually a clue).
The issue came to life again recently following Bush's much-ballyhooed jet flight to the USS Abraham Lincoln; Bush made references to having been a pilot, and The Krug (who's often indistinguishable from the anonymous far-left bloggers in terms of venom and disregard for the facts), sprang into action with a column repeating the charge.
Now, spurred on by an item on Andrew Sullivan, Bill Hobbs has looked into the question in some detail, reviewing the major media reports as well as some of the purported primary sources, and come up with a pair of posts here and here that fairly well lay to rest the idea that there's anything to the charges but, at best, wild speculation and conjecture premised on a lack of good recordkeeping on the part of the Texas National Guard. You've probably read Hobbs' posts already - they've been linked to all over the blogosphere - but if you haven't, I'd suggest you do. Some things I hadn't known:
1. Gore was discharged early, leaving his and Bush's service time basically the same. Wonder why he didn't press this issue? He made vague references to Bush's service record, but never openly made the charge.
2. When Bush volunteered for the TX Guard, they were actually being sent to combat in Vietnam. He joined what looked, at the time, like potentially a combat unit. (It was still a better deal than getting drafted into the infantry, to be sure).
There are two other sources that are worth reading on this point, and I'll quote from them at length here because they didn't appear on the front pages of these sites and you might have missed them:
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First, Sparkey over at Sergeant Stryker (all the bloggers there are military veterans), had a post following up on Hobbs. Beyond the post itself, Sparkey also had some lengthy followups responding to leftist trolls in the comments section that are worth reading:
Because he had so many days of active duty, he had exceeded the requirements set forth in his enlistment contract. And that, tbogg, is the reason why the story got no traction from the NYT, Globe, George, etc., and why the insulting and insipidly brainless little ad you link to is so useless. With Bush being "Non-Obligatory" what does it matter if he was there or not? BTW: I spent a year on a similar list/unit for the exact same reason. There is no shame in meeting or exceeding your contractual obligations. That's why I find this whole smear campaign so insulting, especially since the lies come mostly from those who never served and who generally look down on those who do.
* * *
Bush was suspended for not going to a physical he was not "Obligated" by the contract he signed with the United States Government.
* * *
From the 5/23/2000 Boston Globe:
Second, an anonymous letter-writer at Andrew Sullivan's site (4th letter down; all letters to Sullivan are posted anonymously, but take this for what it's worth) adds some valuable insights into the context the Guard was operating in in 1972-73:
ON BUSH'S GOLDBRICKING: If President Bush got away with what looks like goldbricking through his Texas Air National Guard service, some facts about the reserves and guard in the early 70's might help to persuade his antagonists of the value of his guard experience.
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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:47 AM | Politics 2002-03 | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
But in a good way.
BLOG: Don't Try This At Home
May 8, 2003
POLITICS: Early Line on IL Senate Race
Archpundit on Political State Report carries word that former GOP governor Jim Edgar has the early lead in hypothetical matchups to replace retiring GOP Senator Peter Fitzgerald.
WAR: In The Details
This Howard Kurtz story about the Jayson Blair fiasco contains an interesting detail about how the family of PFC Jessica Lynch coped with the media onslaught: her father kept a log of which reporters the family talked to (Blair wasn't on it, and misdescribed the family's home in Palestine, West Virginia).
BASEBALL: Gather No Moss
I have to disagree with The Mad Hibernian on this one, and I stand by my initial skepticism of the Moss deal for the Giants. Look at the numbers: Moss has walked 24 batters in 42.2 IP (more than 5 per 9 innings), while striking out 26, a terrible ratio. He's allowing 1.45 baserunners/IP, which is hideous. Granted, he's allowed just 3 home runs compared to 20 in 179 IP last season. But if Moss has an ERA below 3.50 this season while walking 5 men a game, I'll eat my hat.
Politics: Background on Bob Graham
The Sunday Washington Post Magazine had an extensive article here on presidential candidate Sen. Bob Graham. (I didn't know that his half-brother was Phil Graham, of Washington Post and Katherine Graham fame.) Scary to think about it, but I do believe Graham has a point -- while Bush has been successful, to date, in bringing the war to the terrorists, I have a nagging feeling that we still are too vulnerable to another attack. That being said, I'm not sure I buy the conventional wisdom that another terrorist attack would make Bush politically vulnerable. Rather, I suspect it may actually drive up his ratings for three reasons: (1) Bush has shown he can handle such events with true leadership, (2) I suspect the public recognizes that Bush is doing a lot to protect us and another attack would underscore why we need him in office and (3) natural, patriotic instinct.
BASEBALL: Mo Insurance
The Daily News nails a point I've been thinking about lately: not to wish any ill to Mo Vaughn, but if Mo needs knee surgery, the Mets could wind up passing on much of the cost of his contract to their insurance company, which would relieve a huge pressure from the team.
Change in the Mets organization can't stop with firing Steve Phillips. It has to go straight to the top - Fred Wilpon is in total control of the team, and the Mets can only recover if Wilpon learns to stop pressing his GM to think short-term. This could be the shock to the system that is needed to underline that point.
POLITICS: Bennett Wrap
My initial gut reaction to the Bill Bennett controversy was, among other things, that this was a complete waste of time. Maybe I overreacted a little, if only because I'd read Josh Marshall's teaser ahead of time and expected a much bigger story than legal gambling that Bennett could afford.
I'd have to agree that the scope of Bennett's gambling does, at least, raise questions about his fitness for public office. But, of course, Bennett hasn't held public office in more than a decade (I don't know, he may have been on some advisory commission or something, but it's not the same thing), and nobody's suggested that he was gambling millions of dollars when he did. That's one of the innumerable distinctions from the Clinton situations (take your pick which one). The level of public scrutiny that's appropriate depends very much on how much power we give the person, which is why presidents (and, to a lesser extent, Supreme Court justices) are really in another league even from legislators, let alone pundits like Bennett.
I'm also not so quick as Andrew Sullivan to characterize casino gambling as something done in "privacy" - Bennett's "privacy" has perhaps been invaded to some degree, but it's not one of the more serious violations I can think of.
And some good has come of this: much unlike our 42nd president, Bennett is subject to the very social pressures of shame and disapproval that he has championed, and he is (apparently) willing to take personal responsibility, pay his debts (by all accounts, he has always done so) and stop going to casinos.
In the end, perhaps Jonathan Last was right: it may be a legit story, but one that would have been better served as a side item and not trumpeted as a big deal. And those critics who hope to strangle Bennett with the story and silence his voice for a moral society should still be ashamed of themselves.
LAW: A Headline Writer's Dream
From law.com: "Texas Court Upholds Butt Search for Crack"
I'd say you've got pretty good odds on that search . . .
May 7, 2003
BASEBALL: More Mets, Painful As It Is
Bob Klapisch proposed some remedies for the Mets, assuming this year and next are wasted. Some of those are no-brainers (fire Phillips; trade Mo, Alomar and Benitez), while the others are interesting. Trading Piazza makes sense, certainly on paper (his best years are certainly behind him), but I do understand recognizing what he has done for the franchise and hoping to have him go into the Hall of Fame as a Met. I do like the idea of reducing the ticket prices: the prices were set with certain expectations, which clearly will go unfulfilled. May as well recognize that and treat this as an apology to the fans.
Here is ESPN SportsNation's Top Ten most infamous Mets moments. Quite a disappointment -- nothing here goes back past 1989. Funny, I remember some pretty infamous moments during the '70's and early '80's (I wasn't in a position to watch in the '60s). Still, an entertaining read.
POLITICS: John Kerry's Albatross
Teresa Heinz -- excuse me, Teresa Heinz Kerry -- has a reputation for being outspoken. The impact this will have on the presidential campaign trail has been the topic of much speculation for some time now in the Boston media, but I'm not sure how much attention the national media has paid to this issue. Read a bit about it here.
POLITICS: Bennett Revisited
I may go back to the Bill Bennett flap at some point, although it would be hard indeed to top Jonah Goldberg's devastating take; for now, Ross Douthat has some valuable points about why conservative Catholics shouldn't let Bennett off so easily.
BLOG: Eat Up!
Any parent of a small child can sympathize with Lileks' ironic complaint:
Once again I heard myself tell my daughter she couldnít have raisins until she finished her mac and cheese. No fruit for you unless you finish that processed grain-and-reconstituted-cheddar glue. It's habit - do this, then that. Finish your cookie or you won't get your vitamins.
POLITICS: Daniels Leaves The Lion's Den
The departure of White House Budget Director Mitch Daniels (leaving to run for Governor of Indiana) is sad, but inevitable; a budget director who lasted 4 whole years without making enough enemies to make his job impossible, probably wouldn't be doing the job in the first place. Slate marks the occasion with an excellent column noting one of the Bush Administration's few (so far) successful anti-pork initiatives: taking on the Army Corps of Engineers, which despite its name has a huge bureaucracy and bloated budget that have nothing to do with war.
POLITICS: The Gender Gap
Erin O'Connor has some interesting statistics about the gender gap in college:
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 698,000 women received bachelorís degrees in 2002, while 529,000 men did. Some other chilling numbers: women outnumber men by a four to three ratio on American campuses (that means there are almost two million more women in college than men). Only 43% of all college degrees go to men. Things are worse within minority populations: two black women earn bachelorís degrees for every black man; 60 percent of Hispanic college graduates are women.
What's particularly amusing is the reaction of some gender feminists to these figures:
Jacqueline Woods, executive director of the American Association of University Women, denies that men's declining enrollments is a crisis or even a gender issue. She notes that those concerned about boys' sagging educational performance are "playing a zero-sum game" and says "I refuse to play."
Remember that line next time one of these ideologues complains about men supposedly getting better pay than women.
BASEBALL: Dr. Frankenstein Turns On His Monster
Dan Shaughnessy says all the negativity in Red Sox Nation stinks and it sucks and it stinks. This is rather like if Bob Tyrrell wrote a column asking why everyone was so hard on Bill Clinton.
(Link via Bruce Allen's always-comprehensive Boston Sports Media Watch).
WAR: "Principles that I have made clear to all."
Maybe it's just me, but I'm surprised that more attention hasn't been paid to the line in Bush's speech on the aircraft carrier where he said, "Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all."
That sounded, to me at least, like a direct slap at the people, like Josh Marshall, who have argued that there is some sort of deception or secret in the President's overarching strategy simply because, at different times, the Administration's emphasis has shifted to subjects like WMD or human rights, each of which is only a facet of the larger struggle.
May 6, 2003
BASKETBALL: Boob Ryan
Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe has been suspended a month without pay for saying on a shout show that he wanted to "smack" Jason Kidd's wife, who he finds annoying; this seems a bit harsh, but the remark really was in exceptionally poor taste, given Kidd's arrest for hitting his wife a few years ago.
POLITICS: QUOTE OF THE WEEK
From Margaret Carlson, of all people:
"[H]as anyone ever gotten more out of sexual favors she didn't dispense than Sen. [Hillary] Clinton?"
I think she meant sexual favors someone else dispensed, but the double meaning sounds just fine.
BLOG: The Revolving Door
This admission by Eugene Volokh exposes the seamy reality of the revolving door between the federal government and the blogosphere. Hey, Professor Volokh, didn't anyone ever tell you that you can't withdraw from a conspiracy if you intend to rejoin it?
POP CULTURE: "Peace Train" Has More Than One Meaning
Seems like everyone's favorite peace activist, Cat Stevens, is unable to issue a strong denial to the allegation that some of his contributions to "Islamic charities" ultimately got routed to Hamas. If "no one ever knows where the money goes," wouldn't that be a sufficient reason not to contribute to a particular "charity"? Read more about it here.
The '70s folkie formerly known as Cat Stevens has become a voice of moderate Islam since the the Sept. 11 attacks. But Israeli officials are charging that thousands of dollars donated by the "Peace Train" songwriter for humanitarian causes in 1988 were rerouted to the terrorist group Hamas, GQ magazine reports.
The article by Jake Tapper claims that Stevens, who changed his name to Yusef Islam in 1977, gave the money to Mouhammad Abdel- Rahman, a son of the notorious blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, who was convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
"We don't think this - we know it," Israeli government spokesman Daniel Seaman tells the magazine.
Islam also helped radical cleric Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad get a lawyer after he was jailed for saying Britain's then-Prime Minister John Major was "a legitimate target" for assassination, the mag reports.
His brother, David Gordon, says Islam has distanced himself from radicals and argues "no one ever knows where the money goes" with such charities.
BASEBALL: Home Run Tony
Bad as the Mets have been this season, I can still get a rise out of Red Sox fans every time I ask them, "hey, why'd you let this Tony Clark guy go?"
BASEBALL: Mets Fans
One thing I would add to The Mad Hibernian's comments below is that Mets fandom is probably more tolerant than many teams' fans of a rebuilding effort, given that the Mets have had such great success with building around home-grown talent in constructing the 1969-73 and 1984-90 teams, and such spectacular failures in importing veteran talent in the early 1990s as well as many individual instances (George Foster, Mickey Lolich, etc.). Granted, the 1997-2000 team was heavily imported veterans and the 1986 team had some of those (Hernandez, Carter, Ojeda, Knight, HoJo, Teufel), but the lesson is clear enough.
May 5, 2003
BASEBALL: No Bombing The Bombers
I've touched on this before, but the Hated Yankees are out-homering their opponents by the preposterous total of 53-17 and out-walking them 153-69. It's nearly impossible to lose when you do that. Two notes on the pitchers:
1. Jeff Weaver, who's not even having a good year, hasn't allowed a home run in 38.1 IP -- this from a guy who allowed 53 homers his first two seasons in the bigs.
2. Juan Acevedo is the only Yankee reliever to allow a home run this season.
BASEBALL: Art on Pedro
I haven't linked to him nearly enough since I moved my own column away from Projo, but Art Martone is always a good read. Check out his April 23 piece on the Pedro-not-talking flap (with some good observations on clutch hitting thrown in) (registration required).
WAR: The Road To Oslo
Speaking of Dr. Manhattan, he's also got a long post on the 'road map' for peace between Israel and Yassirstan. He hopes it's a sham and a fraud, but he isn't encouraged by the early signs.
BASEBALL/BLOG: Dr. Manhattan's Return
BASEBALL: More Attacks on Duquette
Gordon Edes relays in his Sunday Globe column this humorous attack by Royals bench coach (and former Red Sox bench coach) Bob Schaefer on his old boss, Dan Duquette:
There's no love lost between Schaefer and Duquette. ''He didn't have the [guts] to fire me,'' Schaefer said. ''But he's running a kids camp, and we're in the big leagues. What can you say about that? If he'd just let people do their job, he'd be as smart as hell and still have his job.
If Jim Duquette is anything like his brother, let's hope the Mets keep Steve Phillips.
WAR: Following Up on Ashleigh Banfield
The Crank had a provocative post back on April 27 regarding Ashleigh Banfield's comments about the media's coverage of the war. The NY Times provides an update here about her now-struggling career (registration required). In typical Times fashion, however, their references to her April 25 speech are entirely slanted. "Angered top NBC management April 25 by giving a speech it believed was critical of its war coverage"?? Is it even possible to interpret her comments any other way? Moreover, the representative quote used by the Times article is probably the most vanilla statement in Banfield's entire speech. Go back to The Crank's post to see just a sampling of quotes the Times could have used in order to give their readers a better sense of her statements and the problems they caused for NBC management. Clearly, this is an individual who was rushed to the big leagues too quickly.
LAW: Bob To The Chief
OK, I just have to briefly violate my no-blogging-during-the-work-day rule for this one, from the New York Law Journal Online: it's the Chief Justice Rehnquist bobble-head doll!
POP CULTURE: Maybe they can hire O.J....
Peterson promises to find the real killer.
Roger Clemens needs 3 more wins for 300. Here's his next 8 scheduled starts, assuming an every-fifth-game schedule:
1. May 10 at OAK
The most likely victim looks like the Tigers, since the odds of Clemens winning more than 2 of 4 starts vs. Oakland, Texas and Boston look a bit slim. But with wins in his next two starts he could very easily go for 300 at Fenway. And, with a little drought, he could also wind up still needing a win heading to Shea Stadium.
BLOG: Quiet Morning
I'm heading in to the office early, so no time to blog much this morning. Check out Lileks for a sobering moment - he's rendered speechless.
May 4, 2003
WAR: Candidate for the Medal of Honor
Here is an amazing story of a solider in the Iraqi war who is a candidate for the Medal of Honor. Reading this further brings home the horror that war can be and that our soldiers endure, even when a war goes well. God bless his wife and kids.
HISTORY/POLITICS: The Irrelevence of Doris Kearns Goodwin
After watching Meet the Press this morning, I'm stuck with the same thought I have every time I watch Doris Kearns Goodwin speak on an interactive panel: Why is she valued by the mainstream media? Leaving aside her plagarism problems, her analysis is superficial ("If we don't increase government revenue for causes like protecting the environment, who is going to protect the air that we all breathe??"). In addition, she typically strains to draw a historical analogy to current events. Her performance today included (a) reminding the viewers that Churchill lost an election shortly following the end of WWII and thus Bush was highly vulnerable in 2004 and (b) in criticizing proponents of a tax cut, relaying that tired anecdote about the man who offers an attractive female a large sum of money for sex and then, after she agrees, offering her one dollar claiming that he has already established the type of woman she is. Commentary like this can be provided by a moderately-accomplished college student, not a historian that certain people hold in esteem.
WAR: In a Year's Time
How far have we come in a year? It can be hard to tell. But re-reading this memorable blog post from last May underlines the extent to which, emotionally, we've moved from rage to a more modulated determination. The interesting question is whether this emotional healing process is wisdom or self-deception.
May 3, 2003
POLITICS/RELIGION: Fr. McFarland's Continuing Missteps at Holy Cross
As the Crank, I'm an alum of Holy Cross and feel some obligation to comment on the Chris Matthews controversy. I don't think there is much to say other than the obvious: Fr. McFarland has done a disservice to a great institution by his treatment of a strong supporter of the school. I actually agree with McFarland about the decision to honor Chris Matthews -- if the school limited candidates for honorary degrees to only those individuals who agree with the Catholic Church's teachings on every topic, graduation ceremonies would be very short (which wouldn't be a bad thing!). However, certainly someone who has done as much for the school as Mr. Millard (sending 8 kids to the school, previously serving as chairman of the board of trustees, etc.) deserves better treatment. Add this to the growing list of complaints many alums have with McFarland; it seems as if not a year can pass without him handling a matter poorly. It will be interesting to see the impact this has on fundraising, esp. on the individual large dollar donations.
POLITICS: Makin' It Up As They Go
Seems the New York Times had to fire a reporter who exceeded even the Times' tolerance for sloppy journalism, albeit due to plagiarism rather than egregious factual misstatements. Howard Kurtz's writeup notes a jaw-dropping figure: "the paper has run 50 corrections on his stories" since 1999. But then, that's probably nothing compared to some of the paper's front-page veterans.
POLITICS: Snake Eyes
I never thought much of Bill Clinton's cry of "politics of personal destruction" whenever he got caught abusing the powers of his office. But personal attacks really can get out of hand sometimes. Josh Marshall ran a teaser that turned out to be a little smoke but not much fire: Bill Bennett likes to gamble. And he's probably lost a lot of money doing it. But there's no claim that he's got any of the serious problems we associate with gamblers, like tax trouble, debts he can't pay, etc. More like a Michael Jordan-type gambling issue: he loses money other people couldn't afford to lose.
This seems like a pathetically weak case for calling 'hypocrite' to me, which makes this really nothing but the exposure of a man's private life for no useful purpose. At worst, it suggests that Bennett has pulled punches on this particular vice because he doesn't see it as that bad, perhaps in part because he enjoys it.
But what's really sickening about investing major investigative resources and running this kind of story is the idea that you can discredit the entire notion of morality by showing that individuals who speak out for moral standards are, in fact, sinners themselves. Bennett never said he was perfect; if only perfect people could speak up for right over wrong, wrong would have the floor to itself. There are people who wish that were so. But I would have hoped that a seemingly reasonable guy like Marshall wouldn't be one of them.
May 2, 2003
WAR: The Flyboy
Some people (including some very, very pro-war folks) are criticizing the whole fighter-jet entrance last night by the president as overdoing it; Instapundit has a roundup of the criticisms; David Brooks is vicious in response to the critics.
I can see their point, but you have to love the extent to which it seems calculated to (1) drive all the right people nuts (Maureen Dowd should be able to squeeze three months of columns out of last night) and (2) as Howard Fineman put it, quoting Osama, show unsubtle, non-English speaking Arabs, in the most visual sense, who the "strong horse" is.
Glenn Reynolds' dis of the entrance as too Third Worldish overlooks the fact that Third World dictators fire Kalashnikovs. They don't fly jets onto aircraft carriers because Third World dictatorships could never develop the technical expertise and discipline required to run anything as complicated as an aircraft carrier. Plus, a Saddam-type dictator wouldn't trust his own men enough to get in a jet with any old pilots.
Of course, for all that and all the good campaign pictures, I think Bush was mostly just having fun and allowing himself an overdue victory lap. I was immediately reminded of Dave Barry, on Bush's father and his speedboat (from Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys:
You'd see him on the TV news, zooming across the water, the president of the United States, with an expression identical to that of a three-year-old boy pushing a little metal Tonka truck and making a motor sound with his lips, the way little boys instinctively do, like this: BRRRRMMMMM.
Looking at him, you knew for a fact that he was not thinking about the unemployment rate, or the status of his proposed federal budget, or problems in the Middle East. You knew exactly what he was thinking, because it was the same thing that every guy is thinking when he is driving a motorized vehicle very fast. George Bush, the Most Powerful Man in the Most Powerful Nation on Earth, the Leader of the Free World, was thinking: BRRRRMMMMM.
BASEBALL: Steve Phillips Must Go
I'll go into this in more detail at a later date, but I agree with most of Bruce Markusen's diagnosis of the Mets.
Somebody asked me earlier if you could describe anyone on the Mets as really being in his prime. Several Mets are close to their primes - Piazza, Leiter, Benitez, Trachsel, Floyd, Strickland, maybe Vance Wilson, possibly Wigginton. I'm suspicious of Glavine and Stanton, but both were still effective last season and both have had their moments. You could make a good argument that Trachsel and Floyd are in their primes, although both have started slowly this season, and Floyd is at least past his prime defensively.
History: Louisiana Purchase
As an update to Hibernian's posting on the Louisiana Purchase, here is an article from the Washington Post that has some interesting details regarding the transaction, including that the U.S. had to work with outside bankers (who charged 6% interest) in order to finance the purchase.
POLITICS: The Height of Arrogance
An amusing story that appears to be true. Amazing that an 18-year old feels sufficiently emboldened to weigh in on senior level staff decisions of the US Air Force.
WAR: SLAP!! Hey, that hurts!
Interesting choice by Rumsfeld for the next Secretary of the Army. The Army has never been thrilled with Rumseld (with his emphasis on lighter, more technological forces benefitting the Air Force and the Marines). This won't help matters. Not that he cares. And not that he necessarily should.
BASEBALL: MacDougal Goes Wild
Well, the wheels have come off the Mike MacDougal bandwagon in a hurry after a few bad outings. I'm still kicking myself for not noticing MacDougal in the offseason; his velocity (100+ mph) and backstory (the fact that his control problems last season were partially attributed to the lingering effects of a freak skull fracture from Carlos Beltran throwing his bat into the dugout) made him a good candidate to way exceed, among other things, his Baseball Prospectus PECOTA forecast (which, on the basis of his statistical profile, projected MacDougal for a 9.52 ERA this season). If you got him cheap in a Roto league - or, if, like the Royals, you just plain got him cheap and hold his rights for a few years - there's major cause for encouragement. But we should not have expected him to turn into Billy Wagner or Troy Percival overnight. He'll have his moments, but a guy with 9 walks and 9 K in 12.2 IP is just not ready for that level of prime time dominance.
I forget if I've posted this chart before . . . there's a legitimate debate about whether Bill Mazeroski's glove should carry his bat into the Hall of Fame, but how does Mazeroski stack up as a hitter? Here's his career batting-obp-slugging compared to some other Hall of Famers:
SCIENCE: The Mentally Handicapped
According to this article, Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton were mentally handicapped, and would probably (on that basis) be covered today by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Of course, the photo with the article suggests that Newton's problems were more serious than I would have thought.
Doc Weevil has another one of those tests that are so hard to resist; I guess I should find this worrisome, especially since I wound up in an even lower level than the good doctor:
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The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Fifth Level of Hell!
Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test
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LAW/POP CULTURE: Personal Injuries
Now this sounds like my kind of lawsuit.
May 1, 2003
WAR: "America is grateful for a job well done."
"[W]e have witnessed the arrival of a new era . . . [I]t is a great advance when the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent. . . . Men and women in every culture need liberty like they need food and water and air. Everywhere that freedom arrives, humanity rejoices and everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear. . . . Our war against terror is proceeding according to the principles that I have made clear to all. . . anyone in the world, including the Arab world, who works and sacrifices for freedom has a loyal friend in the United States of America."
POLITICS/RELIGION: Cross To Bear
I'm not sure I have a lot to add to this one right now, but I can't very well let pass this story about the controversy at my alma mater, Holy Cross, involving the decision to give an honorary degree to pro-choice alum Chris Matthews. The main lesson here: the president, Father MacFarlane, has not covered himself in glory with his ham-fisted treatment of dedicated alumni and his repeated decisions to side with the PC crowd (including an incident, not mentioned here, where he was slow to come to the defense of a secretary who was forced, shortly after September 11, to take down a flag near her desk by a professor who objected to the flag).
BASEBALL: Sox Fever
Kiner's Korner asks below why Red Sox fans have been cautious so far in embracing this team. Leaving aside the ingrained negativity of the Boston media (the Weekly Standard's Christopher Caldwell has some choice words on that score over the Mike Timlin locker room flap), I think a big reason is that the Sox are still behind the Yankees in the standings, and Sox fans are well aware that recent history (i.e., the past 8 decades) isn't exactly littered with examples of the Sox pulling down the Yankees from behind; the only one I can recall is 1988, when the Yankees collapsed after a hot start when Billy Martin was fired and replaced with Lou Piniella, while the Sox caught fire after they replaced John McNamara with Joe Morgan.
WAR: Kerry v. Dean, Part 2
You may recall that Howard Dean recently kicked up controversy with the following remarks (as reported by TIME magazine):
[T]wo weeks ago, while campaigning at a Stonyfield yogurt factory in New Hampshire, the would-be Commander-in-Chief suggested that America should be planning for a time when it is not the world's greatest superpower : "We have to take a different approach [to diplomacy]. We won't always have the strongest military."
Much of the resulting controversy has focused on the idea that Dean could even contemplate allowing our military power to be overtaken. Now, I agree that we need a president whose gut reaction to this concept would be "over my dead body," but on the whole, there's nothing wrong with a candidate who can think strategically 50 or 100 years down the road.
I was immediately reminded, by Dean's comments, that Bill Clinton had said something very much like this a long time ago (well, actually six weeks ago, but it seems like a long time). Mickey Kaus remembers too. Here's what Clinton said:
The U.S. should be strengthening the UN and other "mechanisms of cooperation," Clinton said. "We need to be creating a world that we would like to live in when we're not the biggest power on the block."
The bigger problem I have is not with Dean and Clinton thinking the unthinkable, but with their proposed solution.
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Their idea is, we should plan for a rainy day by making sure that everyone lives under the UN and international law, so that we can be assured that we won't get attacked, and can get cooperation in our international endeavors, when we are no longer the biggest dog in the fight. We should be nice to people now, so they'll remember us well seven or eight decades down the road.
This is crazy. If China, Russia or India some day rises to supersede our military might, what power will the UN have to restrain them? Only their own restraint, just as is true of the U.S. today. And what of the gratitude of, say, the French and the Germans in standing by us then? Well, I haven't noticed a lot of gratitude-driven foreign policy lately in those parts. Nations mostly have policies based on national interest, not sentimental nostalgia.
I worry too about a world where Fortune's Wheel has turned against us. But the simple fact is, our best long-term interest lies in seeing to it that as many nations as possible live then in freedom and democracy. In the end, this was the British solution. They didn't turn the world into a big multinational bureaucracy; instead, they succeeded in training a successor who cares as much (or more) about the same things they do. The Anglo-American alliance is affected not a whit by British arrogance at the height of the Victorian empire - and oh, what arrogance it was.
The nature of our allies will matter more than the strength of our alliances. That is the path to long-term protection of our interests if we ourselves falter.
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POLITICS: Kerry v. Dean, Part 1
On the subject of stuff I've seen on Calpundit's site, he linked to an analysis arguing that John Kerry's latest broadside against Howard Dean (more on this in the next post) was tactically brilliant because it helps boost Dean's visibility and create the perception that Kerry v. Dean is the real race. I don't disagree with that, but . . . well, I've previously noted here and here that Kerry's temperament and his staff choices suggested that he would be The Mean Candidate in the primaries, and in recent Democratic history, it's always The Mean Candidate who wins, always the guy with the most ruthless will to power. As a Democrat, cheer if you will at the idea that Kerry is an ace at tactics -- but hasn't the Democrats' problem in the last two elections been largely that they put too much faith in tactics and not enough in ideas and honest debate about the issues? Look at the way Kerry aide (and former Gore and Gray Davis aide) Chris Lehane tries to bully Howard Dean into taking a position completely off the table, and tell me that anything at all has been learned from 2000 and 2002.
POLITICS: Taxes and the Rich
Calpundit touched off a liively debate in the comments section (complete with a thorough debunking by Jane Galt) with his call for more taxation on "millionaires." One thing that got to me about this: "millionaires" is a deceptive term when you talk about taxation; we don't generally tax wealth (with the exception of the estate tax), we tax income or capital gains. And a person with a high income in one year or a large amount of capital gains in one year is not always going to be "rich" over the course of their lifetime. The obvious example of this is a senior citizen who liquidates her investments in a one-shot deal, maybe to pay for a big medical bill, or a grandchild's college, or heck, even to get her son a good criminal defense lawyer. Is she "rich"? Or what about an illiterate guy who makes $500K a year for his three-year NFL career, and retires at age 26 with bad knees and no useful skills?
I've previously noted Noam Schrieber's theory that the Democrats are too beholden to a small coterie of inside-the-Beltway pollsters and political consultants, who have an undue influence on the party's ideas, rhetoric and tactics. Howard Fineman's latest 2004 presidential race rundown supports this thesis:
Winning campaigns usually, though not always, are led by candidates and managers who haven't been around Washington and the upper echelons of electioneering. Recent examples include the Reaganites, who came out of California circles, and the Clinton campaign, which was led by a cadre of younger hands who hadn't managed a presidential campaign before.
There were actually survivors from the space shuttle Columbia disaster: worms used in a science experiment on the shuttle. I wonder if the fact of the worms' survival of the crash is itself scientifically noteworthy.