Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
September 30, 2004
POLITICS: Happy Coattails

The happiest people from tonight's debate have to be down-ticket Democrats. John Kerry's strong performance may not move the needle much in the presidential debate, given Bush's refusal to be pushed around and his bouts of feisitiness. But if the debate didn't help Kerry much, it should be enough to finally arrest his catastrophic decline, and that will help other Democrats worried about a Mondale-sized disaster.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:25 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Debater and the Chief

If you had any doubt that John Kerry is a tough, aggressive debater - in fact, a man who's at his best in debate - tonight should have removed any doubt. Kerry put in a fine point-scoring performance, getting off his shots at President Bush, avoiding his trademark rambling and getting away, actually, with quite a lot of statements that the president should have called him on, from fairy tales about buying body armor on the internet to the fundamental illusion that Kerry can change the opinions of allies who haven't helped out in Iraq. Bush, partly because he's not a great debater and partly because he carries the burden of his office (can't scorn the French if you might someday have to work with them), was unable to dismember the fundamental falsehood at the heart of Kerry's "plan" for Iraq.

But Bush also did what was probably necessary: he stood on the podium as Leader of the Free World. He made clear over and over the importance of being consistent, not sending "mixed messages." Yes, like Kerry, he had a few points he repeated endlessly, but he had to.

Bush's strongest performances were on two points: calling Kerry on his stream of insults aimed at the allies who HAVE helped us in Iraq, and making Kerry look like an idiot on North Korea, where Kerry was left sputtering about the need to have bilateral rather than multilateral talks without giving any reason other than that's not what Bush is doing.

Bottom line: Kerry is a better debater, and it showed. He's faster on his feet. But when Bush sets his feet, he doesn't budge. The voters will decide which is a more important qualification to lead in wartime.


Bush talked a lot about freedom, liberty. Kerry hardly did, except in Russia, but he did bring more emphasis to winning than in the past.

I hope this debate doesn't change much in the election; I think it may not. Bush started badly but held his ground after that, while Kerry was consistent throughout.

This summarizes one exchange: Kerry: "He's a liar." Bush: "I don't take that personally."

I liked how Bush repeatedly stressed staying on the offensive.

It was tacky how Kerry said "the president invaded Iraq." No, the United States and its allies did.

Kerry said Bush didn't work with our allies like Reagan did. Reagan, rolling over in his grave: "oh, now you support my foreign policy."

People who ripped Zell can shut up after Kerry called our troops "occupiers".

Kerry dodged Jim Lehrer rolling out his "last man to die for a mistake" line after Kerry called the war a "mistake"

Bush's turning point was when he called Kerry's attack on Bush for turning own UN help "totally absurd." Also, Kerry stepped in it when he started talking about yet another UN resolution and when he used the phrase "passes the global test" for preemptive action, and when he griped about us developing bunker-busting nukes to take on North Korea. Ill give Reagan the last word: "now that's the Kerry I remember."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Kerry Kool-Aid Comes In Two Flavors

And you are required to drink both.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Prior=Money

Mark Prior came up huge today, with 16 K and only 3 hits and a walk allowed in going 9 innings against the Reds, with the three main wild card contenders now tied in the loss column. Unfortunately for the Cubbies, one hit was an Austin Kearns homer that tied the game 1-1 in the 7th. Still tied in the 10th at last check, with Ryan Dempster in a 2-on 2-out jam.

UPDATE: Still tied after 11.

UPDATE: Bottom 12, 2-1 Reds after Valentin doubled in Dunn, man on first, Nomar up, 1 out.

UPDATE: Reds win.

UPDATE: A's win, Angels lose to Rangers; all tied up again in the AL West. Texas is 3 back with 3 to play, but with the A's and Angels facing off for the last three games there's no way for them to tie it up. Barring a big Dodger collapse against the Giants, the only races left are the AL West and the NL Wild Card.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:51 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Prediction

Lots of interesting issues to address for tonight's debate, but I'll just make a prediction on one. A key issue of tone for Kerry is whether to try to look presidential and be likeable, and thus temper his attacks on Bush in favor of trying to lay out his own vision, or whether to play to his natural strength as a debater - the strength that forged his reputation as a "good closer" - and go mercilessly on the attack, questioning Bush's truthfulness and trying to bait Bush.

My prediction: the latter. Several reasons: (1) Bob Dole, who shares some of Kerry's strengths and weaknesses as a presidential candidate, tried the former approach in 1996, to no effect (as Kerry's Clinton-era staffers will recall); (2) Kerry has been on the attack in recent speeches, to say nothing of his spokespeople; (3) Kerry's base wants it (to the point where some people have been pining for Howard Beale Dean lately), and may need to hear some of the old 1971 anti-war passion from Kerry to perk up morale and get out the down-ticket vote.

I'm not saying this is necessarily the wisest strategy. But it will feel good, and stands a chance of breaking the race's momentum (or, alternatively, burying Kerry entirely). I predict that Kerry decides that he's been too cautious for too long, throws caution to the wind, and turns his rhetorical boat into the fire, coming out swinging as the man Kerry obviously believes he really is.

Stay tuned. The fireworks could be fun to watch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:47 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 29, 2004
BLOG: Programming Note

In theory, the next week and a half should be a booming time for this blog - my readership is way, way up, and we're simultaneously headed into the presidential debates, the end of the pennant races, and the beginning of the postseason. In something of an ironic repeat of October 2000, however, I am gearing up for trial (actually a securities arbitration), which is scheduled to cover most of next week. I'll keep posting here to the extent possible, but things may be slower than usual until we get through October 8.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 28, 2004
BASEBALL: "[S]tats Nazis"

I noted a few years ago the similarity between (1) the battles between conservatives, particularly bloggers, and the mainstream political media and (2) the battles between statistical analysts of baseball and the mainstream baseball media. Peter Gammons has given us yet another example of this attitude:

Teammate Dave Roberts says Orlando Cabrera is one of those players who is not particularly good playing on bad teams where the only things that count are sabermetrics, but is much better playing for a good team where little things can make the difference between winning and losing.

Cabrera is a dashing, 78 rpm defender who sometimes almost plays too fast. But he gives himself up when necessary, pounds high fastballs and clearly loves playing on a Red Sox team that is in contention and sold out every game all season. . . Roberts is right about Cabrera, and the same thing can be said about Derek Jeter -- who the stats Nazis will insist from their garages isn't an exceptional shortstop -- and Brian Roberts. On the other hand, there are some star-type players that are not as good on a pennant contender.

"Stats Nazis in their garages" does have about the same ring as "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas." (For the record, I blog in the basement, not the living room or the garage). Ironically, of course, this comes just a little over two weeks after Gammons wrote a warm endorsement of the very types of new statistical analysis of defensive stats that have long supported the case against Jeter's defense and that led the Red Sox to trade for Cabrera. In fact, in that column, Gammons cited Cabrera as a prime example of the value of such stats. As I've noted repeatedly, we have yet another example of how Gammons gives vent to the views of different sources with diametrically opposite world views.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:31 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Lowered Expectations

Karl Rove must dream, in the says leading up to the first debate, of stories like this:

New York's state Democratic Party chairman derided President Bush on Monday as "simple" and "that simplistic gentleman up there in the White House with his one- and two-syllable answers."

And remind me why someone who gets snookered this badly by the mere threat to pull out of one debate should be trusted to negotiate with Iranian mullahs and crazy Kim.

Then again, Dales warns that the history of pre-debate polls and their power to predict the general election result doesn't necessarily support the idea that the debates are as influential as everyone thinks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 27, 2004
WAR: The "Q" Word

A big controversy erupted back in April when Ted Kennedy called Iraq "George Bush's Vietnam;" commentators on the right like Instapundit and Jonah Goldberg accused Kennedy of preaching defeatism, while people on the left, like Mark Kleiman and Matt Yglesias, tried to argue that Kennedy hadn't really meant an unwinnable quagmire; Kleiman eventually relented when Eugene Volokh pointed to Kennedy using the "q" word:

Eugene Volokh finds a news account of a Senate debate today in which Kennedy explicitly likens the Iraq situation to Vietnam, describing both as "quagmires." Unlike Kennedy's Brookings speech, this is unambiguously defeatist language. I don't know whether it's accurate analysis . . . but, accurate or not, it's fair to say that having it used on the Senate floor is likely to make it harder to convince, e.g., Ali al-Sistani to come down on our side rather than Sadr's side.

Well. Now, we have John Kerry running a campaign commercial criticizing ads run by Bush "[i]n the face of the Iraq quagmire . . ." Defeatism has become the major theme of the Kerry campaign in the closing weeks, to the point where he would run an ad just assuming that the war in Iraq is a "quagmire."

Don't say you weren't warned.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | War 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Beating the House

Studes notes that the Yankees are likely to finish around ten games better than the record that would be projected, via Bill James' Pythagorean theory, from their runs scored and allowed. He notes the teams qualifying for postseason play since 1900 that have exceeded their projections by the most: 1970 Reds (11 games), 1961 Reds (10), 1997 Giants (10), 1931 Athletics (9), 1930 Athletics (8), 2002 Twins (8).

See a pattern? How about their postseason records? 1970 Reds (4-4), 1961 Reds (1-4), 1997 Giants (0-3), 1931 Athletics (3-4), 1930 Athletics (4-2), 2002 Twins (1-4). Total: 13-21, one World Championship (the 1930 A's, who played a Cardinals team with a nearly identical Pythagorean record).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:10 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 26, 2004
POLITICS: From My Blog To Jonathan Alter's Ear

Back on July 28, at the height of enthusiasm for the Kerry campaign, I noted this, from Josh Marshall's site, about a conversation Marshall had with Michael Moore at the Democratic convention:

I ask him what he makes of all of this. No attacks on the president. Not even any mention of the man's name. . . .

[A]s he breezes by he says, "Oh, Really? I liked it. You don't even have to say it. Everyone knows how bad it is."

Think what you will about Michael Moore or evening one of the convention, I think that sums up precisely what this event is all about and the dynamic on which it's operating. I've seen a slew of articles today arguing that the Democrats must energize their 'base' while not alienating the swing voters John Kerry needs to clinb from the mid-40s past 50%.

But this strikes me as a tired conventional wisdom that has little to do with what's actually happening here. . . .

Among Democrats, the rejection of this president is so total, exists on so many different levels, and is so fused into their understanding of all the major issues facing the country, that it doesn't even need to be explicitly evoked. . . . the primetime speeches were actually brimming with barbs, and rather jagged ones at that. They were just woven into the fabric of the speeches, fused into rough-sketched discussions of policy, or paeans to Kerry.

Perhaps it's a touchy analogy, but like voters who understood the code-words Republicans once (and often still do) used to flag hot-button racial issues they dared not voice openly, these Democrats could hear the most scathing attacks on President Bush rattling through the speeches they heard tonight.

My reaction:

Josh Marshall and Micheal Moore hit the nail on the head with regard to how the Democrats really feel about why this convention has been so vague and unspecific in its attacks on President Bush, to the point where I hardly think the name "Dick Cheney" or familiar hobby-horses like "Halliburton" or "Enron" or "Weapons of Mass Destruction" have been mentioned: they think it's so self-evident that Bush is a disaster that they don't even believe it's necessary to explain why. I'm not sure that's a winning approach, but I do think Marshall and Moore have put their fingers on what their side is thinking.

As it turns out, this is rather precisely the problem: Kerry didn't think the American people needed any persuading. Thank you, big media/lefty pundit coccoon. Now, months later, Jonathan Alter has noticed the problem:

Shrum's grand plan wasn't complicated. He figured that with most voters believing the country is on the "wrong track," all that Kerry had to do was establish his credibility as a potential commander in chief and he would win—hence the "bio" convention. No need to respond directly to Bush ads sliming him for wanting to cut the same weapons systems that Bush's father cut. No need to explain how the Iraq war had been botched. No need to discredit Bush at all, because he was already thoroughly discredited.

Oh, well. The Shrum strategy was the product of short-term thinking (the assumption that Bush's unpopularity in the period of the Abu Ghraib Prison scandal would last until fall) and was reinforced by the sealed and often smug world of Democratic politics, where it was taken for granted that Bush was bad, bad, bad, and any reasonable person already knew why. Shrum correctly realized that a Michael Moore-style sledgehammer would do little to sway undecided voters who don't loathe Bush. But Shrum wrongly extrapolated from that point that Kerry had no need to indict Bush in easy-to-remember phrases that would stick. He once told me as much, and that name-calling wouldn't work in post-9/11 presidential politics.

That was wishful thinking.

Of course, it's a bit late now to fix the problem. But turning to the meta-issue, amazingly, this isn't the first time Alter has followed one of my trains of thought. On September 9, I wrote:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:57 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: Overrated

Another not-new-but-new-to-me link: Aaron Schatz, moving on up to Slate, on why star running backs like Ricky Williams are overrated.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:25 PM | Football | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Stale Humor . . .

. . . but still funny. Trolling through the demented Allahpundit's archives, I picked up this, this and this from the Democratic primaries. If you didn't see them then, go there now.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:23 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Follow The Money

Austin Bay, just back from Iraq, had an important observation about a key driving force in the insurgency there:

[Before the war,] no one knew the Baath hardcore had so much money. . . . Saddam stole billions. How much of the trove remains? I don't think the Swiss, Persian Gulf and Asian bankers who helped him stash it know. Recall the crisp $600 million U.S. soldiers found in a building in Baghdad. No doubt stockpiles of Baathist cash remain hidden in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.

The Baghdad rumor mill says Baath warlords pay bombers anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per attack, so even a million dollars can buy a lot of bang. It also buys TV time. The thousands of trucks that successfully deliver goods in Iraq don't make CNN. The one that the mercenary bomber blew to bits does.

It's a strategic weakness every PR operative knows: TV demands drama. TV magnifies the thug's bomb.

(Link via Instapundit). This is a huge point. It's also why I can't understand why we're not turning some serious screws to get Oil-for-"Food" documents out of the UN's grubby hands - the faster we find the money, the faster we can strangle the insurgency. (Unless we already have that stuff behind the scenes and are not making a big public stink so it's not widely known we have it, or unless the trail's gone cold enough that it's no longer urgent)

See here for more on how the Oil-for-"Food" money may have been used to fund al Qaeda as well, despite the conventional wisdom that Saddam would never have anything to do with terrorists. (Hat tip: CQ)

Meanwhile, Ollie North, also back from Iraq, offers his own perspective; you may not like North, but he has two advantages that many reporters don't: he's a combat veteran himself, and he actually went back to re-embed in some of the hot zones to see what was going on. He makes an important point about why, even if it stretches the definition of "terrorist" to cover people attacking foreign troops in their own native land, they can hardly be described as anything but:

[T]his is no "guerrilla insurgency." By definition, "guerrillas" or "insurgents" represent an organized political alternative to an established regime. Radical Sunni and Shi'ite clerics like Muqtada al-Sadr, who tortured and killed 200 men, women and children and buried them in a mass grave in Najaf, don't promise to make things better for the Iraqi people. Nor do the remaining Ba'ath Party warlords or foreign extremists like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. These men inciting gunfights in Iraq aren't "insurgents" — they are anarchists. They offer no unified "platform" other than "jihad." When not shooting at coalition or Iraqi security forces, they are trying to kill each other. Dangerous? Yes. A "guerrilla army"? No.

I'm not sure I agree with regard to al-Sadr, who clearly has an endgame in mind that results with him gaining some form of political power. But many of the Sunni insurgents, Zarqawi included, fit this description to a T.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:20 PM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: When It Rains . . .

Traffic is usually way down on a Sunday, but I've had a gigantic traffic day, as Little Green Footballs and Instapundit link to my stroll through Josh Marshall's archives, in both cases without me having to do anything to publicize the link. Very gratifying. Once again: for anyone coming here for the first time, check out the "greatest hits" posts and scroll down to my sidebar of baseball columns from 2000-2003, if you want a sample of what I do here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:11 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Microbial Theory

Let's consider exactly how bad things look right now for John Kerry in the Electoral College, by looking over RealClearPolitics' state-by-state battleground poll averages. Bush, of course, starts with a historical advantage: he needs 269 electors to tie, 270 to win, and if he holds the 2000 "red states," he gets 278. On the RCP scoreboard, Bush gets 291 if you count the states where his average margin is at least 3 points over Kerry.

With Ohio drifting away from Kerry and Wisconsin looking firmly planted in the Bush camp, Kerry's hopes are now totally dependent upon wresting Florida from Bush, while holding on to big battlegrounds like Pennsylvania (Kerry by 1.7), Minnesota (tied), Oregon (Kerry +0.7), and New Jersey (Kerry +1.4) (Michigan, at Kerry +5 now looks fairly safe for Kerry barring another big shift in the dynamics of the race).

But, leaving aside the issue of Maine and possibly Colorado splitting their electoral votes, consider this outcome - even if Florida gets away from Bush, he could still win with the following states:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Much as I dislike Barry Bonds and don't want him breaking the home run record, I'm constrained to agree with John Perricone and Bud Selig that we have long since passed the point where opposing managers aren't just being foolish in walking Bonds all the time, but downright unsportsmanlike. Let the man hit.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Links 9/26/04

*Go read Captain Ed, and keep scrolling. There's just so much good stuff there I can't begin to link to it all.

*I've added Let's Fly Under The Bridge to the blogroll for Roland Patrick's unique combination of exhaustive examination of the "Bush AWOL" nonsense (with the benefit of knowledge derived from his own military experience) and his longstanding crusade to mock Brad DeLong. In this installment, he carves up the US News and World Report for misunderstanding Bush's TANG payroll records and service requirements. (Hat tip to the redesigned QandO - update your blogrolls! - for linking to Patrick).

*Geraghty notes more examples of Kerry's chronic indecisiveness, this time with quotes from exasperated party loyalist and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell.

*Godwin's Law alert from Josh Marshall: "Can we re-check the sprinkler system in the Reichstag?"

*Drezner's got some great stuff on life in the campaign press corps bubble.

*The spate of retractions on stories harmful to Kerry on Friday seems like a sign of what the ex-Clinton guys like McCurry, Lockhart, Carville and Begala are good at - jumping all over the media to get their side of the story out or, in these two cases, to get errors fixed before they spread too far. Just because media bias, sloppiness and laziness so often tilts against Republicans, we shouldn't forget that Democrats get burned at times as well, and a Democratic candidate needs people to push back at the media.

By the way, I thought at the time that people might be misreading the Burkett paraphrase that later got retracted. Here's the original:

During a single phone conversation with Lockhart, Burkett said he suggested a "couple of concepts on what I thought [Kerry] had to do" to beat Bush. In return, he said, Lockhart tried to "convince me as to why I should give them the documents."

Some people read this as saying that Lockhart wanted Burkett to give the documents to the Democrats, but it always looked to me like he was saying Lockhart told him to give the documents to CBS. This is just bad writing, which leaves the reader in doubt as to critical facts (as Daffy Duck would say, "Pronoun Trouble!"). Anyway, the later retraction clarified that Burkett had told the reporter that CBS wanted the documents - and if that's what he really said, the reporter just goofed terribly.

*As long as John Kerry is in public life - at least as long as he fails to apologize for or retract his statements in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War - stories like this one will just keep coming (hat tip to Allah).

*And another point, albeit not from what you would call an independent source, on Bush's entry into the TANG, for those of you not sick to death of this:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:17 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Lost Tribe

Wowsers. The Weekly Standard's Joseph Bottum, fresh from his denunciations of Charles Ogletree, now charges no less a figure than Laurence Tribe with plaigarism over the incessant repetition of identical or similar phrases from Henry J. Abraham's 1974 book Justices and Presidents in Tribe's 1985 book God Save This Honorable Court - a popular work, with no footnotes, which Bottum suggests was rushed into print to provide intellectual ammunition to otherwise unarmed Senate Democrats bracing for attacks on Reagan appointees to the Supreme Court (an effort that bore fruit in the Bork hearings in 1987). Go read Bottum's whole article and judge for yourself.

I actually worked for Tribe briefly my third year of law school, as part of an army of research assistants who summarized Supreme Court cases - every Supreme Court case for several recent years, between us - for a revision of Tribe's American Constitutional Law treatise. Tribe isn't the kind of guy to plaigarise out of a lack of ability to do independent work; as Bottum suggests, the trap for people like Tribe is more the temptation to be inhumanly prolific.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:48 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 24, 2004
BASEBALL: Rampaging Bears

Stat of the day: the Cubs are batting .272/.480/.327 since the All-Star Break. Of course, a .480 team slugging percentage for a full season would be most impressive by historical standards. For the starting lineup, the numbers are even more impressive:

Michael Barrett53177561636252112.316.542.361
Derrek Lee652526819010444725.270.536.338
Mark Grudzielanek5517454101421168.310.448.342
Nomar Garciaparra3312738100421169.299.472.353
Aramis Ramirez56201629019354418.308.637.363
Sammy Sosa61238567017333718.235.479.295
Corey Patterson632647417013433316.280.492.329
Moises Alou632307017218484934.304.630.388
Starting 8651663478966100270263140.287.533.343

Once again, the Cubs have a team that's long on home runs and short on patience. But when you've got this kind of wall-to-wall power, it hardly matters. While Mark Prior, Kerry Wood and Matt Clement have struggled, it's been the less-vaunted Cubbie offense - even adjusting for the fact that it's been a good hitters' year at Wrigley - that's carried the load as the Cubs stay in the wild-card hunt down the stretch run. And while Nomar and Sammy may be the biggest names here, they haven't been particularly close to the biggest bats, as Moises Alou, Aramis Ramirez and the long-awaited breakout of Michael Barrett have made a much bigger impact.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:51 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 23, 2004
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/23/04

*Ramesh Ponuru notes the Kerry campaign's misuse of a study whose author contends that it did not, as the Kerry folks claim, show that President Bush's Social Security reform plans would lead to massive benefit cuts.

What else is new?

*It's official: the Kerry campaign is raising the white flag in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri, all once thought of as potential swing states. Kerry has pulled any plans for running additional ads in those states.

*Jon Stewart last night, on Rathergate: "To see fake journalism taking off like this is very refreshing."

*Progress in winning over African-American voters is, like the Yeti, a durable yet mythical figure in Republican circles. But hope springs eternal. Red State has a chart (the second one, not the first, which is a sample of 40 voters) that seems to show President Bush doubling or tripling his support among black voters in several states compared to 2000, mainly in the South. I'm not sure if this is reliable stuff, but if it is, I'd bet that military families are heavily represented among those willing to give Bush a hearing.

*Captain Ed's readers keep digging up new documents at the Navy Archives regarding Kerry's tour in Vietnam. This one relates to David Alston, who spoke persuasively at the Democratic Convention but has tended to tell stories about engagements where he and Kerry did not serve together.

*Wizbang sees Kerry throwing the Swift Boat Veterans into the briar patch.

*Try this one on:

The Commission on Presidential Debates told the Bush and Kerry campaigns Tuesday that it could not accede to their unusual request that it sign by Wednesday their 32-page agreement detailing parameters for the debates.

First of all, the commission said, it has to determine which candidates have enough support in the polls to qualify for the debates, which it does not plan to do until Friday.

They need a poll to determine if Kerry still has enough support to be included in a debate? ;)

*What is Kerry hiding? Quite a lot of things major candidates usually disclose, including medical records, tax and financial records, and military records. (via QandO). The press usually doesn't tolerate this - they didn't let go with Bill Simon's tax returns in 2002 or Jack Ryan's divorce records this spring (in each case, inflicting huge damage on the candidate), and we saw in the case of Paul Tsongas why the medical records of a candidate - especially a cancer survivor - can be a significant omission. Yet the media has given Kerry a free pass on stuff that he would have to disclose if he was running for Senator or Governor.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:04 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Despair and Rebirth

Eric McErlain has a couple of good posts, one lamenting how the Mets not only destroyed their credibility with their fans by trading Scott Kazmir but completely failed to anticipate or understand why people were so upset, the other discussing the development of a baseball stadium in Washington to house Les Expos (See here for a photo of the likely site).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Singles Record

ESPN and the Associated Press botched this one on Friday:

Ichiro Suzuki broke the major league single-season record with his 199th single in the seventh inning of the Seattle Mariners' game against the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.

With a hit in the seventh inning for his second single of the game, Suzuki bettered the mark of 198 singles set by Lloyd Waner of Pittsburgh in 1927.

Of course, as I noted in a column about Ichiro three years ago, the major league record at the time was 206 set by Wee Willie Keeler in 1898, and the AL record was 185 by Wade Boggs in 1985. Ichiro broke that AL record in 2001, extending it to 192, and has now broken Keeler's record as well, with 211 singles through last night. But a little halfway competent research would have indicated the right record.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:55 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 22, 2004
BLOG: Blogjam

This about says it all about the booming traffic so many of us are experiencing as the first presidential election to be blogged approaches.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:47 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Flip, Flop & Fly

Tracking all the Kerry flip-flops on Iraq is a hopeless endeavor, but here is a choice one. Kerry's speech on Monday:

The President claims [Iraq] is the centerpiece of his war on terror. In fact, Iraq was a profound diversion from that war . . .

Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops. Iraq is becoming a sanctuary for a new generation of terrorists who someday could hit the United States.

So, what did Kerry say when he voted on the Iraq war resolution?

It would be naive to the point of grave danger not to believe that, left to his own devices, Saddam Hussein will provoke, misjudge, or stumble into a future, more dangerous confrontation with the civilized world. He has as much as promised it. . .

A brutal, oppressive dictator, guilty of personally murdering and condoning murder and torture, grotesque violence against women, execution of political opponents, a war criminal who used chemical weapons against another nation and, of course, as we know, against his own people, the Kurds. He has diverted funds from the Oil-for-Food program, intended by the international community to go to his own people. He has supported and harbored terrorist groups, particularly radical Palestinian groups such as Abu Nidal, and he has given money to families of suicide murderers in Israel.

Man, this is just too easy sometimes. I also found this amusing:

The President . . . should give other countries a stake in Iraq’s future by encouraging them to help develop Iraq’s oil resources and by letting them bid on contracts instead of locking them out of the reconstruction process.


The President . . . should use more Iraqi contractors and workers, instead of big corporations like Halliburton.

So, after all of Kerry's bluster about a coalition of "the coerced and the bribed," be wants to get more people on our side by . . . bribing them. But at least he's being consistent in calling for outsourcing jobs currently done by U.S. companies and workers, right?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Expectations Game

A few weeks back I noted the Bush campaign's strategy to lower expectations for Bush's performance in debates by creating a debate-about-debates dynamic that made it seem as if the president was afraid of too many debates; I also noted how hard it was for Bush's detractors to resist the temptation to fall into the trap by mocking Bush on this score.

The good news for Kerry supporters: Matt Yglesias isn't stupid enough to fall for the trap. The bad news: John Kerry is.

(Stephen Green notes about Kerry: "Man, I'd love to play poker with this guy." Of course, Kerry is the same guy who has now announced to the world that we should be willing to threaten war when we don't mean it, so his bluffing skills are as bad as his ability to recognize a bluff - "Gee, John, you put a lot of chips on this hand." "Yes, I'm bluffing.").

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Road to 300, And Beyond

In early 2002, I took a look at the pitchers who won 300 games and where they stood relative to Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine at the same age, finding that Maddux was ahead of every modern (post-1920) pitcher who had won 300, while Glavine was also well-situated. As the two near the end of their age-38 seasons, let's update the chart, and add Mike Mussina into the mix:

PitcherThru 35At 36-37Thru 37At 38Thru 38After

* - And counting

First of all, ignore Phil Niekro, who's the outlier here. As you can see, a lot of these guys hit the wall right around 36-37, although the effect is exaggerated by the fact that several of the more recent pitchers were around that age in the 1981 strike season. Maddux remains well-situated to rack up a truly impressive number of career wins without having to have any more great seasons, although perhaps not as well situated as Clemens, who stands two wins from becoming only the second pitcher (Spahn was the last one) since the 1920s to win 330 games.

Glavine is still in the game, but frankly he needs to get out of Queens (which would probably help the Mets as well). As for Mussina, his struggles of late don't portend well, but he's ahead of Ryan, Spahn, Wynn, Perry and Niekro at the same age, and with the Yankee offense behind him he should have a few more years of smooth sailing if he gets straightened out.

For comparison, let's run the chart of the remaining 300-game winners from the 1890-1930 period (the 1880s guys are not even worth comparing):

PitcherThru 35At 36-37Thru 37At 38Thru 38After

Alexander, at least by this age (in the mid 1920s), is actually a decent comparison to Maddux. Mathewson retired at age 35, and at 37 was in Europe serving in World War I.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:14 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 21, 2004
POLITICS: Question of the Day

Stuart Buck:

So this is what supposedly happened:

1) Burkett comes into the possession of documents that, if true, would damage Bush and aid Kerry.

2) Via Max Cleland, the Kerry campaign is notified that Burkett has some highly interesting documents related to Bush.

3) Via Mary Mapes of CBS, Joe Lockhart is notified in particular that Burkett had some "records" that would "move the story forward."

4) Indeed, Burkett "had agreed to turn over the documents to CBS" only "if the network would arrange a conversation with the Kerry campaign."

5) Lockhart, a very busy man, then calls Burkett.

6) Despite the fact that Lockhart would have had no reason for calling Burkett in the first place other than the story about National Guard documents, and despite the fact Burkett had already tried to get the documents to the Kerry campaign via Max Cleland, and despite the fact that he had made CBS promise to get him in touch with the Kerry campaign before he would release the documents, both Lockhard and Burkett somehow neglected to talk about the documents.

7) Instead, Burkett merely took the opportunity to tell Lockhart that Kerry needed to talk "more" about his "Vietnam experience," as if Kerry hadn't already emphasized that theme, and as if Lockhart had called Burkett merely to hear this sort of generic advice.

Are 6 and 7 believable?

Like I said about Sandy Berger's-pants-gate: man, Clinton scandals are just the gift that keeps on giving, aren't they?

Oh, and: could there be a clearer contrast between (1) the media presumption of Bush and RNC involvement in the Swift Boat ads in the absence of any evidence of same and (2) the media presumption that the Kerry folks had nothing to do with this even though key figures in the Kerry and DNC camps were talking to all the major players, including a known crackpot, at the critical junctures? Particularly given that Bush and the RNC have never tried to add the Swift Boat Veterans' charges to their own litany of attacks on Kerry, while the open attacks on Bush's Guard service have come in the form of Kerry speeches, Kerry press releases, daily attacks by the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, ad campaigns paid for by the DNC, speeches by Wesley Clark, Tom Harkin and other Democratic candidates and officeholders, to say nothing of veiled references from numerous speakers at the Democratic Convention. It's not like the Democrats can credibly say that they didn't ask Burkett about this stuff because they weren't interested in this issue.

Bill INDC has some good stuff too.

UPDATE: Wizbang has an entertaining trip into the Sixty Minutes wayback machine to visit with the original wacko who started all these anti-Bush "Fortunate Son" stories before committing suicide after his criminal record (for paying someone to commit murder via car bomb) was exposed.

SECOND UPDATE: Michele has a particularly egregious example of where liberal journalists are willing to find coordination.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:43 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Web of Connections

Well, we keep digging deeper on the web of connections between the Democrats and the forged documents used in CBS' hit job on President Bush.

First of all, beyond his statement on CBS Evening News, Dan Rather sat for a longer interview with local reporter Marcia Kramer of WCBS-TV here in NY (Kramer is best known as, among other things, Hillary Clinton's favorite reporter during the 2000 Senate race, which should tell you something). I didn't see a transcript, but you can go here and view the video.

Rather seemed genuinely contrite and apologetic, and kept saying there was no excuse, "this is not a day for excuses." But his factual assertions belied that:

1. He focused entirely on the idea that CBS had to change its story when it determined that Bill Burkett lied to them about the provenance of the documents. Still no admission that there was anything wrong with the documents themselves or that anyone else but CBS' own diligence led to the discovery.

2. Rather seemed to admit that CBS, or at least Rather, never saw anything purporting to be originals: "I believed in the authenticity of the copies of the documents we had"

3. Rather refuses to accept responsibility for putting the documents on the air over the objections of two of CBS' experts, and continues to insist either that the experts are lying now or that he personally was misled by his staff at CBS about what the experts were telling them. I haven't exactly transcribed this - I'm paraphrasing - "I was told that we had four experts who by and large agreed that the documents were not forgeries, probably weren't fake - two of those came back later and either changed their story or changed what I was and we were told was what they were saying"

4. Additional information on Burkett's additional source: Burkett told CBS that the documents came from a person (who Rather still won't identify) who would have had access to the original files and who was out of the country and CBS could not locate them.

But wait, there's more!

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:24 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 20, 2004
POLITICS: Josh Marshall's Timeline

Allah and Jeff Goldstein have been wondering about the timeline set out in the Washington Post for how CBS put together the "Sixty Minutes II" story, and what it means in the hunt to identify who was responsible for creating and disseminating forgeries. You'll want to read their whole analyses. Now, it appears that CBS will point the finger at Bill Burkett, see here and here, a guy about whom Kevin Drum - who interviewed Burkett in February - said

I talked with Burkett at length back in February, and speaking as someone who believes his story about Bush's files being purged, I still wouldn't trust him for a second if he suddenly produced a bunch of never-before-seen memos out of nowhere. If he really is CBS's "unimpeachable source," they've got some very serious problems with their news judgment.

Here's the basic timeline derived from quotes from the WaPo article, which I've excerpted and bullet-pointed:

*In mid-August, Mapes told her bosses that she had finally tracked down a source who claimed to have access to memos written in 1972 and 1973 by the late Lt. Col. Jerry B. Killian, Bush's squadron commander in the Texas Air National Guard.

*During the Republican National Convention in New York [August 30-September 2], Rather got a call from Ben Barnes, a onetime Texas lieutenant governor and veteran Democrat who has known the anchor, a former Houston TV reporter, for 30 years. Barnes said he was ready to say before the cameras that he had pulled strings to get Bush a coveted slot in the Texas Guard in 1968. Mapes had long been urging Barnes to tell his story.

*On Friday, Sept. 3, the day after the convention ended, Mapes hit pay dirt. She told Howard her source had given her the documents.

*The next stop was Texas. Rather was in Florida, so CBS chartered a plane to get him to Austin. On Sunday, Sept. 5, he and Mapes interviewed Robert Strong, an administrative assistant in the Texas Guard during Bush's service there.

*Document analyst Marcel Matley flew from California to New York, and Rather interviewed him on Labor Day, Sept. 6

*On Tuesday, Sept. 7, as Rather sat down in a CBS studio with former Texas lieutenant governor Barnes, the top brass was turning its attention to the explosive story.

The story ran Wednesday, September 8.

So, that's it? Well, here's an item quoted by Goldstein that needs to be factored in:

In an Aug. 21 posting [on a Yahoo group for Texas Democrats], Burkett referred to a conversation with former senator Max Cleland (D-Ga.) about the need to counteract Republican tactics: “I asked if they wanted to counterattack or ride this to ground and outlast it, not spending any money. He said counterattack. So I gave them the information to do it with. But none of them have called me back.”

Cleland confirmed that he had a two- or three-minute conversation by cell phone with a Texan named Burkett in mid-August while he was on a car ride. He remembers Burkett saying that he had “valuable” information about Bush, and asking what he should [do] with it. “I told him to contact the [Kerry] campaign,” Cleland said. “You get this information tens of times a day, and you don’t know if it is legit or not."

Cleland, as we know, was in Texas August 25 to deliver a letter to the president's ranch in Crawford; on August 21, Cleland was in Wisconsin.

Anyway, that's all background here. Someone with more time to spend on this can connect these dots, but I'd like to add a few links to the fire:

*On August 22, with no apparent prompting from anything in the news, Josh Marshall, out of the blue, calls for Ben Barnes to come forward:

Now, as fate would have it, Ben Barnes is a Democrat. Was then, is now. And he supports John Kerry.

But he's never really spoken openly about how he helped Bush hop in front of everyone else or other aspects of the president's abbreviated military service, about which he is said to know a great deal.

Maybe now would be the time?

By August 27, still well before Barnes was reportedly in touch with Dan Rather, Marshall touts a Kerry campaign video featuring Barnes:

You'll want to link through to this one -- it's a video clip of Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the House in Texas, the guy who got President Bush into the Texas Air National Guard.

I'm told the tape is from a recent Kerry rally . . .

[snip; includes Barnes saying, "I got a young man named George W. Bush in the National Guard when I was Lt. Gov. of Texas and I’m not necessarily proud of that. But I did it."]

Now, I don't know what Ben Barnes looks like. And I do not independently know the provenance of the tape. But I've spoken to two sources who know Barnes. And they tell me that that is Barnes on the tape.

One of those two men is Jim Moore -- co-author of Bush's Brain. Moore told me this afternoon that the clip is from June 8th of this year, at a Kerry rally in Austin. Moore assures me that the tape is legitimate.

I placed a call to Barnes' office and left a message with one of his assistants; but the request for comment has not yet been returned.

Click through Marshall's site to see the video. Soon, Marshall was pushing the Barnes-is-talking story; by September 1, six days before Barnes supposedly met with Rather, Marshall reported:

A bit more on Ben Barnes, the guy from Texas who got President Bush into the Guard way-back-when.

Apparently, the attacks on Kerry's war record just proved too much for him. As we've noted previously, for almost a decade now Barnes has gone to great lengths to avoid causing trouble for the president on the Guard matter. And the Bush folks in Texas have made it clear to him during this election cycle that if he spills the beans about the president that they'll do everything in their power to put him out of business in the state (Barnes is now a lobbyist). And that heat has, I'm told, increased dramatically in recent days.

But apparently those threats haven't done the trick because he has already taped a lengthy interview slated to appear in the not-too-distant future on a major national news show in which he'll describe the strings he pulled to keep Bush out of Vietnam and apparently more.

(Between you and me, according to my three sources on this, Barnes told his story to Dan Rather -- remember, the Texas connection -- for 60 Minutes.)

(Allah noted a similar report in Salon that day). What does it all mean? Not clear yet. But Marshall's sources were clearly pushing Barnes to come forward and get him to talk to Rather, at precisely the time that Burkett was talking to Max Cleland and was, apparently, involved in getting the forged documents to CBS.

Developing . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:28 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Sky Captain

I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this weekend (I wasn't excited enough about the movie to redesign my blog on that theme, but I was pretty intrigued). Visually, the film was an absolute masterpiece, every bit as compelling as advertised, with the film noir-ish play of light and shadow and the spectacular computer-generated backdrops. One thing that worked extremely well was the fact that the movie opened in familiar settings - the Empire State Building, Radio City - and when that worked, the suspension of disbelief was cemented. The movie's high points were the spectacular aerial dogfights, especially the chases through the narrow streets of Manhattan. You could fill a film-school paper with all the visual references, notably The Empire Strikes Back (for a Cloud City-style airborne aircraft carrier scene and a duel on a bridge over a seemingly bottomless pit), and an early scene against a large picture window in Manhattan that was lifted directly from Citizen Kane.

The plot and dialogue weren't anything exceptional, but they held together without much in the way of cringeworthiness, and a plot twist near the end was amusing. If I had a quibble with the movie it was the casting of Jude Law, who was rather a dry action hero, lacking in the charm and flair of a Harrison Ford or Mel Gibson. Law co-produced the film, though, so I gather a different lead would not have been possible.

Anyway, if you like sci-fi/retro adventures in an Indiana Jones-ish vein, this is definitely one to catch on the big screen.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:36 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bonds Rising

A new feature over at the site has long had Similarity Scores so you could compare a player's most comparable players through the same age. Now, at least for batters, you can look over the list of the ten most comparable - and their stats after that age. Here's the numbers for Barry Bonds from age 36 (in 2001) to 2003, compared to the average from 36 on for his most comparable players through age 35:


The list of comparables includes three active players - Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas and Rafael Palmeiro - but the numbers are even lower if you remove them. The others' average numbers are not that bad for old guys, but they give you a sense of how truly unique what Bonds has done is. Lest you think this an unfair comparison, the other seven are all in the Hall of Fame, including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson and Mel Ott.

All of whom were in increasingly steep decline at Bonds' age.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:26 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Neyer in Hot Water Again

Somehow, I managed to miss this story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:05 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Reversion to Form

Looks like my prediction isn't holding up too well, as the Yankee-Red Sox series reverted to form with the Yanks' mauling of Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, leaving the Sox to pick up a game and a half on the Yankees in their remaining 11 other games even if they sweep next weekend's series at Fenway. Of course, that's not impossible (the Sox play 8 games against Baltimore and three against Tampa Bay, while the Yankees have 1 against the Rays, three vs. the Twins and six against the woebegotten Blue Jays), but don't bet on it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:04 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2004
POLITICS: The Forgery Trap

This hypothetical scenario, which I linked to earlier, suggests (among other things) that the White House, while having no role in their creation, basically entrapped CBS into putting forged documents on the air:

They [CBS] come up with a clever idea: They'll get a reaction out of the White House. They decide to fax the memos to the White House and ask for a comment. It will place Bush in a terrible bind. After all, Bush could have no way of knowing that copies of the memos still existed or what other memos CBS might have. He'll have to come out with a mealy-mouthed statement about how it doesn't matter and he fulfilled his Guard obligation and this is dirty politics. Then CBS can move forward with the broadcast, having Bush's tacit admission that they are genuine. . . .


Karl Rove gets the faxed documents and goes running to Bush with the bad news. Bush: 'This can't be right. I never got any orders from Jerry Killian to report for a medical exam.' Rove: 'Well Dan Rather is going to be putting these on his 60 Minutes broadcast. He's got to have people lined up who will vouch for them.' Bush: 'Karl, Jerry would never write down anything like this. Somebody's feeding bulls**t to CBS.' Rove: 'Okay, let's start by calling in the FBI and checking if these memos are real.'

An hour later two high-power experts are pouring over the documents. Within fifteen minutes they're telling Bush and Rove that the memos are not only fakes, they are really, really bad fakes. Rove: 'How easy would it be for other experts to see that?' Expert: 'Anyone can see it. I can't believe that CBS found a legitimate expert to authenticate these. No professional is going to risk his reputation by saying that these are genuine, especially if he only has copies to go by.'

But what's the White House going to do? Rove expects 60 Minutes to show a small picture on the TV screen with a blow-up highlighted overlay of a couple of critical sentences from each memo. It won't be enough for experts to analyze. The general public will believe it, and White House denials will be brushed aside.

Now Rove comes up with a counter-ploy: Re-fax the documents to the rest of the news media. That way they'll have the evidence available for their own experts to analyze and knock down. Don't say much of anything; just reiterate the usual boilerplate that the President fulfilled his National Guard obligation and was honorably discharged.

The 60 Minutes crew is a bit surprised by the White House tactic, but immediately concludes that Rove is trying a pre-emptive strike, to minimize the significance of the memos. In a way it's even better than an angry response. It shows that the White House is shell-shocked! The White House reaction proves that the memos are genuine, despite the doubts which have been raised during the pro forma review by CBS' outside experts, and despite the denials of Killian's son.

The Washington Post's account seems to support this general theory, if not its specifics:

White House communications director Dan Bartlett had agreed to talk to "60 Minutes," but only on condition that the CBS program provide copies of what were being billed as newly unearthed memos indicating that President Bush had received preferential treatment in the National Guard. The papers were hand-delivered at 7:45 a.m. CBS correspondent John Roberts, filling in for Rather, sat down with Bartlett at 11:15.

Half an hour later, Roberts called "60 Minutes" producer Mary Mapes with word that Bartlett was not challenging the authenticity of the documents. Mapes told her bosses, who were so relieved that they cut from Rather's story an interview with a handwriting expert who had examined the memos.

At that point, said "60 Minutes" executive Josh Howard, "we completely abandoned the process of authenticating the documents. Obviously, looking back on it, that was a mistake. We stopped questioning ourselves. I suppose you could say we let our guard down."

(No word on whether pun intended).

As CBS pushed to finish its report, it was Bartlett who contacted the network -- rather than the other way around -- at 5:30 the evening before to ask whether the White House could respond to the widely rumored story.

And more:

Bartlett said he caught the president leaving for a campaign trip that morning and showed him the memos. Bush had "no recollection of having seen them," Bartlett said, and would not necessarily have seen papers from a commander's personal file.

Howard was struck by the fact that Bartlett, in his interview, kept referring to the Killian memos to support his argument that the president had fulfilled his military obligations.

"This gave us such a sense of security at that moment that we had the story," Howard said. "We gave the documents to the White House to say, 'Wave us off this if we're wrong.' " But Bartlett said CBS never asked him to verify the memos and that he had neither the time nor the resources to do so.

I note with amusement CBS' defense, in stark contrast to its sneers at the one-man-band nature of the bloggers criticizing it:

Mapes, an associate producer and a researcher were carrying the journalistic load. "The show is not so lavishly budgeted that we have tons of people doing this," said Harry Moses, a "60 Minutes" producer not connected to the story. "You do the pre-interviews yourself and then bring in the correspondent."

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:38 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Steyn Challenge

Mark Steyn challenges CBS' typewriter "expert" Bill Glennon, who still insists that it was possible to create the now-infamous Killian memos with a 1972-vintage typewriter:

Look, if Dan thinks this guy's theory is correct, let's put him and his IBM Model D and me and my computer in a room at CBS News for an hour and see which one of us emerges with the closest replicas of these four documents. I'll give him ten thousand bucks for every memo he reproduces exactly, and round it up to an even 50 grand if he gets all four right.

Any takers, CBS?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:46 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Bear Baiters for Bush?

If you follow the Electoral College too closely for your own good, you may be aware that, if each of the two presidential candidates wins the vote in each of Maine's two Congressional districts, they are each awarded one elector, with the state's two remaining electors going to the statewide winner. Apparently, while John Kerry is still doing solidly in Maine, President Bush is running ahead in the state's predominantly rural Second Congressional District, a potentially significant win if the election swings back to being airtight-close by Election Day. To what does CNN attribute this?

Although Maine has voted solidly for the Democratic presidential nominee since 1992, this year has opened a window of opportunity for the president in the 2nd District, which is perceived as more conservative and supportive of the war in Iraq than southern Maine's 1st Congressional District.


According to the CNN Web site, large numbers of veterans who live in the 2nd District are the bulk of the support for President Bush. The network's analysts also speculated that hunters in the 2nd District who oppose a ban on bear baiting could also be presumed to be pro-Bush and will be helpful to the president on Nov. 2.


Is that anything like this?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:32 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: And Now For Something Completely Different

Add to the list of new government agencies to be added by John Kerry: the Ministry of Silly Walks:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:04 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 18, 2004
PATRIOT GAMES: Winning Hearts and Minds, If Not Championships

From our correspondent in Iraq:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:29 AM | Patriot Games | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Misguided Fox Hunters

Stuart Buck catches Kevin Drum and the New Republic making charges against FOX News - of promoting a doctored photo of John Kerry and Jane Fonda - without any supporting evidence. Buck goes through the transcripts and finds that FOX anchors mentioned that the photo was doctored and a hoax every time they referred to it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:29 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Well, this is the first time in my lifetime - or at least my memory - that anybody has cracked 700 homers. Savor the moment . . . even if, like me, you can't find much to like about Bonds. It's still a unique one.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Latest on Rathergate

*ABC has decided to go for CBS' jugular, and comes up with the man who actually got Bush into the Texas Air National Guard:

Retired Col. Walter Staudt, who was brigadier general of Bush's unit in Texas, interviewed Bush for the Guard position and retired in March 1972. . . .

"I never pressured anybody about George Bush because I had no reason to," Staudt told ABC News in his first interview since the documents were made public.


Staudt said he decided to come forward because he saw erroneous reports on television. . . .

Staudt insisted Bush did not use connections to avoid being sent to Vietnam.

"He didn't use political influence to get into the Air National Guard," Staudt said, adding, "I don't know how they would know that, because I was the one who did it and I was the one who was there and I didn't talk to any of them."

'Highly Qualified'

During his time in charge of the unit, Staudt decided whether to accept those who applied for pilot training. He recalled Bush as a standout candidate.

"He was highly qualified," he said. "He passed all the scrutiny and tests he was given."

Staudt said he never tried to influence Killian or other Guardsmen, and added that he never came under any pressure himself to accept Bush. "No one called me about taking George Bush into the Air National Guard," he said. "It was my decision. I swore him in. I never heard anything from anybody."

When he interviewed for the job, Bush was eager to join the pilot program, which Staudt said often was a hard sell. "I asked him, 'Why do you want to be a fighter pilot?' " Staudt recalled. "He said, 'Because my daddy was one.' He was a well-educated, bright-eyed young man, just the kind of guy we were looking for."

He added that Bush more than met the requirements for pilot training. "He presented himself well. I'd say he was in the upper 10 percent or 5 percent or whatever we ever talked to about going to pilot training. We were pretty particular because when he came back [from training], we had to fly with him."


Records show Bush stopped flying F-102As in April 1972. He has said he moved to Alabama to work on the Senate campaign of a family friend. Staudt retired from the Guard in March of that year and said he was never contacted about Bush's performance.

"There was no contact between me and George Bush ... he certainly never asked for help," Staudt said. "He didn't need any help as far as I knew."

He added that after retiring he was not involved in Air National Guard affairs. "I didn't check in with anybody - I had no reason to," he said. "I was busy with my civilian endeavors, and they were busy with their military options. I had no reason to talk to them, and I didn't."

Staudt said he continues to support Bush now that he is president. "My politics now are that I'm an American, and that's about all I can tell you," he said. "And I'm going to vote for George Bush."

Link via Allah.

*WaPo moves the ball ever so slightly by looking at Bill Burkett's rants in a Yahoo club. Money quote:

In e-mail messages to a Yahoo discussion group for Texas Democrats over the past few months, Burkett laid out a rationale for using what he termed "down and dirty" tactics against Bush. He said he had passed his ideas to the Democratic National Committee but that the DNC seemed "afraid to do what I suggest."

*A plausible how-it-could-have-happened scenario (link via Dales blog).

UPDATE: Allah has some pointed comments about Burkett's phone call to Max Cleland; he's right on the money in his point about Josh Marshall. And Mickey thinks Staudt could sue CBS, although the bigger question is why they never talked to him in the first place.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 17, 2004
BLOG: Seen and Heard

1. Charlie Rose asking Adam Nagourney of the NY Times and Mark Halperin of ABC News what John Kerry really believes about the Iraq war. They laugh. Eventually, they compose themselves enough to spout the party line about allies. This is followed by Bill Maher and Cornel West over on HBO lamenting how lame Kerry is.

2. Newt Gingrich and Bill O'Reilly congratulating themselves for not being those kind of right-wing crazies who think Dan Rather forged or knowingly used forged documents.

3. Walking in Manhattan, a guy on a bike runs a red light and almost runs me down - then turns around to yell at me for not watching where I'm going, as he bikes in front of a moving truck.

4. Long Island Railroad publishes new schedules every few months; the latest ones expired September 6. From what I could see at Penn Station, they didn't even bother to do September schedules for Shea Stadium.

5. Swift Boat Veterans running their latest ad on early morning TV - here in Queens. Is this a swing state, or have the Swifties suddenly come into more money than they know what to do with? Probably neither - with a modest budget, they are probably targeting NY to try to hit opinion leaders who will give them free publicity.

6. Vignette - young man and woman, probably dating, on the train platform, and the man casually twirls her around, like they're dancing. Older couple nearby, both looking - and you could see, watching them, they were just thinking - we don't do things like that anymore.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:37 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Swift Dodge?

Has the Navy determined that John Kerry was entitled to his medals? An AP report seems at first glance to say so:

The Navy's chief investigator concluded Friday that procedures were followed properly in the approval of Sen. John Kerry (news - web sites)'s Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals, according to an internal Navy memo.

Vice Adm. R.A. Route, the Navy inspector general, conducted the review of Kerry's Vietnam-ear [sic] military service awards at the request of Judicial Watch, a public interest group.

Hmm, "procedures followed properly"?

Judicial Watch had requested in August that the Navy open an investigation of the matter, but Route said in an internal memo obtained by The Associated Press that he saw no reason for a full-scale probe.

"Our examination found that existing documentation regarding the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart medals indicates the awards approval process was properly followed," Route wrote in the memo sent Friday to Navy Secretary Gordon England.

"In particular, the senior officers who awarded the medals were properly delegated authority to do so. In addition, we found that they correctly followed the procedures in place at the time for approving these awards."


"Conducting any additional review regarding events that took place over 30 years ago would not be productive," he wrote. "The passage of time would make reconstruction of the facts and circumstances unreliable, and would not allow the information gathered to be considered in the context of the time in which the events took place.

This is almost certainly the right decision as far as the Navy is concerned, but it does nothing to resolve the public question, which is dumped back on the voters to decide whether the facts matter and, if so, what they are. Not the reference, however, to "existing documentation" - I'm sure Judicial Watch will be hot to pursue whether everything available to Route has been made public.

UPDATE: Tom Maguire thinks this proves that the Navy has documents we don't, since there isn't sufficient public information to conclude that the proper procedures were followed with regard to Kerry's first Purple Heart.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:52 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The second in a periodic series by guest blogger and Army officer "Andy Tollhaus" on watching sports from Iraq.

April 23, 2004
Camp Speicher, Iraq

I hate getting out of bed in the morning. And, I’m terrible at it. (My mother told me just yesterday how glad she was that she wasn’t the one that had to get me out of bed anymore.) I’m liable to hit snooze for over two hours without realizing it and then spring out of bed cussing, but still late. So, when I set my alarm for 5 AM on the day that I was switching from a day shift to a night shift I felt like there was no way in hell that I was getting up for the first Red Sox-Yankees game of the year. The game would start at 4, so the 5 o’clock wake up should get me to a TV for the start of the 5th inning. As I woke up around 5:20 and walked to the bathroom, I wondered how the game was going, and figured that it would have to go on without me, because I was still tired and could get about 6 more hours of much needed sleep if I just resigned myself to check the box score online later. On my way back from the bathroom, I snuck into the “living container” next door, quietly turning on the television to check the score. The four sleeping occupants in the 20 foot by 10 foot “room,” which is basically a shipping container with electricity and air conditioning, had achieved success in setting up their AFN satellite, while I had achieved only frustration. It was the top half of the 6th and the Sox were up 5-2. Instantly I was awake. I think it was just the sight of Fenway Park…but it could have been the fact that the Sox were winning…and it definitely had something to do with them beating the Yankees. Whatever it was, I was ready. Forget all that talk 6 months ago (to the day, as the media loved pointing out) about swearing off the Red Sox for good. I turned the TV off and went back to my room to get dressed (body armor, weapon, and helmet, all part of the required uniform) so I could walk the 500 meters or so to the Battalion TOC (Tactical Operations Center) to watch the rest of the game.

As I sat down at one of the tables in the TOC, I nodded hello to my roommate Pov Strazdas (another friend from West Point). Pov’s a die-hard Raiders fan who, thanks to Wayne Gretzky and the LA Kings, is also as knowledgeable of a hockey fan as any that I’ve known from “SoCal.” In the TOC there’s always a certain level of activity that naturally goes along with running an Apache Battalion, but there’s also a television there, mostly for news. During the night shift the TV usually ends up showing one sport or another. Watching sports is usually more uplifting than watching the same news over and over of the country that you’re fighting in. Pov had been keeping me up to date on the NHL playoffs - since I wasn’t willing to get out of bed that early for anyone other than the Bruins and it seemed that AFN couldn’t bear to air that atrocious collapse against Les Habitants. By the time I finished reflecting on Pov’s hockey fan-dom, the Bruins’ collapse, and why we’re watching sports in a Battalion Headquarters in Iraq, the bases were full of Yankees in the top of the 8th. As you should already know (if you don’t, do pushups until I get tired, as Pov likes to say) we held on to win. The new season was here. The Sox. The Yankees. Fenway Park. Live, in Iraq. Unreal.

Halfway around the world, the feeling was the same. The start of a new baseball season signifies spring and new life. Memorial Day and the Red, White and Blue unofficial start of summer will soon be upon us. Granted summer in Iraq isn’t quite the time of year that we’ve all been hoping for, but it doesn’t get much more Red, White and Blue than watching our National Pastime in a combat zone. I had a new-found energy and wasn’t supposed to be at work for another 6 hours. Seeing Fenway had taken it from a daily check of the box scores to an old, familiar experience.

By now the battalion was waking up. Day shifts were coming on and Pov and the rest of those “on nights” were praying that their A/C’s were still working so sleep could be found in the midst of all that heat. For now, though, the channel still lingered on sports and the Giants-Dodgers game was just starting exactly 11 time zones away. I watched just long enough to see Barry Bonds’ pop up weakly to third. I then took my new-found energy off to renew my efforts in fixing my dish. I hired a local man who does some work around post and some magic on satellite dishes. By the time ESPNNews was leading off the half-hour with Sox highlights over and over again I was watching it in my own room. Nothing better than watching the highlights of a game that you just watched. Except, of course, watching highlights in Iraq of a game that you just watched in Iraq.

A week later, on the next of many exciting Friday nights in Iraq, I’m sitting here anticipating the next Red Sox - Yankees series, starting in about 4 hours. On AFN, the Cubbies are about to start a day game against that other New York team. It looks like a beautiful day for baseball in Chicago. I think I’ll leave the TV on as I fall asleep (it is 11 PM here, and I do have to get up at a reasonable hour tomorrow). Maybe if Mr. Cub can convince them to play two, they’ll still be playing in the morning. That would make getting out of bed a little bit easier.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:09 AM | Patriot Games | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/17/04

*I had meant to tear into Kerry spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter's claim that "There was no terrorism in Iraq before we went to war," but Stephen Hayes had done it for me.

*Does Kofi Annan want Bush to win, or is he (more likely) completely oblivious to how little most Americans (even many critics or skeptics of the Iraq war) like having some UN functionary tell them that it's "illegal" for America to go to war with a country that repeatedly violated the terms of a cease-fire? The State Department fires back.

*Got your Florida campaign slogan right here: "[L]et them go naked for a while" may not exactly be "let them eat cake," but it's close.

*Not that Kerry himself is any better; he's about as convincing a populist as Prince Charles. Vodkapundit notes that Kerry calling Lambeau Field "Lambert Field" is hardly the first example of him botching the local color, citing his campaign's ignorance of St. Louis radio powerhouse KMOX and his misadventures with Philly cheesesteak. Of course, then there's touting "Buckeye football" to a Michigan crowd, misidentifying Eddie Yost as a Red Sox player . . . it's stupid stuff, and the Yost thing is particularly forgivable because it was from a years-ago memory, but it does bespeak a certain disinterest in connecting with people on things that should be easy to get right. But here's what's hilarious about the Lambeau thing: Lambeau is a French surname, and Kerry said it like one of those guys who deliberately refuses to pronounce a French name properly. If Kerry can't get a French name right, what, precisely, is he good for?

*Opportunity knocks: Bush and Kerry have each been invited to appear, separately, for half-hour segments on Black Entertainment Television (BET) to address questions of special concern to African-American voters. Bush should jump at this. Yes, any potentially hostile interview is a risk in the stretch run of an election. And yes, Republicans often eschew advertising and campaigning directed at African-Americans out of a rational short-term calculation that there are more likely votes to be won elsewhere. But this is free TV, it's just a few hours of the president's time, and it's a way to showcase his interest without having to get booed by an NAACP crowd.

*Hey Hey, Ho Ho. (But check out the definitive rebuttal in the second comment).

*Roll tape!

*The camera does not love John Kerry. Of course, the caption here suggests an improvement on current campaign tactics.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: 54-40, or Fight?

Bush leads 54-40 in a Gallup poll due out this morning, raising further questions about the sometimes wide variance in polling. Still, I'd be surprised if many presidential candidates have won after trailing by double digits in a Gallup poll as late as the middle of September. The electoral math is getting grim for Kerry; if Bush wins Florida and Ohio, it's very hard for Kerry to win, and Bush is looking stronger in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which would really lock down the electoral college.

But don't get cocky; Dales still sees a lot of states in play.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:03 AM | Politics 2004 • | Poll Analysis | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Instalanche!

Well, for the first time I was on the receiving end of a full-bore Instalanche yesterday, as the Blogfather linked to the item below on the Plame investigation. I'm normally getting 500-600 visits a day lately; yesterday, I had about 6,000 visits in two hours, and wound up with nearly half of a usual month's traffic in less than half a day. You can see the results here.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:48 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 16, 2004
LAW/POLITICS: More Cracks In The Wall

Breaking news in the Valerie Plame case. DC District Judge Thomas Hogan yesterday unsealed this opinion (link opens a PDF file) requiring New York Times reporter Judith Miller to "appear before the grand jury to testify regarding alleged conversations she had with a specified Executive Branch official" and produce related documents; the court notes that Miller did not write an article but "spoke with one or more confidential sources regarding Ambassador Wilson's article, 'What I Didn't Find in Africa.'" The court concluded that requiring Miller's testimony was proper because "all available alternative means of obtaining the information have been exhausted, the testimony sought is necessary for the completion of the investigation, and the testimony sought is expected to constitute direct evidence of innocence or guilt." (Emphasis added).

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that one of its own reporters, Walter Pincus, has indicated that his source has revealed his (or her) identity already:

A Washington Post reporter's confidential source has revealed his or her identity to the special prosecutor conducting the CIA leak inquiry, a development that provides investigators with a fact they have been pursuing in the nearly year-long probe.

Post reporter Walter Pincus, who had been subpoenaed to testify to a grand jury in the case, instead gave a deposition yesterday in which he recounted his conversation with the source, whom he has previously identified as an "administration official." Pincus said he did not name the source and agreed to be questioned only with the source's approval.

"I understand that my source has already spoken to the special prosecutor about our conversation on July 12 [2003], and that the special prosecutor has dropped his demand that I reveal my source. Even so, I will not testify about his or her identity," Pincus said in a prepared statement.

"The source has not discharged us from the confidentiality pledge," said The Post's executive editor, Leonard Downie Jr.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:31 PM | Law 2002-04 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Mets at Bay

The invaluable Jason Mastaitis reminds me of something I either hadn't known or had forgotten (unsurprising, given how poorly I follow the lower minor leagues): Jason Bay used to be a Mets farmhand until he was traded in the deal that brought in Steve Reed to throw 26 innings in the all-important 2002 stretch drive. Could the Mets use a 25-year-old outfielder who makes $305,000 and has career averages of .293/.563/.382?

Don't answer that.

I also agree with Mastaitis that Wally Backman sounds like he would be a fine choice to replace Art Howe.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:01 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Quick Links 9/16/04

*Kevin Drum admits the obvious:

[I]t's a big mistake for us liberals to kid ourselves into thinking that Republicans win elections solely because they fool people into voting for them. It's not just that this is a debilitating mental attitude - although it is - but it's also not true. Our main problem isn't that this year's campaign has ignored the issues, our main problem is that the #1 issue in this campaign is national defense, and on that issue - like it or not - the majority of Americans favor the Republican position. If John Kerry wants to win, he should focus on the issues, but he has to focus on the issues that matter most in this campaign cycle.

It's all about 9/11, Iraq, terrorism, and national security, baby. This election is going to be won on that issue, and Kerry needs to convince the country that he can handle it better than Bush. And really, considering the botch Bush has made of national security, that shouldn't be all that hard.

Bottom line: Republicans aren't avoiding the issues. It's just that their signature issue happens to be the one people care most about this year. Democrats had better figure that out pronto.

(Emphasis in original).

*In a funny Monday G-File, Jonah Goldberg compares Dan Rather's decision to use and then defend the use of forged documents to the decision of the Hapsburgs to enter World War I:

He was the equivalent of some powdered-wigged fool who believed that Austria would come out on the other side of a short battle with its reputation enhanced. Instead, it revealed that CBS News is really the Sick Man of Big Media. . . it's clear that Dan Rather doesn't understand what's going on any more than those poor last dinosaurs understood why the tasty green fronds became so hard to find when it got cloudy. As an icon of the old world of big media, his self-inflicted extinction will surely be recognized as the end of not merely Dan Rather, but the age of Dan Rathers.

I don't have any better idea about what's coming next than the folks in 1914 did. I don't think blogs have the ability to replace CBS News any more than Gavrilo Princip and the Black Hand could replace the Hapsburgs. Blogs are great but they can't do the heavy lifting of investigative journalism. But it seems obvious to me that we are officially at the Goodbye To All That moment of old media.

*Allah has a real Columbo moment with the acronym "OETR." My main source on things military confirms this: "I have a half dozen OERs but I have never heard of OETR." (Link via Geraghty, who needs to get permalinks)

*Speaking of Geraghty, he has tons of poll news this morning. What does it all mean? Dales has the answers.

*My Pet Jawa has some background on Kitty Kelley. (via LlamaButchers).

*Funny Bushism in his speech to the National Guard (where he pointedly stated that "I respect and honor all of those who serve in the United States Armed Forces -- active, Guard, and Reserve."):

From its birth in the 1630s, the Guard protected the early colonists and helped win the War on Independence.

Um, wasn't that the war of or for Independence?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:51 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (4)
BLOG: Citizen Dan

Hey, my entry got honorable mention in the Wizbang caption contest!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Getting Younger Every Day

Jonah Keri has an interesting look, over at (subscription only), at the sudden development the last two years of two over-30 utilitymen (Mark Loretta and Melvin Mora) into major star-caliber players. He includes a chart of players who took major leaps forward after age 30, from a database going back to 1972. (Side note: here's an example of BP's insistence on using its own proprietary stats, in this case VORP, hampering its studies - they could have used Win Shares without any substantial change in accuracy and been able to run the study back another 100 years).

Anyway, I found the distribution of these leaps forward by older players over time interesting:

1973-78: 5 in 6 years. OK, we can discount that some due to the
paucity of pre-1972 data. Note that 3 are in 1973, when the DH was

1979-92: 13 in 14 years, two of which were in the high-offense 1987

1993-2004: 30 in 11 years.

Logical inference? Well, could just be a small sample size. But it
could be either that (1) physical fitness and simlar issues have created
greater opportunity for late-career advancement in the post-1993
environment, or (2) players can be affected unequally by an upswing in
offense, leading some guys to blossom more than others (consistent with the
1973 & 1987 results).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

My law school classmate Orin Kerr comments on the CBS frenzy:

[L]et me see if I understand things correctly. A presidential election is less than two months away, and there is a war going on right now in Iraq. The war in Iraq raises profound questions about United States policy with regard to the Muslim world for decades to come. But instead of debating the war that is going on right now, we're debating the war records of the two candidates from more than three decades ago. Wait, no, that's too direct: we're debating one network's story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Wait, maybe that's too direct, too: we're debating the fonts on different typewriters that may or may not have been used to write a memo that led to a story about one candidate's war record from three decades ago. Yeah, that's pretty much it.

C'mon, folks: don't we have more important things to blog about?

Dan Drezner concurs. I see their point about the extent of the coverage, but:

(1) Most of us have blogged many angles of the Iraq war to death, especially the justifications for the war in the first place.

(2) Getting a good picture of the facts on the ground to blog about the war's continuing progress can be quite frustrating for the U.S.-based civilian observer. Part of the problem is that we are so heavily dependent on the media to give us an accurate picture of what is going on.

In that context, the fact that one of the three major networks - in a story immediately disseminated by many other media outlets (including on the front page of numerous newspapers) - is being exposed for having used forged documents, perhaps knowingly and almost certainly recklessly, in pursuit of what looks like a partisan and/or personal vendetta against the president, is tremendously important. The problems being revealed go to the heart of CBS' newsgathering and editorial decisionmaking practices, which in turn affects the credibility of the news we rely on to interpret so many other stories.

In a way, then, this is about the Iraq war. It's about everything.

(3) I'll add a third point: I can blog until I'm blue in the face about the Iraq war, as we all have, without doing much to change the world. But as with the Trent Lott story, the blogosphere has actually affected the course of this story. That's where the emphasis comes from - bloggers are always going to be most attracted to the stories on which they can actually have some impact or uncover some new facts.

(Of course, for some websites, this story is their sole reason for being).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 15, 2004
PATRIOT GAMES: A Sports Diary From Iraq

I am pleased and honored to introduce a new recurring guest columnist. He's currently serving in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division and will be blogging here under the pseudonym "Andy Tollhaus". Lacking a better title for the series, I'll be filing his dispatches under the heading "Patriot Games." Here's the first column, written back in February. Enjoy.

February 14, 2004
Camp Udairi, Kuwait

Two years ago, I had a great idea. After two fruitless years of waiting for another, I’m sitting in Kuwait writing this letter. I moved (PSC’d in Army lingo) to Germany in February of 2002, still picking red, white, and blue confetti out of my hair from the greatest Superbowl of my generation. During the NCAA basketball tourney that year, at about 4 AM Central European Time, my friend Brian and I talked about how different it was to be an avid sports fan serving in the Army. How different it is to miss an entire week of the NFL and NCAA Football because you’re in the field and don’t even get to watch the little helmets move across the screen on your ESPN Gametracker. How it’s different to miss the entire middle portion of the Major League Baseball season because you’re spending 6 weeks in Hungary being out on what Army movies call “maneuvers.” How it’s different to set your alarm for 3 AM to catch the 2nd and 3rd period of an NHL playoff game, one friend from New Hampshire wearing a Bruins hat and one from Michigan wearing a Red Wings Jersey.

This year watching the true America’s Team in the Superbowl had an entirely different feel to it. (Just for the record, how can the Pats not be America’s Team?! The Patriots. Red, White and Blue! What more do you want? Three Point Pat probably scored himself a couple of those cricket loving Red Coats back in Lexington, for all we know. Think about it. America gets to choose who America’s Team is, not Jerry Jones! But I digress…) The difference I felt in the Superbowl experience wasn’t just that it was only the second greatest Superbowl of my generation. And it went way beyond the obvious location and crowd: Germany with my new bride, Sarah, and some friends, as opposed to the Superdome with my brother, Jay and one of his “Army buddies.” That early Monday morning, there was a cloud hanging over our heads. Within 48 hours of the end of the game, I’d be saying goodbye to Sarah for a year while I deployed with the Big Red One (1st Infantry Division) to Iraq.

Sure the game was exciting, but everyone in the room was more concerned with what they had or hadn’t packed, what the conditions would be like and how hard it would be to say goodbye to normal life for a year. It didn’t even matter that most of us had money on the game (or some tiny detail in the game thanks to the brilliance of Internet gambling).

Two years ago Brian Pearson and I (roommates and Team Handball teammates at West Point until 2000) had the idea to write a column about being a sports fanatic serving in the Army in Europe. We wanted to write about the six hour time difference and how you could tell who the true fans were when you were watching the West Coast baseball games which often were still going when we went in for PT (physical training) at 6:30 in the morning. We wanted to write about going to see what the locals raved about at the Bayern Munich soccer game (which turns out has the same feel as big time college football, but no high-fiving). We would write the column from the perspective of a die-hard Red Sox fan and some Johnny-come-lately Yankees fan (just kidding Brian) and talk about how important sports were to those of us who are stationed abroad.

Now I finally feel that my story would be worth reading. It will be a journal of some sort. The articles will tell the story of a year spent away from home with a group of people of varying sports loyalties and interests. Looking back, sports events will serve as landmarks in our year long story that brought us closer together and helped take our mind off of that ever so slowly approaching day of homecoming. Even if no one cares about how we watch the NCAA tournament or who wins our Fantasy Football Leagues, the “columns” will serve as a nice collection of memories for me when I look back on what will no doubt be the most interesting year of my life so far.

Trust me, I’d much rather be writing that not-quite-as-interesting journal from Europe about Sarah and me finding an Internet phone booth in Glasgow, Scotland at one in the morning to watch the Don Zimmer icon charge the Pedro Martinez icon on the new ESPN Brawl–trackertm. It’d be more fun telling stories about Sarah and I watching the Red Sox almost “Cowboying Up” all the way to the World Series wearing our “O’Neill Sucks” t-shirts and trying to determine if that distinct “crack” sound at 6:14 AM came from Aaron “insert expletive here” Boone’s bat or my wife’s heart. It’d be cooler to write about the excitement I felt when I learned that my younger sister Susan, serving with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Al Asad, Iraq at the time, had earned an R&R leave slot during the World Series. Since our Iraq tours would overlap (missing each other by less than a week as we pass through Kuwait heading in opposite directions), Sarah and I had scheduled leave to go home and visit Susan last October -- the fact that the Sox were looking like World Series participants being an added bonus. (Incidentally, Susan took the opportunity to fly to South Bend to join a group of her college friends hoping to witness their alma mater beat Florida State. Well, that was last year. The Sox were not World Series participants, the Seminoles beat Notre Dame 37-0 and I never got around to writing anything. This year, though, is a brand new ballgame.

I’ll update as often as possible, at least when interesting things happen: the NCAA tourney, the NHL Playoffs, the Fantasy Baseball Draft, and, of course, the Army-Navy game. I’ll also make a point to write some entries strictly to introduce the readers to the people here, telling their sports fan biography.

I am a Captain in an Apache Battalion currently in Kuwait, moving north to Iraq, within two weeks. I’ve discussed the idea with my chain of command, and my battalion commander thinks it would be a unique way to pass information home and allow family members and friends to understand the daily life that is so hard to explain. Hopefully this turns into a regular thing, giving me one more way that sports will help pass the time.

Andy Tollhaus

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:08 PM | Patriot Games | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Howe Sacked

To no one's surprise, the Mets have fired Art Howe, but will be asking him to manage out the balance of the season rather than hand the reins to a Moose Stubing-style caretaker. Which is pretty classless, but then, for the money they are paying Howe, he can suck it up.

More [please] later [not] on [Larry] possible [Bowa] replacements.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:34 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: You Wanna Play, You Got To Pay

Mike Carminati will no longer be performing his relentless and often hilarious fiskings of Joe Morgan's chat sessions on ESPN, on account of ESPN deciding to move Morgan's chats behind the wall of "premium" content you have to pay to get. Of course, paying for the Morgan chats is like when PT Barnum got people to pay admission to see "the Fabulous Egress". While I have my theories, it's never been entirely clear how such a smart player can be so stupid about the game he mastered. If another Joe Morgan came up today, Morgan probably wouldn't think he was any good.

That horse was dead anyway; I gave up about a year or two ago arguing with people who think batting average and RBI are important but statistics aren't. But Carminti's posts were entertaining nonetheless.

Aaron Gleeman has some additional thoughts.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: How Did I Get Here?

How do teams go about developing or acquiring the best players in baseball? Well, for a snapshot from the 2004 season, I thought I'd take a look at the top 20 players in each league, by Win Shares, and how they got where they are. Where players were acquired by trade, I tried to break out the factors that led them to be traded - i.e., trading veterans for prospects, trading a prospective free agent, just making a bad deal, etc.:

National League:

Barry BondsSFFree agent
Scott RolenSTLTrade (economic factors)
Albert PujolsSTLHome-grown (draft)
Jim EdmondsSTLTrade (other team's mistake)
Mark LorettaSDFree agent
Adrian BeltreLAHome-grown/foreign player
Bobby AbreuPHITrade (other team's mistake)
Sean CaseyCINTrade (prospect acquired for veteran)
JD DrewATLTrade (straight up deal)
Todd HeltonCOLHome-grown (draft)
Adam DunnCINHome-grown (draft)
Lance BerkmanHOUHome-grown (draft)
Mike LowellFLATrade (other team's mistake)
Brian GilesSDTrade (economic factors)
Phil NevinSDTrade (other team's mistake)
Jim ThomePHIFree agent
Jason KendallPITHome-grown (draft)
Jimmy RollinsPHIHome-grown (draft)
Randy JohnsonAZFree agent
Derrek LeeCHCTrade (economic factors)

Of course, I should note that the Pirates got a very good deal for Giles, economic factors and my own skepticism at the time notwithstanding. I'm also willing to call the Drew-Marquis deal a fair one for now, whereas the Derrek Lee-Hee Seop Choi deal was clearly motivated by economics even though Choi is a fine young player. And yes, I'm as amazed as you are to see Mark Loretta on that list. Also, I could be mistaken about whether economics were a big mover in the Jim Edmonds deal.

American League:

Gary SheffieldNYYFree agent
Hideki MatsuiNYYFree agent (foreign)
Alex RodriguezNYYTrade (economic factors)
Manny RamirezBOSFree agent
Carlos GuillenDETTrade (other team's mistake)
Miguel TejadaBALFree agent
Johan SantanaMINRule V draft
Vladimir GuerreroANAFree agent
Ichiro SuzukiSEAFree agent (foreign)
Johnny DamonBOSFree agent
Hank BlalockTEXHome-grown (draft)
Jose GuillenANAFree agent
Derek JeterNYYHome-grown (draft)
Michael YoungTEXTrade (other team's mistake)
Travis HafnerCLETrade (other team's mistake)
David OrtizBOSFree agent
Melvin MoraBALTrade (young player acquired for veteran)
Lew FordMINTrade (prospect acquired for veteran)
Carlos LeeCHWHome-grown (draft)
Ivan RodriguezDETFree agent

Yup, Carlos Guillen, Melvin Mora and Lew Ford are still hanging in there. And yes, the Yankees have the top three players in the league. Wonders never cease.

Let's group these, putting the foreign and domestic free agents in one category, as well as lumping together the various types of trades made principally for baseball reasons rather than financial ones.

Free agency14
Economic deals4
Strategic trades11
Rule V draft1

Leaving aside the fact that big organizations like the Yankees and Cardinals have an advantage in being able to sign anyone they draft, you've got 45% of star players coming either through free agency or through deals where a big factor was the other team's need to either dump salary or avoid losing a prospective free agent (on the other hand, some free agents, like David Ortiz, were acquired without breaking the bank in a bidding war). For obvious (ahem, Yankees and Red Sox) reasons, the proportion is much higher among AL teams. But savvy trading and scavenging (the Twins stand alone here in stealing Santana off the Rule V draft, but I can't think of a more idiotic and unjustified deal than the Devil Rays trading the rights to Bobby Abreu, acquired in the expansion draft, for Kevin Stocker) is still a close second as a way of striking gold. Just a quarter of the Top 40 are truly home-grown products.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:20 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: On Wisconsin

Millionaire construction magnate and former Army Ranger Tim Michels yesterday won the Republican primary to challenge Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold. The Feingold-Michels race, in a critical swing state in the presidential race, promises to focus heavily on national security:

Michels, the only candidate in the race with military experience, also argued his background was critical in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

He ran an ad that featured the World Trade Center on fire to emphasize the dangers facing the United States and harshly criticized Feingold for his vote against the Patriot Act. The act broadened police powers to battle terrorism after the 2001 attacks.

“All of Congress came together to pass the Patriot Act except for Sen. Feingold,” Michels said.

Feingold has said he opposed the measure because it went too far in eroding civil liberties. Michels said that wasn’t an acceptable position in a time of terrorism.

“He voted no and that’s really all that counts in the end,” Michels said.

Yes, it's ironic to have a Republican, in this year of John Kerry, stressing his military record. But a military record remains a very good thing for a public official to have; it just can't be everything. Feingold's vote against the Patriot Act naturally invites a serious debate on the issue. It's also ironic to have a self-financed millionaire businessman running against one of the authors of the campaign finance reform bill that will only proliferate the number of such candidacies in the future.

Feingold remains favored to win, but polls have consistently shown that he was vulnerable; Michels will need to move fast to make an impression. Fortunately, Feingold called before the primary for five debates with the GOP nominee. I was a little disappointed here - I'd given money to Bob Welch (not the pitcher), a long-time Wisconsin state senator and conservative favorite. Either way, though, it will be a senate race to watch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 14, 2004
WAR: Excess of Evil

German newspaper Die Welt, "citing unnamed western security sources," charges that Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people:

It said that witnesses quoted by an Arabic news website called ILAF in an article on August 2 had said that several frozen bodies arrived suddenly at the "Al-Fashr Hospital" in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in June.

Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.

Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies.

Read the whole thing. (Link via The Corner). You will recall that Sudan was the site of a suspected chemical weapons factory (which may or may not have been an aspirin factory instead of or in addition to manufacturing chemical weapons) that had ties to both Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, according to Clinton Administration officials justifying the 1998 bombing of the factory.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:34 PM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Greyhawk, who's headed off to Iraq (drop some cash in his tipjar to help out keeping his site live while he's deployed), catches even missing a chance to rip an inflated claim by CBS News about its role in publicizing the horrors at Abu Ghraib. (Link via Instapundit).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:15 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Charlie Cook Unplugged

Wonkette, breaking with her usual practice, carries some actual political analysis from Charlie Cook of the National Journal (note that this is analysis someone else paid to get and then leaked to Wonkette):

Cook feels that the Kerry campaign has been overconfident. The Democrats should have attacked Bush on his weak points: the economy, health care and the deficit. Instead, they focused on Kerry's military past. Barack Obama's speech was terrific but didn't move ball forward at all for Kerry and was a waste of airtime. The Swift Boat attacks have been devastating for Kerry and he took too long to respond. As Cook put it, Kerry lost three pints of blood and you can only lose five before death. Kerry's campaign also looks a bit like Noah's ark, with everything in pairs: two consultants, two experts, etc. In contrast, Karl Rove can make a decision while shaving in the morning and have it executed before he pulls out of the driveway.


In response to a question about Kerry's ability as a "closer," with the '96 campaign against William Weld typically cited as evidence, Cook was quite skeptical. He felt that Kerry does not have a history of running good campaigns. Bill Weld was a moderate running in a liberal state, during a time when Newt Gingrich and his crowd were running amok in Washington. Cook feels it was the worst environment for a Republican to run in. Rather than Kerry winning, Cook feels that Newt lost it for Weld. In addition, Kerry didn't win the Democratic nomination; rather, Dean and Gephardt killed each other, destroying each other like scorpions.

A savvy poiunt about Obama, who gave a speech that left us all feeling very good . . . about Barack Obama. (See here for my critique of the Democtrats' convention strategy, although I hadn't pointed the finger at Obama). I also liked the plug for Real Clear Politics and its averaged polls. The Kerry Spot (a daily must-read these days) has more free-premium-content gloom for Democrats with a link to this FreeRepublic post reprinting an analysis of congressional races by Roll Call's Stuart Rothenberg.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:09 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: What I'm Drinking

Although I'll have a beer now and then and - once upon a time - sampled harder liquors, my taste in drinks generally runs to wine, particularly red wine. I tend to drink the kind of mass-produced red wines that sell for $7-10 for a bottle, enough money to get you away from the real watery stuff but not expensive enough to bust my budget. Anyway, finding decent cabernets in that price range isn't hard; I've lately been drinking a California cabernet from Cooper Canyon, which is nice. What I'd heartily recommend, though, for a reasonably priced ($8.99 in my wine store) red with some body to it is wines from Norton vineyard, a vineyard in Argentina (South American reds tend to be the best bargains for the money), especially the Malbec.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:00 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eric McErlain takes apart one of the stupidest political arguments I have ever seen, this Bob Harris post at Tom Tomorrow's place showing a still photo of George W. Bush playing rugby at Yale and trying to make out Bush as some sort of dirty rugby player. I'm no expert on rugby, but it always seemed like one of those sports where the technical term for someone who never played dirty was "loser."

Anyway, I emailed Harris some time back - he never responded - to point to this David Pinto post:

[Peter] Gammons and Kerry played hockey against each other in prep school, and Peter told me once that Kerry was the dirtiest hockey player he ever saw.

Lesson: maybe you don't want to make this an issue. Although McErlain links back to a post where he quotes Denis Leary making Kerry out to be a weak-minded, vascillating showboat as a hockey player, at least in his later years. So who knows?

Anyway, the best line about the whole Bush rugby thing comes from a commenter at Michele's place back in mid-August:

It seems like absurdly too much effort to spend on a stupid 35-year old rugby picture, but I saw a post somewhere yesterday saying that, like a lot of sports action photos, it might not even be what it looks like at first glance. The implied physics of the picture (assuming Bush to be throwing a punch) would have Bush and his fist moving in opposite directions, not a great way to hit someone (but, hey, Bush is dumb, so that would fit, I suppose!)

And, of course, it's a devastating picture, ruining Bush's rugbycentric strategy, which he planned to kick off at the end of the convention when he'd be joined by a dozen former Yale rugby players, his "Band of Ruggers."


Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:53 PM | Other Sports • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Guilty Parties

How to explain the Mets' second-half collapse in three easy lessons?

1. Here are the combined post-All-Star Break stats for Mike Piazza, Cliff Floyd, and Richard Hidalgo:


Bear in mind that this is the middle of the Mets' batting order (Jason Phillips and Todd Zeile have been worse). Full second-half batting stats are here.

2. Here are the combined post-All-Star Break stats for Tom Glavine, Al Leiter and Steve Traschsel:


Bear in mind that these are the aces of the Mets' staff; Jae Seo and Kris Benson are worse. Full second-half pitching stats are here.

3. Games played by Todd Zeile after the break: 46. Games played by Jose Reyes and Kaz Matsui combined: 43. No, you don't want to see Zeile's numbers, or the Mets' defense without Reyes. You just want to see Zeile retired, and the season over.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:43 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Shaking The Tree

Juan non-Volokh notes a slap on the wrist for plaigarism on the part of Harvard Law professor Charles Ogletree; apparently his research assistants slapped a chunk of some work from Jack Balkin into a book Ogletree was doing on the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. Joseph Bottum of The Weekly Standard is appalled that having your research assistants cobble together other people's ideas on the central area of your expertise is considered scholarship.

Of course, most legal scholarship does depend to some extent on input from research assistants. But while Ogletree's scholarship may well be subject to criticism, I would note that the man is nonetheless an asset to the Law School; he's a well-liked and respected instructor, has run the clinical program, gets lots of media attention, and otherwise does things to improve both the Law School's public profile and its attention to students. It may be that the problem is the expectation that all professors will be equally focused on research.

Anyway, for a walk down memory lane to September of 2001, here's an amusing email exchange involving Ogletree's efforts to get Jesse Jackson to speak at Harvard Law School, courtesy of his eccentric colleague Charles Nesson.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: I Link, You Decide

Two more stories on the "AWOL"/medals issues, which I pass along without further comment:

*Vodkapundit notes the discovery of what at least purports to be John Kerry's after-action report on the engagement leading to the awarding of his Silver Star.

*A theory about some of the confusion in Bush's records and among the witnesses regarding his service in Alabama (Via Maguire).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:46 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL/POLITICS: The Ownership Society

Following up on an earlier post, a few diligent readers sent me links to this AP story observing that President Bush - unlike Senator Kerry - has raised a lot of money from baseball owners and, to a lesser extent, baseball players. Of course, given that a lot of these people know Bush personally from his days as owner of the Rangers, that's not all that surprising, nor is it surprising that the owners would, as a result, view Bush as being sympathetic to their interests.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:32 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Pajama Time

For the record, let it be recalled that Winston Churchill often conducted much of the business of the wartime leadership of Britain in his pajamas.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:21 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 13, 2004

Bill James - yes, Bill James, writing a guest column over at the Hardball Times - makes the obvious-when-you-really-think-about-it point, though to a surprising extent, that the 162 game schedule increases Ichiro's odds on breaking George Sisler's hits record by something like a factor of 9-to-1, whereas it less than doubled Roger Maris' odds of breaking Ruth's home run record (as a matter of probabilities; in practice, you either break the record by Game 154 or you do not).

Link via Pinto.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:13 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Defensive Stats Go Mainstream

Peter Gammons can be very frustrating for sabermetrically-inclined readers; he clearly understands and enjoys sophisticated analyses of the game, but he's also prone to Luddite anti-stathead diatribes. As I've often noted, the reason for this is that Gammons will repeat basically anything his sources around the game's front offices tell him, and many of them remain contemptuous of statistical analysis on anything but the most rudimentary level. To give a political analogy, Gammons is David Broder and Bob Novak rolled into one, dispensing the insiders' views from both sides of a raging debate with equal vigor. In fact, given how closely Gammons' columns reflect conventional wisdom, you can measure the influence of sabermetric ideas within the game by how often they show up in Gammons' work as opposed to how often he bashes them.

So, it's welcome to see Gammons picking up on the Hot New Thing, the pursuit of sophisticated defensive statistics and their role in the reshaping of the Oakland and Boston rosters. And, of course, he throws us sabermetric types the ultimate bone at the end:

Statistical analysis, whose roots make Bill James an absolute must for the Hall of Fame . . .

Too true; read the whole thing.

Also, Jim Baker looks at the historical performance of wild card teams in the playoffs, with some surprising results - including the fact that baseball's wild card teams have won more playoff games than they have lost, with a record of 85-79 (or 78-72, if you exlude the 2002 World Series matchup of two wild card teams).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:02 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Deacon at Powerline notes possible ways for CBS to feel the heat from its use of forged documents, including boycotts of their advertisers or FCC consequences. These are unrealistic and penalize innocent parties. The answer here is obvious. You are never going to get CBS or its affiliates off the air.

The goal - and one that's already been substantially advanced by this story - should be to convince other news outlets to view CBS News reports the way they currently view Drudge - as an indication of a possible story that requires further independent investigation, rather than something you can run with on tomorrow's Page One.

As we saw all too clearly on Thursday morning, a CBS News story is still seen by other news outlets, including the other networks' morning news shows and the major newspapers, as worthy of repeating without independent fact-checking. That is what needs to change.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hopefully But Almost Certainly Not The Last Post About Bush's and Kerry's Service Records

As recently as five days ago, this, from Kevin Drum, was the motto of the Left in dealing with the dueling stories about (1) whether George Bush was given preferential treatment in joining the Texas Air National Guard and whether he fulfilled his service requirements to the TANG and (2) whether John Kerry earned bogus medals to get an early trip home from Vietnam:

This story is a perfect demonstration of the difference between the Swift Boat controversy and the National Guard controversy. Both are tales from long ago and both are related to Vietnam, but the documentary evidence in the two cases is like night and day. In the Swift Boat case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence indicates that Kerry's accusers are lying. Conversely, in the National Guard case, practically every new piece of documentary evidence provides additional confirmation that the charges against Bush are true.

As it turned out, of course, the documents Drum was discussing in that post were crude forgeries. Even apart from that, however, Drum is way off base in his analysis, as I'll discuss below. Now, we get a different tune from Matt Yglesias, who's been an unlikely bitter-ender in the forged-documents debate:

[S]eeing as how the White House hasn't bothered to allege that these are forgeries (George W. Bush being someone in a position to know, for example, whether or not Killian ever ordered him to take a physical George H.W. Bush [at a minimum] being someone in a position to know whether or not pressure was brought on Killian regarding the write-ups) I don't see a reason why CBS should need to produce a slam-dunk case. To have a real "he said, she said" she has to say something.

A third perspective comes from this comment by Oliver Willis (scroll down; it's in the comments section) that pretty well sums up the mindset of Willis, the rest of the Media Matters crowd and their ilk:

Frankly, my major beef with Bush is the dead soldiers in Iraq and the economic stupidity at home. All this other stuff is icing on the cake, if it sticks good, if not oh well. As long as its mud.

(You can see a similar approach in this DNC email and press conference Friday morning after the 60 Minutes documents had been fairly well exposed as frauds). Well, let's start with Drum's and Yglesias' points about the burdens of proof. And let's recognize the basic truth about these stories:

1. George W. Bush was paid by the TANG for a sufficient number of drills to meet all requirements, and was given an honorable discharge in 1973.

2. John Kerry was awarded three Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star by the United States Navy, was granted permission to leave Vietnam early, and was given an honorable discharge from the Navy Reserves in 1978.

So before we go talking about documents and witnesses, let's recognize that the official records of both the TANG and the Navy reflect decisions made at the time to credit Bush with the service and Kerry with the honors they claim today. So of course, the burden of proof is on their accusers, especially given that there is (now that the Killian memos have been revealed to have been frauds) no sign that anyone questioned Bush's service prior to, I believe, his 1994 race for governor of Texas, and that most (though not all) of the questions about Kerry's medals were aired for the first time in 2004. How do those cases stack up?

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:25 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
September 12, 2004
POP CULTURE: Jack and Bobby

OK, I admit it: I saw the ads for the WB series "Jack and Bobby," and when they described the premise, I thought, "maybe not my kind of show, but sounds like a cool idea." Kind of like "Joan of Arcadia," which I don't watch but which I seem to enjoy every time I catch 10 minutes of it flipping channels. Then they gave the show's title, and they lost me. Please, not another walk down faux-Kennedy memory lane. Even if the show's content has nothing to do with it, I'm just not buying something in that wrapping. Make it stop.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

The Daily News has an interesting article about legendary 19th century songwriter Stephen Foster; I'd never known that Foster wrote most of his classic American folk songs from an apartment in lower Manhattan, or that he died a nearly penniless alcoholic at age 37.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:06 AM | History | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 11, 2004
WAR: Where I Was

Can't do much more for today than send you back to where I was on September 11, 2001.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:11 AM | War 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 10, 2004
BASEBALL: Prediction

I think there's a simple reason why the Red Sox are going to pull down the Yanks from behind, even trailing by 3.5 games, and win the division:

False hope.

Think: finally slaying the Yankees in the regular season, and coming from behind to do it, is the only way to top last season for giving Sox fans false hope of finally winning it all.

Then they lose to the Wild Card Yankees in the ALCS.

You heard it here first.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:46 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Good Sport

Bill Simmons is now the only sports columnist with his own personal ombudsman.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:59 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: What To Apologize For

Rich Lowry notes this, from a Washington Post story:

Aides say Kerry may soon apologize for some of his most heated comments during the Vietnam War protests of the early 1970s, a move that would rekindle the debate for a few more days.

The time to do that would be today, before the rally planned for Sunday in Washington, where thousands of Vietnam vets are planning to denounce Kerry. A little more from memory lane with Kerry's 1971 testimony will explain why:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Freepers 1, Big Media 0

If you read political blogs other than this one, you have by now already seen some of the details of this story; it's such a perfect illustration of the speed with which the blogosphere can detect, analyze, and ultimately overwhelm a bogus story in the mainstream media. And it all started with one guy on a message board. Here's the timeline:

1. Stories about President Bush's National Guard service had been pushed very hard by the media back in February, but little new information had surfaced since then. Following a month of tough questions about John Kerry's Vietnam service, however, Democrats were desperate to put some heat back on the president. Enter Dan Rather, ever eager to move the ball against Republicans; "60 Minutes II" had a story in the works for some time built around an interview with Ben Barnes, a Texas Democrat who claimed he'd pulled strings to get Bush into the National Guard in 1968. Leaving aside the fact that Bush actually didn't need any help because there was no waiting list for people willing and able to spend a year learning to fly the F-102, Barnes has an obvious credibility issue: he's a high-ranking official with the Kerry campaign and is the campaign's third-largest donor/fundraiser.

Enter the memos: CBS pushed the fact that the story also included "newly discovered" documents from the files of Lt. Col. Jerry Killian, who died in 1984 (dead men dispute no tales). Even before it aired, lefty bloggers like Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum started hyping the fact that the story would be more than just Barnes. The documents weren't hugely damning, but they added just enough weight to some of the pre-existing theories about Bush avoiding a flight physical and getting favored treatment to keep the story moving. The story aired Wednesday evening. In apparent coordination, the New York Times and Boston Globe on Wednesday released new high-profile stories including a retired military officer's analysis that had apparently been in the works since at least February (more on that one later).

2. Having been launched by CBS, the story took off immediately, with none of the slow-boil skepticism that had been applied to bona fide eyewitness accounts of Kerry's service. Thursday morning, the Times, the Washington Post and the New York Daily News all ran CBS' documents story on the front page. ABC's The Note aptly summarized the instant media feeding frenzy (links omitted):

Bush's National Guard records played big on all the morning shows. Nothing new was reported, though we did enjoy the spirited exchange between titans James Carville and Tucker Eskew.

ABC's Terry Moran's wrap of Bush's military Guard records was the first stand alone package in GMA. Moran included sound from White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett claiming Ben Barnes was acting "on behalf of John Kerry" and reported in his live close that Lt. Col. Jerry Killian wrote in one memo that "I'll back-date, but won't rate," a statement that "raises the possibility that Bush's military records were falsified."

CBS' Bill Plante's wrap led the "Early Show." Plante reported that the White House says Bush did not have to take the annual physical exam he never showed up for because the Alabama National Guard did not have the kind of airplane Bush was flying. Plante also reported that the White House says they are trying to get all of his records released.

NBC's Carl Quintinilla wrapped both Kerry's and Bush's Wednesdays within the "Today" newsblock, focusing on Kerry first then reporting nothing new on Bush's Guard records. Quintinilla was the only one to include the new "Texans for Truth" ad featuring former Alabama Air National Guard Lieutenant Bob Mintz claiming he didn't remember Bush being there.

The New York Times and the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune and USA Today wrap the days' developments. LINK, LINK, LINK, and LINK

The Boston Globe 's Robinson and Latour ran the "60 Minutes" documents by military officers who said it "contain[ed] evidence that political influence may have come into play as he sidestepped his training requirements in his final two years of service, from May 1972 until May 1974." LINK

"Bush's service has been in dispute for years because of a six-month gap in 1972 that has not been fully explained by military records. Repeated news reports and document releases by the White House and Pentagon have not settled the question," writes James Rainey of the Los Angeles Times. LINK

Rainey's last graph calls the Globe's Wednesday "scoop" into question:

"Two retired officers interviewed by The Times on Wednesday and familiar with National Guard procedures differed as to whether Bush was still obligated, at that point, to check in with a unit in the Boston area."

The Washington Times looks at the Democrats' strategy. LINK

Rush Limbaugh calls it all a cheap media ploy. LINK

DeFrank, Meek, and Siemaszko of the New York Daily News report the Bush campaign was "rocked yesterday by allegations that the "Top Gun President was a substandard pilot who disobeyed a direct order while serving in the Texas Air National Guard." LINK

The big lefty bloggers jumped instantly into the breach, with Kevin Drum, Mark Kleiman and Oliver Willis, in posts too numerous to link here, calling Bush a criminal and a liar and accusing the Whiite House of a cover-up.

3. Before the papers had hit the stands, however, CBS had posted PDF copies of the documents online, however, and around 9pm Wednesday, one guy on a message board was raising questions about their authenticity:

To: Howlin
Howlin, every single one of these memos to file is in a proportionally spaced font, probably Palatino or Times New Roman.

In 1972 people used typewriters for this sort of thing, and typewriters used monospaced fonts.

The use of proportionally spaced fonts did not come into common use for office memos until the introduction of laser printers, word processing software, and personal computers. They were not widespread until the mid to late 90's. Before then, you needed typesetting equipment, and that wasn't used for personal memos to file. Even the Wang systems that were dominant in the mid 80's used monospaced fonts.

I am saying these documents are forgeries, run through a copier for 15 generations to make them look old.

This should be pursued aggressively.

47 posted on 09/08/2004 8:59:43 PM PDT by Buckhead
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies ]

Now, the "freepers" have taken more than their share of guff over the years, and since I don't go there I can't vouch for whether the bad reputation is deserved. But on this one, all it took was one skeptical guy - one more, apparently, than works for Dan Rather (at least when it comes to anti-Bush stories).

4. At 7:51 AM Thursday morning, the Big Trunk over at Powerline - which may well be the best single conservative blog out there - simply posted a copy of the FreeRepublic post and asked whether the CBS memos were genuine. As soon as I saw that post, I knew this was a big story - and apparently, so did everyone else. Blog after blog started linking to it, emails poured in, and the Big Trunk started updating with thoughts from people all over the country who had experience with typewriters and computers and could tell the various telltale signs that this was a Microsoft Word document created on a laser printer rather than a genuine typewritten document. The incoming feedback really took off once the National Review Online linked to Powerline's analysis both at The Corner and the Kerry Spot. Typewriter museums (did you know such things existed?) were contacted, bloggers produced exact duplicates of the memo on Microsoft Word, forensic document experts were interviewed (see this INDC Journal post for a particularly in-depth treatment), people familiar with the technology and terminology available to the military in the early 70s weighed in. Dan Rather's most persistent critics jumped aboard. By late yesterday, the original Powerline post had over 250 trackbacks; by this morning, nearly 500.

5. Then, the breakout: around 3pm, the Drudge Report linked to the Powerline analysis, flooding the site with so much traffic it crashed. By 9pm, the Weekly Standard had a column out with this tidbit:

A spokeswoman for CBS, Kelly Edwards, said she was overwhelmed with phone calls and did not respond to specific requests for comment.

6. By this morning, the Washington Post and ABC News were running with the story - WaPo had it on the front page - of how CBS may have been duped, and Killian's own son was disputing the documents' authenticity. John Podhoretz was retracing some of the timeline in his NY Post column. And now, for all of Rather's eagerness to put some pressure on Bush, the heat will instead fall on CBS, which at last check was simply insisting that it adequately sourced its story.

In just a day, one citizen's skepticism shook CBS and reminded the major media outlets of the hazards of running with a story just because it came from one of their own. Ten years ago, they would have gotten away with it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
September 9, 2004
POLITICS: More Republican Liars?

“In other wars, captured Americans subjected to the hell of an enemy prison were considered heroes. In other wars, they were not abandoned. In Vietnam , they were betrayed.”

“Little did the American prisoners of war imagine that half a world away events were conspiring to make their precarious situation even more desperate. That an American Naval Lieutenant after a 4-month tour of duty in Vietnam was meeting secretly in an undisclosed location in Paris with a top enemy diplomat. That this same lieutenant would later join forces with Jane Fonda to form an anti-war group of so-called Vietnam veterans, some of whom would be later discovered as frauds who never set foot on a battlefield. All this culminating in John Kerry’s Senate testimony that would be blared over loud speakers to convince our prisoners that back home they were being accused and abandoned. Enemy propagandists had found a new and willing accomplice.”

That's from Stolen Honor, a new documentary (independent of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth but featuring some of the same former POWs) expanding at length on the excesses of John Kerry's "war crimes" testimony and the harm it caused. Go here and see if you think these guys are just another bunch of lying, crooked Republican attack dogs. Just for one example of a guy who appears in "Stolen Honor" and has also supported the Swift Boat group, check out this bio on "Bud" Day, who doesn't strike me as the kind of guy you want challenging your activities in wartime:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:21 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Debate About Debates

The "process" issues of a political campaign, in particular the "debate about debates," tends to bore me. But I do have one observation to offer. The Bush camp is floating a trial balloon about maybe only agreeing to two debates instead of three. My suspicion is that Bush is posturing about ducking a third debate so as to (1) signal to the press that he's winning (the underdog always wants more debates, so if the dynamic is Kerry pestering Bush for debates, the media will draw that conclusion) and (2) subtly lower expectations (Kerry can't simultaneously accuse him of being afraid to debate while building him up like Lou Holtz before the Navy game).

Of course, for this to work, the Democrats have to fall into Bush's trap and start complaining about Bush's reluctance to debate and pressuring him to do three debates. Fortunately, some of them, at least, are as knee-jerk predictable as monsters in a video game who fall for the same fake-out every single time. Go see Atrios and Oliver Willis fall right into the trap.

UPDATE: Mark Kleiman marches right into the trap as well. Where's Admiral Ackbar when you need him? These guys are just too easy.

SECOND UPDATE: For now, the Kerry camp sticks to the script:

[M]ake no mistake, George Bush is a skilled debater. In fact, he has never lost a debate in his entire political career.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:15 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Shorter John Kerry Foreign Policy

"[T]he United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to."

But the French and the Germans, well, they'd go to war if we asked them nicely.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:08 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Human Lives Are One Thing, But Money?

If you look at John Kerry's latest line of argument in yesterday's big Iraq speech, he gives a brief nod to the loss of life in Iraq:

More than 1,000 of America's sons and daughters gave their lives in service to our country. More than 1,000 sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters who will never come home to live the lives they dreamed of. We honor them, we pray for them and for their families, and we owe it to their memory and all our troops to do what's right in Iraq.

He clearly is tiptoeing around saying whether those 1,000 have given their lives in vain or for a noble cause. But he then spends the bulk of the speech griping about the bill:

America has paid nearly 90% of the bill in Iraq. Contrast that with the Gulf War, where our allies paid 95% of the costs.

George W. Bush's wrong choices have led America in the wrong direction in Iraq and left America without the resources we need here at home. The cost of the President's go-it-alone policy in Iraq is now $200 billion and counting. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford health care for our veterans. $200 billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford to keep the 100,000 new police we put on the streets during the 1990s.

This is a deeply morally offensive line of argument. The decision to go to war means the decision to sacrifice the lives of some number of our soldiers. That's a very grave decision. If the decision is worth making - if it is worth asking even one young man or woman to lay down his or her life for the greater good of the nation - it is petty and ungracious to complain about the bill. Yes, it's a lot of money. But it's only money. And if it's what needs to be done to win the war, then we who have asked for those sacrifices should spend that money without complaint. Think the war was a bad idea? Fine, tell us that. Want money for job training and after-school programs? Fine, tell us how you'll cut domestic spending, raise taxes or borrow money to pay for it. But don't dare tell us that we should pay for those things by haggling over the price of national security while our troops are dying in the field.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:59 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Long Arm of Grover Norquist

Krakow, Poland will rename a square after Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:57 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 8, 2004
BASEBALL: Choke Me, Choke You

Answering a question I asked in late July, the Mets radio announcers noted that tonight's save by Armando Benitez against the Mets, his 11th of the season, established a new record for saves by one pitcher against one team in the same season.

Shoot me now! I demand that you shoot me now!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:40 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Wreck of the 7 Train

The Mets have been absolutely unwatchable (or unlistenable, as the case may be) the past few weeks; with the exception of David Wright's at bats, each game seems to fade in my memory almost immediately into a blur of despair. This blog was necessarily going to be tilted more in a political direction than usual in the stretch run to the presidential election, but that's been exacerbated of late by the need to avert my eyes from the train wreck that has been the Mets of late.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:55 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Since people are still pushing the "Bush was AWOL" story in the absence of any supporting evidence, and in particular any evidence that Bush was even required to show up for any drills in Alabama in 1972 after four years of extensive service in the Texas Air National Guard, it's worth noting for contrast that there seems to be an absence of evidence that John Kerry fulfilled his contractual commitment to drill with the Navy Reserves during the time when he was busy being an anti-war leader, meeting with Vietnamese Communists in secret, and running for Congress. Jon Henke at QandO pulls together some links, including an analysis concluding that "Kerry, while in violation of his contract . . . was not legally required to drill and hence not AWOL." Which would not bother me one bit. Does it bother those who nitpick at the last year of President Bush's service?

(PS - Go here and read through my prior link-filled analyses on the "AWOL Bush" charge, in particular these fourteen questions. While we're at it, see here and here (Links via QandO and Bill Hobbs) and here - QandO is really on top of these issues - regarding the fact that Bush didn't bypass anybody on a waiting list to get into the Texas Air National Guard because so few people were willing, able and qualified to spend a year training to fly the F-102. Finally, recall that John Edwards - like Dick Cheney - passed up the opportunity to enlist and go to Vietnam).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:18 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (3)

Mark Cuban, trying his hand at politics, makes a serious error regarding drug company profitability:

One of the great lies of all time is that we have to protect drug company profits. . . . That if [the government] doesn’t [protect drug companies from price controls], then the drug companies won’t invest money in new drugs, and as a result we won’t have the miracle cures, particularly those miracle cures that don’t ever offer a complete payback on the cost of developing them.


Let’s get real here. The day I believe that argument is the day that CEOs of public drug companies don’t pay themselves, don’t have bonuses and don’t own stock in their companies.

They don’t run their companies to make a profit. They run their companies to make Wall Street happy, to push their stock prices up, and if they are lucky, to hit the jackpot personally.

They know that in order for their stock prices to go up, they have to sell the future. If all they have to sell is the cash flow from their existing base of drug patents, they have a problem. Could you imagine the CEO of a major drug company saying, “Well, we can’t come up with any new products, and our R&D isn’t really working, so we will just play out the patents on our drugs and pay out the cash to shareholders.” Yeah Right.

They will do just what they are doing now — keep on investing in their own R&D hoping they can hit a home run with new drugs, and when that doesn’t work, they will use their stock and cash to buy other companies that have better prospects. In all cases, they hope the results will propel their stock and their own net worth.

They aren’t going to change how they do business at all. Won’t happen. CEOs are a competitive bunch. You don’t get to run a major corporation by not being motivated to succeed. A measure of that success is personal wealth.

As long as CEOs and those around them want to be rich, we can change the laws regarding drug pricing and nothing at all will change…Nothing.

This is a perfect example of how a smart businessman can believe a stupid idea when it comes to politics. Cuban is right, of course, about the kind of motivations that make executives tick - like any other worker, they work to make their companies profitable because they are given incentives to do so, not out of some abstract love for their shareholders. And he's right that, if drug companies realized tomorrow that they could no longer expect future profits from large R&D layouts, executives would be loath to become doomsaying pessimists about their own companies.

But what would really happen is right under Cuban's nose, and he misses it: what does a company do when it realizes that its current business is throwing off profits that can't sustain in the future? Well, the most common response is what Cuban himself suggests: "use their stock and cash to buy other companies that have better prospects." In other words, diversify.

Which is precisely the point: if R&D in new drugs starts looking like a bad gamble, sooner or later drug company CEOs will devote more of their available resources to acquiring companies who do other things than invest in drug R&D, and less to that R&D. And, in the long run, we'll have fewer drugs produced. Not none; that goose won't stop laying golden eggs entirely. But the natural response of CEOs who want to stay successful will be to migrate their companies' capital investments away from a low-margin business. And we'll all suffer.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:07 AM | Business • | Politics 2004 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
September 7, 2004
POLITICS/WAR: The Iraq Straddle

Kerry supporters have been howling since the Republican convention (see this EJ Dionne column on Zell Miller's speech for an example) that Republicans were somehow dishonest for suggesting that a Kerry Administration would subordinate its judgment to that of the UN or let decisions to protect U.S. national security be held up by the French.

In a lot of ways, this is classic Kerry non-definition: the man spends nearly all his energies (including those spent on Vietnam, which is deployed in the service of this endeavor) trying to explain what he doesn't stand for rather than what he does ("that dog won't hunt"). Let's see if we can unpack Kerry's semi-current Iraq position on its own terms and see if I can explain precisely why I find these cries of outrage - and, indeed, Kerry's entire position on the Iraq war - so spectacularly disingenuous.

1. Was Iraq A Sufficient Threat To U.S. National Security To Justify War? The Bush Administration and other war supporters made many arguments about the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to our national security (see here and here for some of my own thoughts on the subject), ranging from his pursuit of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction to his ties to international terrorists to broader arguments about his role in the region.

There is a coherent argument - albeit one I regard as dangerously irresponsible - to the effect that Saddam's regime was not a threat, and there are those who dispute particular items in the Administration's bill of particulars against him. But Kerry has not renounced his prior conclusion - underlying his vote in favor of authority to use force against Saddam's regime - that the regime posed such a threat. Despite generalized blather about "misleading the nation into war," Kerry has never, to my knowledge, made a serious effort to attack the factual underpinnings of the Administration's case, something that would be particularly difficult to do on the WMD issue given his own and Edwards' prior statements on the issue. He hasn't tried to deny Saddam's ties to terrorist groups and provision of safe haven to terrorists; that's a place Kerry, wisely, doesn't want to go.

2. Could Steps Short of War Have Removed The Threat or Revealed It To Be Overstated? Another of the "process" arguments before the war, and emphasized by some critics since, is that if the weapons inspectors or sanctions had been given more time, we would have discovered an absence of weapons - and not gone to war - or would have found some other way to defuse the multifaceted threat posed by Saddam's regime. Kerry has also not attempted to pursue this argument, perhaps recognizing the foolishness of arguing that we could at some point have taken Saddam's word - or the word of the inspectors he was actively working to deceive - that he was cooperating with inspections (when there's been substantial evidence since the war that he was doing anything but), and perhaps simply recognizing that Kerry would look foolish if he renounced his own war vote. Instead, Kerry has admitted that, even knowing what he knows now, he would have voted the same way. In other words, for all his arguments that war was unnecessary, Kerry hasn't made any effort to convince the public that the reasons he cited for voting in favor of war would or could have been resolved short of war.

3. Should We Have Waited For More Allies? Instead, Kerry's main argument has been that (1) we went to war without sufficient support from our allies and (2) things would have gone better, and easier, for us if we had waited to get that support. Of course, given what we now know about weapons inspections - i.e., that inspectors were never going to unearth a "smoking gun" - it is entirely implausible to suggest that "more time" would have resulted in a larger coalition. What was going to happen to change the minds of the war's critics? If the 12-year history of the conflict shows anything, it's that prolonging confrontations inevitably leads to fissures in the coalition encircling Saddam. Delay would only have led more of the allies to walk away from war.

In short . . . Kerry's position on the war, at least as set forth in his convention speech and some of his other efforts to explain it, amounts to this: we needed more allies, we shouldn't have gone to war without them . . . but we weren't getting them. If that's not a veto in the hands of our "allies," specifically those (France, Germany, Russia and China) with seats on the UN Security Council or leading positions in NATO, what is? (Howard Dean on Bill Maher's show the other night was focusing this point on Iraq's neighbors, but let's not pretend that any more Arab states would have lined up to give public support to the war).

P.S. - Of course, all this is an analysis of Kerry's position on the war as of his speech to the Democratic Convention, not the Howard Dean imitation he's now peddling. Bill Kristol notes that Kerry's current position is one he previously saw as so irresponsible as to disqualify one from high office:

JOHN KERRY said yesterday that Iraq was "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." Translation: We would be better off if Saddam Hussein were still in power.

Not an unheard of point of view. Indeed, as President Bush pointed out today, it was Howard Dean's position during the primary season. On December 15, 2003, in a speech at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, Dean said that "the capture of Saddam Hussein has not made America safer." Dean also said, "The difficulties and tragedies we have faced in Iraq show the administration launched the war in the wrong way, at the wrong time, with inadequate planning, insufficient help, and at the extraordinary cost, so far, of $166 billion."

But who challenged Dean immediately? John Kerry. On December 16, at Drake University in Iowa, Kerry asserted that "those who doubted whether Iraq or the world would be better off without Saddam Hussein, and those who believe today that we are not safer with his capture, don't have the judgment to be president or the credibility to be elected president."

Kerry was right then.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:49 PM | Politics 2004 • | War 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Oh Yeah, Life Goes On

Michele Catalano breaks radio silence over at A Small Victory to explain why she isn't going to do wall-to-wall September 11 remembrances this year. The decision to put tragedy behind us in some way can be a painful one, but life is far too short to feel guilty about deciding to focus a little more on what we have left.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:44 AM | War 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 6, 2004
POLITICS: "When am I gonna make it back to Haiti?"

In the pantheon of bad ideas: someone in the Kerry campaign deciding to call John McCain, one of the few Republicans who's had some nice things to say about Kerry, a liar. Powerline has the details and notes that cooler heads have (for now) prevailed.

If Bush's campaign did this to McCain, even for part of a day, the president would be hounded about it to his grave.

UPDATE: The relentless Captain Ed saved a cached copy of the page from Kerry's site. McCain's listed at #10-13:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:59 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Targeting the Swifties

The Minute Man:

Kerry has missed at least half the point about the Swiftees - rebutting the truth or falsity of their claims is only a part of the story. John Edwards said to the convention something the Swiftees repeated in their first ad - if you want to know about the character of John Kerry, ask the men who served with him.

Well, even if the 200 Swiftees are lying, what does it say about Kerry's character that 200 of his fellow officers and sailors would come out of the woodwork and lie, cheat, and steal to keep him out of the White House? . . .

Dole made a related point with his "they can't all be lying Republicans"; some of the public probably figures, where there's smoke, there's fire.

And I don't have an answer for that, BTW. But proving the Swiftees "wrong" is not really the point - the point is, the guys Edwards would said would vouch for Kerry loathe him.

Of course, the truth or falsity of the claims about Kerry's medals certainly matter, although the Swift Vets' second charge - that Kerry betrayed and libelled them by his 1971 Senate testimony and by his secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong while still an officer in the Navy Reserve - isn't subject to much in the way of factual disputes. And, as both Maguire and Captain Ed point out, there are still plenty of factual areas in which the Swifties or have either scored a hit or still have a ball in the air.

But Maguire's main point underscores why the Kerry camp has been so desperate to paint these guys as having been bought and paid for by the GOP - if the story is just "bitter ex-Vietnam colleagues smear Kerry," that's still bad for him. It's why Kerry can't just laugh it off and say, "well, it was a long time ago and people's memories always differ about things that happen in combat." It's why, in effect, Kerry can't let anyone believe that these 200+ Navy combat veterans are men of any honor at all, anything but cheap whores bought off for a pittance.

Which is not, to put it mildly, the posture you want as a candidate who's a putative champion of veterans. And certainly not if you're a candidate who said worse things yet about your military brethren all those years ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:34 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Not The Dream Team

You know, on watching the Democratic and GOP Conventions, a parallel occurred to me to explain why the Democrats, despite having a modestly well-received and tightly-disciplined convention, weren't nearly as successful as the Republicans. You see, putting together a good convention is sort of like assembling a good US Olympic basketball team.

The Democrats, like the US Olympians, started with a decent foundation: a two-time champion (Bill Clinton, Tim Duncan) and a guy with few accomplishments but much talent and potential (Barack Obama, LeBron James). But, like the US Olympic team with the likes of Stephon Marbury and Allen Iverson, the Democrats overloaded their dias with guys who were there more because they were big names and big egos than because they fit into a gameplan to win the fight they're engaged in. Thus, Al Gore. Thus, Jimmy Carter. Thus, Ted Kennedy. And, like the Olympians, they then sent these guys up there in circumstances (in the Dems' case, a stern warning against anger and full-throated Bush-bashing) in which they couldn't even play to their strengths.

The GOP had no such problem. Former presidents Bush and Ford and Bob Dole, the last three guys to lose a national election for the GOP? Love ya, guys, but no invite to the podium. Prominent congressional leaders like Hastert, DeLay, Frist, Santorum? All were deemed bad speakers (Hastert), too controversial (DeLay, Santorum) or both (Frist), and buried in the early evening or not asked to speak. Party maverick John McCain, liberal Republicans Giuliani and Schwarzenegger and Democratic defector Zell Miller? Asked to step up but limited to playing a role, setting up the president's message in the areas where they agreed with him. About the only "vanity" appearance that went over poorly was Bush's daughters.

The Democrats put on too many of their All-Stars without regard to how those guys would advance the ball with swing voters, yet kept them too muted (unlike Miller) to fire up the base. The GOP ensured that everyone at the Convention was there to set up the big man. That's a team - it's winning basketball, and it's winning politics too.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Kerry on the War Again

The Kerry Spot at NRO quotes this Rueters dispatch:

The Massachusetts senator, who has said he would have voted to give Bush the authority to use force if necessary against Saddam Hussein even if he had known at the time that the Iraqi leader had no weapons of mass destruction, has struggled to draw clear contrasts with the president.

"I would not have done just one thing differently than the president on Iraq, I would have done everything differently than the president on Iraq," Kerry said.

He denied that he was "Monday morning quarterbacking." The Bush campaign said Kerry had "demonstrated nothing but indecision and vacillation" on Iraq."

"I said this from the beginning of the debate to the walk up to the war," Kerry told supporters. "I said, Mr. President don't rush to war, take the time to build a legitimate coalition and have a plan to win the peace."

He said Bush had failed on all three counts. He called the president's talk about a coalition fighting alongside about 125,000 U.S. troops "the phoniest thing I've ever heard."

"You've about 500 troops here, 500 troops there and it's American troops that are 90 percent of the combat casualties and it's American taxpayers that are paying 90 percent of the cost of the war," he said. "It's the wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Update your scorecards accordingly.

UPDATE: The Bush campaign makes a point I had thought of and Googled but couldn't pin down a quote for: that Kerry's "wrong war, in the wrong place at the wrong time" line is verbatim from Howard Dean's stump speech (Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd have also used the same line). Yearrrrgggggh!

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:14 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

“In an expansive conversation, Mr. Clinton, who is awaiting heart surgery, told Mr. Kerry that he should move away from talking about Vietnam, which had been the central theme of his candidacy…”

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:05 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Back Where We Started

Here's what I wrote June 17, 2003:

Let's face it: there's really nothing the Democrats can do to defeat George W. Bush in 2004. Which is not to say he can't be beaten, just that what can do him in is mostly a combination of external circumstances (the economy, setbacks in the war) and missteps by the Administration. The only Democrat I'd feared in terms of his ability to create his own buzz independent of pre-existing anti-Bush sentiment was John Edwards, but Edwards increasingly looks like just a pretty face who's in over his head.

57 days from Election Day, the dynamics of the race have not changed. Bush can still screw up (think of Ford in 76 freeing Poland in the debates), and external events can still do him in. But with a bit of a lead going (probably not the 11-point lead in the Time/Newsweek polls, but perhaps a real 3- to 5-point lead) I really don't think there's anything Kerry can do to change the dynamics. Kerry missed his chance at the convention to lay out a positive or coherent agenda, or clarify his position on the Iraq war; after the convention, it's nearly impossible to do another reinvention of the candidate. All Kerry has left is that he intends to attack Bush harder - but really, where can he go that he and Howard Dean and Michael Moore and haven't covered already? That way lies only deeper into the fever swamps. Were I Kerry's advisers, I'd tell him to keep his dignity and hope the other guy screws up. But Kerry wants to believe he can still win this himself, and that will be his undoing; the harder he thrashes about, the more leeway he gives Bush in case Bush winds up needing it.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:56 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Beyond The Pale

The NY Daily News reports that an independent pro-Bush group, "MoveOnForAmerica[, ]led by GOP political consultant Stephen Marks", is preparing to run two controversial ads. The first targets the Democrats' embrace of Al Sharpton:

In the Sharpton ad, Kerry is seen shaking hands and embracing the black leader and a narrator asks grimly what role he might have in a Kerry administration.


In the Sharpton spot, the narrator accuses Sharpton of blaming the U.S. for the 9/11 attacks, calling Adolf Hitler "a great man," urging college students to kill cops and indirectly instigating a fatal fire at a Jewish-owned store in Harlem.

Fair enough - it's one thing for a party to put a Jesse Jackson or a Pat Robertson on stage, but giving Sharpton a prime-time slot and a nod in Kerry's acceptance speech . . . well, if the GOP did the same for David Duke, they'd deserve what they got. Of course, this is of dubious political wisdom, since the media will want to spin this as playing the race card (as opposed to the racist card) in ways they didn't when the NAACP ran those infamous ads against Bush in 2000. Which is bad; Bush has gone out of his way to avoid racial division, and is banking on Kerry having problems matching Al Gore's turnout of black voters in 2000.

The second ad is just bad:

[I]t invokes the name of Willie Horton, the African-American inmate who raped and tortured a suburban couple while on furlough from a Massachusetts prison.

Which might be a fair point, except the Horton-furlough case didn't happen while Kerry was Dukakis' Lieutenant Governor. Instead, the 'hook' is this:

In the new ad, a narrator says that in 1982, Kerry, as a private attorney, "successfully overturned the conviction of his client George Reissfelder," who had escaped in '74 while on furlough - "just like Willie Horton."

When Reissfelder was captured three years later, he tried to grab a cop's gun. The ad says he tried to shoot a police officer and pleaded guilty to that, but didn't serve his 15-year sentence.

His sentence, however, had nothing to do with the case that Kerry worked on with his law partner, Roanne Sragow, who was the lead attorney.

Sragow had been assigned by a judge to look into Reissfeld's '67 murder conviction - which turned out to be wrongful.

The ad admits he was cleared but calls him a "would-be cop killer," and points out Kerry was Dukakis' lieutenant governor.

This is precisely the sort of thing that Judge Frank Easterbrook has rightly decried when the Democrats have done it in judicial confirmation hearings:

I am especially distressed about a recent development in the nomination and confirmation process: holding against nominees the positions taken in litigation. It used to be understood that lawyers serve as advocates and make arguments in the interests of clients. It is not that we trust newly appointed judges to leave their old views behind them; the mind doesn't work that way. But statements in briefs are not the lawyers' "own" views to begin with (when in the SG's Office I filed briefs taking positions that I would not have supported as a judge).

It is bad enough to assume that a scholar who writes an article opposing rent control would automatically think as a judge that rent control is unconstitutional--the subjects are unrelated--but terrible to assume that a lawyer who (say) represents persons accused of committing securities fraud would then favor securities fraud while on the bench. Nonsense. Ex-prosecutors on the bench acquit defendants; former defense lawyers appointed to the bench convict defendants; proponents of public support for religious instruction still apply the Establishment Clause after appointment; and so on. There is a nasty side effect of condemning the lawyer on the client's account: ambitious lawyers will shy away from representing controversial clients. And as almost any cause or client can be depicted as controversial from some perspective... Do we really want this?

It's true that some clients are so vile they don't deserve a distinguished attorney's best efforts; I could imagine people I would refuse to represent. But the fact is, we shouldn't punish Kerry for representing a criminal defendant - especially when the guy may have been innocent and especially when it was his partner's client. And, of course, invocation of Horton's name will blunt the effect of the first ad, which at least seeks to make a legitimate issue of someone the Democrats should have denounced a long time ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:48 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (1)
September 5, 2004
POLITICS: No Quarter

Ralph Peters, a former Army officer who's been a staunch supporter of Bush's strategic approach to the war on terror while fiercely criticizing Don Rumsfeld for what Peters views as an insufficient commitment to put "boots on the ground," tears into John Kerry's speech to the American Legion like there's no tomorrow. Some choice quotes:

John Kerry made his most disgraceful speech since he lied about atrocities to Congress three decades ago. By making promises he doesn't mean and can't keep, he tried to buy the votes of American veterans.

Had he offered each vet a $5 bill and a shot of whisky for their support, his performance could not have been shabbier.

From one Vietnam vet:

"A Kerry defeat would be the welcome-home parade we never had."

On the insurgency in Iraq:

Kerry said we should never go to war without a plan to win the peace. Agreed. But where was he 18 months ago, when such a criticism could have made a difference?

On Kerry's claim to have been fighting all along for veterans' benefits:

The only veterans' benefit young John Kerry fought for was the right of vets to be spit upon in public.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:47 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Lowe No Longer

It could be a coincidence that uber-groundball pitcher Derek Lowe turned his season around immediately upon the Red Sox ditching Nomar and bringing in glove wizards Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz. Could be, but not likely.

When the deal was made a month ago, I looked at the Hardball Times' Fielding Independent Pitching numbers, which seek to project a pitcher's ERA as if he had an average defense behind him (FIP) compared to the pitcher's actual Runs Allowed, and found significant underperformance by the major Sox pitchers, particularly those with high numbers of ground balls allowed and especially Derek Low:


So, how have things gone since the deal?


Now, the individual numbers at such small sample sizes are bound to be flukey, although it's clear that Lowe is no longer getting completely murdered by his defense. But the overall conclusion is clear: since the deal, the Sox pitchers are pitching slightly better (as Peter Gammons and others have noted, Lowe's walk rate has dropped dramatically since the deal, perhaps due to greater confidence in his defense), but their defensive support has been dramatically better, as their FIP has dropped by 0.20 R/9IP while their Runs Allowed-FIP margin has dropped by 0.59. Maybe, just maybe, Theo and Bill James & co. know what they are doing.

* - There may be an error in the Hardball Times numbers for Lowe, but I can;t fix it without comparing apples to oranges.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:35 PM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG/BASEBALL: New Blog Roundup, 9/5/04

Like many bloggers, I often get emails from people who have started new blogs. I have less and less free time these days to check these out and less and less room on my blogroll for new additions, and frankly - if you're thinking of doing this - while I'm sympathetic to new bloggers, I'm much more interested in getting an email with a link to an interesting post than just "look at my blog."

That said, here's a roundup of people who asked me to pass on a link, most of them baseball blogs; if you're in the mood to go exploring, check them out:

Baseball Addict

College Basketball Blog

The Senseless, Wacky, Crazy, Downright Twisted Dictionary to Major League Baseball

Bijan Bayne (the author of "Sky Kings: Black Pioneers of Professional Basketball")

Ump Is Blind (a humor site)


The Torch (a political site)

Balls, Sticks, & Stuff (Comments on sports...and other stuff too)

I'll have more in part two of this tour in the next few days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:38 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 4, 2004
POLITICS: Schundler at the RNC

Check out RedState's interview with Bret Schundler, the man who lost to Jim McGreevey in 2001 and may yet be in line to win the New Jersey Governorship.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:14 PM | Politics 2004 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Air Force Sodomy Case

Phil Carter has some interesting thoughts on a case upholding an anti-sodomy provision in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and its broader meaning for debates about the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:57 PM | Law 2002-04 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Hang In There, Slick Willie

Best wishes, of course, on a full recovery to Bill Clinton, who'll be having heart bypass surgery early next week. In the immortal words of Mark Steyn, "if we members of the vast right-wing conspiracy don't get back to our daily routine of obsessive Clinton-bashing, then the terrorists will have won." And in all seriousness, Clinton is - by the standards of the 2002-04 Democratic Party - a voice of reason in foreign affairs.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:24 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Learning To Think Long-Term

The Wall Street Journal's Holman Jenkins, in the subscription-only Political Diary (a must this season, I would add) had an important point about how current methods of governmental accounting obscure the real costs of transitioning Social Security to a private accounts system:

Point One: A promise to bondholders increases the deficit and the debt. A promise to future retirees doesn't.

Point Two: That's the kind of accounting peculiarity that, in the private sector, leads straight to the hoosegow. Thus the reported national debt is about $3 trillion, but the unfunded liabilities of Medicare and Social Security alone are $11 trillion.


The White House itself first put $1 trillion in play as the transition cost, but when measured in light of the $14 trillion indebtedness above, the figure is less impressive than it sounds. More importantly, we're talking about a "refinancing" here -- that is, trading an IOU held by future Social Security beneficiaries (due in, say, 30 years) for an IOU held by bondholders (due in, say, 30 years).

No change in the real net fiscal position of the federal government would be required, just an exchange of invisible (to the uninformed public) debt for visible debt. Better yet, done right, the deal could be a fiscal win-win: Future retirees would have a bigger nest egg (plus ownership and control of how they spend it down, rather than the government dictating terms of their bet with the mortality tables). Meanwhile, the real indebtedness of the federal government would actually go down, not up.

When you tinker with some of the present-value issues - which are beyond my expertise, I can tell you - I suspect the transition from spend-as-you-go to spend-and-borrow-in-exchange-for-cutting-future-obligations is not quite as costless as Jenkins makes it sound, but his fundamental analysis does make an important point about the degree to which the media overstates by orders of magnitude the nature of the transition costs. To my mind, if the transition is something that gives us a better system and fewer long-term costs to taxpayers, then it's worth incurring some additional costs now to put the system on a better footing in the long run.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:20 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Cardinal Infield Update

As I've noted before here and here, the Cardinals' infield is making a run at the all-time record for Win Shares amassed by one starting infield, which is 119 by the 1914 A's (Connie Mack's "$100,000 infield" of Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins, Jack Barry and Frank Baker; you can find the full list in the Ken Boyer comment of the New Historical Baseball Abstract). Through Thursday's action, Pujols, Womack, Renteria and Rolen were up to 33, 15, 16 and 35 Win Shares, respectively - 99 total, and a pace for 121 on the season if Tony LaRussa doesn't start sitting them more down the stretch run. (Of course, Mack's team had a shorter season to work with). In fact, 99 Win Shares already puts this crew even with the 1973 Big Red Machine (which would have scored higher if NL MVP Pete Rose had been playing third instead of .191-hitting Dennis Menke) and the 1990 Detroit Tigers (Cecil Fielder, Lou Whitaker, Alan Trammell and Tony Phillips) for 21st place all time, and just six more Win Shares between them will pull them into the top 10.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:01 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 3, 2004
POLITICS: Sabotage

Does Bush pay Kerry for pictures like this?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:58 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part III

Bush's speech, I thought, was solid; it lacked a single huge flourish that would bring the crowd to a frenzy (the way, say, Zell Miller did with his "spitballs" line), but it didn't need to be poetry; it needed to tell people what Bush intends to do in the next four years, particularly on domestic policy; and it did just that. Bush needed to get first downs, not throw the Hail Mary pass, so to speak. He said, "Tonight I will tell you where I stand, what I believe, and where I will lead this country in the next four years." And he delivered it.

*Bush seemed to shrug a bit too often during the speech - it's a mannerism of his, but he seemed to use it a lot.

*Bush did a good job, I thought, of drawing together a single coherent theme to his various proposed reforms:

The times in which we live and work are changing dramatically. The workers of our parents’ generation typically had one job, one skill, one career often with one company that provided health care and a pension. And most of those workers were men. Today, workers change jobs, even careers, many times during their lives, and in one of the most dramatic shifts our society has seen, two-thirds of all Moms also work outside the home.

This changed world can be a time of great opportunity for all Americans to earn a better living, support your family, and have a rewarding career. And government must take your side. Many of our most fundamental systems the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow. We will transform these systems so that all citizens are equipped, prepared and thus truly free to make your own choices and pursue your own dreams.

*This one puzzled me:

In this time of change, opportunity in some communities is more distant than in others. . . . [W]e will create American opportunity zones. In these areas, we’ll provide tax relief and other incentives to attract new business, and improve housing and job training to bring hope and work throughout all of America.

Aren't these called Enterprise Zones? What's Jack Kemp doing these days, anyway?

*I credit Bush's attack on Kerry's desire to raise taxes and to raise spending, but Bush would have a bit more credibility on the latter if he hadn't overspent so much the past four years and if there weren't so many places in the speech where I was holding on to my wallet. Show me the spending cuts!

*There are a lot of damning Kerry quotes to choose from; Bush picked two particularly good ones by honing in on the pot shot at Reagan (eight years of “moral darkness,” ) and the more egergious pot shots at our allies (“coalition of the coerced and the bribed.”). Both embody Kerry's sneering contempt in a way that can't play well with independent or undecided voters.

*Like Cheney and - from what I could see on TV - unlike Kerry, Bush knew to stop for a drink of water during his liveliest applause lines.

*If you couldn't tell at home, a few of the times when the crowd started chanting "Four More Years" in the middle of something Bush was saying - particularly during the section where he was contrasting the nations that have turned to cooperation in the war on terror - were efforts to shout down the protestors who got in (one of whom held up one of those infantile "Bush Lied People Died' signs - if it didn't ryhme, who would listen?). It definitely did interrupt the flow of the speech, but anyone who thinks this sort of thing will help Kerry defeat Bush needs to get out of Manhattan more. It should hardly bear reminding that even the furthest right wackos never tried to interrupt Kerry's or one of Bill Clinton's convention speeches. Fools.

*I thought the end of the speech went on too long, and there may have been a better place for the jokes. But Bush does self-deprecating humor quite well; it's one of his biggest contrasts with Kerry, who had almost no humor in his speech and who seems to have little or no ability to poke fun at himself (quite the contrary). That's a bigger distinction than it seems. And it's a bad one for Kerry; even Al Gore knew how to mock himself.

*Kerry's response was so predictable it could have been pre-programmed - he accused Republicans of (yawn) attacking his patriotism (Rueters, of course, took this unquestioningly as true) and then (yawn, stretch, rub eyes) on to Vietnam:

I'm not going to have my commitment to defend this country questioned by those who refused to serve when they could have and by those who have misled the nation into Iraq.

Speaking of Iraq, I had no problem with Bush not doing more to explain the ins and outs of the decision to go to war. 'Splainin' is for the debates, when Kerry will have to face questions on the same issues.

UPDATE: Is it too much blog triumphalism to point out that, before bloggers started digging up stuff like this, the President of the United States would not have used a 1946 New York Times article in a speech to the nation?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:56 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Inside the RNC, Part II

I was back at the convention last night. Thoughts:

*Man, we are so gonna win this thing. I've been holding off on the optimism for much of the spring and summer, but the contrasts between Bush and Kerry, from their personalities to the professionalism and discipline of their campaign operations, is all saying "victory" at this point in the game. I think Kerry needs a major external event to turn around that dynamic.

*Across the street from Penn Station, which runs under Madison Square Garden, is Macy's; Macy's has a big video screen that runs ads. When I arrived for the convention around 7pm, the video screen was running the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad with Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony.

*It occurred to me that Zell Miller missed an opportunity in his riff on the Democrats' war dissent: besides Wendell Willkie, he might also have referred to Bill Clinton not challenging George H.W. Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq. The contrast would have been sharp, since Kerry opposed that war too and since it would have helped Zell underscore how a 1992 Clinton supporter became a 2004 Bush supporter. Then again, Clinton didn't quite support that war, either, so much as he ignored it because it was a dead issue by 1992.

*There are some things you can't do. You can't beat Democrats by promising to spend money. And you can't beat Republicans by wrapping yourself in the flag.

And yet, in a sense, it's almost beside the point for Bush to wrap himself in the flag. For a lot of Republicans, Bush is the flag - maybe not Old Glory, but at least the battle flag in the War on Terror. Bush has laid out a distinct and aggressive approach to fighting terror, most notably the doctrine of preemption, the "forward strategy of freedom" in the Muslim and Arab worlds, the "axis of evil," and the "Bush Doctrine" (you're with us or against us). Because of the root-and-branch nature of so much of his opponents' criticism of this approach, it has come to be identified worldwide with the person of Bush, and his defeat at the polls this fall would be identified everywhere with a rejection of these cornerstones of American foreign policy. Thus, if Bush goes down, it is very much the fall of the flag in battle - our enemies will exult, and our friends will worry about our commitment. Democrats may regard that as a harsh truth, but it's hard indeed to avoid it.

*The house was packed as it was not on Wednesday, and the delegations on the floor were far better organized in neat circular lines. I don't know if the folks at home could see the group - they had to be Texans - all sitting together with the red, white and blue matching outfits and white cowboy hats.

*The early speakers (former Texas railroad commissioner Michael Williams, Florida Senate candidate Mel Martinez) got more attention froim the crowd than last time, but they didn't have much new to say. During Martinez' speech I saw my first "Jeb '08" sign. It didn't look hand-made, either.

*Pataki's 9/11-heavy opening was cringe-inducing, but he warmed up as he slid into attacks on Kerry. He was wearing too much makeup, I think.

Then, the main event: the president's speech.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:34 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 2, 2004
POLITICS: Inside the RNC

Through the efforts of a friend, I managed to get into the Republican convention last night, and will be returning tonight. A few thoughts on the evening:

*I only had to go through security twice to get in; although security was wall-to-wall and very observant and had closed off many of the numerous approaches to MSG and Penn Station, the actual run through the metal detectors didn't seem as intrusive as the usual routine at airports and courthouses.

*My convention pass got me access to the press area behind the scenes, which means going past booths/tents filled with people from all the recognizable major media outlets, from newspapers like the New York Daily News to opinion journals like the Weekly Standard. But I wanted to see Bloggers Row, and eventually I followed the signs for the media until I got to Radio Row, where numerous radio stations are set up and broadcasting side by side. The blogger contingent was set up at a long patch of table off to the side - a small area crammed with laptops, but well-situated and visible. I was surprised at how many people were dropping by to see the bloggers, some of whom were quite smooth at setting up interviews. I got to meet all sorts of bloggers I had been in contact with by email but never met, including Alan Nelson from the Command Post, "Captain" Ed Morrissey from Captain's Quarters, Kevin Aylward from Wizbang!, Matt Margolis from Blogs for Bush, and David Adesnik from Oxblog. Roger Simon was probably the most recognizable in his trademark fedora. I also spoke with Hugh Hewitt, who had just wrapped up his radio show with an interview with John Fund; Hewitt is set up right across the aisle from the bloggers and is most gracious in person.

*Michael Barone dropped by the bloggers' area; there's a skill level involved in being a really high-level pundit that's truly impressive. Barone was peppered with questions from all sides and poured forth high-level punditry pretty much continuously, and was still doing so in a crowd when he headed away, talking about everything from the effect of down-ticket races (he cited Adlai Stevenson's gubernatorial campaign as particularly crucial to Harry Truman's re-election in 1948, complete with references to the number of electors Illinois had in that year) to the effects of abortion on national politics (he thinks Giuliani is such a star that we may see the first pro-choice GOP nominee in 2008). Barone reminded me of nobody so much as legal scholar Richard Epstein, who I met at a Federalist Society conference in law school, and who had a similar gift for rapid-fire extemporaneous opinions on every topic that passed his way.

*After that, I moved into the arena. A convention is a political junkie's dream come to life; there were familiar faces from the media and politics just everywhere, and if I was more aggressive about these things I could easily have struck up a few interviews (on one of the entrances to the Garden I was on line behind Alan Keyes). From my perch in the arena I could see interviews going on with Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, and watched Barone (again) and Candy Crowley and Rudy working the floor.

*Someone with a sense of humor set up the Al Jazeera booth right next to Fox News.

*The first two speeches I saw were Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey introducing her boss, Mitt Romney. Romney got a very warm reception, but it wasn't 10pm yet, and the crowd clearly was not into the early speeches; Healey in particular seemed to be shouting enthusiastically into an empty room. Same-sex marriage? not popular with Republican delegates. Healey's biggest applause line was her reference to how Romney "stood up to an activist court" to protect "traditional values." She did also draw a little reaction by noting that John Kerry doesn't talk much about when he was Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor under Michael Dukakis. Romney's speech seemed just wasted; he told a moving anecdote about a U.S. Olympic athlete who carried the tattered World Trade Center flag at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, but nobody seemed to be paying attention.

*Then, John Kerry was given Zell. Zell Miller is not a guy you want coming after your candidate, as I remember well from 1992. I was surprised that Miller's speech (1) didn't do more to set out his Democratic bona fides (as he's done in op-eds for the Wall Street Journal) and (2) focused entirely on foreign policy. My wife, watching at home - after having seen Rudy and McCain Monday but skipped most of Tuesday - was worried that the convention has been too overwhelmingly focused on national security to the exclusion of domestic policy, although I suspect that that is partly to help set the stage for President Bush to set out his Big Idea agenda tonight (as Bush told Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday when asked about his domestic agenda, "I'm going to save some of it for the speech if you don't mind."). Miller's comparison of the Democrats of today to Wendell Willkie was rough stuff - the common Democratic complaint is that Bush has played politics with national security, but really, if the Dems had been as supportive of the Iraq war as they were in Afghanistan, the war on terror would be a much smaller issue. More on this another day, but it's precisely because of the political battles over foreign policy that this is such a predominant issue this year, to the point that convention delegates seemed bored during the domestic policy parts of Cheney's speech.

My wife worried that Miller came off as too harsh, and he was certainly rough: after he said, "nothing makes this Marine madder than someone calling American troops occupiers rather than liberators," I half expected him to add, "Senator, you messed with the wrong Marine!"

Miller had a field day with Kerry's opposition to various weapons systems, climaxing with "This is the man who wants to be the Commander in Chief of our U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?" My wife said Miller was less prepared to deal with CNN interviewers later who pressed him with DNC talking points about how Dick Cheney as Defense Secretary had not pressed for some of those systems. That's poor preparation: this has been a Democratic talking point for months, and if you take the record seriously it's hard to put much stock in the notion that Kerry and Dick Cheney have similar records on defense spending and weapons systems. (This particular talking point is vintage Kerry; his campaign isn't willing or able to tell you what Kerry stands for, but is instead obsessed with trying to disprove anything that's said about his record).

This was also a good passage, tying together the long years of Kerry's vascillations on foreign policy and blunting his efforts to hide behind his Vietnam service:

For more than twenty years, on every one of the great issues of freedom and security, John Kerry has been more wrong, more weak and more wobbly than any other national figure. As a war protestor, Kerry blamed our military.

As a Senator, he voted to weaken our military. And nothing shows that more sadly and more clearly than his vote this year to deny protective armor for our troops in harms way, far-away. George Bush understands that we need new strategies to meet new threats.

John Kerry wants to re-fight yesterday’s war. George Bush believes we have to fight today’s war and be ready for tomorrow’s challenges.

*Then, Lynne Cheney, who told us that her husband "entered public life as the Gentleman from Wyoming." I know it's too long ago to be worth explaining the relevance to today of Cheney's term as White House Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford, but is it too much to ask his own wife to remember that he held the job?

*As for the Vice President, he was low-key as always. I was actually sitting next to Cheney's speechwriters, which was amusing, since they knew exactly what was coming and were chattering about various passages in the speech as it went along. His speech started with the much-underappreciated fact that Cheney himself, despite his current image as the Mr. Moneybags guy from Monopoly, is from relatively humble origins: "my grandfather didn’t have a chance to go to high school. For many years he worked as a cook on the Union Pacific Railroad, and he and my grandmother lived in a railroad car."

Many of Cheney's lines were repeats of things he or Bush have said before, which was disappointing on one level, but a sign of both the consistency and the marketing savvy of the Bush team - they understand the importance of recycling key phrases to reinforce the public's image of what they stand for. (And, having done so, they don't blame those key phrases on "overzealous speechwriters").

Cheney told us that Libya's "uranium, centrifuges, and plans for nuclear weapons that were once hidden in Libya are locked up and stored away in Oak Ridge, Tennessee . . . " Gee, should he have just given us a street address? I sure hope they are well-guarded.

The foreign policy section of the speech bored heavily into Kerry, in classic Cheney fashion:

The President’s opponent is an experienced senator. He speaks often of his service in Vietnam, and we honor him for it. But there is also a record of more than three decades since. And on the question of America’s role in the world, the differences between Senator Kerry and President Bush are the sharpest, and the stakes for the country are the highest. History has shown that a strong and purposeful America is vital to preserving freedom and keeping us safe - yet time and again Senator Kerry has made the wrong call on national security. Senator Kerry began his political career by saying he would like to see our troops deployed “only at the directive of the United Nations.” During the 1980s, Senator Kerry opposed Ronald Reagan’s major defense initiatives that brought victory in the Cold War. In 1991, when Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait and stood poised to dominate the Persian Gulf, Senator Kerry voted against Operation Desert Storm.

After Cheney cited Kerry's experience as a Senator and a soldier, I half expected him to say: "a man with John Kerry's experience should know better." I was specifically disappointed in two things: first, Cheney should drop that line mocking Kerry's reference to a "sensitive" war on terror, which really is taken out of context; far more damning, in my opinion, was his reference back in June to "the real war on terror in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan" and his claim that the Bush Administration had "transferred it for reasons of its own to Iraq." That's a stark admission of Kerry's fundamental unwillingness to accept the centerpiece of the war on terror, which is the idea of an offensive strategy of changing the conditions and removing the forces that support and nurture terrorists throughout the Arab and Islamic worlds, as opposed to concentrating solely on taking down those specific nations and organizations that can be proven to have already attacked us.

Second, even beyond the weapons systems and the $87 billion, I really wanted to hear more on Kerry's plan to gut intelligence spending in the mid-90s. I could also have done with some of Kerry's quotes about the Reagan policies that made such a difference in the Cold War; it's one thing to cite votes, but Kerry's speeches took some very tough lines against nearly every major controversial initiative of the Reagan years, from Central America to missiles in Europe. Still, there's only so much time, and you do have to cut to the chase.

My wife was concerned that there seemed to be a lot of empty seats in the hall while Cheney was speaking, although that was news to me where I was sitting. I'm also not sure the TV caught the full impact of the rows of people doing the tomahawk-chop-style "flip-flop, flip-flop" wave. Which played in with this:

Senator Kerry’s liveliest disagreement is with himself. His back-and-forth reflects a habit of indecision, and sends a message of confusion. And it is all part of a pattern. He has, in the last several years, been for the No Child Left Behind Act - and against it. He has spoken in favor of the North American Free Trade Agreement - and against it. He is for the Patriot Act - and against it. Senator Kerry says he sees two Americas. It makes the whole thing mutual - America sees two John Kerrys.

Aside from the laugh line, this is clearly a central point to Cheney: a guy who can't keep his message at least straight enough that his supporters could answer the question "would Kerry have gone to war in Iraq" is never going to project the certainty about American intentions and resolve that is itself an important element of stability in foreign affairs.

All in all, an entertaining night, and one with a lot of red meat for the crowd; the parade of moderates was most definitely interrupted, and the base was happy. The stage is now set for the next-to-last major movement (other than the debates) of this campaign - the president's address to the nation laying out his agenda for the second term.

UPDATE: Will Collier at Vodkapundit follows up on my point above by refuting the spin on Kerry's opposition to major weapons systems.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:15 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: A Revealing Moment From Josh Marshall

Reflecting on the latest shakeup in the Kerry campaign, Dr. Josh Marshall reveals more than he probably intended to in diagnosing the Democrats' counterproductive, morale-sapping tendency to panic and lose faith:

Politically, this is one of the worst things about Democrats -- and it has many sources. As a group they seem to have a great tendency toward becoming disheartened, turning on their candidate, doubting his strategy, doubting his advisors, and so forth. Unfortunately, the candidates and advisors have an equal tendency to be open to that kind of fretting. And with the media playing the handmaiden to the synergizing anxiety, the whole thing can become very demoralizing and damaging for campaigns.

Many folks look back and say Al Gore ran a terrible campaign. Maybe. Maybe not. For me, I look back and see something different. I remember a campaign that was far too sensitive to the spin and CW of the moment and thus capable of being buffeted by the smallest political squall. This, rather than any particular tactic or strategy, has always struck me as its greatest failing.

The Bush 2000 campaign was wholly different. They had many reverses. But there was never any serious question that a Rove or a Hughes would get canned. And if there was, the campaign sent out a clear signal that it would never happen. On many levels they were more disciplined.

That difference made a big difference in consistency of strategy and morale among the troops.

Replace "campaign" with "nation at war" and you have a pretty good summary of why the current leadership of the Democratic Party can't be trusted with the car keys in dangerous times.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:53 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 1, 2004

Chris Dial over at the Baseball Think Factory has an intriguing but ultimately inconclusive look at whether slow-working pitchers - which he mainly defines as "Steve Trachsel" - get poor defensive support. The study as conducted proves nothing, but it's a good analytical start down a road towards being able to measure two things (a pitcher's pace and the quality of his defensive support relative to his team's defensive abilities) and see if they correlate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:06 AM | Baseball 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Like, Bogus

I caught only pieces of the three major addresses last night - Arnold, the Bush twins, and Laura Bush. The twins were pretty much the living embodiment of the phrase, "not ready for prime time." Instapundit rounds up the commentary, including an NRO reader describing them as "bad MTV VMA filler". If this is anything like what George W. was like at 22, it's actually rather frightening to think of him flying fighter jets.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:01 AM | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Marty Noble of Newsday notes the political tilt of baseball players in general and the Mets in particular towards the Republican party:

Players rarely wear their political allegiance on their sleeves.

"But I'd be surprised if it isn't 4 or 5 to 1 Republican in the game," Mets catcher Vance Wilson said last week. "Not everyone is involved or up to date on what's going on, but of the ones who are, I'm sure it's heavy Republican."

(Link via Baseball Primer). Of course, Noble can't resist this dig:

The Grand Old Party appeals to those in the grand old game, if only because of their affluence. The average salary of a major league player, $2,549,363, connects more with Republican ways and the have-lots of the world.

Would Noble say the same thing about the overwhelmingly Democratic tilt of, say, movie stars? I'm sure making big money and paying big taxes does have something to do with it, but professional athletes have always been a conservative lot, since long before they made a lot of money, and I suspect that's been doubly true in times (like the present) when the principal political issue was war and peace.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:47 AM | Baseball 2004 • | Politics 2004 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)