Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
August 31, 2005
WAR: The Chavez Menace

Julian Sanchez, in Reason Online, gives an overview of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez and the fascist thuggery and regional meddling (including support for FARC terrorists in perenially unstable neighboring Colombia) that characterize his regime.

More background on Chavez:

*Thor Halvorssen, in, on Chavez' brownshirts.

*Ivan Osorio, in NRO, on a former Venezuelan Air Force major who claims that Chavez gave money to Al Qaeda. I'm not so sure about this one, but as Osorio notes, Chavez has adopted the classic rogue state pose of befriending anyone he can find who hates and threatens America.

*An older NR profile.

Unfortunately, Otto Reich's May 2005 NR cover story - an article that hit close enough to home to be denounced by Fidel Castro - is not available online.

MORE: A few from Instapundit's archives here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

ONE MORE: Also from NRO.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:41 PM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Kaz-alry

Mets announcers just reported the Mets are calling up Kaz Ishii, Shingo Takatsu, and Tim Hamulack when the rosters expand tomorrow.

*Ishii, we know all too well; he has pitched well at Norfolk (1.76 ERA in 15.1 IP)

*Takatsu, who had a terrible year that started with him as the White Sox closer and ended with him getting released, could be useful; he pitched very well in June (0.96 ERA, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 HR, 3 BB, 10 K) before backsliding in July, and he's pitched fairly well in Norfolk, although he's continued to be homer-prone.

*Hamulack is a hard-throwing lefty who has been great at Binghamton and Norfolk (1.13 ERA, 64 IP, 40 H, 1 HR, 15 BB, 61 K), although he's 28 and has a checkered minor league career.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:25 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: Stampede

Actually, this is only tangentially related to the war - in that people were afraid of a suicide bomber - but it's pretty horrible nonetheless.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | War 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 8/31/05

*Chris Lawrence Lynch on Buddy Bell and anti-war protests at Arlington National Cemetary.

*This Michael Yon combat journal is a must-read, albeit of the "print and read at leisure" variety due to its length. Yon is that rare journalist who gets so close to the fight that, in this instance, he had to pick up and fire a weapon.

*Quote of the week, from Justice Scalia (of course):

Now the Senate is looking for moderate judges, mainstream judges. What in the world is a moderate interpretation of a constitutional text? Halfway between what it says and what we'd like it to say?

*LaShawn Barber on the DaVinci Code movie; I hadn't realized it was quite so perniciously anti-Christian. And yes, that bothers me a lot more in a movie than in a book; at least books are read by people who read. Of course, I agree with one of her readers that, in contrast to the Muslim reaction to similar provocations, "the DaVinci Code’s movie release may provide an opportunity for Christians to show that we can oppose such a blasphemous work without resorting to violence . . . "

*The US has, in fact, been quite fortunate not to have the sort of radicalized and subversive Muslim population that exists in Europe. But Wizbang notes that that doesn't always mean that American Muslims are sympathetic and cooperative in efforts to root out terrorists in their midst.

*Via Instapundit, the international tribunal investigating the Rafik Hariri murder may be closing in on pointing the finger at the only plausible suspect, the Syrian government. Of course, that will once again front-burner the issue of what to do about Syria; we would desperately like to see the end of the Assad tyranny, which (as this investigation is likely to show) has grown incompetent in addition to brutal. But unlike in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon, there's not a lot of cause for optimism in the short term about a democracy movement arising to take Assad's place. Still, as always, there's no way out but forward.

*Stuart Buck catches Jack Balkin, who is a very smart liberal law professor, giving away the game in defending the "living constitution" as opposed to originalism:

Originalists are right that the Constitution is binding law, but they confuse the constitutional text -- which is binding -- with original understanding and original intentions, which are not. A living Constitution requires that judges faithfully apply the constitutional text, given the meanings the words had when they were first enacted, applying those words to today's circumstances.

(Emphasis mine). Of course, reading the words to mean what they meant when they were first enacted is precisely what originalists set out to do. But go read Stuart's whole analysis, which points to more concrete examples of why Balkin's framing of the issues doesn't get him where he wants to go.

*Buck again, on humorless liberals calling John Roberts a sexist for what any lawyer, or any person with a little perspective, would instantly recognize as a lawyer joke.

*The people losing their homes in the Kelo case in New London are now being billed by the city for rent for living in their own homes.

*From the Blogometer, yes, people on the left are eagerly blaming Bush for the hurricane:

For more than a few lefty bloggers, Pres. Bush bears a lot of responsibility for the suffering that is expected. Diarist Patricia Taylor at Daily Kos: "Historically, it is the National Guard, along with other emergency personnel, who attempt to provide emergency services to the community in disaster relief situations like Katrina. And where are these National Guard right now? Iraq." Wampum calls it "A Bush-made catastrophe in the making..." Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and Swing State Project make similar points. So does Steve Gilliard, who writes: "The next closest thing to this is a nuclear explosion." AMERICAblog suggests that New Orleans could get more attention from the Bush admin. by renaming the storm "Hurricane Terri"; a little Photoshop work places Terri Schiavo's face over the eye of the storm. TalkLeft: "One other point: we need to stop destroying the Louisiana wetland which serves as a buffer." Wizbang's Paul picks up the Daily Kos diary, and adds this comment: "Actually if the dumbass used google news they would have known the Guard is in the Superdome." Liberal BooMan Tribune: "It looks like it is time to put partisanship and politics aside. Dealing with this calamity is going to require a unified approach from all Americans."
Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:21 AM | Blog 2002-05 • | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
August 30, 2005
KATRINA: Not So Super?

I haven't been hurricane-blogging, but the one thing I've been watching is New Orleans' decision to house 9,000 people in the Superdome. I hope that's the right move, because if it's not, it could wind up being one of the biggest mistakes in the history of disaster relief. I was initially worried when parts of the roof peeled off; now word comes that things are not going so well in the aftermath of massive post-storm flooding:

With water rising perilously inside the Superdome, [Louisiana Governor Kathleen] Blanco said the tens of thousands of refugees now huddled there and other shelters in New Orleans would have to be evacuated.

For now, all the rest of us can do is hope and pray.

UPDATE: But if you want to do something more concrete, Glenn has a list of places to donate.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:06 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Over the next 30 days, starting with tonight's game against the Phillies, the Mets play 28 consecutive games against teams with winning records that are either in the playoffs (the Cardinals), probably in (the Braves), or still in the race (Phillies, Marlins, Nationals). This would be an excellent time for Carlos Beltran to have a month of hitting like Carlos Beltran, among other things, and for Kris Benson to shake off whatever has been bothering him his last two starts.

This is, of course, what we Mets fans have been waiting for. But I can't help but feel that, when it's all over, we will be looking back at two or more of these games that were blown by Braden Looper as being the point where it all got away.

UPDATE: Seconds after I post this, Beltran goes deep for the first time in a month.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:27 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Due to technical difficulties, I wasn't able to log on to the blog this morning. Blogging to follow later.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 3:15 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 29, 2005
LAW: Catholic Justice

From a few weeks back - Musil has a list of Catholics on the Supreme Court, a list John Roberts would join. I'm thoroughly confused by the chronology of what churches Clarence Thomas belonged to and when . . . it's definitely a mixed bag of a list, the lowlight being Dred Scott author Roger Taney.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:59 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
KATRINA: Live With The Man On The Street

When you interview random passerby on live television, this sort of thing tends to happen.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:39 PM | Hurricane Katrina | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: J.D. High

Kevin Cott, a/k/a The Intern, makes a point I used to make frequently in law school:

For those who are unfamiliar with the unbridled joy that is law school, I'd like to let you in on a little secret -- you were once there, and it was called "high school." Forget the workload, the general paranoia, or even the culture shock of class attendance mattering, the most searing impression that law school left upon me was the overarching deja vu, right down to the personalized lockers, gossipy cliques, musical chair dating scene, and sack lunches. I spent my entire first year waiting to be informed that I was unknowingly taking part in a scientific bio-dome experiment (think MTV's "The 70's House," but more generic). With each year, you become increasingly removed from the high school throwback vibe, but it always exists in the undertones.

For me, of course, the workload and the paranoia were both very much a return to high school; I worked much harder in high school than in college. What unifies high school and law school, and what separates them from college, is that most everyone you know is studying the same subjects and chasing the same goals - getting into college/making law review/getting clerkships/getting good legal jobs. Whereas in college, there's no reason to feel yourself in competition with pre-meds, art history majors, accounting majors, etc.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:36 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: How A Social Moderate Can Win The GOP Nomination In Six Easy Steps

With Rudy Giuliani leading Patrick Ruffini's web-based straw poll of potential 2008 presidential candidates for the second month in a row, Karol Sheinin thinks the right blogosphere is being out of touch and unrealistic about the fact that a socially liberal candidate can really win in the Republican primaries. (Via RedState). And Rudy's not the only one: several of the potential 2008 Republican candidates, as well as unlikely-to-run "dream" candidates like Condoleeza Rice, face lingering questions about their pro-life credentials and other commitments on issues of importance for social conservatives.

Speaking as a fairly socially conservative voter myself - albeit a deep-blue-state social conservative - I believe that it is, in fact, possible for a candidate who has established a record or reputation as a social moderate or liberal to win the GOP nomination, if he or she follows six simple steps:

1. Don't Run Against The Social Right

People vote on issues; they vote on personalities; but they also vote, on a deeper level, for that hazy space between the two, a set of ideas about the world and a sense that the candidate is more on their side than the other guy. Which is another way of saying that people can vote for a candidate they don't personally like (more than 50 million people pulled the lever for John Kerry), and they can vote for a candidate they don't always agree with, but they will not vote for a candidate if they identify him as being against them. And this is particularly true of social/religious conservatives (I use the two terms here as largely synonymous, although there are culture warriors on the Right like Stanley Kurtz who aren't especially religious), who are accustomed to feeling beseiged and sneered at by the leading lights of popular culture in journalism, entertainment and academia.

The classic example of running against social conservatives was the brief and unsuccessful 1996 presidential campaign of Arlen Specter, who openly cast himself as the man to save the GOP from the Religious Right. John McCain is perhaps a more graphic example: while McCain himself has a solidly socially conservative, pro-life voting record in the Senate (he voted for both Clarence Thomas and Robert Bork for the Supreme Court, among other things), he repeatedly picked fights with social conservatives in the 2000 primaries. Many of those fights were with the crazier people on the Right - Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Bob Jones - but what mattered was that McCain went beyond simply distancing himself from those figures to openly inviting the media to play the traditional morality play of Good McCain vs. Bad Religious Right. Unsurprisingly, the voters McCain thus implicitly portrayed as villains abandoned him in droves (see here for a contemporaneous example of the push-back).

The lesson: far more fatal than saying you disagree with voters is to abet the media's efforts to demonize them. Before people listen to your actual position, they want to know you respect them and are on their side.

2. Federalism, Federalism, Federalism

On many - indeed, most - social issues, what social conservatives fear most of all is to have issues taken away from the democratic process in the states and decided by federal judges. While social conservatives have certainly not been above seeking to use the power of Congress and the federal courts to push a social conservative agenda, a compromise position of preserving/restoring the authority of local communities over many social issues is a compromise that socially conservative voters are mostly willing to live with.

One significant advantage of taking the federalist position on issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, gun control and medical marijuana, among others, is that it can enable a candidate to come around to a functionally different position without the need to execute an unconvincing and transparent flip-flop: it's easier to persuade people that you've accepted a compromise than that you have actually changed your mind on a matter of high principle. (For a good example of this, see Mitt Romney's pledge that as governor of Massachusetts he would not seek to change the state's positions on abortion).

Moreover, as I have stressed before, America is both a progressive country and a conservative one: progressive in the sense that people are broadly accepting of social change, conservative in their resistance to having such changes forced upon them by the government, particularly by the courts. Consider a candidate who can say to social conservatives, in the primaries, something like this:

I, like many of my fellow New Yorkers, support a woman's right to choose an abortion, and support the right of gay men to express their commitment in marriage. But I also respect the fact that not everyone in this country lives in Manhattan, and not everyone shares the same beliefs. And so I will oppose any effort to force people in Texas and Alabama to live the way New Yorkers live, for the same reasons why I wouldn't want New Yorkers to be forced to accept the community mores and values of any other city or state. In short: this is a great country, and it's big enough for a lot of different communities and lifestyles.

That's a message that can easily be retooled into a winner nationally, even to socially liberal voters whose experiences in recent years have re-awakened them to the virtues of federalism. And, of course, it dovetails naturally with #1 on the list: supporting federalism is a way of giving some real backbone to the message that you respect the people you disagree with, respect them enough to let them govern themselves.

(Rudy, as a guy who pressed for huge expansions of federal criminal law as US Attorney, may be an awkward champion of federalism. But if he can't do it, another candidate can).

3. Promise to Appoint Conservative, Pro-Democracy Judges

Of course, pledging fealty to federalism and respect for differences of opinion is toothless symbolism if you put the likes of David Souter on the Supreme Court. So, a socially moderate candidate needs to make extra-clear that he or she is going to put conservatives on the courts.

But unlike a socially conservative candidate, a social moderate/liberal, to have a coherent message, can't just issue generalized paens to "strict construction" and denunciations of "judicial activism". Instead, the candidate needs to explain, clearly and repeatedly, that he/she believes in judges who will not use vague or unwritten constitutional theories to take power away from the people. (In fact, a message of constitutional "minimalism" appeals, rhetorically, even to liberals). And yes, that means making it explicit that you have no problem with overturning Roe v. Wade, even as you still support keeping abortion legal in your own home state.

An early way to signal this approach - particularly for a candidate, like Giuliani, who isn't already in the Senate - is to support John Roberts. What we've seen of Roberts so far has tagged him as precisely the kind of cautious but principled conservative that a pro-democracy, pro-federalism but socially moderate/liberal candidate can get behind. And the base knows that losing the Roberts fight would be a critical blow.

(The pro-democracy aspect of conservative judging is another topic I've covered before at greater length, here and here).

4. Show Some Backbone In Other Areas

One of the sneaking suspicions held by many conservatives is that a candidate who is pro-choice on abortion is probably so due to an inability to stand up and take some guff in his or her social circles, to be demonized as a right-winger by the media, etc. And indeed, long experience has shown that many pro-choice Republicans are the same sorts of people who run from a fight on the budget, or tax cuts, or other issues of importance to the base.

To rebut that suspicion, a social moderate/liberal needs to build a reputation as a real battler on a few other issues - foreign policy, crime, taxes, spending, immigration, etc. - and show a willingness to take the heat for those positions. For example, a governor who slashes taxes and spending can say, "yes I'm pro-choice, but I've shown that it's because I'm a principled fighter accross the board for smaller government." (This is one area where Rudy doesn't have to worry - as one of the most famously combative figures in American politics, there may be doubts on how much of an economic conservative he is, but there's no question he will stand his ground where he plants himself).

5. Do No Harm

Of course, on some issues the federal government has taken a stand on social issues. Understandably, on some questions - like stem cell research or gays in the military - a social moderate may want to change the existing policy. But such a candidate has to make clear that large-scale, radical changes in policy are not going to be the order of the day, and that for the most part, things will stay status quo on some of the battles social conservatives have won in the past, like some of the executive orders pertaining to abortion.

6. Nominate A Conservative Running Mate

Rudy or Condi could be on the ticket, but not both. Even after sewing up the nomination, a social moderate/liberal would need to convince social conservative voters not to stay home. While conservatives can't, after the Souter/read-my-lips fiascoes, be convinced solely by having a running mate from the Right, picking one will send an important message that social conservatives remain a valued part of the team.

Anyway, maybe Rudy Giuliani is the guy who can do it, and maybe he's not. (More: Michael Goodwin on Rudy). But I do believe that, by following the road map laid out above, a candidate who, for example, personally supports legal abortion could nonetheless win the GOP presidential nomination, and do so with his or her principles more or less intact.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (4)
August 26, 2005
BLOG: The Toll Continues

My high school alumni newsletter came, and noted the death of a classmate. I Googled around and came up with a story on his death from my old hometown newspaper, from late July:

YONKERS — Timothy Langer, who lost his pregnant wife in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, died Monday of liver failure at age 34.

His family is calling him an indirect victim of the attacks.

"He didn't quite know how to plug back into life," his brother, Thomas Langer, 35, said. "He had big shoulders that he carried all that pain with — and I say that's poison. In my opinion, that's what killed him."

Elaine Langer, his mother, said the death of his wife and unborn child destroyed her son.

"He was happy, he was well-adjusted. He just couldn't cope with the pain. He self-medicated," she said yesterday amid funeral preparations. "He was a wonderful kid. He was the life of the party. Everyone would talk to him, and then they would go away happy. Unfortunately, Timmy just carried all that pain. He couldn't get rid of it."

Langer, who ran in [sic] Internet business, called his mother every morning and every night to see how she was, she said tearfully. "You don't get too many sons like that. He was a sweet, sweet kid."

In his early 20s, Langer suffered a catastrophic motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed below the chest. Doctors gave him a 2 percent chance of recovery, his mother said. But with hope and determination, he learned to walk again.

Last I had heard of Langer was when I heard about the motorcycle accident, so it's good to hear he had gotten things going his way, for a while, anyway.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:21 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Death Spiral

Russia now has more abortions than births, to go with the shortest life expectancy in Europe. If an animal population had this problem, they'd be on the Endangered Species List. And Russia doesn't have offsetting immigration the way Western Europe's declining societies do.

What's probably needed in Russia is a religious revival. Maybe the Mormons should get to work there.

UPDATE: I don't quote him very often (because I don't agree with him very often), but Pat Buchanan was all over this trend two years ago.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:34 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

We hardly needed his latest blunder - publicly musing about the wisdom of assassinating Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez - to remind us that Pat Robertson is a fool and a liability to the conservative cause. (And proof that a good resume is no substitute for good judgment: among Robertson's attainments, in addition to his ministry, he is a graduate of Yale Law School and a combat veteran as a Marine in the Korean War).

What's so grating about this remark is that Robertson is a man of God, and as such ought to be much more careful about indulging speculation about resorting to violence than the average public figure. Assassinating tyrants may well be morally justifiable, but if a man of the cloth can't at least offer caution and restraint on our impulses in that direction, he's really not doing Jesus or His followers any favors.

And in that regard, this is considerably more problematic than just praying for the Lord to engage in some Old Testament-style smiting of Chavez. That, after all, is the distinction I find so troubling about many Muslim leaders; as I've written before:

I have no problem with people who believe that God is going to send me to Hell for being a Catholic. They believe their thing, and I believe mine. I have a major problem with people who think that they, rather than God Himself, should send me there.

(More on related topics here, here and here).

Of course, unlike many of the pronouncements of radical mullahs, nobody can seriously believe that anyone will threaten the life of Chavez as a result of Robertson's statement, so it's not really comparable in terms of the direct mischief caused. Instead, what's much more damaging about Robertson is simply that it gives Chavez, who like most tyrants thrives on his self-arrogated role as a victim of American plots, an excuse to further consolidate his power and spread yet more anti-American propaganda in Latin America. Thanks, Pat. You've given the real bad guys ammunition just as much as Dick Durbin ever did.

Finally, two last notes:

*Predictably, there was no such hue and cry when George Stephanopolous called for assassinating Saddam in 1997. (Via Wizbang). But in fairness, the situations were not the same. Chavez was orignally democratically elected, and while his re-election was likely the result of violent intimidation and outright fraud, he has considerably more plausible claims to some sort of legitimacy than Saddam did. Also, by 1997 we'd been to war with Saddam once, and appeared to be on the eve of war with him again as part of his decade-long failure to comply with the terms of the cease-fire; he'd tried to assassinate a former US president himself, he was openly paying terrorists in Israel, he'd been to war with Kuwait and Iran and bombed Israel and Saudi Arabia, he'd used chemical weapons in battle and against his own people . . . you know the drill. Chavez has made all sorts of trouble and promises more to come, but he doesn't (yet) have the kind of rap sheet Saddam did as far as putting himself beyond the pale of even the kind of conduct we have wearily grown to expect from rogue states, let alone civilized nations.

*Byron York argues that Robertson isn't as irrelevant to conservatism as some commentators make him out to be. Although he may in some ways be right, I find York's argument a bit unconvincing, as all he really points to is Robertson's TV ratings, and not everyone who still watches his show necessarily takes his political meanderings all that seriously.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Religion • | War 2005 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Great profile of the community-building charitable activities of NBA Hall of Famer and ex-Piston Dave Bing (Via Kaus).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:17 AM | Basketball | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 25, 2005
BASEBALL: Jacobs' Ladder

Well, the Diamondbacks can't see Mike Jacobs leave town too soon. But the bigger question is, what do the Mets do with him? Jacobs is just up from spending most of the season at AA Binghamton, where he batted .321/.576/.389 in 433 at bats, impressive numbers but not necessarily numbers that scream "big league star" in a 24-year-old in his second crack at AA (he batted .329/.548/.376 there in 2003 before having 2004 ruined by injury: Baseball Prospectus translated that as .285/.493/.328). The major issue is patience - 35 walks and 94 K this year, 28 and 87 in 407 at bats in 2003, 25 and 95 in 467 at bats in the Florida State League in 2002. He's reportedly not much of a defensive catcher and has little defensive experience at first base. In short, he looks a lot like Jason Phillips 2.0.

But projecting him to stardom or even giving him the everyday 1B job now (Minky has hit well when healthy since his horrendous May, so the Mets will want him back when he's ready) or the everyday catcher's job next year is one thing; sending him back out when he's this hot is another. Even if everyone gets back healthy, I'd keep him as a bat on the roster over, say, Jose Offerman (Jacobs has hit 4 home runs in a week; Offerman's never hit more than 9 in a full season).

UPDATE: Combined batting line for Wright, Reyes, Floyd, Piazza, Castro, Diaz, Mientkiewicz and Jacobs since the All-Star Break:


Wow. The highlights include Wright batting .383/.667/.448 (making him fifth in the majors in slugging, fourth in OBP, first in batting average, tied for first in runs, and second in RBI in that stretch; his OPS of 1115 compares well to Pujols at 1113 and Manny at 1130), Reyes batting .321/.457/.355 (leading the majors in hits and steals and tied for second in triples), and Castro with 20 RBI in 58 at bats. Now, if they can just get Beltran's home run swing back . . .

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:09 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
August 24, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 8/24/05

*The husband of Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey has cashed in $13 million in stock options, giving her a huge potential campaign war chest. Hint: nobody cashes in $13 million in options to run for Lt. Gov. Yet another sign that Mitt Romney is running for president, in which case he won't run for re-election in 2006, in which case Healey will be the GOP candidate.

*Bush is reading a book about the history of salt, as well as one on the 1918 flu pandemic.

*Ed Morrissey on Jamie Gorelick.

*Morrissey again, on the March 2001 arrest of Iraqi agents in Germany on suspicion of spying, including contemporaneous (i.e., pre-9/11) press reports that the arrests were related to contacts between Iraq and bin Laden. From a summary of a report in a Paris-based Arabic newspaper:

Al-Watan al-Arabi (Paris) reports that two Iraqis were arrested in Germany, charged with spying for Baghdad. The arrests came in the wake of reports that Iraq was reorganizing the external branches of its intelligence service and that it had drawn up a plan to strike at US interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties.

The most serious report contained information that Iraq and Osama bin Ladin were working together. German authorities were surprised by the arrest of the two Iraqi agents and the discovery of Iraqi intelligence activities in several German cities. German authorities, acting on CIA recommendations, had been focused on monitoring the activities of Islamic groups linked to bin Ladin. They discovered the two Iraqi agents by chance and uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin. The matter was considered so important that a special team of CIA and FBI agents was sent to Germany to interrogate the two Iraqi spies.

Via Powerline.

*Andrew McCarthy looks more closely at how new information informs the longstanding controversy over a Czech intelligence finding that Mohammed Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence operative in Prague the following month, April 2001. The evidence remains contradictory and ambiguous. But the salient point is the extent to which the 9/11 Commission reached a predetermined conclusion on the issue without looking more carefully at the facts.

*Patrick Ruffini on how Rupert Murdoch's Fox News and NY Post may be pulling their punches on Hillary Clinton. And is Hillary "Joe Lieberman in a pants suit"?

*A response to Juan Cole's effort to blame the death of pro-war journalist Steven Vincent on Vincent having an alleged affair with his translator. Cole just can't resist kicking a man while he's dead. Via Stuart Buck.

*Mary Katherine Ham on whether newspaper reporters know more about the Iraq war than the people fighting the war, and other lessons for the media. Via Wizbang.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:17 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Funded and Unfunded Mandates

Via Econopundit, I see that Connecticut is suing the federal government over "unfunded mandates" in the No Child Left Behind Act, arguing that it is impermissible for the federal government to require testing without paying for the tests.

As a matter of constitutional law, this may be a bit of an uphill battle, although there is Supreme Court caselaw supporting the arguement that the federal government can attach conditions to funds it gives the states but can't outright compel the states to do things, whether it pays for them or not. As Steve Antler notes, though, it is liberals and Democrats who would be the real disappointed parties if unfunded mandates of this sort were declared unconstitutional.

Personally, I'd like to go farther and ban, all but entirely, the practice of the federal government giving money to the states to carry out policy. There may be a narrow class of cases where (1) the national interest is sufficiently imperiled to justify the federal government requiring states to follow a uniform national standard and thus justify out-of-state taxpayers footing the bill, and yet (2) the job is best carried out through the infrastructure of state/local government. Counter-terrorism, border security, and vaccination/response for epidemic infectious diseases are all potential examples of this. But the great bulk of areas in which the feds give money to states and localities are simply for services to benefit the people of that state or locality. And that means one of two things:

A. The federal government is taking taxes from the people of the state and routing it, redundantly, back to the people. In this case, why not have the taxes raised locally? That would improve the transparency and accountability of government by making clear who was responsible for deciding how much to tax and how and where to spend.

One of the worst examples is Medicaid. The Medicaid program, by providing matching funds to the states, effectively takes a big chunk of the federal budget and hands over control of it to elected officials in the states; at the same time, the incentive to use Medicaid funds drives states to spend more, ultimately costing their own budgets as well. If states simply had to choose between spending their own money or not spending it, both state and federal government would be more accountable for their own choices.

B. The federal government is taking taxes from the people of a different state or locality and diverting it. Of course, there are endless controversies over who benefits more from this, but I think most observers of Washington would have to admit that what the federal government does not do is work out a plan based on reasonable policy criteria for deciding which states and localities get a net benefit and which are net losers. Instead, the real division of funds winds up being (1) a patchwork of contradictory programs and (2) heavily influenced by which states and localities have powerful Senators and House Committee Chairs.

Now, a lot of conservatives have championed "block grants" and the like - no-strings-attached funds given to states - as a way of reducing federal influence. Cutting these off, though, would in the long run hand more real authority back to state authorities that are closer to, and thus more directly accountable to, the people. Unfortunately, it would almost certainly require an amendment to the Constitution to do this, and one that would require a sufficient number of exceptions that it would be difficult to police.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:53 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 23, 2005
LAW: Quote of the Day

Jane Galt brings us this priceless quote from a juror in the Merck Vioxx trial:

Jurors who voted against Merck said much of the science sailed right over their heads. "Whenever Merck was up there, it was like wah, wah, wah," said juror John Ostrom, imitating the sounds Charlie Brown's teacher makes in the television cartoon. "We didn't know what the heck they were talking about."

Warms the heart of every litigator to hear that.

(Originally quoted in The Wall Street Journal ($))

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:08 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Ruffini Poll #2

Go vote. Bigger ballot, more choices! (Via Instapundit).

UPDATE: At last check, was Tom Tancredo country. I tell you, there's a big and growing anti-immigrant bloc out there that the two major parties have been unwilling to tap, and somebody, somehow is going to make hay with it in 2008.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:55 PM | Politics 2008 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Other Champs

I was discussing this over the weekend with family, and decided to do a little digging: what player or players won the most World Serieses without winning one with the Hated Yankees? I looked at all the non-Yankee teams to win the World Series, and came up with a list (I excluded guys like Babe Ruth and Wally Schang who won multiple championships away from the Bronx and won with the Yankees). Of course, the list was complicated by the number of guys who appeared in a season for a World Championship team as opposed to the guys who were actually part of the team in the postseason. The record for most non-Yankee World Championship teams played for in a season without playing for one with the Yankees is five. Two trivia questions, and then the answers after the break:

1. Name the three four players to play in a season for five World Championship teams without winning one with the Yankees. Each of these guys appeared in four of the five World Serieses. Hint: they were all (UPDATE: three of the four were) teammates on a team that won three Championships.

2. Name the three players to appear in the World Series for four non-Yankee World Champions since 1920. Hint: one appeared four times for the same team, one three times for the same team, and one twice each for two teams.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Blogoversary 3.3

I know it's a bit hard to keep track, since I celebrate three different blogoversaries, but yesterday was the third anniversary of the start of my old Blogspot blog, and thus my transformation from an Internet columnist to a blogger. Boy, 2002 seems like a long time ago now, doesn't it?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:05 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 22, 2005
BASEBALL: Picking His Spots

The Mets' chief opponents this season are the 4 other NL East teams and the Astros, who are the only non-NL East team seriously in the Wild Card hunt. So, how has Pedro Martinez performed against these 5 teams?

Well, first of all, he's faced them in 12 of his 25 starts (10 vs. the East and two vs. the Astros), a scheduling feat (even in light of the imbalanced schedule) for which Willie Randolph deserves credit, and which accounts to some extent for the fact that the Mets, along with the Braves, are the teams in the NL East that have played better against their own division.

Look at these numbers:


That "hits" column is especially staggering. The only blight on Pedro's record here is three frustrating no-decisions, which were not his fault.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Marked Graves

Now that we've added "entering in the 7th with an 8-run lead" to the list of "situations in which it is not safe to bring Danny Graves into the game," I think it's high time the Mets sent him packing.

The Mets are now in the unfortunate position of having to do continued triage on their roster, while still hanging on the edge of the wild card race (the division race is probably over and in Atlanta's hands again), and while it is too late in the season to do too much about it. They've got too many starters, no first or second baseman, injury-created lack of depth in the outfield and at catcher, and a bullpen that's getting grants from FEMA.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:16 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 19, 2005
WAR: Best Worst Option

Go read Stephen Green on what Israel gets out of withdrawing from Gaza.

BONUS LINK: Mark Steyn on Cindy Sheehan (more from me on her later, hopefully). (Registration required, but worth it to read Steyn's Spectator columns regularly).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:11 PM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: The Moustache Did It!

The Moustache of Understanding. Via Matt Welch.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Wisdom of Steve Phillips

Ryan McConnell at Always Amazin' has some priceless examples here and here.

A few more baseball links:

*A patented way to locate the exciting parts of a baseball game? (via the Primer). Of course, this is like identifying the exciting parts of a mystery and only showing you whodunit - the concept that excitement is something that builds over time is lost on these guys.

*1870s-style baseball, complete with "cranks". Cool.

*The collective record of the NL East this season outside of the division is 202-162, a .555 winning percentage (i.e., a 90-win pace - for an entire division). On Baseball Tonight the other night, they were waxing enthusiastic about Florida's chances at the Wild Card. Well, I was high on the Marlins before the season and I'm certainly not giving up even on the Mets, but let's face facts: given that the NL East will play itself in September, the Astros have to be the overwhelming favorites to win the Wild Card just by virtue of their schedule. The Astros have 12 games remaining against teams above .500, compared to 32 for Florida, 28 for the Phillies, 28 for the Mets, and 29 for the Nationals.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
August 18, 2005
BLOG: Conspiracy Theory

OK, this has to be one of my all time favorite ways someone reached this site through a Google search. (WARNING: Google search contains a Harry Potter #6 spoiler. Seriously.)

UPDATE: This is apparently what they were looking for (via Den Beste, yes, that Den Beste). It's pretty funny. (Same spolier warnings apply).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:43 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: The Phenoms

There's been a lot of buzz lately, and justifiably so, about Felix Hernandez and the way he has thus far (through three starts) lived up to even the most extravagant hype. We will yet see how good Hernandez is really going to be in the short run, but barring injury I don't doubt he'll be good, and maybe great, possibly very soon. Aaron Gleeman pens a fine tribute to King Felix here, and Joe Sheehan provides some perspective here (subscription required, I think).

Sheehan studies the past track records of pitchers who made the majors as teens. It's a fine study, but I had a different angle I wanted to look at. What if Hernandez really does become an instant superstar - what does that mean for his long-term career prospects?

I decided to look at the greatest phenoms in the game's history since 1900 (before then, it was common to see very young pitchers atop the leaderboards). I pulled together a list of pitchers who were, or could plausibly be argued to be, one of the two best pitchers in their league in a season at age 22 or younger.

This turned out to be a fairly demanding test, but I did come up with 23 pitchers who fit the bill, including four who won the Cy Young Award at that age - Dwight Gooden, Vida Blue, Bret Saberhagen and Fernando Valenzuela (yes, I'm working with his reported age here). I may have missed someone who could arguably have qualified, but I don't think I missed anyone glaring. Based on the earliest season in which they qualified, here's the list:

19 Years Old
Wally Bunker

20 Years Old
Bob Feller
Don Drysdale
Fernando Valenzuela
Dwight Gooden

21 Years Old
Harry Krause
Babe Ruth
Mark Fidrych
Vida Blue
Bret Saberhagen

22 Years Old
Christy Mathewson
Ed Reulbach
Walter Johnson
Smoky Joe Wood
Bill James
Dutch Leonard
Herb Score
Sam McDowell
Larry Dierker
Bert Blyleven
Frank Tanana
Ramon Martinez
Mark Prior

As you can see, the list includes a phenomenally talented group of pitchers - but also a very high proportion of just the worst horror stories you can imagine. Nobody wants to see their favorite young pitcher compared to Fidrych, Score, Wood, or even Tanana. The list also includes a high proportion of extreme power pitchers, although there are a few glaring exceptions. The two guys who didn't strike people out even as young phenoms - Fidrych and Bunker - were effectively finished by age 23, while the guys who were merely above-average in the power department (Reulbach, Leonard, Dierker, James, Saberhagen, Krause, Ruth) were more of a mixed bag (Mathewson was a big strikeout guy in his first few years, at least by his time's standards).

Let's take a year-by-year look at how, on average, these guys fared. Keep an eye on the # column, which shows how many of the 23 pitchers in the sample actually pitched at that age. A few notes: I excluded the pitching numbers for Mark Prior for 2005, so he drops off the chart after age 23. I excluded Ruth and Wood for years when they were used almost exclusively as outfielders, so Ruth drops off after age 24 and Wood after age 27. And Feller was in the military ages 23-25:


I'm not sure the chart quite captures the horrific attrition rate for these guys, although you can see that barely half of them were still pitching at 30, an appalling figure (even if we throw out Ruth and Prior it's 13 of 21) for such a talented bunch. Even among the best of the group in terms of longetivity, Mathewson was finished by 34 and retired by 36, Drysdale was done at 32, Blyleven needed arm surgery at 31; even Walter Johnson had a sore arm at 32, although Johnson gradually recovered his effectiveness. Tanana was a shell of his former self after age 24, Valenzuela after age 26, Feller after 29. McDowell was done at 29, Wood at 25, James at 23, Krause at 22. Gooden tore his rotator cuff at 24. Saberhagen threw 200 innings for the last time at 25, Leonard at 29. Others declined more slowly, like Blue, Reulbach and Martinez.

The chart does suffer from some illusions. You can see the tremendous dropoff in strikeout rates, but (1) it would be more severe than that except that Fidrych and Bunker drag down the average for the younger years, and (2) the uptick at age 35 is mostly the result of Mathewson retiring, as Mathewson had been an extremely low-K pitcher throwing 300+ innings a year in his early 30s. Also, the small sample size goes haywire from 30 on: Johnson's staggering ERAs at age 30 and 31 have a large single-handed effect, and by age 38, only Johnson, Blyleven and Tanana were still pitching, and the first two had good years (their last). Finally, among those who survived into their 30s, a large number of them moved into much more hitter-friendly conditions: Blyleven, Blue and Tanana came out of the pitcher-happy 70s, Gooden and Saberhagen had to deal with the 90s, Johnson hit the lively ball era at 32. The "League ERA" from which the ERA+ is calculated (which bottoms out at 3.44 for the age-21 sample) jumps up from the 3.57-3.82 range to 4.01 at age 31, then to 4.32 and 4.40 at age 36-37. Thus, the ERA+ column may be more instructive.

The more complicated question is whether the gruesome health record (and other factors: Wood tripping on a baseball, Score getting drilled by a line drive, Gooden's and Blue's drug problems, McDowell's drinking, Feller going to war, Ruth's hitting prowess) was the result of overuse at a young age, or whether it's just been the case either that (1) guys who have this sort of gift at a young age are usually destined to burn out early as well or (2) no matter what age you start at, there's only so many good pitches in most guys' arms. That will be a tough one for the Mariners if Hernandez can scale the hieghts the way these others did. My own sense is that life has its own plans: you don't want to see Hernandez throw 270 innings a year, but if he can do the job of a front-of-the-rotation starter now, he should be asked to do it while he has that precious gift.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:00 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (1)
POLITICS: Incivility

Dean Barnett notes a dynamic among left-wing bloggers, especially younger ones, that I addressed recently: "writing like they’re politically obsessed Quentin Tarantino characters." Link via Instapundit. It may be morally satisfying to spew profanity-laced insults at anyone and everyone who disagrees with you (and not just Republicans; go search lefty blogs like Atrios and Kos for "DLC" and see what you come up with), but it's no way to expand the tent.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:32 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 17, 2005
LAW: It's Not About The Money

Under the heading of "arguments you never want to find yourself making," consider the DC Circuit's recent decision (link opens a PDF) upholding Afghanistan's immunity from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (which governs claims against foreign governments) for its involvement, via its sponsorship of Al Qaeda, in the 1998 embassy bombings. Now, for the uninitiated (count your blessings), one of the exceptions to immunity under the FSIA - and, apparently, the only one the plaintiffs thought they could pursue - is that a foreign state may be liable for

an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the United States.

The idea behind this "commercial activity" exception is that states should be able to be sued in at least some cases when they do things, like selling oil or running airlines, that ordinary businesses do. The problem, of course, is that this argument put the plaintiffs in the preposterous position of arguing that the Taliban's relationship with Al Qaeda was "a commercial activity." They explained this theory thus:

The Taliban actively aided Bin Ladin by assigning him guards for security, permitting him to build and maintain terrorist camps, and refusing to cooperate with efforts by the international community to extradite him. Bin Laden provided approximately $10-$20 million per year to the Taliban in return for safe haven.

Slip op. at 24. Naturally, the DC Circuit did not buy the idea that this is the sort of activity that characterizes non-sovereign commercial actors:

Granting refuge to terrorist training camps is a uniquely sovereign act; it is not the sort of benefit that a commercial landlord can bestow upon a commercial tenant. As the plaintiffs themselves describe, refuge involved both the "assigning [of] guards for security" and the "refus[al] to . . . extradite" bin Laden.

Id. at 27.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:39 PM | Law 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: The Untouchable

Eliot Spitzer takes on only the most serious crimes.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
August 16, 2005
BLOG: California Blogging

So, I spent last week on vacation in Southern California with my wife and kids, visiting family and seeing all the touristy sights we could squeeze into a week. It was the first time I'd been to California - in fact, until this year I'd never been west of Chicago. It's not hard to see why people fall in love with the place the first time they see it. Thoughts and impressions:

*We stayed in Newport Beach, which is something like 50 miles south of downtown LA and thus turned out to be ideally strategically located to hit the sights ranging from the hills north of LA down to Seaworld in San Diego. It's also a very nice town with a beautiful public beach, and wasn't as expensive as some of the surrounding towns as far as hotel rooms. Highly recommended.

*We hit Dodger Stadium and four theme parks - Disneyland, Legoland, Seaworld, and Universal Studios (if we'd had more time, I'd have liked to see the Angels and Padres as well). All of them were fun, although there was a limit to how much the kids could do at Universal. The theme parks were all extremely expensive (especially Legoland and Universal), although in our case we were able to get, through family and other sources, a variety of free tickets, discounts, coupons, and even (in the case of Seaworld) half-priced scalped tickets outside the entrance. Seaworld probably had the best food and, by far, the most reasonably priced souvenirs. Disney, of course, had the worst parking situation (the exits to the trams to different parking areas are very badly marked at night). I was very impressed with Dodger Stadium, which is every bit as beautiful and peaceful a place to see a game as it looks on TV, although my one gripe was the difficulty of locating an exit (at Shea, this is never a problem, as there are ramps heading out everywhere you look), and the Dodger Dog is not up to the standards of a New York ballpark hot dog. Legoland, of course, is a geek's paradise, with miniature models of several American cities (go there now while they still have the original design of the Freedom Tower, the design that will now never be created in the actual Manhattan). At Universal, we saw the "Waterworld" show, which was billed, with a straight face, as "based on the hit movie." While the plot was really too thin even for an outdoor theme park show, the show was definitely worth seeing for the live special effects, which included a lot of things blowing up, catching fire, and plunging into the water (on the other hand, the actors in the show couldn't even meet minimal action-movie standards of realism in handling firearms). I hadn't realized that Seaworld is owned by Anheuser-Busch, which is why along with whales and dolphins you get a Clydesdale display and "beer school."

*We saw an awful lot of the freeways, putting over 900 miles on the rental car in 8 days. An observation: Californians refer to their highways as "the 405," "the 5," etc., which sounded strange to me - in New York, you would just say, "95," not "the 95." Also, the concept of "free" is so ingrained that when you get on a toll road, there are warnings after warnings for miles before you hit a single toll booth. Coming from Queens, the traffic did not seem nearly as bad as we'd heard; we hit some momentary traffic heading to San Diego and did get stuck a little going from Universal to the Dodger game, but nothing like an ordinary trip on the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Even from the highways - especially the Pacific Coast Highway - the natural beauty of California is staggering, and the manmade views aren't bad either. There was one view we saw a few times at night, on 73 heading north into Newport Beach, where you pass over a ridge and suddenly have the whole of LA laid out below you, not bunched in a Manhattan-ish skyline but with the lights of modern civilization at nighttime stretching as far in every direction as the eye can see. It looked like George Lucas' vision of the city-planet of Coruscant from space.

*We encountered, especially with the (very friendly) guys sitting behind us at Dodger Stadium, a number of people in LA who use the word "dude" as if it were a required form of punctuation, without which one can't conclude a sentence fragment, let alone a complete sentence. Another thing that surprised me: wine for sale everywhere, in supermarkets and convenience stores, and not just a bottle or two but rows and rows of the stuff.

*As to the Dodger game, we saw Tuesday night's game against the Phillies; all the better to miss the Mets, so we could root for the home team. The Dodgers were, once again, leading off Cesar Izturis, who has a .222 on base percentage since June 1, the worst in baseball by a margin of 42 points. And people wonder why they don't score any runs. The Phillies were pitching Robinson Tejeda, who may have a good arm - he struck out Jeff Kent three times with men on base - but just could not find the plate, which is borne out by his walk rate this season. Brad Penny was masterful for the Dodgers before the bullpen imploded.

*We saw a few more Bush bumperstickers than Kerry ones, although this may mean little enough nine months after the election (here in NY, the number of Kerry-Edwards stickers dropped off rapidly after the election), plus Newport Beach, at least, is in what used to be the heart of Republican territory. The hotel and the theme parks were also plagued with a ridiculous proliferation of state-law-mandated warnings and disclaimers, nearly none of which made much sense (did you know that Disney may contain tobacco and other potentially cancer-causing agents?). At Seaworld, they asked the people in the audience at the Shamu show who were military or military families to stand for applause, and quite a lot of people stood up - that's San Diego for you.

*Yes, we managed to see endless TV replays of the Beltran-Cameron collision in what was otherwise the all-Terrell-Owens sports networks. The only two OF collisions that scary that I can remember are (1) Johnny Damon and Damian Jackson in the 2003 ALDS and (2) the Mookie Wilson-Lenny Dykstra collision that ended with Mookie's teeth marks across Lenny's nose.

Anyway, a fine time was had by all. Regular blogging to resume tomorrow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:33 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (1)
August 15, 2005
BLOG: Jet Lagged

We just got back last night from a week's vacation in Southern California (preemptive disclaimer: we had a full schedule with family and sightseeing events, so I didn't get to touch base with half the people I know out there). Anyway, due to bad weather we didn't get in until 2 a.m. EST, so my best-laid plans to return to the blog this morning were for naught.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
August 5, 2005
BLOG: Quick Links 8/5/05

I had a bunch of things on my to-blog list but never got to them, and now I'll be out-of-blog for the next week. In the meantime, a few links:

*Alex Belth has a long excerpt about Barry Bonds from Howard Bryant's new book on steroids. Overlooked here is the extent to which tension has arisen from the fact that baseball writers thought they had come to terms, by 2000, with who Bonds was and his place in the game's history, before he abruptly violated everyone's expectations with his unnatural after-35 surge.

*Eugene Volokh notes that profanity makes him uneasy mainly because of its association with anger. I would add that this is a major reason why the likes of Kos and Atrios so frequently come off as nasty and unhinged: the endless use of foul language on their blogs gives the reader the distinct impression that these are angry, hate-filled guys, and that limits their ability to persuade people who aren't already like-minded. That's a major, major difference between Kos and RedState, where profanity is banned, and it really affects the tone.

I don't actually have anything against foul language, as I probably use too much of it myself in my daily life. And sometimes, it's hard to make quite the point you want to make without it. But there are real costs involved, which is one reason why I don't use that kind of language on the blog.

*Jeff Goldstein has some choice words for the lame excuses being peddled for the New York Times to investigate the adoption of John Roberts' two small children. The upside may be the Clarence Thomas Effect, which is the opposite of the "Greenhouse Effect": the more the Left personally attacks Roberts during his confirmation, the more likely it is that he will dig his heels in and resist drifting leftward on the bench.

*I had wanted to excerpt this, but you should go read this Seattle Times article and its accompanying sidebar (links via Simmons' intern) on conversations on the baseball field.

*Sports fans, don't try this at home. Um, to put it mildly . . .

*The White House should have tried this earlier.

*Interesting profile of Jon Corzine.

*Don Luskin has really been on a roll lately, skewering Paul Krugman here and here.

*Some good stuff from Bob Somerby on George Tenet's possible role in the Plame disclosure and the general incompetence of the CIA spokesman in waving Novak off.

*More on Matt McGough's book "Bat Boy" here and here.

*This executive summary is a good place to start in reviewing a thorough and detailed report on how the bulk of incidents of voter suppression, intimidation and fraud in 2004 were perpetrated by Democrats (link via Dales). The group behind the study is apparently technically nonpartisan, but obviously conservative. Go read the whole thing.


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Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:35 PM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Horcrux of the Matter - Predictions For Harry Potter #7

Following up on this earlier post and this discussion thread at Michele's, I thought I should go ahead and put on record now my fearless predictions for the concluding Book Seven of the Harry Potter cycle. It should go without saying that YOU SHOULD NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVE NOT READ ALL OF BOOK SIX, UNLESS YOU LIKE PLOT SPOILERS.

I should add that, with one or two exceptions I will detail below, my thoughts are not so much original observations as my best guesses and intuition after reading the informed speculation from a number of other sources. So, if I've said something here without explicitly crediting the person who thought it up, my apologies.

Anyway, if you don't mind playing along with this guessing game, read on for my predictions. As Dumbledore would say, "from this point forth, we shall be leaving the firm foundations of fact and journeying together through the murky marshes of memory into thickets of wildest guesswork." Specific predictions are in bold.

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (45) | TrackBack (1)
August 4, 2005
POLITICS: Just One Question

OK, maybe Mark Kleiman has never worked in an office with a busy professional or executive. But for those of you who have: what are the odds that the person who keeps Karl Rove's phone log is Karl Rove?

(Of course, if Rove instructed someone not to log the call, we're in Betty Currie territory, and Rove could be in a heap of trouble. But my point here is, it's much more likely that Rove's secretary, not Rove, was the person deciding what calls to log, and how).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:55 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE: Backstroke of the West


This sequence of stills from a Revenge of the Sith bootleg with English subtitles badly re-translated from Chinese back into English is hysterical. I think Obi-Wan's advice to Anakin about the Jedi Council is cribbed from Jerry Maguire.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Pop Culture | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: The Republicans are Doomed, I Tell You!

Ricky West says the Democratic excitement over a close special election (which they lost) in Ohio is deja vu from 2002.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:08 AM | Politics 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 3, 2005
BASEBALL: Magic Beanes

If you're wondering how the A's, after a dismal start, wound up the hottest team in baseball, going 43-14 since May 30, David Pinto's Day by Day database provides answers yet again:

Oakland Batting 5/30/05-8/2/05

Oakland Pitching 5/30/05-8/2/05

A few quick thoughts:

*The return from injury of Bobby Crosby and the arrival of Dan Johnson seem to have coincided with the awakening of Eric Chavez, Nick Swisher and Jason Kendall from deep slumps, giving the A's the offensive core they'd lacked in the early going. They actually now look like a pretty good offensive team, if still not the Yankees.

*Harden, Zito and Haren are 24-3 over that stretch, bringing back memories of the May 2002-May 2003 golden age of the Big Three, when Hudson, Zito and Mulder went a combined 61-16 over a 162-game stretch.

*If Ryan Glynn hadn't gone 0-4 with a 6.88 ERA subbing for Harden, the A's would look really scary.

*Smoked Joe Blanton has actually been striking people out, a crucially important development.

*Huston Street is already one of baseball's elite closers. And Justin Duchscherer and Kiko Calero are one heck of a 1-2 setup punch.

*Of course, some credit should go to Bobby Kielty, who was one of the few guys hitting before this run.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:32 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Pop(ulation) Quiz

Leaving aside the entries for the World and the EU, the eleven most populous nations on earth - the 11 with 100 million people apiece - according to the CIA Factbook, are as follows; see if you can fill in the blanks:

1. China
2. India
3. United States
5. Brazil
8. Russia
10. Japan

I left in the easier ones (including Russia, which is dropping like a rock on this list). The answers are below the fold.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:01 AM | Blog 2002-05 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 2, 2005
BASEBALL: The Benefits of Steroids

Palmeiro wasn't the only one; Mariners starter Ryan Franklin has also been suspended for violating the steroids policy. And look what steroids did for Franklin: helped make him the losingest pitcher in baseball in 2004-05. (More here).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:58 PM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Famous Last Words

I have never intentionally used steroids. Never. Ever. Period, . . . Ultimately, although I never intentionally put a banned substance into my body, the independent arbitrator ruled that I had to be suspended under the terms of the program.

Perhaps, in retrospect, the denial under oath before Congress was a bad idea. On the other hand, Bill Simmons looks like a prophet for writing this last week:

The current era of juiced balls, ravaged pitching staffs and a drug program best described as "Um, you guys shouldn't do that stuff" has rendered everything else irrelevant.

As Palmeiro closed in on the 3,000-hit/500-HR club last week, the media swirl had a guess-we-have-to-cover-this feel, almost like when Ryan Seacrest got a star on Hollywood Boulevard. That's no knock on Raffy . . .

Please note: I'm not accusing Palmeiro of anything. He was at the right place at the perfect time, just like Judd Nelson peaking when over-the-top performances in enjoyably cheesy movies were all the rage. Whether either guy needed drugs to complete the effect is beside the point. . .

POSSIBLY UNRELATED NEWS STORY: Barry Bonds will not play this season.

UPDATE: If you like, you can take this survey on steroids and Palmeiro.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:10 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL: Zack Shellacked

From Baseball Prospectus 2005 (p. 385-86):

With apologies to Jon Landau, we have seen the future of pitching, and his name is Zack Greinke. There are two sets of opinions on Greinke. There's the camp that thinks all the talk about his being the most extraordinary young pitcher of his generation is overblown hype. Then there's the camp of people who have seen him pitch.


His profile is so unique that trying to project his future is a fool's errand, although the fact that PECOTA projects a collapse rate of 0% is astonishing for a young pitcher. All we can say is that in the past 30 years, the pitcher Greinke best compares to as a rookie, both statistically and stylistically, is [Bret] Saberhagen. As a sophmore, Saberhagen won the Cy Young Award.

(More on that "just about zero chance of collapsing" bit here).

Observant fans will note, at this point, that Greinke is a bit of a long shot for the 2005 AL Cy Young Award, seeing as how he is 3-13 with a 6.14 ERA. I think it's safe to say that the Greinke hype from this year's edition of BP will not be listed on the cover of next year's book.

Now, we all make mistakes and bad predictions. But in this case, there was a major and obvious red flag that BP should have warned its readers about. As I noted back in March, in previewing the Royals:

Then there's nearly the team's sole cause for optimism, Zack Greinke, who Jay Jaffe and Studes have identified as a guy who could take a step back this year because he was lucky on balls in play in 2004. I wouldn't go shining that Cy Young Award the Baseball Prospectus guys are hinting at just yet.

Specifically, Greinke's FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) stats for 2004 had him at 4.94, about a run higher than his 3.97 ERA. In other words, Greinke was likely to regress this season unless he improved enough in other areas to offset the likelihood that he would not be so lucky on balls in play, a factor over which pitchers have far less control than other aspects of the game. In fact, he actually has improved in the one major area he needed to work on (home runs) but has seen his K/BB numbers fall off a bit:


Greinke's problem is that he has done far worse on balls in play than just revert to the mean; in fact, his defensive support has been so bad (unsurprisingly, considering the team that plays behind him) that his ERA exceeds his FIP by a greater margin than any pitcher in baseball this season except for Mark Hendrickson of the Devil Rays; the Hardball Times gives him a FIP of 4.63, which is actually better than last season, but opponents' batting average on balls in play has risen from .267 to .333, resulting in the unsightly ERA. And it's been getting worse: overall, the league hit .383 against Greinke in June and .343 in July.

At the end of the day, if you look just at the HR/9, K/9, BB/9 and FIP figures, Greinke is just a very young pitcher, well thought of by scouts, who has yet to become more than a slightly below-average major league pitcher. There's no shame in that; you could have said the same of Greg Maddux or Tom Glavine at the same points in their careers, and Greinke could yet develop into a star if he can keep cutting down on the home run balls (his Groundball/flyball ratio increased this year, a positive sign in that direction), get a few more strikeouts, avoid losing his confidence over the debacle of 2005 (in fact, Greinke may be a poster boy for the need to have a stat guy on hand who can help explain to a young pitcher that he's not as far from success as it looks), and get himself onto a team where good pitching is at least occasionally rewarded with offensive and defensive support.

But that said, BP missed a big one here, when the reason to be cautious was staring them in the face.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:34 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Weisberg's Makeover

Yes, the same old voices in the media are lining up already to say Hillary's not that liberal. Slate's Jacob Weisberg takes a crack:

One facile argument, often voiced by Hillary-loathers on the right, is that she's too far to the left. The "real" Hillary is closer to Howard Dean than Bill Clinton, a recent piece in the National Review asserted. Wrong! An unhedged supporter of the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton stands at the hawkish, interventionist extreme of her party on foreign policy.
OK, she's not a Deaniac on foreign policy. But then, this comes from the same people who ignored foreign policy when they were trying to convince us that Dean himself was a centrist, 19 months ago.
Despite her pandering vote against CAFTA, she's a confirmed free-trader and deficit hawk.

Well, voting against CAFTA is one of her first major public stances on free trade - and as Weisberg's old boss Michael Kinsley has pointed out, you can't cast a vote like that and be a free trader.

And, "deficit hawk"? She's for tax hikes, yes. She's probably against pork, if it goes to Congressional Republicans. But when has Hillary stood up for spending cuts? Liberals constantly argue that their people are "fiscal conservatives" if they can balance a budget by jacking up taxes. That's not conservatism; real fiscal conservatism is keeping taxes and spending low. A candidate who keeps only one of the two low - like Bush - may be faulted for insufficient conservatism, but there's a word for a candidate who wants both to be higher: liberal.

On the cultural issues that often undermine Democrats, she seeks common ground, sometimes with flat-earth conservatives like Rick Santorum, and has been nattering about the "tragedy" of abortion.

This is, in the main, symbolism and empty rhetoric; look at Hillary's pronouncements going back decades and what you will actually see is the worst combination of preachy judgmentalism and leftist cant.

Even Hillary's notorious government takeover of health care was misconstrued as an ultra-lib stance. In opting for a mixed, private-public managed-competition plan, the then-first lady was repudiating the single-payer model long favored by paleo-liberals. Her plan was flawed in many ways, but it wasn't what Ted Kennedy wanted.

OK, it wasn't single-payer, but it sure as heck was a big government takeover of one seventh of the economy. And probably would have ended up as a single-payer plan.

Then, Weisberg goes on to dismiss the multifarious Clinton scandals without a hint that they involved anything but Bill's sex life:

What, then, of the complaint that Hillary is doomed by association with her husband, or perhaps by their marital issues? This problem encompasses various assumptions - that voters don't want to be embarrassed by the name Monica Lewinsky again, that they don't accept Hillary's marriage as authentic, or that another 50,000 late-night comedy jokes about her horndog husband would somehow crush her chances. The conservative attack machine would surely make the most of all these vulnerabilities. But let's not forget that Bill is an asset as well. Swing voters feel positively about his presidency, and increasingly about his post-presidential role. Many would welcome his policy acumen, experience, and political wisdom back to the White House. And, let's admit it - our culture plainly can't get enough of naughty celebrities. Would Florida and Ohio really choose a dull opportunist like Bill Frist over four more years of excellent Clinton drama?

I agree that the public won't want to be reminded of all the old scandals, but it wasn't all just Monica, and some of the scandals - like the Marc Rich pardon - can't be dismissed as old news when the Clintons haven't faced the voters since then.

On the other hand, at least Weisberg does acknowledges that her personality is poison:

Yet Hillary does face a genuine electability issue, one that has little to do with ideology, woman-hating, or her choice of life partner. Plainly put, it's her personality. In her four years in the Senate, Hillary has proven herself to be capable, diligent, formidable, effective, and shrewd. She can make Republican colleagues sound like star-struck teenagers. But she still lacks a key quality that a politician can't achieve through hard work: likability. As hard as she tries, Hillary has little facility for connecting with ordinary folk, for making them feel that she understands, identifies, and is at some level one of them. You may admire and respect her. But it's hard not to find Hillary a bit inhuman. Whatever she may be like in private, her public persona is calculating, clenched, relentless - and a little robotic.

With the American electorate so closely divided, it would be foolish to say that Hillary, or any other potential nominee, couldn't win. And a case can be made that the first woman who gets elected president will need to, as Hillary does, radiate more toughness than warmth. But in American elections, affection matters. Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004 with candidates Main Street regarded as elitist and aloof, to a candidate voters related to personally. Hillary isn't as obnoxious as Gore or as off-putting as Kerry. But she's got the same damn problem, and it can't be fixed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:31 AM | Politics 2008 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
August 1, 2005
POLITICS: The Original Reality Show

Patrick Ruffini:

In a totally free market for information, politics must have popular entertainment value in order to be viable.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:16 PM | Politics 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The King Is Dead

I have to regard the death of Saudi Arabia's long-ailing King Fahd as a good thing. Of course, in an ideal world, we'd be dealing with a more democratic Saudi Arabia, but it's hard to see that as a realistic prospect until a lot of the more tractable situations in the region have been moved in that direction. In the meantime, the diffuse and feudal power structure of Saudi Arabia all too often seems to hand us all the difficulties of dealing with an autocracy as an ally but none of the benefits. While that structure is likely to remain unchanged in its fundamental nature, and while I still would not be trusting or optimistic in dealing with now-King Abdullah, you have to figure that Abdullah's ascension to the formal role of King will help him solidify his power and give the West a slightly clearer picture of who is in charge over there.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:03 AM | War 2005 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Not An Inkblot

Following up on this discussion between Ed Brayton and Randy Barnett, I'd like to expand slightly on a point I made previously here. You will recall the inherent tension in the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution:

Ninth Amendment The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Tenth Amendment The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

The puzzle is that the Ninth Amendment seems to permit rights to be protected by the Constitution without explicitly stating them, while the Tenth appears to do the opposite, reserving plenary power to the States. Of course, it should be recalled that when the Bill of Rights was written, it applied only to the federal government, not to the states, so there was at the time no tension between the two.

Brayton makes the case that the history of the Ninth Amendment shows that it was, in fact, intended to prevent the enumeration of some rights in the Bill of Rights from being read as excluding the existence of others. But that doesn't answer the larger dilemma of how, if you believe in such unenumerated rights, you wind up with any standards at all for determining what such rights are, besides the whims of five judges.

It still seems to me that the only way to have a universe of unenumerated rights that is greater than zero but less than unlimited is to ground it in some coherent, extraconstitutional body of fact or law existing at some particular point in time. One way to read the Ninth Amendment - and I would be interested to see more on the historical support for this reading vs. a "natural law" reading (as Brayton and Barnett do), as well as an explanation of what sources one would look to to disclose the "natural law" - is simply to prevent new and novel invasions of liberty. As I wrote before, one could argue that:

the meaning of the amendment is to protect against new and unimagined federal invasions of rights so fundamental that nobody had thought to protect them because the law had not previously invaded them. Put another way: the Ninth Amendment wasn’t intended to overturn anything existing at the time, but was intended to constitutionalize the existing sphere of rights enjoyed at the time as a floor below which new enactments could not fall.

Thus, one would not read the Ninth Amendment as permitting the wide-scale overturning of laws that were unchallenged at the time of its adoption, but one could see it as a bulwark against new laws that would have been regarded as novel and shocking intrusions at the time. In short, the Ninth Amendment protects not any old liberties but traditional liberties. That, I think, is a reading consonant with Madison's desire to avoid having liberty constricted by the enumeration of rights.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:51 AM | Law 2005 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

While I do miss the drama a bit, I can't say I'm disappointed that the Mets didn't make any deadline deals, especially when you consider how ill-advised last year's moves were. The main deal under discussion, of course, was the three-way trade that would have brought Manny Ramirez to Shea for Mike Cameron, Lastings Milledge and possibly Aaron Heilman. I might well have done that deal; Milledge is a fine prospect, but the odds on him ever being as good as Manny are pretty slim, and while the Mets should be building for the future, as long as the team is built around Pedro, that future is 2006-07, not years down the road. But hanging on to Milledge and the team's other chips is hardly a bad idea.

Another rumor I saw floated was some variation on Heilman and Yusmeiro Petit for Danys Baez. Given that Baez was supposed to go to Shea in the Manny deal, I'm unwilling to leap to any conclusions about Minaya from the fact that this may have been discussed, but obviously nobody in their right minds trades two young pitchers with the capacity to be starters for a non-elite closer in his thirties, particularly not to a team still as far from championship-caliber as the Mets.

Tougher times, though, for the Yankees, adding neither Randy Winn (or anybody else capable of playing center) nor a creditable starting pitcher. The Yanks will finally, for once, have to sink or swim with the team they assembled in the offseason.

Naturally, the Braves did improve, grabbing the rejuvenated Kyle Farnsworth from Detroit to shore up their bullpen and apparently not giving up a lot in return.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Baseball 2005 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)