Baseball Crank
"It gets late early around here." - Yogi Berra
February 27, 2009
POLITICS: Sheriff Lee on Bobby Jindal: "The Day After, Bobby Was In My Office"

Game, set, match:

Olbermann and the lefty blogs: the game is up, we have video of the late Sheriff Lee attesting to then-Congressman Jindal's role during the days following Katrina:

When Hurricane Katrina hit, the day after, Bobby was in my office, saying 'what do you need'...He was hands on...He was there all the time...He got equipment for us...

Time for an apology.

PS - If you read Ben Smith's story earlier, make sure you have caught up with the updates.

PPS - Josh Marshall should consider a little less smug and a few more facts of his own. Marshall now has no leg to stand on; the entire basis of his site's work on this has been eviscerated.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:18 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Time For Olbermann To Apologize To Jindal

We have an editorial up at RedState calling for Olbermann to retract and apologize on air for slandering Bobby Jindal.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:08 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
February 26, 2009
POLITICS: Facts Unchecked

TPM Muckraker, the Washington Monthly, Daily Kos diarists and Keith Olbermann have really gone and stuck their foot in it by falsely accusing Gov. Bobby Jindal of making up his experiences on the ground during Hurricane Katrina without bothering to check with the people who were actually there with Jindal, like the Sheriff of Jefferson Parish. Erick Erickson has the story.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:12 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Deficits and Stimulus

Megan McArdle has some thoughts on the issue, and while I don't necessarily buy all her conclusions, she makes a few points that ought to be obvious. On how we got here:

[The switch from surpluses to deficits] was only about half due to tax cuts or spending; the rest was the popping of the stock market bubble, which both hammered GDP and changed the tax base in ways that made it less lucrative to the government. (Tax revenues in America do best when the very rich are making a whole hell of a lot of money in big whacks, like stock-option vests)

Nor are the current deficits, or the tax increases needed to pay for them, much about George Bush. By 2007, as the chart above shows, budget deficits were at 1.2%, rather average by postwar norms, and low interest rates mean that debt service payments for Bush's spending are not notably onerous. There are Medicare Part D and Iraq, of course, but Iraq is simply dwarfed by the current deficit, and the chief alternative to Medicare Part D was making it more expensive. I was against it, but the Democrats can hardly complain.

It's safe to say that a deficit of 1.2% of GDP is something we will not see again so long as the Democrats are running Congress and the White House. And of course, she makes the basic point that it is not even theoretically possible to favor a stimulus bill and be against budget deficits, given that the entire Keynsian theory behind a stimulus is that it injects more money into the economy, which is literally impossible if the government is paying for the stimulus with tax revenue rather than debt:

Stimulus is not spending; it's deficit. If Bush had delivered a budget in rough balance, Obama would have had to borrow up to the current deficit to get the stimulus he desires. Given that more recent debt is always much more expensive than older debt (that's the magic of inflation, kids!), when taxes are finally raised, they will pay more for spending on Obama's watch than on Bush's.

That's not to blame Obama; recessions are what they are, and if you favor big stimulus, you favor a big deficit.

Of course, the conservative alternative is generally to attack recessions with tax cuts, on the theory that while spending more increases the dollars in circulation, cutting taxes creates ongoing incentives for productive economic activity and thus has effects that go beyond just adding dollars to circulation.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:10 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (13) | TrackBack (0)
February 25, 2009
WAR: Has Obama's Election Made "Abuses" At GTMO Worse?

Now, there are two ways to read a report like this one:

Abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has worsened sharply since President Barack Obama took office as prison guards "get their kicks in" before the camp is closed, according to a lawyer who represents detainees.

Abuses began to pick up in December after Obama was elected, human rights lawyer Ahmed Ghappour told Reuters. He cited beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-forcefeeding detainees who are on hunger strike.


"According to my clients, there has been a ramping up in abuse since President Obama was inaugurated," said Ghappour, a British-American lawyer with Reprieve, a legal charity that represents 31 detainees at Guantanamo.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:00 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: State of Obama

Ten thoughts on last night's State of the Union speech; I'll stick for now to the domestic-policy parts, as Obama had little enough newsworthy to say about national security and foreign policy (sample of Obama's fresh thinking: "To seek progress towards a secure and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors, we have appointed an envoy to sustain our effort."):

1. I listened on the radio, tuning in after Obama had already started, and my first thought, honestly, was: hey, that's Rush Limbaugh! Obama's and Limbaugh's voices aren't really that similar, I think it was the cadences, Obama projecting his voice over the room the same way Rush does into the mike, and the tone that brought the counterintuitive parallel to mind.

2. This was a blisteringly partisan speech, more a campaign speech than a SOTU address, making it clear that the archly partisan approach of Obama's first month in office was no accident. The word of the day was "inherited." Of course, all presidents seek to contrast themselves with, and shift blame to, their predecessors, but even so, this was a bit much:

[W]e have lived through an era where too often short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election. A surplus became an excuse to transfer wealth to the wealthy instead of an opportunity to invest in our future. (Applause.) Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market. People bought homes they knew they couldn't afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway. And all the while, critical debates and difficult decisions were put off for some other time on some other day.

Of course, characterizing letting people keep a little more of the money they work to earn as a plot to "transfer wealth to the wealthy" is extremely revealing of Obama's economic mindset; after uttering those words, I think he owes an apology to Joe the Plumber for calling this what it is.

I will predict this now, as I've been saying privately since at least October: by 2012, Obama will still be talking more about Bush than about his own record. Obama's cagey enough to recognize that his economic policies will only drag down any recovery; he's going to keep focusing on rewriting history to shift blame. Then again, that will be easier for him than for Congressional Democrats; Obama can rail about a "trillion-dollar deficit" and "the massive debt we've inherited," but the fact is that the deficit for the last budget passed by a Republican Congress was below $200 billion (1.2% of GDP); Obama has added multiples to that just in the last month. And of course, as I always note, the really important thing is the overall size of government, since that comes out of all of our hides sooner (taxes), later (debt), or usually both. And there's really no mistaking that Obama will greatly expand the size of that. The contest for most baldfaced lie of the night has to be between his assertion that he is pushing the big-government policies he has pushed at every point of his career "Not because I believe in bigger government -- I don't" and his claim about a bill containing vast numbers of district-specific pork-barrel projects that "we passed a recovery plan free of earmarks" (you can call a pig kosher but you can't make it so).

3. Probably the strongest part of the speech was where Obama explained how the credit crisis affects ordinary Americans. Of course, this was nearly the exact same explanation President Bush gave back in September. And this was hilarious:

It's not about helping banks -- it's about helping people. (Applause.) It's not about helping banks; it's about helping people. Because when credit is available again, that young family can finally buy a new home. And then some company will hire workers to build it. And then those workers will have money to spend. And if they can get a loan, too, maybe they'll finally buy that car, or open their own business. Investors will return to the market, and American families will see their retirement secured once more.

A major concession for Obama to admit that the health of companies actually affects ordinary people, but of course it was swiftly discarded as he went back to talking about jacking up taxes on corporations during a recession.

4. Sacred cow watch: Obama somehow managed to discuss the troubles of the U.S. auto industry without mentioning the unions once. That's like discussing Wall Street's problems without mentioning bad loans.

5. Obama's "nobody messes with Joe" line about Biden was presumably intended - as it was taken - as comic relief. Dick Cheney actually had a hard-earned reputation as a man you messed with at your peril; there's nothing in Biden's four decades in Washington to suggest anyone has ever feared to cross him. Obama's saddled himself with a Vice President who is a punchline.

6. Obama's discussion of higher education was strong, but a plan to send everyone to college is absurdly wasteful, especially when - as he noted - many of the people starting college today with federally subsidized loans don't finish. There are still many jobs that don't require any college education and many people ill-suited to such an education who nonetheless have other skills that can make them a good living. The end-product of overextension of federal credit for college, as with overextension of federal credit for housing, tends to be program fraud by fly-by-night providers.

7. Promise I will believe when I see it: "end direct payments to large agribusiness that don't need them". Obama is as good a friend as the ethanol business, for example, has ever had; he did well in places like Iowa and Indiana by specifically breaking with McCain over farm subsidies, especially ethanol. He supported the horrible farm bill. Converts are welcome, but I'd like to see him back that one up and have the stones to stare down massive Congressional opposition.

8. I'll be here all day if I get into Obama's health care and entitlement talk, but a few things are clear: Obama has basically guaranteed that he'll tackle health care this year, and he didn't spend any time last night laying out a plan to do so, suggesting that his campaign proposals will take a backseat, yet again, to what Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy come up with. His focus on controlling costs while extending more coverage, though, inevitably means rationing care and cracking down on the profit motives of doctors and pharmaceutical companies, with inevitable long-term implications for the supply of physicians and life-saving drugs. And this passage suggests that, despite his slam on delaying problems down the road, that's exactly what Obama will do on entitlements, in stark contrast to Bush's effort to deal with Social Security:

Now, to preserve our long-term fiscal health, we must also address the growing costs in Medicare and Social Security. Comprehensive health care reform is the best way to strengthen Medicare for years to come. And we must also begin a conversation on how to do the same for Social Security, while creating tax-free universal savings accounts for all Americans.

Begin? We've had a debate about Social Security in every election year I can rememeber, we've had more bipartisan commissions and think-tank reports than I can count.

9. Another amusing yet horrifying passage came when Obama suggested we follow China's energy policy (which of course involves massive consumption of coal), then in the next breath announced he'd be proposing carbon emission caps. I hope irony left a will, the funeral will be held shortly.

10. Obama's reading of American history fits neatly in what Jonah Goldberg has described as the literally fascistic tendency to demand the peacetime permanent military-style mobilization of civilian society, the endless search for moral equivalents of war that has been a unifying theme since the days of Woodrow Wilson:

History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas. In the midst of civil war, we laid railroad tracks from one coast to another that spurred commerce and industry. From the turmoil of the Industrial Revolution came a system of public high schools that prepared our citizens for a new age. In the wake of war and depression, the GI Bill sent a generation to college and created the largest middle class in history. (Applause.) And a twilight struggle for freedom led to a nation of highways, an American on the moon, and an explosion of technology that still shapes our world.

(I'll get some other day into my review of Goldberg's book, which details the history of this sort of thinking in the U.S. and Europe between the rise of Bismarck in Germany and Hillary's "politics of meaning" in much greater detail).

Obama has chosen his course: push a left-wing, big-government, big-spending agenda with little more than rhetorical window-dressing, and then blame Bush when it doesn't work. Last night formalized that plan. We'll see how long he can keep it up.

PS - Dan Spencer lists the factual errors in Obama's speech; unsurprisingly, there are plenty.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (43) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS/WAR: Not Even On The Agenda


Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano avoids mention of terrorism or 9/11 in remarks prepared for her first congressional testimony since taking office, signaling a sharp change in tone from her predecessors.

Napolitano is the first homeland security secretary to drop the term "terror" and "vulnerability" from remarks prepared for delivery to the House Homeland Security Committee, according to a copy obtained by The Associated Press.

Tom Ridge, who headed the agency when it was launched in 2003, mentioned terrorism 11 times in his prepared statement at his debut before the oversight committee in 2003. And in 2005 Michael Chertoff, the second secretary, mentioned terrorism seven times, according to an AP analysis of the prepared testimonies.

Napolitano, a former Arizona governor, instead charts a course in very different terms than Chertoff, who used law enforcement and military jargon - "intelligence," "analysis," "mission" - to describe the agency's objectives.


Napolitano's prepared remarks also show her using the word "attacks" less than her predecessors. She is the first secretary to use a Capitol Hill debut to talk about hurricanes and disasters, a sign of the department's evolving mission following Hurricane Katrina.

Napolitano is not alone in her departure from terror talk.

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee doesn't mention terrorism or 9/11 in his prepared remarks for Wednesday's hearing either. Securing the borders, responding to natural disasters, ensuring transportation safety, protecting critical infrastructure and administering grants are the priorities, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson says.

It's all too easy, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, to blame the somnolence of the Clinton Administration for allowing the terror threat to grow unchecked; the failures of the 1990s, after all, were pervasive, systemic and bipartisan, and they continued in the first nine months of the Bush Administration. But today's Democrats have no such excuse for lapsing back into complacency.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:19 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
February 24, 2009
BASEBALL: Stealing Sutcliffe

Home Run Derby looks back at an amusing Cubs broadcast from 1987. And links to this classic baseball story about Rick Sutcliffe and Bill Murray:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:57 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: It Depends Upon What The Meaning Of The Word "Lobbyist" Is

It Depends What The Meaning IsJake Tapper notices that Obama's nominee for US Trade Representative, former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, worked as a state and local lobbyist in Dallas; Tapper notes that he's at least the fifth lobbyist picked for a significant position in the Obama Administration (and that's before we consider family members like Joe Biden's son or Tom Daschle's wife). Here's the Administration's defense:

"Ron Kirk has never been a registered federal lobbyist," White House spokesman Ben LaBolt told ABC News...."How precisely is it a loophole when we never pledged to bar state lobbyists?" a Democratic official asks.

(Emphasis mine). Hey, isn't that a tune we have heard before?

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:27 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
February 23, 2009
POLITICS: Caricature

Caleb Howe on fear and political cartooning.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:44 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS: Market Perspective

Yes, the Dow is only one measure and yes, we don't know if we're near the bottom yet, but this is still a pretty cool graphical representation of how the current bear market stacks up to the bears of the past. H/T.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:20 PM | Business | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Conclusion to The Yankee Starting Pitcher Study

Due to technical problems, I couldn't post the whole thing as one entry. Here's the conclusion.

As you can see from the top of the list, the Yankees have been far from uniformly unsuccessful with acquiring established veteran starting pitchers, and they've struck gold a bunch of times both with top-of-the-line acquisitions and with reclamation projects. But then, if you have a ton of money and you go in the market every year, you are bound to look like a genius now and then. And despite having, in the main, good baseball people working for them throughout most of this period, the Yankees have had flop after flop throughout every stage of the Steinbrenner years, from Gullett and Messersmith to Burns and Alexander to Hawkins and LaPoint to Mulholland and Rogers to Weaver, Pavano, Wright and Igawa. The collective Yield of the group, excluding the foreign pitchers, is 74.6%. The waste of dollars, of young talent in trade, of innings and run support to struggling starters, is enormous.

There are a variety of causes for this, and we generalize at our peril, as the Yankees have sometimes succeeded with the very same types of pitchers they failed with. Some of it, as with any team, is the unpredictable nature of pitching. Some is that having too much money to burn makes you sloppy. But we can generalize that the Yankees have made the same mistakes repeatedly over the years: they have too often put their faith in pitchers with major injury red flags; they have overpaid for guys coming off one good year; they have brought in too many veteran low-strikeout groundball pitchers, who are less consistent, have less of a margin for error, and are more dependent on their defense; and when they have brought in high-end power pitchers, too often they've been so old Father Time was bound to catch up with them eventually.

What does this mean for this year's crop? Sabathia looks like a good bet; he's up there with Hunter, Mussina, Cone, Clemens and Johnson among the best pitchers they have acquired, he's a power pitcher with a reasonably good health record and much younger than some of those guys. Burnett's also a power pitcher, but riskier, more like some of the failures; he's tended to get healthy only in his walk years. What is certain, it would seem, is that next year we'll be asking the same question about the next crop.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:35 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Yankees and Their New, Veteran Starting Pitchers

Hope springs eternal in baseball, and for the New York Yankees, with an aging offense, a lot of familiar faces gone and a steroid scandal swirling around the team's biggest star, a lot of those hopes ride on the shoulders of the team's two new free agent starting pitchers, C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett.

Yankee fans have been down this road before.

Few things have been more constant in the Steinbrenner Era (dating back to George Steinbrenner's 1973 purchase of the team and continuing under his sons Hank & Hal) than the importation of established veteran starting pitchers. Since 1975, counting the importation of pitchers from Cuba and Japan, the Hated Yankees have brought in an established starting pitcher in the offseason 52 times in 35 seasons; only in five offseasons have they failed to do so in that period. Here is the list of those pitchers by year, along with their ages in their first season in pinstripes, how many seasons or parts of seasons they played with the Yankees, and how they were acquired:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:00 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Baseball Studies | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
February 22, 2009
BASEBALL: Still The Oakland A's

As recently as November, everything looked full speed ahead for the A's move to Fremont, and I speculated about how that affected their offseason moves. Now, it seems to have fallen through, leaving the A's where they are. Sign of the times.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:47 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 20, 2009
BASEBALL: The Mets Rotation

Here's a good overview writeup at MetsGeek about Oliver Perez (I realize I neglected to write this up when he finally signed). Assuming John Maine is healthy, the Mets rotation now looks something like this:

1-Johan Santana
2-4 - Mike Pelfrey, John Maine and Oliver Perez; the order may be interchangeable. I'm not 100% ready to believe that Pelfrey won't backslide some this season, but thus far he's the most durable of the bunch and may be the most reliable.
5 - Jon Niese, if he can win the job; Freddy Garcia or Tim Redding otherwise, with Livan Hernandez in reserve.

3 years for Perez, which takes him through age 29, is an ideal contract length; the Mets aren't lashed to him in perpetuity, but they needn't worry for a while, and by the next time he's up, most of the uncertainty around Perez will be gone, as he'll either be consistent and durable the next three years or prove that he never will.

$12 million per year is pretty pricey for a guy with a career road ERA of 4.70 - that's just a hair less than what Pedro averaged the last four years - but it's not my money, the Mets could afford it, and the other options for healthy young starting pitchers were pretty slim. It beats the heck out of having Redding as the fourth starter. The key with Perez, of course, is to value him for what he is, not what he might become. Perez has great stuff, but I put at about zero the chance that he will ever find the mechanical and emotional consistency to improve his command to the point where he can be a year-in-year-out star. That said, in any given year when he's healthy there's maybe a 5-10% chance that he could break out and have a Cy Young caliber season. That may sound like a lot, but if he threw 210 innings of the quality of his 2004 season with the Mets, he'd win 18+ games and be a legit Cy Young candidate. There's also, of course, at least an equal chance of an injury or complete meltdown. But on average, you'd project him forward as a guy who gives you 180-200 innings, with an ERA around 3.30 in the up years and 4.30 in the down ones, and that's a valuable thing in today's game.

I'm not much of a fan of Garcia, Redding or Livan, but look at the numbers for the guys the Mets have used as, essentially, emergency starters the last three years:

2008: 17 starts, 93 IP, 7-6, 5.52 ERA (Nelson Figueroa, Claudio Vargas, Niese, Brandon Knight, Tony Armas and Brian Stokes).

2007: 11 starts, 50.2 IP, 1-5, 9.95 ERA (Brian Lawrence, Jason Vargas, Dave Williams, Phil Humber, Chan Ho Park). If you count Jorge Sosa, it's 25 starts, 131 IP, 8-13, 6.66 ERA.

2006: 24 starts, 125.2 IP, 7-9, 6.37 ERA (Pelfrey, Williams, Alay Soler, Jose Lima, and the late Jeremi Gonzalez). If you count Perez, who was little more than an emergency fill-in and ended up starting Game 7 of the NLCS, the regular season numbers are 31 starts, 162.1 IP, 8-12, 6.38 ERA.

It's a very useful thing to have extra guys around who can keep to a minimum the number of starts given to people who can't post an ERA below 5.50. I think Livan still has enough gas in the tank to pitch in the low fives, and I'm pretty optimistic the other two do (Garcia threw well in his last three starts last season after returning from injury, but we'll see how he holds up if he ends up in the rotation).

On the whole, I think the Mets stack up favorably against the Phillies' projected rotation of Hamels-Myers-Moyer-Blanton-Kendrick/Park (ugh), and are pretty clearly superior to the Braves' rotation, which starts with Lowe and Vazquez and some combination of Jurrjens, Campillo, Japanese import Kenshin Kawakami and Glavine, and the Marlins rotation of Johnson, Sanchez, Nolasco, Volstad and Miller. (The Nationals' "rotation" is not really worth comparing).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 19, 2009
POP CULTURE: The Jack Bauer Song

Speaking of things Japanese, this is awesome:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:53 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: As Told In Baseball Cards


Dinged Corners has a look at a Topps set of American history cards. Some of them are pretty cool.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:05 PM | History | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
February 18, 2009
BLOG: Japan is Different

In case you needed further proof:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:40 PM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Sarah Palin's Taxes

Given the battery of problems President Obama's Cabinet nominees and prominent Democrats have had paying their taxes, Democrats are undoubtedly relieved to see that a review by the State of Alaska has concluded that one very prominent Republican - Governor Sarah Palin - also owes the IRS money (H/T). The facts about Palin's taxes, however, are dramatically different from those of Democrats like Tim Geithner, the man who now oversees enforcement of the tax code. Here's why.

The issue raised back in October was whether Gov. Palin should have reported as income the per diem reimbursements she receives for meals and other expenses on days doing state business at her home in Wasilla instead of the governor's mansion in Juneau; as the AP notes, "Juneau, in the Alaska Panhandle 600 miles from Wasilla, is only accessible by airplane or ship." (We looked at the merits of the per diem reimbursements, which were dramatically lower than those collected by her predecessor, back in September). The McCain-Palin campaign responded by producing a legal opinion from tax counsel noting that the State of Alaska has traditionally not treated these reimbursements as income to state employees and has not included them on Forms W-2. Palin followed up by ordering the state Department of Administration to conduct a review of that policy. Unlike the Democrats, so many of whom seem to be playing entirely by rules of their own, the review affects other state employees besides the Governor:

Some other state employees also owe back income taxes for travel payments and will be getting revised tax forms, Annette Kreitzer, state administration commissioner, said in an e-mail.

She wouldn't say which, or how many, employees will be receiving the notifications.

As the Anchorage Daily News report (which also details back taxes owed by newly-elected Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Begich on a car provided to him) notes, Alaska has to deal with a whole separate set of rules for state legislators:

The new determination by administration officials won't affect state lawmakers, said Pam Varni, director of the Legislative Affairs agency.

Under IRS guidelines, legislators receive tax-free payments to help with living expenses while in Juneau for the legislative session -- if their home is at least 50 miles away, Varni said.

The current rate, set by the U.S. Department of Defense, is $189 a day. That goes to everyone except the three Juneau-based legislators, who get smaller payments that are taxed as compensation.

Legislators can also charge the state $150 a day for time spent on state business when the Legislature is not in session, but those payments are taxed as income, Varni said.

Have fun keeping all that straight. One of my longstanding beefs with the picayune complexity of the campaign finance laws is applicable to tax law as well: if you wouldn't want a politician you support getting un-elected or indicted for violating the rules, maybe the rules are just too complicated.

Anyway, Palin's situation, in which her tax preparer reported only the income on her W-2, is rather dramatically different from that of, say, Geithner, who was given a manual by his employer explaining the taxability of his benefits and reimbursement for the taxes, and he still didn't pay them, and paid back less than all the back taxes he owed (only enough to avoid an enforcement action). Here, the state had a mistaken policy that appears to have predated her tenure as Governor, and that affected other people besides her. It's embarrassing, to be sure, but efforts to seize on the story are simply a sign of the Democrats' desperation to divert attention away from the beam in their own eye.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:32 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (23) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Sources Unfiltered

Via David Pinto, why Peter Gammons didn't press A-Rod harder:

"I realized right away that this was the first surefire, by his performance, Hall-of-Famer to admit this," Gammons said, "and therefore I thought keeping him talking, and getting as much as I could out there, was very important. I really felt my first duty was to get his words onto my employer's network."

I like Gammons, but this is a point I have made before about him and how he is similar to political journalists like Bob Novak and David Broder, and for that matter like Woodward and Bernstein. We all sometimes want to see reporters get adversarial with their subjects the way we lawyers do, to be fearless seekers of the truth...and there is something to be said for that style of journalism, but it's also worth remembering that lawyers get to be lawyers because we can use subpoenas to force people to talk to us. Journalists can't, and unless they have a Tim Russert type national perch, their targets are rarely at their mercy. Gammons represents a different type of reporter, the source-greaser; when Gammons tells you something, he's not telling you what he believes, he's relaying something one of his sources wants you to believe. The upside of that is that this kind of reporter gets a lot more access to powerful people; the downside, of course, is fluff interviews and a lot of disinformation, especially when the identity of the source isn't disclosed. You always have to bear in mind which kind of reporter you are reading.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:38 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Quick Links 2/18/09

*Megan McArdle on whether World War II ended the Great Depression. Francis Cianfrocca responds here.

*Michelle Malkin looks at how ACORN plans "civil disobedience" to stop foreclosures, thus prolonging the cycle of bad housing loans.

*Genghis at Ace notes the Democratic Party ties of the latest guy accused by the SEC of a billion-dollar fraud. This should sound familiar.

*The New Republic profiles the Politico's knack for scoops and - what comes with that - penchant for inaccuracy. That said, you can smell the jealousy from the newspapermen quoted here (is Bill Keller really the guy to talk about unsustainable business models?)

*Bill Simmons on Mike D'Antoni's offensive system and its limitations. Somewhere, Paul Westhead smiles.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:23 PM | Basketball • | Blog 2006-14 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Known Unknowns

Athletics Nation talks to Will Carroll and comes up with a lot of uncertainty about injured A's. I agree with his view that guys who get hurt a lot tend to keep getting hurt a lot even if the injuries seem small and unrelated.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:21 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL: The Greatest Running Backs of All Time

The news that the Jaguars were releasing Fred Taylor started a discussion with some friends about where the oft-injured Taylor would rank among the great running backs, and where he might have ranked if he'd been healthy. As I often do with such discussions, I thought I'd take the broader context to evaluate how the numbers stack up for the all-time great running backs. First I'll offer the data, then a handful of my own thoughts on it.

Now, when you look at baseball statistics, it's critically important to do three things. The first is to understand context. A baseball player's statistics are influenced by many external factors - changes in the game over time, ballpark effects, the influence of teammates, the length of the season. For a variety of reasons, it's much harder to separate football statistics from the context of time and team. The numbers I'm setting out below are not adjusted for the changing offensive contexts these running backs played in, whether they worked in sophisticated passing games (Roger Craig, Marshall Faulk, Edgerrin James), behind great offensive lines (John Riggins) or great blocking backs (Emmitt Smith), or indoors (Barry Sanders) or wartime (Steve Van Buren), or whether they were just given the ball and told to hope the other 10 guys on the field might run into a defender now and then (Sanders, Eric Dickerson). I have, however, averaged their statistics per 16 scheduled games, as a way of evening out the old-timers who played 12- or 14-game seasons or the more recent players who played during strikes (I counted 1987 as a 12-game season except for Craig, who crossed the picket line). Although the job of the running back has changed less than the jobs of other offensive players over the past seven decades, the latter-day backs, reflecting the higher-octane offenses of modern football, are nonetheless overrepresented. I could have run averages per game played, but I preferred to let the numbers reflect the costs to their teams of injuries to guys who missed a lot of games (like Taylor) or whole seasons (Riggins, Garrison Hearst). Durability matters when you are building a football team. The "G/16" column on the chart shows how many games, on average, each of these guys played per scheduled 16 games over his prime seasons, including entire missed seasons (yes, Walter Payton, Jim Brown, Eddie George and Roger Craig never missed a regular season game in their primes).

Second, and relatedly, you have to figure out what portion of a player's career you are evaluating. My own preference, in having these kinds of debates, is neither to zero in on a player's single best season nor to just lump together career totals (since they may include one guy who hung it up in his prime compared to another guy who was just as good and stuck around a bunch more years as a part-timer - a decision that really has nothing to do with how good they were in their primes). So, I'll set out here the per-16-scheduled-games averages not for these running backs' whole careers but for that section of their careers you would identify as their primes, in general the seasons when they were a team's #1 back. In doing so, I've set aside the years after these guys broke down (in most cases, running backs break down pretty quickly and dramatically, around age 29 for the usual back, 31-33 for the longer-lasting ones) and the lengthy second acts of backs like Marcus Allen and Ottis Anderson. The resulting focus rewards the guys who concentrated their best seasons all together. Consistency matters when you are building a football team.

Third, much as I've done for similar baseball columns, I'm breaking the numbers into two charts, one of guys whose primes were longer (7 years or more), one of the guys who were only on top of their games for 4-6 years. It's apples and oranges to compare a per-seaon average of a guy who starred for 5 seasons to one who starred for 10. Longetivity matters when you are building a football team.

More specific to football, once those preliminaries are out of the way, is what numbers to use to rank the running backs. I don't pretend to have a perfect answer to that, but I chose to organize the data around the most basic figure: rushing yards per team game, listed as Yds(R). I could have used combined rushing and receiving yards from scrimmage (YSCM), and you can re-sort the list if you like by that, as in some sense it's a truer picture of a back's total offensive contribution. But while catching the ball well is a useful skill, it's also true that receiving numbers are much more influenced by the team and the era a guy played in, whereas running the football is the purer, man-with-ball-versus-eleven-defenders task that every running back has faced down through the game's history.

The sample here is the 49 running backs who compiled at least 7,000 career rushing yards through the 2008 season, plus five other notables who popped up on various career leader lists (Van Buren, Marion Motley, Larry Johnson, Billy Sims, and Gale Sayers). I'm hoping the charts here will be more an argument-starter than an argument-finisher, as of course I haven't even touched here on playoff performances or other factors beyond the raw, regular season numbers. But we can at least appreciate those numbers for what they can tell us about the yards these men traveled with a football in their hands.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:30 AM | Football | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
February 17, 2009
POLITICS: Quick Links 2/17/09

*Patterico on Roland Burris' changing story on raising money for Blagojevich.

*Moe Lane notes a report about Obama looking for still more ways to rely on staffers, a script and prepared softball questions at his press conferences. Obama may have a lovely voice, but he really is not all that good an extemporaneous speaker and he relies very heavily on other people's prepared texts in ways that are really not all that dissimilar to George W. Bush and sometimes even more egregious. Yet, while Bush was pilloiried as being a moron due to his weak public speaking (and recall the outrage over the obscure Jeff Gannon), everybody lauds how articulate Obama is even when they can't remember a single thing he said. Is Obama, on balance, a better communicator than Bush? Sure he is even despite the vapidity of his pronouncements compared to the blunter Bush. But - I have made thisanalogy before in the comments here - comparing Obama's public speaking to Bush's is like comparing Vince Coleman's baserunning to Mike Piazza's; when that's your only skill, you have to be a lot better than a guy for whom public speaking is his biggest weakness.

*Jay Cost: three cheers for partisanship!

*The NY GOP may not have suffered its last at the hands of Al D'Amato. But David Paterson has problems. Serious ones. And Kirsten Gillibrand may face a tough primary as well.

*Ted Stevens' conviction looks pretty shaky at this point, not that it really matters politically anymore.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 7:22 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 16, 2009
POLITICS: Leave Barack Alone!1!1!1!

Mike Lupica had a column this morning weeping bitter tears over his shock and hurt that people are criticizing Barack Obama. Amazing, when you think about it, that the President of the United States should receive criticism. It's such a novel concept.

This was probably the funniest line in the piece:

Once, 100 days was the mythical grace period for a new President. This one doesn't get five minutes. In the process, he finds out that Washington is even lousier and meaner with partisanship than he knew before he got there.

You would almost think, from reading this, that Obama really did just get there. Not that he'd been a United States Senator the last four years (granted, he's been out of town campaigning for half that), doing things like voting against (and voting to filibuster) highly qualified Supreme Court nominees on the basis of ideology. Not that he'd refused to concede even the possibility of good faith on the part of supporters of the Iraq War, giving a speech blaming the war on a cabal of Jews and on political schemes by Karl Rove. To say nothing of the vats of acid spewed by the Angry Left likes of Lupica in recent years. And yet, somehow, they are surprised that politics, as Mr. Dooley remarked more than a century ago, ain't beanbag. Next, someone may even tell them that the world outside our borders is a dangerous place. But when everything in the world is as new to you every year, it is always a surprise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (29) | TrackBack (0)
February 14, 2009
POP CULTURE: Wait, How'd This Happen?

Old college friend Mike Sergott has a new site, "Appetite for Deconstruction." His look back in horror at the 2008 movie season is here. Check it out.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:07 PM | Pop Culture | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 13, 2009
POLITICS: Barack Obama's Gift To Conservatives

President Obama, like many presidents before him, would like to have it both ways: get broad bipartisan support for his domestic agenda without compromising it. Of course, in the real world, politics doesn't work that way - you can charm, cajole, browbeat, bribe and blackmail your way to a handful of votes here and there, but unless (like Reagan) you have a substantial faction of the opposition party that is philosophically closer to you than to your critics, or unless (like FDR and LBJ) you have so many votes you don't need the opposition, you're going to have to give something to get bipartisan support.

And thus far, especially on the colossal pork barrel masquerading as a "stimulus" bill, Obama has made his decision, or perhaps just allowed Congressional liberals to make it for him: it's the Democrats' way or the highway:

As the president, he had told Kyl after the Arizonan raised objections to the notion of a tax credit for people who don't pay income taxes, Obama told Cantor this morning that "on some of these issues we're just going to have ideological differences."

The president added, "I won. So I think on that one, I trump you."

The results thus far have been predictable:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 2:45 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (53) | TrackBack (0)

A hilarious column from Michael Lewis that's too good to excerpt. Lewis has the rare gift of two-sided satire, by which he can simultamneously needle both Wall Street's traditional mindset and the fools on Capitol Hill who want to change it. The serious question underlying his Swiftian proposal is whether the big financial firms can regain their health if they have to willingly submit to political micromanagement of all their decisions.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:18 AM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 12, 2009
POLITICS: Cutting Off Our Noses

Megan McArdle on the Democrats' latest folly:

New York City's main industry lies in ruins; its finances are in peril; its housing market is falling. What does the city need? That's right, tougher rent controls!

In times like this, it's easy to believe that if you laid all the economists in the world end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. But here's one of the things that basically everyone, left to right, agrees on: rent control is the surest way to destroy a city's housing stock short of aerial bombing, and one of the major culprits behind New York's painfully low vacancy rate.


This bill, if it passes the Senate, will represent the third time that New York has reneged on its promises not to control new housing. From what I can tell, it's trying to claw back decontrols of units that were built under laws providing for time-limited stabilization in exchange for tax breaks. Just like the first two times, it's a good bet that New York City will now have a damn hard time getting anyone to build anything except another skybox for rich patrons who do not arouse the sympathy of the New York State legislature. Every time a New Yorker curses their dirty, run-down shoebox of an apartment, they should save an especially juicy oath for Sheldon Silver.

Economics is not their strong suit, to put it mildly.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:40 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Happy Birthday, Abe

Lest I let it pass unnoticed: happy 200th birthday to Abraham Lincoln.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 5:09 PM | History | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
RELIGION: Jesuits Accused of Catholicism

Apparently it's now "intolerant" to put a crucifix in the classroom of a Catholic college.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:41 AM | Religion | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: At Least Dunn Will Do Something

.243 batting, .330 OBP, .376 slugging, 16 HR, 65 RBI, 68 Runs scored, 10 stolen bases, 71 walks, 130 strikeouts.

That's the average production the Nationals got from all their three outfield slots last season, when you add up everyone who played there. Nationals first basemen batted .269/.360/.402 with 14 HR, 69 RBI, 73 Runs, 13 steals, 79 walks, 115 K.

Yeah, I think they will like Adam Dunn in Washington.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: You Know Times Are Tough When.... firms start suing former associates who leave. firms are called in to handle clients' disputes with Somali pirates.

Meanwhile, Judge Reindhardt is calling out incompetent criminal appellate lawyers (you gotta click through to the opinion), illegal aliens are suing a rancher who tried to stop them wrecking his property, and even these guys and this guy apparently got played.

Strange days, indeed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:02 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 11, 2009


Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:28 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Bargain Angel

The Angels get Bobby Abreu for a reported one year and $5 million. I know Abreu is 35 and not the power threat he once was, but that's a steal. The Mets should have nabbed him at that price.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:00 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Geaux Bobby Geaux!

The GOP will have its best possible spokesman, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, give the response to President Obama's sort-of State of the Union. This is excellent news. Jindal is the perfect counterpoint to Obama, he's outside DC, and his selection ducks the issue of whether to tab one of the 2012 presidential contenders for the job (I'm sure Jindal's running eventually, but he has to run for re-election in November 2011, which makes a presidential campaign essentially impossible, plus he appears to be committed to staying in Louisiana until he has made a whole lot more progress in reforming the state's famously criminal political culture.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:53 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (38) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Stache is Back

Jose Valentin will be Plan B or C or D (I lose track) in the Mets' collection of unappealing second base options. I assume if he doesn't make the team, he'll be hired as a coach or minor league manager ASAP.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Tell Me What To Think!

Jon Henke collects some hilarious examples of left-wing bloggers begging Obama to tell them what to do.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:42 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY/POLITICS: American History Idol

Gallup has a poll out asking Americans to pick their greatest president from five choices: George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. (H/T) Now, there are fair arguments to be had in ranking these five. Washington's greatness in establishing and embodying the office (I've been reading Akhil Amar's book about the Constitution's history and he argues - I'm sure he's not the only one - that Article II was basically written with Washington in mind all the way down to the title of "President") and in self-limiting his term, or Lincoln's valiant effort to hold the nation together? Reagan, who got more things right and fewer disastrously wrong than FDR, or FDR, who faced graver challenges and had a more sweeping effect on the nation and the office? Was JFK a good president, or an ultimately inconsequential one who served less than a single term and left most of his work unfinished?

Sadly, the results don't match up with serious answers to those questions. Lincoln ranks #1 overall, which is fine, but Washington is dead last. Among Republicans, Reagan is #1 (even as a big Reagan admirer, I find it a stretch to rate him over Lincoln and Washington), and far more ridiculously, among Democrats, Kennedy ranks first, with 35% of the vote.

Seriously....JFK? I mean, any thinking person who actually believes in what the Democrats profess to stand for has to prefer FDR to JFK. (Note that FDR and Reagan do best among people old enough to remember theier presidencies. Not so for JFK. Meanwhile, I don't know if we should be optimistic that the youngest voters are the only ones with the sense to give some real support to Washington). Kennedy was glamorous, and he's been lionized by a cult of personality ever since (I guarantee you there's an enormous correlation between people who think JFK was our greatest president and people who are big Obama fans), but his actual accomplishments are thin - and not only that, but his actual platform would have him branded a neoconservative today, what with his call for tax cuts, aggressive building of nuclear weapons, confrontation with the Soviet Union, and escalation of the war in Vietnam (Kennedy was still publicly backing the war as late as his prepared remarks in Dallas the day of his death, Oliver Stone to the contrary), and use of the CIA to assassinate foreign leaders. You can certainly find some strains of liberalism in Kennedy, but not really any more than in George W. Bush - the actual policy differences between Kennedy and Bush are pretty minimal. Yet his legacy has almost nothing to do with what Kennedy did or what he stood for.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 11:36 AM | History | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)
February 10, 2009

I've explained here, here, here, here, here, and here, among others, why I grudgingly supported the original Paulson Plan that formed the foundation of TARP and why I have been opposed to its expansion and to all the subsequent bailouts. This post gives a pretty good anecdotal glimpse into why the situation in mid-September 2008 was so uniquely dire compared to the more usual workings of even a fairly severe recession.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:09 PM | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

What would Major League Baseball look like if it operated like the Democrats' plan for Wall Street?

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:45 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Snoopy Goes Deep

Wezen-ball looks back at Charles Schultz's strips in which Snoopy chased Babe Ruth's home run record while Hank Aaron did. Being a Peanuts fanatic in my youth, I recall reading these strips in one of my many collections of Schultz's work.

H/T Pinto, who has some thoughts about how perceptions have changed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:13 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Ben wrote largely the point I was going to make on A-Rod: he's probably the straw that breaks the camel's back as far as being able to point fingers at individual steroid users rather than just throw your hands up at the culture of the era. Which is, of course, great news for Bonds and McGwire.

To use a political analogy, it was one thing when Douglas Ginsburg could be bounced from his nomination to the Supreme Court (where Judge Ginsburg would have been a fine Justice, BTW) because he smoked pot; it was a political flap but not fatal when Bill Clinton finally admitted smoking pot, but really by the time of Clinton it was more about whether he'd been honest about it, and by then, Clarence Thomas was already on the Supreme Court having admitted to smoking pot. And then, we found out that Newt Gingrich had smoked pot, and Al Gore had smoked pot, and George W. Bush wouldn't even tell us what he'd done, and by 2008 we elected a President who admitted using cocaine and it wasn't even an issue, and there was even serious talk about hiring a guy to run a federal agency who'd been busted for heroin.

And the same defining-deviancy-down dynamic (in Pat Moynihan's words) is at issue here; we're about at the critical mass of MVPs and Cy Young winners with a steroid asterisk next to their names that we don't even notice the asterisk anymore, just as we have stopped even mentally discounting all the records set since the 162 game schedule's arrival in 1961. The story will get more play for a while, since A-Rod is still active, hugely unpopular, plays in the game's biggest media market and was dishonest about it to boot; but we'll probably look back and see that he was the moment when, behind the noise, we stopped really caring who took steroids and who didn't.

UPDATE: Looks like federal prosecutors are not among those who don't care, as they are charging Miguel Tejada with perjury for lying to Congress about steroids.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 1:35 PM | Baseball 2009 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: The Other Catchers

Here's the second half of my Hardball Times column on the great (and not-so-great) catchers.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:52 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Scripted

As you may have noticed - the Guardian did - President Obama used a Teleprompter last night for the prepared remarks he delivered to open his press conference. If memory serves correctly, this is new - at least, I don't believe President Bush ever tried to bring a Teleprompter to a press conference.

This site seems to agree that the arrival of the Teleprompter at press conferences is a new thing. Ann Althouse thinks the placement of the Teleprompters off to the side was distracting; were they trying to hide them?

UPDATE: The reporters' names were on the script too, but not their faces:

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:25 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Oh, That Joe!

You know, maybe it is unnecessary to point this out, but had McCain won the election, I'm quite certain he would not have been put constantly in the position of taking this attitude towards the public utterances of his vice president.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:22 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)
February 8, 2009
POLITICS: The Politics of ... Something


Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:34 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
February 6, 2009
LAW: 11th Circuit Backs Miami-Dade School's Removal of Book About Cuba From School Library

An opinion that was handed down by a divided panel of the 11th Circuit yesterday in American Civil Liberties Union v. Miami-Dade County is bound to be controversial: the court held, among other things (the opinion plus dissent run 177 pages) that a school board in Miami was justified in removing from the bookshelves of a school library a book that painted an unduly rosy picture of life in Cuba. The interesting part of the opinion, rejecting an ACLU challenge, runs from about page 59-104 of the slip opinion in pdf form, if you want to read it yourself. The core of the court's decision was its conclusion that removing a book that was factually inaccurate in failing to depict the reality of life under Castro was not a forbidden exercise of political opinion but a legitimate exercise of a school board's power to take factually false material off the shelves.

It requires no stretch of the imagination to recognize why this holding is a flashpoint; nearly all disputes over subjects ranging from evolution to global warming to Israel and Palestine involve warring camps both of which assert that the other's position is simply factually false and should not be taught to schoolchildren. As I have long argued in the case of media bias, the biggest single issue is deciding which stories have two legitimate sides and which don't. But to state the problem doesn't answer the question of where courts can allow democratically elected school boards to draw the line, or where those boards should draw the line if left free to do so, since the alternative involves the courts tying the hands of the board in decisions about removing books, while giving free rein to political agendas in the decision to buy the books in the first place.

As the majority opinion noted:

The dissenting opinion argues that if a school board's action in removing a book from its own library shelves does not amount to banning a book, then a school board can never ban a book. See Dissenting Op. at 172. So what? Nowhere is it written that a school board must be empowered to ban books. Because a school board has no power to prohibit people from publishing, selling, distributing, or possessing a book, it has no power to ban books.

Slip op. at 93. My own preference, and I think the reading most consistent with the Constitution, would be to get the courts out of the business entirely, but even that doesn't answer the core policy question of how the school boards should decide these kinds of brouhahas.

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Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:51 PM | Law 2009-14 • | Politics 2009 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
LAW: Get Well Soon, Justice Ginsburg

The nature of the Supreme Court - life tenure, the fact that most Justices tend to live long and step down only when illness or death forces the issue, and the enormous stakes in each new Justice's selection - tends unavoidably to set political commentators into full circling-buzzard mode at the first word that a Justice might be ill enough (or, in Justice Stevens' case, simply old enough) to make a vacancy imminent. Tom Goldstein argues that Justice Ginsburg's surgery for pancreatic cancer shouldn't trigger that reaction, despite her age, her prior history with cancer (which apparently makes chemotherapy impossible) and the fact that pancreatic cancer has a famously high and fast mortality rate (think of Gene Upshaw, who died days after his diagnosis). As Goldstein notes, that mortality rate is largely because the disease is rarely detected early, and Justice Ginsburg caught a break in being diagnosed early (as was the case for Steve Jobs).

Of course, as a Supreme Court practitioner, Goldstein has a vested interest in defending a sitting Justice (that's true of me as well), so take it with a grain of salt; but his point is well-taken as far as not jumping to conclusions. We should all wish Justice Ginsburg good health and the freedom to retire or not on her own terms, politics aside. And yes, I know that given the passions the Court arouses and the life-and-death issues it handles, that can be hard at times to do sincerely, but making the effort is itself good for your mental health if you spend too much time in the arena of political blood sport.

All that said, obviously the Obama Administration and Senate Republicans alike need to be thinking ahead to the possibility that her illness at least increases the odds of a vacancy this year, and political commentators being what they are, we can't help but speculate. Goldstein's own site had a list up last week of four possible names - Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood, Second Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Harvard Law Dean (and Solicitor General nominee) Elena Kagan, and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. Three things are clear at this early stage. Number one, if Justice Ginsburg's slot ends up being the first one filled, whether this year or later, the departure of the only remaining female Justice would make it politically impossible for Obama not to pick a woman, hence the names on that list. Number two, whoever it is better have their taxes in order. (I think it's safe to say that for partisan purposes, Republicans would salivate at Granholm, a politician with no judicial experience and a disastrous economic record in Michigan; as a lawyer, I'd rather see someone with actual, proven competence/excellence as a judge and/or lawyer, a point I made repeatedly during the Harriet Miers debate). And number three, to the extent that any nominee is at all controversial, Senate Republicans are going to have to decide if their longstanding principled stand in favor of bringing judicial nominees to a vote - there was no opposition at all to Justice Ginsburg, and no effort to filibuster Justice Breyer - will end up getting discarded, given (1) the prevailing sense that Republican disarmament on this issue has been unilateral and specifically that (2) Obama himself voted against Chief Justice Roberts and voted to filibuster Justice Alito, and is therefore uniquely poorly positioned to demand Senatorial deference to his selections. It's premature as well to make that decision (my own longstanding view is that it's legitimate to use the filibuster to slow down a nomination long enough to gather information and muster political opposition, but not to wholly deny a floor vote), but if there's a vacancy during Obama's presidency, it will surely arise.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:26 AM | Law 2009-14 | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: Dual Loyalties

Matt Welch looks back at how Buzzie Bavasi sold out the Padres in the 1969 expansion draft. Wow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:23 AM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 5, 2009
BASEBALL: Curtains for Sheets?

So Ben Sheets may be having elbow surgery that will knock him out for half the season. Looks like he played chicken with the owners and lost; unless this is the result of genuinely new medical information, Sheets would have been better served having the surgery in October and jumping on a 1-year deal rather than trying to bluff some team into signing him with a bum elbow.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 8:30 PM | Baseball 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
POLITICS: Entrenching Begins

Hey, remember when we ran a RedState editorial predicting ways the Democrats would seek to skew the democratic process in their favor?

Well, covering items #7 & 9 on our list, George Will reports on unconstitutional Democratic efforts to give a House seat to DC, while Dan Spencer notes that Obama is leaving the door open to use the equally unconstitutional "census sampling" method in the 2010 census by taking control of the Census Bureau away from the Commerce Secretary and having it report directly to the White House, in light of Obama having named as his second pick for Commerce Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who in 1999 passed an amendment that defunded sampling efforts (as I have noted before, running the census is one of the major jobs of Commerce). Meanwhile, #1 on the list, the card check bill, is on its way, and Obama's appointee for Labor Secretary is tied to lobbyists for the bill. And this is before we get into all of the payoffs to liberal interest groups in the inaptly named "stimulus" bill.

Don't say you weren't warned.

UPDATE: On the Gregg thing, as Neil Stevens points, out, of course, the Obama Administration certainly can control an executive agency it wants from the White House; that's the essence of the unitary executive theory, under which all executive power is ultimately wielded by and accountable directly to the president under the plain terms of Article II. And I don't object to Obama treating Cabinet bipartisanship as a transparent sham; I rather prefer he be out in the open about that. What concerns me is the substantive goal of using census sampling.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:31 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
WAR: The Other Side

It is sometimes useful to be reminded of the true depths of the depravity of our enemies. Americans may have to do ugly, unpleasant and unpopular things at times to defend our nation, but efforts at moral equivalence have to first explain situations like this one. (H/T).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:24 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Rest in Peace, Mark Kilmer

My RedState colleague Mark Kilmer has died. Erick has a tribute to him here. We only found out - Mark only found out - last week that his cancer had returned; none of us were expecting this to happen so quickly. For those of you who don't read RedState, Mark was best known for his weekly roundup of the Sunday morning talk shows, which he did every Sunday for years and which were widely read in DC. He will be missed.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 10:46 AM | Blog 2006-14 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
February 3, 2009
WAR: China

Another excellent essay over at The New Ledger; I would especially recommend the section on what's going on inside China these days.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 6:24 PM | War 2007-14 | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

Liberal blog Donkeylicious has some useful background on Bonnie Newman, who is apparently being appointed to replace Judd Gregg, who is leaving the Senate to become Commerce Secretary. The post is funny because the last paragraph demonstrates the blogger's complete inability to process self-deprecating humor. Dude, when Trent Lott's wit sails over your head...

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:07 PM | Politics 2009 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Sign of tough times:

Citigroup Inc., eager to quell the controversy over how lenders are using government bailout money, is exploring the possibility of backing out of a nearly $400 million marketing deal with the New York Mets, say people familiar with the matter.


In a statement Monday, Citigroup said that "no TARP capital will be used" for the stadium -- referring to government funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But as it revisits the pact, Citigroup is essentially acknowledging that the volatile political climate could make it untenable for the bank to proceed with the deal.


The Mets deal was attacked last week as an example of misplaced spending by financial institutions that needed bailout funds. Reps. Dennis Kucinich (D., Ohio) and Ted Poe (R., Texas) wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday, asking him to push Citigroup to dissolve the Mets deal.

I can't really get into this story very far, and it's the worst kind of story as far as I'm concerned (I'm not a big fan of business-of-baseball stories and I hate being compelled yet again to mix baseball and politics), but a few quick observations:

1. So much for the brief era in which the Mets appeared to be getting closer to financial parity with the Yankees. I'm not that personally familiar with the state of the naming-rights market but I have to assume that it will be very hard to get an equivalent contract in terms of annual revenue or duration.

2. Sadly, if Citi does exit the deal, it will be tough to get a name that fits as well with the team and the city - I dread some phone company or regional bank that changes its name every three years, or something silly like "Vitamin Water Park." And I swear, if they end up naming it "Obama Field" I'm not going to be responsible for my actions.

3. As you can see if you've seen pictures or been by the park, the colossal Citi signs have been up for a while now.

4. We have not even seen the beginning of how Washington politicians are going to be micromanaging entities that have accepted taxpayer money. More on this another day, but while I supported the original Paulson Plan - which involved the federal government buying bonds in arms-length transactions in the hopes of recovering most if not all of its original outlay - I can't possibly support any of the more expansive bailouts that have been done since, not least because of the galloping corporatism that is unleashed when the government goes from being a mere customer of private business to an investor, donor and business partner.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:28 AM | Baseball 2009 • | Business • | Politics 2009 | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)
February 2, 2009
POLITICS: You Should Have Gone To Kentucky, Mr. President

Obama SnowThe state of Kentucky has, for the past six days, been under a state of emergency declared by Gov. Steve Beshear last Tuesday in the aftermath of heavy winter storms that knocked out power lines and is being followed by flooding as the snow melts. * On Saturday, the state finally called up the entire Kentucky National Guard, its largest mobilization in its history, and the storms have been blamed for at least 42 deaths across the region. * As many as 700,000 people were without power at one point, including nursing homes and shelters, and hundreds of thousands remain so. Some could be without power for weeks. As of Friday, things were getting worse in some places:

Some local officials are growing angry with what they say is a lack of help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In Grayson County, about 80 miles southwest of Louisville, an emergency management official said the 25 National Guardsmen who have responded have no chain saws to clear fallen trees brought down by ice.

More here. FEMA is still in making-excuses mode:

Marty Hudak, spokesman for Obama FEMA director Nancy Ward, said emergency personnel can't get to the people living (and dying) in these dangerous disaster areas because it's, well, too dangerous to do so.

"We have plenty of folks ready to go, but there are some limitations with roads closed and icy conditions," she told the AP.

Where was President Obama? Not in Kentucky, that's for sure; Obama may have ripped DC residents for being wimps about the snow in a city whose Democrat-dominated government is famously unable to clear snow (while he himself cranks up the White House thermostat - hey, as David Axelrod notes, "He's from Hawaii, O.K.?...He likes it warm"), but he's been nowhere to be found in Kentucky. Instead, Sunday night he was having a Super Bowl party to schmooze lawmakers (guest list here). * Of course, Beshear, being a Democrat, has to do what he can to defend Obama, but the best he can come up with in terms of the president's personal involvement is that he made a phone call to Beshear. * As of this morning, Beshear was still pressing for Obama to declare a major disaster to speed up federal aid. Beshear has been visiting the affected areas, but the president is not at his side.

Obama's defenders may argue that the new Administration, having only been put in charge of FEMA ten days ago, can't be expected to renovate the agency overnight. That's a fair point, even though it overlooks those same defenders' focus on Mike Brown's personal performance during Katrina. But the best way to overcome any lassitude on the part of the agency is to get the president publicly out in front of the issue, and the best way to inoculate Obama against political damage is for him to show some personal concern. He doesn't seem to see it that way.

I noted among my ten lessons from the Bush Administration the importance of the president just physically being there in hard times. Bush's physical presence was important to New York in September 2001, when he visited Ground Zero three days after the September 11 attacks; his physical absence was felt in New Orleans in September 2005, when he did a floyover two days after Hurricane Katrina hit but didn't make an appearance on the ground until four days after the hurricane made landfall, by which time his presidency had been permanently damaged.

One of the easiest of all things for Barack Obama to learn from Bush's successes and failures, then, is the importance of just taking some time out of his schedule to deal with disasters. Even if the crisis at hand right out of the chute is not a huge one, a new chief executive can set a tone for his administration early on by showing how he's going to do things differently from his predecessor, as Rudy Giuliani did in New York:

Read More »

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:30 AM | Politics 2009 | Comments (22) | TrackBack (0)
FOOTBALL/POLITICS: Mixing The Two, Part Two

I really could have done without Steelers owner Dan Rooney thanking President Obama, who he had endorsed during the fall election, in the immediate postgame interview last night. I swear, an awful lot of Obama supporters seem to have some sort of mental block that prevents them from acknowledging even the possibility of an opposing point of view. It's not that public figures outside politics should never do endorsements and the like; I accept the fact that they have their views, and I have mine. But there's a time and a place for everything, and really, sticking your politics in the face of the audience in the biggest sports telecast of the year is just obnoxious, and a good reason to root against the Steelers as long as the Rooneys have anything to do with them.

As for the game itself, first of all, this had to be the most referee-dominated Super Bowl in memory, and not in a good way. Some of the more intrusive calls were necessary (the holding call in the end zone that gave the Cards a crucial fourth quarter safety), some of them just looked wrong to me (calling back a Steelers TD in the first quarter).

If there's one guy who just impressed the heck out of me in these playoffs, it's Larry Fitzgerald. He didn't have a huge game for much of last night, but the late breakaway touchdown was a thing of beauty when everyone knew he'd be Warner's top target, as he'd been in so many big plays over the past five weeks.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:24 AM | Football • | Politics 2009 | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)