Monday, October 31, 2005

AP on Alito and abortion

One of the easiest things to predict was that President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court would be met with cries of dismay from the left. (Indeed, Sen. Schumer's nonsense - "he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America instead of choosing a nominee...who would unify us" - notwithstanding, it's difficult to conceive of a potential Bush nominee who would NOT have provoked an outcry on the left.) And one of the first issues that was certain to arise was the abortion issue.

There are a couple of reasons why abortion was inevitable. The first is that Roe v. Wade is the single biggest flash-point between Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to the courts. When the Supreme Court issued Roe v. Wade (and its companion Doe v. Bolton), the issue was virtually removed from the sphere of practical legislation, a victory for the American left that it guards jealously. Because of that, abortion is going to be issue number one for virtually any nominee of a Republican president.

But beyond that, Alito issued a dissenting opinion in the Planned Parenthood v. Casey case in 1992 that the Supreme Court eventually disagreed with, as it re-affirmed and expanded the scope of Roe v. Wade. And that dissent is going to spawn a flood of criticism, much of it inaccurate, or incomplete at best. Such as today's AP article, Alito Has Affirmed Abortion Restrictions. In it, the AP states that Alito is pro-life and implies that he would let that color his judgement on cases before the court.
Alito, a Catholic, is opposed to abortion, his 90-year-old mother forthrightly told reporters in New Jersey. As an appeals court judge, he held that states can require women seeking abortions to notify their spouses. The Supreme Court disagreed.

"If he thinks that's OK, there are certainly other restrictions that he's going to be OK with," said Neil Siegel, who teaches law at Duke University. "He'll make a decisive difference."

The juxtaposition of those two statements (he is "opposed to abortion" and "he held that states can require...the Supreme Court disagreed") clearly presents the image of a radical judge deciding cases on personal feelings instead of constitutional law. But more than 24 hours before the AP wrote this story, Patterico had already addressed this, and anyone who's interested in the truth should read that. Or Ed Whelan's analysis, here.

The key points, which the media story does not address or give context for, are these.

1) There were 5 points to the Planned Parenthood challenge.
2) Alito agreed with his colleagues on 4 of them, that Supreme Court precedent demanded that those 4 restrictions were constitutional.
3) Alito's dissent on the 5th point was based upon careful reading of, and carefully outlined, Supreme Court precedent.

Yes, he did rule that Pennsylvania's law requiring spousal notification - in some cases - was not unconstitutional. He did this by interpreting the writings and rulings of Sandra Day O'Connor. In fact, in order to overrule the Alito position, O'Connor actually had to change hers. To quote from Justice Scalia's dissent (joined by the chief Justice and Justices White and Thomas): "The rootless nature of the "undue burden" standard, a phrase plucked out of context from our earlier abortion decisions, see n. 3, supra, is further reflected in the fact that the joint opinion finds it necessary expressly to repudiate the more narrow formulations used in JUSTICE O'CONNOR's earlier opinions." In other words, Alito correctly interpreted the relevant Supreme Court precedents, regardless of whatever his "personal policy preferences" might have been, and the Supreme Court actually had to change the state of abortion law in America to render his dissent incorrect.

But the truth is too subtle for the AP to bother with. It's much easier to just say that he's "affirmed abortion restrictions" and leave it at that...

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Ridiculous complaint

Matt Drudge is running a story alleging that certain Republicans are offended by the nickname "Scalito" from the Democrats and the media.
Before Judge Samuel Alito was even officially announced as President Bush’s next Supreme Court nominee, he met a wave of racial discrimination from numerous corners of the mainstream media and the Democrat Party. Because of Judge Alito’s conservative and Italian-American background he is often been compared to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and has been nicknamed by the mainstream media “Scalito.”

One outraged Republican strategist claimed, “If Alito were a liberal there would be no way Democrats and Washington’s media elite would use such a ethnically insensitive nickname. Italian-Americans should not have to face these types of derogatory racial slurs in 21st century America.”

My reaction to anyone "outraged" by the used of "Scalito" is to get a life. There's nothing remotely "ethnically insensitive" to combining the last names of two philisophically similar justices. Nothing. Nada. It's a nonsensical complaint, exactly the kind of thing that infuriates us when the left complain about nonsense like that. Cut it out. It's not an issue.

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My predictions on the Alito nomination


  • The left will gear up immediately to oppose this nomination. It will be loud, and it will focus on Alito's opinion in the Casey case. It will start with abortion and Casey, but it won't end there. PFAW and NOW and the NAACP and all of the good lefties will join hands in decrying Alito's nomination.

  • The media will consistently use the terms "conservative" and "ultra-conservative." The lefty-blogs, KOS and Atrios and the like, won't be that polite. He'll be a racist, fascist, misogynist Nazi.

  • Hearings will start in December, either Monday the 5th or Monday the 12th. They'll last for 3 days, Dick Durbin will tell him that he wants to restrict freedom, Ted Kennedy will thunder questions and ignore answers. Alito will answer much the same way that Roberts did, demonstrating competence, intellectual capabilities, thoughtfulness, and a complete lack of anything that would make the vast majority of Americans think "monster!"

  • He'll make it out of committee on a party-line vote, before Christmas.

  • Here's the big one - he will be confirmed. He will be confirmed with fewer than 60 votes, but he will be confirmed, as they'll get 61-63 votes for cloture. There will be enormous pressure on the Democrats from the left, from and the Daily Kossacks and the interest groups and George Soros to filibuster, but there will be enough members of the Democratic caucus, enough of the signers of the Memorandum of Understanding, who understand that a filibuster attempt will result in a rules change. There are still appellate nominees being filibustered, and the rules change will let them through. Once the filibuster rules are changed to break a filibuster on a Supreme Court Nominee, the filibuster's gone as a tool for blocking judges. There will be enough Democrats to realize that they cannot win a fight to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee with majority support. So the filibuster will fail, the rules change won't have to be invoked, and Alito will be confirmed.

  • And it will happen before Christmas...

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It's (apparently) Alito

President Bush has apparently settled on Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. All of the available evidence suggests that this is a much better pick than Harriet Miers (though I still wanted to watch the spectacle that a Janice Rogers Brown nomination would undoubtedly have caused.) Alito is called "Scalito" by many people, in recognition of his philisophical and judicial similarities to Antonin Scalia. That's a good thing.

Here are the people who are going to be under the gun when the Alito nomination heads, as it certainly will, to the full Senate - the "Gang of 14."


Lincoln Chafee (Rhode Island)Robert Byrd (West Virginia)

Susan Collins (Maine)Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)

Mike DeWine (Ohio)Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)

Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut)

John McCain (Arizona)Ben Nelson (Nebraska)

John Warner (Virginia)Mark Pryor (Arkansas)

Olympia Snowe (Maine)Ken Salazar (Colorado)

Will the Democrats who signed that Memorandum of Understanding consider Alito's nomination to represent "extraordinary circumstances?" And if so, will at least 3-4 of the Republicans have the guts to eliminate the filibuster?

Does Senator Lindsey Graham really mean this?
But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, fired back Sunday, saying that if the Democrats staged a filibuster against Judge Alito or Judge Luttig because of their conservatism, "the filibuster will not stand."

We can only hope. I would not be surprised if we're headed to a showdown.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

"...thousands of years of trial, error, and modest correction..."

A couple of things that caught my eye yesterday, in an interesting juxtaposition:

  • Jonah Goldberg, in the Corner, posted a passage from a column that he wrote several years ago. Jonah is someone who is very well educated and steeped in the fundamental philosophical underpinnings of conservatism, and this was a wonderful snippet.
    ...Burke — like Hayek, Chesterton, and others — put his faith in tradition. Tradition is not merely "the way we've always done it." Tradition is the distillation of thousands of years of trial, error, and modest correction. Tradition contains volumes of unexpressed knowledge that has been passed from one generation to another. We do not know why we do everything we do, because we are not omniscient historians. We are not conscious of all the painful trial and error that went into our habit of cooking food, but that doesn't mean it's a totally arbitrary practice. Knowledge isn't just in books and journal articles, it is in our architecture and our language and a million habits and traditions we — until recently — accepted without much questioning. Think about how much accumulated wisdom is represented in our use of currency, and yet that practice predates the written arguments for currency by thousands of years. As Friedrich Hayek (a thoroughly Burkean libertarian) wrote, "more 'intelligence' is incorporated in the system of rules of conduct than in man's thoughts and surroundings." So when Burke says, "Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other," he's saying that tradition is a recognition of what works over what some "expert" thinks will work without benefit of precedent...Thus, we should revere old institutions because they are the storehouses of ancient wisdom and the thousands of conscious and unconscious decisions of our ancestors.

  • Births to Unmarried U.S. Women Set Record
    Nearly 1.5 million babies, a record, were born to unmarried women in the United States last year, the government reported Friday. And it isn't just teenagers any more. "People have the impression that teens and unmarried mothers are synonymous," said Stephanie Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics. But last year teens accounted for just 24 percent of unwed births, down from 50 percent in 1970, she commented. The increases in unmarried births have been among women in their 20s, she said, particularly those 25 to 29. Many of the women in that age group are living with partners but still count as unmarried mothers if they haven't formally married, Ventura noted.

  • Does anyone think that the world is a better place when we "throw off the shackles" of traditional marriage and families?

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    Two predictions

    1) Tedy Bruschi plays for the Patriots against Buffalo tonight. He gets significant playing time, shows no ill-effects of the stroke, and plays well.

    2) The Patriots allow fewer than 20 points in a game for the first time in the 2005 season.

    These are not un-related...

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    Friday, October 28, 2005

    ABC news radio - wishful thinking masquerading as news

    Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's had a long news conference this afternoon, addressing the end of service of his Grand Jury and the indictments handed down on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Shortly thereafter, the talk station to which I listened after the PC ran a newsbreak at 3:30 PM EST. During that break, they ran the ABC news, and one of the stories was, of course, the indictments. The story was read by a female reporter, whose name I missed and cannot find, and after talking about the Libby indictments, she said, in a hopeful tone, that Karl Rove was not indicted, but "Fitzgerald says he is still being investigated."

    I listened to the entire Fitzgerald press conference, and he said nothing of the sort. He repeatedly refused to say anything of the sort about ANYONE else. He spoke about the Libby indictments. Period. He did say that the investigation was not completed. He refused to say whether or not he would attempt to impanel another Grand Jury, though it sounded, to me, as if he would not.
    "Is the investigation finished? It's not over. But … very rarely do you bring a charge in a case that's going to be tried in which you ever end a grand jury investigation. I can tell you that the substantial bulk of the work of this investigation is concluded."

    Is Rove "still being investigated?" Possibly. Possibly not. There's nothing in what Fitzgerald said this afternoon that would confirm or eliminate either possibility. As I say, I listened to the entire thing, and my reaction was "if I'm Karl Rove, this is a good thing." (For what it's worth, Kathryn Jean Lopez says that CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin agrees, that he would be "very, very encouraged" if he were Karl Rove.) I could be wrong, but for ABC news to report that "Fitzgerald says he is still being investigated" is for them to report something that's just plain not true. Fitzgerald did not say that. It's as if they're so emotionally invested in Rove being indicted that they have to keep the dream alive...

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    One shoe drops

    The axe has fallen as Libby has been indicted.
    Vice presidential adviser I. Lewis "Scooter' Libby Jr. was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury in the CIA leak case.

    Two comments.

    1) If Libby committed perjury, he should (as Bill Clinton should have but didn't) go to jail. You don't do it. You can't do it. The system depends on people telling the truth, and he's got to know that, and know better. It's completely unacceptable to be making false statements under oath to a Grand Jury.

    2) If there was a crime committed before the investigation began two years ago, they should have been able to nail it down by now, right? Does this mean that there was no crime? It's difficult to imagine that there was, based on the information available in the public domain. Which means that Libby did one of the stupidest things imaginable - he committed perjury (if he did) to cover up something that wasn't a crime in the first place...

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    Accusations of sexism re: Miers

    Cokie Roberts, on ABC's Good Morning America this morning, is accusing the conservative opposition to Harriet Miers of sexism. (There's a first, huh? What a new, fresh tack to take! I'm shocked - shocked! - to hear a liberal pundit accuse conservatives of sexism...) When asked whether the standards were higher for Miers than they would have been for a man, Roberts replied:
    Absolutely. Absolutely. If this were a man who were the White House counsel, the head of the Texas Bar Association, and the head of one of the most important law firms in Dallas we would not be having this conversation about qualifications...There was a lot more sexism.

    Speaking as a conservative who was very disappointed in the Miers nomination, I'd like to say the same thing that I said when Laura Bush made the same accusation - hogwash. Nonsense. It's ridiculous. There are any number of female judges who could have been nominated and gotten exactly none of the same criticism that Miers got. Had Janice Rogers Brown (my choice) or Priscilla Owen or Edith Jones or Edith Clement been nominated, there would have been a completely different discussion. And had a man with Miers' exact qualifications been named, the discussion would have proceeded exactly the same way. The charge of sexism isn't analysis - it's a cliche pulled out in lieu of analysis.

    Now, to Cokie's credit, she didn't just blame the conservatives. There was some uncalled for mockery on the left, and she did mention it.
    And the liberal cartoonists were just as bad. They cartoons of the cleaning lady showing up saying I'm your new federal reserve chairman. I just think that would not have happened with man.

    And that part of it may be right. After all, liberals, as a general rule, can engage in racism and sexism without getting called on it by the Mainstream Media. As opposed to conservatives, who can get accused of it without engaging in it...

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    Thursday, October 27, 2005

    Meiers withdraws...

    I shall now get down upon my knees and pray, again, for the nomination of Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court. More than anything else, I want to watch the Democrats attempt to filibuster a black woman who was elected to the California Supreme Court by the people of that state. I want to see them forced to justify denying a vote to a black woman with majority support in the Senate.

    You got a 2nd chance, Mr. President - use it well...

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    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Baseball and Race again...

    I'm not a fan of the term "African-American." I think it tends to obscure more than it reveals. For one thing, not every American of African descent is black. For another, not every black is of recent African descent. If we're talking about race in America, we're really talking about skin color, and black and white works. Otherwise, you end up with stuff like we have in this MSNBC story.

    Joe Morgan worries about the face of baseball. Watching the World Series, the Hall of Famer is troubled by what he sees.

    His old team, the Houston Astros, is down 3-0 to the Chicago White Sox, but it's not their lineup that concerns Morgan. It's their makeup.The Astros are the first World Series team in more than a half-century with a roster that doesn't include a single black player.

    Well, that's nonsense. There are at least 3 black players on the Houston Astros right now.

    Ezequiel AstacioJosé VizcaínoWilly Taveras

    Each of those players would clearly qualify as "black" for the purposes of racial discussion. Somehow, because they all come from parts of the Americas that are not located within the continental United States, the Astros roster "doesn't include a single black player?" Nonsense. If they were born in the People's Republic of Cambridge, MA, they'd be black, but because they were born in the Dominican Republic they're not? It's ridiculous.

    "Of course I noticed it. How could you not?" Morgan said while the Astros took batting practice before the opener in Chicago. "But they're not the only ones. There are two or three teams that didn't have any African-American players this year."

    "How could you not?" Well, it's easy to "not" notice it. It seems that it's much easier to "not" than it is to not "not." It's only if you're actively looking for things like that they'll appear to you. Is there a point? Wasn't the entire purpose of the Jackie Robinson crusade to have skin color not be an issue? Wasn't the entire purpose of the civil rights movement to have skin color not be an issue? Why is anyone bringing this up now? Is there some evidence that racism has re-reared its ugly head in Major League Baseball's roster decisions? I don't see it. Honestly, can someone make a compelling argument that there are black players being denied opportunities to play Major League Baseball because of their skin color? Man, if there is, I'd love to see it. The fact that there are only 3 blacks on the Astros roster, and that none of them were born in the continental USA, interests me not even a little bit...

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    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Odds and ends...

    Hoping to get on to a more regular schedule soon - I had a system crash a week ago that took me a while to recover from...

    • Scott Podsednik had 507 at-bats this year without a HR. There have been over 300 500+ AB homerless seasons, but only 26 in the last 25 years. But he hit his 2nd homerun of the post-season last night, becoming the first man ever, in the history of baseball, to have 500+ homerless at-bats in the regular season then hit 2 in the post-season. Only 1 player previously, Lance Johnson in 1993, had ever hit even 1 post-season homer following a 500+ AB homerless season.

    • Why was Peter Pettigrew in Gryffindor? Did the sorting hat just screw up? And what about Percy Weasley? Doesn't everything we've seen from him just scream out "Slytherin?"

    • The NY Giants yesterday did exactly what I thought the Patriots were going to do last week - come back in the late stages of the game and beat Denver. The Patriots chances ended on 2 plays in the 4th quarter. On a 1st and 10 with 4 minutes left, Brady hit David Givens, who was wide open at about midfield, and no one who could stop him from getting inside the Denver 40, and Givens dropped the ball. He had at least 10 yards and no one between him and the sideline, and he just dropped it. On the next play, Denver blitzed and Brady was called for intentional grounding. When they didn't convert on 3rd and 20, they were forced to punt, and they never got the ball back. Before the Givens drop, I was convinced that they were headed for a score to tie it up...

    • The more we see, the more the Harriet Miers nomination looks like an unmitigated disaster. What on earth was the President thinking? Was this a nomination based entirely on her views of the executive powers in wartime? In any event, there's a difference between "unqualified" and "bad pick" - I'm still not certain of the former, but there's no question that she's the latter...

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    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Concerned about Wilma...

    I've been watching Wilma developing with some degree of trepidation. I don't like the way that the track projects.

    My parents have taught in the public schools in the state of Maine for the last 40 years. Over the past 5-10, they spent their February and April vacations in Florida, and actively looking for a piece of property. They traveled the entire state, looking in many different places. Last summer, they finally found a place that they liked, with a price that they liked. It was a smallish house, but on a large lot, with spectacular landscaping, palms, a fountain - like a park was how they described it. On August 12, 2004, they closed on the house in Punta Gorda.

    On August 13, Hurricane Charley hit. And the city of Punta Gorda was virtually destroyed.

    Now, while that seems like, and is, awful timing, they were really very lucky. They didn't have anything in the house - they hadn't moved in yet. And the house, unlike many, was still standing. There was significant damage to the roof, and one of the rooms was ruined, as the roof on that section had lifted off. But they lost nothing that wasn't reparable, with the exception of some trees. I spent a week down there in September with my dad, trying to clean up and fix up. (We were actually in Florida when Hurricane Jeanne came through.) It was astounding to drive around. We drove for miles, all over Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte, and for a 10-mile radius there was literally not a single building without visible damage. We've got a friend who runs a marine service, and he'd been in Punta Gorda for a month when I was down there, doing salvage work. We went out to the race track where they were staging, and there were a staggering number of boats and RVs that had been salvaged and were going to get auctioned off. It really was an amazing situation.

    And the recovery is still not complete. There was a story in the Washington Post within the past month about the "FEMA city" which is still operational in Punta Gorda, a trailer park set up for the victims of Charley, where many of them are still living.

    And it wouldn't take much of a change in Wilma's projected track to take her right through Charlotte Harbor, the same way that Charley went...

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    Tuesday, October 18, 2005

    NY Times concerned with human rights - of Saddam

    From 1979 until 2003, Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq. He was a brutal dictator, a head-of-state who waged war on his neighbors and his own people. He ruled over his people with an iron fist, utilizing torture and murder as weapons of statecraft. The coalition that ejected him from Kuwait in 1991 left him in power, at extreme cost to thousands more Iraqis. He supported terrorism in Israel, paying the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. He provided safe haven for Abu Abbas and other international terrorists.

    Well, he's finally going to be put on trial for his crimes, and what is the first concern of the NY Times? That he might not get a fair trial.
    On Wednesday, 22 months after he was dragged from his hiding place in an underground bunker, Saddam Hussein will appear in an Iraqi court to answer for the brutalities he inflicted on his fellow Iraqis. But what should be a moment of triumph for his victims is instead stirring concern about the fairness and competence of the court itself.

    I'm a big supporter of fairness and competence in courts. This is not a situation, however, in which those would be my overriding concerns. It's certainly not the way that I'd lead a story about Hussein's trial.
    ...Western human rights groups and legal experts have warned that the former dictator is unlikely to get a fair trial, and that the probable outcome, a death sentence, will be what the tribunal's harshest critics have described as "victor's justice."

    The key word in "victor's justice" is "justice." Does anyone want to make the argument that a death penalty imposed upon Saddam Hussein would not, somehow, represent justice?
    Critics here and abroad have said that the proper forum for the trials would have been an international tribunal of the kind that has spent four years hearing the case against the former Yugoslav president, Slobodan Milosevic, in The Hague.

    That statement right there says all that I need to know about "the critics..."

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    Thursday, October 13, 2005

    Admit you're wrong...

    I didn't see much of the Angels/White Sox game last night, but I did see the end. There are a couple of things I thing need to be clearly understood before commenting.
    1. The call did not give the game to the White Sox. It didn't cost the Angels the game. After Pierzynski was called safe at 1st, there was a runner at first with 2 outs. Had Escobar retired Crede, they go to the 10th. Had Pierzynski been called out, the game would have gone to the 10th and Chicago may well have won anyway. It was a huge call, but not determinative.

    2. Josh Paul made a mistake. If it's close, which it was, the catcher should tag the batter in any case, just to avoid the specific situation that came up.

    That said, Doug Eddings, the home plate umpire, screwed up. Big time. He called Pierzynski out, correctly, and somehow changed his mind just because Pierzynski ran to first. A terrible call.

    It is clear that Eddings made the out call. It's clear both from what he did, and the way the rest of the Angels reacted - they all started off the field when Eddings made the call. David Pinto's got a lot more, including this:
    One thing is clear. When Eddings is interviewed after the game, he says he used his normal strike mechanic to call the play. That appears to be making a fist with his thumb up in front of the chest. Eddings is wrong there. On strike one or two, he does use that sign for a strike. But on a swinging third strike he sends his right arm out to the side with his palm parallel to the ground, and only when he's sure of the out does he give the fist and thumb. Eddings signaled an out with his hands last night. There's no doubt of that.

    The umpire screwed up. He didn't cost the Angels the game, but he definitely screwed up.

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    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    "First, kill all the lawyers..."

    This insanity could be exhibit 1 of why a) people hate lawyers, b) people hate politicians and c) having politicians who are lawyers and lawyers who are politicians is a bad idea...
    ...the the bars near the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus conspired to fix drink prices, thereby overcharging money-strapped college kids who wanted to relax with a few drinks now and then.

    Shapiro said the bars paid more than $450,000 in legal costs to get the first case dismissed by Dane County Circuit Judge Angela Bartell and he can't imagine how he and the other family-owned campus area taverns can afford more expenses like that.

    The pity is that all the owners did was try to cooperate with the UW and Chancellor John Wiley's campaign against binge drinking. That campaign included getting the bars to agree to eliminate drink specials, which Wiley insists contribute to students' overindulging.

    So after a series of contentious meetings a few years back and at the urging of city officials who waved the power of granting liquor licenses in their faces, the bars reluctantly agreed to quit offering specials on Friday and Saturday nights in an effort to attract business to their places.

    ...Some 20 campus area bars joined the pledge. Then came the suit filed by a Minneapolis law firm on behalf of "overcharged" students. So much for being Mr. Nice Guys.

    When the Mob does this sort of thing, it's called the "protection racket." Is there any reason that the local officials and law firms involved in this nonsense shouldn't be brought up on RICO charges?

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    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    The trivia answer you never expected to see.

    Q: What do the New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams have in common?

    A: Those are the only 3 teams to have allowed more points through the first 5 weeks of the NFL season than the 2-time defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots.

    The Pats have not played good defense, for the most part, this season. They've allowed WAY too many big plays, they've done an awful job on 3rd down getting off the field, and they've only got 1 interception in 5 games.

    After the week 2 loss in Carolina, there was a lot of criticism of the offense and comments about how "the defense played pretty well." And it did, in some regards. The problem was that every time the Panthers got the ball inside the Patriots 30, they scored a touchdown. Every time. So they had great completion stats, and not much total yardage allowed, but never held Carolina to field goals if they got anywhere near the goal-line. And that contributed greatly to the 10-point loss. If they'd stopped Carolina in the red zone a couple of times, that would have been a different 4th quarter.

    None of which is to say that they won't fix it. I suspect that they will - they'll certainly make it better. But it needs to get a lot better in the next 12 weeks to get to where they want to go...

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    Saturday, October 08, 2005

    Red Sox season ends

    Final Score - Chicago White Sox 5, Boston Red Sox 3 - Chicago wins series 3-0

    So the Red Sox have a disappointing end to a frustrating season. But I feel very differently about it than I would have any time before last year...

    • Two years ago, the Red Sox went into New York in September, with a chance to win the East, and took the first two games of a 3-game series before falling to David Wells and the Yankees on Sunday afternoon. I didn't take it well:
      The "Baseball Gods" (to anthropomorphize the luck of the bounces during my baseball-watching lifetime) have shown me that the Yankees will always beat the Red Sox in close and important games. The Red Sox can beat the Yankees, even sometimes in big games, but only if it's not critical and/or close. I hate that attitude, I hate that feeling, but tell me, someone, where's the counter-evidence? Someone point me to a game that wasn't over early, a game that the Yankees needed as much as the Red Sox, a season-outcome determining game, that the Red Sox won. As Art put it in July, "the fact that it's (probably) a fluke doesn't matter." He's right. If second marriages represent the triumph of hope over experience, what does the expectation of a World Series win for the Red Sox represent?

      And this is where the fatalism comes from. I do NOT believe in any curse. I KNOW that baseball is a game where there's enormous room for luck. And I root for a team which lost 13 consecutive post-season games! If you figure that each of those is a 50/50 shot (and some are worse, but some should certainly be better, as the Red Sox had an all-time great pitcher, Roger Clemens, start 6 of those 13 losses), the odds of losing 13 straight are 1 in 8192. That's really amazing. A franchise, over the course of a decade, has four teams good enough to make post-season play, and they lose 13 consecutive games in those post-seasons, against 3 different franchises.

      ...there's a certain Pavlovian response that develops. I hate it, but I acknowledge it. And it's much worse where the Yankees are involved. I hate the Yankees. Hate them. Hate them for what they've done to the Red Sox. Hate that the first Yankee dynasty was just the late teens Red Sox dynasty shifted south. Hate that the Red Sox couldn't win one of the last two in '49. Hate that Dimaggio got that MVP in 1941 when Williams was so much better. Hate Bucky Bleeping Dent. Hate that Jeter is considered to be the same level of player as Nomar. Hate (really, really hate) that Boggs and Clemens won World Series rings in Yankee uniforms. And somewhere, deep in the recesses of my psyche, is the feeling that Yankees/Red Sox is the punishment for all of my sins. And I hate that more than anything.

      When they went on to lose to the Yankees in the ALCS that year, there was more:
      Well, it was a hell of a ride.

      I suppose that, like many, I'm still feeling shocked by what happened last night. Lots of tossing and turning - not much sleep. The adrenalin flow takes a long time to shut down when your brain is re-playing the whole game constantly.

      When Pedro got to two strikes on Bernie in the 8th, I actually wrote a post for the game thread that said "isn't this exactly where the Cubs were - runner on 2nd, 1 out, 3 run lead in the 8th?" but didn't post it, thinking it unnecessary to notice parallels like that. And what followed was utterly gruesome. In the 1978 play-off game, they didn't have a lead in the 8th. In 1986, there was still one game left. This was a game with so much potential to erase bad memories, a game in which they took an early and sizeable lead, and poof - all gone. Shocking, stunning, appalling. I've spent the last 3 months trying to maintain some emotional stability with regards to this team, hoping for a win last night but fearing a loss. And what did we get? Unbelievable.

      I have steadfastly maintained, and do so again today, that there is no such thing as a curse. But sometimes it absolutely feels as though there are script-writers, "baseball Gods", to ensure that the Red Sox fail in the most excruciating way possible. Last night was an unbelievable finish, except to anyone who's followed the Red Sox. Then it's not only believable, it's almost expected.

      The Red Sox have lost play-off deciding games 9 times in my lifetime (I was too young to appreciate 1967 and 1972) before last night. Each of those was accompanied by a sick feeling, as despair set in - "will they ever win it all? Just once? Can they actually win a World Series someday?" This is completely different. I'm certainly not happy about it, I care just as much about the team, I'm just as emotionally invested as I ever was. But there's no despair this year, only disappointment. For a couple of reasons.

      1. The big one is, they've won it all. We know it can be done. We knew before, rationally, that it could be done, but we didn't "know" it emotionally. Now we do. This season ended the wrong way. That's life. Before, every season that ended badly was furtherance of an emotional state that seasons had to end badly. Now we know better.

      2. This was their third consecutive play-off season. Given the state of the roster, the number of good prospects ready to make the jump, the demonstrated abilities and philospohies of the front office, the money they've got to spend, there's every reason to expect this team to be in contention again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that.

    As to the game itself, I got to listen to most of it, didn't see much of it, and what I did see was from a distance on a TV with poor reception. Just a couple of thoughts:

    • When Jason Varitek made the final out of the 8th inning, my first reaction was "poor Edgar - he's had an awful year, and now he's going to make the final out again..."

    • Speaking of Varitek - he's now killed critical rallies in two post-season series' clinching losses. After game seven of the 2003 ALCS, I wrote the following:
      The most important at-bat of that game may have been Jason Varitek's in the 4th inning against Mike Mussina. The Red Sox were already up by 4 and had runners on the corners with no outs. I believe that that was their last opportunity in the game to score a run on an out, but Jason struck out.

      Last night, with the Sox trailing by one after Manny's 2nd HR of the game, they loaded the base with no one out. Varitek could have tied the game with a hit, HBP, fly ball, walk, possibly even a ground-out to the right spot. He hit a foul pop-up to the first baseman. Graffanino, who also bears great responsibility for the sweep, popped-up, again, their last chance to score a run on an out. Damon's strikeout ended the threat, and, effectively, the series. There were 3 innings left, but they never came close to scoring again.

    • Speaking of Damon's strikeout, I thought it wasn't, but it was close. That's a bad result to that at-bat, because that pitch was never close to the strike zone.

    • For all of the lamentations about the Red Sox bullpen, it was the starting pitching and the offense that did it. They never had a lead after the 5th inning in any game.

    • People that don't get it, people that think RBI are important, will look at the 3-4 hitters in the Boston lineup, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, and say "hey - it's their fault - they only drove in 5 runs!" Which is true. Three of them on solo HR in game three, the other two on a Ramirez double in game 2. But the two of them hit .318/.375/.818. Manny, in particular, had a very good series, with 3 hits (all for extra bases), two walks, and a .300/.417/.900 line. The problem was that the 9-1-2 hitters weren't ever on base. Graffanino, Damon and Renteria combined on a .237/.275/.368 (UGH!) line. In 40 plate appearances, those 3 reached base safely just 11 times. There wasn't ever anyone on for the big hitters.

    • As bad as Graffanino/Damon/Renteria were, Nixon/Mueller/Varitek were worse. The Red Sox had essentially a 3 man lineup (Ortiz/Ramirez/1st baseman) with 6 holes. It's a short series, those things happen. And when they do, you get swept...

    Hopefully, the Angels beat the Yankees this afternoon or tomorrow, so I can root for SOMEONE in the ALCS...

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    Thursday, October 06, 2005

    Quote of the Day

    "President Bush says that he knows Harriet Miers won't change in 20 years. 20 years ago she was a Democrat! And Catholic!"
    - Jay Leno

    (H/t to the Baseball Crank)

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    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    Tony Massarotti, prophet of doom

    "Personally, I think they're cooked. And deep in their heart of hearts, you can only wonder if the Red Sox know it. "
    Boston Herald Reporter Tony Massarotti, 9/20/2005

    The Red Sox, from that point, went 7-4 in their last 11 to win the Wild Card by 2 games over Cleveland, and finish tied with the Angels and Yankees for the 2nd best record in the AL. Well, Tony's got more this morning.
    The Red Sox played uninspired baseball during the middle of September, so much so that they may be paying the price now. Because the Sox extended themselves to Game 162 before securing a playoff spot, they opened the postseason yesterday behind the member of their starting rotation who had been pitching the worst.

    You know, I'm not certain what's the difference between "uninspired," which would seem to imply some mental failure of will, and "slumping." I didn't see anything in the Red Sox' September play that would make me lean towards the former over the latter.

    And I'd also point out to Tony that they actually played better in September (and the first two days of October), at least by winning percentage, than they had in the months leading up to it. I do think that they were dragging during that first couple of weeks, as that stretch of 30 days without an off-day wore down, but on the whole, it wasn't any Red Sox failure, no "choke" or "collapse" that kept them from clinching - it was over-their-heads, out-of-this-world stretches from both the Yankees (16-4) and Indians (16-2).

    There is still a great deal of baseball to be played in this American League Division Series between the opposite Soxes, but already the shortage of Boston pitching is beginning to show.

    The Red Sox may or may not have a pitching shortage, but all yesterday showed was one awful start from a starter who gives you those on occasion. Period.

    Said Angels manager Mike Scioscia Monday, prior to last night's series opener between the Angels and Yankees: "I think setting your rotation is very big and we were able to do that this year."
    Admittedly, the Red Sox do not really have an ace comparable to Angels right-hander Bartolo Colon, but that is hardly the point.

    Particularly as Colon gave up 4 runs in the first two innings and lost to the Yankees, who were, like the Red Sox, scrambling to the end of the season. They did clinch early though - 1 game before the end of the season...

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    Unstated assumptions (Miers)

    Jonah Goldberg, over in the corner this morning, is addressing Harriet Miers' qualifications. Ostensibly addressing, he's actually implicitly buying into the concept that she's unqualified.
    Obviously, one course they could take to derail Miers is to attack her credentials. This must surely be tempting for some who don't want to knock the president's prerogratives, a female nominee or sound like they're reflexively opposed to Christian conservatives.

    Here's the trap. Miers by all accounts is tireless at doing her homework. If she does show up at the hearings and can actually duke it out over the fineries of constitutional jurisprudence, the Democrats will have no place to go (and, I might add, neither will many conservative critics).

    This might mean Miers is in for the Mother-of-All-Cramming-Sessions. (emphasis added)

    Look, I'm certain that, whatever her current state of knowledge, she, as any nominee would be, is in for "the Mother-of-All-Cramming-Sessions." But the statement seems to take, as one of its baseline assumptions, that she doesn't know the things that a Supreme Court nominee ought to know. And I don't see any reason for making that assumption. Even if you want to make the assumption that she was unqualified 5 years ago to evaluate constitutional issues (and I see no reason for making that assumption), she's spent the last five years leading the effort to evaluate and select judges for the appellate courts. Is it remotely conceivable that a hard-working, intelligent, trained lawyer could spend five years in that position and not come away capable of "duk[ing] it out over the fineries of constitutional jurisprudence" with Pat Leahy and Joe Biden? Please. And yet that's what Jonah's take on it seems to imply, that it would somehow be a big surprise if she were able to hold her own in the Judiciary Committee hearings. I think it would be far more shocking if she couldn't.

    It is all part of a pervasive attitude, that there's a certain cloistering necessary. You've got to be a member of the fraternity of judges and/or law professors, otherwise you're just incapable of discussing and deciding constitutional issues. And yet that cloister produced the people that thought McCain/Feingold didn't violate the first amendment (and again, shame on George Bush for signing it), people who think that the phrase "to regulate commerce ... among the several states" means that California can't allow its residents to grow marijuana for their own use, and people who can say, as the California Supreme Court did, "we perceive no reason why both parents of a child cannot be women." Frankly, it seems almost imperative that we get some judges from outside the cloister...

    Over at ConfirmThem, Carol Platt Liebau has some similar thoughts. And there's more, from Tom Bevan at

    Just to be clear, if you scroll down, you'll see that I've been clear that I think Miers was a disappointing pick. I absolutely understand conservative disappointment with it - I'm disappointed, too. What I don't agree with is the attitude that her background automatically leads to the assumption of incompetence. I don't see it.

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    Tuesday, October 04, 2005

    Miers - a disappointing pick

    I had a dream last week. I don't remember what the setting was, exactly, but the part of it that I remember is this - I got the news that President Bush had nominated Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court, and I was high-fiving someone, I don't know who...

    As near as I can tell, that was the first time in my life that I ever had a dream that involved the Supreme Court. I don't know why it came, but I do know that my reaction would have matched my reaction in real life. I desperately wanted President Bush to nominate Janice Rogers Brown. And there were a couple of reasons, despite the fact that I wouldn't recognize her if I tripped over her.

    In the first place, from everything that I know, she's the kind of judge that I want on the Supreme Court, cognizant of the constitutional role of judges vs. the constitutional role of elected politicians.

    But the big reason is that I wanted to watch the confirmation process. I wanted to watch the Democrats try to filibuster the first black woman ever nominated to the court, try to malign as "out of the judicial mainstream" a candidate who was able to win election to the California Supreme Court with 76% of the vote. I thought that the filibuster of the judges, including Judge Brown, over the past several years was disgraceful, but basically invisible - trying it on her on a nomination to the Supreme Court would have been the former but definitely not the latter. There would have been a fight, a fight that needs to be fought, and I wanted to see it.

    That's what disappoints me about the Miers nomination. There are people who know better than I about all of the candidates and wanted a Luttig or McConnell, but I'm not a lawyer, I don't know those people, and have no opinion on Harriet Miers' qualifications. The fact that she's not currently a sitting judge doesn't concern me in the least. Nor does the absence of what would appear to be Roberts-level qualifications. What's important for a Supreme Court justice is an understanding of the Constitution, an understanding of the law, and an understanding of the role of judges. Whether she has those qualifications - I'm in no position to know. George W. Bush is. The evidence suggests that his judicial selections have, on the whole, been good selections. Shall we assume that he's not concerned about making good judicial selections anymore, or that he has reason to believe that this is a good selection? I assume the latter. (Which does not, of course, mean that he's right.) There are people excoriating this selection, assuming that it's a bad pick, and I don't think anyone has enough information to say that, particularly with the certainty with which it's being said.

    But for the reasons I noted, it certainly is a disappointment...

    Beldar has a take on the Miers nomination that is different from most. I agree, as I usually do, with almost all of it.

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    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Harriet Miers

    I know nothing whatsoever, other than the widely reported stuff, about her. I have no idea whether she's a great choice, an awful choice, or somewhere in between. I will say this - W's dad got blamed (rightly so) for Souter, but there was always some of that blame apportioned to John Sununu, who assured him that Souter was really a conservative. If Harriet Miers turns out to be another Souter, George W. Bush will have nobody to blame but himself. No one.

    There's a lot of insta-criticism on the right, but I'm skeptical that anyone's actually in a position to be making it on substantive grounds. The assumption seems to be that if we don't KNOW that she's a conservative, we KNOW that she's not, and I don't think that's fair. There isn't anyone, as far as I can tell, who's in a better position to evaluate her potential than George W. Bush. So, as I say, if this turns out badly, he screwed up, he and he alone, and he'll get no sympathy or pass from me...

    (Yeah, right - as if he needs or wants one...)

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    Monday Pythagorean Report

    AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 10/3/2005







    New York5.47(2)4.87(9)0.553(6)907295675







    Tampa Bay4.63(8)5.78(14)0.4(13)659767952

    Kansas City4.33(12)5.77(13)0.371(14)6010256106-4

    Top 5 projections (using current winning %)



    New York9567


    Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)



    New York9567


    Standings for the week










    New York6(1)6.29(14)0.479(9)34431


    Kansas City4.14(7)5.43(12)0.379(11)34340


    Tampa Bay2.83(12)4.5(9)0.3(13)24240


    They enter the week tied, the Red Sox go 4-3, the Yankees go 4-3. A week ago, I'd have expected that to lead to a play-off in NY this afternoon. But the Indians tanked, losing 6 of their last 7 games, 3 of them to KC and Tampa Bay, 3 to a Chicago team that was resting starters. Not an inspiring finish out there in Cleveland.

    So, this is how it ends - for the first time in 10 years, the Red Sox finish with record as good as New York's, but the Yankees get the AL East title again. Sort of. They get the higher play-off seed, the division winner's seed, while the Red Sox enter as the Wild Card, but had a play-off spot been on the line, they'd have had to play today. According to the Globe:
    There's already plenty of debate about the Yankees claiming they were division champs after they beat the Sox Saturday. New York's record against the Sox gives them a higher playoff seed, but the Sox are contesting the Bronx Bombers' contention that they've now won eight straight AL East titles.

    "We are co-champions," said Sox vice president Charles Steinberg. "The rule is in place only for playoff seeding."

    Which is an interesting take. Certainly, the Red Sox and Yankees tied for first.

    There is one thing that needs to be said, too. There's a template ("Boston chokes again!") into which some people seem to want to fit this failure of the Red Sox to win the division title (" the Red Sox were able to blow a four-game lead over the Yankees with 21 to play" - Jayson Stark). It doesn't work. Boston went 18-13 in September, a .600 winning percentage that was better than their record coming into September. They were 12-9 over those last 21, which was what their season winning percentage suggests that they should be over a 21 game stretch. Boston "blew" nothing - the New York Yankees went 16-5 over their last 21, a ridiculous .762 winning percentage, to catch the Sox.

    And the Yankees had, in some ways, the most outrageously lucky season imaginable. I know people will scoff at that notion, but I think it's true. They had a bad off-season, spending big money on pitchers who had fluke seasons last year in Jaret Wright and Carl Pavano. Then they got lucky, when both of them, plus Kevin Brown, got hurt, and they replaced them with a non-prospect (Wang) and two journeymen (Small and Chacon), who were much better than the hurt pitchers could reasonably have been expected to be. The Red Sox were hammered by injuries that hurt them (Foulke and Schilling) while the Yankees were hammered by injuries that helped. (Wang, Small and Chacon started 38 games, with a 25-8 record, a 1.23 WHIP and a 3.43 ERA - that has "fluke" written all over it in big, bold, bright letters...)

    And it's on to the play-offs...
    • Boston @ Chicago. New York @ Anaheim. Would anyone be surprised to see a Boston/New York ALCS for the 3rd straight year?

    • Clement vs. Contreras is apparently the game 1 match-up. Clement's been wildly inconsistent, but generally effective. He's had 4 or 5 disastrous starts, and the rest have been pretty good, on the whole. Contreras has faced the Red Sox 7 times in regular season games, and he's allowed 35 ER in 27 IP. Advantage, game 1: Boston.

    • Short series - anything can happen.

    • Talk about two teams who took different routes - Chicago allowed 160 fewer runs than Boston did. They scored 169 fewer.

    • For all the talk about Chicago being a "small ball" team (and they certainly have more sacrifice bunts and stolen bases than the Red Sox), they outhomered Boston 200-199. And still scored 169 fewer runs. The White Sox, with their small-ball reputation, was actually MORE dependent on HR than the Red Sox were, as Boston scored 38.2% of their runs on HR, and Chicago scored 42.4% of their runs on HR.

    I'll have more season wrap-up stuff in the next couple of days...

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    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    AL play-off scenario - post-Saturday

    And now we're down to 2 games, and it's simple. New York has clinched the AL East.

    If Boston wins OR Cleveland loses, the Red Sox win the Wild Card.
    If Boston loses AND Cleveland wins, the Red Sox and Indians play a 1-game play-in game for the wild card on Monday in Boston.

    Whatever happens on Sunday, Boston will have at least one game left...

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    A non-apology NON-apology!

    I haven't commented on Bill Bennett's remarks the other day that have caused a stir is various corners. I've got mixed feelings about them. On the one hand, what he said is, demographically speaking, not debateable. On the other hand, a smart guy (a Bennett's a very smart guy) has got to know what the reaction to that kind of statement will inevitably be.

    Well, Bennett himself has responded to the criticism, with the kind of statement we need to see from more people in responding to the politically-correct, don't-speak-the-truth-if-it-offends-someone pop culture of modern America.

    Statement By Bill Bennett, Sep. 30, 2005
    From the Desk of William J. Bennett September 30, 2005

    "On Wednesday, a caller to my radio show proposed the idea that one good argument for the pro-life position would be that if we didn't have abortions, Social Security would be solvent. I stated my doubts about such a thesis, as well as my opposition to such a form of argument (the audio of the call is available at my Website:

    "I then stated that such extrapolations of this argument can cut both ways, and cited the current bestseller, Freakonomics, which discusses the authors' thesis that abortion reduces crime.

    "Then, putting my philosophy professor's hat on, I went on to reveal the limitations of such arguments by showing the absurdity in another such argument, along the same lines. I entertained what law school professors call 'the Socratic method' and what I would hope good social science professors still use in their seminars. In so doing, I suggested a hypothetical analogy while at the same time saying the proposition I was using about blacks and abortion was 'impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible,' just to ensure those who would have any doubt about what they were hearing, or for those who tuned in to the middle of the conversation.

    "The issues of crime and race have been on many people's minds, and tongues, for the past month or so--in light of the situation in New Orleans; and the issues of race, crime, and abortion are well aired and ventilated in articles, the academy, the think tank community, and public policy. Indeed the whole issue of crime and race is not new in social science, nor popular literature. One of the authors of Freakonomics, himself, had an extended exchange on the discussion of these issues on the Internet some years back--which was also much debated in the think tank community in Washington.

    "A thought experiment about public policy, on national radio, should not have received the condemnations it has. Anyone paying attention to this debate should be offended by those who have selectively quoted me, distorted my meaning, and taken out of context the dialogue I engaged in this week. Such distortions from 'leaders' of organizations and parties is a disgrace not only to the organizations and institutions they serve, but to the First Amendment.

    "In sum, let me reiterate what I had hoped my long career had already established: that I renounce all forms of bigotry--and that my record in trying to provide opportunities for, as well as save the lives of, minorities in this country stands up just fine."

    I love it. Absolutely love it. No groveling, no apologizing. No "sorry if anyone was offended." Just the facts.

    Bravo, Dr. Bennett!

    * Full Disclosure Alert *

    I'm a fan of Dr. Bennett's, have been for 20 years. I've got his books on my shelves. But there's more. One of his roles now is that he's the President of K12, an on-line curriculum which is widely used in the charter and home school communities. We are using the K12 curriculum with our kids, and my wife is a contractor representing the company, so we have a financial stake in one of Dr. Bennett's projects. I don't believe that any of that has influenced my reactions to this episode at all, but there it is anyway...

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