Tuesday, May 31, 2005

You can trust the Democratic Senators...

From the AP:

In the privacy of his Capitol office last Monday night, Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., asked for commitments from six Democrats fresh from the talks. Would they pledge to support filibusters against Brett Kavanaugh and William Haynes, two nominees not specifically covered by the pact with Republicans?

Some of the Democrats agreed. At least one, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, declined.

Details of Reid's attempt to kill the two nominations within minutes of the agreement, as well as other events during this tumultuous time, were obtained by The Associated Press in interviews with senators and aides in both parties. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing confidentiality pledges.

On the bookshelf in my parents' home, as I was growing up, there was shelf with political books. One of them was a little volume whose spine read, You Can Trust The Communists. Upon pulling it from the shelf, however, you discovered that there was more to the title. The full title is You Can Trust The Communists (to be Communists) That's how I feel about Democratic Senators. You can trust them to be Democratic Senators, with all that entails, meaning egotistical, untrustworthy, obstructionist and fully in thrall to the far-left.

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Clint Eastwood - 75

Happy Birthday to Clint Eastwood, who turns 75 today.

It's tough to compile a "5 best" list for Clint, so here are a couple of "5 great" list:

    Starring Clint Eastwood
  1. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly - Sergio Leone's sprawling culmination to the "man with no name trilogy". Great performances from Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. Unforgettable vistas, spectacular score from Ennio Morricone. A classic.

  2. Dirty Harry - Honestly, could anyone else have played Harry Callahan? OK, someone else could have, but it wouldn't have worked as well...

  3. Heartbreak Ridge - Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway, winner of the Medal Of Honor in Vietnam, is training marines, and taking them to Grenada.

  4. In The Line Of Fire - One of best thrillers of the 90s

  5. Unforgiven - In many ways, he was Josey Wales 25 years later.



    Directed by Clint Eastwood
  1. The Outlaw Josey Wales - The western as more than just a shoot-'em-up (though there was plenty of shooting...)

  2. Heartbreak Ridge - Not a perfect film, as the scenes with Marsha Mason go too long and there are too many of them, but the training scenes are compelling.

  3. A Perfect World - I think a lot of people expected this to be a different movie than it is. It's not an action film, it's a character study, and director Clint got an outstanding performance from Kevin Costner.

  4. Unforgiven - No one else could have starred in this, and no one else could have directed it. He got fantastic performances from everyone, including himself.

  5. Mystic River - Not a thriller - a drama, and very well done.




Update:
Chris Lynch's list looks very different than mine (though I've also not yet seen Million Dollar Baby...)

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Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

I have only been to Arlington National Cemetery a couple of times in my life. One of them was on Memorial Day weekend, 1986. Memorial Day is, I believe, the only time during the year when there are flags on all of the graves.(picture here). It is a stunning sight.

I've never worn the uniform. I haven't lost any close friends or loved ones. The practical effect of Memorial Day on me, as with many in this country, is a 3-day weekend.

But even for those of us who haven't suffered those losses, it's important to remember, to give thanks for what we've been given.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
- John Stuart Mill

Thank God for those men, better men than me, who gave the full measure of themselves to allow us the freedoms we prize today.




Large Bill has got some links to good Memorial Day pieces today...

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"Wish you were here..."

Chris Lynch is celebrating Memorial Day by hyperlinking Pink Floyd this morning...

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Joe Morgan is as bad at analysis as he was good at baseball...

Joe Morgan was a great baseball player. A first-ballot hall-of-famer, and deservedly so. He could do everything. Over the course of his 22 seasons, he hit for average, hit for power, took walks, and did it all while playing excellent defensive 2nd base. For over two decades, he was one of the very best players in baseball.

He's also very possibly the worst game analyst in baseball history. He's been doing the ESPN Sunday night games for many, many years now, and the next time he says something insightful, or perceptive, or interesting, or intelligent, will be the first. He's just absolutely insufferable. And stunningly unable to appreciate the demonstration of skills that led to induction into Cooperstown.

The number of things that he doesn't know is just comical sometimes. I don't watch the Sunday night games unless the Red Sox are playing, in large part because of Joe's "analysis". Gems like this:


Miller: The Boston Red Sox, you think of as a team that can hit, they've always hit. This year they're second in the league in batting average, 3rd in slugging and number 1 in on-base percentage, which might be the most telling stat of all, Joe.

Morgan: I think that's a surprising statistic to me, you know, on Boston, 'cause that's not normally the way they play the game...You're showing them there first in on-base percentage, that also brings a point that they're taking more pitches, they're making the pitchers throw more strikes now, making them throw more pitches early in the game. All of that goes hand-in-hand with being maybe a better offensive team, maybe even better than they were last year, 'cause they were more free-swingers last year.


2005 Red Sox - 1st in AL in OBP, 1st (3.88) in pitches/plate appearance
2004 Red Sox - 1st in AL in OBP, 1st (3.93) in pitches/plate appearance
2003 Red Sox - 1st in AL in OBP, 2nd (3.83) in pitches/plate appearance

Nothing like having the facts to back up your arguments, huh?


And this, during Ramirez' AB in the 1st, where Mussina had already given up 2 hits, including a mammoth home run to Ortiz.
Mussina's pitching well, he's throwing well. He hasn't made any mistakes.

That's all well and good, but not two minutes earlier, talking about Ortiz' HR, he'd said:
And then he tried to come up and in, which I think is where they want to pitch to Ortiz. Watch, he tries to get the fastball in, and it's not in enough.

So he throws the fastball in, "not in enough," and two minutes later, even though the pitch was "not in enough" and hammered into the upper deck, Mussina still "hasn't made any mistakes."

That's just the top of the first. There was more, much more, but I can't sit through it again.

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Monday Pythagorean Report



AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/23/2005
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Chicago4.66(7)3.45(1)0.634(1)281631133

Baltimore5.49(3)4.56(7)0.584(2)251827162

Minnesota4.69(6)3.95(3)0.578(3)241825171

Boston5.51(2)4.77(9)0.566(4)241925181

Texas5.32(4)4.77(10)0.549(5)242024200

New York5.59(1)5.11(11)0.541(6)24202321-1

Toronto4.8(5)4.39(6)0.541(7)24202321-1

Detroit4.48(9)4.12(4)0.538(8)23192022-3

Anaheim4.19(11)3.93(2)0.529(9)232025182

Cleveland4(13)4.21(5)0.476(10)20221923-1

Seattle4.28(10)4.74(8)0.453(11)19241825-1

Tampa Bay4.56(8)5.93(14)0.381(12)17281530-2

Oakland3.93(14)5.14(12)0.38(13)162717261

Kansas City4.16(12)5.5(13)0.375(14)16281331-3





Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Chicago11448

Baltimore10260

Minnesota9666

Boston9468

Anaheim9468




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Chicago10656

Baltimore9765

Minnesota9468

Boston9270

Texas8973



The Red Sox still project as one of the 4 best teams in the AL, but they'll have to pass one of the 3 in front of them to actually get into play-off position. (Note to anxious fans - there's still time...)




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Texas7.4(1)2.6(1)0.871(1)41501

Anaheim5.71(4)3.29(5)0.734(2)52520

Toronto5.33(5)3.17(4)0.722(3)42420

Cleveland4(8)2.86(2)0.649(4)52520

Tampa Bay6.17(2)4.67(8)0.625(5)42420

Minnesota3.57(12)3(3)0.579(6)43430

Boston5.83(3)5.33(10)0.541(7)3324-1

Baltimore3.83(9)3.67(6)0.52(8)33330

New York4.83(6)5.83(12)0.415(9)24422

Seattle3.67(10)4.5(7)0.407(10)24240

Detroit4.17(7)5.33(10)0.389(11)24331

Chicago2.33(14)4.67(8)0.22(12)15241

Oakland2.83(13)6.17(13)0.194(13)1506-1

Kansas City3.67(10)8.17(14)0.188(14)1506-1


  • One of the keys to Pythagorean underperformance is blow-out wins. If you spread a 24-3 margin over 7 games, you'd expect to go 7-0. When you cram it into two games, you underperform.


  • One of the vagaries of baseball is the way in which events build upon each other sequentially. A pitcher who gives up home run, double, walk, walk, strikeout, strikeout, strikeout will give up 1 run, while a pitcher who gives up strikeout, strikeout, walk, walk, double, home run, strikeout will give up 4, even though they've given up exactly the same at-bat results. Well, it happens with teams and weeks as well. Two days ago, panic was running through large swaths of Red Sox nation, coming off that embarassing sweep in Toronto and a brutal Friday night loss in NY. They made a lot of that panic subside by absolutely hammering the Yankees over the past two days, by a combined total of 24-3. Had they won the first two games of the week and then lost 4 straight, Monday morning would look a lot different.


  • Edgar Renteria had a good week. After being dreadful for the first 39 games, he broke out on the road trip. In a big way. He had at least 1 hit in each of the 6 games, multiple hits in 5 of the 6, and 3 or more in each of the last 4 games.



    Schedule thus far
    GABHHRAVGOBPSLGOPS

    Pre-road trip391593820.2390.2920.3330.626

    road trip6241620.6670.681.0421.722

    total451835440.2950.3420.4260.768


    That's a staggering 1-week boost to all his numbers given where we are in the season.


  • David Wells threw 14 complete innings and 2 partials. He gave up 4 runs in 1, 2 runs in 1 and no runs in 12 (plus 1 inherited runner was allowed in by the bullpen.) His ERA for the week was 4.3, which is nothing special, but he showed signs again, as he had before being hurt, of getting into the kind of groove where he's a very effective pitcher.


  • Detroit went into Baltimore and swept the Orioles. The net result of the Red Sox 2-4 week? Last Monday they were 2 games out of first. Today they're 3 games out. With 4 home games coming against the team in front of them. They can be in first place on Friday morning without any assistance from anyone. They could also play themselves into real trouble. I think that they're far more likely to sweep than be swept...


  • The schedule has favored Boston's division opponents so far:


    Schedule thus far
    HomeAway

    Baltimore3118

    New York2921

    Boston1930


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    Saturday, May 28, 2005

    Time's 100 greatest movies

    A couple of comments on Time Magazine's list of the 100 greatest movies. First, any list like this is, by definition, subjective, so there are always going to be disagreements. Secondly, it's tough to evaluate whether a movie is legitimately on the list without having seen it, and there are a lot of, mostly older, films that I've not seen. That said, some things strike me whilst walking through it.

  • The only Disney movie on the list is not Cinderella, not Snow White, not Sleeping Beauty or Beauty and the Beast or even Mary Poppins. No, it's Pinocchio. Sorry. Wrong. Nothing wrong with Pinocchio, but not the best Disney film.


  • Likewise for Pixar. If I were to list the Pixar films in order of quality, I'd start with The Incredibles and Toy Story, followed by Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story 2. The one Pixar film that I couldn't sit through again? Finding Nemo, which makes Time's list.


  • They got the right two Clint Eastwood movies, with The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and Unforgiven.


  • The other Sergio Leone, movie, however, was the wrong one. As good as Once Upon A Time In The West is, and it is very good, it's not as good as Once Upon A Time In America. The full version.


  • I liked The Purple Rose Of Cairo, but it wasn't as good as Radio Days.


  • I'm actually a big fan of Brazil, but it doesn't warrant inclusion on this list.


  • Only one Bogart? No Treasure of the Sierra Madre? No African Queen?


  • Speaking of prominent omissions, they've left off both of the 1939 classics, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard Of Oz. I love Meet Me In St. Louis, but it's no Wizard of Oz. Gone With The Wind would make my list even if you cut it down to the 10 best. Bad omissions...


  • Groundhog Day is not on the list. It should be.

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    Friday, May 27, 2005

    Anatomy of a disaster

    After 5 full innings, the Red Sox led the Yankees 2-1. And then came the 6th. After Bill Mueller led off with a ground ball to 2nd, the next 10 men reached base safely via hit or walk. Sounds great for Boston, doesn't it?

    Didn't work out that way...

  • Payton doubles.
  • Bellhorn singles, Payton to 3rd.
  • Damon singles, Payton scores, Bellhorn to 2nd. So far, so good.
  • Edgar Renteria gets the Red Sox' 4th consecutive hit, grounding the ball into left field. 3rd base coach Dale Sveum decides to test Tony Womack's arm, and Bellhorn's out at the plate.
  • David Ortiz gets the Red Sox' 5th consecutive hit on a ground ball that Robinson Cano knocks down behind 2nd base. Damon attempts to score from 2nd after slowing up while going into 3rd. He's thrown out.

    So, in the top of the 6th, Randy Johnson gave up a double and 4 consecutive singles, on just 9 pitches. And the Red Sox scored 1 run. Only 1 run from all of that, with two men thrown out at the plate.

    So they take a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the 6th.
  • Williams walks.
  • 1st pitch to Cano, home run. After all the work in the top of the 6th left Boston with only a two-run lead, it took New York only 2 batters to tie it.
  • After Jeter singled against Wakefield...
  • Alan Embree came in and gave up a weak jammed shot that just made it over Bill Mueller's head.
  • Then Gary Sheffield went into the upper deck.

    6-3 Yankees. That was the final score.

    The Red Sox had 5 consecutive hits and scored 1 run. The Yankees had a walk and 4 consecutive hits and scored 5 runs. And that was the story of the game. That and the Red Sox getting the tying run to the plate in the 9th and failing, again, to do anything with it. And the Red Sox complete inability to score base-runners again. They collected 11 hits and 6 walks on the night, 17 base-runners, and plated 3 of them. The Yankees scored 6 of their 15 base-runners.

    It was not a pretty night...

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    Stupidity, Millar and a little perspective...

  • Not even 8:30, and I've already heard the dumbest comment I expect to hear today.

    "People think Varitek's having a great year, but he has fewer RBI than Millar."
    - Gerry Callahan, WEEI

    Varitek (C) - .329/.389/.580/.969 with 9 HR
    Millar (1B) - .244/.342/.331/.673 with 2 HR

    Yes, Gerry, Millar does have 22 RBI in 160 AB behind Ramirez and Ortiz, while Varitek only has 17 in 143 AB behind, well, Millar. If the above lines can't convince someone of the uselessness of RBI as a statistic, then he's not educable.

    "As a statistic, RBIs were not only misleading but dishonest. They depended on managerial control, a hitter's position in the batting order, park dimensions and the success of his teammates in getting on base ahead of him."
    - Branch Rickey, 1954


  • Speaking of Millar...

    I made the case at the beginning of July last year that he was done. He'd just put up a full season of replacement-level shortstop offensive production. Looking at his age, his age when he made the majors, his skill set, I was convinced that he was done as an effective Major League player. He obviously proceeded to make mockery of my argument over the next 3 months.

    I still think I'm right, and the Millar we saw from July through September of last year was a fluke. Over the last two calendar years, he's hit .279/.363/.453/.816. That's not good enough for a major league first baseman. But he's actually been worse than that for the vast majority of that time, because he was so good for a short stretch.



    Kevin Millar
    Time SpanG ABRunsHits2B3BHRRBIBBAVGOBPSLGOPS

    A: 2 years2991058146295602401621200.2790.3630.4530.816

    B: 7/03-9/037225246832001353330.3290.4190.5630.982

    A-B22780610021240227109870.2630.3450.4180.763

    Post-season269211224029110.2390.3270.3480.675

    Totals including Post-season

    A: 2 years3251150157317642421711310.2760.3610.4440.805

    B: 7/03-9/037225246832001353330.3290.4190.5630.982

    A-B25389811123444229118980.2610.3430.4110.754


    For most of the past two years, the Red Sox have had a .261/.343/.411/.754 first baseman. That's not good enough. It's time to make a change. I don't think that Kevin Youkilis is going to hit for enough power to be a great first baseman, but I know that he'll do a much better job reaching base than Millar has done, and frankly, he's likely to slug more than .411 as well. I think that Terry Francona's done, on the whole, a pretty good job, but it's time to make that change.


  • That was an ugly series in Toronto. The Tuesday bullpen meltdown, followed by the complete offensive shutdown. Toronto scored more runs in the first innings of each of the next two games than the Red Sox scored in the two games combined, so they trailed all night long. Very frustrating. More frustrating than the not-hitting, however, was the case of "stupids" that they came down with at the plate. In the fifth inning, they put runners at the corners with no outs. This is a team that's been successful by working the count, making pitchers work, getting a pitch to drive. The next 3 batters were retired on a total of 4 pitches, with Damon and Renteria swinging at the first pitch and Ortiz the 2nd. Dumb, dumb, dumb. In the 6th inning, with the pitcher having walked two of the first 4 batters in the inning, finally having thrown some pitches and tiring, Jay Payton fouls off the first pitch and then, with the bases loaded, grounds into a double play.


  • "I sense a great disturbance in the force..." The mood in Red Sox nation is getting ugly. "What? Overreact? Us???"

    It's May 27. In the last 5 years, the 40 play-off teams have averaged 27-20, about 1 1/2 games better than Boston's 25-21 on May 27. 30% of the play-off teams in the past 5 years have had lower winning percentages on May 27 than Boston does. Three games behind in a 7 game play-off series is panic time - 5 games behind on May 27th is not. They've played poorly for the past two weeks, and it's been frustrating to watch. But it's still a very good team, they're still going to win a lot of games, and it still isn't time to freak out.


  • Oh, and by the way - when the Red Sox finish Sunday night in New York, they'll have 62 home games remaining, and only 51 on the road...




  • Update:
    Mullet and Sully over at The House That Dewey Built are both addressing some of these same issues this morning...

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    Thursday, May 26, 2005

    Beldar thinks I'm wrong

    My reaction to the Senate "deal" was that it was a short-term win for the Democrats without changing the long-term situation.
    In the long-term, nothing's changed - the can's just been kicked down the road aways. If Bush nominates someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, and that person gets filibustered in the absence of anything that clearly represents "an extraordinary circumstance", the Republicans are not bound to refrain from the rule change. That is my interpretation of what it says. "In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th congress." What are the "continuing commitments" made? "Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist." So if a Bush nominee is filibustered, and Lindsey Graham and John Warner and Mike Dewine are not convinced that "such circumstances exist", they're under no obligation to "oppose the rules changes".

    Beldar thinks I'm wrong. (Well, not me, specifically, as he's no idea who I am, but the people that agree with my take.) I suspect that, as a matter of legal language, he's right, and I'm wrong.

    Fortunately for both of us, the "legal language" part is basically irrelevant. This is not a court of law, it's not a legally binding contract. What matters is not whether, if this were a contract, the Republicans would be banned from changing the rules - what matters is whether they consider themselves bound if they feel the Democrats filibuster in circumstances that they consider not to be extraordinary. And they've made it clear that they don't.
    But if there comes a point in time in the future when one of the seven Democrats believes this person before them is so unacceptable they have to get back in the filibuster business, here is what it means to the Republicans--because I helped write the language. It means we will talk, we will listen, and we will discuss why they feel that way. But it means I am back in the ball game. If one of the seven decides to filibuster and I believe it is not an extraordinary circumstance for the country, for the process, then I have retained my rights under this agreement to change the rules if I think that is best for the country. That is only fair. My belief is we will never have to cross that bridge. But those who say this is a one-sided deal misrepresent what happened in that room. This is about moving forward, avoiding conflict in the future by talking and trusting.

    - Lindsey Graham, 5/24/2005

    "...preserved by virtue of this framework clearly in the agreement -- and I've got a copy here -- the constitutional option, which we call it, is not off the table. And we all 14 understand that. It is very much on the table."

    - Senator Warner, Fox, 5/24/05 (I don't have a link)

    Even John McCain.
    HANNITY: But if the Democrats - if this is the first time they did it, didn't they get a reward for this? And what guarantee is there they won't do it in the future?

    MCCAIN: If they do it in the future, the agreement we had will be null and void. We've made an agreement that they will only filibuster under, quote, "extraordinary circumstances."

    HANNITY: Does that mean that a conservative is appointed? Is that "extraordinary"?

    MCCAIN: No, it does not. That will be our judgment, not - as well as theirs.

    Look, this was based on trust. That's the way the Senate works. We have to work that way. And I'm confident - listen, I can't tell you. A number of my colleagues came up to me today and say, "Thank you. We need to now go about the business of the Senate."

    ...

    HANNITY: If there's a nominee like a Miguel Estrada, if there is a nominee like a Robert Bork or a Scalia or a Thomas, and the Democrats say that's an extraordinary circumstance, will you then join with Bill Frist and go forward with that option, because you feel that they will have broken the agreement?

    MCCAIN: I will - I can't name those names because I never examined any of them that carefully although Estrada clearly was qualified. But if we make a judgment that these nominees are extraordinarily unqualified, we'll agree with them. But if they're not, then we will - we will go ahead and go forward.

    HANNITY: But Rehnquist, Scalia, Thomas, those are all qualified people who should not be filibustered? People like them.

    MCCAIN: ...I'm confident that these seven Democrats would not filibuster those individuals.
    (emphasis mine)

    So the Republicans clearly agree with my interpretation, whatever the legal language.

    And that's the important part...

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    Top 5 worst Best Pictures

    When people talk about undeserved Academy Awards, The Greatest Show On Earth tends to get mentioned. Well, it doesn't make my list. That's because I haven't seen it. Of the 77 Best Picture winners in Oscar history, I've seen only 39, but I've seen most of the recent ones. Since 1971, I've seen 27 of 34, since 1980, 21 of 25, and all but 2 since 1989. (The 7 since 1971 that I haven't seen - Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, Platoon, The Last Emperor, The English Patient and Million Dollar Baby, the last of which is on my "must-see" list as soon as it's available on video).

    Before I get to my list, I want to address some of the movies that I've seen other people list, and that I disagree with completely.
  • Rocky
    My theory on Rocky is this - the people that criticize it as a Best Picture winner are, for the most part, too young to have seen it in theatres. When they did see it, it wasn't a movie, but a phenomenon. If you start with the understanding that it's just the first in the series that includes Rocky IV and Rocky V, you may not have the same appreciation that someone walking into a theatre in 1976 had. Taken on its own, without imposing the baggage of weak sequels, there's just nothing not to like and admire about it.

  • Chariots Of Fire
    I guess I can understand how someone might think this a little slow. But I don't. Excellent characters, fascinating true story, beautiful scenery, haunting and original music - this was an excellent film.

  • Titanic
    If I went out to 10, my list might include it. The appeal of Leonardo DiCaprio completely escapes me, the "love story" was trite, cliched and boring, the dialogue was weak. I think L.A. Confidential was a better movie. All of that said, film is a visual medium, and the visuals that Cameron filmed are some of the most impressive ever put on screen. The technical accomplishment that this movie represents prevents it from making it into my top 5.




  • That out of the way, here is my list of the 5 worst movies (that I've seen) ever to win Best Picture awards:

  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
    What can I say? I don't like Jack Nicholson. The only Jack Nicholson movies that I've liked were A Few Good Men, in which he had a small part that his over-acting didn't quite ruin, and Broadcast News, in which he had only a bit part. Nothing else he's done has done anything for me, and that includes Cuckoo's Nest. It was overdone, overwrought and over-acted.

  • Gladiator (2000)
    I don't dislike Russell Crowe, or anyone else involved with this. I just think it was a mess. The fight scenes are cluttered and busy, essentially visual "white noise", and there's nothing of value beyond the fight scenes. There are no significant characters, it's just a bloody revenge movie. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it just didn't work for me. At all.

  • Shakespeare in Love (1998)
    Bland and inoffensive, light and amusing, ought not be the standard for Best Picture...

  • Terms of Endearment (1983)
    For many years, this was number one on my list. Simpering soap opera, ridiculously over-the-top performances from Shirley MacLaine and Jack Nicholson, irritating characters, cliched scenarios. This wasn't just a bad Best Picture winner - it was a bad movie.

  • American Beauty (1999)
    But not as bad as this. I was shocked when I saw it and realized that it had even been nominated, never mind won. It's one of the worst movies that I've seen in the past 15 years, and that covers a lot of territory. It was absolutely without redeeming qualities. The characters were caricatures, the performances were shrill, the "twist" was obvious. There was not one likeable character. There was not one admirable character. There wasn't a single impressive or important or entertaining scene. Absolutely appalling trash.
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    Wednesday, May 25, 2005

    Loose lips

    Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala) is outraged with comments made by Bill Maher on his HBO show. Let me just start by saying that I consider Bill Maher to be an utterly loathsome individual. On the very few occasions that I've watched him at all, it has been confirmed for me that I don't want to watch him at all. That said, Congressmen have responsibilities, and "I think it borders on treason", from Re. Bachus is probably not a helpful comment in any respect. The first amendment guarantees Bill Maher the right to be a complete idiot, a right that he exercises regularly. To have a representative of the federal government making comments like that carries an implicit threat that is unwarranted.

    As for Maher, what he said was contemptible. Talking about the military missing recruiting goals, he said "More people joined the Michael Jackson fan club. We've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit, and now we need warm bodies."

    In a statement released Monday night, Maher defended his support for the American armed forces.

    "Anyone who knows anything about my views and has watched my show knows that I have nothing but the highest regard for the men and women serving this country around the world," Maher said in the statement.


    Yeah, right, Bill. If you have "nothing but the highest regard for the men and women serving this country around the world", then what exactly did you mean by saying "we've done picked all the low-lying Lynndie England fruit"? Doesn't that imply a certain contempt for some portion of the armed forces? That's certainly how I read it.

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    Ismail Merchant

    Film producer Ismail Merchant has died in London. An immigrant to England from India, he teamed with James Ivory to produce such films as "A Room With A View" and "Howard's End". Their films tended to be well-mannered and British in nature.

    It would be inaccurate to say that I was or am a big Merchant-Ivory fan. I've always had a general sort of approval of what I perceive their films to be. I'm glad that someone is making literate movies, movies with character development driving plots, movies that depend on characters and not explosions or gun battles or car chases. Not that I have any problem with explosions or gun battles or car chases, you understand, because they certainly can have their place, and be done well, and work. But there's a limit to how much of that material you need, and Hollywood exceeded it long ago.

    As for Mr. Merchant, I find, looking through his filmography that I've only actually seen two of his films. Which does surprise me. Howard's End is a movie that I've watched, but I didn't see it in a theatre, I may have been distracted while it was on, and frankly, it made little impact on me. I honestly don't remember much of anything that happened.

    But one of the great movies of the 1990s, in my opinon, was The Remains Of The Day. With great performances from Anthony Hopkins* and Emma Thompson, and strong supporting parts from Christopher Reeve, Edward Fox and even Hugh Grant, it was a strong and subtle character study, that was fascinating to watch unfold. I've not read the book (I hadn't even heard of it before the movie) and I don't know whether it would play well to a fan of the book or not. But as a movie, I think it's a masterpiece.





    * - One of the great Oscar injustices took place in 1994, as Tom Hanks won for Philadelphia against vastly superior performances from Liam Neeson in Schindler's List and Anthony Hopkins in The Remains Of The Day. Not that there was anything particularly wrong with Hanks' performance, but it was a pedestrian part in a pedestrian film. There was absolutely nothing about Philadelphia that raised it above the level of a "disease-of-the-week" movie on Lifetime, and Hanks won for one reason, and one reason only. And we all know what it was. It was the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences patting themselves on the back for their moral superiority because they "cared" about the plight of people with AIDS. As to the performances themselves, you could have put Hopkins in Philadelphia and it would have worked just fine. As good as Hanks is, he could never have played Stevens in The Remains Of The Day successfully...

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    Owen confirmed...

    ...to the 5th circuit. 56-43, with 54 Republicans (all but Lincoln Chaffee) and and Democrats Robert Byrd and Mary Landrieu. (Sen. Inouye was absent).

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    Democrats voting "yes" on Owen Cloture motion

    Jason Smith is looking at the cloture "no" votes on the Owen nomination and rightly notes that "it's not surprising to see which Senators wanted to keep obstructionism alive and abuse the system for the benefit of a small fringe group of radical Leftists".

    But the group that I think is interesting is the Democrat "Yes" voters.

    Akaka (D-HI)
    Baucus (D-MT)
    Bayh (D-IN)
    Bingaman (D-NM)
    Carper (D-DE)
    Clinton (D-NY)
    Conrad (D-ND)
    Durbin (D-IL)
    Feinstein (D-CA)
    Harkin (D-IA)
    Johnson (D-SD)
    Kohl (D-WI)
    Leahy (D-VT)
    Mikulski (D-MD)
    Nelson (D-FL)
    Obama (D-IL)
    Reid (D-NV)
    Rockefeller (D-WV)
    Schumer (D-NY)
    Wyden (D-OR)

    These people have all voted against cloture repeatedly*. What's changed? How does the "deal" affect their position?

    Well, obviously, Byrd, Landreiu, Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Pryor and Salazar had to change their votes because they were signatories to the "deal". But what about the rest of them?

    If they were taking a principled position that cloture shouldn't be invoked on the Owen nomination because there was more debate that needed to be done, they should still be voting "no", shouldn't they? Owen hasn't changed, her positions haven't changed. The only thing that's changed is that some of their colleagues have agreed to vote "yes" on cloture. Why is Hillary Clinton voting "yes"? Pat Leahy? Chuck Schumer? Dick Durbin? Are they trying to pretend that they aren't and haven't been exercising pure political obstruction?

    There's absolutely no principled reason for a "yes" vote from any of these people. I have more respect (on this issue anyway) for the "principled obstructionists" than the "vote-with-the-winning-team" spineless wonders.




    * - I'm not certain that's the case with Salazar, or either Nelson.

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    Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    Senate Memorandum of understanding

    MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING ON JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS

    We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by Majority Leader Frist and Democratic Leader Reid. This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.

    This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to subsequent individual nominations to be made by the President and to be acted upon by the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.

    We have agreed to the following:

    Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations

    A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit), and Priscilla Owen (5th Circuit).

    B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (9th Circuit) and Henry Saad (6th Circuit).

    Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations

    A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the Advice and Consent Clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

    B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.

    We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word “Advice” speaks to consultation between the Senate and the President with regard to the use of the President’s power to make nominations. We encourage the Executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

    Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.

    We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as Senators seek to uphold.




    Signatories
    RepublicansDemocrats

    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)



    I don't like this deal. I don't like it at all. They've taken William Myers and Henry Saad and thrown them under the bus. There are reports that it's actually worse, that they've also conceded, just not in writing, to also give up on Brett Kavanaugh and William Haynes. And, of course, Estrada and Kuhn and Pickering have already withdrawn rather than put up with the ridiculous smearing that's going on by the liberal interest groups and their lapdogs in the mainstream press and US Senate. So of the 10 judges that the Democrats started filibustering, 3 will get up-or-down votes in the US Senate. That's not good enough. That's nowhere near good enough, and Lindsey Graham and John Warner and Susan Collins should be ashamed of themselves. (So should the others, but I don't see that any of them are redeemable, and thus worth worrying about.)

    But all of that said, it isn't quite the complete and total sell-out that some are making it out to be. In my opinion, anyway. It is interesting to note that the partisans on the left are just as upset as the partisans on the right. The true believers are appalled that Owen, Pryor and Brown are going to be confirmed.

    My take on the MOU (memorandum of understanding) is this: the Democrats win in the short term. They kill the nominations of Myers and Saad, possibly Kavanaugh and Haynes, and keep the right to filibuster. The only short-term downside to them is the confirmation of Owen, Brown and Pryor, and those were going to happen one way or the other. That's why it's a loss for the Republicans - if they'd gone ahead and changed the rules, they'd go ahead and confirm those three, plus Kavanaugh and Haynes, and the Democrats wouldn't be able to stop it.

    In the long-term, nothing's changed - the can's just been kicked down the road aways. If Bush nominates someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, and that person gets filibustered in the absence of anything that clearly represents "an extraordinary circumstance", the Republicans are not bound to refrain from the rule change. That is my interpretation of what it says. "In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th congress." What are the "continuing commitments" made? "Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist." So if a Bush nominee is filibustered, and Lindsey Graham and John Warner and Mike Dewine are not convinced that "such circumstances exist", they're under no obligation to "oppose the rules changes".

    As The New Republic put it, "Republicans will allow Democrats to keep the filibuster as long as Democrats never use it. This way, both sides win (except for the Democrats)." I think that's overstated. But there's a hint of truth about it. The reaction from the right is that the Republicans gave up the ability to change the rules, the reaction from the left is that the Democrats gave up the right to filibuster. I don't think either reaction is correct. The Democrats gave up the right to filibuster 3 specific nominees. The Republicans gave up the right to change the rules today. But nothing in that memorandum fundamentally changed the basics of the situation. The Democrats are still going to try to defeat conservative nominees, and the Republican majority still has the right to change the rules if the current rules are abused. But they won't do it without really obvious and flagrant abuse.

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    Monday, May 23, 2005

    Monday Pythagorean report



    AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 5/23/2005
    ProjectedActual

    R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

    Chicago4.66(7)3.45(1)0.634(1)281631133

    Baltimore5.49(3)4.56(7)0.584(2)251827162

    Minnesota4.69(6)3.95(3)0.578(3)241825171

    Boston5.51(2)4.77(9)0.566(4)241925181

    Texas5.32(4)4.77(10)0.549(5)242024200

    New York5.59(1)5.11(11)0.541(6)24202321-1

    Toronto4.8(5)4.39(6)0.541(7)24202321-1

    Detroit4.48(9)4.12(4)0.538(8)23192022-3

    Anaheim4.19(11)3.93(2)0.529(9)232025182

    Cleveland4(13)4.21(5)0.476(10)20221923-1

    Seattle4.28(10)4.74(8)0.453(11)19241825-1

    Tampa Bay4.56(8)5.93(14)0.381(12)17281530-2

    Oakland3.93(14)5.14(12)0.38(13)162717261

    Kansas City4.16(12)5.5(13)0.375(14)16281331-3






    Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
    Chicago11448

    Baltimore10260

    Minnesota9666

    Boston9468

    Anaheim9468



    Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
    Chicago10656

    Baltimore9765

    Minnesota9468

    Boston9270

    Texas8973





    Standings for the week
    ProjectedActual

    R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

    Chicago5.17(5)2.83(1)0.75(1)5142-1

    Cleveland5(7)2.83(1)0.739(2)4233-1

    Texas6(2)4(7)0.677(3)42420

    Toronto4.5(9)3.33(3)0.634(4)4233-1

    New York4.83(8)3.67(4)0.624(5)42420

    Oakland5.83(3)4.5(9)0.617(6)4233-1

    Anaheim4(11)3.67(4)0.54(7)33421

    Kansas City6.5(1)6.33(14)0.512(8)3324-1

    Baltimore5.83(3)5.83(12)0.5(9)33330

    Minnesota3.83(12)4(7)0.481(10)33421

    Tampa Bay4.5(9)5.17(11)0.437(11)3315-2

    Boston5.17(5)6(13)0.432(12)33330

    Seattle3.5(13)4.5(9)0.387(13)24331

    Detroit2.83(14)3.67(4)0.384(14)24331




  • Not a great week, but taking 2-of-3 from Atlanta enabled them to finish it at 3-3 after the dreary start in Oakland.


  • Wade Miller. 'Nuff said.


  • Clement was mediocre in Oakland on Tuesday (and looked awful because Mantei allowed the 2 runners that he left (with 2 out) to score. He was awesome yesterday. Atlanta had 3 hits and a hit batsmen in the 4th, and scored their two runs. They had 1 hit in the 9th. They had no baserunners in the other 7 innings. One of the issues that Clement generally takes to the mound is that he tends to throw a lot of pitches. He threw only 110 in 9 innings yesterday.


  • After 43 games, they're 1 games behind last year's pace. They've allowed 27 more runs (204 vs. 178) and scored 16 more (237 vs. 221). The latter is really surprising given how much it feels like they've struggled offensively, and they've played so few games at home. What's important to remember is that last year's team was playing Gabe Kapler in right and Pokey Reese at SS.
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    Friday, May 20, 2005

    Fisking Durbin

    The members of the United States Senate are all proud of their reputation as "The World's Greatest Deliberative Body", but is it really deserved? I rather suspect not. A comment that was made about a section of Illinois Senator Dick Durbin's speech on the Senate floor made me curious, so I went to take a look at it. The verdict?

    Pathetic.

    Irrational, illogical, emotional, nonsensical. Is this supposed to somehow pass for informed debate?

    I made the point of how interesting it was that while very few lawyers in America belong to the Federalist Society--maybe 1 percent--it turns out that about a third of President Bush's nominees belong to this Federalist Society. I referred to it as the "secret handshake" at the White House and that, if you belong, you have a much better chance to become a judge.

    Do you have a much better chance to be nominated by President Bush because you belong to the Federalist Society, or do you belong to the Federalist Society because your conception of the role and responsibility of a judge is similar to that of President Bush? The latter construct strikes me as far more likely, and Durbin seems to be implying the former.

    According to their website, the Federalist Society
    is a group of conservatives and libertarians interested in the current state of the legal order. It is founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.

    How sinister! But that sounds an awful lot like what President Bush is looking for in a judge, doesn't it? Durbin's tossing around "the Federalist Society" as a scary bogeyman. Period. There's nothing rational or intelligent in that comment, it's just fear-mongering and guilt by implication. Unworthy of an intelligent debate.

    This curious, semisecret society is so quickly disavowed by its members whenever you ask a public question about it. Yet it appears to be one of the most important things you can add to your resume if you want to be a judge from the Bush administration.

    Evidence? Right, he's got none. Correlation does not equal causation. He fails the basic test of logic here.
    And Priscilla Owen of Texas--surprise, surprise--is a member and officer of the Federalist Society. I do not think she should be disqualified because of that.

    Then why did you bring it up?
    There is nothing illegal about it. I do not know what the philosophy is other than what they state on their Web site.

    Well, that's pretty clear, isn't it?
    It is very conservative. It thinks that liberals are ruining the world. It goes on and on.

    On and on. Very scary.
    I am not saying that if you belong to that you should not be qualified to serve on the bench. That is not the point. But when I asked someone such as Priscilla Owen, a supreme court justice from Texas whose time must be very precious, why she took the time to join this organization and she cannot or will not answer it, I think it is important.

    I voted to confirm the vast majority of President Bush's nominees and a lot of Federalist Society members, so I am not blackballing or disqualifying them.

    Then why on earth are you bringing it up? Oh, that's right, as a bogeyman. Carry on...

    I think their views are extreme and off base, from my point of view. I think their views are extreme and off base when we look at mainstream America. How can you say, as they do, that the legal profession is strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology?

    Umm...maybe because you think it to be true? Just guessing...
    Look at the 13 Federal courts of appeal and you find 10 of those Federal courts of appeal in America dominated by Republican-appointed judges. Liberal ideology? How can you say the legal profession is strongly dominated by a form of orthodox liberal ideology when seven out of the nine members of the U.S. Supreme Court were appointed by Republican Presidents?

    How dishonest is that? Extremely. The question, Mr. Durbin, is not who nominated them, but what sort of behavior they've exhibited. David Souter was nominated by a Republican president. Does anyone consider him a conservative judge? I think not. John Paul Stevens was nominated by that noted right-wing firebrand Gerald Ford. 30 years ago. Do you consider him a conservative?

    Senator Leahy asked if we could consider a nominee from Utah, who would have likely won confirmation easily yesterday. Senator Frist refused. He insisted on bringing up this nomination of Priscilla Owen, one of the most controversial judicial nominees in recent memory, someone who has already been rejected by the Senate.

    Another lie. Owen hasn't ever been "rejected by the Senate". She's had majority support since her hearing, but a minority has blocked a floor vote. It's pathologically dishonest to say that she's been "rejected by the Senate".

    Why would the majority leader flatly refuse every effort to find a way out of this crisis? I don't know. It is possible he is still taking advice from people who should not be trusted for advice. I don't know if the name Manny Miranda rings a bell, but it should.

    It sure does. He was the staffer who made public the extent to which the Senate Democrats were doing the bidding of special interest groups, to the degree that they were specifically filibustering Miguel Estrada because he was hispanic. Mr. Miranda did this by exposing memos that Senate Democrats, in electronic terms, left "lying around" in public.
    From the spring of 2002 until April 2003, Mr. Miranda was working for the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ORRIN HATCH, and then for majority leader BILL FRIST. Mr. Miranda and other Republican staff hacked into the committee's computers and systematically stole thousands of documents, including confidential memos between Democratic Senators and their staff.

    Words have meanings, Senator. "Hacked" does not mean "went into un-protected space on a common network to read un-encrypted, un-protected, un-classified documents."
    Senator Hatch asked the Senate Sergeant at Arms to conduct an investigation. Mr. Miranda was forced to resign from the Senate staff in disgrace. The findings of the Sergeant at Arms investigation were referred to the Justice Department, which then assigned a special prosecutor to the case.

    Two years later, with the case still unresolved and finished, it appears Mr. Miranda is back. According to news reports, he is now helping to lead the nuclear option fight from outside the Senate. Yesterday, Mr. Miranda sent an e-mail to allies of Senator Frist, demanding, "a straightforward rallying cry: NO DEALS, VOTE PRINCIPLE" and "NO UNPRINCIPLED COMPROMISES."

    This is known as an ad hominem attack. Someone I don't like is supporting this idea, so it must be a bad idea. Real elevated debate here.
    So here we have a former aide to Senator Frist, a person who, according to the investigation, broke into Senate computers. He is now in charge of rallying the troops on the conservative side. He is the cheerleader for the nuclear option. And he is demanding that Senator Frist and other Republicans break the Senate rules to give extremist judges lifetime appointments.

    No one's talking about breaking rules. They're talking about changing them. There is a difference.
    There is another thing that should be addressed. Senator Frist has given his word in writing that he will not seek to eliminate the filibuster when it comes to legislation--just judicial nominees, Senator Frist said. But he also said he is leaving the Senate at the end of next year. He has voluntarily, on his own, decided to limit the terms that he would serve. So the next majority leader, Republican or Democrat is not obliged to take any promise Senator Frist might make.

    Duh. And your point is?
    The truth is, if this Senate, for the first time in history, rejects the principle of extended debate,

    I love that. "Extended debate." Yeah, there's a lot of high-minded debate going on. "Oh, no, we aren't trying to keep these majority-supported nominees off the bench, nosiree. We just need to have more time to debate the nominations..."
    there is no guarantee that the damage of the nuclear option will not spread.

    Unlike much of what he has to say, that's actually true. It's also irrelevant, because even if they don't "reject the principle of extended debate", there's no guarantee that the "damage of the nuclear option" won't spread. (By the way, while I'm here, thank you very little, Senator Lott, for the phrase "nuclear option." It's as if you want to lose...)
    Supporters of the nuclear option say they only want to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees. It doesn't take much imagination to consider the possibility of a majority leader in the future saying, with gas prices at an all-time high, America just cannot afford an extended debate on an energy bill.

    And maybe he'll be right...
    If we eliminate extended debate for judges who serve for life, why would we preserve unlimited debate on the nominations of Cabinet Secretaries who leave office with the President who appoints them? Or on laws that can be reversed by the next Congress? The truth is, this line in the sand will disappear with the next wave.

    That's what happens when you abuse privileges. They get revoked.
    This is not about principle. It is about politics.

    I'm shocked - shocked! - to discover politics in the US Senate. Appalling.

    But of course you, Senator Durbin, are operating out of principle, not politics, right? This matches what you've said in the past?

    "We should meet our responsibility. I think that responsibility requires us to act in a timely fashion on nominees sent before us. ... Vote the person up or down." - 9/28/98

    "If, after 150 days languishing on the Executive Calendar that name has not been called for a vote, it should be. Vote the person up or down." - 9/28/98

    Oops. I guess not...
    Today I am in the minority. You are in the majority. That could change. Every election, the people of this country have the final word on who will be the majority party in the Senate. What has endured throughout all the changes in history from one party to the next is a basic concept and that is, no matter how large your majority, you must respect the minority in the Senate. It is not democracy if you do not respect the minority--it is tyranny.

    Democracy means majority rules. Period.
    We know that. The Greeks knew that when they invented the term.

    Greek demos (people) kratos (rule). Rule (government) by the people. That says nothing about protecting the minority. A Republic protects (at least theoretically) the minority.

    And Senator, "respect"ing the minority does not now mean, nor has it ever meant, giving them a permanent veto. You have rights, Senator. You have the right to debate the nomination. You have the right to vote against it in committee. You have the right to vote against it on the floor. You do not have the right to prevent a vote on a majority-supported nominee. You shouldn't, anyway.
    I come from the Democratic side of the aisle. I understand if you are going to put a person on the bench, 9 times out of 10 you should look for a person who is going to try to be moderate and mainstream.

    So 10% wacko extremists is just A-OK, huh?
    What I found is that 10 times out of 10, with very few exceptions, that is exactly what we have ended up with.

    How can you not laugh at that? 10 out of 10 means 100%. Very few exceptions means NOT 100%. He's contradicting himself in 9 words.

    So when we find, among 218 nominees, 10 who fall into this extreme category, when we say they have gone too far, when we say to the President: You may have 95 percent, but for this other 4 or 5 percent the answer is no--I think we are doing what the Constitution asks us to do: advise and consent.

    But wait a minute - you just said that 10% extremists was OK, and now 4-5% is too much?
    But the President, of course, says no. I want them all. No dissent, no disagreement--I want every single judge. Strike "advise and consent" and put "consent" in there.

    Utterly incoherent. The "advise" stage is past. It's time to either "consent" or "not consent". The President has made his nominations. What is the Senate going to advise him on? Either consent or don't, but do one or the other.
    That is what this President wants. Maybe that is what every President wanted.

    You think? Maybe? Do you think that possibly this President has done what every President has done, nominated judges because he wanted those judges on the court?
    But the Congress and Senate in particular in the past have told those Presidents: No. We have the right to ask these questions and to demand the answers.

    Absolutely. That's the "consent" part of "advise and consent".
    And if we find a nominee wanting, we have the right to reject them,

    Right. No one has denied that, that I'm aware of. Ever.
    either by extended debate and filibuster or by the majority vote that ultimately that candidate would face if a motion for cloture prevailed.

    That's where you're wrong. Extended debate isn't a rejection - it's a minoritarian tactic to prevent a vote on a candidate with majority support.
    So in this case, they have decided that rather than hold these nominees to the same standard, they will change the rules of the Senate.

    What same standard is that? The standard that a judicial nominee with the support of a majority of Senators gets confirmed?
    That is what the nuclear option is about, changing the rules in the middle of the game,

    Who changed the rules in the middle of the game first? You did, Senator, by invoking a filibuster to prevent a vote on a judicial nominee with majority support. For the first time. The Democrats changed the de facto rules of the game. The "nuclear" (I prefer "constitutional") option does nothing but restore the rules.
    diminishing the constitutional principle of checks and balances,

    That is staggering in its intellectual dishonesty. The constitutional principle of checks and balances holds that the President nominates judges, and the Senate confirms them. The rule change does nothing to alter that check and balance.
    reducing the power of the Senate against the power of the White House and the Presidency,

    Again, it's not the Presidency that's gaining power here at the expense of the Senate; it's the Senate majority at the expense of the Senate minority. Were the Senate minority not abusing the power that it has, there'd be no need for the rule change. Play with fire, get burned - don't whine about it.
    and saying to this President: You may make lifetime appointments of judges without holding them to the same standards that every President's nominees have been held to.

    Oh, are they going to be confirmed without the consent of a majority of US Senators?

    No, I didn't think so.
    Some time next week--and I pray to God it does not happen--Vice President Cheney may take that chair, preside over the Senate, and with just a few words sweep away 200 years of tradition. It is an act of arrogance to think that any person would do that without reflecting on the history of this body and its traditions.

    Who wrote this drivel, Senator? It's not an "act of arrogance" to "think that any person would do that". You obviously think that it would be an "act of arrogance" to actually make that ruling, but that's not what you said.

    And I'm sure that Cheney, as well as all of the Republican Senators, have "reflect[ed] on the history of this body and its traditions." If a half dozen Democrats would do that as well, and let the nominees have up-or-down votes, as you yourself have said in the past is the Senate's responsibility, there'd be no need for that "act of arrogance."
    I sincerely hope that six Republican Senators will show the courage to speak out for the value of our Constitution and the tradition of the Senate.

    Article I, section 5: "Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings"
    Article II, section 2: "The President...shall have Power...by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint ...Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United State"
    What does more harm to the "value of our Constitution", the Senate changing their own rules, or a minority of Senators preventing a vote on a judicial nominee?



    There's more, but it's just tough sledding to get through. "World's greatest deliberative body"? Not when Dick Durbin's speaking...

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    I'm not sure why anyone would care, but...

    Following up on a couple of questions in response to Chris (A Large Regular)...


    Q: Total volume of music files on my computer:

    169 songs, about 750 MB. The vast majority is stuff that I've sung in choir, burned to CD off of tape, and then archived or compiled on the computer. Virtually nothing downloaded, and not much off of albums (though that will change, as I got an iPod for my birthday this week.)

    Q: The last CD I bought:

    The Magnificat (JS Bach)

    Q: Song playing now:

    Tiergarten. Tangerine Dream

    Q: Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me:

    I don't listen to "songs" that much. I've been listening a lot to Handel's Messiah, particularly the 2nd and 3rd sections. "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" and "Worthy Is The Lamb" are meaningful and spectacular, but of course, so is the rest of the oratorio. I've got Mendelssohn's Elijah in the CD player in my car, and the last chorus from that is one of the greatest choruses I've ever sung. When I listen to something a little more recent, I like "One" from U2's Achtung Baby, and "Where The Streets Have No Name" from The Joshua Tree. I stopped listening to FM radio in 1988, and other than U2, I haven't got anything in my collection that was written later than ~1985...

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    Thursday, May 19, 2005

    More judicial punditry

  • The Washington Times has Former Senator Bob Dole on the historical context and unprecedented nature of the Democratic judicial filibusters.
    By creating a new 60-vote threshold for confirming judicial nominees, today's Senate Democrats have abandoned more than 200 years of Senate tradition.
    For the first time, judicial nominees with clear majority support are denied an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor through an unprecedented use of the filibuster. This is not a misrepresentation of history; it's a fact.


  • One of the surest ways to determine whether the Democrats are at fault in any political confrontation is to consult the likes of Howard Fineman. If the Republicans are at fault, the pundit class will say that the Republicans are to blame. If both sides are equally to blame, the pundit class will say that the Republicans are to blame. And if the Democrats are to blame, the pundit class will say that the parties are both at fault, equally to blame, etc.

    So, here's Howard:

    I'll leave it to others to weigh the exact measure of blame for this; I would say that both parties are at fault.

    Hardline Republicans and Democrats BOTH insist that they want to save the Senate as we know it from procedural abuses. They both can't be right. Indeed, they're probably both wrong.


    That says it all...

  • And David Broder is fear-mongering for the Republicans today in the Washington Post. I'm repeating myself here, but once again we see the canard trotted out that the filibuster will still protect Republicans as long as they don't get rid of it right now.
    But I was struck by the comment of Utah's Robert Bennett, class of 1993, a second-generation senator who learned his love of the institution at his father's knee. Bennett puts much of the blame for the current crisis on the Democrats, for blocking people such as Miguel Estrada, who served with distinction in the Clinton administration Justice Department but nonetheless was filibustered so long that he withdrew as a Bush appeals court nominee.

    But Bennett said that, whatever the outcome of this vote, he fears that a sword has been unsheathed that will forever change the way the Senate operates. "Once we [Republicans] try to change the rules with 51 votes, the precedent is on the table," he said. "If Hillary Clinton becomes president with a Democratic Senate and wants to appoint Lani Guinier to the Supreme Court, Harry Reid could make that happen with 51 votes."

    That is a thought for Republicans to ponder.

    OK, let's ponder it. President Hillary Clinton? Scary thought. Lani Guinier nomination to the Supreme Court? Scary thought. 55 Democratic Senators supporting the nomination being blocked by 45 Republicans opposed? How long will that last before the rule gets changed? 5 minutes? 10?

    It's nonsense. If we ever seen a Democratic majority thwarted on a Supreme Court nomination by a Republican minority, the Democrats will change the rule. Period. With the full-throated support of the New York Times, the Washington Post, CBS, NBC, ABC and yes, even David Broder.

    Tell me I'm wrong, if you want, but don't expect me to believe it...

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    Must read quotes collection

    Over at Free Republic, Peach has collected statements from Democratic Senators explaining that filibustering judges is not appropriate. A must-read collection.

    A couple of highlights:

    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "Our institutional integrity requires an up-or-down vote." (Congressional Record, 10/4/99)

    Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT): "I have stated over and over again ... that I would object and fight against any filibuster on a judge, whether it is somebody I opposed or supported" (Congressional Record, 6/18/98)

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    Red Sox odds and ends

    A couple of odds and ends.

  • I really dislike the West coast road trips. Baseball is a major part of the rhythm of the summer for me, to have a game every night. It's part of life. The last 7:00 game that they played was on Tuesday of last week, over a week ago. I miss it. They're still playing (most days), but it just doesn't feel right.


  • It goes without saying that yesterday afternoon wasn't pleasant for the Red Sox or Red Sox fans. It happens. The problem is that it comes at the end of a stretch where they've played 6 games in 7 days, and 4 of them have started at 10:00 at night. The only two games that many people have had a chance to see in the last week were the Sunday loss at Seattle and the debacle yesterday. Not that anyone in Red Sox Nation would overreact, of course, but maybe it was just one game yesterday...


  • There's a lot of dissatisfaction with David Wells this morning. Understandable dissatisfaction. But the people slamming him as selfish for not having taken a rehab start strike me as classic 2nd guessers. Yes, he hadn't started a game in 23 days. But last year, he took exactly the same break with a hand injury. 23 days after his last start, without a rehab start, he took the mound and shut out the Red Sox for 5 2/3 innings. In the light of what happened, we can all wish that he hadn't started in Oakland yesterday. But there was no good reason to expect what happened to happen, and I don't think that there's legitimate criticism that can be made of the move today.


  • The Red Sox have a team that thrives at home. Thus far, no other team in Major League Baseball has played as many road games (24), as few home games (16) or as great a percentage of their games on the road (60%) as the Boston Red Sox. After coming home for 3, they're going back out on the road for 6 more next week. At some point, their schedule is going to get very home-heavy. Division opponents New York and Baltimore, on the other hand, have played two of the three home-heaviest schedules in baseball so far.


  • At 23-17, they're on a pace for 93 wins. However, if you look at their home record (11-5) and road record (12-12) and extrapolate those percentages for the remaining games, they're on a pace for 96+ wins. And they're on those paces without any (positive) contributions from Schilling, little from Wells, and bad starts for Foulke, Bellhorn, Millar, Renteria, Ramirez and Ortiz.


  • As bad as the road trip was (and it was bad - losing 4 of 6 to those two teams is a bad thing), there was at least one positive, as Mark Bellhorn had a great trip. He hit .350/.480/.750/1.230 on the trip to raise his season line to .239/.350/.402/.752. There will be people amazed by this, but that gets him right back into the top 3rd of Major League 2nd basemen. People like to complain about him because of the strikeouts, but he's been far and away the most productive hitter in the Red Sox infield so far. (Talk about damning with faint praise, but still...)
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    Wednesday, May 18, 2005

    The beginning of the end (of this particular battle)...

    ...has begun. They're starting (as expected) with Priscilla Owens and Janice Rogers-Brown.

    Some of the high points from Frist's opening:

    • For 214 years, Republican and Democratic minorities alike restrained themselves. They abided by the Framers’ design and Senate tradition and gave nominees brought to the floor simple majority up-or-down votes.

      Then came the last Congress.

      With its obstruction, the minority set a new precedent - 60 votes before the Senate could proceed to an up-or-down vote on a judicial nominee. The threshold for advice and consent in the Senate was 50 votes. In the last Congress, the minority party radically increased that threshold to 60 votes.


    • The minority destroyed 214 years of Senate tradition, defied the clear intent of the Constitution, and undermined the democratic will of the American people. You can’t get much more radical than that. This new precedent cannot be allowed to stand in this Congress.

      (Emphasis mine)


    • The Senate is a deliberative body. We are a proudly deliberative body. But we also have certain responsibilities - which include giving advice and consent on the President’s judicial nominees. When a judicial nominee comes to this floor and has majority support, but is denied a simple up-or-down vote, Senators aren’t doing their job. And the sad fact is: we didn’t do our job in the last Congress.

      The minority’s judicial obstruction has saddled President Bush with the lowest confirmation rate for appeals court nominees of any modern president. This is disgraceful. We owe it to the people we serve and to the Senate as an institution to do our job.



    Go for it, Bill. It's about time. And you'd better have the votes, or this will be a disaster...

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    What is wrong with Manny?

    One of the things that we all know is that Manny Ramirez is having an awful year, right?. Awful by Manny standards, anyway.



    Batting average is down. On-base percentage is down. Slugging percentage is down. He's having an un-Manny season so far. To try to see why that is, I looked at some other numbers, trying to break it down and see what he's still doing, and what's worse.



    Well, his isolated power is pretty typical Manny. The difference between his OBP and AVG is larger than usual, but his 2B and HR rates are pretty much what you'd expect. His strikeout rate is a little bit up, but so is his walk rate. The number that just leaps out here is the rate at which he hits singles. He normally, throughout his career, hits a single in about 14% of his plate appearances. The year, he's only doing it in about 8%. That's a huge drop-off. For his career, he's hit .315 on balls in play ( (H-HR)/(PA-HR-SO-BB) ). This year, he's hitting .226.

    And it accounts for all of the other differences, as you'll see in a minute.



    Manny Ramirez
    ABH2B3BHRBBSOHBPSHSFPAAvgOBPSLG

    200513332711024364031640.2410.3660.534


    Through 38 games, Manny's had 164 plate appearances. He has 32 hits, of which 18 were for extra bases, and he's made 101 outs. Only 14 of the hits are singles. At his career average pace, Manny should have 22-24 singles. He's hit 65 balls that the defense has turned into outs. What happens if we take 8 of those balls that were outs, a little bit less than 1 for every 4 games, and have it miss an infielder or drop in front of an outfielder for a single?



    Manny Ramirez
    ABH2B3BHRBBSOHBPSHSFPAAvgOBPSLG

    2005 - adjusted13340711024364031640.3010.4150.594


    All of sudden, everything looks like a normal Manny season. Batting average is up where it should be, OBP is up where it should be, SLG is up where it should be - everything.



    Manny Ramirez - Rate stats
    AvgOBPSLGOPSISOOBP-AVGBB/PASO/PAHR/PA2B/PA1B/PA

    Career0.3160.4110.5991.010.2830.0950.1330.1870.0590.0580.148

    20050.2410.3660.5340.90.2930.1250.1460.220.0610.0430.085

    2005 adjusted0.3010.4150.5941.0090.2930.1140.1460.220.0610.0430.134




    So what's wrong with Manny? Nothing. Not a thing. He's hit into a little bit of bad luck. Period. Like Friday night in Seattle, where he hit a single to center and instead is credited with a fielder's choice because Nixon mis-read it and was forced at 2nd when he went back to first. Manny's demonstrating the same patience, the same ability to reach base, the same ability to hit for power. He's hit into a little bit of bad luck over the first six weeks, and that's all.


    Update: Sully at The House That Dewey Built also has some Manny stuff today...

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    Boston 7, Oakland 5

    As frustrating as Monday's loss was for the Red Sox, last night had to be all of that and more for the Oakland A's. The Red Sox scored 7 runs with 4 hits, as Oakland pitchers threw 11 walks, hit a batter and Oakland fielders committed 3 errors. The 8th inning rally where the Red Sox scored four runs to go from 2 down to 2 up consisted of a hit-batter, 2 walks, an error by the first baseman that allowed 1 run to score and (finally!) a hit - a single to right that should have scored 2 but scored 3 when Eric Byrnes overran the ball and allowed the runner from first to score and Renteria to reach 3rd. Of course, with a runner at 3rd and less than 2 outs, the Red Sox had no chance of scoring again, and didn't as Ortiz and Ramirez struck out.

    And it rained. In Oakland. I don't remember ever seeing that before. I'm sure that it happens, but as long as I've been watching Red Sox games, I don't remember ever seeing rain in Oakland before.

    It has not been a good trip west for the Sox, but they can come home even with a win today...

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    Tuesday, May 17, 2005

    "What was once thought can never be unthought..."

    Glenn Reynolds links to a piece on Taegan Goddard's Political Wire with a question for former US Today columnist Walter Shapiro. "Which party stands to lose the most from a filibuster showdown?" Shapiro's answer has some good points but also, I believe, fundamentally ignores (as many have done) some political reality.
    If Bill Frist indeed knows how to count votes and the nuclear option is successfully detonated, the Democrats are likely to be the short-term losers during a period that extends through the Senate vote on Rehnquist's successor. For there is just no way for the Democrats to look high-minded while they are employing obstructionist tactics to get even for loss of the filibuster.

    Ok, that's all good so far. Nothing to disagree with there.
    But, ultimately, it is hard not to see this as a Pyrrhic victory for Senate Republicans. Not only will the next Democratic president be giggling at GOP folly when she or he starts nominating federal judges in 2009 or 2013,

    This is where reality gets ignored. And everyone's doing it. Tod Lindberg made the point in the Washington Times a couple of weeks ago, and he's the only one (other than me) that I've seen make it.

    The point is this - filibusters of judicial candidates are doomed. It's inevitable. The Republicans can refrain from changing the rules today, or tomorrow, or next week, but in the long term, the rules are going to be changed and judicial filibusters are going to be eliminated. Either the Republicans will change the rules and eliminate them now, or the Democrats will the next time that there's a Democratic President and a Democratic Senate. How can I be so sure?

    Let's look down the road and try to imagine a world in which President Hillary Clinton has majority Democratic support, and a few Republicans, in the Senate for a couple of liberal pro-Roe judges to the DC Court of Appeals, and 42 Republicans are preventing a vote. Is it even remotely conceivable that a) the Democratic majority would not change the rules and b) the mainstream media wouldn't support them whole-heartedly?

    Please. Of course not.
    but also if the filibuster is eliminated for judges, it will be philosophically hard to maintain it for legislation. So unless the Democrats completely abandon their belief in activist government in a new bout of triangulation, the Republicans will someday loudly lament losing a major procedural weapon the next time a president tries to provide health care for the uninsured.

    Again, I think that this is assuming facts not in evidence. The entire position of people arguing against the Republican rules change seems to be this - the filibuster rule is absolutely inviolate, carved in stone, and will provide endless protection for the minority unless the Republicans change it right this minute. I just don't see it.

    This filibustering of judges is not some long tradition in the hidebound senate. Despite the media coverage, it simply is not a case of radical Republicans attempting to change long-standing rules. The de facto rule has always been that presidential nominees, absent extraordinary circumstances, are entitled to an up-or-down vote. Both sides have played games with this, of course, with blue slips and committee games, but never before have nominees been voted out of committee and failed to get a vote on the Senate floor. (Yes, yes, everyone knows about Abe Fortas, a case which is not even remotely similar to what's going on now.)

    The "nuclear" option isn't changing the rules so that nominees with majority support actually get a vote - the "nuclear" option was invoking the filibuster in the first place. The Democrats have changed the world, and the Republicans need to deal with the world as it as, not as they'd like it to be. It's foolish to pretend that the filibuster will always be there to protect the Republicans as long as they don't change it now.

    There was a piece in the Washington Post last week by Charles McC. Mathias, a former Republican Senator from Maryland. (The phrase "Republican Senator from Maryland" tells you that he's been out for a while.) In it, he talked about being in the Senate during legislative battles in the mid-70s. And he talked about how the rule on cloture got changed from requiring 67 votes to requiring 60.

    Sen. James Pearson of Kansas, a civil rights advocate, blew the whistle and asked for a timeout. He had been giving some thought to the fact that there was a positive side to deliberative debate, even at the cost of some delay. He proposed a compromise that set the necessary votes for cloture at 60 instead of 67. Pearson's wisdom prevailed, and the rule was changed in 1975 to allow cloture with only 60 senators agreeing.

    I laughed out loud when I read that. We all spin, every one of us. If there's a chance to cast ourselves in a good light, as acting on principal instead of ambition, as demonstrating "wisdom" and not naked politics, we do it. Politicians are better at it than most. Do you suppose that the rule changed from 67 to 60 because maybe, just maybe, they could get somewhere between 60 and 66 votes for cloture?

    The point is that the rule has changed, and will change again. An anti-majoritarian rule, not a law, not a constitutional requirement, just a rule adopted by a previous majority, is doomed in a Majoritarian body, and that's what the United States Senate is. It survived as long as the usage was not excessively onerous. It has become so, and so it will be changed. Period. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life..." If the Republicans think that acquiescing to the media and Democrats in this will buy them cover or support if they ever act the way that the Democrats are acting now, they're fools. And they're hastening the day when they'll actually be in the minority again.

    Update:

    The Baseball Crank gets it too...

    I don't buy this, because it assumes that if Republicans don't change the rule, Democrats won't either. Yeah, and I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Banking on future Democratic good faith is foolhardy in the extreme. Democrats aren't even pretending to promise that they won't support the same thing later; consider their past track record on changing the filibuster rule to suit their purposes.



    (The title of this post comes from the play The Physicists, by Friedrich Durrenmatt.)

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    Oakland 6, Boston 4

    Some nights you're the windshield, some nights you're the bug.

  • In the 4th inning, they loaded the bases with no outs and failed to score.

  • In the 7th inning, after tying the game, they had runners at 2nd and 3rd with no outs and failed to score.

  • In the 9th inning, they got the tying runs to 2nd and 3rd and failed to score.

  • On the night, they had 5 at-bats with runners at 2nd and 3rd with less than 2 out, a situation where you can score a run with a fly ball or a ground-out. 4 of them resulted in strikeouts.

  • Oakland's first 3 runs scored on a bases-loaded triple, a fly ball that a two-legged Trot Nixon catches. Unfortunately, only the one-legged one was out there.

  • One of the base runners reached on a fly ball that Johnny Damon turned the wrong way on - twice - before it fell for a double. One of the others reached when he turned his knee into a pitch that was just off the plate.

  • The winning runs were set up by an infield single, a broken bat ball that wasn't hit hard enough to reach the pitcher's mound.


  • Losing 3 of 4 is never fun, and they don't look good right now. The long-term implications of this streak? None. They've lost 3-of-4. It happens. (It'll happen again later, I'd bet...)

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