Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Typical Steyn brilliance

Mark Steyn - another home run. I just shake my head in wonder at the one-man global content provider.
I notice, for example, that signatories to the Kyoto treaty are meeting in Montreal this week - maybe in the unused Olympic stadium - to discuss "progress" on "meeting" their "goals". Canada remains fully committed to its obligation to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by six per cent of its 1990 figure by 2008.

That's great to know, isn't it? So how's it going so far?

Well, by the end of 2003, Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions were up 24.2 per cent.

Meanwhile, how are things looking in the United States? As you'll recall, in a typically "pig-headed and blinkered" (Independent) act that could lead to the entire planet becoming "uninhabitable" (Michael Meacher), "Polluter Bush" (Daily Express), "this ignorant, short-sighted and blinkered politician" (Friends of the Earth), rejected the Kyoto treaty. Yet somehow the "Toxic Texan" (everybody) has managed to outperform Canada on almost every measure of eco-virtue.

How did that happen?

Actually, it's not difficult. Signing Kyoto is nothing to do with reducing "global warming" so much as advertising one's transnational moral virtue. America could reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 87 per cent and Canada could increase them by 673 per cent and the latter would still be a "good citizen of the world" (in the Prime Minister's phrase) while "Polluter Bush" would still be in the dog house, albeit a solar-powered one.

1976 Montreal Olympics, 2012 London Olympics, a 70,000 seat mosque, Kyoto and public sector retirement funds. Read it all - it's brilliant as always...

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The Beckett trade

The Red Sox made a big trade last week. I like it. There were a lot of people that liked it. But there were also some who didn't. I've gathered a few pieces of commentary here...

"If it's possible to not like a trade for either team, this is that trade."
- Joe Sheehan, Baseball Prospectus

Now I think Joe's a good analyst, but this wasn't a great piece. In the first place, he had a couple of factual errors. One was the handed-ness of Anibal Sanchez, who he thought was a lefty, and said so a couple of times. (The article's been corrected since first posted.) And he's just wrong about something he said about Beckett. "While his peripherals have been solid, he's shown slippage in his strikeout rate and K/BB since 2003..." Well, his strikeout rate has "slipped" slightly over the past couple of years, as his innings have increased. But so have his walk rates, so that his K/BB rate has actually gotten better since 2003, not slipped.

Secondly, he thinks Hanley Ramirez is vastly overrated, and doesn't believe in pitching prospects. Given that, it's tough to think of a reason to hate this trade from Boston's point of view. All upside, since he doesn't think they gave anything up.
The Red Sox will likely win this trade, because they have a very short-term horizon, and Beckett and Mota are more prepared to help than Sanchez and Ramirez would be in 2006 and 2007. However, the expectations that Beckett will be an ace are misguided. Game Six of the 2003 World Series was a fantastic night, but it was one start. Beckett isn't an ace, may never be one, and no radar gun or highlight clip can change that.

That is probably fair, although I still think that there's a good chance that he can be one. There have been comparisons to Matt Clement, but he's 5 years younger, and he's never had a K/BB rate as bad as Clement's best. It's not debatable that he's got "ace stuff." What's unknown is whether he's going to be consistent enough with it to qualify.



"Overall, you have a pitcher who can't stay healthy and whose national elite status is mostly a function of his home environment and the fact that he won the World Series MVP award in 2003. A savior Beckett is not."
- Dayn Perry, Fox Sports

Another bucket of cold water over the heads of Red Sox nation. Again, it's tough to argue the point, that Beckett's not yet been the consistent "Ace" that some people seem to think that he has been. Whether he can become that or not, who knows?



"There are very few pitchers with the stuff and the makeup to be an ace for a postseason team, but Beckett is among those, and he's only 25 years old."
- Buster Olney, ESPN.com
That's the kind of stuff that Red Sox fans want to hear...



My bottom line? This was a team that was good enough to win 95 games and make the play-offs last year. They've added a plus starter, one who's capable of throwing dominant games in the post-season. They've added, presumably (because it depends on Mota's health), an asset in a bullpen that was a significant weakness last year. They added a 3rd baseman who was awful last year, but good-to-very good the two years before that. They gave up a physically gifted 21 year-old who's yet to have a good minor league season, and 3 pitchers, the best of whom is at least two years from the Majors, with all of the potential pitfalls that that situation entails. It may turn out badly, but I think you make that trade if you're the Red Sox - you make it every time...

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"Unprecedented?" "Extraordinary?" Would that it were so...

So a congressman takes a bribe...who'd'a thunk it?

As has been covered extensively the last couple of days, Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a decorated pilot from the Vietnam war and a Republian congressman from California, has plead guilty to taking bribes from a defense contractor. This is obviously a bad thing, and it's a good thing that he's been caught, and that he'll be punished.

And I know that the prosecutor has a responsibility to support her case, and probably a feeling of great job satisfaction over the guilty pleas. But some of the rhetoric was, perhaps, a bit...overheated:
U.S. Attorney Carol Lam, whose office is prosecuting the case, said in a news conference that the facts Cunningham admitted in his plea agreement show "this was a crime of unprecedented magnitude and extraordinary audacity."

Pardon my cynicism, but a congressman taking a couple of million dollars worth of bribes from someone business or industry looking for favorable treatment doesn't strike me as unprecedented or extraordinary...

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Washingtonitis in full bloom

As I've wondered before, "does anyone else ever hear the phrase "contempt of congress" and wonder where to volunteer?" The things that Congress gets involved with for which there is no Constitutional justification whatsoever are sometimes shocking.

Well, there's another significant sign of "Washingtonitis" in the news this morning. Occasional Republican Arlen Specter (who I will not, as so many do, criticize for his work on the Warren Commission report, because I believe that there were only three shots, and Oswald fired them) is threatening another private industry because of disciplinary action against one employee.

Terrell Owens.

That's right - Owens, who's being paid under the terms of his contract, and being punished according to the rules that were collectively bargained by his employer and his union, and who's already had an arbitrator rule on his case. According to Senator Specter, they're picking on Terrell. They're being "vindictive." And damn it, the Congress must get involved.
Sen. Arlen Specter accused the National Football League and the Philadelphia Eagles of treating Terrell Owens unfairly and said he might refer the matter to the antitrust subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs.

Clearly insane. Certifiably so? I'd vote yes, though I suppose it's debatable.

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Sing, it, Joe!

There's a wonderful piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning from Joe Lieberman (on whom I completely agree with Ralph Peters - how can he remain in the Democratic party?) on the situation in Iraq.

In the face of terrorist threats and escalating violence, eight million Iraqis voted for their interim national government in January, almost 10 million participated in the referendum on their new constitution in October, and even more than that are expected to vote in the elections for a full-term government on Dec. 15. Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them. Most encouraging has been the behavior of the Sunni community, which, when disappointed by the proposed constitution, registered to vote and went to the polls instead of taking up arms and going to the streets. Last week, I was thrilled to see a vigorous political campaign, and a large number of independent television stations and newspapers covering it.

None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.
...
What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.

Amen! Sing it, brother Joe!

The problem is, this is such a self-evidently obvious view, that I can't help but wonder what the John Murtha's and Howard Dean's and Ted Turner's of the world are actually looking at...

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Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Times misses - again...

The big news story from Iraq yesterday was the suicide bombing in Mahmudiya which killed 31 people. The Washington Post story makes it clear what the "insurgents" are really doing:
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.

They killed women and children, innocent muslim Iraqis, who happened to be receiving gifts from US military personnel. The AP story said that:
American soldiers were there inspecting the facility and handing out candy to children.

But somehow, the New York Times, purveyors of "all the news that's fit to print," missed the context of the attack.
A suicide car bomb exploded Thursday near an American convoy at the entrance to the main hospital in the volatile town of Mahmudiya, killing at least 30 Iraqis and wounding dozens of others in a burst of fire and shrapnel.
...
The bombing Thursday in Mahmudiya took place in the morning, as an American convoy was parked at or pulling up to the entrance of the hospital, witnesses said.

No mention of American soldiers handing out candy or toys. No mention that the victims were primarily women and children. No, because to the NY Times (which just this past week had an editorial claiming that "Dick Cheney is still trying to legalize torture" and "how much easier this would all be if it were not for America's tarnished reputation when it comes to torture" [for which the Times, and other media outlets, should certainly claim credit] and closed with "We're happy the administration pressed for a full accounting of abuse of Iraqis by Iraqis. Now, about the abuse of Iraqis by Americans ...") still thinks that Americans are the problem. We're the bad guys, we don't do good things. The NY Times belongs to the Michael Moore ("The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow—and they will win.”) wing of the American left. So the facts that our soldiers are giving out toys and candy, and their bombers are blowing up women and children, are just too inconvenient to actually include in the news story.

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Friday, November 25, 2005

The REVOLUTION

“The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not ‘insurgents’ or ‘terrorists’ or ‘The Enemy.’ They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow—and they will win.” - Michael Moore, 4/14/2004

Well, Michael, the REVOLUTION continues:
A suicide attacker steered a car packed with explosives toward U.S. soldiers giving away toys to children outside a hospital in central Iraq on Thursday, killing at least 31 people. Almost all of the victims were women and children, police said.

Mr. Moore has not yet commented on this latest patriotic victory...

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

"We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing..."

In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation, declaring, in part, that
I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

This was the first official Thanksgiving of the United States, and it is part of what makes America America. We have, as a people, since the very beginning of our existence as a nation, taken a day to give thanks, to recognize and acknowledge our debt of gratitude to God.

Happy Thanksgiving! to everyone out there. I hope you travel well and safely, overeat but not too much, and enjoy the "blessings of Liberty" to which we are inheritants...




Psalm 100:
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.

Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.

Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Chris Matthews criticizing America in Canada

Chris Matthews has never pretended that he's an unbiased journalist. He's a former aide to Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives during the 1980s. His show, Hardball, developed an audience during the late 1990s, as he was one of the few liberal pundits not to accept the Clinton spin, for the most part, during the scandal-ridden 2nd Clinton term.

But he's still a liberal, and he's made some utterly outrageous comments over the border in Canada, as reported in the Toronto Sun.
"The period between 9/11 and Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn't a robust discussion of what we were doing," Matthews said.

I don't know what he was watching during that 18 month period, but I remember quite a lot of what I'd consider a "robust discussion" of what was happening. The President made his "axis of evil" comments in January of 2002, and the next 14 months were spent clearly headed to a showdown with Iraq. There was discussion in the press. There was discussion in the House of Representatives. There was discussion in the US Senate. There was discussion at the United Nations. There was discussion in print and on the airwaves. I'd wager that there was "robust discussion" on Matthews' own television show.

"If we stop trying to figure out the other side, we've given up. The person on the other side is not evil -- they just have a different perspective."

Who, exactly, does Chris want to say is not evil? Bin Laden? Hussein? Zarqawi? The Taliban? The men who flew the planes into the twin towers? The bombers of the U.S. Cole? The bombers who blew up the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania? The bombers who first went after the twin towers in 1993? Are those not evil acts? Or are they just evidence of a "different perspective?" And if it is just a "different perspective," what difference does it make? Are we not entitled to look upon a perspective that targets the death of countless innocent civilians as "evil?"

An embarassing performance from one of the guiding lights of the Washington punditocracy...

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Peters on the Democrats

Today's must-read piece of punditry is from Ralph Peters in the New York Post. He drops a figurative bomb on the Democrats and the left-wing, anti-war section of the American populace.
The irresponsibility of the Democrats on Capitol Hill is breathtaking. (How can an honorable man such as Joe Lieberman stay in that party?) Not one of the critics of our efforts in Iraq — not one — has described his or her vision for Iraq and the Middle East in the wake of a troop withdrawal. Not one has offered any analysis of what the terrorists would gain and what they might do. Not one has shown respect for our war dead by arguing that we must put aside our partisan differences and win.

There's plenty I don't like about the Bush administration. Its domestic policies disgust me, and the Bushies got plenty wrong in Iraq. But at least they'll fight. The Dems are ready to betray our troops, our allies and our country's future security for a few House seats.

Surrender is never a winning strategy.

Yes, we've been told lies about Iraq — by Dems and their media groupies. About conditions on the ground. About our troops. About what's at stake. About the consequences of running away from the great struggle of our time. About the continuing threat from terrorism. And about the consequences for you and your family.

What do the Democrats fear? An American success in Iraq. They need us to fail, and they're going to make us fail, no matter the cost. They need to declare defeat before the 2006 mid-term elections and ensure a real debacle before 2008 — a bloody mess they'll blame on Bush, even though they made it themselves.

Dead-on. Read it all...

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another AP mis-representation

The AP is today significantly misrepresenting President Bush's public statements. It's not the first time, it won't be the last, and it long ago ceased being surprising. But it is journalistic malpractice, and completely unacceptable.

This story begins in earnest about a week and a half ago, when after months of being hammered by critics on the left as having "lied," the President finally stood up and addressed the issue of pre-war intelligence. His speech, addressing the reality that he's been constantly under attack for the past two years, represented (finally!) an attempt to defend himself and his administration. It was, of course, immediately called an "attack" by the Associated Press, and others of their stripe.

But they apparently didn't listen to, or read, what he actually said. Otherwise, they'd never have been able to write the following:
After fiercely defending his Iraq policy across Asia, President Bush abruptly toned down his attack on war critics Sunday and said there was nothing unpatriotic about opposing his strategy.

"People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq," Bush said, three days after agreeing with Vice President Dick Cheney that the critics were "reprehensible."

The President "abruptly toned down" nothing. In the speech that caused all of the initial uproar, he said the same things. He said "when I made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, Congress approved it with strong bipartisan support. I also recognize that some of our fellow citizens and elected officials didn't support the liberation of Iraq. And that is their right, and I respect it." He said "it's perfectly legitimate to criticize my decision or the conduct of the war." So the comments that the AP is portraying as "abruptly toned down" are the same comments that he made at the time of "his attack on war critics." Those comments are nothing new. There's just another opportunity for the AP to misrepresent the President, and cast him in a negative light. And that's nothing new, either...

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire

It is impossible to make a 700+ page book into a 2 1/2 hour movie without significant cutting. Having read (or listened to, in the spectacular Jim Dale audio edition) Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire at least a half dozen times, there may be 4 or 5 lines from the book that I'd willingly forego, but I'm not sure of that, and certainly there are not more. The movie dispenses entirely with the Dursleys, Dobby and Winky, blast-ended skrewts, the Marauders Map, bubotuber pus, Rita Skeeter's secret and other various and sundry plots, sub-plots, plot complications, creatures, creations and beings, spells and curses and jinxes.

And it's marvelous nonetheless. I would willingly have sat through a movie an hour longer to get some of the other stuff in, but on the whole, they did an excellent job of pruning to essentials, to take a story that requires a 700 page book, and put it on film in a manner that gets the big stuff in with style, flair and excitement. I was, frankly, moved to tears during the graveyard scene (though not, I think, from what was on screen creating the reaction so much as evoking the feelings I have towards that scene in the book.) As with any adaptation of any kind, there are things I would have done differently. But any complaints that I have (and there are some - I didn't care much for the fireplace conversation, I wanted the duel to last longer, there was room for more exposition both early and late) would fall clearly into the category of "nit-picking." It was an outstanding film, and I take my hat off to the producers and director and all of the actors. Well done.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Clinton's at it again

I never thought that I would see a more disgraceful ex-President than Jimmy Carter. I never thought that Bill Clinton could continue to be more of an embarassment as an ex-President than he was as President.

I was wrong on both counts.

Ex-President Clinton has done it again. He's gone out in public, out of the country, in the Middle East, of all places, to criticize the United States again.
"Saddam is gone. It's a good thing, but I don't agree with what was done, " Clinton told students at the American University of Dubai.

"It was a big mistake. The American government made several errors ... one of which is how easy it would be to get rid of Saddam and how hard it would be to unite the country."

Leaving aside the content (everyone seems to forget - or ignore - that Baghdad fell 3 weeks after the bombing started), the fact is that having a prominent American, and Bill Clinton counts, criticizing the US war effort in what is effectively the war zone is against America's interests. Period.

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Monday, November 14, 2005

What's wrong with black and white?

I mentioned about a month ago that I am "not a fan of the term "African-American." When we talk race, we're talking skin color. Period. And you end up saying things that just don't make sense, because not all blacks are from Africa OR America, and not all Africans are black. Well, we've got another great example on CNN this weekend. CNN anchor Carol Lin was giving a report on the riots in France, and this is part of what she reported:
Hard to say because it’s been 11 days since two African-American teenagers were killed, electrocuted during a police chase, which prompted all of this.

The two "African-American" teenagers were French citizens of Tunisian ancestry. They were not American, not in any sense of the word.

I remember, years ago, hearing a story about a newspaper whose style book dictated replacing the word "black" with "African-American," the end result of which was a headline story about "African-Americans rioting in Johannesburg." Probably apocryphal, but not hard to believe...

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Friday, November 11, 2005

Thoughts on Theo

A week and a half ago, Theo Epstein declined the Red Sox offer to remain as GM. There has been an enormous amount of commentary on the situation; I've listened to, and read, a lot of it, and have got a few comments of my own to make.

I realize that I'm in a minority here. A small one. But I don't think it's fair to blame ownership for what was, in the end, Theo Epstein's decision. If you want to blame Henry and Lucchino, I think that they can take some blame for not offering the final offer up front, last year, or in the spring, or on October 1st. The final offer, at any of those times, probably gets it done.

But in the end, they made the offers they needed to make. They wanted him back, and they met all of his demands, as near as we can tell from everything that everyone said. Theo decided it was time to move on. He said that there wasn't one reason, and I believe him. I can easily imagine many reasons that could have added up to make him decide to leave.

  • He had, in his first two years, come in and won a World Series. The first one for one of the most passionate fandoms in baseball in 86 years. How, exactly, could he top that?


  • He, and his family, have vocally proclaimed that his twin brother, the social worker, is the greater success.


  • He's worked for Larry Lucchino for 14 years. Relationships like that have shelf lives, and it's not at all inconceivable that he felt the need to get away from that relationship.


  • His relationship with Lucchino began when he was an intern and 18 years old. He may feel that it's time to find his first job as an adult for someone else.


  • He said that he was "reconciled" to the lack of privacy in Boston - that doesn't mean that it wasn't an issue.


  • There's a widespread public perception that he has the only job he should ever want - maybe he wants to get away from that job before he becomes trapped by it.



There's this widespread perception that a) management screwed up and b) Theo carries no responsibility for his leaving. I think that's totally backwards. It was Theo's decision, his and his alone. I think he did a very good job, and I wish him well, but I don't think was either indispensible or irreplaceable. I don't think that the team falls apart. I don't think that John Henry (whom I like) is a bad guy or a villain here, and I don't think that Larry Lucchino (whom I've never liked) is a bad guy or a villain here. There are no villains. They went into a negotiation instead of locking him up early. He took the opportunity to look around, and decided he wanted to do something else. They wish him well, as do I, and the team moves on...

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Thursday, November 10, 2005

"Who is lying about Iraq"

One of the things that has been frustrating about the media coverage of the Bush administration is the way that the storyline has been set on Iraq. Somehow, the perception has taken place that the Bush administration lied about intelligence, mis-used intelligence, pressured the intelligence services, and created an impression of danger in Iraq when that danger didn't actually exist. The perception is, of course, complete and total hogwash. Whether we found the stockpiles we expected or not, no one, in the run-up to the war, disputed that Iraq had weapons, had weapons programs and was a threat.

And a lot of the evidence has been gathered in one place in a must-read from Norman Podhoretz. Check it out.
All this should surely suffice to prove far beyond any even unreasonable doubt that Bush was telling what he believed to be the truth about Saddam’s stockpile of WMD. It also disposes of the fallback charge that Bush lied by exaggerating or hyping the intelligence presented to him. Why on earth would he have done so when the intelligence itself was so compelling that it convinced everyone who had direct access to it, and when hardly anyone in the world believed that Saddam had, as he claimed, complied with the sixteen resolutions of the Security Council demanding that he get rid of his weapons of mass destruction?

It's long, and well documented, peppered with quotes, and compelling.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

What REALLY happened in the 2005 elections

The media storyline from yesterday's election results has been, for the most part, that Democrats picked up big victories, and that it was all bad news for the Republicans. And that President Bush, bogged down in incompetence (Hurricane Katrina) and malice ("he lied - people died!"), pandering to the right-wing (Alito) and heading an out-of-control criminal White House (Libby and Rove) is acting as an anchor, dragging down the Republican Party, leading to these spectacular Democratic wins. We see it in the New York Times:
After months of sagging poll ratings, scandal and general political unrest, the Republicans badly needed some good news in Tuesday's elections for governor. What they got instead was a clear-cut loss in a red state, and an expected but still painful defeat in a blue one.

The Republican loss in Virginia, which President Bush carried with 54 percent just a year ago, came after an 11th-hour campaign stop by Mr. Bush and the kind of all-out Republican effort to mobilize the vote that reaped rich rewards last year.


We see it from the ever-reliable Associated Press:
Democrats cleaned up big in off-year elections from New Jersey to California, sinking the candidate who embraced
President Bush in the final days of the Virginia governor's campaign.


The AP really wanted to get that point across:
Bush put his wispy political prestige on the line in the Virginia governor's race and lost Tuesday when the candidate he embraced in a last-minute campaign stop was soundly defeated.


We see it from CBS News:

How worried should the Republicans be?

"Very worried," Larry Sabato the director of politics at the University of Virginia, told CBS News' The Early Show. "They really are in danger of losing a substantial number of seats in Congress and, more importantly, key governorships in 2006."


That's been the tone and tenor of virtually all of the mainstream media reporting on the elections.

But instead of just taking the media storyline, it's important to look at what actually happened. This is an off-year election, an election with no national campaign taking place. No Presidential election, no Senatorial elections, no US Representative elections. Just state and local issues. The media template is that Bush has rotten approval numbers, Bush is a drag on Republicans, the Democrats won big, and this bodes ill for the Republicans next year.

Well, it is certainly true that Bush is polling badly at the moment. As to whether that's a drag on anything, that would be tough to prove. In 2001, the off-cycle election took place less than 8 weeks after September 11, and just about 4 weeks after military operations began in Afghanistan. Bush's approval numbers were spectacular. So if Bush's popularity is relevant to the discussion of yesterday's election result, it would have to show itself in a significant overperformance by the Democrats in 2005 as compared to the same elections in 2001.

And that's not what happened.

New Jersey:
4 years ago, Jim McGreevey took 57.5% of the two-party vote. This year, Corzine took only 54.6%. Corzine actually drew over 100,000 fewer Democratic votes for Governor than McGreevey did, while Forrester improved on Schundler's total by over 28,000. The bottom line is that the Democrats won the office, but the Republican performance improved over the same cycle four years ago.

Virginia:
In 2001, Mark Warner won the office with 52.5% of the two-party vote. With an independent candidate siphoning off primarily Republican support this year, Tim Kaine took 52.9% of the two-party vote. Kaine bested Warner's raw vote total by slightly more than 38,000, while Kilgore, the Republican, beat Earley's total by about 22,000. Basically, this result was virtually identical to the same election 4 years ago.

So, in the two Gubernatorial elections which are being portrayed as bellwethers, apparently just because Democrats won them, the Democrat performance was significantly worse in NJ, and virtually the same in VA. What this would seem to mean is that yesterday's elections were local elections, and any attempt to draw conclusions about the effects of Bush's approval ratings, or the likely results of the elections to be held next fall, are just so much spin.

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Quote of the day

Fairly early in my political education, shortly after I graduated from college, I used to sit in lunchtime discussions with co-workers about political issues. One of my friends was a liberal, and we had many conversations and disagreements over the way things should be, and the way that the world worked. And he always finished up by talking about ends, about children being fed and educated, about fairness and equality. His desire for these things led him to support of socialized medicine, affirmative action, free lunches, etc. And I finally said to him one day "I want all of those things, too - I just think that those are the wrong solutions to get them." And that's when I formulated my basic law number 1 about the difference between Republicans and Democrats, as the world existed in 1986.

"The Republicans and Democrats have, in many ways, similar end results that they'd like to see. The Republicans think the Democrats are wrong. The Democrats think the Republicans are bad."

That was the message, that has been the message, from the dominant media for my entire life. The Republicans are bad. The Republicans want to starve children, kick old people out into the cold so they starve and die. The Republicans want to kill American soldiers to enrich their oil buddies. The Republicans want to steal from the poor to give to the rich. Etc. Etc...


Which brings me to the quote of the day, from Friedrich Hayek's The Road To Serfdom:
"...the confusion has been further increased by the common practice of denying that those who repudiate the means value the ends..."


So you see, if I'd read Hayek when I was younger, I wouldn't have had to figure it out for myself...

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Monday, November 07, 2005

The Miers nomination explained

From the AP:
The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider a challenge to the Bush administration's military tribunals for foreign terror suspects, a major test of the government's wartime powers.

I suspect that this case, and others of this sort, had a strong influence on the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. Much more than her evangelical background and potential to overturn Roe v. Wade. This is what George W. Bush's legacy is going to be, the War on Terror, and if he has the Supreme Court stripping the executive branch of war powers, that's a bad thing...

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Alito, Bork and Watergate...

National Review on-line has a must-read article this morning from Robert Bork, on the Alito nomination. A couple of the highlights:
...overturning Roe v. Wade should be the sine qua non of a respectable jurisprudence. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito will hear a lot about stability in the law, the virtues of stare decisis, and the reliance many women have placed on that decision. The obtrusive fact is that constitutional law has never been stable. Precedent counts for less in constitutional law than elsewhere for the very good reason that the legislature can correct the Court’s mistake in interpreting a statute, but the Court is final when it invokes the Constitution and only the Court can correct its own mistakes...

...the justices should take note of the fact that Roe lies at the center of the bitter polarization of much of American society. In countries where the issue is decided democratically, no such intense animus exists. Compromises are worked out and each side knows that it is free to continue the public debate in hope of doing better next time. That was, and would be again, the case in America if the subject of abortion were returned to state legislatures and electorates. Overruling Roe would not, as some Democrats will claim, make abortion illegal, but merely the subject of democratic regulation...

...we do not know how the new chief justice and Justice-to-be Alito will rule on Roe and other liberal constitutional travesties of the past. Why, then, should conservatives support them? Because we can at least be sure that they will not start inventing yet new and previously unheard of constitutional rights. That would in itself be a vast improvement over the imperialistic Court majority’s drive to remake American culture and morality...

Bork is, of course, a brilliant man, and it remains a travesty (and a tragedy) that he's not seated on the Supreme Court instead of Anthony Kennedy, waiting to greet a Justice Alito as a colleague. For that we can thank Ted Kennedy. And Watergate...

At least I think so.

The beginning of the end of the Robert Bork nomination came less than an hour after it was announced, when Senator Edward Kennedy took to the floor of the Senate with an unprecedented bit of slander: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, children could not be taught about evolution..." Kennedy set the tone for the debate, such as it was, and the Bork supporters were unprepared to deal with it. Before the defense could even begin, the storyline had been set, with the generous and, at the time, virtually unopposed, support of the mainstream media. The Bork nomination was doomed, almost before it began.

But where did the comments come from? How did a Senator take to the floor with such a vitriolic personal attack?

Because the Senator had prior personal animus. Animus that was, to the best of my recollection, never mentioned in the press.

On October 20, 1972, Robert Bork was the Solicitor General of the United States, the 3rd highest ranking official in the Nixon Justice Department. In what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre, President Nixon ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Independent Prosecutor Archibald Cox, and Richardson refused, choosing to resign instead. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and resigned, leaving Bork as the highest ranking official remaining at Justice. When the order came to Bork, he also contemplated resignation, but Richardson and Ruckelshaus urged him not to, due to the chaos certain to ensue if the Department was left leaderless. Bork became acting Attorney General, and fired Cox.

What does that have to do with Ted Kennedy? Archibald Cox was a friend of the Kennedy family. He got his start in politics writing speeches for, and advising, Ted's brother, Senator John Kennedy, in the late 1950s. When Kennedy was elected to the Presidency, Archibald Cox served as Solicitor General in his Justice department. There was a pre-existing relationship between the Kennedy's and Archibald Cox, and had been for over a decade when Robert Bork fired him, at President Nixon's behest, in 1973. 14 years later, Senator Ted Kennedy, I believe, took a long-standing personal animus to the floor of the Senate...

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Alito poll

Hugh Hewitt has a poll on the Alito nomination. Register your vote now...

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USA Today - partisanship (lightly) disguised

There's an editorial at USA Today this morning (Bush picks another justice — and a fight over court's future) that does a wonderful job illustrating all of the problems with the media coverage of the Supreme Court debate. USA Today has chosen sides, and doesn't even seem to understand it.

Neither of President Bush's first two Supreme Court nominees, John Roberts and Harriet Miers, gave conservative and liberal interest groups the ideological showdown they've long been spoiling for.

The liberal interest groups absolutely wanted a showdown over John Roberts. NARAL started with the dishonest ad accusing Roberts of essentially supporting abortion-clinic bombers very early in the process. All of the Democrats on the judiciary committee tried to discredit Roberts. It wasn't possible - they tried to make a bogeyman out of him, and it didn't work. It remains astounding that an institution that could give Ruth Bader Ginsburg 96 votes for confirmation could only muster 78 for John Roberts.

But with Bush's selection Monday of federal appeals court Judge Samuel Alito, the battle is on. And it's shaping up to be as ugly as it is unavoidable.

On this one point, USA Today is correct. The battle is unavoidable, and it is bound to be ugly. As the Roberts battle was in many corners.

Conservative activists, who forced Bush to abandon Miers last week because she lacked the hard-right public record they wanted, were effusive in praise of Alito.

This is where they start to go through the looking-glass. There is some truth here, but just enough to mislead. Yes, there was great concern about Harriet Miers on the right, though most of it was not because she "lacked [a] hard-right public record" - the vast majority of the concern on the right was because of concerns about her qualifications. And it isn't only the political right that was concerned - all of the usual suspects on the left came out against Harriet Miers with their typical knee-jerk response to any Republican nominee.

Abortion-rights, women's rights and other groups declared the gauntlet thrown down and rushed into full counterattack.

There was no "attack" to counter - the "abortion-rights, women's rights and other groups" didn't rush into counterattack - they rushed in to attack. To attack Alito, to attack Bush, to attack conservative interest groups. All of the usual suspects generated all of the usual press releases, and the usual media played them in the usual fashion. As USA Today is doing here.

For Bush, under fire on several fronts and suffering the lowest poll ratings of his presidency, the nomination helped by calming one set of critics. But for observers like us, who prefer pragmatic nominees capable of drawing bipartisan support, it was a disappointing start.

Can we be honest here? This is nonsense. It is nonsense when Sen. Chuck Schumer goes to the floor of the Senate with it, and it's nonsense when the USA Today editorial staff repeats it. It's fantasy. There is no such thing as a "pragmatic nominee capable of drawing bipartisan support," at least not when there's a Republican in the White House. Such a beast just plain does not exist in this universe. (The closest you'll ever see to such is Harriet Miers, whose nomination drew bipartisan criticism...) Much like the abortion issue, on which the entire court system has become so politicized, there is a clash of absolutes in place, and it is not possible to find someone who will satisfy both sides.

The liberal position is that they want the courts to enact policy positions that they like. They want a court to issue a Roe v. Wade to remove the abortion debate from legislative oversight. They want a Lawrence v. Texas, to force states to repeal sodomy laws. They want liberal justices to be able to look at foreign law and find support for Roper v. Simmons, ruling the death penalty unconstitutional for minors. They want judges to impose Gay marriage, another position that can't win at the ballot box.

The conservative position is that either the Constitution means what it says, or it means nothing. Period. Lawrence v. Texas, Roe v. Wade, Roper v. Simmons are all bad decisions, not because the policy positions they establish are necessarily bad, but because the text of the Constitution does not support them.

There is no common ground between these two visions. So it is utter nonsense to complain that the President has nominated someone who is not a "pragmatic nominee capable of drawing bipartisan support" - there just is no such thing.


More so because Alito would make the Supreme Court even less diverse. If Alito replaces Sandra Day O'Connor, the court will be disproportionately white (eight of nine justices), male (eight) and Ivy League (eight). None of these characteristics should disqualify anyone, but the court and nation benefit from diversity in life experience and world view.

This is more of the same. Obviously, there is no reason to suggest that "diversity" would be a bad thing. But the law and the constitution say what they say. If the reading is being significantly influenced by the race or gender of the reader, that's a bad thing.

The more important question, though, is whether Alito fits within a legal mainstream, and that can be answered only after thorough vetting.

His credentials are sterling. But unlike other recent nominees, Alito has a long paper trail of judicial rulings, several of which raise questions about his respect for the rights of the individual.

Really? What decisions? What rights?

He has been a darling of anti-abortion activists because of his acceptance of restrictions that the Supreme Court has rejected, such as a Pennsylvania law requiring women to inform their husbands of abortions in advance.

Again, a dollop of truth ladled out to create a lie. Yes, he did dissent on one of the 5 sections of the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision in 1992. Yes, the Supreme Court did rule against his position on that section. But, as has been clearly outlined elsewhere, his dissent was based entirely on the precedents that the Supreme Court had established, and which they had to modify (by a 5-4 vote) to rule his dissent incorrect. They're using a half-truth in a pejorative fashion.

He has narrowly interpreted the applicability of federal anti-discrimination laws. And he has challenged Congress' authority to ban possession of machine guns, endearing him to Second Amendment absolutists.

In other words, he has followed the law and the Constitution, rather than his "personal policy preferences." Just a paragraph or so back, they were concerned that his decisions "raise questions about his respect for the rights of the individual." Now they're concerned about Congress' right to ban machine guns from individuals. Does that sound like a concern about judicial principles, or specific policy positions? The latter, obviously.

These and other issues will provide grist for the dueling, multimillion-dollar ad campaigns over control of the court, put in play by the retirement of O'Connor, who has been pivotal in dozens of hot-button cases.

If the past is any indicator, the truth will be bent into unrecognizable shapes in some of the advertising.

...and USA Today editorials...

That puts a great burden on the Senate Judiciary Committee. At Roberts' hearings, senators wasted time with speeches instead of questions — and failed to follow up when he responded with knowledgeable but evasive answers.

The committee and the full Senate must determine whether Alito is the judicial ideologue welcomed by his cheerleaders and feared by his critics. Or, whether he can be expected to show the respect for the court's precedents that served O'Connor — and the nation — so well.

Which court precedent was Harry Blackmun following when he wrote Roe v. Wade? Which precedent was Sandra Day O'Connor following on Planned Parenthood v. Casey? She wasn't even following her own - Judge Alito was! The fact is, this editorial makes it clear - they're concerned not with precedent, but results. They want a justice to support liberal precedent.

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More AP Bush-bashing

The Bush administration is preparing the announcement of a national plan for dealing with a possible influenza pandemic. According to the Associated Press, the plan will cover stockpiling of vaccine, improved vaccine manufacturing capabilities and the potential for travel restrictions. On the whole, it's a news story, dealing in a fairly straightforward manner with the possibility of a pandemic, and the actions and reactions that would be necessary to handle it.

But that doesn't seem to be good enough. No, we apparently can't get an AP story that doesn't go out of its way to criticize the administration. So, in the very first sentence, unrelated to anything else in the story, we get the obligatory reference to past "failure."
The Bush administration, battered by criticism over its hurricane response, is getting the nation prepared for a possible travel ban and other restrictions in the event of a worldwide flu outbreak. (emphasis mine)

What did the "criticism over its hurricane response" have to do with anything else in the story? Nothing. It was gratuitous and completely unnecessary.

Which is, of course, not a first for the AP...

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Right or wrong, I'm not alone

John Podhoretz has a piece in the New York Post this morning, and his take on the Alito nomination is just about the same as mine.
So, will Democrats try to block Alito with a filibuster? Almost certainly no. Why? Because in that circumstance Republicans led by Sen. John McCain will be forced to support the president by voting for the so-called "nuclear option" to change the filibustering rules. That takes only 50 Republican votes and one from Vice President Dick Cheney, who can break a tie vote in the Senate.

Triggering the "nuclear option" would be a huge defeat for Democrats — a defeat far greater than letting a distinguished jurist like Alito get through, no matter how much grumbling they do.

They won't risk it. Barring some shocking revelation, Alito is in by Christmas.

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