Tuesday, January 31, 2006

AP "analysis" more partisan than Democratic response

Well, we've now got the AP's analysis on the President's State Of The Union address tonight, and it is nothing if not predictable. Frankly, one wonders whether Ron Fournier even bothered to wait until the speech had started, never mind ended, before producing this screed news analysis.
The state of the union is fretful. President Bush acknowledged the public's agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years.

His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans' indulgence for another chance to fix things.

That's the lead. It's incredibly biased.

And it's wrong.

There was no moment tonight in that speech that could by any reasonable analysis be considered as "begging American's indulgence." None. The President was, as usual, forceful and optimistic. Whether one agrees with his policy proposals or not is irrelevant. But it's nonsense to start a piece the way that Fournier started this one. It is just not true.

In his fifth State of the Union address, Bush sought to balance his usual optimistic message with an odd-fitting acknowledgment that many Americans are suffering beneath a crush of change.

"Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite," Bush said. "We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning a wide arc, toward an unknown shore."

Unknown and uneasy.

The problem for Bush is that few of these troubles are new. He's had four years to ease people's pain.

What a failure! He's had four years in office and things aren't perfect in the world. You all remember that everything was perfect after four years of Bill Clinton's administration, right?

But at least we get the laundry list of what, exactly, the "people's pain" consists of.

Nearly 46 million Americans have no health insurance, up nearly a million in the last year. Health care costs are increasing three or four times the rate of inflation...

parents still wonder about the quality of education in their schools. For the first time in generations, American children could face poorer prospects than their parents and grandparents did.

Calling for less dependency on foreign oil is a State of the Union evergreen. Bush has done so in every address.

The president who promised to be a uniter, not a divider, has presided over the hyper-polarization of Washington.

Osama bin Laden has not been caught.

Weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq.

Victory in that war seems elusive, with more than 2,240 American troops killed — and counting.

Victory in that war may seem elusive to Ron Fournier, but perhaps he's missed the news that the Hussein regime fell in 3 weeks, Saddam was captured, the presumptive heirs (a significant threat while loose) were killed, and the country has established a government, with free elections three times in the last two years. The Iraqis are approaching the time when they'll have enough troops to support peace in Iraq without many US military troops. To say that "victory...seems elusive," and mean it, you've got to have some very interesting criteria for victory.

All told, it is, as we have come to expect from the Associated Press, a vicious little analysis, one-sided and anything but "fair and balanced."

Technorati tags: SOTU, AP, bias, media

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I was going to live-blog, but had computer issues, and missed my chance. Probably just as well, as it likely would have started with a bunch of meaningless and banal one-liners, followed by long gaps. But I've got one comment right now, in the immediate aftermath.

The most disturbing moment of the night was provided (of course) by the Democrats. When the President said "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security," the Democrats stood and applauded. They applauded the fact that Congress did nothing to address one of the major issues facing this country over the next 20 years. The President has attempted to address what has long been known as the "third rail of politics" and the Democrats applauded the fact that Congress has done nothing! That really shows a vision for the future...


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Reviewing my Alito predictions

Seeing that Matthew Franck and Ed Whelan over at Bench Memos are reviewing their predictions on the Alito nomination made me remember that I made some, too., back in October. Seems a good time to review them.
Hearings will start in December, either Monday the 5th or Monday the 12th.

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

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

Got the time frame wrong, but otherwise, right.
He will be confirmed with fewer than 60 votes, but he will be confirmed, as they'll get 61-63 votes for cloture.

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

I really got the time frame wrong. I thought that it would all happen before Christmas, but the Republicans didn't push it. So he wasn't confirmed before Christmas. All of the rest of it (you know, the really easily predictable stuff) I got right...

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Washington Post decides to compete with Mad Magazine

The Washington Post has chosen to run on their opinion page this morning, in advance of tonight's State Of The Union Address, an apparent attempt at humor from someone named David Atkins. It's a mocking, snarky piece, that is, unfortunately for the Post, not close enough to reality to actually be funny. Written in the first person voice of President Bush, though strangely lacking in malaprop and grammatical errors, it purports to be a "fact-check" on things in the SOTU that aren't strictly accurate. Some of the "highlights" include:
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has alerted me that the line, "No person is above the law" should instead be "One person is above the law." My comment that "we have carefully listened to critics of our domestic surveillance program" should have read "listened in on..."

7. My reference to "hard lessons I learned during two tours of duty in Vietnam" was never meant to imply that they were my tours of duty.

9. The statement that "our administration has always respected the importance of checks and balances" is not, as has been implied, a reference to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. I have no recollection of ever meeting Abramoff ("Injun Giver," as I used to call him) nor his lovely and charming wife, Pamela, and their cute and rambunctious twins.

Anyone's sides splitting yet? Not mine, either...

Of course, this is typical behavior from the Post, rather than evidence of bias, I'm sure. Certainly, if I were to go back and look at the Post's opinion pages on the mornings of President Clinton's SOTU addresses, I'd see similar mocking pieces setting the tone, right?

Or maybe not...

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Alito confirmed


This is a good thing, but a filibuster would have been more fun...

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Monday, January 30, 2006

Quote of the day

Masterpiece Theatre is in the process of showing a highly acclaimed new rendition of Charles Dickens' "Bleak House." As it's about the time of year that I normally read Dickens, I pulled one of my copies off the shelf. I've read it before, but it has probably been 18 years since the last time, and beyond "Jarndyce And Jarndyce," there's very little of it that I recall. But it's Dickens, and it's excellent. He was one of the three great English masters of the language (Shakespeare and Wodehouse being the other two.)

Last night, I ran across a passage that reminded me quite pointedly of my senior Senator, and that becomes the quote of the day. (Substitute "Senator Edward Kennedy" [or Dick Durbin, or John Kerry, or Pat Leahy, or Harry Reid - they all work] for "Mr. Smallweed's Grandfather"):

He is in a helpless condition as to his lower, and nearly so as to his upper, limbs, but his mind is unimpaired. It holds, as well as it ever held, the first four rules of arithmetic and a certain small collection of the hardest facts. In respect of ideality, reverence, wonder, and other such phrenological attributes, it is no worse off than it used to be. Everything that Mr. Smallweed's grandfather ever put away in his mind was a grub at first, and is a grub at last. In all his life he has never bred a single butterfly.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

NYT to Dems - Filibuster Alito!

It is very rare that you'll find me agreeing with anything that the New York Times editorial page has to say. Indeed, one of my guideposts on controversial issues is to find out what they think, and that inclines me to the opposite. But they've got an editorial today of which I wholeheartedly approve. At least, I approve of the course of action that they're recommending.
Senate Democrats, who presented a united front against the nomination of Judge Alito in the Judiciary Committee, seem unwilling to risk the public criticism that might come with a filibuster — particularly since there is very little chance it would work. Judge Alito's supporters would almost certainly be able to muster the 60 senators necessary to put the nomination to a final vote.

A filibuster is a radical tool. It's easy to see why Democrats are frightened of it. But from our perspective, there are some things far more frightening. One of them is Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court.

I would love to see the Democrats filibuster this nomination. Love it.

I disagree, of course, with all of their reasoning. And I think that the course of action that they're recommending is fantastically short-sighted, at least from their point of view. I don't think that they'll be "almost certainly" be able to invoke cloture on the nomination. I suppose that they might, but I think what would happen is that a cloture vote would fail, at which point in time the Republicans would change the rules. And the filibuster would be gone as a weapon in the judicial fights.

That would be a good thing.

There was discussion earlier, when the "gang of 14" came up with their Memorandum of Understanding, about whether this would, in fact, be a good thing or not. I remain convinced that it would.

Changing the rules would break the logjam on the appellate judges who are still being held. That would be a good thing. Not only would Alito be confirmed, and it would ease the course for any other potential Bush SCOTUS nominee, there are still several good nominees to various appeals courts who've not been confirmed despite majority support because they haven't been able to get 60 votes for cloture. In my opinion, both the judicial branch and the country would benefit from seating those judges.

The possible downside, that the filibuster would no longer be available when the Republicans were in the minority, strikes me as a threat that Democrats would hold over the Republicans heads, like the sword of Damocles, but it's a threat without real teeth. The reason that it's a threat without teeth is two-fold. Firstly, the Republicans haven't, and I believe, wouldn't, use the filibuster on judicial nominations. Secondly, as soon as they did, the New York Times, the Washington Post and all of the usual suspects who will decry any attempt by the Republicans to change the rules, will urge the Democrats to change the rules.

Let's suppose the (from my point of view) worst-case scenario, the scenario that people have used to frighten the Republicans into not changing the rules. Let's hypothesize a world in which a President Hillary Clinton, with a small Democratic majority in the Senate, nominates Lani Guinier to replace Antonin Scalia. Wouldn't the Republicans want to have the filibuster as a tool for stopping that nomination?

Well, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was seated on the SCOTUS with a 96-3. Would a Justice Lani Guinier be any more offensive to the sensibilities of conservatives than Justice Ginsburg? I don't see it. If they weren't going to filibuster Ginsburg, why would they filibuster Guinier?

But even more important is the fact that, if the Republicans don't change the rules, the Democrats will, as soon as it becomes in their best interest to do so. Is there any chance that a President Hillary Clinton nomination to the Supreme Court, a nominee with majority support in the Senate, could be kept off the court by a Republican minority with impunity? That a majority supported nominee could be filibustered without hysterical screeching from the legacy media? Of course not. The New York Times would compose frothy rants encouraging the Democrats to, for the good of the country, change the rules to overcome the obstructionists, so that they could back to the work of the American People...

The rest of the editorial is, of course, nonsense. Intellectual dishonesty on a really professional level.
The Alito nomination has been discussed largely in the context of his opposition to abortion rights, and if the hearings provided any serious insight at all into the nominee's intentions, it was that he has never changed his early convictions on that point. The judge — who long maintained that Roe v. Wade should be overturned — ignored all the efforts by the Judiciary Committee's chairman, Arlen Specter, to get him to provide some cover for pro-choice senators who wanted to support the nomination. As it stands, it is indefensible for Mr. Specter or any other senator who has promised constituents to protect a woman's right to an abortion to turn around and hand Judge Alito a potent vote to undermine or even end it.

Does anyone want to guess what would happen to "a woman's right to an abortion" in the state of New York (or New Jersey or California or Massachusetts or Maryland or Delaware or...) if Roe v. Wade was overturned?

Nothing. Not a damned thing. There are certainly states where the law would change, but the issue would go back to the states, where it belongs. Roe v. Wade is a constitutional obscenity, and only good things could come from overturning it.
There was nothing that Judge Alito said in his hearings that gave any comfort to those of us who wonder whether the new Roberts court will follow precedent

This always offends me, this high-minded encouragement from the left that justices MUST pay appropriate obeisance to "precedent." What if the precedent was badly decided? What if it it's just plain wrong?

The New York Times isn't concerned with precedent - they're concerned with abortion rights and affirmative action, they're concerned about protecting precedents with which they agree. Period. It's just dishonest to couch this debate as a debate about "precedent."

In closing, I'd like to join the Times in encouraging the Democrats to filibuster. Go ahead, guys - when that cloture vote on the Alito nomination comes up, vote "NAY!"

And then we'll be encouraging Republican Senators to show a spine...

Update: Love Tom Maguire's take: "If this is the new threshold for base-rallying by the Dems, well, go ahead - make my day."

Tags: Alito, NY Times

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Domestic spying" is not what this NSA program is.

There are a lot of people up in arms about the "domestic spying" program, so let's just look at the bottom line here. Congress authorized the President, in 2001,
to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any further acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

So let us theorize that, just hypothetically, the CIA and/or NSA identify the phone of Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, and they start listening in as calls are placed to cells in Frankfort or Munich or Paris or London, planning anti-American attacks. Are we to suppose that, if the next call placed is to Brooklyn, the NSA can't listen to it because one end of the call is on American soil? Is that somehow a "domestic" call, and "domestic spying" for the NSA to listen in? Or that the executive branch would need the permission of a non-elected Judge to listen to that call?

Preposterous. Nonsensical. It's pure poppycock. We're not talking about "domestic spying," no matter how many times the press refers to it that way. These are all international calls that are being monitored, coming to the US from people that we have reason to suspect mean us ill. It is absolutely "terrorist surveillance" and not "domestic spying."

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AP's selective coverage of Bush KSU speech

On Monday, President Bush gave a speech and took questions at Kansas State University. It's been a couple of days, and the last wire stories on that have probably been written. So it's interesting to look and see what the Associated Press thought was newsworthy about the speech.

First, they ran a story from Jennifer Loven, which focused on the NSA's surveillance program.

President Bush pushed back Monday at critics of his once-secret domestic spying effort, saying it should be termed a "terrorist surveillance program" and contending it has the backing of legal experts, key lawmakers and the Supreme Court.

Notice that the term "domestic spying effort" is used to describe the program, while the phrase "terrorist surveillance program" is in quotes, emphasizing that, while the President may want to call it a "terrorist surveillance program," the AP knows that it is actually a "domestic spying effort."
Bush's remarks were part of an aggressive administration campaign to defend the four-year-old program as a crucial and legal terror-fighting tool. The White House is trying to sell its side of the story before the Senate Judiciary Committee opens hearings on it in two weeks.

An "aggressive administration campaign" to "sell its side of the story." Maybe, just maybe, that's necessary, because the stories that have been published have only told the other side. Certainly, the AP, in this story, has emphasized that they don't think that the President's characterization is accurate. They've implicitly called him a liar by continuing to call the program "domestic spying" when the White House has repeatedly pointed out the inaccuracy of the term.

In any event, there was another AP story from the KSU event, a non-bylined story which focused on the President's assertion that "the war on terror is an 'ideological struggle'," and appears to have been mostly written before the speech occurred.

There was a story from Nedra Pickler, which also focused on the NSA program.

And that was basically it. The President took and answered questions on the War on Terrorism, on Iran and China, on immigration and Social Security and education and Tony Blair and nuclear weapons. An American Iraqi Kurd got up and praised the President, talked about how many family members she'd had killed under the Hussein regime. None of that got a mentioned in anything that the AP ran. None of that was news.

But they did find one question newsworthy. When someone got up and asked the President if he'd seen "Brokeback Mountain." Somehow, the Associated Press deemed that newsworthy. (One wonders if it would have warranted an AP story if the question had been about "Munich" or "Underworld: Evolution" or "Hoodwinked...")

And they still pretend not to have an agenda...

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Early show just doesn't get it

I know how hard it is to write a headline that's accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three -- accurate, short and grabbing. I don't think 'domestic spying' makes it.

- General Michael Hayden, former NSA directorspeaking to the National Press Club on January 23

On CBS, The Early Show opened this morning with a discussion of the NSA's electronic surveillance program on al-quaeda suspects that in continues to call "domestic spying." It was the first item teased at the open. Rene Syler:

Using the National Security Agency as a backdrop, President Bush today will once again defend his domestic spying program as vital to the war on terror.

Less than a minute later, as they introduced the various stories they'd be covering, it was mentioned again. Julie Chen:
As we noted, President Bush has been defending his covert program to spy on Americans, and we'll have the latest on that in just a moment.

Again, it was less than a minute later when they got into the news, and here we go again. Harry Smith:
Let's get right to our top story. Domestic spying, the President's surveillance program has ignited a national debate on civil liberties vs. national security.

They then went to a report from Bill Plante, who told us that
The white house issued another of its rebuttals titled setting the record straight. This one challenges those who call the program domestic spying.

That challenge obviously hasn't work yet. In fact, CBS is actually showing a fair degree of contempt for the White House by acknowledging that and continuing to call it "domestic spying."
The attorney general repeated the administration argument that the surveillance is authorized by the congressional war powers act of 2001.

Plante acknowledges that the White House is arguing that this program is legal, constitutional, and authorized by congress. And then finished with this:
The President's case comes down to this. The assertion that the spying helps prevent terrorist attacks.

Well, no, Bill, the President's case, as you just noted, is that the program is legal.

Finally, we get to the story. And here's Rene Syler again:

Does the government have the right to monitor your phone calls or e-mails without a warrant? President bush believes the answer is yes, if it means stopping terrorist attacks against the U.S. The domestic spying program has inspired a great debate.

This is the fourth mention of the program. In one of them, briefly, has it been mentioned that the wiretaps are on "international calls to and from the US." Here again, it's ignored. "Domestic spying" is an obviously inaccurate term that CBS continues to insist on using. (To their credit, they did have Bay Buchanan on this morning, and she called them on it - "I want to go back to how you introduced this segment. What you said is inaccurate. You suggested it was domestic spying. It is not.")

If CBS had been paying attention at the National Press Club on Monday when General Hayden spoke, they might have been able to figure it out. As I noted at the top, he made it clear that "domestic spying" did not work as an accurate headline for what's going on. He also made another great point in that speech that even CBS should have been able to understand.

I've taken literally hundreds of domestic flights. I have never boarded a domestic flight in the United States of America and landed in Waziristan.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Damon vs. Crisp

When Johnny Damon signed with the Yankees, I pointed out that he benefited enormously from Fenway Park. Well, all indications are that Coco Crisp is going to replace Damon in the lineup, so I thought it might be worth looking at the two in comparison. Just looking at last year (and keeping in mind that Crisp is likely coming into his prime as Damon is likely leaving his) we see that Damon was better last year, though not by much.

Crisp vs. Damon - 2005



Crisp actually had a higher OPS, but Damon's OBP advantage is more valuable than Crisp's SLG advantage. If you go to OPS+, which adjusts for league and park context, they were basically equal, each compiling a 102 OPS+.
UPDATE: I misread that - they've each got a 102 CAREER OPS+. Last year, Crisp was clearly better than Damon, compiling a 119 OPS+ to Damon's 113+...

But I've already said that Damon took particular advantage of Fenway Park. If we look at home games for each, we see a huge advantage to Damon.

Crisp vs. Damon - 2005 - Home games



So what did they look like in games away from their home parks?

Crisp vs. Damon - 2005 games not in Fenway Park/Jacobs Field



Advantage (big, big advantage) - Coco Crisp.

Now, there's no reason to expect that Crisp will take the same advantage of Fenway Park that Johnny Damon did. But he may. What is overwhelmingly likely is that a) Damon will drop-off significantly due to not playing half his games in Fenway and b) Crisp is far more likely to improve, as he moves into a more hitter-friendly park. In short, there's every reason to expect that Coco Crisp will be a more effective, more valuable offensive player in 2006 (and 2007-2009) than Johnny Damon. And the Red Sox, with people bemoaning the loss of Johnny Damon, are likely to have actually upgraded in CF, as they have at 2B and 1B (and the starting rotation and the bullpen...)

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Bush v. Clinton

Over in the Corner, John Miller notes a sentence from Tom Bray's review of Fred Barnes' book on Bush.
Mr. Bush, contrary to media hysteria on the subject, mentions Jesus Christ less often than Bill Clinton did.

I've got to say, that's not surprising. Nor is it surprising that Clinton could get away with without media hysteria. And there's a simple reason for it. It's the same reason that Clinton could talk tough about Iraq, drop bombs in Kosovo, "mend" the welfare system, and talk about keeping abortion "rare."

He didn't mean it. And everyone on his side, everyone who gets upset when a Republican does or says any of those things, knew it. When George W. Bush talks about Jesus, people know that he means it. When Bill Clinton does it, they knew that he was pandering to those intolerant "Jesus-freaks" on the religious right. When George W. Bush started talking about what a threat Saddam Hussein was, the left was up-in-arms, because they knew that he meant it. When Bill Clinton sent cruise missiles into Iraq, everyone understood that that was as far as it was going to go.

George W. Bush carries the Bible as a source of inspiration, as a guide, as a reminder of who is and where he came from. Bill Clinton carried the Bible as a prop.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Bush/Abramoff pictures? Non-story being treated as a big deal by media

It really is amusing, on occasion, to watch the mainstream press go after non-stories that could make the President look bad. The latest example comes from Time Magazine, all worked up about the fact that there are allegedly pictures showing President Bush with Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the center of a congressional lobbying scandal. And the AP has decided that Time's non-story is news.
Bush himself has said that he doesn't recall meeting Abramoff.

Both Washingtonian and Time magazines have reported the existence of about a half-dozen photos showing the two together, however.

Jack Abramamoff is, as everyone paying the slightest attention is aware, the current personification of corruption in Washington. The desire on the part of the media to affix the Abramoff stigma to President Bush is palpable. And look at the way they've laid the story out. "Bush denies" to start with, but damaging pictures exist, "however!" (The AP is really good with those "howevers.") Consider an alternate layout to the story, written in an alternative universe where the Associated Press is a non-biased news agency.
Time Magazine is reporting has reported the existence of about a half-dozen photos showing the two together. Bush himself has said that he doesn't recall meeting Abramoff.

Same facts, different feel.

But the whole story is just silly. The fact that "there may be pictures showing the President in close proximity to a big Capitol Hill lobbyist" is right up there with the fact that "congresspeople raise money to campaign" and "sun rises in East" as shocking facts of life. Given how much money Abramoff spread around over the past decade, it would be far more surprising if there were NOT pictures of him with the President. Is there any big political donor who doesn't manage it at some time or another?

It is certainly conceivable that there's a relationship between Bush and Abramoff that would constitute a story. Nothing that's been presented thus far qualifies...

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Linked by Taranto! I'm somebody now!

One of the great features on the web every day is James Taranto's Best of the Web Today at OpinionJournal.com. Well, I just found out that he linked to one of my NewsBusters posts last week. (If you follow the link, it was the piece about Who's Butchering the Language?)

I mention that because it interests me...

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Crisp/Gonzalez to Boston?

According to Tony Massarotti in this morning's Herald, "the Red Sox and Cleveland Indians have agreed in principle on a deal that will bring outfielder Crisp to the Sox in a multi-player trade" and "the Sox also are about to sign free agent Gonzalez."

I'm not certain how I feel about the Crisp trade. They certainly needed a center fielder, and Crisp has a chance to actually be an upgrade, though he certainly might not be. I hate giving up Andy Marte, but recognize the possibility that it was necessary.

The other part of that report, I will comment on. There is no justifiable reason to sign Alex Gonzalez. None. I'd rather have Pokey Reese back - at least he's likely to get hurt and replaced by someone who can play. Gonzalez is awful. This a player with a career .291 (yes, that's not a typo - point two nine one) OBP. (I'm trying to figure out how to characterize that without using profanity. Let's just say, it's not good. In fact, it's not good enough to call "bad...") I don't want him, at any price. I'd rather, much, much rather, have Alex Cora or Alejandro Machado or Dustin Pedroia or Tony Graffanino at SS than Alex Gonzalez, and they've already got all of those guys. I strongly, fervently hope that Massarotti's got that part wrong. I don't want Alex Gonzalez at any price. I don't want Alex Gonzalez at a low salary, I don't want Alex Gonzalez for free, I don't want Alex Gonzalez if he's paying to play here.

Alex Gonzalez - feh.

(And his OBP is actually likely to go down slightly - or at least not go up. This is a player who's drawn only 91 walks in the last 3 season combined, and over a third of those, 32, have been intentional, due to hitting in front of the pitcher. He ain't going to be drawing intentional walks in Boston...)

I hate the idea of signing Alex Gonzalez. Hate it, hate it, hate it...

One more point. Maz says that "while Crisp batted second (behind Sizemore) for the majority of time last season, he will replace Damon atop the Red Sox batting order." I hope that he's guessing, and guessing wrong. It would be a mistake to put Crisp in the lead-off spot when they've got a Kevin Youkilis in the lineup. They'd likely be better off with Youkilis leading off and Crisp batting 8th than the other way around. Youkilis is going to derive more of his value from walks, walks that would be wasted in front of an Alex Gonzalez (who I don't want - really, really, fervently, sincerely, passionately don't want)...

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

AP headlines Bush slip-of-the-tongue

The President met at the White House today with Iraqi victims of the regime of Saddam Hussein. After spending an hour or so with the victims, and families of victims, he allowed the press in for a couple of minutes. The AP decided that the most worthy piece of information on the day, the thing that belonged in the headline, was the fact that the President either mispronounced or stumbled on the word 'butcher.' They highlighted that fact in their headline, Bush Meets Victims of 'Butcherer' Saddam.

"One of the interesting moments will come here this year when Saddam Hussein's trial is brought forth for the world to see, to see the butcherer, the person who brutalized many people or ordered the brutality of many people here at this table, get his due justice under rule of law," the president told reporters brought in for two minutes at the end of the meeting.

I don't thing anyone would argue that President Bush is the most articulate man to ever hold the office. But this is just nonsense. Anyone who speaks in public with any regularity makes gaffes. It is impossible not to. Republicans have theirs highlighted and ridiculed, because they indicate lack of intelligence, while Democrats have theirs ignored, because they represent simple mistakes that anyone might make. At least in the template worldview of the mainstream press.

And there's more bias in the piece. As is usual with the AP. I wrote the other day about the AP's propensity to drag negative stuff into stories that might otherwise reflect well on the Bush administration. Down at the bottom of the piece, they close with the following:

The White House denied that the meeting was meant to deflect criticism of the administration in an annual report from Human Rights Watch issued Wednesday.

The report said the Bush administration has a deliberate strategy of abusing terror suspects during interrogations. The White House accused the organization of having a political agenda and ignoring the fact that the United States has liberated millions from tyranny.

The White House "denied" and "accused." The Human Rights Watch "said." When you read that passage, the implication is clear. The White House timed the meeting for the report, and then denied it. The trustworthy human rights group said that we're doing bad things, and the White House, in an ad hominem attack, accused them of having a political agenda. The reporter, Nedra Pickler, could easily have said that Human Rights Watch "accused" the United States and the White House "said" or "stated" or "averred" or "noted" or "observed" or "replied" or "responded" that the reported seemed to be based on a political agenda. (As if that's somehow shocking - that a political group would have a political agenda.) And it would read differently.

But she didn't, and it doesn't...

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Tony Dungy seems like a legitimately good guy. That doesn't alter the fact that he's demonstrated an ability to coach a talented team so that it has a successful regular season, but cannot get through the play-off grind, when keeping the players motivated and consistent becomes less important, relatively, than tactically putting them in position to win. But, as we saw from the New York media during the Herm Edwards era, very similar, there is a certain teflon coating that builds up on a coach like that in the local media. Whether it's just because they're good guys and the beat reporters like dealing with them or because the teams are at least consistently competitive, the assessment of Dungy, like the assessment of Edwards, is soft-balled. The latest example is this sycophantic piece from Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star.
Whatever the Colts accomplish from this time forward, they're going to accomplish those things with the existing cast largely intact. That may not palliate the fans whose anger has, understandably, obscured their vision, but this team will be tinkered with and not overhauled.
Why should it?
The Colts flopped Sunday, and they've flopped rather ignominiously the last few playoff games, but that doesn't doom them to perpetual underachiever status. There will be changes -- Edgerrin James and Mike Vanderjagt are likely gone -- but most of the players who won 13 straight games will be back, and should be back.
History matters here. Dungy's old Bucs kept bumping their heads against the glass ceiling before breaking through with a Super Bowl title. The Philadelphia Eagles lost three straight NFC title games before reaching last year's Super Bowl. And the 1996 Denver Broncos were 13-3, No. 1 seeds and double-digit favorites to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoff, then lost and listened to calls for dramatic change. After some minor tinkering, they came back and won the first of two straight Super Bowls.

That's a fabulous example of how to string truthful sentences together to form a lie.

  • Dungy's old Bucs kept bumping their heads against the glass ceiling before breaking through with a Super Bowl title

    How did they do that? They replaced the coach. It sounds like Dungy won a Super Bowl, and if you didn't know better, that's how you'd read it. But he didn't. Tampa Bay only advanced to the Super Bowl when they replaced him.

  • The Philadelphia Eagles lost three straight NFC title games before reaching last year's Super Bowl.

    Which they lost. And then, this year, they cratered. They may be able to come back next year without a significant restructuring, but it's by no means certain. And even over their run, they've won some play-off games. Andy Reid's winning percentage as a head coach is almost the same in the play-offs as in the regular season. He's 70-42 in the regular season and 7-5 in the post-season. His Eagles have won at least one game in each of their play-off appearances. Contrast that to Dungy, who's 102-58 in the regular season, and only 5-7 in the post-season, with 3 consecutive 1 and outs (his last two years in Tampa and his first year in Indianapolis.)

  • the 1996 Denver Broncos were 13-3, No. 1 seeds and double-digit favorites to beat the Jacksonville Jaguars in the divisional playoff, then lost and listened to calls for dramatic change. After some minor tinkering, they came back and won the first of two straight Super Bowls

    The 1996 Denver Broncos hadn't spent several years getting into the play-offs and losing. It was Shanahan's second year in Denver, and the team's first play-off appearance in 3 years. The 1997 team didn't overcome a long history of QB/Coach reaching the post-season and losing.

Again, Dungy seems like a great human being. But play-off football is different than regular season football. You've got to be able to play physical football, you've got to make the right call, which is more often than not NOT the conservative call. Dungy's teams have been great at beating up on inferior competition during the regular season, but have demonstrated no ability to play in a close game. They're great when in front, but not otherwise. I strongly suspect that Manning never wins a Super Bowl, or even gets to one, with Dungy in charge.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Quote of the day

"On TV we've got Jack Bauer - in real life, we've got Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson."
- Mark Belling, sitting in for Rush Limbaugh, on people's unrealistic expectations of the CIA

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AP manages to drag negatives into President's MLK day story

Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying that "a fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." Whether it's an actual Churchill quote or not, I'm not certain. I am certain, however, that it's an apt description of the Associated Press. They are, and have been, obsessed with the Bush administration's war on terrorism, and have repeatedly gone out of their way to drag in unrelated items to use as clubs against the Bush administration. I tire of writing that "the AP is at it again," but the AP is at it again.

The title of the story in question is "Bush Marks MLK Day With Gospel Performance." And that's what the bulk of the story is - what the President's MLK day recognition is about. The President visited the National Archive to see the Emancipation Proclamation, and attended a "Let Freedom Ring" performance at the Kennedy Center. All well and good. But not good enough. Writer Nedra Pickler felt it necessary to include the following:

The president ignored a question about whether Friday's airstrike on a remote Pakistani village was appropriate. Pakistani officials said at least 17 people were killed the attack, but not the apparent target — Ayman al-Zawahri,
Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant. The strike sparked anti-American protests throughout Pakistan.

Because, you see, it is seemingly necessary that all AP stories include criticism of the President, and there wasn't anything obviously racist, sexist, mysogynistic, fascist or otherwise disconcertingly dictatorial about his actual MLK day activities. Given that, they needed to reach for something unrelated to criticize him. And what an item! He blew up innocents in Pakistan and won't own up!

OK, it doesn't actually say that he blew them up. But this is a story about the President's activities on MLK day. The inclusion of anti-American riots in Pakistan, which the AP has certainly covered, is irrelevant. It accomplishes one thing, and one thing only - it drags a critical tone into a story which would otherwise be neutral-to-positive about President Bush.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - the AP is very good at what it does. It's just a shame that unbiased news reporting isn't it...

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Quote of the day

"Why did you use that analogy which is so inappropriate?"
- Clueless Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, a man who has almost retired the award for inappropriate analogies, to Samuel Alito, in a fit of spectacularly tone-deaf irony...

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Open-mindedness in the Senate

I've commented before, and I will again, about what an embarassment Senator Kennedy, my senior Senator, is. It's telling when you can say, honestly, as I can, that John Kerry is the less loathsome of my US Senators. But one of the things that's most comical is Senator Kennedy sitting in judgement on judicial candidates. I predict that some time in the next couple of weeks, Senator Kennedy will take to the floor of the US Senate and make a speech on the Alito nomination that will include a passage something like this:
...He did not commit himself to a standard for sex discrimination that is at least as exacting as the standard currently used by the Court to invalidate many gender-based laws. Thus, there is significant doubt that Judge Alito will apply a sufficiently rigorous constitutional standard to make protection against sex discrimination a meaningful constitutional right for the women of America....Judge Alito refused to reveal whether he believed there is any fundamental privacy right outside the marital relationship....In fact, Judge Alito's reluctant comments, while ambiguous, suggest that, in fact, he takes an excessively restrictive view of the right to privacy, and that he is likely to side with the Justices on the Court who are prepared to overrule Roe versus Wade, or leave it as a hollow shell...I am troubled that if Judge Alito joins the current closed divided Supreme Court, he will solidify a 5-to-4 anticivil rights, antiprivacy majority inclined to turn back the clock on the historic progress of recent decades. If so, literally millions of our fellow citizens will be denied their rights as Americans to equal opportunity and equal justice under law...To a large extent, in spite of the hearings we have held, the Senate is still in the dark about this nomination. And all of us are voting in the dark. The lesson of the past decade of the Senate's experience in confirming justices to the Supreme Court, is that we must vote our fears, not our hopes. If nominees do not meet the test of demonstrating a convincing good-faith, in-depth, abiding commitment to the core constitutional values of the kind so obviously at stake at this turning point in our history. They can--and should--be rejected by the Senate. To apply a lesser standard is to fail our own constitutional responsibility in the confirmation process. In my view, Judge Alito does not meet that test. In good conscience, I cannot support this nomination.

Just so we can evaluate Senator Kennedy's judgement on these matters, his "open-mindedness" on the issue of judicial nominations, those are the actual words of Senator Edward Kennedy, with only the name changed, on the nomination of ... David Souter. As we now know, Justice Souter is no one's idea of a judicial conservative. Senator Kennedy was wrong on every aspect of Souter's candidacy. What he knew was that Souter was nominated by a Republican president, which automatically made him a sexist, a racist, a fascist.

I've said it before, I'll say it again - Kennedy is an embarassment to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he's an embarassment to the Democratic party, he's an embarassment to the Senate, and he's an embarassment to every citizen of the United States of America.

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More AP on Alito

This mornings AP article on the Alito hearings from yesterday is actually fairly straight, at least by the Associated Press' normal standards. But there are still examples of typical AP anti-conservative bias.
Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito said Tuesday he would deal with the issue of abortion with an open mind as a justice, though he defended his 1991 judicial vote saying women seeking abortions must notify their husbands.

In the first place, the construction of that sentence clearly implies that he won't deal with the issue with an open mind. Basically what they've written is Alito "said" he'd do this, but he defended the time when he did that.
Secondly, they've have, yet again, misconstrued what happened in 1991. This is not the first time. He did not say that "women seeking abortions must notify their husbands." The state of Pennsylvania did. All he said was that, according to the Supreme Court's precedents on the issue, the state was constitutionally allowed to do so.
Alito pledged in 1990 that he would recuse himself from cases involving the Vanguard companies. Some Alito opponents say his participation in a 2002 Vanguard case raises doubts about his fitness for the Supreme Court. Alito holds six-figure investments with Vanguard.

"If I had to do it over again there are things that I would do differently," said Alito, although he also said he did nothing wrong.

As do all of the legal ethicists who have been asked about it. It was interesting to watch Senator Hatch walk him through the issue, as the completely answered the question about what had happened, how he'd taken the case without recusal, and what happened later (he urged the court to vacate the opinion, and have the case re-heard by a new panel. This was done, with the same unanimous result.) He also instituted new procedures in his office to prevent the situation from arising again. "Some...opponents" may think the case raises doubts, but an unbiased reading of the situation suggests, as the AP does not, that those opponents oppose Alito for other reasons and are raising this non-issue in a purely political attempt to defeat the nomination.
He defended his 2004 dissent in which he supported the strip search of a 10-year-old girl, explaining that his interpretation was based on "common sense" that a warrant included searches of anyone on the premises of a drug suspect.

"Supported" is loaded language. It makes it sound as if he were standing there watching the search with pom-poms. He didn't "support" the search, he merely determined that a police officer could reasonably have taken the search warrant to allow that search. That doesn't sound nearly so sinister, though, does it?

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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Brady a problem on the road?

At CBS Sportsline, Clark Judge has decided that Tom Brady isn't as good on the road, and that's a real problem for the Patriots.

1. I know New England is a trendy pick to reach its fourth Super Bowl in five years, but here's what could stop the Patriots from getting there: 1) Tom Brady is a different quarterback on the road, and New England must play its next two away from Gillette Stadium to reach Detroit, assuming a Colts victory over the Steelers. OK, OK, so Brady is a perfect 10 in the playoffs and beat Pittsburgh in two AFC Championship games at Pittsburgh (once, with help from Drew Bledsoe), but look what happened this year. Including this weekend's playoff game, Brady has 17 touchdowns and two interceptions at home; on the road he has 12 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Yeah, I'd call that a trend.

Ignoring the fact that he labeled his point 1), as if he had a list of reasons, and then stopped at one, let's look at it in a little more detail.

Tom Brady - Regular Season



Well, it's true that he's thrown more picks on the road, both this season and for his career. It is worth noting, however, that in a league where the teams win 42% of their road games, Tom Brady, as a starter, has won 67% of his. But yes, over his career during the regular season, he's been merely very good on the road, as opposed to other-worldly as at home. He's also thrown more touchdowns and for more yards, as is typically the case when teams are behind, which has happened more on the road than at home.

But what about the play-offs? He's played games away from Gillette during the play-offs. Twice they've gone to Pittsburgh to win AFC Championship games, and 3 times they've played neutral-site Super Bowls. How's he done in those games, as opposed to the home play-offs?

Tom Brady - Post-season



Not Home14797105781102.3501


Neutral Site108717356199.9301

Oops - what have we here? Why he's been even BETTER on the road than at home!

There are many reasons to think that the Patriots post-season winning streak could end this weekend. I don't think it will, but if it does, I won't be shocked. It's even conceivable that Brady could play badly in a loss. But there's nothing in the team's or the player's history to make me concerned that Tom Brady can't play at a high level in a play-off road game. If I were making a list of things I was worried about for Saturday's game, Tom Brady wouldn't be on it, never mind first...

One other comment, unrelated, from the Judge piece:
Herman Edwards was the big winner in the move out of New York.

I beg to differ. The big winners are, in order, the Jets, the Broncos and the Chargers. The losers are the Chiefs, the Patriots and the Dolphins.

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Alito hearing - day 2

Well, if you're a drug dealer, you now know that if Pat Leahy's in charge, you can beat a drug bust by taping your stuff under the shirt of a 10-year old...

Update:John Podhoretz noticed, too. And Andy McCarthy had further comment:
In the first case I ever worked on in the U.S. Attorney's Office in NYC -- United States v. Ella Shipp et al. -- the lead defendant met one of her main customers in a restaurant. Drug samples for the occasion were hidden on the person of the defendant's daughter. My recollection is that the girl was FOUR, not ten.

Orrin Hatch walked through the Vanguard recusal issue. It should be clear to the meanest intellect that there's no there there. I'll bet any amount of money that my embarassment of a senior Senator (the "Hon." Edward Moore Kennedy) will go there and pontificate anyway...

One of my favorite political anecdotes is from Kennedy's first Senate run, back in 1962 when he was running for the seat that his brother John had vacated on ascending to the Presidency. In a debate taking place during the Democratic primary, Massachusetts Attorney General Edward McCormack told the 30-year old runt of the Kennedy litter that "if your name were Edward Moore instead of Edward Moore Kennedy, your candidacy would be a joke." Unfortunately, his name was, and is, Kennedy, and he won that race and he's still there 42 years later, and he will be until he dies.

Kennedy - Vanguard. Bingo. What an embarassment.

The idea of Ted Kennedy sitting in judgement on anyone would be funny if it weren't so repellent.

And now Biden's going to the Vanguard thing. "Don't read it as us saying you're a bad guy, but you said you wouldn't do this and then you did." Unbelievable.

OK, totally believable, but still painful to watch.

Biden: "All kidding aside..."
Me: "Oh, was that supposed to be a joke?"

Biden: "This goes beyond you." Because, you see, Alito would replace Sandra Day O'Connor. Who was the "fulcrum" on an "otherwise evenly-divided court." It doesn't matter whether Alito's qualified, what matters, apparently, is whether he's more conservative than O'Connor.

What a farce.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Odds and Ends - Patriots/Dolphins

  • The Patriots lost 28-26 to Miami yesterday when Matt Cassell's pass on an attempted 2-point conversion with no time left sailed wide of Bam Childress and out of the end zone. On the day, Cassell threw two touchdown passed, his first two since high school, as he spent his college career at USC backing up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. He might have been the 2nd best quarterback in the country during his junior and senior years without ever getting onto the field. Well, he got 3 quarters of NFL playing time yesterday, and played pretty well, nearly bringing the Patriots back.

  • In the end, the Patriots loss to Miami didn't mean much. They get Jacksonville instead of Pittsburgh in the first round. The only real downside to this is if New England and Cincinnati both win each of the next two weeks, they'll play the AFC Championship game in Cincinnati instead of New England. I don't expect Cincinnati to win either of the next two weeks, never mind both, so I don't think it's a big deal.

  • The CBS coverage of the game yesterday was just awful. One of the big plays of the first Miami touchdown drive was a roughing-the-passer call against Ty Warren. CBS' viewers never saw it. Didn't see it live, didn't see a replay - they were too busy doing other things. They missed a 7-yard run in the 4th quarter by Ricky Williams because they were too busy showing the Flutie Hail Mary pass against Miami from 21 years ago. (I may tire of that replay someday, but I haven't yet - regardless, they shouldn't be losing live game action to it without at least replaying the game action, which they didn't.) Randy Cross called Bill Belichick "Bill Cowher" at least 5 times. It was a pretty weak performance in all respects.

  • One of the irritants was the constant talk about how Miami was doing just what they wanted, making a statement against the Patriots. I don't know how much of a statement you could take it as being when they won the game because of a safety and a missed two-point conversion at the end of regulation, and the Patriots had an undrafted rookie wide receiver in his first ever NFL action playing cornerback.

  • There was some complaining from predictable media sources (namely, Michael Felger of the Boston Herald, who loathes Boston College and everyone and everything associated with it, including - or maybe especially - Doug Flutie) about the drop-kick in the 4th quarter. To which my reaction is "get a life." They allowed Flutie to come out in front of his hometown fans, possibly for the last time, and do something that hadn't been done in 64 years, in a game which meant basically nothing outside itself, and Flutie converted the extra-point. The crowd loved it, the team loved it, it had ZERO impact on the outcome of the game, which itself had almost zero impact on anything else (though I think the Bengals would rather have the Jaguars coming to Cincinnati this week than the Steelers) - in short, there was absolutely no reason for anyone with any sense to get bent out of shape over it. So Felger promptly got bent out of shape over it. Frankly, it was less of a joke than Bam Childress playing defensive back...
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