Monday, February 20, 2006

Baseball Prospectus top 50 prospects

Baseball Prospectus is out with their annual list of the Top 50 Prospects in baseball. The Red Sox, who have been focused on their minor league system for the past three years, are one of 4 teams with 3 players on the list.

Red Sox prospects on the BP top 50 list

11 Dustin Pedroia 2B Boston

36 Jonathan Papelbon RHP Boston

45 Craig Hansen RHRP Boston

  • The other 3 prospects teams are Cleveland, Kansas City and Los Angeles (NL). Three teams - Arizona, Florida and Seattle - have 4 players on the list, while the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lead the way with 5.

  • The Red Sox lead the AL East. The Yankees, Orioles and Devil Rays each have 1 prospect on the list, and the Blue Jays have none.

  • Two years ago, the only Red Sox prospect on the list was Charlie Zink, at 50. Last year, the Red Sox had two players on the list, Hanley Ramirez at 24, and Dustin Pedroia in a tie for 49th. Pedroia, who's still in the Boston system, has moved up to 11th. Ramirez, who went to Florida in the Beckett deal, has dropped out of the top 50, though he is still in the honorable mention category (as is Anibel Sanchez, who went in the same trade.)

  • Andy Marte, who the Red Sox acquired for Edgar Renteria and traded for Coco Crisp, has dropped from number 1 on the list last year to 7th this year.

  • The player considered by many to be the best prospect in the Red Sox system, left-handed pitcher Jon Lester (John Sickels, for example, had his list of the top 20 Sox prospects yesterday and had Lester 2nd) did not make the list.

  • The Red Sox had 6 of the top 57 draft picks in the 2005 draft. They'll have about 5 of the first 60 again this year, picking up a first for the Damon signing, a 2nd for the Mueller signing, two sandwich picks, and losing none of their own. They added a lot of talent to the system last year, and are poised to do so again this year.

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Friday, February 17, 2006


The "cover-up" accusations in the fever swamps of the left are going to gain strength following Whittington's press conference.
"We all assume certain risks, whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue. And regardless of how experienced, careful, and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen. That's what happened last Friday."

As we all know, the accident happened on Saturday. Whittington's not on the same page. Why, the cries will go up (I predict), was the report delayed for not 18 hours, but 42? Why isn't Whittington following the cover story?

He obviously mis-spoke, but I predict fallout...

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Irony? Chutzpah?

A tendency of this administration -- from the top all the way to the bottom -- is to withhold information ... to refuse to be forthcoming about information that is of significance and relevance to the jobs that all of you do, and the interests of the American people

- Hillary Clinton, on the Cheney hunting accident

Sometimes, no comment is necessary...

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

10 ways Dick Cheney can kill you...


(Apparently it's been around for a while, but it seems particularly appropriate this morning...)

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Lottery quote

There's an interesting quote in a Boston Globe story this morning about the potential of state lotteries going on line.
"It's fairly radical and I don't want to go down that road," [Massachusetts State Treasurer Timothy] Cahill said. "I'm not looking to push gambling down the throats of anyone in this state."

Interesting in its complete detachment from reality.

Let me just say this - I hate the lottery. I loathe, despise, abhor, detest and otherwise condemn it. I think that it's horrible public policy, and it's being done in my name, as a resident of a state with one of the biggest and most active state lotteries in the country.

And for the state Treasurer to say that he's "not looking to push gambling down the throats of anyone in this state" is just comical. If there's a more frequent advertiser on the local airwaves, television and radio, I'm not aware of who it might be. The Lottery ads are ubiquitous, and obnoxious. They sell ridiculous visions of free rides, mostly encouraging spending in those least able to afford it. There may not be anything the state does that is more "pushed down the throat" of Massachusetts citizens. And for those of us who don't play, there's no more prevalent public nuisance than the scratch tickets - they litter the ground outside the store where I have to wait in line behind someone buying the soon-to-be-companions of the litter. Whatever store that might happen to be.

I shouldn't hate it, I suppose. I know that the people paying the "stupidity tax" are helping to keep my property taxes down. But I hate it anyway. It offends me. And that comment from the treasurer really offended me...

Technorati tags: Massachusetts, lottery, online, gambling

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Truck day!

As the Boston area digs out from 18+ inches of snow, one of the traditional signs of impending spring takes place today, as the equipment truck leaves Fenway Park en route for Red Sox' spring training in Fort Myers, FL...

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

Pet peeve

The name of the Italian city in which the winter Olympics are currently being held, in Italian, is Torino. In English, it's Turin, probably best known as the home of the shroud that carries its name. If we never, ever, in English, talk about the Pope in "Roma" or the capital of Greece being "Αθηνα" or the capital of the Czech Republic being "Praha" (with the hard guttural "h") or the capital of Russia being "Moskva," then we probably should be talking about the Turin Olympics, rather than the "Torino" Olympics. But what makes no sense at all is to say, as the NBC people are repeatedly doing, "Torino, Italy." It's "Torino, Italia" in Italian. But in English, it's "Turin, Italy."

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Idle thought...

It came out yesterday that NJ State Police have Wayne Gretzky's voice on tape as a result of a wiretap in their investigation of a gambling ring allegedly run by Gretzky's good friend, assistant coach and former teammate Rick Tocchet and also allegedly tied into the Philadelphia mob.

And I'm wondering when we'll see the outrage over the fact that the government eavesdropped on Gretzky without ever getting a warrant to wiretap his phone...

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AP continues to mis-label Terrorist Surveillance Program

Vice-President Cheney spoke, last night, to the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington. The AP has a snippet of his speech in their video stories this morning. The passage that they've got up includes the following from the Vice President, speaking on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program:
Some of our critics call this a "domestic surveillance program." Wrong. That is inaccurate. It is not domestic surveillance. We are talking about communications, one end of which is outside the United States and therefore interational and one end of which we have reason to believe is somehow tied to or related to Al-quaeda. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States.

The headline for this video clip?

Cheney Defends Domestic Surveillance

Look, the AP, along with most of the mainstream press, has chosen sides. There's no other explanation for this. The administration has repeatedly attempted to set the record straight, and the press, from
The Associated Press to Time Magazine to CBS' The Early Show have steadfastly refused to change their labeling.

Is that not prima facie evidence of bias? As the program is clearly not a "domestic surveillance program" and they've been told repeatedly for at least 2 1/2 weeks now that it's not, and they've ignored it. Clearly, the terms "domestic spying" and "domestic surveillance" are inflammatory. Equally clearly, they reflected negatively upon the Bush administration. And it is equally obvious that they are not accurate. And the press continues to use them...

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ice-age coming again?

Interesting snippet from a Russian scientist who has obviously missed the memo:
A Russian astronomer has predicted that Earth will experience a "mini Ice Age" in the middle of this century, caused by low solar activity. Khabibullo Abdusamatov of the Pulkovo Astronomic Observatory in St. Petersburg said Monday that temperatures will begin falling six or seven years from now, when global warming caused by increased solar activity in the 20th century reaches its peak, RIA Novosti reported.

Technorati tags: global, warming, ice-age

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The Early Show - "poor, nasty, brutish, and short"

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee for most of the day, yesterday, explaining in some detail why the NSA Terrorist Surveillance program is legal, why it's necessary, and why it is not "domestic spying." It was the lead news story on CBS' The Early Show this morning, and they demonstrated that, while they saw it, it didn't all meet their criteria for news. Obviously, you cannot capture the entirety of an 8-hour hearing in a 2-minute report, but, as always, it is instructive to see what makes the cut, and what doesn't. Here are some of the comments from the hearing, a couple from Attorney General Gonzales and a couple from different US Senators.

"...the constant repetition on the news media of the term "domestic spying," as opposed to spying on -- and electronic surveillance of somebody outside the United States connected with an organization that has as their goal the killing of Americans or the threatening of America or the destruction that happened on September the 11th, is entirely two different things..."
- Senator Charles Grassley, during the Senate Hearings on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, 2/6/2006

"...think about the reaction, the public reaction that has arisen in some quarters about this program. If the president had authorized domestic surveillance, as well, even though we're talking about Al Qaida-to-Al Qaida, I think the reaction would have been twice as great."
- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 2/6/2006

"You made clear that what's been authorized here is not domestic surveillance; that is, starting from and ending in the United States. This is an international surveillance with known Al Qaida operatives, correct?"
- Senator John Cornyn, to AG Gonzales, 2/6/2006

"I think people who call this a domestic surveillance program are doing a disservice to the American people. It would be like flying from Texas to Poland and saying that's a domestic flight. We know that's not true. That would be an international flight. And what we're talking about are international communications."
- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 2/6/2006

And here's how CBS' The Early Show treated the hearing:

"Heated exchanges on Capitol Hill Monday as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended the legality of President Bush's domestic spying program."
- Rene Syler, CBS Early show 2/7/2006

"Alberto Gonzales faced heated questions from senators about the president's domestic spying program yesterday."
- Harry Smith, introducing Thalia Assuras report on the Senate Hearings on CBS' The Early Show, 2/7/2006

- The headline on-screen during the crossover from Smith to Assuras and back, CBS' The Early Show, 2/7/2006

One of the video snippets during the report had Senator Feinstein saying "this program is much bigger and much broader than you want anyone to know." But that was speculation on her part. The introduction to that statement was her wondering why they hadn't been before the judiciary committee on this program before.

I cannot understand why you didn't come to the committee unless the program was much broader and you believed it would not be authorized. That's the only reason I can figure you didn't come to the committee. Because if the program is as the president has said and you have said, to this date you haven't briefed the Intelligence Committee, you haven't let us ask the question, "What is a link? What is an affiliate? How many people are covered? What are the precise -- and I don't believe in the briefings those questions were asked -- what are the precise numbers? What happens to the data? How long is it retained in a database? When are innocent people taken out of the database?" And I can only believe -- and this is my honest view -- that this program is much bigger and much broader than you want anyone to know."

Without the context, it seems like a statement of fact ("the program is bigger and broader") rather than the speculation ("I believe that the program is bigger and broader") that it actually was.

And every Senatorial quote that they used, even from the Republicans, was critical. The impression of someone whose only source of news on the hearing was The Early Show would have no idea of the amount of support that the Attorney General had on the committee yesterday. Nor would they be aware that the only significant discussion of precedents, which occurred between Senator Orrin Hatch and the Attorney General, which concluded that

...people who are wildly saying that the president is violating the law are ignoring all these cases that say that -- or at least imply that he has the inherent power to be able to do what he should to protect our nation during a time of war.

- Senator Hatch

In short, it was a typically biased, adversarial piece, lacking in context, one-sided and inaccurate, and inaccurately labeled. Other than that, it was splendid journalism...

Technorati tags: CBS, domestic, spying, surveillance, EarlyShow, Terrorist, program, Gonzales, Senate, Hearing, program, Gonzales

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"Oh yeah, THAT'LL teach 'em..."

This should prove both interesting and informative:
IRAN'S largest selling newspaper announced today it was holding a contest on cartoons of the Holocaust in response to the publishing in European papers of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. "It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," said Farid Mortazavi, the graphics editor for Hamshahri newspaper - which is published by Teheran's conservative municipality. He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression. "The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he said.

Unfortunately, the lesson to be learned isn't going to be learned by the people that need to learn it. I think it's very safe to say that, regardless of what they come up with, we aren't going to see angry mobs of Jewish people torching Iranian embassies in Denmark or Poland or France. Whatever the Iranians think that they're trying to prove, what they're going to actually demonstrate is the ridiculous over-reaction that's currently going on among the rioting muslims. But, as I say, they won't actually learn the lesson that they're teaching...

Technorati tags: Denmark, Iran, cartoons, holocaust

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Quote of the day (so far)

"I think that people who call this a "domestic surveillance" program are doing a disservice to the American people."
- Attorney General Gonzales on the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, agreeing with me...

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Senate hearings on NSA program

Odds and ends (without benefit of a transcript)...

  • The hearing opened with nonsense. Senator Specter decided not to swear in Attorney General Gonzales, to which the Democrats objected. They forced a roll call vote, at which point all of the Republican Senators present upheld the Chairman's decision. And then Senator Feingold demanded to see the proxies of the Republicans who were not present. All told, it took about 10 minutes of committee time to wrangle over a non-issue that was never in doubt. Just silly.

  • Senator Leahy was in full high-dudgeon mode about the illegality of what the President was doing, about no one being above the law, about how the President was bypassing the Congress. It still amazes me that "all appropriate military force" can include capturing people in Afghanistan or killing people in Yemen or Pakistan, but not listening to a phone call made from Afghanistan to Manhattan...

  • Senator Hatch discussed the state of law, as I wrote about yesterday. And again, we see the conclusion - every time the issue of warrantless wiretaps of enemy intelligence has made it to a federal appellate court, it has been upheld as an inherent Article II right of the President. There is absolutely no evidence in the public record to suggest that anything illegal or unconstitutional has been authorized by the President or engaged in by any member of the executive branch.

  • The shock of the day - Senator Kennedy opened his questioning of Attorney General Gonzales by conceding that he made a strong case on the precedents and authorities for the Terrorist Surveillance Program!

  • Senator Grassley complained, as I have been for the past couple of weeks, about the "constant repetition in the media of the term domestic spying." Needless to say, I completely agree with him that it's inaccurate.

  • Senator Biden didn't help the cause of those on the left who've been howling about the "domestic spying" and "warrantless wiretapping of Americans" when he asked the Attorney General why the President had only authorized the NSA to intercept communications coming from outside the country and not any in which both parties were within the U.S.

  • Senator Kohl went the same way as Senator Biden. He described the fact that surveillance is taking place only when one of the parties as outside the U.S. and never when both are inside the U.S. as "incomprehensible." AG Gonzales made two relevant points in response. The first was to comment on the uproar and outrage that has greeted the disclosure of this program, and to speculate on how much worse it would have been had it actually included purely "domestic" surveillance. The second was to note that "domestic" Al Quaeda surveillance was not taking place "under the program that I'm testifying about today," clearly implying that it is, in fact, taking place. Presumably, those wiretaps are all going through the FISA court...

    Update: After questioning from Senator DeWine, the Attorney General addressed that last point, and made it clear that they are, in fact, going after domestic Al Quaeda communications.

  • Senator Feinstein tried to take a comment that the President made earlier out of context, and Gonzales called her on it. She then attempted to get answers to a bunch of hypotheticals and the Attorney General refused to go down that road...

Technorati tags: NSA, Hearing, Gonzales, Senate, domestic, spying

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Some of the NSA issues that people question

Addressing a couple of points that have been raised...

  • The media keeps referring to the NSA program as "domestic spying." According to the information in the public domain, I don't believe that it's accurate to do so. As I've said. The "spying" that is taking place, the communications that are being intercepted, are all originating with a) persons suspected of being Al Quaeda or affiliated with Al Quaeda who are b) outside the United States. (Presumably there have been communications monitored within the United States as well, but I'm not aware of any allegations that any of those have taken place without a warrant.) The fact that the persons under surveillance are, on occasion, contacting persons within the United States does not, in my opinion, make the surveillance "domestic." In the same way that a wiretap on the phone of a mobster who happens to order a pizza from Dominos doesn't mean that Dominos is under surveillance.

  • The best analysis that I've seen of the legal and constitutional issues surrounding the NSA surveillance program was written by John Hinderaker and posted here. I think that the money quote is from the second circuit court in 1984, United States v. Duggan, in which they summed up the state of constitutional law as so:
    Prior to the enactment of FISA, virtually every court that had addressed the issue had concluded that the President had the inherent power to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance to collect foreign intelligence information, and that such surveillances constituted an exception to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

    Going back to John's analysis,
    Finally, in 2002, the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review decided Sealed Case No. 02-001. This case arose out of a provision of the Patriot Act that was intended to break down the “wall” between law enforcement and intelligence gathering. The Patriot Act modified Truong’s “primary purpose” test by providing that surveillance under FISA was proper if intelligence gathering was one “significant” purpose of the intercept. In the course of discussing the constitutional underpinnings (or lack thereof) of the Truong test, the court wrote:
    The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President’s constitutional power. The question before us is the reverse, does FISA amplify the President’s power by providing a mechanism that at least approaches a classic warrant and which therefore supports the government’s contention that FISA searches are constitutionally reasonable.

    That is the current state of the law. The federal appellate courts have unanimously held that the President has the inherent constitutional authority to order warrantless searches for purposes of gathering foreign intelligence information, which includes information about terrorist threats. Furthermore, since this power is derived from Article II of the Constitution, the FISA Review Court has specifically recognized that it cannot be taken away or limited by Congressional action.

    (emphasis mine.)

    In other words, absent some new ruling by the United States Supreme Court, there is no compelling argument that can be made that what the President has authorized on the part of the NSA is illegal or unconstitutional.

  • The fact that the President allegedly asked for explicit authorization for this program in no way proves, or even implies, that he didn't have, or suspected he didn't have, or feared that he didn't have, implicit constitutional authority. Reason and common sense dictates that the more Congress explicitly signs up for ahead of time, the less that they'll be able to convincingly complain about later. In other words, he may have brought this up specifically to avoid the situation that we're currently in, where a program that the administration thinks is both necessary and proper is being fought about by partisans in the media...

Technorati tags: NSA, Surveillance, terrorist, program

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More confirmation of media template on Terrorist Surveillance Program

The mainstream press absolutely refuses to cast the NSA terrorist surveillance program in anything other than a negative light. The latest example is this piece from Time Magazine. In addition to continued use of the adjective "domestic" when talking about international calls ("U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales speaks about domestic wiretapping policies at Georgetown University"), the article focuses on AG Gonzales' expected testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary committee this coming week.
Specter's hearing, which is scheduled to last most of Monday, will focus on presidential powers in wartime and will examine whether Bush took legal shortcuts in implementing the program, which allows the National Security Agency to monitor communications involving suspected al-Qaeda members if one party to the conversation is inside the U.S. The program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks and was exposed by the New York Times in December. Since then, lawmakers have complained that the administration's legal arguments are shaky, and have contended that briefings for the House and Senate intelligence committees were inadequate or misleading.

Just looking at that paragraph, there are two items that aren't quite right. In the first place, they talk about monitoring communications "if one party to the conversation is inside the U.S." That's true, but misleading - the vast majority of the communications they're monitoring are taking place with no parties inside the U.S. The question at hand is what happens when one of the parties outside the U.S. communicates with someone inside the U.S.

Secondly, the issue about "lawmakers complain[ing]" is meaninglessly broad. Certainly, SOME lawmakers have complained. Others, such as Intelligence Committee chairman Pat Roberts, who's probably in the best position to know what he's talking about, have said that the President's program is absolutely right. Roberts also believes that the briefings have not been "inadequate or misleading." So they're attributing to all lawmakers what appears to be an uninformed or partisan position.

The hearing is likely to delve into whether the White House considered seeking congressional permission for the program and was rebuffed. That could call into question the Administration argument that the President has the authority under his constitutional powers as commander in chief and under a congressional resolution authorizing military force against terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.

If Congress "rebuffed" the President, how does that "call into question" his constitutional authority to authorize the program? That's what this is all going to come down to, in the end, the wrangling over FISA notwithstanding. If the President believes in good faith that his constitutional authority to "be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States" allows this particular action, then Congress' unwillingness to sign off doesn't change that.

The problem with the media coverage is that they've already decided that the President was wrong, the program's illegal, and that every attempt to defend it is just political spin. And that attitude is permeating every piece that gets written on it. Starting with the fact that the mainstream press outlets specifically refuse to call it a "terrorist surveillance program" and still refer to "domestic spying" or "domestic wiretapping."

Technorati tags: Time, Magazine, NSA, Surveillance, Terrorist

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Saturday, February 04, 2006


There's an interesting piece today by Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker on the state of the Libby indictment. She's actually gone through some of the affidavits that special counsel Fitzpatrick used to compel testimony, and has a couple on interesting conclusions.
Get it? There was not even an effort here at a fair investigation or even-handed treatment. The prosecutor was only issuing subpoenas to reporters he thought had received leaks from people trying to discredit Wilson’s story. Whether or not leaks involved classified material or national security, leaks for other motives to reporters were of no concern to him. Whatever leaks Wilson or Plame or the VIPs or any other partisans made respecting the White House were of no concern to the Special Prosecutor. Just leaks relating to discrediting “whistleblower” Joe.

This is why the criminalization of politics should be stopped. This is why there should never be another special prosecution.

And this is why this case deserves to be dismissed.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Some things are even obvious enough for me to understand...

Every once in a while I get something right...
I'm not a lawyer, or a law professor, or a legal scholar. But I am skeptical of Congress' ability to, by statute, remove constitutionally mandated executive powers.

- Me, yesterday

"Congress, by statute, cannot extinguish a core constitutional authority of the president," Roberts wrote.

- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, in a 19-page letter released to the public today.

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Double standard from the AP, on display again...

Consider two different public figures, with different backgrounds, and different organizations, and associated in the public mind with different political parties. Neither speaks for the party that the public associates them with, and both are relatively marginal public figures.

Pat Robertson is an evangelical preacher best known as the host of "The 700 Club." In 1988, he was one of the large group running for the Republican presidential nomination. He's a political conservative, associated in the public mind with the Republican party, and generally a marginal figure. The vast majority of Republicans do not consider Pat Robertson to speak for them.

Julian Bond is a former Democratic representative in Georgia and a long-time Civil Rights activist. He has been, for the past seven years, the chairman of the NAACP, the largest civil rights organization in the country, an organization that is overwhelmingly supportive of Democrats, an organization which virtually all Democratic public officials treat with great respect at all times.

When Pat Robertson advocated assassinating Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, that warranted an AP story. When Robertson commented on Ariel Sharon's stroke being a punishment for the Israeli peace process, it warranted another. When Robertson opens his mouth and makes stupid and/or offensive comments, the media reports it, and Republicans have to stand up and defend Robertson or distance themselves from him. There's generally a drumbeat in the media to force him to apologize.

But when the chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond, stands in front of a university audience and equates the Republican Party to Nazis, calls the current and former Secretarys of State "tokens" and compares the President's judicial nominees to the Taliban, the AP doesn't deem that newsworthy. No one asks any Democratic officials about the comments. No has to stand up and defend Bond, no one has to distance themselves from him. No apologies are forthcoming, and none are requested/demanded.

Are Robertson's comments newsworthy? Are Bonds'? Can one really warrant publicity without the other warranting similar publicity? If it's important for the news media to tell us when the host of "The 700 Club" says something dumb, wouldn't a truly unbiased media also note when the chairman of the NAACP does something similar?

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...

Technorati tags: AP, Robertson, NAACP, JulianBond

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Quote of the day

"Politics are not my strong suit."
- Massachusetts AG and Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful Tom Reilly demonstrating understatement in the wake of the Marie St. Fleur fiasco

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

"...I can't get over how quickly justice was served..."

In 1978, Gary Trudeau ran a Doonesbury sequence in which Joanie's classmate from Law School, Woodrow, joined the staff of the House ethics committee, and it turned out that he was hired at a salary that was too high. This was rectified, at which point his reaction was "...I can't get over how quickly justice was served."

Well, there's been just a splendid case of karmic justice going on in Massachusetts this week. If you're a big supporter of state Attorney General Tom Reilly, I suppose it hasn't been much fun, but for everyone else, there's been the kind of reward for naked cynical political opportunism that most of us really enjoy seeing. And it's happened at an outstanding rate, basically a sitcom rate, where someone does something wrong, and gets his comeuppance in the span of 22 1/2 minutes.

A little background, for those outside the state. Massachusetts is one of the most reliably Democratic states in the country. The entire 11 member congressional delegation is Democratic, the Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Massachusetts legislature, the court system is reliably liberal, etc. The major newspaper in the state is the Boston Globe. But in one of the strangest political phenomena of the recent past, the Republican party has held the Governor's office for 16 years, winning four consecutive elections. This has come as a result of a couple of strong Republican candidates, uniformly weak Democratic candidates, and, just perhaps, a fear in some corners of the populace that there needs to be some kind of restraint on the legislature that a Democratic Governor would not exert.

In any event, 2006 is a gubernatorial election year in Massachusetts. The incumbent, Mitt Romney, would be favored (though probably not strongly, the demographics of the state being what they are) if he were running for re-election, but he isn't. So the presumptive Republican nominee is Lt. Governor Kerry Healey. The landscape appeared to be set up to give the Democratic nomination to state Attorney General Tom Reilly. Reilly, who has recently come under fire for phone calls he made, on behalf of a friend and campaign contributor, to a district attorney that may or may not have impeded the investigation into a drunk driving accident, is facing former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Deval Patrick in the Democratic primary.

Healey, the presumptive Republican candidate, is a woman. Patrick, the primary opponent, is black.

On Tuesday, Reilly shocked the establishment when he chose Massachusetts state Rep. Marie St. Fleur, to run for Lt. Governor as his running mate. (This is not binding on the Democratic convention - the Governor and Lt. Governor candidates are chosen independently.) It was a blatantly cynical ploy, to derive demographic benefit against the black competitor, by choosing a black, and against the female competitor, by choosing a woman. The Boston Globe story on Reilly's choice called her "a rising star in Massachusetts state politics," despite the fact that the vast majority of the Massachusetts population had never heard of Marie St. Fleur before Tuesday.

On Wednesday morning, it was front-page news in both papers that St. Fleur "has had three delinquent tax debts in the last four years, including an April 2005 federal tax lien of $12,711 against her and her husband...she also owes $40,000 in delinquent federally backed student loans." Over the course of the day, it turns out that both she and her husband are driving illegally, as their drivers licenses cannot be renewed until they pay the excise tax that they've not paid.

And today, she's withdrawn. Reilly's cynical political opportunism backfired so completely, and so thoroughly, that his chosen running mate lasted fewer than 48 hours. There's a real satisfaction in that for anyone who isn't a big Reilly fan...

Technorati tags: Massachusetts, Governor, Reilly, St.Fleur

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Globe finds Presidential critics - sun rises in east

The Boston Globe is not exactly breaking news on its front page this morning, running a story in which they found "legal specialists" who were willing to call the President a liar. This matches, of course, the general position of the Boston Globe on the Bush administration, so these specialists are credible and believable, and warrant front-page mention.
Legal specialists yesterday questioned the accuracy of President Bush's sweeping contentions about the legality of his domestic spying program, particularly his assertion in his State of the Union speech on Tuesday that "previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority I have."

Shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush authorized the National Security Agency to intercept overseas calls from the United States without first seeking a warrant, asserting he had the right to do so under his wartime powers. On Tuesday night, he defended his program by saying past presidents have exerted the same powers.

But legal specialists said yesterday that wiretaps ordered by previous presidents were put in place before warrants were required for investigations involving national security. Since Congress passed the law requiring warrants in 1978, no president but Bush has defied it, specialists said.

I'm not a lawyer, or a law professor, or a legal scholar. But I am skeptical of Congress' ability to, by statute, remove constitutionally mandated executive powers.
Bush's contention that past presidents did the same thing as he has done "is either intentionally misleading or downright false," said David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor. Only Bush has made the assertion that his wartime powers should supersede an act of Congress, Cole said.

Bush's assertion that his program was legal prompted a group of 14 prominent law professors, including both liberals and conservatives, to pen a joint letter objecting to his arguments.

The piece states, as noted, that the group questioning the legality of the program consists of both liberals and conservatives, but they've quoted three of them, and none is a conservative. The closest is probably University of Chicago Law School Professor Richard Epstein, but he's a libertarian, not a conservative. Philip Heymann of Harvard was an assistant AG in the Clinton administration.

And David Cole? Professor Cole from Georgetown, quoted the most extensively, the one who sets the tone? He's the legal affairs editor of The Nation magazine, and he's been railing against the Bush administration since 9/11. In December of 2001, he wrote of The Patriot Act that "this provision in effect resurrects the philosophy of McCarthyism, simply substituting 'terrorist' for 'communist.' " So anyone looking for a legal specialist to criticize the Bush administration's approach to National Security needs go no further than Professor Cole, and the Boston Globe is not the first to do so.

In any event, the bottom line really comes down to this - had the Globe been interested in supporting the President's surveillance powers they could no doubt have found "legal specialists" to cite. Anyone who, at this point in time, is saying with certaintly that the program is either illegal or legal is simply speculating. The people who know the actual details of the program aren't talking, the controlling legal authorities and theories have not been outlined in public, and there has been no ruling from a court either forbidding or allowing. Under those circumstances, how newsworthy is it that a group of law professors thinks it illegal? And if a group of 14 more comes out today with a letter defending the program, will that make the front-page of the Boston Globe tomorrow?

My speculation would be, probably not...

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The myth of the 2005 White Sox

Tony Massarotti, who I generally think is a pretty good baseball writer, albeit from a fairly traditionalist point-of-view, has a piece in this morning's Boston Herald that continues to perpetuate the myth of the 2005 White Sox offense.
Last offseason, as baseball prepared to penalize steroid users for the first time ever, the White Sox were a step ahead of the competition. The White Sox hit home runs, to be sure, but they did not entirely rely on them. And when it came time to execute a pitch or make a big defensive play, Chicago was just as capable of relying on Neal Cotts or Aaron Rowand as Paul Konerko. And the White Sox could run and bunt to boot.

Can we please drop this "didn't rely on HR" nonsense? There's this conventional wisdom myth that Chicago won with a "small ball" offense. Nothing could be further from the truth. Did the White Sox play "small ball?" Yes, far too often, and it hurt them, as their runs scored dropped from 865 in 2004 to 741 in 2005. That's correct, going to "Ozzie-ball" caused the White Sox runs scored to drop by nearly 15%!

In addition, the way that they did score runs was frequently on home runs. They were 5th in the Major Leagues in hitting home runs last year, behind Texas, NY Yankees, Cincinnati and Cleveland. And they were 4th in baseball in their percentage of runs which scored on HR. In other words, contrary to not "rely[ing] on HR," there were only 3 teams in baseball who were more reliant on HR than the White Sox.

The typical response to having that pointed out is "well, the small ball let them be more consistent, so they had fewer really low scoring games." Wrong. The 2004 White Sox were shut out once more (8 vs. 7), but in both years, they had 13 games in which they scored only 1 run, and the 2005 team had 4 more games in which they scored 2 runs or fewer.

The bottom line is this - the 2005 White Sox won because they did a fantastic job preventing their opposition from scoring runs. The conventional wisdom that they benefited greatly from playing "fundamental" baseball, "small ball," that they scored because they did a great job laying down bunts and moving runners along, is just a myth, completely at odds with what actually happened.

Technorati tags: Herald, Boston, baseball, Massarotti

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