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Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The Late Sox Game

The Globe reports on the many kids and working people who won't be able to stay up and watch the Red Sox in game one of the ALDS tomorrow night at 10:00 eastern time. And this was predictable:

"Many companies, meanwhile, are bracing for thin staffs Thursday in anticipation that some employees may come in late, leave early because of the 4:06 p.m. start that day for the second game of the series, or skip work all together."

Sox Tix Drawing

Redsox.com is having a drawing for Monster seats at Fenway for the ALDS this weekend. Fill out the form on the site by Wednesday at noon for a chance to win. You still have to pay for the seats if you win, so this is kind of a screwy "prize." There's also a ticket giveaway drawing you can be eligible for if you sign up for Boston.com's "@ bat" email of Red Sox news.

Clark on Iraq

Confused by the contradictory quotes you've been hearing attributed to Wesley Clark regarding the Iraq war? Here's a long article in the latest New York Review of Books that should clear things up. When I'm awake some time I'll read it and perhaps comment.

Easterblogg

That's the name Gregg Easterbrook has settled on for his new blog on the TNR site.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Who's Sordid Now?

Krugman is back from his book tour, and his time away from the op-ed page hasn't cost him his edge.

Baseball Playoff Preview/Picks

The full schedule is here. Note that the National League schedule makes sense while the AL's doesn't. New York-Minnesota begins tomorrow afternoon and doesn't resume until Thursday night. Red Sox-A's, meanwhile, has two games with a short turn around on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.

That Wednesday 10 pm start followed up by Thursday at 4 pm in Sox-A's means Thursday will be an unofficial work holiday in New England. Expect some people to be calling in sick.

Peter Gammons says the Yankees are favorites, in a column where he also makes the case that Boston's David Ortiz should be AL MVP. The ESPN experts are divided over who will emerge voctorious this fall.

I'll throw out some picks here, with the caveat that they are meaningless. Last season, the Division Series matchups were all won by the underdogs, Anaheim, Minnesota, San Francisco and St. Louis. Five-game series can really go either way most of the time, especially given that having only four teams per league in the playoffs often means there's not much difference between playoff teams to begin with.

That said, I'll go with Yankees over Twins, Red Sox over A's, Braves over Cubs, Giants over Marlins.

LDS: The Yankees own the Twins historically, and I feel this will hold, despite Minnesota's hot second half. The Red Sox are fortunate Mulder is gone and Hudson is having back problems, which should allow their offense to put up enough runs to win. The Cubs don't have enough offense to contend with Atlanta, and San Francisco is awfully tough at home.

LCS: Yankees over Red Sox, Braves over Giants. New York's pitching will come through when it needs to, and good pitching beats good hitting. The Braves will win because of the home field advantage and having more offensive firepower. Atlanta and San Fran have comparable pitching. The Giants are probably correct not to fly cross country just to make up one game and have a shot at home field in the LCS, but lacking home field may hurt them too.

World Series: Braves over Yankees. Atlanta is the most complete team in baseball this year. They will expose the flaws in New York.

Punchy Peter May Preview

Peter May, in honor of today's opening of NBA training camps, offers a punchy review of offseason changes and the questions heading into this coming season. Sample passage, on the Cavs: "They would be odds-on favorites to win any division which valued tattoos and hip-hop clothing."

North Korea Calls Rumsfeld "Stupid Man", "Psychopath"

Check this for a laugh. Sounds like the North Koreans have been reading some Maureen Dowd.

Overvalued Tech?

Charles Stein says yes in Sunday's Boston Globe. Read the column for a mix of self-effacing humor about Stein holding onto his Lucent stock as well as some scary examples of why the current market may be more outlandish than that of 2000.

On a related note, Dennis Kozlowski's trial starts on Monday, which should re-open some wounds.

LAT Editorial on the Recall

The LA Times Sunday editorial, "Why the Recall is Wrong", suggests a no vote on the recall and endorses no one on the second question of who should replace Davis if the recall is successful. The LAT holds that the recall is undemocratic and then goes through the main candidates one by one, explaining why they would not be better than Davis.

Their take on Arnold is one that echoes my own disappointment after I was initially optimistic that his presence in the race could bring about greater interest in politics from people who had never participated before: "What a shame that Schwarzenegger, with his power to attract worldwide media attention, failed to lead a serious discussion of what ails California and how to fix it."

The final two paragraphs defending the "no endorsement position" are excellent as well, arguing that the recall is not the solution to California's problems:

"If state voters are to throw out a governor less than one year into his term, the replacement should be demonstrably superior. This field of contenders offers no such person. Changing the governor in midstream would not address what really ails California state and local governments; the recall of Davis instead would invite more political chaos and economic uncertainty. Worse, the state and the nation could look forward to more recalls pushed by poor losers who simply didn't want to wait for the end of a four-year term. The vituperative, scorched-earth politics of partisan payback would be never ending.

"The recall is a form of misdirected anger at what's wrong with Sacramento. Here's what causes most of California's dysfunction: illogical tax laws and policies; gerrymandering; term limits, which take power from the elected and hand power to the lobbyists; a political system fueled by big business and big union cash; and, yes, ill-considered ballot initiatives and recall elections. As soon as this recall is over, voters finally can collectively concentrate on ridding Sacramento of the real causes of the state's problems. Recall might feel good, but it would cause the worst political hangover California has ever had."

Energy Bill Outrage

The NYT lead editorial takes another crack at exposing the disgusting congressional cronyism that is the energy bill, noting that it is now in conference and entirely in the hands of

"...Senator Pete Domenici and Representative Billy Tauzin, both reliable allies of the fossil fuel industry (although Mr. Domenici is also a big fan of nuclear power) and neither a visionary thinker. Since Labor Day, these two veteran deal makers have been cherry-picking provisions they like, discarding those they don't and for good measure infuriating their colleagues by adding new items of their own.

"This process is undemocratic even by Congress's clubby standards. Even worse is the almost certain outcome: a tired compendium of tax breaks and subsidies for energy producers leavened by a few gestures toward energy efficiency."

Many people on the left are getting worked up over Halliburton's no-bid contracts in Iraq while the energy bill would provide tax breaks several times the value of those contracts to administration friends. These are the same friends Dick Cheney is embarrassed to admit helped him draft the legislation he submitted to Congress a few years ago.

Polls of Iraqis

Monday's Washington Post digs into the details of the opinion polls of Iraqis that the administration has been touting as evidence the Iraqi people really do like the American occupying force. What they find is--surprise!--the administration has been selective in the findings they've been talking about. Walter Pincus reports:

"In testimony before Congress, L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz both cited a recent Gallup Poll that found that almost two-thirds of those polled in Baghdad said it was worth the hardships suffered since the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein. Bremer also told Congress that 67 percent thought that in five years they would be better off, and only 11 percent thought they would be worse off.

"That same poll, however, found that, countrywide, only 33 percent thought they were better off than they were before the invasion and 47 percent said they were worse off. And 94 percent said that Baghdad was a more dangerous place for them to live, a finding the administration officials did not discuss.

"The poll also found that 29 percent of Baghdad residents had a favorable view of the United States, while 44 percent had a negative view. By comparison, 55 percent had a favorable view of France.

"Similarly, half of Baghdad residents had a negative view of President Bush, while 29 percent had a favorable view of him. In contrast, French President Jacques Chirac drew a 42 percent favorable rating."

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Intelligence Officer Leak

Atrios has extensive coverage, as does Josh Marshall (Click on Eschaton and Talking Points Memo, to the right). And pretty much every political blog at this point. This story looks like it'll be getting big. I think you know where I might stand on it.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

The Poverty Numbers

The Census Bureau poverty report came out yesterday, in another effort by the Bush administration to blunt the impact of bad economic data by releasing it on a Friday (it had been released on a Tuesday or Thursday in prior years).

Key results: Median household money income in 2002 fell 1.1 percent. The official poverty rate rose, from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 12.1 percent in 2002. The number in poverty increased also, by 1.7 million people, to 34.6 million in 2002.

Predictably, the Democrats running for president are jumping all over the president on this one, and I expect we'll be hearing these figures tossed around quite a bit in the coming weeks.

The White House's defense against the criticism has been ultra-lame so far. From NYT

"At his daily press briefing, Mr. McClellan, rather than focusing on the census data, pointed instead to newly released figures from the Commerce Department that showed a larger-than-expected rise in the gross domestic product. A 3.3 percent increase in G.D.P. in the second quarter of this year, Mr. McClellan suggested, indicates that the economy is moving in a positive direction." (full briefing text)

That is the same quarter of GDP growth that everyone has discounted entirely because it reflects the spike in military expenditures for the Iraq war, rather than any other meaningful economic events. The slow growth the economy has been experiencing for a while now does not seem to be making life better for the millions of Americans who are out of work, and the president's economic program has failed to address most people's concerns to date. The administration should be ashamed of their disgraceful record of worsening the plight of those lowest on the economic ladder.

Bias in Academia

That's the topic of the David Brooks op-ed in today's New York Times. My position is that academia is brutally competitive for anyone, not just righties, and people are semi-nutty to try to get tenured in the first place. We need not shed tears for conservative Phd's who go on to cushy positions at well-funded think tanks.

Interesting discussions from Crooked Timber and Matthew Yglesias.

Edward Said

The influential academic and Palestinian advocate died on Thursday, as you probably already know. Edwardsaid.org links to several obits. Think what you will of him, but you must admit he was a passionate and thoughtful advocate of the Palestinian cause.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Pro Picks, Week 4: Fantasy Land

Confession: I am playing fantasy football online, and that is one sure fire way to make you a psychotic follower of every little stat and injury. So far I'm doing well, 3-0 in my weekly matchups, but this week I may be headed for a defeat.

Daunte Culpepper fractured some bone in his back and is doubtful, and this on the same week that my other QB, Kerry Collins, has a bye. Two of my best points producers, Ricky Williams and Chris Chambers, also have a bye with Miami. And to top it off, David Boston (or, as fantasy-heads are calling him these days, David Bust-ton), who has not produced due to a mysterious heel injury that kept him out last week, has been suspended by the Chargers for Sunday. As Dick Enberg would say, when bad luck comes, sometimes she brings her knitting.

This experience is reminding me why I disliked fantasy football when I played a few years ago. I had Steve Young, who was injured and out for the year after a few games, and my squad never could recover. Even if you draft and manage your roster perfectly, injuries can ruin you. How can there be such injustice in the world?

As I said, fantasy makes football fans crazier than normal. Who knew I would ever be so interested in who scored the touchdown in the Denver game as the score update scrolls across the bottom of the screen? Furthermore, as I pick games, sometimes I go against teams that have my fantasy players, so I end up bizarrely rooting for my guy to rack up big stats in a loss. This stuff is schizophrenia-inducing.

Enough wallowing in my own insane obsessions. On to this week's picks, which, as always, are for recreational purposes only.

New England at Washington

The good news: Pats are 2-1. The bad news: Bill Belichick called me this week asking if I would join the team as a linebacker. In case you didn't get that one, the Patriots have lots of players with injuries. And if you have today's Boston Globe, check out the nasty shot of Tom Brady's swollen elbow--yick. The Redskins, meanwhile, are still dealing with the wrath of Hollywood after pre-empting the Emmy pre-show last week with their overtime game against the Giants on Fox.

Pick: Redskins

Dallas at NY Jets

The Bill Parcells tour of teams he left continues with another stop at the Meadowlands. I look forward to seeing Herm Edwards throw another nutty in the postgame presser if the Jets lose again.

Pick: Jets

Atlanta at Carolina

Doug Johnson and Jake Delhomme are the QBs. For your own sake, don't watch.

Pick: Carolina

Cincinnati at Cleveland

The battle of Ohio! How did the Browns pull off that win last week in San Francisco? Holcomb leads them back with a fractured leg, and what does he get as his reward? Tim Couch starts on Sunday. The Bungles should help ease him back into playing.

Pick: Browns

San Diego at Oakland

This is a tough call. Should I go with the team of players that are bad because they're getting too old, or with the team of players that are bad because they got rid of their veterans and are playing unproven young guys? I'm guessing it's better to have been good once upon a time than to have never been good, and I'll bet the Raiders will want to show Monday night was not who they are.

Pick: Raiders

Green Bay at Chicago

Who is actually thrilled to tune in Monday night to see the new and improved Soldier Field? Are they actually hoping for a ratings boost because of a stadium renovation? And on the Pack's embarrassing loss in Arizona last week, I think the doomsayers are overlooking one key thing: it was over 100 degrees for the game. Of course no visiting team will want to play football in that, so the Cards, despite sucking, have a major edge at home.

Pick: Packers

Other Games

St. Louis over Arizona, San Francisco over Minnesota, Pittsburgh over Tennessee, Jacksonville over Houston, Buffalo over Philadelphia, Kansas City over Baltimore, Denver over Detroit, Indianapolis over New Orleans.

Last Week: 8-6
Season Record: 27-19

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Baseball Regular Season Winds Down

Allow me a moment of congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, who are headed to postseason for the first time since 1999. Watching the celebration at Fenway was fun this evening.

There are tons of other records/awards/milestones worth following, but I'm perhaps most interested in the Detroit Tigers quest to become the worst team of all time. They keep winning though, dammit (tonight in extras), and now they'll have to lose their last three games to beat out the 1962 Mets and have 121 losses. They are currently 41-118, 77 games below .500.

The Dems Debate

A few random thoughts on the debate this afternoon/evening:

1) Clark did OK but didn't light the world on fire either. He seems to have a decent grasp of the main themes he wants to emphasize while he's still working on the details. The CNBC panelists went after him a few times, seemingly trying to expose him on this. Ron Insana asked him a question about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that sounded like it was designed solely to catch Clark on something he didn't know much about; he handled it fine, stressing the importance of home ownership. Gloria Borger also asked him a pointed follow up on what specifically Clark would do to reform corporate governance. The panel was tougher on Clark than the other candidates were--the others concentrated mostly on attacking Dean.

2) John Edwards disappointed me. Not only did he say he supported the steel tariffs Bush implemented last spring but also he used the Bush administration's phony example of a family of four making $40,000 that would pay $2000 more in taxes if the Bush cuts were all repealed. I criticized John Kerry for using this misleading example on Meet the Press because it plays into Republican hands. Also, now that I've read Paul Krugman's book, The Great Unraveling, I realize that the case they're all talking about is contrived to conceal that the tax cuts really don't help regular people by cherry-picking one case that happens to do so. I'll try to find a link to the column on this in the PK archive and post it later.

3) I continue to be impressed by the oratorical skill of Al Sharpton. Bob Graham, meanwhile, keeps stumbling over his words. This is unfortunate because Graham actually has some reasonable things to say and a good resume as a governor, Intelligence Committee chairman in the Senate, Floridian, etc., but all that gets lost because he's a bad speaker. If you could marry Graham's experience and moderation with Sharpton's stage presence and flair, I think you'd have a strong candidate.

4) And to follow up on my post about the New Mexico debate: how do those middle-aged men stand up there for two full hours without a toilet break?

Telemarketing

Gee, Congress really can get moving fast when everyone overwhelmingly agrees on something, as in the case of the do-not-call list. Kevin Drum has an entertaining take on the judges who are trying to stop the list from taking effect.

College Republican T-Shirts

This is some despicable stuff. As Joe Andrew, former DNC chairman often said in the year 2000, the scariest two words in the English language are "College Republican." I give credit to John Kerry--who I usually criticize in this space--for bringing this to light.

(Via both Atrios and Oliver Willis)

Franco Modigliani, RIP

The Nobel-winning economist has died at age 85.

The Real Cancun

I wish I'd thought of that headline. It's on a WSJ op-ed today by the foreign minister of Brazil, defending the Group of 22 developing countries' decision to hold firm in the negotiations.

Local: State Aid and Mayoral Elections

The Globe story on Somerville Mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay's primary defeat shows a troubling tendency on the part of voters to blame their mayors when the state reduces funding for local activities:

"Somerville lost $5 million in state aid over the last year, a 25 percent reduction that led to 200 layoffs in City Hall and in the fire and police departments. Voters were unforgiving... Other incumbents fared poorly in preliminary elections held in the midst of the state's budget crisis. Sitting mayors in Fitchburg, Beverly, and Waltham were also recently unseated."

This seems rather unfair. I know people in Somerville have separate grievances with Kelly Gay, as the article points out, but the pattern across the state seems to be that the decisions by the Romney administration to cut local aid have made political survival difficult or impossible for many mayors. Why don't the people blame the state, or why don't they believe local officials who try to blame Beacon Hill for their troubles? And does this pattern suggest that Romney can successfully target cities with leaders he doesn't like for the steepest local aid cuts?

Tom Friedman on Cancun

Friedman's column says the collapse of the trade talks in Cancun is bad for the US war on terrorism. I'm doubtful that this is a way to sell free trade politically.

There is some logical appeal to Friedman's argument, to be sure. The problem is that a lot of people reject out of hand the notion that poverty causes terrorism, which they equate with justifying the actions of the terrorists, a big no-no. Friedman is nuanced on this, to be fair, but it is the essence of his argument:

"Sure, poverty doesn't cause terrorism — no one is killing for a raise. But poverty is great for the terrorism business because poverty creates humiliation and stifled aspirations and forces many people to leave their traditional farms to join the alienated urban poor in the cities — all conditions that spawn terrorists."

As Friedman well knows, though, his critics will point out that several of the 9/11 hijackers came from relatively well-off families and had college educations. Maybe they were ashamed at the poverty of their countries or regions, but they were not direly poor themselves, by and large.

I appreciate that Tom is trying to make the case for multilateral trade liberalization, which the world really does need. However, I would much rather see an influential voice in US foreign policy like Friedman do the sensible thing by arguing for free trade on its own merits.

UPDATE: Ron Brownstein writes that the Democrats running for president aren't helping the free trade cause either. I'm afraid we'll hear lots of protectionist rhetorical BS in their debate Thursday afternoon.

NYT Headline on Kay Report

"Draft Report Said to Cite No Success in Iraq Arms Hunt"

Would finding WMDs really be a "success"? If we find some stuff, there's the possibility some other stuff may be in the hands of the evildoers now, which is not good. I would prefer finding out that Saddam in fact had no weapons, even if it means the president gets embarrassed over the falsity of his stated justification for war.

Obvious retort: We could find nothing because it's all been smuggled out by Al Qaeda/other bad guys. But then the war didn't really make us safer either.

Clark Gets Kerry's Role

Will Saletan has a nifty essay up about how Wesley Clark is finding success with exactly the same tactics as John Kerry has tried. So why does it work for Clark and not for Kerry? Saletan says it may be because Kerry's stiff and tries to have it both ways, but the recent statements on Iraq by Clark sound a lot like Kerry's flip-flopping too.

The reason is simpler: People just like Wesley Clark better. He comes across as more sincere and genuine, even if he is using similar phrases and themes as Kerry has.

(Via Not Geniuses)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Clarett Sues NFL

Yesterday we learned Maurice Clarett is suing the NFL over its rule that keep him from being eligible for the draft until 2005. As I've written here before, I agree with Clarett that NFL policy is a violation of antitrust law. I'll post a long defense of this position some time in the next few days.

Bush Interview Gets Bad Ratings

Oliver Willis notes that the Bush interview on Fox Monday night was beaten out by even UPN in the ratings wars.

Comments and Archives...

...are both down at the present time, not to mention permalinks to my individual posts. I am working to rectify the situation.

UPDATE 11:45pm: Individual archive pages are now up at least. It was Blogger's fault.

The Sports World on the Patriot Act

Via Atrios I see that TalkLeft had a post the other day quoting David Stern on why he thinks Kobe Bryant should keep playing despite being accused of rape:

"We don't have a Patriot Act in the NBA. That means that you're innocent until proven guilty. If every time someone was accused and there were allegations, they were required to stop their life, that wouldn't be a good thing. That could be their choice, but they shouldn't be forced to."

A commenter ("Not Ed Meese") mentions a similar crack that was made with regard to the flap over Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan lying about Jake Plummer's injury in San Diego last Sunday:

"Tony Kornheiser was interviewing a Denver journalist about Broncos' coach Mike Shanahan lying about an injury to the quarterback. His take, more or less: 'I don't see what the big deal is. It's just football. We're not talking about invading another country or anything.'"

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Sex Slavery

Did Bush really need to spend five paragraphs on this topic during his speech to the UN today? It sounded like red meat for his right-wing base to me (not that I'm in favor of sex slavery, mind you). His casual mention, out of the blue, of "sex slavery" during the Brit Hume interview was funny too.

Arianna Huffington is Crazy

This movie on her web site, "The Special Interest Brothel", is more evidence for the insanity defense.

Steel Tariffs and Krugman

Brad DeLong has a few goodies. First he exposes the ITC steel report for the dishonest trash that it is and asks the Wall Street Journal for better coverage:

"From March 2001 to March 2002--the year before the tariffs--real GDP grew by 1.0% and the unemployment rate rose from 4.2% to 5.6%. From March 2002 to March 2003--the year after the tariffs--real GDP grew by 2.2% and the unemployment rate only crept up from 5.6% to 5.7%.

"Do you think that the unfavorable macroeconomic conditions--the 'recession,' it is called--in the year before the tariffs had something to do with steel-user job losses in that year? If so, you're a lot smarter (or at least a lot more honest) than the hacks who write reports for the International Trade Commission."

Via DeLong I also see that Paul Krugman is excited over his #4 showing on the NYT bestseller list.

Issa Now May Oppose Recall

Kos reports that Darrell Issa, the millionaire congressman who paid the bills to make the recall a reality, is now going to advocate a no vote on the recall unless Schwarzenegger or McClintock drops out. He just doesn't want to see Bustamante as governor. If this guy had any shred of credibility left, he's about to lose it. What an idiot.

Bush Interview on Fox

Bush's interview with Brit Hume earlier tonight (transcript) was a pretty weak display in my eyes, but of course I don't like the president to begin with. Little things like Bush claiming to be a "man of peace" when he started an unnecessary war in Iraq bother me.

One flat out obfuscation came in response to Hume's question on federal spending:

"HUME: Some of your critics have said that you're not exactly a tightwad, some of your conservative critics. That you've been -- that you -- not just because of the war -- and many other areas as well. You haven't vetoed a single bill, spending levels are going through the roof.

"What do you say, Mr. President?

"BUSH: Well, I would say that we've done a very good job of exacting some fiscal discipline here in Washington by getting budget agreements. And if you've noticed, the last two budget cycles, because of the agreements we put in place -- and Congress has worked with us to hold the line. We've got a capital and discretionary spending or agreement on discretionary spending not to exceed four percent. And I will hold Congress to that.

"Now we have spent money, as you mentioned. My attitude is that when we put a youngster in harm's way, somebody who wears our nation's uniform in harm's way, he or she deserves the absolute best. And we are at war. And, yes, we've spent money on fighting and winning these wars."

Hume correctly points out that non-military discretionary spending is up significantly during Bush's time on office. Bush obfuscates by mentioning "budget agreements" and a vague figure of 4 percent. Then he wraps himself in the flag, saying we need to pay for the safety of troops, even though the question dealt with non-military expenditures.

My other favorite exchange came at the end of the interview:

"HUME: How do you get your news?

"BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you've got a beautiful face and everything.

"I glance at the headlines just to kind of get a flavor for what's moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.

"HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you've...

"BUSH: Practice since day one.

"HUME: Really?

"BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there's opinions mixed in with news. And I...

"HUME: I won't disagree with that, sir.

"BUSH: I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world."

Bush, the non-reader, is thus only aware of the news as it is told to him by his advisers. You might think that Bush would want to read some things himself, develop his own opinions, rather than be fed with the views of his "objective" staff. I fear the Rumsfelds and Cheneys of the world might not actually be as objective as Bush thinks, and what's the matter with looking at the range of opinions expressed on an issue by the news media anyway? Isn't that what thinking people do? At a minimum, this would help him politically, by making him aware of how the administration's steps are being perceived, right? This White House has never been one that seeks a diversity of views on the questions of the day, and Bush has now given us more information as to why that is the case.

UPDATE: Reading the reader comments on this Atrios post with a brilliant dirty reference in the title, I'm reminded of Bush's claim that he was greeted warmly by the people in the streets of France and his line about Arafat: "In America, we believe in getting rid of people through a peaceful, orderly process."

Dean's Support

Kevin Drum writes that Dean is sending signals he may not be willing to step aside for another Democratic nominee and to tell his supporters to vote for that nominee in the event it isn't him. Dean spoke to LA Weekly on Clark's late entry:

"It's going to be incredibly hard. I mean, we've already got 39,000 people working for us all around the country . . . I really do believe — and I think about this — I want to get this nomination, and if I don't . . . these kids are not transferrable. I can't just go out and say, 'Okay, so I didn't win the nomination, so go ahead and vote for the Democrats.' They're not going to suddenly just go away. That's not gonna happen."

Drum writes, "He can't tell them to just 'go ahead and vote for the Democrats'? I thought this was the guy who came from the Democratic wing of the Democratic party?"

Josh Marshall, on a related note, recently shared an email from an angry Dean supporter who claimed TPM was trying to destroy Dean's candidacy and threatened not to vote next fall if Dean is done in by his detractors. This lack of team spirit from some in the Dean ranks is disturbing to Democrats (like me) who just want to beat Bush and want to critically look at the Democratic options in order to give us the best shot at doing so. Howard Dean may turn out to be a good nominee, but he's also not the messiah that everyone should just anoint the nominee months ahead of the primaries.

Globe Dean Profile, Part 2

The Globe offered up part two of its deconstruction of the early life of Howard Dean on Monday. They say he wasn't that great of a doctor, barely passing medical school classes and getting average reviews from superiors:

"Dean received generally good reviews from his superiors, many noting his command of medical knowledge and caring demeanor. But he was not a star.

"'There were residents who really stand out as impressive in their clinical skills,' said Dr. John Gennari, an overseeing doctor. 'He wasn't one of those. He was just good.'

"And one doctor noted that Dean was a 'solid resident' but worried that he reacted with 'impulsive syntheses when problems are approached" and advised that Dean 'should take care to be more deliberate in making assessments and deciding upon plans.'"

When Dean first ran for state rep, a neighbor described him as "prickly" in a meeting. And then there's the civil union bill, which the Globe says Dean was very reluctant to go ahead with, belying his image as a champion of equal rights:

"Dean signed the bill, in the privacy of his office, away from a crowd of waiting reporters and camera crews. Supporters of civil unions said it suggested shame in signing the measure; Dean said he wanted to avoid inflaming the issue."

Lots of things keep popping up in his past that could be problems in the general, such as his work at Planned Parenthood, even though the facility didn't perform any abortions while he was there.

One thing I heard Dean talk about on "This Week" last Sunday that I would've liked to read more about is the episode involving the dispute with the church over a bike path that actually led to Dean changing his religious denomination. Talk about faith!

Finally, as with part one, the Globe makes Dean look like a guy with something to hide:

"His travel by 2002 had become so frequent that local media outlets demanded his private schedules, a request he refused. A battle ensued, ending at the state Supreme Court, which ordered Dean to turn over some of the records. (Dean has also refused to make public thousands of documents from his governorship, placing them under a 10-year seal because he says they could produce potentially embarrassing revelations during his presidential bid.)"

Readers can make what they will of all this. I'm of the opinion that the Globe could seize on things in any candidate's past and cast them in a negative light. The larger problem is that Dean could provide easy fodder for the negative right-wing spin machine next fall (more than the others?--still uncertain). I doubt primary voters will really consider minutiae of the candidates' backgrounds and how they might play out in the general, though, so it's a moot point.

College Football: MAC Attack

Michael Wilbon and Marc Blaudschun, among others, were singing the praises of the MAC in their college football columns printed in Monday's papers. They are correct that it's a nice story that the MAC is beating major conference teams, the big conferences generally screw over the mid-majors, etc.

However, there is a problem with saying that the wider diffusion of talent in college football that we now see can fit nicely with some sort of a playoff system that incorporates the smaller schools' conferences. Many of the MAC's champions like to propose such a change--even Congress is now investigating whether the BCS violates antitrust law. Wilbon laments that college football can never have a cinderella team like college basketball.

What he doesn't mention is that college football can't have a set of conference tournaments and then a national tournament with 64 teams, as basketball does, because of the nature of the sport. The human body can only stand to play football once a week, so the potential number of games in a season is very limited. To really get a good idea of which team is best, there has to be some limitation on the number of teams that can be in contention for the national title.

A playoff system of some sort would certainly be preferable to the BCS by opening up possibilities for more teams, and the MAC schools should get the respect and scheduling they deserve from the majors. But we shouldn't deceive ourselves into thinking that we can create a system where there is never going to be a team left on the outside looking in.

Monday, September 22, 2003

Costas on the Baseball Playoffs

Bob Costas writes in yesterday's NYT sports section that baseball's playoff system needs revision in order to get back the excitement of divisional races and to adequately reward teams with the best regular season records in the playoff format. He throws out some ideas worth consideration.

The first point: "What once was the height of baseball excitement--a pennant race that goes to the wire--has been replaced by hyperventilating over the Phillies and the Marlins, teams never remotely close to first place all year."

True enough, but there still is an important race going on for home field between Atlanta and San Francisco, for example. Currently Atlanta is 97-59, the Giants 95-59, and San Fran is 54-23 at home versus 41-36 on the road, while the Braves are 53-25 and 44-34. I think they both would prefer to be hosting a Game 7 of the NLCS.

The second main point Costas makes is that the team's with the best records don't get enough of an advantage in the playoff format. His proposal to give the top seed 5 of 7 at home is too much of an edge, though. Other sports have 4 of 7 in the stadium of the team with the better record and it works fine, as it has in baseball for years.

The only change Costas advocates that I would make is expanding the best-of-five division series to best-of-seven. A lower-seeded team has an easier time pulling off the upset in a short series, especially with a hot pitcher or two. Make it seven games to give the team with the better record a real advantage. The NBA appropriately made this change to its first round of the playoffs this past spring.

O'Reilly's Bizarre Parade Article

The Bill O'Reilly cover piece in yesterday's Parade insert to the Sunday paper was an oddity, to say the least. A Buzzflash reader commentary has more on this. Notable is that O'Reilly gives parenting advice even though he is apparently unmarried and has no kids.

Rummy's Poetry

Slate has an article up with a second installment of Donal Rumsfeld's "poetry." It's pretty lame, unfortunately. Much better was the first installment, which included gems such as this:

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

--Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

Bad Man of the Day: Rep. Don Young, R-AK

Lots of people are linking to this Atrios post. Don Young wants to privatize air traffic control, except for his home state, where he actually is concerned for his own safety:

"Speaking of contracting out, an administration move to privatize air traffic control at 69 airports has sparked opposition from labor groups, which contend it would compromise safety.

"The administration had proposed 71 airports, but House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska), who supports the effort, got someone to strike the two Alaska airports on the list.

"Young, on an Alaska cable TV show a week ago, acknowledged the move generated some heat.

"'Of course the criticism of myself,' he said, 'is that I exempted the state of Alaska.' But there were ample reasons for that, he said, ticking off a number of them.

"'Lastly,' Young said, 'my hotel room is on the top floor of the Sheraton, and the airplanes take right off towards my hotel room. Every morning I look out and there's one coming right at me. It's an interesting experience and I want to make sure everything is done right in that field.'"

Here are the full WaPo article and the TV show transcript.

This is the same Don Young who 60 Minutes implicated last night in a report that Alaska will be receiving $20 billion in unnecessary federal subsidies for a natural gas pipeline. It must be a rough week to answer the phone in chairman Young's office. Here's that transcript:

"'They want their route to be built. They're playing hardball. They've played hardball from day one on it,' says [Forrest] Hoglund [former Exxon and Enron exec, now of Arctic Resources]. 'They want the pipeline to come right down through the middle of the state. They want the jobs. They made a tremendous amount of money when the oil pipeline was built. And so it's just a mantra in Alaska.'

"And Alaska is getting its way, because even though it has one of the smallest populations, the state has inordinate clout in Congress. Its senator, Ted Stevens, chairs the Appropriations Committee, which controls the Federal purse strings. And Don Young, its only representative, runs the House Transportation Committee.

"'I think if you're really interested in having some highways in your state, you're not going to buck the chairman,' says Hoglund.

"In fact, the chairman's power is so great that the Republican Congress is even defying President Bush, who has publicly opposed the tax breaks and the price guarantee."

To be fair, the 60 Minutes piece makes Gov. Frank Murkowski look really bad via interview and just mentions Stevens and Young once.

Campaign Events

Via The Note I found details on the next Democratic debate:

"The second Democratic National Committee-sanctioned presidential debate takes place this Thursday at 4:00 pm ET at the New York City campus of Pace University.

"All 10 Democratic candidates are scheduled to attend this debate, which will focus on the economy. The event is sponsored by CNBC and the Wall Street Journal , and NBC's Brian Williams will moderate. CNBC's Ron Insana and Gloria Borger and the Journal's Gerald Seib will ask questions."

Why are they having the thing on a Thursday afternoon? Don't they want people to watch it? I'll be interested to see if Clark knows anything about economic policy.

Dean is also giving a speech at 11:45 am tomorrow in Boston's Copley Square, the Note points out. The Globe yesterday remarked that the event is taking place about a mile from John Kerry's plush Beacon Hill home.

K Street

What is up with this show? Last night the bits on the politics of the RIAA-file sharing issue were alright, but Francisco Dupree? You have to recognize the difference between Ice-T and Ice Cube? Am I missing something here?

Bills Drop to Earth

I slugged through an 8-5 day on the gridiron, but at least I was right about the Bills losing in a game in which they failed to score an offensive TD. Drew Bledsoe was having flashbacks to his games in Miami as a Patriot. The Bills defense is stronger than I initially gave them credit for, though, and as I said, the AFC East will be close all year.

The Patriots have managed to get to 2-1 despite tons of injuries--Ted Washington broke a leg today, hurting the already thin defense, especially aaginst the run. I don't see the Pats competing all the way given the holes they have, which leaves Miami and Buffalo to fight for the division. If the Dolphins can keep the incredible Ricky Williams healthy and avoid the annual December collapse, they will win, but those are big ifs.

Globe Dean Profile

The Boston Globe ran part 1 of its Howard Dean profile Sunday, with part 2 on the way Monday. The long article takes a somewhat negative tone (unfair in my view) about Dean's early life, portraying him as a directionless young man. Here's a passage on alleged tension between Dean and his black roommates at Yale:

"Roman and Dawson became officers in the black student organization, which made their dorm a magnet for African-American students. Most of the black students who visited the dorm accepted Dean. They included him in late-night card games and welcomed him in heated discussions about civil rights.

"'He was not one of the blue-blood types or the private-club types who wore their school colors on their arm,' Roman said. 'Howard was very unassuming, very low key. I think he was willing to be treated as others treated him. ... But that's not to say we didn't have our challenges.'

"For one thing, Dean liked quiet and was not keen on the Motown sounds that Dawson and Roman, both members of a band, loved to blast. And Dean wasn't a political activist like Dawson and Roman. He made it clear that he believed in community service rather than protest marches. When Martin Luther King Jr. died, the four roommates spent the night talking. Dean remembered it as a sobering experience, when the men drew closer. Mancini recalled it differently: The stress of King's assassination brought back some of the same racial barriers the four thought they had knocked down."

A related article brings up the Vietnam deferment issue again. The article sounds like he sought out the medical reference on his back condition:

"In February of 1970, with the Vietnam War raging, 21-year-old Howard Dean carried a set of X-rays and a letter from a Manhattan orthopedist named Hudson Wilson to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, where US military doctors determined that he was not fit for military service because of a back condition called spondylolisthesis."

The Globe makes clear checking on whether the deferment was legit is hard to do:

"The basis for his classification is difficult to document. The Selective Service System, following standard procedure, destroyed all records in Dean's file save his classification listings. Dean said he did not keep copies of the X-rays or Wilson's letter. Nor did he keep a copy, he said, of the letter he believes he wrote requesting a deferral from military service. His physician, Wilson, is dead."

The close of the article makes Dean sound defensive about the issue:

"When he chose to seek the presidency, Dean made sure official records of his health problem contained no surprises. 'We didn't want my draft file becoming public without knowing what was in it,' he said."

Unfortunately I have a feeling we haven't heard the last about the unfused vertebra and the winter in Aspen.

Schwarzenegger's Denial Strategy

Joe Matthews has an article in the LA Times about the Schwarzenegger campaign's novel strategy for dealing with things the candidate said in the past that seem offensive to some: say he made it all up:

"Candidates for office often are forced to respond to revelations from their past. But Schwarzenegger's argument that his promotional duties as a bodybuilder and actor required him to embellish is novel.

"Schwarzenegger's approach is notable for several reasons. The campaign's defense seems to reflect a belief that the public accepts an old Hollywood maxim: Everybody lies.

"At the same time, political strategists say that Schwarzenegger's consistent showing in polls appears to challenge the assumption that admitting dishonesty is politically disastrous."

Interesting point, but I think the fact that the public doesn't care that he's said he made some things up in the past reflects that these were inconsequential things. Schwarzenegger's lifestyle in the 1970s isn't that important to the race. If he went around making wild claims about policy issues or his opponents, that would be another thing.

John Reed

He's the interm head of the NYSE, it was announced today. NYT is skeptical of the choice:

"The announcement of Mr. Reed's appointment was a surprise. 'Reed is a strange choice,' said Martin Mayer, a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution and the author of several books on banking. 'To my knowledge he has not had any interest in equity securities and he has not dealt with regulatory questions from the side of the regulator. As a banker, he clashed with regulators. He is very, very able, and I guess they named him because he was available.'"

WSJ is more charitable, focusing on changes he might make to the Big Board:

"Mr. Reed spoke at the news conference by telephone from an island in France, where he was vacationing, saying he has two main priorities over the coming months: to help find a full-time replacement and to shepherd in a strong set of corporate-governance changes that ensures the NYSE becomes an example for the companies that list, or trade, on the exchange.

"But some senior Wall Street executives are already speculating his appointment could have more far-reaching implications. Mr. Grasso was a forceful proponent of the Big Board's 211-year-old auction system -- where every trade still passes through at least one live trader on the NYSE floor -- despite a host of technological improvements. Now that thinking could be in play, especially given Mr. Reed's passion for technology. Mr. Reed wasn't available for comment."

Reed is most famous for losing the battle with Sandy Weill for control of Citigroup and being forced into early retirement. With this track record of being pushed around by big-time CEOs, he may not be the strong force the NYSE needs, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt--for a little bit anyway.

Powell to Leave?

No, not that one, his son, at the FCC. Via Atrios, I see Drudge has the details.

This makes Powell's bizarre NYT Mag interview today make a bit more sense. It seems like the guy is getting ready to spend more time with his family soon.

For more on FCC infighting, check out James Fallows in the September Atlantic Monthly on Rupert Murdoch, media ownership regs and all that, a piece I somehow never linked to before.

Moseley Braun Announcement

It's at 9:00 am, in case you care.

I wonder if the UN will like the speech?

Monday's NYT:

"President Bush will tell the United Nations on Tuesday that he was right to order the invasion of Iraq even without the organization's explicit approval, and he will urge a new focus on countering nuclear proliferation, arguing that it is the only way to avoid similar confrontations.

"Mr. Bush's unyielding presentation, described over the weekend by officials involved in drafting it, will come in a 22-minute speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Mr. Bush will then spend the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday meeting with the leaders of France, Germany, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

"According to the officials involved in drafting the speech, for an audience they know will range from the skeptical to the angry, Mr. Bush will acknowledge no mistakes in planning for postwar security and reconstruction in Iraq. Privately, however, many officials are acknowledging that the Pentagon was unprepared for the scope and duration of the continuing guerrilla-style attacks against the American-led alliance and the newly appointed Iraqi Governing Council. Since Mr. Bush declared an end to active military operations on May 1, more than 70 American troops in Iraq have been killed by hostile fire.

"In the speech, Mr. Bush will repeat his call for nations--including those that opposed the Iraq action--to contribute to rebuilding the country, but he will offer no concessions to French demands that the major authority for running the country be turned over immediately to Iraqis."

Brit Hume has an interview with W on his Fox show tomorrow night. Supposedly Bush says Ted Kennedy's remarks the other day were uncalled for.

Clark's Policies

Tung Yin, an Iowa law prof, has a good post at his blog on Wesley Clark's speech and visit on Friday. It's been linked to death by the blogosphere, but I've linked it too now in case you've not seen it.

Krugman in the Guardian

Via Not Geniuses I see Krugman was profiled in The Guardian recently.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

New Site Design

I have this sweet new site design, as you may have noticed, and I'm still playing around with it a bit too (many more links to come, for example). Hope this makes reading the blog more pleasant.

Talk Like a Pirate Day

Looks like I missed the boat on Talk Like a Pirate Day. But now that ship has sailed, matey.

Friday, September 19, 2003

ITC Steel Report

The Stupid, Over-Hyped Hurricane

Good posts on this topic from Josh Marshall, Glenn Reynolds and Tom Tomorrow.

I Did Not Have Financial Relations with that Company

Derrick Jackson puts Dick Cheney's lies into proper perspective. Jackson is extreme at times with his columns but when he's good, he's really good.

Clark and Clinton

I think the fact that President Clinton backs Wesley Clark is a strong reason to get behind the Clark candidacy in and of itself. The revelation that Clark would've voted for the Iraq war resolution also is interesting because we'll see how the other campaigns, particularly Dean, respond--will they go after him on this point? And can Clark speak clearly about his views and why he criticizes the war now without lapsing into Kerry-esque gibberish?

The Economist on Cancun

This cover says it all.

The article inside on the breakdown of the trade talks doesn't just blame the greedy Western governments for refusing to budge of protecting their farmers and others, but also dishes out some criticism to the intrasigent poor nations for causing the talks to crumble. The leader (subscriber link) on the subject makes the point most succinctly:

"Yet the rich countries did not wreck Cancun by themselves. Many poor countries saw the Doha round, and its promise to be pro-poor, as an excuse for making demands of the rich world while doing nothing to lower their own trade barriers. They forgot that trade talks require compromise. Egged on by a bevy of activists, too many third-world politicians got carried away by the thrill of saying no—ignoring the fact that poor countries actually have more to gain from lowering their own trade barriers than from persuading rich countries to lower theirs. According to the World Bank, over 70% of the benefits that poor countries might see from the Doha round would come from freeing trade with each other. By refusing to compromise, poor countries have come away with nothing."

Where to go from here? Doomsayers claim this forebodes the end of the WTO as an effective force for trade liberalization. Optimists say delays arose during the Uruguay Round (8 years to completion) as well. Poor countries, interestingly enough, claim they'll bring disputes against the West's agricultural policies once the goodwill window agreed upon in Doha expires soon. They feel this may push the rich countries toward real concessions:

"As part of the trade round before Doha, the Uruguay round, countries pledged not to file formal WTO complaints over the dumping of farm products as long as each country stuck to its (limited) farm-trade commitments. That peace clause runs out at the end of this year. The ensuing flood of disputes, claim some Brazilians, will at last force the Americans and Europeans to negotiate seriously on farm trade."

However it happens, I just hope talks can resume because we can't give up on the goal of multilateral trade opening--the costs would be far too great. More Economist:

"According to the World Bank, a successful Doha round could raise global income by more than $500 billion a year by 2015. Over 60% of that gain would go to poor countries, helping to pull 144m people out of poverty."

As if this all weren't depressing enough, the Economist also runs a gloomy survey of the world economy in this week's issue. The lead article's subhead reads: "America can no longer propel the global economy. Unless other countries take over, argues Zanny Minton Beddoes, the economic outlook is grim and globalisation is at risk."

Brad DeLong is dubious on the Economist's claim of a potential dollar crisis for Europe. He's also posted a sobering assessment of the US current account deficit, envisioning potential dire consequences when the lack of sustainability catches up with us.

Aaaaahhhhhh!

Pro Picks, Week 3: Luck, TV and Getting Real

I went 9-7 last week, but I was a precious few inches from a strong 11-5 showing. What happened? Carolina blocked an extra point to send their game with Tampa into OT, which they won. Then on Monday night, Giants kicker Matt Bryant sent a kickoff out of bounds with 11 seconds to go, allowing the Cowboys to tie the game with a last second FG and win in OT. And to boot, the MNF discussion of the Shockey-Parcells homo-calling incident was limited to a lame point about how young players have to be careful talking to reporters.

So basically I'm due for some good luck this week. Unfortunately, the silly NFL TV rules mean I'll be getting the Cleveland-San Fran game on TV as a late game Sunday here in metro Boston. Maybe it'll turn out to be a good one--Garrison Hearst breaks 300 yards?--but I hope Fox has a game in the 4:00 slot here too. Giants-Redskins, pretty please. Gregg Easterbrook has a good point on the whole TV situation, which invariably causes me to miss masterpieces like the Tampa-Carolina game. I know I can pony up for Sunday Ticket, but I think we need full NFL football slates televised for the masses. This can be a movement, people, perhaps a winner for the wise political party in 2004?

Anyway, this week we get the annual phenomenon of seeing whether teams are "for real." I caution fans of teams like Buffalo and Kansas City that last year at this time I was dancing a jig (figuratively) over my beloved Patriots, who were coming off twin demolishings of the Steelers and Jets to open the year. Both Pittsburgh and New York ended up as division champions, and my Patriots missed the playoffs. In their previous, Super Bowl year, by contrast, the Pats opened 0-2. Even the mighty Bucs lost their opener to New Orleans a year ago. Don't go printing playoff tickets yet! Not that you actually would do that in September...

On to the picks, which, as always, are for recreational purposes only.

Kansas City at Houston

Did anyone catch the new Fox pregame picks guy last week? He impersonated Bush making predictions, offering arguments that Kansas City was strong because it had a priest and Houston Texans can't be messed with by anyone. So what gives in this matchup? The Texans showed some defensive issues last week against the Saints (whom "Bush" had picked against--aha!), so I'm guessing the Chiefs' week of reckoning will not be week #3. Beating a second-year team doesn't prove you're "for real", but it will make them a nifty 3-0.

Pick: Chiefs

Minnesota at Detroit

The duel of the domes! Vikes are 2-0, so are they for real? They looked sluggish versus Chicago, a team that was waxed by SF in week one. Then again, Minnesota won at Green Bay that week, and last week Detroit was toasted by those same Packers. I have just proved why previous weeks' games are useless in making picks. Hell, I'll just go with the home team, and give some other reason to justify it. How about the weakness of the Minnesota secondary? That'll do.

Pick: Lions

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

The Colts are 2-0, so are they for real? Fat chance we'll get to know after seeing them beat the Jags on Sunday. Oddity about Jacksonville: starting QB Mark Brunell is left-handed, and the rookie backup trying to take the job is named Leftwich.

Pick: Colts

St. Louis at Seattle

The Rams are now firmly behind Bulger, or is Bulger ramming St. Louis, or are these just lame dirty jokes? The Seahawks shut out Arizona last week, thus proving that they did in fact manage to find the stadium and line up properly. Improbably, however, they will go to 3-0 this week, postponing their fall from glory until later, once the Niners or Rams get their act together.

Pick: Seahawks

NY Giants at Washington

Quincy Carter, whom I've insulted in the past, looked like the reincarnation of Dan Marino against the Giants Monday night, which does not bode well for the NY secondary. And now Spurrier and the pass-happy Skins are the next opponent after a short week. Washington may prolong the fantasy this week going 3-0, but I bet eventually they will fall apart with a pass-dominated offense in the cold months. This week is a close call, and I'm guessing the Giants, humiliated by last week, will respond, much as Quincy Carter flourished after I trashed him.

Pick: Giants

Buffalo at Miami

This is definitely a case of the wheels falling off the bandwagon. The Bills throttled a Patriots team that had no intention of playing football in week one, and last week they beat up a weak Jags squad. Except for that inexplicable hiccup versus the Texans a few weeks back, the Dolphins have a crazy-good September home record in recent years. Plus if they lose this thing Dave Wannstedt may end up swimming with the sharks off Key West. The Bills are at risk of being too content with what they've done already, but I'll add that they still may win the division, which is razor close.

Pick: Dolphins

Oakland at Denver

The NFL is upset Mike Shanahan initially lied about Jake Plummer's injury last week. Perhaps they would have preferred if the Broncos' training staff had affixed a bullseye to Plummer's uniform, indicating exactly where to hit him to inflict the most damage. Meanwhile, Bill Romanowski makes another return to Denver, where he mesmerized fans with his linebacking and bizarrely offensive personal behavior for several years. The Broncos have beaten Cincinnati and San Diego, so you probably know where I'm heading, though the fossilized Raiders looked pretty weak in their first two games too. Maybe KC really can win this division after all.

Pick: Raiders

Other Games

New England over NY Jets, Tampa Bay over Atlanta, Cincinnati over Pittsburgh, New Orleans over Tennessee, Green Bay over Arizona, Baltimore over San Diego, San Francisco over Cleveland

Season Record: 19-13

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Steel Tariffs Bite Back

Mike Allen and Jonathan Weisman write in Friday's WaPo that the Bush administration's steel tariffs have backfired:

"Some economists say the tariffs may have cost more jobs than they saved, by driving up costs for automakers and other steel users. Politically, the strategy failed to produce union endorsements and appears to have hurt Bush with workers in Michigan and Tennessee -- also states at the heart of his 2004 strategy."

Now, the article claims, there exists the possibility that the tariffs will be repealed or strongly lessened:

"The issue is being brought to a boil by the scheduled release today of voluminous progress reports by the U.S. International Trade Commission. The ITC's mid-session assessment of the three-year tariff program's impact will examine not only the tariffs' effects on the steel industry but also on the hard-pressed manufacturers that shape steel into products.

"White House officials said Bush will not make a decision until he has digested the ITC reports. But his top economic advisers have united to recomend that the tariffs be lifted or substantially rolled back this fall, and several administration officials said it is likely he will go along. The retreat would roil the political and economic landscape of the Rust Belt, where both parties expect the presidential election to be won and lost."

The article goes on to discuss the cynical way the advisors to the president went about deciding to impose the tariffs last year.

I am heartened by the possibility that tariffs will turn around to be not just an economic loser but also a political loser this time around. Hopefully the steel tariffs will end up serving as a cautionary tale for future politicians, making them more reluctant to impose protections the next time an industry comes asking for trade barriers.

Larry Kudlow on Dick Grasso

Larry Kudlow sheds tears for poor Dick Grasso over at NRO:

"A kangaroo court of liberal-leaning journalists and Democratic state treasurers charged and convicted former New York Stock Exchange CEO Dick Grasso with an unpardonable sin — success... [T]he so-called titans of finance who sit on the NYSE board were so mau-maued by the media and political onslaught that they actually sided against the man who inflicted the first major blow on Osama's terrorism...

"Not only did Grasso start America's economic recovery immediately after 9/11...

"The announcement of a one-time payment of $140 million probably did the former CEO in... Discounted properly, this sum comes to roughly $2 million a year over the entire three-decade period Grasso served — a modest amount by Wall Street standards."

Let's just say that Larry and I have divergent worldviews. He saw the re-opening of Wall Street as a "major blow on Osama's terrorism." Of course, Grasso gave himself a $5 million pat on the back for his effort, a tad more than the soldiers in Afghanistan are getting paid. I'm not sure what "economic recovery" Kudlow is referring to; equity prices have done nicely this year, but the overall macroeconomy still has major issues, notably unemployment. Then there's the silly $2 million a year claim. In fact, Grasso was paid nearly $200 million in a short window of time ($40 million of which he returned), and it was not for his three decades of service. He never would've been paid so handsomely had he not reached such a high position at the NYSE. And I won't dignify the "kangaroo court" comment.

The fact is Grasso got paid a ton by execs he was supposedly regulating during a time when people are especially wary of corporate misconduct. This isn't hatred of capitalism but rather hope that capitalism as practiced in some quarters of the financial industry can be saved from its excesses.

Friedman and the Frogs

Via Atrios, I see the blogosphere is mocking Tom Friedman for his angry op-ed today. BusyBusyBusy summarizes the column as follows:

"France Sucks."

Does anyone remember when Friedman used to be a somewhat left-leaning voice of reason?

Blix's Revenge

Hans Blix has sure taken off the gloves with his recent comments on the hyping of Iraq intel:

"'In the Middle Ages when people were convinced there were witches they certainly found them. This is a bit risky,' Blix said...

"'We know advertisers will advertise a refrigerator in terms that we don't quite believe in, but we expect governments to be more serious and have more credibility.'"

Globe Funnies

Scot Lehigh:

"With Lehane gone, there's now some talk that Kerry may install someone to supersede campaign manager Jim Jordan.

"Given the candidate's recent performance, here's a better idea: The campaign should find someone to supersede John Kerry.

"Oh, not forever. Just until the candidate decides who he is. And what he stands for."

And then there's the opening graf of Yvonne Abraham's piece on Mass Treasurer Tim Cahill:

"Since he took office in January, Treasurer Timothy Cahill has been running his corner of state government like a man determined to prove his victory was based on more than a catchy slogan coined by a 10-year-old."

Recall Remains Amusing

You might have though the recall was getting all serious, but NYT notes there's still fun for everyone:

"Yet even with the extraordinary legal maneuvering, involving issues no less weighty than constitutional law and the disenfranchisement of minorities, the race managed to amuse, befuddle and entertain.

"One of the 135 candidates vying for Mr. Davis's job, the pornography star Mary Carey, held a fund-raiser in Hollywood featuring a screening of her new movie. Tickets went for $20 and everyone under 18 was turned away.

"The leading Republican on the recall ballot, the actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, was a guest on the Howard Stern radio program after federal regulators ruled that Mr. Stern's show was a news program and thus exempt from the equal-time provision of federal law.

"Mr. Stern received Mr. Schwarzenegger warmly and endorsed his candidacy. But he seemed more interested in the actor's views on a new Los Angeles ordinance banning lap-dancing at strip clubs than on his proposed fixes for the state's workers compensation system."

For what it's worth, I think the recall should go forward on October 7. I'm opposed to the recall in general, but given that it's happening, I think October 7 is fine. The data on punch-card inaccuracies is questionable, and this aspect of the machines is probably only one of several voting issues relating to this unprecedented, bizarre election. I do hope that if the vote turns out to be really close and a lot of ballots aren't read by machines the courts will allow a reasonable recount to go forward this time around.

And I don't buy the line by the right-wing shills who say this is a left-wing power grab because a delay isn't necessarily good for the Dems anyway. McClintock can say all he wants, but I still think it would give Arnold more time to force him out of the race. Davis and Bustamante have decent momentum now too, and they could be losing out on a probable victory in three weeks if the 9th ruling stands. Who knows how the race could develop if it's prolonged? A March 2 voting date would help Davis, but that date isn't a certainty either.

WSJ Editorial on Grasso

The WSJ says that the stock exchange needs to become a publicly traded company to achieve the transparency investors are now demanding. With this goal in mind, they think sacking Grasso now was a mistake:

"More to the point, becoming a publicly listed company would force the exchange itself to practice the disclosure and transparency that investors increasingly demand from their companies. Even if the seat holders aren't keen to trade in their rights for allocations of shares for their own enrichment, the last week has made clear that the exchange's public customers are demanding openness and accountability of the sort that can best be achieved by becoming a public company.

"How to get from here to there? Mr. Grasso is gone, though frankly we'd rather have kept him as CEO and brought in a new board, one that would have set a strict timetable for taking the exchange public. Now things have to be done the hard way. First get a new CEO, then a clean sweep of the board. Mr. McCall and company have already forfeited the confidence of the investing public as caretakers of the exchange's public image. They'd hardly do much better as caretakers of the nest eggs of investors who might be tempted to buy shares in a publicly traded NYSE Corp."

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Spitzer Interview

Business Week's interview with the NY AG shows Eliot Spitzer taking a relatively non-alarmist approach to the new mutual fund issues he's uncovering:

"Investors shouldn't run from the mutual-fund industry because of this. What they should do is demand that their mutual-fund families change their practices with respect to late-day trading and market-timers."

Another article on BW online similarly suggests investors should not sell out their mutual fund shares based on the investigations. In this they differ with Morningstar, the Chicago MF info giant, which recommended selling the funds under investigation last week.

Spitzer also sounds a conciliatory note toward the Bush administration's SEC:

"...any notion that there's tension between our offices or an inability to cooperate isn't accurate. We want folks to understand not only do we get along but we also intend to fully cooperate on our mission to protect investors."

While I'm on the topic of Wall Street, I'll remark that Dick Grasso's departure is well deserved. He was voted a huge pay package by the executives whose companies he was supposedly regulating, which is a blatant no-no in the post-Enron environment. He began to be richly overcompensated back a few years ago when no one paid attention to such things. But he should've realized his own raiding of the cookie jar would spark ire among outside observers after what's gone down in the last year-plus. He tried to give back a chunk of money (too small a chuck at that) too late to save his job.

Cheney Firestorm

Josh Marshall correctly points out that Dick Cheney, who has not exactly been a paragon of truth in the past, is actually being called on it by the press this time around with regard to his Iraq-Al Qaeda ties comments on Meet the Press, and Marshall wonders why:

"...this seems to be the first time that the press, the editorialists, everybody is reacting with mounting indignation over the Vice-President's habit of stating notorious falsehoods and unsubstantiated allegations on national television. The behavior isn't new; the reaction is. Something's changing."

What's changed is the distance in time from the "major combat operations" of the war, during which time the press felt the need to basically line up and salute without questioning jack. Now that months have passed and there's a growing perception that the US is bogged down in Iraq, criticism looks more legit and less likely to be shouted down as unpatriotic. Other issues, like the energy task force obstruction, just don't strike a lot of people as having the importance of national security either.

Or maybe people have finally just taken their heads out of their asses.

By the way, kudos to Rummy, Condi and W for actually admitting Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. I was shocked to hear Bush give such a straight answer to the reporter's question on this. Now I just wish Bush would stop implicitly connecting the Iraq war to 9/11 in every speech he gives, which conveys the impression that Saddam was behind the attacks and leads to 70% of Americans believing the lie.

Levy on "Lucky Duckies"

Jacob Levy has an interesting New Republic column up asserting that the right's argument in favor of taxing the poor (raising taxes on those "luck duckies", as WSJ has put it, arousing the ire of Krugman, Tim Noah, et al) is not unique in American politics. In fact, he cites debates over school vouchers, Social Security and Charlie Rangel's proposal to re-institute the draft to discourage going to war as analogous cases:

"If we subject everyone to the same rules, institutions, or conditions, then there will be political demand to make them fair or otherwise tolerable. If we only subject some people to them, then some may be unfairly singled out or burdened; there will be opportunities to divide the citizenry, play the interests of some against those of others, and to undermine the overall desirable outcome. The only detail that changes from argument to argument is the class to which one tries to yoke people--the class of taxpayers, the class of potential soldiers, the class of recipients of government checks, etc."

And this is a normal pattern, writes Levy:

"To sometimes be yoked together under a shared institution in order to preserve its viability is the universal price of political life. To try to redraw the class boundaries, to keep people linked to one sense of shared belonging rather than another, or to argue that this or that shared institution really isn't necessary or desirable--this is the basic stuff of politics. It should always be done with a bit of bad conscience, and without denying the element of exploitation. But no one should pretend to be surprised that it's being done at all."

I agree with Levy that the analogies are valid, but I still have a visceral negative reaction to the soak-the-poor argument because it seems so damn callous. Rangel knew the draft would never be reinstated--he just wanted to draw attention to the fact that none of our leaders' kids were serving. And I don't see denying a rich person a higher return on retirement assets as quite so onerous as increasing the tax burden on someone struggling to get by to begin with.

Basically what I'm getting at is that the "lucky duckies" outcry is not based on any high-falutin political philosophy. It's based on compassion for the poor.

Clark on the web

Here's Clark's campaign site and here's his weblog. I caught the speech earlier and my impression was that he's solid but not great. I've seen Clark interviewed many times before and found him impressive, but he's less adept at firing up a crowd with a stump speech at this point.

He included basically no specifics whatsoever, saying he'll be giving big policy speeches on the economy and national security in the coming weeks.

For blogosphere shenanigans on the Clark candidacy, I recommend The Clark Sphere.

Bush Campaign Blog

The Corner says the Bush camp is starting a blog next week. Jonah Goldberg says it will be boring.

Falcons Goof

This story says the Atlanta Falcons ran an article in Monday's edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution congratulating coach Dan Reeves on his 200th victory. The only problem was that the Falcons actually lost on Sunday to Washington. The paper ran a correction yesterday. (Via Sportsfilter)

Isabel Coverage

The hurricane colud regain its strength! I guess we'd all better stay glued to our TVs!

New DNC Blog

Via Kos and Tom Tomorrow, I see the DNC has a new blog on its site called Kicking Ass. I get the donkey reference, but shouldn't they try to be a little more careful with the saucy language, lest they offend some voters' delicate eyes?

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

CalPundit Interviews Krugman

Worth a read. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the Krugman book tour visit to Cambridge on Friday afternoon.

Crazy Times in Democrat-Land

It looks like I'll be watching another Democrat announce for president tomorrow when Wesley Clark officially throws his hat into the ring after months of speculation. I like what I've seen of Clark so far from TV interviews. He speaks with passion and clarity and I think he has the demeanor to be a powerful campaigner. We'll see if the Clinton-Gore people he has assembled can throw together a domestic agenda for him and somehow make up for lost time on the fundraising.

I'm a bit wary of my liking Clark, though, because I've been through the initial liking of a candidate with Edwards and Dean too. Both of them come across very well as speakers too, which I must have a bias for. My last post explains why I've soured on Edwards, and Dean is down a bit in my view too. A lot of the excitement to me about Dean was the energy he was generating so early on, which seemed unprecedented. Lately he's said some things that have rubbed me the wrong way, though (the foolish attacks by Kerry, Gephardt and Lieberman aren't among those things). The line about being the only white candidate to talk about race to white audiences was stupid and arrogant (Tom Oliphant had a good Sunday column on Dean's verbal goofs). I also switched over from the Dick Cheney lie-a-rama to see some of Dean's appearance on This Week Sunday morning, and I was afraid he was going to punch George Stephanopoulos over the question about NAFTA (see this NYT piece too).

On a happier note, John Kerry's campaign is going down the toilet with communications chief Chris Lehane resigning amid bickering with the campaign and Clark about to steal Kerry's thunder on the national security/Vietnam veteran angle. Brian McGrory and Joan Vennochi both kick Kerry around in the Globe columns today. I promise not to link to another Globe article for a while.

The Edwards Announcement

I promised to write on this and I'm following through, even though it now feels like a waste of time. I did see the speech (Edwards didn't take the podium until after 11 this morning, which bothered me as I waited to see him) and found it quite pedestrian. Here's the speech text. The best stuff is the part decrying Bush's "war on work", a theme Edwards has been developing over the last few months. I think that's his most promising riff with primary voters, though I can already hear allegations of "class warfare" if he gets to the general.

I'm down on Edwards lately, however, because of not just his lackluster poll numbers (which the senator himself poked fun at on Comedy Central's Daily Show last night) but also my growing conviction that the trial lawyer label will kill him. The Boston Globe yesterday had a hatchet piece on Edwards' career as a litigator, pointing out some cases of huge jury awards for personal injury that seem to defy logic and proportion. I am a solid Democrat and I was bothered by this, so you can imagine how much of a problem his history would be for Edwards facing the Republicans.

I don't like Edwards' whole "small town"/"son of a mill worker" schtick either, though I realize a lot of people like that crap. When his legal career comes up, defenders often point out that Edwards is a self-made man, which is true enough. But I don't think people will like the details of how Edwards became a multi-millionaire either. The greedy lawyer image that is so easy to affix to him does not fit with the image the campaign wants us to see in Robbins, NC, and therein lies an enormous problem. Fortunately, he won't be the nominee and we won't have to try defending the guy next fall.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Edwards Campaign

The John Edwards 2004 web site says the senator's announcement that he's running for president will take place at 10:00 tomorrow morning. I'll try to watch the event and post some remarks here later in the day.

It's too bad for the campaign that Edwards is being overshadowed by Clark possibly announcing, the California recall news and the hurricane bearing down on the east coast.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Sunday TV

Dick Cheney is on Meet the Press, the Dean campaign is featured on This Week and HBO premieres it's new semi-reality show on Washington lobbyists, K Street. Plus there's the NFL, so I'll be hibernating until Monday.

Sachs on the $87 Billion

A surprisingly radical op-ed runs in today's Boston Globe by Jeff Sachs, the former Harvard prof now at Columbia. He trashes the Bush administartion for spending so much in Iraq while neglecting the suffering of the diseased in Africa:

"The world is out of kilter when President Bush asks for $87 billion for Iraq and only $200 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The administration displays profound confusion regarding national security as well as moral purpose. It is ready to pump tens of billions of dollars into a middle-income oil-rich country of 24 million people, while utterly neglecting 500 million impoverished Africans, 10 million of whom will actually die this year of extreme poverty, too poor to buys the drugs, bed nets, fertilizers, tube wells, and other basic contrivances that could keep them alive."

Sachs goes on to claim the US occupation of Iraq is simply the result of imperial ambition and oil greed:

"Why would a US government that overlooks suffering around the world and poverty at home be ready to invest $150 billion in Iraq over the course of two years? The argument that the war was about an imminent risk from Iraq has been thoroughly trashed. The war had nothing to do with any immediate threats from Saddam Hussein, and the intelligence agencies knew that last fall. Containment was already working. The war was about oil, specifically about a long-standing and simplistic US vision about the need to militarize the Persian Gulf in order to ensure the steady flow of petroleum."

I guess that the Jeff Sachs who used to enjoy rubbing elbows with officials in Washington is gone now, having been replaced by an anti-Bush zealot. Perhaps his entreaties for paying more attention to problems of the world's poor, which were generally well received in the Clinton era, have been ignored by the Bushies (I am hypothesizing here) and Sachs, a man who takes himself quite seriously, is furious at having been marginalized. And now he's on the warpath.

Friday, September 12, 2003

College Football This Weekend

Yes, I wrote a week ago that it would be a dull weekend in college football. I turned out to be wrong due to the exciting Notre Dame comeback win in OT and the strong showings by Alabama and Florida in the night games, pushing Oklahoma and Miami more than I expected. I originally believed this coming weekend would be more interesting to watch, so maybe it will turn out to be a dud now.

I'm looking forward to Notre Dame-Michigan at 3:30 Saturday. I picked Michigan to go to the Sugar Bowl, and this is their first real test. They should win, so if it's close, we get a good game, and if it isn't, we get to see a Notre Dame beating. In short, I can't lose by watching unless the Irish somehow pull it out, and they won't.

NC State-Ohio State is the other intriguing matchup this weekend, but it's less intriguing now that the Wolfpack lost to Wake Forest last weekend and OSU nearly dropped a home game to San Diego State. Even so, Rivers of NC State will get a big Heisman test against a top defense, and potentially seeing the defending national champ lose is always exciting. Also, the finality of knowing Maurice Clarett is done for the year may help the psyche of the Buckeyes--we'll see how it plays out.

While that game isn't even on TV in the Boston area (it's at 12 noon), I'll probably check out BC-UConn instead, a football rivalry of the years to come, with Connecticut joining the Big East next season. Next week the Eagles host Miami for the 'Canes last visit to Chestnut Hill as a member of that same conference, and I expect them to be lustily booed. That will be on ESPN as the night game Sept. 20.

Krugman IV

Krugman III

Leave it to Krugman for an optimistic look toward the future on this 9/11 anniversary:

"In other words, if you thought the last two years were bad, just wait: it's about to get worse. A lot worse."

Half-way through I am liking The Great Unraveling, though it is also rather depressing, as you might imagine, to read several Paul Krugman op-eds back to back.

Pro Picks, Week 2: The Homo Bowl

I see that Jim McCabe has taken up the Pro Picks mantle for the Globe this year, doing basically what I intend to do here: carry on with what Norman Chad used to write. McCabe's column last week was decent, and we'll see how he is tomorrow. I will continue the prognostications every week in this space as well.

Last week was reasonably good for my picks, ending up with a 10-6 mark overall. If I can get to 10 wins every week, I will be doing fantastic. McCabe was 7-8, and several other "experts" were bested by Dimmy Karras. More of the predictions columns should admit that this is really based on guesswork and have some fun with it. After all, who actually had Houston beating Miami last week? Even Dom Capers had the Dolphins in his suicide pool.

And now we come to week 2, which features some juicy divisional matchups such as Tennessee-Indianapolis and NY Jets-Miami. But the best theatrics may come on Monday Night Football when Bill "The Homo" Parcells leads the Cowboys into Giants Stadium to take on Jeremy "The Homophobe" Shockey and New York. I'm most curious about how Al Michaels and John Madden will frame this subpolt to the game. Madden's take on homophobic epithets in sports should be priceless to hear.

Anyway, on to the picks.

New England at Philadelphia

Supposedly these are two Super Bowl contenders, or at least they were entering last week. Then the Patriots had a 360-pound DT return an interception for a touchdown against them and the Eagles had a 310-pound DT/tight end catch a pass against them for a first down. I'm looking forward to seeing more fat people running with the football this weekend.

Pick: Eagles

Houston at New Orleans

Texans, how could I have ever doubted you last week? Saints, how could I have ever picked you last week?

Pick: Houston

San Francisco at St. Louis

So Kurt Warner had a concussion but still played the rest of the game in New York. How do you have trouble gripping the ball, leading you to fumble six times, and yet manage to throw for over 300 yards anyway in the loss? Did St. Louis throw the ball 100 times or what? He's being replaced by Mark Bulger this week, who I'm told can't wear a speedo to the beach.

Pick: Rams

Chicago at Minnesota

Was that really Kordell Stewart at QB for the Bears last week, or is Henry Burris still running the show? Kordell's Pro Bowl season of two years ago remains one of the most amazing occurrences in the history of modern sport. Hopefully Chicago's misery will continue, fitting punishment for their "Bears presented by Ban One" sell out of the team name.

Pick: Vikings

Tennessee at Indianapolis

44-year-old Eddie Murray is back in the league, having joined the Titans following Joe Nedney's torn ACL on Sunday. The Colts, meanwhile, won last week on three field goals by their "liquored up" kicker. When field goals are what I write about, you know this game will be dull. But it's a key divisional matchup!

Pick: Titans

Cleveland at Baltimore

Bad offenses. Tune in for Kyle Boller's home debut and the Modell angle, if you need some reason. Plus, it's a key divisional matchup!

Pick: Ravens

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

Bombs away! This game should be the opposite of Cleveland-Baltimore--remember when the Steelers had a secondary?

Pick: Kansas City

Other Games

Atlanta over Washington, Green Bay over Detroit, Miami over NY Jets, Buffalo over Jacksonville, Seattle over Arizona, Tampa Bay over Carolina, San Diego over Denver, Oakland over Cincinnati, NY Giants over Dallas.