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Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Happy New Year from the 50-Yard Line

Remember back in the good old days when there were about ten college football bowl games all on New Year's Day, at least three going on at one time all day? And fanatics would set up a few TVs in the same room (I personally just got RSI from my TV remote)? That ruled. Too bad we've got the soulless corporate BCS instead now, along with a proliferation of crappy little games spread over too many days. These are things I'm not going to devote three and a half hours to watching exclusively--like I care if Michigan State gets a nine-win season, or Georgia Tech's seniors get a nice send off--but if three games are on at once, well then, I'll happily flip between them. Sadly that's not possible any more.

That's my complaint-filled lead-in to a quick discussion of the college football I'll be watching the next few days. I am limiting myself to three bowl games this year: Boston College-Colorado State in tonight's San Francisco Bowl, USC-Michigan in tomorrow afternoon's Rose Bowl, and LSU-Oklahoma in Sunday night's Sugar Bowl.

The BC game starts at 10:30 pm here on the East Coast, which means we'll hear a braodcaster say something like this late in the second quarter: "Gain of three yards on the play, it will be second down and seven for the Eagles, and happy new year to our viewers in Massachusetts." I don't really understand the logic of having BC fans hopefully watching a game that will be in progress when we ring in 2004. But I'll be watching just the same, so maybe the planners know more than I give them credit for.

You know the story on the other two games. Since I've already expressed my distaste for the BCS in this post and several before, you can probably guess I'm rooting for USC to win and screw up this stupid system for selecting the national champion, leading the BCS to be scrapped in favor of a playoff. If the Trojans win, I may think about trying to contact coaches' poll voters to pressure them to vote USC #1, despite their silly deal that the "BCS Champion", which will be OU or LSU, must be ranked tops by the coaches in their last poll of the season. I think we already know who the AP champ will be if Southern Cal is victorious, so then even if the coaches don't do the right thing, we'll get a split national title and the BCS looks bad anyway.

I have no real opinions on who will win. Michigan is pretty damn good too, so don't count them out in the spoiler's role for SC. The Sugar Bowl will also be played Sunday night after two NFL playoff games that afternoon and two the afternoon/evening before, so I hope you're ready for some football... and then some more on top of that.

To keep yourself fresh, then, don't bother watching the other crap BCS games, FSU-Miami tomorrow night (already saw that one this year, thanks) and OSU-K State Friday night (zzzzzzz...). It goes without saying you shouldn't watch the Peach or Humanitarian Bowl unless your team happens to be playing in it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Come on, Buzzflash

Buzzflash is a site that sometimes makes me a bit embarrassed to be a liberal because they seem too obsessed with attacking the administration that they lose sight of what's important. Today's outrage is that Laura Bush admits a poem she read in a speech to the National Book Festival Gala and attributed to her husband at the time wasn't actually written by the president. It's a silly little "Roses are red, violets are blue" poem, and obviously her remarks at the gala were the work of speech writers. Yet Buzzflash whines in a headline,

What a Pathetic, Lying Cad. Laura "The Lump" Bush Reveals That George Didn't Even Write the Trite, Silly Poem That the White House Claimed He Wrote for Her. This is a White House Addicted to Lying About Everything, Even Sophomoric Poetry.


Stick to the policy, guys. Stuff like this doesn't matter a bit and only makes you look petty when you scream about it.

Laura's revelation came in her snore of a Meet the Press interview alongside Caroline Kennedy, who agreed that helping sick children is good. I previously dissed Buzzflash for their coverage of the Saddam capture.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Kobe Case Voted AP Sports Story of the Year

Of course it was. The full top ten: 1) Kobe, 2) Lance Armstrong, 3) Marlins, 4) Annika Sorenstam, 5) Ohio State football, 6) Sosa's corked bat, 7) steroid scandals, 8) Tampa Bay's Super Bowl, 9) Syracuse basketball, 10) Ben Curtis winning the British Open in his first major appearance.

Not that much to argue with here. I think LeBron James could've cracked the top ten somewhere, as should have something about the Spurs win in David Robinson's final year, Michael Jordan's swan song, and the heartbreaking playoff losses for the Red Sox and Cubs, which was a bigger story than the Marlins winning it all, in my view (ask Fox what the ratings were for the LCS versus World Series). Much as we all admire Lance, I don't think he deserves the #2 spot, simply because it's cycling.

A big story that emerged toward year's end and will play itself out in the next week is the potential dissolution of the BCS. Also interesting to note is that the story voted #1 by the world press, David Beckham, doesn't even register in the US.

Krugman Writes on Economics!

The political columns are fun, but not as satisfying as his economics ones. He has one of the latter variety Tuesday on "Or So-Called Boom", arguing that the much-touted economic recovery is really only benefiting a few rich folks while most people continue to struggle with stagnant wages and a weak job market. Check it out.

Book Review: Dude, Where's My Country?

In a new effort to read more books, spurred by my receiving quite a few tomes for Christmas, I'll hopefully be posting my thoughts on those works I get around to finishing over the coming weeks. So far I've actually managed to polish off two books I got the 25th, and the first I'll review is Michael Moore's bestseller "Dude, Where's My Country?" Expect some thoughts on "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis in a day or two.

I did not ask for this book. Rather, it was given to me by my conservative uncle, sort of as a message that this wacko is who you agree with, right? It's an easy read, just over 200 pages, so I spent a couple hours with the thing mostly out of curiosity at what so many people had bought. Going into it, I never had read "Stupid White Men" but I had liked "Bowling for Columbine" and I admired Moore's balls for the speech at the Oscars.

The first half of the book is pretty good. Moore compiles a lot of suspicious info on Bush family ties to the Saudi royals and the bin Ladens, then he devotes a thorough chapter to chronicling all of the lies we were told about the Iraq war. His stuff on the erosion of civil liberties is pretty strong too, especially his response to the Ashcroft Justice Department's oft-repeated advice that critics should read the actual language of the Patriot Act. Moore reprints a section of the Act, which is so full of legalese that it's incomprehensible to anyone without an encyclopedic knowledge of the federal code.

After the midway point or so, however, the book gets a lot worse. Moore just becomes, well, shrill in his partisanship to an extent that even bothers an obvious left-of-center guy like me. He starts a chapter on "how to talk to your conservative brother in law" with a description of an unpleasant Thanksgiving dinner conversation with the extended family, vaguely reminding me of some previous times I've been over to my uncle's house, incidentally. The chapter degenerates from there into a caricature of conservatism that is really unfair, basically saying people who vote Republican are so selfish about wanting to pay lower taxes that they let that override all of their other preferences about social justice, etc. For that reason, Moore suggests that you try to convince your Republican acquaintances to change sides by appealing to their raw, personal self-interest and nothing more.

This is a silly argument, since of course some people like Bush for reasons other than just the tax cuts. For example, a lot of people (with whom I disagree) hold the strong belief that America is safer with George Bush at the helm rather than a Democrat. Moore is really offensive to conservatives, and the steps he advocates would probably bother Republican voters a lot, instead of convincing them to become Democrats. (A similar criticism applies to Moore's chapter that is written by "God" and that presumably would bother religious readers a good deal.)

The chapter about the economy presents the ridiculous theory that the 1990s stock market boom was entirely a conspiracy by fat cats to get ordinary people to invest before the market collapsed and the insiders benefited. I won't dignify that with a rigorous critique, other than to say he strains credulity a bit.

Then the final chapter, Moore's call to arms for everyone to be politically active in '04 to get rid of Bush, falls flat too. Don't get me wrong, I'm pleased Moore wants people volunteering, talking politics with their friends and neighbors, etc. My fear, though, is that Mike Moore's acolytes will do this all in such a way that turns off a lot of moderates, which actually could hurt the causes he's advocating. Moore is way too enamored with the Green Party, though at least he admits it's not a viable electoral force for now. Of the Democrats running, Moore only bothers naming Dean and Kucinich, saying that Kucinich is far better on the issues--again, I disagree strongly, for economic reasons. And yes, Moore really wants Oprah Winfrey to run for president. He makes sure we know he's serious about that.

More about the book is on Moore's web site, where you can buy the thing too, if so inclined. The bottom line here is that I appreciate the info in the first half, cringe at the clumsiness of the second half, and hope that readers energized by the book can channel their activism in a way that represents the best of Michael Moore, not the worst.

CNN's Top 10 Stories

Here's the list, which is decent up until 9 and 10. Elizabeth Smart is a silly inclusion, and then 10 is the deaths of Uday and Qusay. Why give them a separate entry on the list when the war is #1 and the Saddam capture doesn't get a slot unto itself?

Watch out for Almanacs!

This story, currently running across the top at Drudge, says the FBI is on the lookout for people carrying almanacs as potential terrorists:

The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.


This makes me think of my father, who has a pathological obsession with the Weather Channel and buys an Old Farmer's Almanac every year. Is law enforcement really going to bother a bunch of old duffers who might be carrying around these books to figure out the tides or the time of the sunset?

Peter King's All-Pro Team

Via Boston Sports Blog, I see that Peter King has made some interesting selections for the All-Pro team in his Monday Morning QB column.

Dan Koppen, a Patriots fifth-round pick forced to start at center due to injury, gets the nod at center. King also taps Ty Law, Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour on the defensive side of the ball and names Rodney Harrison his defensive player of the year. Harrison has really been spectacular the whole season, and it's nice to see him getting some recognition.

Kudos to King for making his own decisions based on what he saw on the field, not conventional wisdom about who is good or not (unlike the Pro Bowl selections). The team has no Randy Moss or Torry Holt, no Priest Holmes or Jamal Lewis, etc. I especially like the choice of LaDainian Tomlinson as the running back, as I've expressed in previous posts my feeling that he got screwed not getting the trip to Hawaii.

Dick and Lynne's Holiday Card

Not Geniuses points to Slate, which has posted a copy of Dick and Lynne Cheney's holiday card. The quotation included is the following:

"And if a sparrow cannot fall
to the ground without His notice,
is it probable that an empire
can rise without His aid?"

--Benjamin Franklin, at the Constitutional Convention, June 28, 1787


Not that we're empire-building or anything...

What a Day for Arizona Cardinals Fans!

OK, I know, there are no Arizona Cardinals fans. If there were, though, they would be excited about their win today in which the Cards recovered an onside kick and scored a TD with no time remaining to knock off Minnesota 18-17 and prevent the Vikings from going to the playoffs. Dave McInnis, meanwhile, is going to be fired anyway, another major event for our hypothetical Arizona fans.

In other NFL news, Steve Spurrier is leaving his future in Washington up in the air over the next few weeks, while Dave Wannstedt got a one-year extension to coach the Dolphins and the Lions announced they will retain Matt Millen, he of the anti-gay slur, as GM (though remember they said they would be keeping their head coach after last season before Mariucci became available).

The playoff schedule for next weekend is now official:

Saturday, Jan. 3
Titans at Ravens, 4:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
Cowboys at Panthers, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)

Sunday, Jan. 4
Seahawks at Packers, 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
Broncos at Colts, 4:30 p.m. ET (CBS)

Jamal Lewis ended up with the second-highest season rushing total ever, passing 2,000 yards and Barry Sanders' 1997 mark but not Eric Dickerson's 1984 record. Priest Holmes, on the other hand, did get the touchdowns record. And LaDainian Tomlinson, who isn't even going to the Pro Bowl, ended the year with 1,645 rushing yards and 100 receptions, the first tailback ever to do that. I really think, in spite of the 5-TD game, Clinton Portis doesn't deserve the slot over Tomlinson.

The Washington Post Editorial Board

They seem to be on the right side of things with Monday's dressing down of Ted Stevens, but I was disappointed with their tired Howard Dean bashing in the Sunday paper. Matt Yglesias posted a thread on the anti-Dean piece, and in the comments Dan Perreten shared the following letter to the editor, which I really hope they will print:

The Washington Post editorial board has heaped on its readers a series of extraordinary broadsides against Democratic candidate Howard Dean, two of the most vitriolic coming in the last week alone. The Post seems determined to view Dr. Dean in the worst possible light, distorting his words and denouncing his character.

To choose just one example, your December 28 editorial made the technically accurate but shockingly demagogic point that had America followed Howard Dean's advice, Saddam Hussein would be in power today. You fail to mention some other consequences of a more restrained approach to Iraq: hundreds of American soldiers and thousands of innocent Iraqis would still be alive, many more thousands would still have all their limbs, Islamic terrorists wouldn't be setting up camp in Iraq, our alliances wouldn't be frayed to the point of breaking, and the world would have no reason to doubt our honesty because we wouldn't have gone to war on the basis of misinformation about apocryphal weapons of mass destruction.

Since Saddam Hussein's capture, the pace of killing of coalition forces in Iraq has increased, and the threat level here at home has moved up to orange. When Dr. Dean asserted, in typically blunt fashion, that capturing Saddam hadn't made us any safer, he was right.

Chris Cox Makes Some Sense

It's be nice to Republicans night, I guess. Chris Cox has a good idea about getting rid of the orange alerts:

Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, said the current terrorist threat system, which assigns a color to each of five risk levels, may be alarming "an awful lot of people who really can't do much with this information other than hand-wring and hanky-twist." Legislation co-sponsored by Cox would mandate a more regional approach.

"The terrorists are playing a losing game," Cox said on "Fox News Sunday." "But if by making idle threats that are always taken seriously by people who are just scared, we can impose enormous costs on the country and the terrorists can impose enormous costs on the country. . . . That turns their losing game into a winning game."


Of course, this is the same guy who made outlandish claims about the Clinton administration making us more vulnerable to China militarily, but we'll let that pass for now. I'm not sure exactly what a "more regional approach" means, but I assume it would take into account that Al Qaeda won't be striking North Dakota any time soon.

Safire Makes Some Sense

At risk of sounding like one of his email tormentors parodied in the column, I will announce my agreement with Bill Safire today that Dean is making a mistake by keeping the Vermont records sealed. It really does undercut the criticism of the administration for being overly secretive. Of course, Safire gets this right in the midst of a column that rambles on about cognitive dissonance, calls Dick Cheney a good guy, and of course, slams Hillary Clinton for no reason, but I still have to praise Safire for his occasional lapses of reason.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Jeff Jacoby's Annual Whine-Fest

"Hate Speech of the Left" by Jeff Jacoby graced the Boston Globe's op-ed page today, as it does at the end of every year. Jacoby has been publishing a year-end piece on the subject since 1994, so he can legitimately claim to have been one of the pioneers behind the RNC's odious new campaign tactics for 2004. Geoffrey Nunberg of NPR, incidentally, has a good piece on the silliness of the Republicans' "hate speech" fetish in NYT's Week in Review.

But back to Jacoby for a minute. "I had noticed that when a prominent Republican or conservative said something offensive about liberals, it typically set off a storm of media condemnation, while an anti-conservative smear voiced by a liberal or a Democrat rarely drew any protest," he writes of his decision to begin his year-end tradition of portraying his ilk as media victims. "What was true in 1994 remains largely true today." Jacoby doesn't bother backing up his claims with any sort of, you know, data or solid evidence that might prove him right or wrong. Instead he relies entirely on a few anecdotes, completely reliant on whatever he happens to hear or see, which is unlikely to be a totally representative sample of US reporting. And Jeff, anyone can cherry-pick a few quotes to paint their ideological antagonists as evil. We're supposed to take your word that these are mainstream "left" voices who indeed never faced condemnation for what they said? How about some minimal documentation before you make sweeping claims about the media coddling liberals on the basis of a few Hitler comparisons you found?

The claim that nothing has changed since 1994 is a joke. Two words, Jeff: Fox News. There are now plentiful media outlets, taking Fox's lead, whose central purpose seems to be to pounce on left-leaning public figures for saying anything that could conceivably be construed as inappropriate. Really, the persecuted conservative routine is growing tiresome, given the way the last decade has gone.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The Abuse Settlements

I forgot to post on last weekend's news that the Boston archdiocese has told abuse victims how much money each will get as part of the settlement. As is typical, recipients of the money went before cameras and reporters to voice their disgust with the church once again and to tell of their ongoing suffering.

OK, we get it, you were abused, we all think it was terrible. I really don't know why these people need to keep holding press conferences every time there's another blip in the headlines as the story develops. And now they know they're getting their money, so I don't see any further financial motive either. It just seems like grandstanding, not wanting to cede the spotlight and hoping to get as much of an outpouring of sympathy as possible.

The local news typically goes crazy over this stuff--they all have special "Crisis in the Church" logos with lettering over what looks like a stained glass window pattern. One of the stations on Saturday described the press conference scene by saying, "Lawyer Mitchell Garabedian was flanked by four of his 120 abuse victims," which unfortunately made Garabedian, not the priests, sound like the perpetrator--whoops! In a larger sense, though, I think Garabedian is guilty of his own sin here, playing up the pain of his clients to maximize the publicity, which I doubt can be helpful in the overall healing process.

Thanks to Pops, whose comments on the Northwest's local media response to the mad cow news got me to thinking of this.

Dean on Osama

Other news sure to rile up the Dean haters comes from the statement on Osama. Dean says, "This is exactly the kind of case that the death penalty is meant for," yet stops short of advocating any particular kind of punishment, leaving that up to the legal process. That same Post article from the post below this one reports:

Dean also declined to say whether he thought Osama bin Laden should be executed for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, saying he adhered to the "old-fashioned notion" that it is unwise to prejudge a possible trial, no matter how heinous the crime.


This is an appropriate response. It's tough to split the difference between the death penalty opponents on the left and the more conservative people who want Osama's head on a stick, and the statement Dean made does as good a job as any. I think a better response that avoids the splitting of hairs entirely is to argue that Osama is either dead already or will likely kill himself before being taken--he's more fanatical than Saddam, who allowed himself to be taken alive. Thus the hypothetical about trying Osama is probably going to end up being irrelevant.

Dean-Lieberman Abortion Spat

Lieberman claims the Manchester Union-Leader misquoted him as saying "medical advances have shortened 'the period of time in a pregnancy when the right to choose prevails.'" Dean quickly jumped on Joe for this, telling the AP Lieberman is "very much off base and doesn't understand the science."

Two points here. One, I don't trust the Union-Leader after all the crap they have pulled through the years. They very well may have been screwing with Lieberman's interview, though I'm not exactly sure what motive they could have.

Second, it's interesting to hear Dean on the offensive on the abortion issue. So far the little I've heard from Dean in this area has been answering provocative questions about his involvement with abortion when he was practicing medicine. That background can also serve as an advantage, as we see Dean touting his knowledge of "the science." We'll see if he tries some more Bill Frist-esque "I'm-a-doctor-so-I-know" stuff as the campaign proceeds.

McConnell the Next Majority Leader?

Saturday's New York Times reports that Mitch McConnell, much in the news for his losing effort to get McCain-Feingold overturned, may end up leading Senate Republicans in spite of defeat on his signature issue:

In his role, Mr. McConnell was not only expressing his own view but also carrying the ball for fellow senators who shared his antipathy for the campaign finance changes but were less willing to get out in front on the politically tricky issue.

That work, as well as other tasks he has undertaken as the majority whip, could pay dividends because Mr. McConnell is viewed as a probable candidate to try to succeed Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee as Republican leader. Dr. Frist has indicated he does not intend to seek re-election in 2006, setting the stage for a contest to succeed him.


Why would Republicans choose the very man who symbolizes their embrace of the corrupting influence of money on campaigns to be their public face? The illogic boggles me, especially with more friendly GOPers available to take on the role. If they were smart they would get the Senate a version of Denny Hastert, with the evil Tom DeLay types pulling the strings from off stage.

Friday, December 26, 2003

The American Death-Foreigner Death Exchange Rate

The California mudslides have killed three people. The Iranian earthquake has killed 15,000. Which story will get top billing on news in the United States do you think? I'm predicting some lead with mudslides, other with the quake.

CNN TV at midday had the mud story first in its news briefing, followed by the earthquake. I know CA is obviously closer to home, but the numbers make me feel like the Iran story is a hell of a lot more important to mention first.

This issue of the American death-foreigner death exchange rate is already well known. When one US troop dies in Iraq, it gets far more coverage than an event that kills dozens of Iraqis. And the war on terror has thus far killed far more civilians than the 9/11 attacks on America ever did. Patriotism shouldn't mean valuing American lives more than we value lives of people living in other countries.

Mad Cows

Not freaked out sufficiently by the orange alert? Then check out this 1998 Atlantic Monthly piece on the possibility of a mad cow outbreak in the US (via Dan Kennedy).

AP Stories of the Year

I already criticized the American AP's top ten, but now worldwide editors have voted and picked this list (via Drudge). Guess which list focuses on more important, substantive matters?

Kobe Admits Distractions

Kobe's halftime interview with Jim Gray during last night's annual Lakers Christmas game included the admission that the accused hoop star has had trouble focusing:

Asked if he has trouble keeping his mind on basketball during games, Bryant said: "Sometimes it wanders and I have to try to bring myself back to center. It's human nature, I guess."


I wonder if Kobe might also be distracted by his wife's continued penchant for dressing provocatively. I mean, a married woman with a baby isn't often sitting courtside with one of those low-cut tops that exposes her shoulders, right? She may be on the market for another man if Kobe ends up convicted.

I didn't watch enough to be able to comment on Al Michaels' debut as the lead ABC NBA play-by-play man. The network does appear to have some cool new graphics from the bits I saw, though it's too bad they have Justin friggin' Timberlake doing the theme music--were no rappers available? Other good news is that Bill Walton, who called the ESPN game yesterday afternoon, appears to have been demoted.

DeLay's Whopper

Tim Noah seems to be getting back to awarding his "Whopper of the Week" on at least a somewhat regular basis. This is one of my favorite Slate features, and a style you see on blogs all the time. Congrats to this week's winner, Tom DeLay, for his remarkable Meet the Press interview.

Dean Gets Religion

I read this article in yesterday's Globe and today I see that Drudge has picked up the link:

Presidential contender Howard B. Dean, who has said little about religion while campaigning except to emphasize the separation of church and state, described himself in an interview with the Globe as a committed believer in Jesus Christ and said he expects to increasingly include references to Jesus and God in his speeches as he stumps in the South...

The move is striking for a man who has steadfastly kept his personal life out of the campaign, rarely offering biographical information, much less his religious beliefs. But in the Globe interview, Dean said that Jesus was an important influence in his life and that he would probably share with some voters the model Jesus has served for him.


Initially this struck me as a cynical ploy intended to combat the perception that Dean has a religion problem, with the timing of the story in proximity to the New Republic cover story and all. But then I thought that the campaign wouldn't be so stupid as to put Dean up to pretending to be more religious than he is, would it? Looking like a faker would be even worse that looking like someone who isn't very religious.

Perhaps he really is a spiritual guy, even if he's willing to switch denominations over a bike path. Still, I'm a bit worried that sincere or not, the religious stuff will come off as forced (and easily spun as such by the right-wingers). This is a dangerous area.

MORE: Chris has a more optimistic take at Interesting Times. Josh Chafetz of Oxblog is suspicious about the timing.

Pro Picks, Week 17: Seriously Though

This is the final weekend of the regular season coming up, with a lot on the line for playoffs, records, etc., so I've decided to try to summarize a lot of important info in this column. Pay attention, now here we go...

Let's start with the AFC playoff picture. New England gets home field throughout with a win or with a KC loss. The Chiefs only get the #1 seed with a win over Chicago and a Pats loss to Buffalo. Indianapolis clinches the AFC South with a win at Houston, which would make them the #3 seed. Tennessee clinched a playoff spot last week with an exciting win at those same Texans, and the Titans can still win the South if the Colts lose and they win this weekend. Baltimore clinches the AFC North with a win Sunday night hosting Pittsburgh or a Cincinnati loss. The Bengals win the division only with a win and a Ravens loss. Denver has clinched a playoff spot but can't win the West. Hence I'm predicting the following AFC playoff seeding: 1) New England, 2) Kansas City, 3) Indianapolis, 4) Baltimore, 5) Tennessee, 6) Denver.

In the NFC, St. Louis clinches home field throughout with a win or a Philly loss. The Eagles win the NFC East with a win or a Dallas loss. They can still get home field if they win and the Rams lose. Dallas needs a win and a Philly loss to win the NFC East, which is highly unlikely, but still being alive at all for the division in the final week is a remarkable achievement for Parcells. Carolina has won the NFC South already but can't get a first-round bye either. Minnesota and Green Bay, both 9-6, are fighting for the NFC North title, which the Vikings win with either a victory at Arizona Sunday or a Packers loss to Denver. The Seattle Seahawks are 9-6 as well, and they are battling the NFC North runner-up for the last wild-card slot, a race that gets overly complex (the Cowboys' strength of victory actually may come into play, don't ask how). What is simple is that if the Seahawks lose to San Francisco tomorrow, their season is over. When all the dust settles, here's how I expect to see the NFC seeds: 1) St. Louis, 2) Philadelphia, 3) Carolina, 4) Minnesota, 5) Dallas, 6) Green Bay.

Here's everything. I've omitted all of the possibilities if games end up tied because that just confuses things unnecessarily. How many ties have there been in the NFL this season? Zero. Sticking with just wins and losses makes the thing at least somewhat comprehensible.

Just a quick note that I plan on keeping going through the playoffs. That means next week, if my predictions pan out, I'll be analyzing Packers-Panthers, Cowboys-Vikings, Colts-Broncos and Titans-Ravens. I'm pumped for playoff football, even if we will have to watch those Don Cheadle spots a billion times.

The following picks are, as always, for recreational purposes only.

Denver at Green Bay

This is the featured 4:15 Sunday CBS game that most of the country, including Boston, will get. Since the Broncos will be on the road for a wild-card game regardless of the outcome, they have decided to rest their beat up players, including Clinton Portis. If I were Minnesota or Seattle, this would annoy me. Still, Denver showed last week at Indy that they continue to have a running game that functions beautifully whomever may be toting the ball at a given time (which makes me reconsider LaDainian Tomlinson's Pro Bowl snub). A shout out to Brett Favre too, who put on an amazing passing exhibition Monday night after the death of his father the day before. Too bad ABC had to use the personal strategy to promote the game, even running a news story on World News Tonight Monday about the situation, followed immediately by the program reminder.

Pick: Packers

Seattle at San Francisco

The Seahawks went a perfect 8-0 at home. Unfortunately they are 1-6 on the road, but the 49ers entered last week with an 0-7 away mark and they broke the 10-game Eagles win streak, so that goes to show anything can happen. If Seattle loses this Saturday 5:00 contest broadcast nationally by Fox, it will make Sunday less dramatic with Green Bay and Minnesota assured of playoff spots. John Clayton has more good stuff: "Dennis Erickson lost his Seahawks job because he couldn't make the playoffs in his fourth year. Mike Holmgren replaced him and using most of Erickson's players, put together a 9-7 playoff season in 1999. Now, Erickson, head coach of the 49ers, stands in between the Seahawks and the playoffs. The Seahawks' inability to win on the road leaves them a tie-breaker or so shy of making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year." Also expect discussion of whether Terrell Owens, out now with a broken collarbone from last week, has played his last game for the Niners (he's a free agent-to-be).

Pick: 49ers

Pittsburgh at Baltimore

The Steelers beat the Ravens in week one, and these teams have a healthy dislike for one another, so expect a good one. Depending on the Bengals result earlier in the day, Baltimore may have the division clinched already by the time the 8:30 Sunday night ESPN game begins. I'm hoping Cincinnati wins so that Baltimore plays the regulars a lot because Jamal Lewis, just 48 yards shy of 2,000 rushing on the season, has a legit shot at the sll-time single-season mark set by Eric Dickerson in 1984. He needs 153 on the ground to tie. Lots of the NFL gurus are touting McNair or Manning for MVP, but I think Lewis is the best choice. Just look at the anemic Ravens passing attack and then the fact that the guy has nearly broken the rushing record and the choice becomes simple (another Lewis, lineback Ray, would make a fine MVP choice too on the defensive side of the ball).

Pick: Ravens

Chicago at Kansas City

The Bears are 6-3 in their last nine games, including back-to-back wins behind rookie QB Rex Grossman that may have saved Dick Jauron's job. I'll be interested to have a look at Grossman, who will be on Boston TV in the 1:00 Sunday CBS slot. The game could become a lot less meaningful for the Chiefs if New England wins on Saturday, but even so I think KC needs to right the ship somewhat after last week's blowout loss in Minnesota and before they head into their playoff bye week.

Pick: Chiefs

Indianapolis at Houston

This is not a shoo-in for the Colts. I've now seen both New England and Tennessee be taken to the wire at Reliant Stadium this season by the spry Texans. Well actually, I didn't see the Titans win last week live due to the asenine NFL TV contract, which forced CBS to cut away at 4:15. Fortunately the CBS people showed the final drive play-by-play on a short delay, all the while bad-mouthing the league rules. This leads me into my other criticism of the league for the week: Houston's David Carr and Steve McKinney have been fined by the NFL for spoofing Joe Horn in a TD celebration last week. They didn't use an actual cell phone, just pretended to be looking for one under the field goal padding. NFL, they were making a negative statement about a guy you fined just a week ago. Perhaps the rules committee should look into a 15-yard penalty for excessive use of personality, which, God forbid, may actually excite fans and add some enjoyment to the game.

Pick: Colts

Buffalo at New England

Does anyone else find it odd that Bill Belichick this week will try to defeat a team named the "Bills." Fine, I'm just crazy. Around Boston, the buzz lately has been over the potential negative karma of new Sox pitcher Curt Schilling buying Drew Bledsoe's local manse. It's safe to say this rematch is definitive proof that the first game of the season doesn't mean a hell of a lot.

Pick: Patriots

Other Games (and what to look for)

Philadelphia over Washington (ESPN Saturday 8:30, Spurrier death watch), Tennessee over Tampa Bay (Titans playoff position, Sapp's Tampa finale), Miami over NY Jets (Wannstedt death watch), Dallas over New Orleans (Saints hangover from last week, Cowboys playoff position), Atlanta over Jacksonville (Vick, if anything), Cincinnati over Cleveland (Bengals playoff hopes), St. Louis over Detroit (Rams home field, Lions front-office firings), Carolina over NY Giants (Fassel's farewell), Minnesota over Arizona (Vikings playoff hopes), San Diego over Oakland (Raider retirements--Lincoln Kennedy is gone already)

Last Week: 10-6
Season Record: 152-88

Krugman's Journalists Smack Down

Krugman is excellent today, taking reporters to task for shoddy practices and asking them not to repeat the same during the 2004 campaign. He takes several shots at the Washington press corps, though my favorite is his not-so-subtle dig at fellow NYT columnist David Brooks with regard to Bush's "ownership society" proposal:

One key proposal in the State of the Union address will, we hear, be the creation of new types of tax-exempt savings accounts. The proposal will come wrapped in fine phrases about an "ownership society." But serious journalists should tell us how the plan would work, who would benefit and who would lose.


Brooks wrote a column full of fulsome cheerleading for the "ownership society" agenda last week (see here), which can only lead one to believe Krugman is telling us he doesn't consider Brooks a "serious journalist." The whole thing is definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Hello, Joe Namath People

I'm getting an absurd amount of traffic from people searching for the drunken Joe Namath interview, so I'll save you all some time. Click here for the relevant post. Nothing says Christmas like an inebriated 60-year old man hitting on a much younger woman, right?

I'll probably be posting next late tomorrow night or on Friday.

Globe Op-Eds

Lazy blogging today given the holiday, so I'll just pass along the suggestion to read the Boston Globe's op-ed page, which makes a lot of arguments I would've made anyway.

The lead editorial is about Gary Sampson's death sentence that was announced yesterday. Massachusetts doesn't have the death penalty, and the use of federal law covering car-jacking is a weak excuse by the Ashcroft Justice Department to foist its views on Bay Staters. So much for federalism.

Another editorial discusses the orange alert: "The term "orange alert" sounds like something out of the nuclear scare novels of the 1960s, and it does not convey any practical information."

Derrick Jackson offers up a holiday letter to the troops from the perspective of someone who opposed the war but backs them all the same. It includes the exchange of letters Jackson had with an angry father who lost a son in Iraq and took exception to the tone of Jackson's writing earlier this year. Powerful stuff.

And finally, even economic illiterates like Bob Kuttner seem to be making sense on the Bush "Ownership Society", which means it really must be a transparently awful bill of goods. Matt Yglesias has linked to a resources page on the issue from the Center for American Progress. Stock up on ammo now since this appears to be the next political battleground.

ADDENDUM: I couldn't leave out the story "NORAD to track Santa despite terror alert" either:

The nation's air defense command will carry on its nearly 50-year tradition of "tracking" the Christmas Eve flight of Santa Claus tonight despite the "orange" alert and warnings of a possible Al Qaeda plot to hijack foreign airliners and crash them into US cities and industrial sites over the holiday season...

"If we stop doing what we planned to do, then the terrorists win," said Michael Perini, a spokesman for the agencies. "The children of the world deserve to have Santa tracked. We feel that doing that and getting Santa safely around the world also hopefully reminds people that it's safe to fly."


The times in which we live...

Year End Articles

Lots of them are out there, I know, but the best I've seen is Page 2's Year in Sex and Sports 2003 (that's part 2, here's part 1). Author Jeff Merron must have had a good time compiling everything.

The Season of Dean Misgivings

Amy Sullivan has an excellent post up at Political Aims in which she addresses the major arguments she has heard in favor of Howard Dean: that governors make good presidents, that Dean being secular is an advantage, that Beltway insiders don't know anything, and that Howard Dean has brought a lot of new people into politics. Sullivan, an avowed Wesley Clark supporter, rejects all four in turn. No pithy section sticks out for quoting, just read it all.

This is yet another example of the latest stage in the Democratic primary coverage, in which everyone, now believing Dean to be the likely nominee, engages in a last-minute scrutiny of everything about him before we truly are stuck with the guy. We're now less than four weeks away from the Iowa caucus, so the time seems good to discuss my misgivings as well.

I like the directness with which Dean speaks on the policy challenges we face, the BS of the DLC and Washington establishment and the disaster known as the Bush administration. While I agree that a big part of Dean's appeal is not sounding like a pre-programmed robot who spits out focus-grouped applause lines, his carelessness with his public comments is worrisome, especially with the powerful conservatives spin machine waiting to take him on.

The remark on NPR about the theory that Bush may have been warned by the Saudis prior to 9/11 is a great example. I know, the point is that administration secrecy allows conspiracy theories to flourish, but Dean phrased it in a terrible way tailor-made for his opponents to bludgeon him. Then there was the remark he made initially that he sealed the Vermont records for political reasons, which he's backtracked on since. Then there is the latest dispute with Wesley Clark over whether the VP slot was ever offered, which smacks of amateurism. Then there was the awfully phrased point about Southern poor voters when he recklessly brought in the Confederate flag. Then there's the recent admission that his lack of foreign policy expertise is a hole he needs to plug in his resume with a VP pick. And I could go on.

Dean needs to figure out how he can keep the fire in the belly without make such self-destructive statements. Again, I really am impressed by Dean's campaign and its ability to build such a network of volunteers and contributors who are so dedicated.

Right now I like both Dean and Wesley Clark about equally. With only minor exceptions (eg Clark on flag burning) their policies seem about right to me (Clark seems stronger in foriegn policy, Dean on domestic issues), with Clark somewhat steadier and Dean somewhat more galvanizing. (For the record, I feel Dean is more moderate on trade than some of his speeches have suggested).

I will happily support whoever emerges between these two, since all of the others are lame candidates with no compelling (or plausible in the fringe cases) vision and slim chances at winning anyway. Fortunately the convention is in Boston in 2004, affording me the opportunity to support a Democrat for president without casting my lot just now.

No Surprise

Tell me something I don't know:

The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board has concluded that the White House made a questionable claim in January's State of the Union address about Saddam Hussein's efforts to obtain nuclear materials because of its desperation to show that Hussein had an active program to develop nuclear weapons, according to a well-placed source familiar with the board's findings.


The board referenced above is chaired by none other than Brent Scowcroft, continuing the feud over Iraq between Bush I and Bush II advisors.

The Terror Alert Level

Terror Alert Level

It's time for the terrorists either to blow something up or to shut up about it. These damn alerts cause people to design things like the above.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Teixeira on the "Ownership Society"

Go read Donkey Rising for a strong rebuttal to the RNC talking points from the latest David Brooks column.

Classy, Latrell

Latrell Sprewell returned to face his former team, the New York Knicks, Tuesday night and he decided to spread some holiday cheer:

It started as relatively harmless jabbering with James L. Dolan, the Madison Square Garden chairman, who defamed and traded him, but by the end of a long night of drama and good basketball, Latrell Sprewell turned his angst against the Knicks' bench.

After sinking a critical 3-pointer with 1 minute 14 seconds remaining that keyed the Minnesota Timberwolves' 98-92 victory last night, Sprewell walked aggressively in front of Dolan, who was seated courtside about 10 feet away, and began flexing and yelling expletives.

Then he turned toward the Knicks' bench and directed his venom at the assistant coach Lon Kruger, cursing him and screaming vile phrases while staring at him. Kruger had apparently said something to Sprewell.

One fan, sitting behind the Knicks' bench, screamed, "Hey, Sprewell, there are kids here." But that did not stop the former Knick.

Sprewell also yelled, "Get a win," to Kruger.

With 30 seconds left, Sprewell received a technical foul, but his rude behavior that did nothing to calm the fans' love for him. When Sprewell, who also cursed at Kruger as the teams were leaving the floor, made his final exit, hundreds of fans stayed and cheered him.

Dolan, who criticized Sprewell's character earlier this season, simply smiled and laughed while Sprewell released.

"Somebody said to me that he proved me right; he doesn't belong on our team," Dolan said after the game.

Safire's Latest Delusions

Bill Safire is worried that Bush may win in too big of a landslide next year if the Democratic party splits between Dean and the DLC set. Not only did he get the bogus Dean-as-third-party-candidate theory from Mickey Kaus, but he also seems to forget that the country has been very evenly divided in recent elections, which leaves no reason to think 2004 will be any different. See Kos for analysis of the states that actually uses numbers and reasoning to back up assertions, something Safire should try one of these years.

I also take offense to the likening of the former vice president to a terrorist organization. "Politronic chatter picked up by pundits monitoring lefty blogsites and al-Gora intercepts flashes the warning: If stopped, Dean may well bolt." Haha, he's comparing Gore's name to that of the group that orgaized the 9/11 attacks! Get it?

Imagine if a Democrat made an analogous crack about Bush--the wingnuts would have material for weeks on end. What a depraved man Safire is. I guess it must be hard keeping up with Sean Hannity (via Atrios).

Dean Controversy Over Relatives in Military

An Iowa newspaper has taken Howard Dean to task for implying that his brother was in the military when in fact Charlie Dean visited Laos as a tourist decades ago when he disappeared.

Mark Ridolfi, editor of the paper's editorial page, noted that the question had specifically asked about the armed services and said of Dr. Dean's reply, "It certainly is not an accurate response."

Mr. Ridolfi said the question, one of 20 that the candidates answered in writing in August, was intended to get at candidates' personal connections to the military. "When you have a family member currently involved in the military," he said, "you think of things differently."


There are many more important things to find out about candidates than whether members of their families have been in the military. In my opinion this question has zero importance in determining who the next president of the United States should be. But of course the media need irrelevant things to focus on, lest we pay attention to things that actually matter.

Fake Pro-Bush Letters to the Editor

Josh Marshall has uncovered two examples of form letters from the Bush web site being reprinted in local newspapers. (one and two) He seems to think this is a case of editors just not doing their due diligence, but I also have my doubts as to whether the Austin Chronicle and Hattiesburg American would much care even if they did know.

Andrew Sullivan on Paul Krugman

Andrew Sullivan and the NYT had a bit of a falling out a few years ago, so we know not to take anything Sullivan says with regard to the Paper of Record seriously. That certainly applies in the case of this post.

Two years ago, it was revealed that Enron--yes, Enron--had been lavishing huge sums on friendly journalists, including the New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman. The NYT--despite devoting enormous resources to the Enron story--deliberately ignored the journalism angle. Krugman still hasn't disclosed the tens of thousands of thinly-veiled bribes he got from Enron, while he postures absurdly as a foe of the powerful.


Krugman was a consultant to Enron during his time as an economics professor, before he became a columnist for the Times. And then when he went on to write about Enron for NYT, Krugman disclosed his past relationship with the company. See this column:

A bizarre thing happened to me over the past week: Conservative newspapers and columnists made a concerted effort to portray me as a guilty party in the Enron scandal. Why? Because in 1999, before coming to The New York Times, I was briefly paid to serve on an Enron advisory board.

Never mind that, scrupulously following the Times conflict of interest rules, I resigned from that board as soon as I agreed to write for this newspaper--making me much more fastidious than, say, William Kristol, who served on that same board while editing The Weekly Standard. Never mind that I disclosed that past connection a year ago, the first time I wrote about Enron in this column--and also disclosed it the one time I mentioned Enron before, in a Fortune column. Never mind that the compensation I received per day was actually somewhat less than other companies were paying me at the time for speeches on world economic issues.

And never mind that when I started writing in this column about issues of concern to Enron--in particular, criticizing the role that market manipulation by energy companies played in the California power crisis--my position was not at all what the company wanted to hear.


The publication date is January 25, 2002. At least try to make the lies somewhat difficult to spot, sheesh.

MORE: See TBogg.

A Few Words on the 9/11 Fund

So most families signed up for the 9/11 Fund by the midnight deadline last night, agreeing not to sue in order to get cash compensation for their relatives that died. I understand the desire to have closure sooner rather than later, and I don't advocate bankrupting the airlines or mucking up the legal system unnecessarily. Still, I am bothered by the lack of legal repercussions for those whose mistakes on September 11, 2001, allowed such mass murder to occur. By offering the money up front, I feel the government is shielding those who bear some responsibility for what happened from any negative consequences, which is simply wrong.

The airlines should take a hit. Congress threw together a wad of money to protect the industry when people who invested in the airlines should have known that a disaster was a possibility and factored that into their investment decision. The Bush administration also must come forward with all of the information it has so that we can figure out precisely what went wrong and take steps to ensure that it can't happen again.

Nader Update

Nader won't be running as a Green, but he still may try as an independent. He says he'll decide on that in January (via Daily Kos).

Bigotry Recrimination in Boston Archdiocese

This Pandagon post reminded me of something I've been meaning to discuss on this site, so I'll just go ahead and paste in my comment.

There is a similar mess going on in Boston (Jesse was writing about Chicago), where a few Sundays ago the archdiocese demanded that all priests read a letter at mass saying that the court decision on gay marriage was a "tragedy" or some such garbage. My mother, who actually still attends mass unlike me, tells me that her priest did not read the screed. Then some of the parishioners actually called the archdiocese to complain, as was the case for some other priests who didn't play along, and the offenders were summoned to an archdiocese meeting on the matter last week. My mother reports that the priest wrote in this weekend's church bulletin that the gay marriage letter had come over the fax on Friday afternoon the day after Thanksgiving, and that he hadn't read it until Monday, which she thinks is a lie to get people off his back. He also says he inserted a printed copy of the statement in the bulletin the following weekend, but of course no one went to church that week on account of the blizzard.

Good for the priests who are standing up against this bigotry, which has no place in a religion that purportedly preaches love toward all.

Here's a recent article about Archbishop O'Malley calling on parishioners to contact leaders about banning gay marriage. The article also notes the possibility of church closings, which suggests perhaps that priests better play along if they want their parishes to stick around. "In no way should this be seen as promoting homophobia or cruel prejudices against members of our community," says O' Malley. Well, that is how it's seen, since that is what it is, regardless of what anyone may say to the contrary.

I'll be making my semi-annual visit to church tomorrow night for Christmas Eve mass. Stuff like this is why I don't go more often.

Gettin' Folksy on the Campaign Trail

Patrick Healy writes about John Kerry's new campaigning style in Iowa:

It wasn't a Boston accent, no, but presidential candidate John F. Kerry suddenly began dropping his g's yesterday as he sought to project a common touch during his "Fighting for Working Americans" tour across Iowa.

Visiting union carpenters and painters at a construction site, Kerry declined to put a plastic hard hat on his carefully coiffed hair (a camera crew was taping him for a commercial), but he did drop the perfect elocution he honed at prep school, Yale, and during 19 years in the US Senate. He spoke of "goin' deer huntin"' and "goin' to war as a last resort," while "runnin' down the list" of President Bush's budget mistakes that had led to "cuttin' cops" and "shuttin' firehouses."

"If we're gonna make America fair, we gotta get somebody in there who understands what you folks are doin' every day," Kerry said of next year's presidential election. "We gotta get somebody in there who understands what it means to be a workin' person in America."

For a multimillionaire who recently decided to mortgage his Beacon Hill manse to help fund his struggling campaign, Kerry's lost g's were noteworthy as a symbol of his latest strategy to generate political momentum in Iowa. He is seeking the mantle of the average guy, speaking plainly about his hopes for America, during a 24-hour bus tour and events with voters in their workplaces. His advisers touted the 24 hours as a grueling schedule that would reflect Kerry's own taste for hard work and his commitment to "fight for every vote" to make a strong showing in Iowa's influential Jan. 19 caucuses.


While the Globe is mocking Kerry's aping of the everyman, Brian McGrory's column today, "Deep Shade of Bland", discusses a real everyman in the race, Dick Gephardt, and the unease he inspires in us northeast liberal elitists:

Don't get me wrong. It's not that Gephardt was a bad guy. Quite the opposite, actually. He was so straightforwardly earnest, so utterly devoid of even the hint of cynicism, that I felt diminished, if not spiritually worthless, in his presence.


The bottom line is we have an aversion to folksy charm, whether genuine or faked.

Post on Wolfowitz

Tomorrow's Washington Post has a long profile of Paul Wolfowitz in which he repeats a silly retort to hecklers, that "what is finally wonderful is 50 million, roughly 50 million Afghans and Iraqis, are finally able to speak this way without having their tongues cut out."

Actually no. If Iraqis made lots of noise in public about disliking Bush administration policy--let's say a big rally, or heckling Wolfowitz or other admin officials on their visits--I don't think the military would just leave them alone, do you?

The article also says Wolfowitz is seen as Rummy's likely replacement, which flatly contradicts what Time reports this week.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Colin Powell Gets Defensive

Desperate to salvage his reputation, Colin Powell is now trying to whitewash the Bush administration's foreign policy record. The secretary of state's new Foreign Affairs essay claims critics of Bush administration unilateralism are wrong:

It is an unfailingly effective applause line for critics of any U.S. administration to charge that the president has no vision for the world, that he has no strategy. Every trouble is attributed to this failing, as though the world would otherwise be perfectly accommodating to U.S. purposes. Unfortunately, this criticism has come close to being true in some administrations. But it is not true in the present one. President George W. Bush does have a vision of a better world. And he also has a strategy for translating that vision into reality. I know--I was present at its creation.

The president's strategy was first laid out publicly in September 2002, in the National Security Strategy of the United States (NSS). A succinct document of fewer than 40 pages, the NSS defines U.S. policy priorities in eight substantive sections. Together, these parts add up to an integrated strategy that is broad and deep, far ranging and forward looking, attuned as much to opportunities for the United States as to the dangers it faces.

Of course, a public strategy document cannot be entirely frank about all the choices that U.S. leaders make; we do ourselves and our allies no favors by telling our adversaries everything that we think and plan. Nonetheless, this administration's public pronouncements have been remarkably candid. They reflect the personality of the president himself, a man who, with great consistency, says what he means and means what he says. [emphasis added]


The problem with Powell's defense is that he focuses entirely on words without looking at administration actions. Of course Bush pays lip service to allies, cooperation and such in his speeches, and similar cheery references are inserted into policy memos, but perceptions grow out of the actual decisions the president makes. And those decisions (on Kyoto, arms control, the ICC, invading Iraq, and the whole laundry list) have been against the wishes of many US allies. Powell should've focused on arguing why we're right and others are wrong rather than falsely claiming that we have been playing nice with others when clearly we have not.

Tuesday's Times notes Powell's seeming frustration as his time running the State Department comes to a close. Dick Lugar may be his successor.

Worst of the Web

Today's "Best of the Web" repeats a fatuous argument against gay marriage:

If marriage is a mere "legal" right, who can't get married? If any two people have the right to the legal benefits of marriage, why not three people? Why not two brothers? Why not a man and his father?

That's the trouble with the Massachusetts supreme court decision. It's hard to see on what basis marriage could logically be denied to anybody. Right now, the state doesn't ask if a man and woman are heterosexually inclined, if they love each other, if they intend to have children. Marriage largely regulates itself, with the exception being government efforts to prevent marriages intended solely to obtain a green card. But in the world ordained by the Massachusetts supreme court, wouldn't the state be obliged to make sure two women who want to get married are really lesbians and not just two women trying to acquire the legal advantages of marriage? How else to stop marriage from becoming a right available to any group of people who simply want to organize their affairs as "married" persons?

Right now, the law makes no formal presumption about the sexual orientation of people getting married, just their gender: They have to be of opposite sexes. Yet that small stipulation seems to have succeeded, for the most part, in keeping marriage from becoming a mere contractual convenience.


Gee, how would we prevent two brothers, or three people from marrying? Perhaps by making the law limit marriage to two people who are not related? Then there's the argument that people will pretend to be gay to take advantage on their taxes, etc. This is an incredibly insulting argument that seeks to deny that two homosexuals could actually have a committed relationship. Furthermore, couldn't people theoretically pull off scuh a scheme right now as a heterosexual couple? For the billionth time, the lack of concern over heterosexual divorce is one of the more baffling elements of the opposition to gay marriage.

Dean and Religion

Tapped's Matthew Yglesias points to the latest TNR cover story on "Dean's Religion Problem." Go have a look if you want a depressing read on how the chances of Dean winning in 2004 will be made far lower by a bunch of irrelevant rhetoric.

The article reminded me of watching Dean on TV with George Stephanopoulos this summer, when I was dumbfounded by his answers to the questions about religion (the same interview when Dean almost slugged little George over the NAFTA questioning). It turns out that Dean literally switched his religious denomination because of a dispute over land for a bike path. No wonder Ralph Reed will be like a kid in a candy store.

Tapped has been on fire today, exposing the BS of both Sam Donaldson and Tom DeLay TV appearances over the weekend.

Drunk Joe Namath Interview

Sean McCarthy has the video of Joe Namath's embarrassing drunken interview from ESPN's Saturday night broadcast of Jets-Patriots (via Oliver Willis). Suzy Kolber handled his advances very professionally. Here's a news story on the incident via Drudge.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Time's Choice

"The American Soldier" has been named Time Magazine's person of the year. I guess wrapping yourself in the flag is a good way to sell magazines, which has always made this award rather suspect. And shouldn't it be "The Coalition Soldier" lest we reveal the truth that the vast majority of the forces in Iraq are from the United States because other countries largely didn't back this boondoggle?

Don't get me wrong, I am grateful that these people are over getting shot at in the desert instead of me. However, I thought the Time distinction was supposed to go to the person who had the biggest impact on the world, for good or ill, during the year. The rank-and-file US soldiers are just the Pentagon's pawns, which is why I think someone in the military decision-making structure or in the diplomatic arena who failed to prevent the outbreak of war would've been a better choice. Tommy Franks was named Barbara Walters' "most fascinating person of 2003" the other night, and I suggested Tony Blair for Time's honor yesterday.

Dean Post Op-Ed

Howard Dean writes an op-ed in the Sunday Washington Post to rebut a Post editorial's unfair charcaterization of his foreign policy speech from earlier in the week. I agree with what Dean writes, though I question the historical accuracy of his saying that it is "tradition" to work cooperatively with allies all the time. Certainly alliances have worked well at times in the past, but going against what other countries say is hardly unprecedented either in the past conduct of US foreign policy. The critique of Bush should be not that he goes against historical patterns but rather that he goes against our long-held notion of how things should be ideally in our relations abroad.

Dean does a nice job discrediting the silly idea that Bush is somehow representative of the mainstream view of what place the US should fill in the world. A related meme that I can't understand is one that says Bush is in a much stronger position on foreign policy than Dean. Bush has pissed off leaders the world over, not exactly a model of success, and he has no great aptitude in the area. Being the White House occupant for 9/11 and then leading a misguided war in Iraq don't make the man a statesman.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

The Real Robert Bartley

Dan Kennedy offers further evidence that this was a bad guy. I like to think that my debunking of the Opinion Journal obit helped start the ball rolling.

Newsweek Poll

Bush's approval is up 3 percent in a week to 54 percent after the capture of Saddam, and his gap in the head-to-head with Dean rose by 6 percent to 53-40. An interesting bit is that among Democrats, Joe Lieberman's support declined from 12 percent to 7 percent in one week, a subtle hint that Dem partisans don't appreciate the scorched-earth tactics, Joe.

MORE: Ruy Teixeira argues that the boost to Bush in the polls is unlikely to last.

DeLong on Rubin's Book

Brad DeLong has posted the "director's cut" version of a review of Robert Rubin's book, a slimmed-down version of which will be appearing in the American Prospect.

DeLong offers an interesting look at the economic policy paths considered by the Clinton administration upon assuming office, rejecting the "Social Democracy" strategy for the "Eisenhower Republican" strategy. He balances praise for Rubin's leadership style with concern over the financial scandals that grew out of the '90s boom, and then ends with a kicker:

The Clinton-era economic policies that Rubin played such a large role in devising certainly contributed substantially to the economic boom of the 1990s, and we economists do and will argue about whether they deserve 20%, 40%, or 60% of the credit. But the resolution of the deficit problem did not widen the set of politically-realizable possiblities--or widened them, but not in the way we hoped. Rubin's policies made it possible for George W. Bush to return us to the budgetary ground zero of 1992 through enormous tax cuts for the $200,000+ a year crowd and through big boosts to federal spending--a lot of which looks like Republican pork...

Is there a chance that the Social Democracy laissez-deficiti strategy might have been better for the country in the long run after all?


Perhaps only if we could have foreseen the ransacking of the federal treasury to come in the Bush administration. Of course, if everything had gone according to plan and Al Gore had become president, that would have been a great opportunity to do something good with the surplus.

Frank Rich on Dean and the 'Net

Yes, lotsa NYT linkage lately, but this Frank Rich article from Sunday's paper will certainly be making the rounds on the blogs (link via the Dean campaign). Rich argues that traditional media are underestimating Dean and his online infrastructure by making the McGovern comparisons:

The elusive piece of this phenomenon is cultural: the Internet. Rather than compare Dr. Dean to McGovern or Goldwater, it may make more sense to recall Franklin Roosevelt and John Kennedy. It was not until F.D.R.'s fireside chats on radio in 1933 that a medium in mass use for years became a political force. J.F.K. did the same for television, not only by vanquishing the camera-challenged Richard Nixon during the 1960 debates but by replacing the Eisenhower White House's prerecorded TV news conferences (which could be cleaned up with editing) with live broadcasts. Until Kennedy proved otherwise, most of Washington's wise men thought, as The New York Times columnist James Reston wrote in 1961, that a spontaneous televised press conference was "the goofiest idea since the Hula Hoop."

Such has been much of the reaction to the Dean campaign's breakthrough use of its chosen medium. In Washington, the Internet is still seen mainly as a high-velocity disseminator of gossip (Drudge) and rabidly partisan sharpshooting by self-publishing excoriators of the left and right. When used by campaigns, the Internet becomes a synonym for "the young," "geeks," "small contributors" and "upper middle class," as if it were an eccentric electronic cousin to direct-mail fund-raising run by the acne-prone members of a suburban high school's computer club. In other words, the political establishment has been blindsided by the Internet's growing sophistication as a political tool — and therefore blindsided by the Dean campaign — much as the music industry establishment was by file sharing and the major movie studios were by "The Blair Witch Project," the amateurish under-$100,000 movie that turned viral marketing on the Web into a financial mother lode.

The condescending reaction to the Dean insurgency by television's political correspondents can be reminiscent of that hilarious party scene in the movie "Singin' in the Rain," where Hollywood's silent-era elite greets the advent of talkies with dismissive bafflement. "The Internet has yet to mature as a political tool," intoned Carl Cameron of Fox News last summer as he reported that the runner-up group to Dean supporters on the meetup.com site was witches. "If you want to be a Deaniac," ABC News's Claire Shipman said this fall, "you've got to know the lingo," as she dutifully gave her viewers an uninformed definition of "blogging."

In Washington, the only place in America where HBO's now-canceled "K Street" aroused histrionic debate, TV remains all. No one knew what to make of the mixed message sent by Dr. Dean's performance on "Meet the Press" in June: though the candidate flunked a pop quiz about American troop strength (just as George W. Bush flunked a pop quiz about world leaders in 1999), his Internet site broke its previous Sunday record for contributions by a factor of more than 10. More recently, the dean of capital journalists, David Broder, dyspeptically wrote that "Dean failed to dominate any of the Democratic candidate debates." True, but those few Americans who watched the debates didn't exactly rush to the candidate who did effortlessly dominate most of them, Al Sharpton. (Mr. Sharpton's reward for his performance wasn't poll numbers or contributions but, appropriately enough, a gig as a guest host on "Saturday Night Live.")


I rarely say it, but go read the whole thing. While I don't vouch for its validity, Rich frames the pertinent issues in an interesting way. I look forward to the belittling right-wing responses.

These Are the Gay Marriage Opponents

Sunday's New York Times has a big poll on gay marriage, finding most people don't approve. That's not news. What I did find interesting was the outright bigotry spouted by poll respondents in follow-up interviews:

Richard Waters, 71, a retired elementary school teacher in Little Valley, N.Y., and a Republican, said in a follow-up interview to the poll that he strongly supported a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"I think any kind of amendment that says `You shall not' will help," Mr. Waters said. "I just don't think it's right for two men to go parading around in public or for two women to be doing the things they do. It's against God's law. That's right in the Bible that it's wrong."

Theresa Eaton, 49, a financial analyst in Corona, Calif., and also a Republican, agreed.

"I still believe that marriage should be between a man and woman," she said. "If I knew that we had a neighbor who was gay, I would not let my nieces and nephews go close by there. I don't want to accept their lifestyle. It can be acquired and it is not right." ...

"I want my children to grow up and be normal people like me and my father and my grandfather was," said Ziad Nimri, 41, a salesman and a Democrat who lives in Spokane, Wash. "I don't want my children to start getting ideas. They see it's out in the open and you see men kissing men on television these days."

Mr. Nimri said he was also worried that if gays were allowed to marry, they would get other rights too, like tax benefits. "Because they're a minority, they're going to start actually giving them more privileges than normal people would have," he said. "Minorities always tend to get more than your average person does."


Talk about a colossal blind spot. Most people now realize you're supposed to be tolerant and accepting of others, or at least pretend to be so, but it's still acceptable in most circles to hate gays and make no apologies. At least now the anti-gay forces may quit complaining about the coverage with these opinions splashing across the pages of the supposedly liberal Times. Oh wait, of course they won't.

MORE: Metajournalism's Marc Levitt has a more optimistic take on the poll results, and also links to the American Family Institute's gay marriage poll. Please vote in it because as Ben Logan explains,

The American Family Association is conducting a poll regarding Gay marriage/Civil Unions that they are planning to send to Congress as representative of American opinion. Here's the catch: They've only told their members about the poll.

Well, now YOU know about it. Vote, and tell your friends, no matter how you vote on the poll. Let's just make this a little more representative of the real world.

Libya's WMDs

I'm happy we won't be starting a war with Libya over this, it seems. I'm also quite surprised that the White House chose to announce this late on a Friday afternoon, a time usually reserved for bad news the administration hopes no one will notice (increases in the numbers of people living in poverty, without health insurance, etc.), especially since this was nine months in the works.

Maybe Tony Blair was going to make it public, leaving the White House no choice. By the way, I'll put my money right now on Tony Blair as Time's man of the year, which will be announced tomorrow morning.

David Brooks, Bush Administration Spokesman

Brooks today uses his column simply to introduce the administration's "Ownership Society" proposals. NYT could've just provided a link to the White House web site and used the leftover space to give us a real op-ed that actually analyzes something.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Friday Sports Post: Going Bowling

Here's a brief sports post in honor of Friday afternoon.

College football's bowl season has commenced, unbeknownst to most people. The New Orleans Bowl was played on Tuesday night, and last night was the thrilling GMAC Bowl. ESPN has the full slate of games, of course.

My personal favorite has to be the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl. I'm sure the Auburn fans are really happy to be associated with that corporate sponsor.

Derrick Jackson, whom I generally like, continues his jihad against college sports in today's Globe with his annual column complaining about low graduation rates for football players. He doesn't understand that the kids don't actually care about academics either. It's not like they feel gipped out of their degrees--if not for sports, many of them wouldn't be in school at all. I've yet to see Derrick Z advocate for a minor league of football, which would be the only real solution, rather than just make known his hatred of university administrators.

As I made clear in the Pro Picks post, it's NFL and more NFL this weekend. There's also good college hoop tomorrow at noon with #1 Kentucky facing Indiana on CBS and Texas-Duke on ESPN.

Friday Media Bashing

The AP has selected the top ten news stories of the year, with Elizabeth Smart edging out the Democratic presidential contest for the ninth slot. SARS, the blackout and California fires make the list while Medicare reform, gay marriage, terrorism and civil liberties stories are nowhere to be found. Typical.

Tim Noah has a hilarious Howard Kurtz quote too.

Nader

Tell him not to run for president again, please.

Pro Picks, Week 16: Lost Weekend

As if having games all day on Sunday weren't enough, this weekend the NFL expands to having games on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings to go along with the Monday Night feature. Now that Saturdays are free of college football, we wouldn't want American men doing housework, reading the great books, participating in community service or spending quality time with their families, would we? Of course, not.

Although the first game Saturday at 1:30 is a dud between the Falcons and Bucs (Vick looks rusty and is a bit dinged from last week at Indy, so I'll be skipping it for XMas shopping), that's followed at 5 by what should be a shootout with playoff significance, KC at Minny. Then Saturday night it's Pats-Jets from the Meadowlands, followed by more Sunday and Monday. There goes the weekend. (Add in that this weekend I'm in my fantasy league championship and that's the clincher.)

On the Pats topic, a lot of discussion in these parts is now about whether Tom Brady was "snubbed" for the Pro Bowl, which had its participants selected today. I refuse to discuss "snubs" because the whole of the outrage just seems manufactured for SportsCenter and talk radio. Plus the Pro Bowl sucks and no one watches it, so who cares?

Speaking of things I refuse to discuss, I want to discuss the media-manufactured flaps of the week a bit. First there's Joe Horn's cell phone TD celebration, which earned him a $30,000 fine and the ire of many on the airwaves. Some chest-thumping analysts start frothing at the mouth over this and basically call for on-field executions, like the guy is Saddam Hussein or something. I say a player can make an ass of himself if he wants. Stashing props on the field is beyond what should be allowed, but I personally like celebrations and displays of emotion. And if the talking heads are so pissed about Joe Horn drawing attention to himself, why do they keep bringing it up and replaying the video of the incident, which gives Horn more and more exposure? Don't they realize they're just helping him get the attention he wanted? Wow, good point, I should stop discussing this one right now.

I'll have more on the week's idiocy in the course of the following selections, which are, as always, for recreational purposes only.

Detroit at Carolina

False outrage moment #2 of the week: Matt Millen gets pilloried for using an anti-gay slur in a confrontation with former Lion Johnnie Morton in a hallway after Detroit's loss last week to Kansas City. The Free Press has called for his resignation, which makes me wonder: do people think that the NFL is entirely devoid of the use of bad words and slurs? Didn't they see that Playmakers episode about the gay player? Seriously, though, Millen should get fired because he has been really bad at picking personnel and the Lions have lost a ton the last few years, not for what he said in a heated exchange with a player who left on bad terms that happened to be overheard. If Detroit were headed for the playoffs, would there be this kind of pressure for Millen to go?

Pick: Panthers

Cincinnati at St. Louis

The NFL's stick-up-the-ass moment of the week has to be the fine levied against Chad Johnson of the Bengals for tweaking the league with this sign after celebrating a TD in last week's game. Memo to NFL: Chad Johnson is mocking you. He is one of the most exciting young players you have and he was picked for his first Pro Bowl today. Fining him repeatedly only makes you look bad. Much as I love Johnson (here's an interview), the Bengals won't be ending the Rams' home win streak.

Pick: Rams

NY Giants at Dallas

Jim Fassel has been fired but he will coach the Giants' final two games anyway. This is a bizarre circumstance to say the least. If you were taking a class, say, and you knew that regardless of what you did for the last two assignments you were getting an F, how hard would you work? I will be curious to see if the Giants end up doing anything strange this week. And just imagine if they had beaten the Cowboys in that odd Monday Night game back in week two. They would have gone to 2-0 and the season might have been different. The 'Boys are definitely the better team now.

Pick: Cowboys

Denver at Indianapolis

I can't let the week go by without another fun installment of "playoff scenarios" for week 16, featuring the Denver Broncos. Denver can clinch a playoff berth in any of four ways: a Denver win plus a Baltimore loss or tie, a Denver win plus a Cincinnati loss or tie, a Denver tie plus a Miami loss or tie and a Baltimore loss, or a Denver tie plus a Miami loss or tie and a Cincinnati loss. Got that? I'm predicting none of these will come to pass because of the Clinton Portis injury.

Pick: Colts

Washington at Chicago

The unwatchable QB matchup of the week. I think it's worth repeating that Tim Hasselbeck was 6-for-26 passing last week with 4 INTs and only 56 yards. Smart move by Spurrier keeping a veteran backup on the roster, huh? Meanwhile rookie Rex Grossman actually won last week for the Bears, and Dick Jauron may end up keeping his job after all.

Pick: Bears

San Francisco at Philadelphia

Press-darling QB Donovan McNabb will be going to the Pro Bowl as well. It must have been the media vote that put him over the top, right Rush? McNabb is one of only two Pro Bowlers on a team that has won nine in a row. It may take a few oxycontin for Limbaugh to get over this one.

Pick: Eagles

Other Games

Tampa Bay over Atlanta, Kansas City over Minnesota, New England over NY Jets, Buffalo over Miami, Baltimore over Cleveland, Jacksonville over New Orleans, Tennessee over Houston, Pittsburgh over San Diego, Seattle over Arizona, Oakland over Green Bay

Last Week: 13-3
Season Record: 142-82

Thursday, December 18, 2003

BOP Blog Burst: Saddam's Capture the Anti-Tet?

At Blogging of the President this week's "Blog Burst" question relates to the capture of Saddam Hussein and what it means for the perception of the war among Americans. I wrote a verbose comment with my thoughts, and you can read it by following the link and scrolling down. BOP encourages everyone who reads or writes blogs to weigh in on this one, so go ahead. There's also tons of good stuff on the rest of the site about the media and election 2004.

OK, I'll share an excerpt from my opus here. The question I respond to is, "Does the capture of Saddam Hussein bear a sort of 'anti-Tet' moniker, cooling the increasingly powerful (yet still minority status) anti-war narrative?"

[T]he capture does give the administration a tangible accomplishment that can be pointed out. That's something that's been missing in all of the previous raids because, with limited information about the extent or composition of the insurgency, we can't really be sure of how much progress we have been making toward the stated goal of a secure Iraq. Capturing Saddam is a definite positive--he is the bad actor who precipitated the invasion to begin with, so certainly having him detained is a public relations coup. To the cries of "what for?" from anti-war leaders, war supporters can now respond, "to capture this awful dictator." It's a more convincing, concrete answer than anything they had before.

At the same time, I write that my yes is tentative because the administration has now lost its primary excuse if violence continues. The blaming of "dead-enders" and "Saddam loyalists" will grow tiresome if the insurgency keeps going strong for another several months. The administration has prepared the public for the possibility of increased attacks in the weeks ahead, but regardless of these disclaimers, I feel patience will wear thin if casualties keep mounting. The capture, in effect, gives the administration more time before the impatience reaches a crescendo of public outcry.

Diary of a Dean-o-Phobe

Jonathan Chait of TNR, who wrote a recent article professing his hatred of Bush, has started up an anti-Dean blog (via Andrew Sullivan). It'll suck to be him next fall when they're the two battling for the presidency. More later tonight.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Down with the MLBPA!

Boy, do I hate that union--I feel like a Republican tonight. Baseball's players union may prevent the ARod-Manny trade because they don't like the way ARod's contract would be restructured. Gene Orza of the MLBPA somehow has the authority to decide that teams can't make trades that everyone else agrees to. Sorry, "union", but I think a guy who signed a $252 million contract is doing fine without you getting in the way.

Commissioner Bud Selig may intervene and try to approve the deal despite the union complaints, which could lead to arbitration--no one is exactly sure how that would play out. The AP story also says that "JohnWHenry", the avowed screen name of the Sox owner, posted to Sons of Sam Horn, "It's an astonishing ending, isn't it? Astonishing. In fact, it transcends baseball."

The baseball union has been a pernicious force for years, dragging its feet on any sort of salary cap or revenue sharing system that could make more teams competitive, and nixing any real drug testing program while power-hitting records lose all meaning. Now MLBPA wants to scuttle one of the most exciting offseason player transactions ever in the name of avoiding a precedent that players might willingly be allowed to give up a bit of money in order to move to a situation they prefer. I'm sure that the anti-union Romney administration shares my frustration (except they hate legitimate unions, a key difference).

"Revisionist historians is what I like to call them"

Dana Milbank reports on how the White House has been altering the historical record by removing things from government web sites that make the administration look bad. The article mentions the amazing April 23 NightLine interview of USAID's Andrew Natsios, the transcript of which has now been taken down. It included this exchange:

"You're not suggesting that the rebuilding of Iraq is going to be done for $1.7 billion?" an incredulous Ted Koppel asked Natsios.

"Well, in terms of the American taxpayers contribution, I do," Natsios said. "This is it for the U.S. The rest of the rebuilding of Iraq will be done by other countries who have already made pledges, Britain, Germany, Norway, Japan, Canada and Iraqi oil revenues. . . . But the American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this."

Pope on The Passion

Peggy Noonan writes in Opinion Journal that the Pope saw Mel Gibson's controversial crucifixion (crucifiction?) flick "The Passion" recently and pronounced afterward, "It is as it was." I knew the Pope was old, but I didn't realize he had actually been around to witness the killing of Jesus, which is the only way he could really know how "it was."

Seriously though, Noonan thinks this somehow should be the end of the debate over whether the film is anti-Semitic, which is a bit unrealistic. I do agree with one sentence, though! "The church is very odd these days in that it dodges those controversies on which it has known authority and expertise, and seems to embrace those controversies on which it seems to have nothing to add but airy non sequiturs." Noonan follows that up with standard drivel poo-pooing the Vatican's feeling sorry for the way Saddam was disgraced in camera, when in fact her statement fits much better with the church's recent pronouncements against gay marriage--as if a bunch of old celibate men really know what matters in raising a family.

Anyway, I think the movie should be released barring any sort of direct incitement to violence against Jews. I'm against censorship and I think people are smart enough here to be held accountable for their own actions.