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Friday, April 30, 2004

Jodi Wilgoren's Political Rorschach Test

Jodi Wilgoren had a strange article a few days ago on the guy who follows Kerry around on the campaign trail and gives him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Liberal media watchers were angry that Wilgoren seemingly takes the opportunity to paint Kerry as an aloof aristocratic sort--see the Daily Howler and Reading A-1, for instance. Andrew Sullivan, by contrast, titles his post, "Kerry Suck-Up Watch" and he comments, "now receiving entries from some desperate liberal journalists trying to rescue the fast-flailing Kerry campaign (or grease a major source, as Jodi Wilgoren is obviously doing here)." The truth is in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. Maybe this was an attempt to do more behind-the-scenes/humanizing coverage of Kerry to balance out the "White House Letter" columns on Bush?

Wonkette Video

This is a note to myself: watch the interview with Ana Marie Cox later when I'm on another computer that lets me play videos.

O'Malley Apology on Feminism

Back on Easter, I noted the outrage of a homily delivered by Boston's Archbishop Sean O'Malley, quoting an Eileen McNamara article in the Globe:

Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley identified "feminism" as one of the secular evils that make the United States "a hostile, alien environment" for Catholics. Feminism, the advocacy of equal social and political rights for women, lumped right in there during his homily with "the drug culture," "the sexual revolution," "hedonism," "consumerism," and "the culture of death." ...

Beyond his contempt for feminism and his veneration of obedience, O'Malley displayed his disdain for an entire generation, "the boomers born between 1946 and 1966." (O'Malley was born in 1944.) "The most educated and affluent group in US history," he said, "are heirs to Woodstock, the drug culture, the sexual revolution, feminism, the breakdown of authority, and divorce. Typically, they are religious illiterates, but they are interested. Not big on dogmas. My karma ran over my dogma could be their motto."

Today the Globe front page tells us O'Malley has apologized for the feminism remark--equating women's rights with the drug culture seems a bit clumsy, no?--and to any women who felt slighted by his refusal to wash their feet in the traditional Holy Thursday Mass ceremony, reenacting the Last Supper. He apparently did not apologize for hs callous put down of the entire baby boom generation.

The apology, appearing in The Pilot, the archdiocese newspaper, also says, "some people seem determined to make our liturgical services a political battleground." Gee, who could those people be, Sean? Perhaps the same church leadership that spent a million dollars on mailings pushing a ban on gay marriage, only the most divisive political issue in the state this year? Or maybe the same church leaders that inject themselves into the presidential race with statements about communion and pro-choice Catholic politicians? Again, I do not believe this man is worthy of being called a community spiritual leader.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Body Language?

Meet President Bush's new rationale for meeting the 9/11 commissioners with Dick Cheney in tow:

Q Mr. President, as you know, a lot of critics suggested that you wanted to appear jointly with the Vice President so that you two could keep your stories straight, or something --

THE PRESIDENT: Yes --

Q -- can you tell us what you think of the value of appearing together and how you would answer those critics?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes -- first of all, look, if we had something to hide we wouldn't have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions. And as I say, I think I -- I came away good about the session, because I wanted them to know how I set strategy, how we run the White House, how we deal with threats. The Vice President answered a lot of their questions -- answered all their questions. And I think it was important for them to see our body language, as well, how we work together.

I'm confused by this. What is there to see in their body language that helps the commissioners do their work? Why would the body language be different if the president and vice president met with the commission separately? As for the "we wouldn't meet with them at all if we had something to hide" point, the obvious response is the meeting only came about after political pressure forced it. But, having to do something with the commission, they devised ground rules that were the most advantageous to them.

In other words, still no good answer on why the appearance today had to be a joint one.

The Manny Ramirez Publicity Campaign

Continuing the reclamation project of his public image in Boston, Manny Ramirez has started up his own web site (via Boston Common, thanks for the reminder) where he says:

Here, I hope to have the opportunity to interact with my fans more closely, via our Club MR24 Crib [Forum], the newspen, the shout-out page, my game logs, the youth page, my charity endeavors, and in many other ways. In turn, if you visit this site regularly, you will get my inside story and to know me better.

Dan Shaughnessy had a typically ham-handed column on Manny's charm offensive a few days back. Boston Dirt Dogs also has a deconstruction (scroll down the front page), having already gone through and picked out the best quotes from the site.

UMass Tillman Article

The UMass student newspaper's site is overloaded because they published a column today by a guy who says Pat Tillman was an idiot. This is provoking plenty of outrage, as you might imagine. I haven't gotten to read the thing yet myself (I get server overloaded messages clicking the link), though you can see some of the offending paragraphs at A Small Victory, complete with the typical righteous indignation.

Obviously, this is a terrible thing to say. The problem is that the wingnuts will use it to beat up on anyone who is opposed to US policy since, as we've learned previously, anyone who posts on Democratic Underground is assumed to be a spokesman for the DNC. So let's be clear about this: Rene Gonzales represents a tiny fringe of crazies on the extreme left, not the Democratic party.

Beam Rips Brinkley

Alex Beam is largely correct to be criticizing Douglas Brinkley in today's Globe, even if the Globe does have a Kerry biography out now that is competing with Brinkley's, as Beam duly notes. Having a historian who is so blatantly doing a candidate's work just seems like something the Republicans would pull (and yes, it's partisanship day here). Beam's ending is devastating:

Brinkley and publisher William Morrow plan to release a revised edition of "Tour of Duty" in two weeks. "I started realizing, `I've got to fix this,' `I've got to fix that,' " Brinkley says. "Nobody believed we would get to this point where every aspect of the book is being dissected."

Call me old-fashioned, but I can remember a time when historians wrote books that didn't have to be revised after sitting on the shelf for just four months.

Damn. I have a copy of Tour of Duty that I haven't looked at for a little while now. The part I got through was very pro-Kerry, and I noted that he seemed to be on shaky ground asserting Kerry slept on the Mall during the 1971 VVAW protests (Mickey Kaus, predictably, is harping on this). I've yet to take a look at the Globe book, which "differs significantly from Brinkley's authorized, triumphalist tome," according to Beam.

As the nastiness of the presidential race continues, and it's leading to some rather sharply worded columns by the pundits. I enjoyed Michelangelo Signorile's rant (via Rittenhouse Review), and even the people you disagree with can be enjoyable if they're loopy enough. See, for instance, Larry Elder who goes off about a throw-away Kerry comment to MTV about respecting rap music. The guy is like Bill O'Reilly, only with street slang.

For aspiring liberal attack pundits, the Hamster points us to a useful new tool: ClaimVFact.org, where you can search for dishonest quotes by Republicans sorted by speaker and topic and submit your own for the database.

VandeHei Watch 4.29.04: Medals Throw Kerry Off Course

Yesterday's joint effort by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen in the Washington Post was the kind of article that makes me feel depressed.

Some Democrats worry Kerry is falling into a trap of making the 2004 election all about national security -- past, present and future. In recent weeks, Kerry has been dragged into fights over his position on the Iraq war, his votes to cut or eliminate weapons programs and, most recently, whether he tossed away his Vietnam War medals during a war protest 33 years ago. In many cases, Kerry defended himself at the expense of promoting his plans to balance the federal budget, clean up the environment and create jobs.

Yes, that's a pretty good summary of how I feel. What VandeHei/Allen are missing, though, is any recognition of the culpability of the press corps in all of this, seeing it instead as Kerry's own decision to change the subject. "Kerry was described by aides as furious with the attacks on his military service and antiwar protests, and is intent on fighting back -- even if it interferes with his campaign strategy," they write. Maybe it's true that Kerry is making a tactical error in responding so forcefully, but he'd be in trouble if he didn't respond either. As Bob Somerby points out in the Daily Howler, Gore was criticized for not replying more strongly to being misquoted, so Kerry's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't. Here's the VandeHei/Allen second paragraph:

But, in what is becoming a familiar pattern in the early days of the presidential campaign, the Massachusetts Democrat was distracted, if not drowned out, by the political war over war and military service exploding around him. President Bush's allies have been questioning Kerry's credibility on national security as well as his military record and antiwar activities.

And why was this all "exploding around him"? Why do VandeHei/Allen feel compelled to lead with this, rather than the substance and sticking some of this later on, perhaps? Someone controls the storyline that the public receives about the campaign, you know.

Today's article, a solo VandeHei effort, focuses more on the substance of what Kerry actually announced yesterday, a set of policies to promote job growth (you can read the full Ann Arbor speech text here).

Kerry presented three new, albeit modest, proposals: starting a government-backed investment program to help create manufacturing businesses; doubling funding for an existing program to prod small and medium-size businesses to adopt new technologies; and restoring funding for the Advanced Technology Program, which promotes technological innovation. David Wade, Kerry's spokesman, said the new programs would cost a combined $200 million annually above current levels. ...

In a state hit hard by manufacturing job loss, Kerry, in essence, advocated a small government role in turning this sector around. ... With his promise to hold down government spending, Kerry is restricted in the number and size of programs he can propose without seeming to violate his fiscal pledge.

Note the "seeming" language--VandeHei himself seems to have toned down his own confidence regarding Kerry budget projections, which he previously told us on multiple occasions didn't add up. He also makes an important point toward the end:

While Iraq, terrorism and military service are dominating the early days of the campaign, the political importance of these industrial states virtually ensures that this debate over manufacturing, jobs and the economy will play a key role in the election.

That's certainly true, as I had reinforced by reading the Ohio article I mentioned this morning. Unfortunately, most of the media seem to be fixated by war/terror (for instance, Eric Umansky at Slate's Today's Papers seems to do almost all foreign affairs) or by irrelevant political squabbles over military decorations or whether John Kerry owns an SUV. The jobs issue, while it may be rather dry in policy specifics--not as much violence or venality to draw the public interest--it very well could determine the election outcome in these crucial rust belt swing states. That's why it would be nice to see it bust through the other media chatter a bit more often.

Jodi Wilgoren's version of the Kerry jobs proposal story reports that, "[Bush spokesman Steve] Schmidt asserted that the programs in the speech would cost 'tens of billions of dollars,' but he was referring mainly to proposals Mr. Kerry made long ago." Remember, the VandeHei piece says the proposals Kerry discussed yesterday would cost $200 million. Minor difference.

Bush will be doing a bus tour of the midwest starting Monday, much like the one Kerry just completed, and he's expected to be addressing much the same topic, so we'll have an excellent test case of how media reports differ on Kerry and Bush, other things being equal.

That Political Tom Brady

Wonkette reports that Tom Brady will be a guest of ABC at the White House Correspondents' Dinner ("Porn Awards for Ugly People" as Wonkette calls it), along with politicos like Karl Rove, Colin Powell and Don Rumsfeld, as well as the ubiquitous Ben Affleck. As you may recall from his appearance at the State of the Union, Brady is said to be considering entering politics when his playing days are over. We'll have more opportunity for this kind of speculation when the Patriots visit the White House on May 10.

"Under God" Omission

Rep. Jim McDermott, a Democrat from Washington, didn't say the words "under God" when leading the House in the pledge of allegiance at the start of yesterday's session. This has the wrap-yourself-in-the-flag types in a tizzy. I wonder if this was said (or written) with a straight face:

In a statement released by Texas Republican Pete Sessions, the congressman said, "The liberal wing of the Democrat Party launched yet another salvo today in its ongoing battle to drive a wedge between Americans and the values and ideals we hold dear."

Who is driving the wedge here? The congressman who doesn't say a pair of words? Or the people who make a big deal out of it? And with shades of the attacks on John Kerry, NRO is now claiming McDermott is changing his story around about why he left out the God reference. If there really is a God, this episode seems to be another sign that he's condemned us to political hell.

UPDATE: I guess it was Tuesday morning this happened. I'm slow.

Ohio Ground War

I got around to reading the NYT mag story on the Bush campaign in Ohio and enjoyed how Matt Bai was able to make the nitwit Bush volunteers look so bad. Here's a heartwarming part about a BC04 guy going door-to-door registering voters:

''A black woman from California,'' Ashenhurst muttered, as if he'd been the victim of a cruel hoax. ''Oh, yeah, there's a Republican.'' He shrugged fatalistically. ''Well, you never know.''

After three hours of this, our hands red and numb from the cold, the colonel and I retreated to the local Bob Evans for some lunch. Our waitress, Malinda, smiled when she saw us; she had served us breakfast as well. ''You know why we came back?'' Ashenhurst asked. ''I forgot to ask you an important question. Are you registered to vote?''

''No, I'm not,'' Malinda answered. ''I'm 25, and I've never voted. My roommate yelled at me. But you know, I work two jobs, I go to school, I watch somebody's kids. . . . ''

''Well, I'm going to change that,'' Ashenhurst said. Malinda flopped down in our booth and filled out Ashenhurst's 15th form of the day. When she left, I asked Ashenhurst why he thought she was a Republican.

''Anybody who does all that and works that hard,'' the colonel replied, ''has to be a Republican.''

'Cuz, you know, all those lazy Democrats just take their government handouts. What an mean-spirited ignoramus. His views on the economy are wonderful too:

''I have to say that for all this talk about George Bush ruining the economy,'' Ashenhurst said, ''I don't know a single person who's unemployed. I've yet to go out to a restaurant where there isn't a line waiting for tables.'' What really mattered, he said, is that ''deep down, George Bush really is a good person.''

This is in a state that has lost over 200,000 jobs in the last few years. Maybe if he ever left his rich hometown he might realize that the news reports aren't just making things up.

Then there's the description of where this guy lives:

Our first stop was a development called Times Square Apartments. As we approached the first set of doors, I mentioned to Ashenhurst that I was heartened to see quaint little stores thriving near the entrance, like Old Stuff Antiques and the Casual Gourmet.

''Oh, those stores aren't real,'' he said with a smile, and when I looked closer, I saw that he was right. They were merely decorative store windows, a few feet deep at most, designed to create for residents the warm aura of a bustling town center. Later, when we drove across the road to ''the Farms,'' where Ashenhurst lives, I was surprised to find that the horses peering out over white picket fences were in fact not horses at all, but rusted re-creations. There was an inescapable political undertone to this new town-house culture. The developers had designed communities of white nostalgia -- theme parks for the conservative middle class.

That pretty much speaks for itself. I could go on, but that's enough.

UPDATE: Forgot to say that this seems like important stuff in light of one of the more amazing factoids in the article, which I've heard before too: no Republican has ever won a presidential election without carrying Ohio. The story has a handy breakdown of the regions of the state, how they typically vote, and what each side needs to do to win.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Doctor Is In

Annoying headlines like that are on the way because Doc Rivers will be the new Celtics coach. This is excellent news since Rivers is the real deal, a former NBA coach of the year winner. I was fearful the bull-headed Danny Ainge would hire Paul Westphal or someone else he had ties to just to be so. Fortunately, Rivers must have had brain-typing that Ainge approved of.

Going to game four of the playoff series with Indiana on Sunday afternoon and seeing the Celtics swept on their home court was extremely depressing. There were lots of empty seats and no life in the place, like it was a public execution or something (the Red Sox score, 2-0 over New York, must have gotten the loudest applause of the day when it appeared on the scoreboard). Bringing in Rivers is a good first step toward recovery.

"I don't want to be bottled. I'm not ketchup"

While Newsweek's cover story on Teresa Heinz Kerry has nothing much new to it, it does have some fun details and quotes from the aspiring first lady.

On being five years older than John Kerry: "So I married a younger guy--they say women should. Cradle snatcher! I've always liked babies."

Then there's the following description of meeting voters:

She can seemingly work a rope line forever, even in her Jimmy Choo mules, but occasionally says the wrong thing to the people waiting to meet her. When a man in Chicago tells her earnestly, "I have ADHD, but I just want you to know I'm working my tail off for your husband," she responds, "But you're focused now, right?" To a New York man, who as an Orthodox Jew declines to shake her hand, she blurts, "That's one way not to get diseases."

Regardless of your partisan leanings, you have to admit Teresa's a hell of a lot more interesting than Laura Bush is.

Adopt-a-Journalist Media Mention

It's at the end of Matt Welch's article in Reason. No link here but he does mention that, "Journalists who have a 'watch blog' attached to their hides now include the aforementioned Nedra Pickler, her AP colleague Calvin Woodward, Reuters' Patricia Wilson, The New York Times' Jodi Wilgoren, and The Washington Post’s Dan Balz and Cecil Connolly, among others." Welch doesn't note that a bunch of these people seem to have given up their watch blogs now. People abandon their blogs all the time, of course, and in this case I think many of the watchers were Dean supporters who lost interest when their man didn't become the nominee.

Kerry and TV Appearances

I'm not going back to the Kerry bashing days in light of my wanting him to defeat Bush, but this pessimistic NY Observer piece is getting lots of attention today. It's full of some pretty damning criticism about Kerry's inability to present himself well, and my favorite line encapsulating the problem is this: "On TV, Mr. Kerry projects a subtle disdain for the medium while he is appearing on it."

The Village Voice also has a column by James Ridgeway saying the Dems should ditch Kerry entirely.

Huntington's "Who Are We"

Harvard prof Samuel Huntington, he of "Clash of Civilizations" fame, has a new book to be released shortly. "Who Are We: The Challenges to America's National Identity" takes a controversial stand on immigration issues by basically saying the USA is in trouble because Mexicans aren't assimilating toward Anglo-Protestant values in the way he would like.

I'm highliy unlikely to tackle the 448 pages, though I've seen a bunch of articles on the tome. Foreign Policy had a cover stroy by Huntington laying out the main argument in the March/April issue. Huntington also shows up in the Spring issue of The National Interest (short excerpt only for non-subscribers) and the American Conservative (article not online).

For a sympathetic review, see Rich Lowry today, who, at the end of summarizing the argument, writes in his final paragraph:

A world of grief awaits Huntington. He will inevitably be misunderstood and smeared. On the contrary, only a writer of Huntington's stature has a chance to punch through the oppressive pieties surrounding these issues and force a forthright debate of them. Huntington says he undertook his new book in the spirit of "a patriot and scholar." A courageous one.

Of course, I'm more inclined to believe these naysayers are onto something, and Alan Wolfe makes a good case for the Huntington opposition in his new Foreign Affairs review. Wolfe calls the book "Patrick Buchanan with footnotes" and then quotes a line that I think carries the day:

Because culture is more resistant than creed, Huntington ends on a note of relentless pessimism. To his credit, he avoids the racist pseudo-science of The Passing of the Great Race. He does not, unfortunately, avoid its nativism. "The term 'nativism' has acquired pejorative connotations among denationalized elites," Huntington writes. In his view, nativism ought not be defined by extremist militias and the Ku Klux Klan but rather should be embraced by those who fear that an internal immigrant minority is on its way to becoming a majority. Summarizing his main findings, Huntington concludes that "white nativist movements are a possible and plausible response to these trends, and in situations of serious economic downturn and hardship could be highly probable." The word "plausible" catches the eye. To say that something is possible or probable is to make a prediction; to call it plausible is to endorse it.

Yep, white nativism, that's the ticket. I'll leave it to immigration experts to debate the Huntington book on the data, but that conclusion alone is pretty alarming. As Wolfe concludes, "immigration is here to say. A realist would urge American leaders to find sensible ways to deal with that fact."

Ronald Reagan University

Insert punchline here.

UPDATE: garyclark has a few. "Rumor has it some of the majors will include: Flash Card Policy Memorization, Welfare Queenism, How To Destroy the American Economy and Acting With Monkeys." See Jesse Taylor too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Religious Belief and Public Morality -- A Catholic Governor's Perspective

The Weekly Standard mentioned this speech Mario Cuomo gave in 1984, which seems like relevant reading these days. More on it later.

"Still, We Believe"

The Red Sox movie, which gets a wider release next Friday, had a premiere in town last night, and Eric Wilbur felt it was rather disappointing. I have no plans on watching it since reliving last season doesn't sound like a good time to me, but at least Ben Affleck doesn't seem to be involved.

Connolly Watch 4.27.04: Funding Aborted

Suddenly the abortion issue seems to be everywhere the last few days, with the big DC march, the Pennsylvania Senate race, and now today's Ceci Connolly article in the Washington Post.

After complaints from Republican congressional staff members and conservative groups such as the Traditional Values Coalition, Bush administration officials have decided to withhold money for an international health conference that opponents say promotes abortion.

The righties were upset that MoveOn.org had received an invite, supposedly to talk "about using technology to organize grass-roots groups but could not attend." That seems rather odd, I agree, but the overall conference sounds like garden-variety health stuff.

Conference organizers said the three-day meeting will include a diverse mix of experts speaking on such topics as reproductive health, infectious diseases and emerging threats such as SARS, nutrition and disaster assistance. The theme of the conference is "Youth and Health: Generation on the Edge." Louis W. Sullivan, HHS secretary in the first Bush administration, is a member of the board of the council.

Amy Sullivan had a good article yesterday that explains Bush admin policies that refuse to give any $ to international groups having anything to do with abortions.

Whom to Support in PA?

Atrios is rooting for Toomey to beat Specter in the Pennsylvania Republican Senate race today, but Kos would prefer to see Specter win. The long-held opinion that Toomey would be easier for the Dems to defeat seems to be undergoing some reconsideration.

The Corner--full of big Toomey supporters--is all over the race as it unfolds today. I'm sure John Kalb will have some war stories to share after he returns from doing work for the Toomey campaign.

VandeHei Watch 4.27.04: The Medals

Tuesday's front-page article in the Washington Post by Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen covers the latest Bush-Kerry clash over military service in the Vietnam era, this time initiated by BC04 claims Kerry lied about throwing his war medals at the Capitol in 1971. The story really is old news, revived by the GOP in the last few days, and the media are playing it up. Go read Tom Oliphant in today's Globe since Oliphant was actually present for the events in question (though he admits his daughter is now on Kerry's staff, which I'm sure some will say makes him unreliable).

One thing I did notice was the heated rhetoric that Kerry's backers used in responding to the latest fight:

[Kerry spokesman David] Wade said: "We love this fight. We won't be lectured about his honorable service and noble opposition to a war gone wrong from Republican hacks working for a man who can't prove he showed up to do his duty. If they want to compare what the two men were doing in 1971, we will win that character test any day." ...

Another group, run by former Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan, fired off a statement titled "Who the Hell Is Dick Cheney?" It criticized the vice president for seeking deferments to "avoid service in Vietnam."

I know this topic gets people riled up, but can we avoid the use of "hacks" and "hell" and try to give more dignified responses? There's the concern of being dragged into the mud here--after holding off on questioning Bush's Guard service, the campaign is now doing just that--which needs to be balanced against the firmness of the response.

The medals stuff takes up most of the article, leaving not enough room to discuss Dick Cheney's attack dog speech on Kerry's national security credentials. For example, they don't mention that Cheney, who criticized Kerry for supporting weapons cuts in the 1980s, did the same in arguing that Reagan needed to reduce defense spending in 1984. Cheney also upset the head of Westminster College by blindsiding him with the partisan nature of his remarks. The place that hosted Winston Churchill's famed "iron curtain" speech in 1946 doesn't appreciate being used for such low politics, preferring instead to be the site of statemanlike addresses, it seems. (Links from Atrios)

MORE: Go read Dan Kennedy for a good take on this one.

UPDATE II: As eRobin points out in her comment, the Westminster flap is mentioned in the Nagourney/Wilgoren version run by the NYT today. Glenn Reynolds oddly writes of the Times piece, "Kerry still has Adam Nagourney on his side! It's like stepping into a parallel universe where the Kerry campaign is a well-oiled machine." Meanwhile, the article in question contains sentences like, "But for much of the day, instead, Mr. Kerry and his campaign struggled with questions about national security and his youthful role as an antiwar protester." Perhaps his campaign is a struggling well-oiled machine?

Monday, April 26, 2004

Gay Marriage and the Residency Requirement

Much discussion has occurred on this one in the past few days, with Romney announcing out-of-staters won't be eligible for same-sex marriages once they start happening in MA on May 17. His opponents are angry at the selective enforcement of a 1913 law banning marriages by non-residents who wouldn't be allowed to marry in their home jurisdictions, pointing out that the law originally was intended to prevent interracial unions.

The debate is largely irrelevant since even if we let people from out of state marry here, their marriages won't be legally recognized when they go to other states. I say let these people come in, get a marriage license and throw a party. The licenses they receive will be largely symbolic but important to those people as a reminder of their commitment to one another nonetheless. Plus it will help fill the banquet halls in Provincetown, which is always good for the economy.

Otherwise, we might get an influx of gays who want to marry seeking permanent residence in the commonwealth as an unintended side effect, something that I strongly doubt is the intention of Romney and his intolerant backers.

Defending Eli Manning

Phil Taylor gives it a shot:

It seems that most of the criticism centers around the belief that college players shouldn't buck the draft system. This presumes that Manning was bucking the system, which he was not. He was simply prepared to exercise one of the options laid out in the league's by-laws, which was to sit out the season and re-enter the draft next year. At least he made the Chargers believe he was prepared to do that. Manning didn't file any lawsuits or seek any injunctions. He didn't break or even fight any rules, he just made them work for him. Where's the sin in that?

Another argument holds that even if Manning had every right to do what he did, his actions went against the purpose of the draft, which is to help the weakest teams acquire the best young players. Wrong. The purpose of the draft is to allow the weakest teams to improve themselves, and there are any number of ways to do that. Given Manning's preferences, San Diego chose to trade him for another promising quarterback, Philip Rivers, and several high draft choices. If they're smart -- and that's a big "if" -- the Chargers will use their return on the Manning trade to improve themselves, and the draft will have worked the way it's supposed to work. If it doesn't happen that way, it's San Diego's fault, not Manning's.

The first point Taylor technically has correct, but, if I'm not mistaken, the right to re-enter the draft at a later time is usually invoked when a player thinks he can substantially improve his draft position. It's not something we would expect a guy drafted #1 overall to do. In fact, you would be crazy to do that and forego the millions of dollars for that year unless you were in unique circumstances, such as having a rich family that includes a father and brother who are former/current NFL QBs.

The second point is wrong because it's almost impossible for a team to get fair trade value when its player is demanding a trade and refusing to play otherwise. That gives the team they're dealing with the upper hand in the negotiations. Admittedly, the Giants do appear to have given up quite a bit here, but Manning still put the Chargers in a tough spot where the odds of them improving themselves were lower.

I was one of the legions attacking the Mannings in this post yesterday.

Chuck Morse

That's the name of the conservative talk show host who is challenging Barney Frank this fall, and there was an article on him in yesterday's South Coast Standard-Times. The short version: Morse held a DC fundraiser on April 1 that was attended by all of two people, though he went to a WorldNet Daily party more recently and found some righty types willing to help him out. He used to be a Democrat, became disillusioned, and finally changed his registration to Republican when he decided to challenge Frank, though he's now running as an independent (the state GOP has no candidate yet, and I would guess they don't want to be associated with someone who will get crushed). His "only college education is an expository writing course he took at Harvard Extension School," though he likes to say he graduated from the "school of hard knocks."

His web site demonstrates the kind of classy campaign he plans on running by blaming Barney Frank for 9/11. He cites an obscure 1986 immigration amendment Frank sponsored and claims it was the reason the 9/11 terrorists were in the US.

I intend to launch a TV advertising campaign with images of 9/11 along with the language of the Frank Amendment. This will shine a national spotlight on the whole rotten liberal edifice that led to that bloody day.

Let's say I'm rather doubtful that this will go over well in Frank's district. The site also features links to WorldNet's headlines, a site where you can buy his book "Why I'm a Right-Wing Extremist" (a joke title, but still...) and a site on the Amber alert, another area in which Morse has launched a dishonest attack on Frank.

Ramesh Ponnuru Says I'm a Fool

See comments to my post from last week in which I took issue with some stuff he'd written at NRO's The Corner. I've responded with a few comments of my own that flesh out my point. Based on the referral logs, my guess is he found his way to this little web page through a Daypop search for his own name this morning. I would've thought a senior guy working at a national conservative magazine would have better things to do than respond to all the snark directed his way in bitty liberal weblogs like mine.

Connolly Watch 4.26.04: Hangnails in the ER

My Connolly Watch index page is now the second result for a Google search of Ceci Connolly, I noticed today.

I'm not going to touch Connolly's Sunday article on abortion because that gets into the whole pro-life/pro-choice war over semantics--should she have used "women's rights" or "abortion rights" in the first paragraph, "antiabortion leaders" or "pro-life leaders" in the fourth paragraph, etc.? I trust the Post has a set of guidelines on the terminology to use with regard to the abortion issue and that these word choices are effectively out of the reporter's control.

Ceci's fans will also be excited to see today's long front-page article about a Denver hospital that has started a controversial emergency room screening process to deal with overcrowding and high costs and to make sure those treated first really need the attention. It's worth a read for those who are into healthcare and hospitals in particular, and I found the anecdotes about the overcrowding noteworthy:

In the past six months, ambulances have delivered three hangnail cases to the ER; another person made 165 visits in one year.

While there seems to be plenty of unnecessary ER visiting going on, the stories of uninsured people who stop by for general medical advice are also worth noting. These people, who are now generally redirected to clinics by the hospital, are a sign of the failing health system and the difficulties the uninsured face.

This is the longest article I've seen yet from Connolly in her few months of focusing on the healthcare issue, and it signals the in-depth reporting the Post has her doing these days. It's good to have someone putting this human face on the healthcare problems of the country because God knows the business press isn't sympathetic.

Case in point: CNBC's "Kudlow & Cramer" had an interview Thursday night with Senators Byron Dorgan and Olympia Snowe, co-sponsors of a bill to allow drug importation from Canada to give people relief from high pharmaceutical prices. The blindly pro-business CNBC hosts, however, proceeded to trash the senators' proposal for the entire segment. Larry Kudlow offered such even-handed assessments as "What about the American pharmaceutical industry? You're going to end it," and, "All you're doing is importing price controlled socialism here." It was truly a despicable performance, so go have a look at the full transcript that I'm posting.

VandeHei Watch 4.26.04: Cheney in the Crossfire

Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen co-byline "Democrats to Target Cheney" on A4 of today's Washington Post, reporting that, "Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Democratic Party will open a week-long assault on Vice President Cheney today in hopes that tarring him as promoting secrecy and controversial policies will erode confidence in President Bush."

The piece is largely factual, so there's little to say beyond noting a few of the interesting nuggets contained in it. First:

Kerry's campaign said he will focus first on Cheney's record as defense secretary under President George H.W. Bush, charging that Cheney proposed cuts to weapons critical to recent military operations. Bush's campaign replied that Cheney took his stands during the peace-dividend rollback of the military after the Soviet Union collapsed.

This is peculiar since the Bush administration has similarly gone back through Kerry's voting record and picked out votes against defense spending to criticize. For instance, this article notes, "The Republican National Committee is also urging lawmakers to tell constituents about a position paper from Kerry's first Senate campaign, in 1984, in which he called for $45 billion to $53 billion in cuts to President Ronald Reagan's defense budget." So by this logic, positions from a decade ago are too long in the past to remain relevant today, but positions from two decades ago are still important. Hmm. Second:

Bush's campaign today will begin a heavy run of ads charging that Kerry "has repeatedly opposed weapons vital to winning the war on terror." For the first time, the campaign is customizing ads for specific swing states to highlight locally made systems or components Kerry has opposed. The campaign is also staging a two-week "Winning the War on Terror Tour," in which Republican officials and decorated veterans will appear at plants that make weapons Kerry has opposed.

This seems an odd strategy to me. It shouldn't matter whether the weapons are made in your home state or not if the only objective is providing for the national defense. This message appears to be favoring pork-barrel defense spending projects to me, something I don't expect a campaign to be touting. Again, hmm.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

The NFL Draft

A few points come to mind regarding the NFL Draft, which was held yesterday and continues with late rounds today.

1) Eli Manning. He was wrong to refuse to play in San Diego. In other lines of work people have the right to decide which organizations they will and will not join, but professional football is unique in that the competitive balance among teams, and thus the quality of the entertainment product, depends upon players entering the league not having free choice of the team they will play for. After the rookie contract expires and players become free agents, then they can exercise their free choice. The NFL needs to keep the draft system together, rather than let things deteriorate to the point where the best entering players will dictate the teams they won't play for, because the way to keep the league exciting is to have those top entrants go to the bottom feeder franchises. Tagliabue should issue a big fine or a public rebuke to the Mannings at the least, but he won't, since the system is corrupt and he's an old pal of Archie Manning.

2) Manning and the Chargers jersey. Jesus, you're the top pick of the draft, smile! Manning holding up the Chargers jersey looked like me holding up some crappy sweater a relative gave me for Christmas, trying to pretend to be happy and failing to do so. ESPN, in full kiss-Manning-ass mode, went on to say it was "classy" of Manning to do even this, since he didn't want to play for San Diego. The fans in Madison Square Garden knew better, booing the brat lustily. ESPN, one figures, doesn't want to miss out on future interviews with the first family of football, so they were sypathetic to poor Eli's plight.

3. Come out as a junior! Michael Irvin pissed me off by saying seventh pick Roy Williams didn't have enough love for football, otherwise he would've come out last year following his junior season. By extension, players who are really committed to the game would come out after their sophomore year, but of course that's not permitted (unless you're Larry Fitzgerald and get a special arrangement with the league). The Irvin comment made it rather obvious that the league isn't interested in having guys stay in school to further their education at all. There is now a nonsensical standard that three years of college is the right amount, and 15 underclassmen were first-round picks.

4. Berman and Tagliabue.. Later, when Chris Berman had a chance to interview Paul Tagliabue after the end of the first round, he gave the commissioner softball questions, noting the Manning and Clarett situations as "challenges to the system" and basically asking how Tagliabue felt about them. They were so chummy on the 25th anniversary of ESPN draft coverage that they exchanged gifts. I would've preferred if Berman had asked the questions mentioned just now on Sports Reporters by Mike Lupica and Dan LeBatard, such as, "What right does the NFL have to steal a year from the football career of Mike Williams?" Again, Berman seems more interested in making friends in league circles than in doing serious journalism.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Summing Up Election 2004

Heavy Friday

I wanted to post something light-hearted since it's Friday afternoon and all, but I feel compelled to do the opposite. Josh Marshall has an excellent post up on the flag-draped coffins controversy, and I also recommend a look at John McCain's statement on former NFL player Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan. Commenter Ed Zeppelin at Pandagon articulates why Tillman's death seems to hurt more than the other casualties we've heard reported:

It's funny - I remember when he signed up, and at the time I just assumed he'd eventually come back. Hey, he's famous, sorta, right? That kind of person doesn't die as an enlisted man on a blighted battlefield half a world away.

I guess because of that, I always considered what he did to be a nice gesture, but not much more. Of course, as it turns out, that was way off the mark, and we as a nation are worse off for losing a selfless guy like Pat Tillman.

Having known of Pat Tillman before he shipped out, I guess I'm feeling a small fraction of what people feel when someone they actually know personally is killed at war.

Celtics Behind 8-Ball

That's a good headline stolen from the Globe today, which also runs a Bob Ryan column that sums up the local indifference to our #8-seeded team rather well. To be fair, Ryan harps on the Celtics' 0.5 TV rating for Saturday's first playoff game--compared to a 0.8 that night for a soccer game--but he doesn't mention that had there not been a Red Sox-Yankees game going on simultaneously, more people would have tuned in for the basketball.

In case you've missed the series so far (and you're probably wise if you have), the Celtics blew game one by letting Indiana go on a big run in the second quarter, pushing the lead from one point after the first period to 22 at the half. After seeing his starters do well only to have the bench suck, John Carroll shortened his rotation a lot for Tuesday night's game two, playing the starters big minutes and the bench guys hardly at all. This worked through three quarters, with the Celtics holding a slim lead (Ron Artest's being suspended for leaving the bench in a game one altercation also helped), but then the guys who had played too many minutes were out of gas in the fourth, as the Pacers' reserves put up a huge run and Indiana won going away. So basically, the choices are losing in the second quarter if we play our crappy reserves or losing in the fourth if we don't.

Tonight, the scene shifts to the Fleet Center for game three, and Jermaine O'Neal may not be 100% due to a sinus infection, affording the Celtics another chance to embarrass themselves by losing to a Pacers squad that isn't at full strength. I will be attending game four on Sunday afternoon (missing a Pedro Martinez game at Yankee stadium, as fate would have it), and I'm fully expecting it to be the last game of the year. I'm attending mostly to see the title-contending Pacers, and I'm not sad to see the Celtics season end since I agree with Ryan's rather blunt assessment:

Let's get the season over so we can turn our attention to hiring a coach, plotting the draft, and making assorted offseason moves. We already know all we need to know about this year's team.

Connolly Watch 4.23.04: Pfizer Pflummoxed

I'm not even calling this a "Connolly Watch" entry since I'm overly sympathetic to the drug reimportation side to cast a critical eye toward favorable coverage on the issue--and the overall Connolly Watch is basically on hiatus until she's back covering national politics--but I will note that Ceci Connolly has an article in today's Washington Post business section. She attended the Pfizer annual meeting, where drug reimportation advocates won a minor victory by getting the issue on next year's meeting agenda. Notable in the piece is the posturing of Pfizer's CEO:

Though he sympathized with financially strapped patients, Pfizer's chief executive officer, Henry A. McKinnell Jr., vowed to continue recent efforts to cut off supplies of his firm's most popular drugs to Canadian pharmacies that sell to U.S. customers, saying he could not guarantee the safety of those reimported medications. ...

"This is a prairie fire sweeping across America," said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who voted his state pension board's $476 million worth of Pfizer stock in support of the price-limiting resolution. ...

At the annual meeting, held under tight security in this St. Louis suburb, Pfizer CEO McKinnell attributed the feisty rhetoric to election-year posturing, predicting the "prairie fire" Pawlenty spoke of would "go out in years not divisible [by] four."

If McKinnell truly "sympathized with financially strapped patients," then why would he make the claim that their efforts to get cheaper drugs are purely political? People need affordable medication in every year, not just ones that coincide with elections.

Jay Garner

Paul Krugman today mentions one of the unheralded Iraq scandals:

Last month Jay Garner, the first U.S. administrator of Iraq, told the BBC that he was sacked in part because he wanted to hold quick elections. His superiors wanted to privatize Iraqi industries first--as part of a plan that, according to Mr. Garner, was drawn up in late 2001.

I had heard this one before, but not a lot about it. It made me wonder why we haven't heard nearly as much about the Jay Garner story as we have about WMDs, Richard Clarke and the rest. Perhaps Garner will come out with a book eventually and do a media blitz.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

BloggerCon in Review

In case you were wondering, yes, I did go to the morning sessions at BloggerCon II this past Saturday, as I said I would, and yes, I've been putting off writing anything about it all week. More coverage than you could ever need, as I mentioned Monday, is here, plus the thing was written up by Wired, the New York Times and The Register, which said BCII might be "the most documented conference in history." So, since most everything has been written many times over about the conference, I'll try to be brief. Unbillable Hours (via Pops) sums up my feelings pretty well. I think the other conference going on in the same building at Harvard Law School was actually called "Islamic Law in Modern Indonesia"--nothing about women--but since I had already mastered that topic, I went on to BloggerCon instead.

The first session was "What Is Journalism?" with discussion leader Jay Rosen. While the discussion was edifying, I don't see all that much urgency to define the relationship between traditional journalism and blogging. Even though I take regular swipes at the big media, I think they do serve as a useful benchmark for us to have to compare and critique. Some of the professional journalists in attendance seemed a little uppity about these amateurs at their keyboards who think they're changing the world; in fact, I think, most of us are under no such illusions, though the crowd at BCII was skewed toward people who attach importance to weblogging. The pros also opined about being both bloggers and journalists and how they felt conflicted about that. For instance, some said it's hard to maintain your objectivity as a news reporter if you're sharing your subjective opinions and personality online.

I had a few responses to that idea (I didn't speak in the sessions, keeping the thoughts to myself, but now I share them with you!). First, as long as you don't fly off the handle with your political partisanship or other ideological leaning, doing analysis is fully legit and done by plenty of straight journalists in print, on TV, on radio, etc. all the time. If you go the opinionated route, that can actually be a path to greater prominence, as we've seen especially in the last few years, and it can get you more of a following with readers. But a second point, for people who don't want to take that path, is that you can do this weblog thing anonymously, like some of those people who, say, assume the nickname of their favorite character from a book.

Granted, since the BCII attendees were all so "serious," anonymity wasn't an option for them really, but I can still have email correspondence with people and interact via comments, so I'm not really missing anything. I just don't use my name on here so that I don't have every inane opinion of mine attached to me if, for instance, a prospective employer Google searches me a few years down the road. It also helps to deny timestamps on posts written from work (see here, for example), and of course, it keeps back the hordes of potential stalkers (which I guess is a concern for the pseudonymous "Amanda Doerty", known as a "Hot Abercrombie Chick"). Even if no one reads what I write here (and precious few do), I blog to supplement my addiciton to online news and to help myself articulate my own thoughts, not for any other grandiose purpose, so for that reason the discussion wasn't exactly to my taste. It made interesting listening for the hour+, though, I'll give it that. (Most attendees were also older than me too; I am 23 and I was probably in the younger 25%, at least, whereas more than half of all weblogs are maintained by teenagers, so we're automatically dealing with a subset of people who bother attending a conference like this.)

The second session I attended was "Presidential Bloggers" with Dan Gillmor. There were no Bush or Nader people present, so it was more focused on the Dem primary than the broader topic, and guests had been part of Clark, Dean and Kerry online efforts. There still seemed to be a touch of coolness in the air between the Dean folks and Dick Bell, the official Kerry blogger, as they sat in different parts of the room. Bell made a not-so-veiled criticism at the Dean campaign infighting, noting they didn't want to have "another personality emerging" (read: Joe Trippi) via the web to rival candidate Kerry.

The big problem I had with the Dean blog and now with the Kerry blog is that the commenting is pretty lame, consisting primarily of encouraging phrases and exclamation points. That doesn't make for a very interesting discussion, and independent sites that aren't beholden to any candidates are the places where you can delve into real controversies. Some people at the session lamented this, and Dave Winer, for instance, blamed the campaigns, wanting them to change their tone and content. But you can't really change the fact that the official campaign blog is going to be a mouthpiece and that the audience attracted will be mostly true believers, so I just don't see the possibility of the vibrancy that exists elsewhere in the political blogosphere. A few other people had some silly ideas about how the candidates themselves should blog, an argument that betrays a stunning overestimation of the importance of blogs in the present environment (one idiot said he wanted to see John Kerry soliciting snowboarding advice online during his vacation). At lower levels of public office, though, this could make some sense, just not at the presidential level just yet.

Then I skipped out at lunchtime. Oops, this post has gone on longer than intended.

Amy Sullivan on Kerry the Catholic

Amy Sullivan is an excellent writer on religion and politics from a liberal perspective, and she had an article in yesterday's Gadflyer defending John Kerry from the charges that he's a phony Catholic, a topic I've ranted about a few times before. I largely agree with the piece, though I think Sullivan gets one part wrong:

And that takes me back to the point I raised earlier--Kerry has not made his religiosity an issue. Although I often argue that if candidates bring their religion into politics they have an obligation to explain the content of their beliefs and how those beliefs influence their political attitudes, I don't think that voters have a right to know much more. I certainly don't want my candidates squaring off to prove which one of them reads the Bible or prays more often. I don't think it's related to their fitness for office. If, however, they make their religiosity one of their selling points, if it is something they run on, then religion becomes fair game.

What she's missing is that Kerry's critics think he has indeed "made his religiosity an issue"--see David Guarino's article in the Herald two weeks ago, mocking Kerry's "photo-op" of taking communion before the cameras (the press turned it into a mini-flap over whether it was proper for him to do so in a Protestant church). Kerry has also gone around quoting the Bible on the campaign trail, so he has in fact been raising the issue of his religiosity a bit.

I even agree with the critics who say Kerry is pandering to the religious vote, but I don't blame Kerry for this pander since Americans still have an overwhelming bias against candidates who aren't demonstrably religious. Evidence of this contributed to second thoughts about Howard Dean late last year, you may recall. What I do wish is that people would be more accepting of others' religious views, rather than judging their conformity to the arbitrary guidelines set out by a formal church body. The jackals in the press certainly don't help by stoking the flames of spiritual intolerance either, and Sullivan is spot on with her argument that George Bush benefits from a double-standard that is less skeptical of Republicans' claims of faith.

Drilling off Florida?

Since it's partisanship day here, I'll note that Jeb Bush attacked John Kerry yesterday for making a statement that he supported drilling off the coast of Florida. That sounds huge--Kerry coddling energy companies even more than Bush does!--but the statement, which was published in the University of Florida's newspaper, the Alligator, was not in major media outlet reports, leading Jeb to hold a press conference yesterday:

"What is going on with John Kerry?" Bush asked. "There is probably 10 percent of the people of this state that would support a candidate for higher office that believes what John Kerry believes -- I can't believe this, and I'm not sure why you guys didn't cover it yesterday. Your papers must have been in the same place the Florida Alligator was."

Or maybe, since there were several professional journalists reporting things one way and an amateur college journalist reporting them another way, it was the college kid who got it wrong! In fact, that turns out to be what actually happened, as the Kerry blog is demonstrating. The Alligator's web site is now sporting a big old correction that reads, "John Kerry does not support drilling for oil off the coast of Florida." I wonder when Jeb Bush will be issuing his apology for misleading the public on this one? (Oh, and happy Earth Day.)

Blaming Kerry for Iraq

I have a little more conservative bashing to get out of my system just now, since the latest parlor game on the right seems to be to attack John Kerry over Iraq even though Bush's policy there has been disastrous--I have trouble envisioning how Kerry could be much worse, short of suddenly trying to pick up the Kucinich voters. Here's a sampling of Jeff Jacoby today:

No matter how the question is put, Kerry's answers on Iraq always boil down to a single recipe: Shrink the US role in Iraq and defer to the United Nations instead. That's it. That is the sum and substance of his thinking about Iraq. He doesn't relate it to the war on terrorism, to the future of liberty in the Middle East, to America's national interests. He repeatedly declares Bush a failure for not kowtowing to the UN and vows that in a Kerry administration, the UN will be given the commanding role it deserves.

Kerry has been talking this way for months. In his speech on Iraq at the Brookings Institution last fall, for example, he mentioned the UN no fewer than 25 times. ("We need a new Security Council resolution to give the United Nations real authority in the rebuilding of Iraq. . . . This shift of authority from the United States to the United Nations is indispensable.") By contrast, he mentioned terrorism just seven times. He mentioned freedom, democracy, and the Middle East not at all.

I wonder if Jacoby would be satisfied if Kerry adopted the rhetorical style of George Bush and started making more vague statements about "freedom" and the like? And I wonder if he's distressed by Bush's moves in recent days toward belatedly granting the UN a larger role in Iraq after all? One thing we do know from the above is that Jacoby can count the occurrences of specific words and phrases in a speech text, but I think his comprehension of overall meaning is still a bit lacking.

This page contains the actual Kerry plan for Iraq that has been advertising intermittently atop this page yesterday and today, and it's a far cry for the caricature Jacoby makes of it in his column. I admit it's far from perfect, but it also is something; I'm growing tired of hearing righties claim "Kerry has no plan," as if Kerry has paid no attention to Iraq at all, when in fact they just disagree with Kerry's proposals, which is a viable position to have. I think the truth is that there really is no good option in Iraq today, thanks to Bush's mishandling of the situation to date. That's why new leadership is necessary. Bringing in allies to help fix Iraq will be a lot easier with a president who is serious about doing so from day one, rather than a president who gave the rest of the world the finger in starting the war in the first place.

Fun with NRO

Even though we've got some substantial ideological differences, I really do appreciate National Review Online. Unlike similar liberal sites, it has a lot of content that is posted first thing in the morning, and its blog isn't just a collection of wonkish essays (like, say, Tapped is for the most part) but rather a place you can find quick links, discussions among contributors and emailers, etc. Then there's the inevitable entertainment value as well.

For example, today Jim Glassman writes, "Buy the Dow: it's cheap--and it's worth it." I wonder if he thinks it's headed for 36,000?

Today in the Corner, Stanley Kurtz tells us that he'll be testifying before the Constitution subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on "Legal Threats to Traditional Marriage and Proposals to Protect Traditional Marriage." Doesn't that terminology perhaps suggest that the committee's already made up its mind on the issue before it has heard the testimony?

Yesterday morning we got a doozy of a pair of Ramesh Ponnuru Corner posts. First at 11:04 he defended Colin Powell's inadequate Iraq War diplomacy on the grounds that Powell probably didn't support the war--ignoring Applebaum's conclusion that, "if he doesn't want to be held responsible for a policy he dislikes ... he should have resigned a long time ago". Then at 11:15 he claimed the government's not having enough to spend on healthcare showed Bush tax cuts were a success--ignoring Meyerson's claim that, "George W. Bush has, if anything, gone Reagan one better, throwing so much money at the rich that he has jeopardized the long-term viability of Medicare and Social Security." It must be interesting to read the Washington Post through such a GOP-friendly lens every morning.

Etc., etc. But my favorite NRO thing has to be the College Guide (scroll down), which touts seemingly self-contradicting features:

* Exclusive reports on the politics and intellectual diversity of each campus.
* Trustworthy advice on which departments, professors, and courses to seek out--and which to avoid.

But why, if we're interested in "intellectual diversity," should students be trying to avoid professors, courses and departments that the National Review has flagged for us? Shouldn't college be a time for exploring new ideas, including ones that differ from right-wing orthodoxy? Not if we want to raise a new generation of Ramesh Ponnurus, I guess.

Questioning Bush's War Approach

Hey, guess who wrote the following:

Since the conclusion of the war, the Bush administration has shown a dismaying capacity to believe its own public relations. The post-war looting was explained away as the natural and understandable exuberance of a newly-liberated people. (Now some Coalition officials suggest that a crackdown would have sped the reconstruction.) Secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld denied the obvious reality of a guerrilla resistance and compared it to urban street crime in the United States. Every piece of good news has been hailed as turning the corner, even as the insurgency has remained stubbornly strong.

Is it some lefty America-hater? Not quite. Try the editorial in the May 3 issue of the National Review, which is amazingly sober in tone (though there is a reference to "U.N. fecklessness and French bad faith" thrown in for good measure).

VandeHei Watch 4.22.04: Lobby List

Eager to show it has nothing to hide, the Kerry campaign has been releasing all sorts of info of late, including the candidate's military records. The topic of Jim VandeHei's article in Thursday's Post, which is co-bylined with Jeffrey Birnbaum and appears on A1, is another set of revelations: a list of lobbyists Kerry has met with over the past 15 years.

John F. Kerry yesterday disclosed nearly 200 meetings he has held with lobbyists since 1989, including dozens having business before his Senate committees, as the presumptive Democratic nominee sought to draw a sharp contrast with what he describes as the Bush administration's more secretive and expansive dealings with corporate lobbyists.

This move could be good or bad depending on which of two storylines manages to dominate. The bad storyline is that it shows Kerry had meetings with and received donations from special interest reps that had business before him, providing fodder for political attacks. The good storyline, by contrast, ignores these specifics in favor of emphasizing that a Kerry administration would be transparent in sharp contrast with the current White House. I'm sure the Kerry camp thought this through and decided the positive outweighed the negative, so now we'll get to see if they are correct.

We learn from the piece that, "The lobbyists who met with Kerry gave at least a combined $230,000 to his various campaigns over the last decade." A John Edwards or Howard Dean would've jumped on this, but George Bush's comparable figure would in all likelihood be much higher, if it were known, so going after Kerry on this would be highly hypocritical of BC04, though that's never stopped them before (and indeed they've gotten away with such things). We also learn, "The Kerry list appears to be incomplete," which is probably a result of its being pieced together very recently and the omission of minor contacts such as "phone conversations and more casual contacts"; again, Bush can't attack on the incompleteness issue, since his list in nonexistent.

VandeHei can't resist throwing out this old favorite either:

Kerry came under attack from Bush and Democratic rivals earlier in the campaign after it was reported he had received more money from lobbyists than any other senator over the past 15 years.

That's right that "it was reported"--by the same Jim VandeHei who is writing Thursday's article--and it was twisted into a misleading attack by the Bush campaign, as I covered in the very first VandeHei Watch entry back in February. Peter Beinart addressed this issue, as you may recall, in the March 1 issue of the New Republic:

But the Post figure is misleading because it ignores the fact that Kerry has largely eschewed money from political action committees (PACs), a major source of funds for most of his colleagues. When you combine money from paid lobbyists and PACs--which makes sense, since they're both conduits for "special interests"--Kerry actually ranks ninety-second out of 100 U.S. senators. That doesn't make him pure, but it makes him purer than most serious candidates for the White House. And it puts him on a different planet from President Bush, who accepted more money from lobbyists last year alone than Kerry has in the last 15.

Yet VandeHei is still clinging to his misleading figure, of course. The fact that Kerry released a list of lobbying contacts dating back 15 years, the same number in the VandeHei stat, suggests that he's intending to respond directly to the VandeHei charge, which ended up in the Bush campaign's online attack ad "Unprincipled, Chapter 1." (Also see the Howler on this.)

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Easterbrook Paternalism re: Clarett

Gregg Easterbrook's anti-Clarett diatribe yesterday rubbed me the wrong way. He cites his previous argument that the judge who initially ruled to allow Maurice Clarett into the NFL Draft "just doesn't understand sports economics," while neglecting to mention what I believe the case is really about: individual liberty.

Easterbrook dismisses this argument in an offhand manner, parenthetically noting, "There's no constitutional right to be a 19-year-old airline pilot, etc." The analogy doesn't hold, however, because in cases of professional licensing like that, there's an overriding concern about the welfare of others--an inexperienced pilot is a higher risk to crash, for example--and such a concern is nonexistent in the Clarett case. What really does concern Easterbrook is that allowing younger players to be eligible for the NFL Draft will make the league a lesser entertainment value, and he ominously cites the precedent of the NBA. The real issue, then, becomes this: should a professional sports league be able to circumscribe eligibility through the use of an arbitrary age limit in order to meet some nebulous goal of a higher-quality product?

So phrased, the answer is less obvious than Easterbrook would have us believe. Let's now examine his NBA point for denying Clarett draft eligibility.

Exhibit A: about a decade ago the NBA threw out its minimum-age rule, and NBA performance quality, ratings and attendance have been plummeting since. Allowing anyone into the NFL draft would surely have the same effect on pro football, reducing competitive quality, ratings and attendance. This would ultimately kill the goose that lays the golden egg for football players--in the process, disproportionately harming African Americans--just as callow, too-young players are at the moment killing the goose that lays the golden eggs in the NBA.

I have a few responses. First, just because NBA ratings have been falling at the same time that there are younger players entering the league does not necessarily imply a causal relationship between the two. Some would argue that the retirement of Michael Jordan, less offense, and other factors have played a larger role. Now, interestingly enough, teengaers LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, neither of whom would have been eligible to play in the NFL, are being heralded as the players to return the NBA to its Jordan-era glory. James won the Rookie of the Year award yesterday at the age of 19, the second consecutive player to win the award after entering the league straight from high school.

A second key point is that there is a distinction between making players eligible for the draft and forcing them into the league. The February court ruling did the former, not the latter, and the individual franchises are under no obligation to have these younger players on their teams. But of course, there will be the occasional prodigies who will be able to earn a roster spot, and denying these guys the chance to make a living due to an arbitrary rule (such as requiring players be three years removed from high school) is simply unfair. Easterbrook, though he ignores the James and Anthony story from the NBA, recognizes that such cases can exist in football by calling USC sophomore receiver Mike Williams, who like Clarett hired an agent and declared for the draft, "a prodigy" who "may be able to handle the NFL. In the supplemental draft, some team is sure to bid a number-one choice for Williams." Why then deny Williams the oportunity to play pro ball, or deny a team a chance to use his services? Why not leave to the professional talent evaluators, rather than the birth certificate, the determination of who is ready for pro competition and who is not?

At a base level, this case is about individual rights, much as Easterbrook would like to deny that, showing his disdain for the "attorneys and hucksters around Clarett, who hilariously spoke as if his were some sort of civil-rights law situation." He repeats this paternalistic riff in his last paragraph:

Add that all the commentators who took Clarett's side and hilariously depicted him as engaged in some kind of civil-rights struggle only contributed to screwing him over. Economically, the NFL is a system for turning muscular young men, most of them African American, into millionaires. Had Clarett simply respected the reasonable rules the NFL imposes to make its system work, he stood an excellent chance to become a millionaire.

Why does fighting for your right to pursue a career unbound by arbitrary constraints not qualify as a "civil rights struggle"? And why should the young black men Easterbrook purports to be looking out for have to go through the corrupt NCAA system? Clarett, it's worth noting, was barred from playing all last season by a rather mysterious NCAA investigation, and despite Easterbrook's statements to the contrary, Clarett was widely considered a third- or fourth-round pick who would likely make an NFL roster. What we really need is a better system for developing young talent before the pros, without forcing kids who want no part of college to pretend to go to class, as I've written before. A challenge like Clarett's might help to push the moneyed powers-that-be toward realizing the system needs to be changed, at least. If Easterbrook really wants to improve things, I wish he'd focus on this root of the problem.

UPDATE: The case now appears to be in the hands of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

VandeHei Watch 4.21.04: Shrum Bashing

Jim VandeHei is on the front page of Wednesday's Washington Post with an article that will only interest insider types about Kerry's advisors. Using precious few specifics, VandeHei tells us that Kerry "is relying on image-makers schooled in traditional Kennedy liberalism to sell himself anew to voters as a 21st-century centrist Democrat, a muscular hawk on national defense and deficits."

Most of the article passes along rumors that one of Kerry's top advisors, Bob Shrum, is a megalomaniac who isn't well liked. I have no idea of the veracity of this--I've seen Shrum attacked by others like Mickey Kaus before--and I doubt it has much significance to the race either, since the sinister public image of Karl Rove doesn't seem to have hurt Bush a bit.

In any case, Shrum is "a purveyor of populism who has a reputation for angling for control of campaigns and sometimes alienating colleagues in the process" and "one of the most lauded and loathed strategists in Democratic politics." We learn that, "To his many detractors, though, Shrum is a greedy megalomaniac, a master of winning the confidence and trust of his boss, but often a destructive force inside political campaigns." The scars of 2000 seem to remain fresh: "Shrum pushed hard for the campaign to spend its money on advertising, which he received a cut of, instead of ground troops in battleground states such as Tennessee, several veterans of that campaign said."

I did object to a few small things, such as, "Kerry and his advisers seek to blend a traditional populist rant against big corporations with policies designed, in part, to placate business." The "Benedict Arnolds" line could qualify as a rant certainly, but I think VandeHei is painting with a broad brush here, classifying any call for regulation as a "rant" against business. The word recurs later: "Shrum's influence permeates Kerry's every speech, from his rant against special interests to his spirited appeal for more participation among younger Americans." It's a semantic way of belittling a very real set of concerns.

VandeHei also shows some ignorance by writing, "Kerry plans to target swing voters, the small percentage of Americans not bound to one political party." Of course, many Americans are independents, moreso than in the past, and thus "not bound to one political party" either.

UPDATE: As I expected, Kaus offers some analysis of the article.

UPDATE II: I see that Ryan Lizza has an article in April's Atlantic Monthly on Shrum as well.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Rookie of the Year

As I tucked in at the end of my verbose NBA playoffs post Friday, I think Carmelo Anthony should be the NBA Rookie of the Year, and today LeBron James has won the award instead. James is an outstanding player and all, so I'm not that aggrieved by the choice, but then I read Marc Stein, and his foolish reasoning for picking 'Bron over 'Melo annoyed me. Stein writes that he's been receiveing lots of angry email on this, and his column shows why:

Sorry to disappoint, but I voted for LeBron simply because he was the right choice. The most popular protest we've received is the one that contends that LeBron's ability to live up to the hype has nothing to do with what actually happens on the court. Excuse me? The never-before-seen expectations placed on LeBron create the kind of pressure that can ruin a guy's game. LeBron faced an ungodly amount of nightly scrutiny and pressure to avoid failure. You don't think that could have affected his on-court performance? The fact that it didn't definitely does have to factor into the ROY voting.

This is a fatuous argument. Performance on the court should be all that matters. These guys are all professionals, they're all getting paid a ton, they're all under enormous scrutiny, etc. The really cute part of this is that the media created all of the pressure and scrutiny that LeBron faced in the first place, and now that James has passed their test, the members of the media have rewarded him with the ROY trophy. Anthony, it bears mentioning, hit a game-tying shot against Portland and went on to finish with 30 in a crucial victory April 10 that helped send his team to the postseason, but I'm sure playing out the string in Cleveland was a lot tougher on LeBron.

The fans who are angry with Stein seem to have noticed that the team Anthony led made the playoffs, while the team LeBron led did not in a much less competitive conference. Stein tries to shrug this off with the laughable claim that last year, "Denver might have been the most celebrated 17-win team of all time." There is by no means a settled debate over which team has a better supporting cast. The Cavs do have good frontcourt players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Carlos Boozer, who are certainly the equals if not better than Marcus Camby and Nene, for example. "LeBron had to overcome a sickly, losing culture," Stein writes, as if Denver's not making the playoffs since 1995 was any better. He then, for good measure, throws in an obscure statistic, "Birdies," for further proof that he knows much more than average fans sitting on the couch at home.

The know-it-all tone Stein exhibits in this column is unbecoming (and not representative of his usually solid work), a symptom, perhaps, of being too far on the "inside" of pro basketball that he has lost touch of the basic issues like which guy proved himself more of a winner this year.

Columbine, Five Years On

My reading suggestion on this one is Jesse Walker in Reason:

Editorialists, activists, preachers, politicians: Everyone with a platform became an instant expert on the inner lives of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the boys who killed 12 students, one teacher, and themselves at Columbine High School. Within a day of the assault, Colorado Gov. Bill Owens was declaring that the murderers didn't "have the same moral background as the rest of us." Bill Davenport, a Baptist pastor in San Clemente, confidently asserted that the killers didn't value life "because they haven't been taught about God." On CNN, criminologist Mike Rustigan declared, "Obviously, here, we are seeing non-parenting parents."

And where did these people acquire this insight into the shooters' moral upbringing? From thin air.

The lead article in Salon today makes the same point, as I wade through it.

Everybody's message was essentially the same: What happened at Columbine could have happened at any high school in America, and we must all be prepared. And yet much about Columbine remains unexplained. Even five years later, no one can conclusively say why a couple of sheltered, upper-middle-class teenagers became murderers or how a community can best heal itself after a tragedy of this magnitude, let alone precisely what steps to take to prevent a similar massacre in the future. For all its public importance, Columbine remains a private tragedy, and its survivors differ hugely over what it meant and how best to move on.

I checked Michael Moore's web site, which doesn't have a statement up today.

Wonkette Profiled in NYT

Ana Marie Cox, more commonly know in the blogosphere as Wonkette, was the subject of a New York Times profile yesterday. My favorite part:

She was fired from The American Prospect magazine after six weeks (during which she playfully called its co-editor, Robert Kuttner, "Crazy Bob" behind his back) and was required to sign a confidentiality agreement about the terms of her dismissal.

Personally, I've considered Kuttner an economic know-nothing since seeing him speak in spring 2000 when he praised the Seattle WTO protests. It's nice to see that blogs allow people who can't be the square pegs to fit in with traditional journalism can find their niche on the web like this. Via Jeff Jarvis, who is excited to finally see a picture of Cox and also points to NZ Bear complaining about the Times story.

Monday, April 19, 2004

A Photo They Don't Want You to See

People are dying. (via Atrios)

Complaint About Spain Wrong in the Main

Bush today:

The enemy is still active. Think about Bali and Istanbul, or as we saw in the murder of 200 citizens in Madrid. The terrorists use violence to spread fear and disrupt elections. They want us to panic. That's their intent. Their intent is to say, let's create panic among the civilized world. They want nations to turn upon each other, civilized nations to argue and debate about the mission. You know, they're not going to shake our will.

God forbid we should "argue and debate" whether what Bush is doing is right or wrong; it's much easier if we just blindly support his policies, regardless of how much they are costing us in lives and money.

Bush also played the "opponents of my policies support terrorism" card, claiming shamelessly that he didn't want Spain's decision to withdraw troops to give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq." In fact, Bush's wrongheaded policies have been giving those sorts plenty of comfort already.

The New York Times gives us the real story:

Spain's new Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, keeping a firm campaign promise, announced Sunday that he was ordering Spanish troops to leave Iraq "as soon as possible." ...

Mr. Zapatero said he had made his decision because it was unlikely that the United Nations would be playing a leading role in Iraq any time soon, which had been his condition for Spain's 1,300 troops to remain.

There you see, the withdrawal was a campaign promise, the position of Zapatero's party long before the 3/11 attack, one that sided with the 90% in Spain who opposed the deployment of troops to Iraq. It also could have been avoided if the Bush administration had been willing to cede more control of the Iraq situation to the UN, as it has stubbornly refused to do so far, despite the growing obviousness that we could use some help. Yet US media, in TV reports I've seen at least, are portraying this as Spain's decision alone and burying the link to the US refusal to cooperate with the UN (if they report it at all).

The Guardian's review of the Spanish press is interesting because it focuses on the real controversy here: whether Zapatero should have spent more time trying to negotiate a compromise at the UN before making the announcement:

El Mundo, which initially supported the war but rapidly became its most vehement critic, was delighted Mr Zapatero had so quickly shown himself "to be a man of his word".

Although he had originally said he would pull his troops out only if no new UN resolution had been agreed by June 30, the paper congratulated him on not hanging around. "The risks of staying there far outweighed the advantages. The soldiers could have been kidnapped or killed or used to blackmail the government." It denied he had caved in to the terrorists, pointing out he had pledged the pull-out well before the March 11 atrocities in Madrid.

But ABC was having none of it. Fuming at this "flagrant breach of an electoral promise", the conservative daily lambasted Mr Zapatero for failing to take advantage of Spain's position on the UN security council to push for a new resolution. The prime minister had not even bothered to try, and Spain consequently lacked the "political and moral authority" to withdraw its troops.

The word is that based upon initial discussions about another UN resolution, Spain had a clear idea that what they wanted was never going to happen, so they decided not to wait any longer. If it's true that the US was firm that Spain's demands were impossible, then Zapatero did the right thing in pulling out now. But of course Bush and his enablers in the press will convince everyone that this is simply craven Spanish appeasement and that we need to stay the course, unlike those cowards in Europe.

Kerry is Growing on Me

If anyone had read this site for months on end, they would have realized that I'm no fan of John Kerry and I wrote some harsh things about him during the primaries. But Kerry is growing on me now, something that dawned on me as I watched his Meet the Press interview yesterday morning. None of the others would've been as able to deal with all of the attacks from the right as Kerry has. He's got a high tolerance for the inevitable BS of being the nominee, and I don't think Howard Dean could've dealt with it all as handily. Perhaps primary voters, in their infinite wisdom, really did make the correct choice.

Kerry came across as very strong in the early section on Iraq, stating his views with considerably more clarity than he did months ago--not that it's exactly difficult to lambaste the administration these days. Unfortunately, Russert next asked some politically dicey Q's about Israel and Cuba, and Kerry gave the craven vote-whoring answers he had to give, somehow even spinning a past quote of his on Cuba as not suggesting an end to the embargo when that's the only thing he possibly could've meant. In the second half, Kerry did well by challenging the cocksure Russert's fiscal figures, not letting the host get away with making one-sided claims on the money matters.

I was a little disappointed, though, when Kerry seemed to suggest he'd been over-the-top in describing Vietnam war crimes. "I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way," he said. How do you discuss war crimes in a polite way, Senator? That section struck me as odd.

There was no discussion of pre-9/11 intel, which Kerry probably doesn't want to comment on anyway, but also nothing about Bush's awful press conference. I would've liked seeing some balance in the interview, giving Kerry a chance to tee off on a few of Bush's inane statements, rather than just getting responses to GOP attacks for the entire hour.

For another perspective, see Taranto today.

MORE: I forgot to mention Kerry's decent jokes about not even having nightmares about running against George Bush (in response to a really awful question about post-Vietnam nightmares that was trying to make Kerry seem loopy) and his remark, "Where did that dark hair go?" after Russert played a video clip of Kerry from 1971. Bob Somerby also has some good Kerry MTP analysis.

The Day in Sports: Watching the Marathon

It's been a big sports day. The Patriots have acquired running back Corey Dillon from Cincinnati, which I'm sure will lead to plenty of annoying "Patriot's Day was a big day for the Patriots" references. The Indiana Pacers' Ron Artest was suspended for tomorrow night's game two of the NBA playoff series with the Celtics for leaving the bench during a potential altercation between players on court in game one Saturday; we see here that the NBA is enforcing the letter of the law, rather than the spirit, that Ron Artest continues to be stupid, and that the Celtics will be able to enjoy the additional embarrassment of losing to an opponent that is short-handed on Tuesday. And a federal court has issued a stay of the decision making underclassmen Maurice Clarett and Mike Williams eligible for the NFL Draft, making it now likely that those two won't be eligible for the big meat market this weekend--I've expressed my thoughts to the contrary of the court here.

But the big event of the day was the Marathon, some of which I caught on TV early this afternoon (I make no promises on names in what follows). The Kenyan lady who won looked especially worn out at the end. As she was coming down the stretch one of the commentators said, "She's making facial contortions," like it was something notable. She had been running for 25 miles at this point, mind you, so I'm guessing she was a little tired.

This woman, Ndereba (or something like that) is supposedly deeply religious, or so viewers were told, even with one TV person recounting her quoting of a psalm the other day. Her husband was also on WBZ, making remarks that were intelligible through his accent about every third word. He didn't seem to take exception either when Bob Lobel a few minutes later called the sprinting Ndereba "a woman possessed," not something the religious types like being called, I would guess.

Some veteran woman marathoner on TV--I think it was Joan Benoit Samuelson--was rhapsodizing about having the women finish first and get more attention. I think she said, "This is true equality," or something to that effect, apparently confusing Ndereba with Susan B. Anthony. Meanwhile, all the other women finishing later than second were ignored due to the end of the men's race.

While Ndereba gave a post-race interview being propped up by someone at the finish line--the fears she was going to die kind of put a damper on the victory and all--some Kenyan guy was looking spry as he finished up the race with a big lead and an excellent time, considering the 80+ degree heat. After crossing the line, though, he downed some water and then promptly vomited, with the TV showing the spew in all its glory. I guess he was looking better than he was feeling.

And while the good runners were advancing through the final stages of the route, I caught a glimpse of the masses who were still way back in Framingham, many of whom were struggling with the heat. Reports said that they had already run out of water in many places, and some of the people pictured were walking. I know plenty of people probably trained hard for the race and were disappointed that the heat today made it impossible for them to finish, but if you're walking already in Framingham, you have no business being on the course to begin with. Try a 10k to start, guys, or maybe a 5k. OK?

See Boston.com for real coverage.