Friday, February 23, 2007


Washington Nationals blogging.

First off, Manny Acta gets it (via). He's open to being persuaded by data from millions of at-bats, even if it cuts against conventional wisdom. How about that. "It's been proven to me that a guy at first base with no outs has a better chance to score than a guy at second base with one out. That has been proven to me with millions of at-bats," he explained.

I've never felt much more than contempt-tinged fanataical apathy for the Nats since Jim Bowden spent Fort Knox to bring the mediocre and decrepit Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla to the left side of the infield. But a manager who takes facts into account rather than folk tales... that's pretty intriguing.

Second off, Chad Cordero says that he was pressured by the union not to take the deal he'd been offered b the Nats, even though he liked the deal. "I don't know why I didn't sign [the two-year deal]," Cordero said. "I wanted to. The Players Association thought I had a good case and they wanted see how it turned out. Even if I lost my arbitration case, I wasn't going to lose. It's still a lot of money. It's still more money than I ever would have thought [I'd make]."

The MLB players' union is run with a determined animosity toward management, regardless of the well-being of the players. See, e.g., the union's refusal to take drug testing seriously until Congress raised hell. The bulked-up superstars got huge deals, and anyone in AAA struggling to make it, well, let them eat steroids.

The union's all-encompassing animosity and mistrust was well-founded three decades ago. Now that the union has the upper hand, winning every dispute with the owners in that time period, that attitude has outlived its usefulness. Cordero-- who deserves some blame here for going along-- didn't sign a deal he liked, because the union wants to stick it to management every time they possibly can, consequences to players be damned.

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Friday, February 09, 2007


Scrutiny for Giuliani's record on terrorism response

Jonathan Alter expresses some concern over Rudy Giuliani's temperment. Alter, who covered and praised Giuliani in the wake of the terror attacks on 9/11, worries that Giuliani's petulence, self-regard, and thin skin wouldn't serve him well as president.

That makes sense. Stubbornness and unwarranted self-regard may not be the best attributes in a president.

Another issue, though, that has really not been discussed in mainstream news outlets, is questions about Giuliani's record in the area of terrorism response.

Now, I knew some people in NYC who had really disliked Giuliani, and who came, in the hours and months after the attack, to respect and admire his dignified presence. He handled the situation he faced maybe as well as any political leader has faced any situation in our country's history.

Those responsibilities at the time were largely stagecraft, not policy decisionmaking.

Policy decisions that Rudy had made-- involving, particularly, the location of the city's terrorism response center-- may be valid targets of criticism. Some scattered news outlets have raised questions about Giuliani's decisions-- particularly his decision to locate the terrorism response center in a building that had been a target for terrorists and the flaws in communications systems that provoked an irate, but relatively obscure, response in a book penned by a former NYC firefighter.

Now, it might turn out that the location of the terrorism response center, and the poorly operative communications systems, were not at all the fault of Giuliani. It had never seemed, to me, to be a great use of time or energy to have a huge public discussion about the pros and cons of Giuliani's decisions and leadership. But now he's not just helping NYC get back on its feet, he's running for president, counting in part on the good will that we have for the way he handled himself after the attacks.

There has to be reexamination of his record, and accountability for mistakes he may have made in setting up NYC terrorism and emergency response before the attacks happened.

I'm just not sure that his overall performance-- even on the terrorism issue-- is one that would make us want to make him president. Certainly he's a person with some great skills, and it's great for everyone if he is able to be an effective public figure. But as president? It's just not clear to me that that's where he's best utilized.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


The world still looks to the American people for guidance in their views

AP: Poll shows Arabs don't like Bush.


Homosexuality and conservative decline-- symptom or cause?

Andrew Sullivan writes that Republican anti-gay actions and rhetoric might be counterproductive:
The accelerating pace of social acceptance, whether you like it or not, is an empirical fact. I wonder how many Republicans realize that the Rove strategy of appealing to fundamentalist faith as the critical political ideology of the right could eventually destroy the conservative movement. It might have secured a few short-term victories, but at the expense of medium-term coherence as a coalition and long-term collapse. And I have a suspicion that the collapse could come sooner than some might imagine.
I think he's probably overestimating the long-term impact of the GOP's actions, though.

After all, William F. Buckley defended segregation. President Nixon used the Southern Strategy to convert white racism into Republican votes. But by the 2000 election, the GOP ran as many black people as they could find up on stage at their convention. As Jesse Helms said to Chuck D, "the times changed, and I have changed with the times." By 2020, we'll probably see a GOP event featuring the Scissor Sisters. Well, maybe Clay Aiken.

The UK's Labour Party has also changed with the times. It once stood for public ownership of the means of production, but now it stands for... something else. Or, at least, it doesn't stand for that.

The coming destruction and collapse of the conservative movement, if it is to come, will be based only in part on the Republican treatment of gays. It will be based, more largely, on conservative hubris, and its consequent indifference to facts and competence.

Cheney's vetting of intelligence in the runup to the Iraq War, Bush's position on intelligent design, Michael Brown's qualifications for FEMA, the administration's political appointees to DA positions, the Rove-Norquist-Abramoff dream and goal of GOP dominance forever-- all were grounded in conservative political correctness, on how it made people feel, and not on morality or reality. And the GOP rank and file didn't resist until the day after the 06 elections.

The disdain for gays is a mere microcosm of this pacification of prefered interest groups without regard for morality or policy.

I'm inclined to say that this high level of tolerance for immorality in pursuit of power was a consequence of the partisanship and Clinton-hatred of the 1990s, and the previous feeling of conservatives that they were the thruth-telling underdogs, but I'm open to other theories.

My natural home as a small-government, socially tolerant, fiscally conservative voter may well be with the GOP, but it's a party that no longer exists. In fact, I wish that Snowe and Collins would jump ship and stop enabling torture, indifferently pursued war, massive debt, etc.

UPDATE: It didn't occur to me how silly this headline was till after I'd posted. Oh well. Maybe I'll get some hits from Bill Donahue or somebody out of it.


Everybody cryin' "civility" when they don't know the meaning of the word

The liberal internets are alive with mockery today at the expense of Jonah Goldberg.

On this day two years ago, he offered a bet to Juan Cole that "Iraq won't have a civil war, that it will have a viable constitution, and that a majority of Iraqis and Americans will, in two years time, agree that the war was worth it." He magnanimously declared that he would donate his winnings to the USO, and allowed Cole to "give it to the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or whatever his favorite charity is."

Because only terrorism-lovers thought we'd encounter anything bad there. The only reason to have expertise in the Middle East, after all, is in order to hate America.

Anyway, the bet (which Cole refused) would have gone poorly for Goldberg. And he's learned his lesson. "[W]hen I see the nasty stuff now, on both the left and the right, my first reaction is to think how easy — and therefore uninteresting — it is," he writes. Cheap insults "bore me more than they offend me because they are precisely the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from a living cliche who can't imagine the other side might be worth listening too."

A few hours later, in a post helpfully titled "Loving Failure," he reprints an email from a conservative well-wisher, who writes of "the perverse satisfaction that lefties continue to take from what is basically the current failure to bring liberty and democracy to one of the most troubled regions of the world." The writer pegs "political strategy of the left these days [as] 'America has to lose in Iraq.' Whether it's the cynical response of people trying to embarrass the current President (and who would be fully behind the war if a Democrat were running it) or the depressing self-righteousness of those who think their own country must be humbled... the result is the same: a political movement dominated by people who want to see not only Bush fail, but to see America fail, to see the ideals of liberty and democracy fail."

Sigh. Where to even begin.

The Iraq invasion's archetects certainly, in some abstract sense, hoped that liberty and democracy would sprout in Iraq. But they didn't plan or work to make that happen-- they just hoped. Good intentions and a nickel will get you a small amount of paving material.

War opponents did not cause Iraq to go poorly. They just told us that the Iraq war would result in lots of people getting hurt to no particular end. People told war supporters (of which I was one) that we were wrong; some war supporters (like Goldberg) said or hinted or joked that their assessment of reality was rooted in admiration for terrorists like Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades because of it.

Now, it turns out Goldberg and I were wrong, and Juan Cole was right.

And this guy says that the problem is that war opponents weren't cheering loudly enough. And Jonah throws the red meat to the lummoxes.

As for "embarassing the president," if accountability results in embarassment and a productive change of course, that's Good for America.

By this nationalistic "logic," Winston Churchill was rooting for the Nazis to start World War II. After all, he predicted it beforehand, and counseled against England's stated policies. What a democracy-hater that guy was.


Unusually despicable commentary from the Plank

A writer named James Kirchick opines:

It is not the United States that founded this millennial hatred; it is not the United States that arms and equips Sunni death squads; it is not the United States that supports Iranian backing of Shia factions in Iraq. As Hitchens writes, we had a "rendezvous in Mespotamia that could not have been averted."
TNR was once thought to be a journal of intellectual liberals and centrists. This post is astnoishingly stupid and conservative/nationalist. Let's count just a few of the ways.

(1) Invading was not the only way to resolve the humanitarian crisis and WMD issue in 2003.

The inspectors left because we started bombing. There was no historical inevitability to bombing in March 2003.

As to the sanctions, changing the regime to lessen its impact on the Iraqi people was a cause of some small left-leaning groups. They were mostly ignored, until people like Kirchick realized they were a useful talking point in advocating an invasion of Iraq-- not that invading was in any way calculated or intended to improve the lives of Iraqis. We the invaders certainly hoped that Iraqis' lives would be improved, but there was no planning or preparation, or even acknowledgement of what might be involved, to advance that hope. If the war planners' good intentions can be assumed, certainly the maxim about intentions of that sort has been proven in Iraq.

(2) Once we invaded, we failed to provide basic security.

Try removing all services and law enforcement from New York or DC for a week or four years or so. Would there be violence based on racial animus? (Hint: Yes). Would that violence be traceable in some sense to historical conflicts? (Clue: Yes). Would it have been inevitable? (A: No. It would be due to the absence of a government, which causes people to turn to clannish groups to try to survive).

Full disclosure: I supported the invasion of Iraq.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Unusually despicable commentary from the Corner

The attorneys working pro bono for the accused (or not accused, but detained anyway) in Guantanamo are "helping terrorists avoid providing life-saving intelligence to our war fighters," writes Andy McCarthy, in the latest salvo of a continuing debate over just how evil it is not to take the government's word for it and allow them to indefinitely detain and mistreat whoever they want for no publicly expressed reason.

Mainstream conservative punditry, casually and lazily defending torture and refusing to acknowledge any facts that might suggest fallibility when it comes to our treatment of Guantanamo detainees, would be perfectly at home defending Stalin. It's a fragile, through-the-looking-glass patriotism, based on knee-jerk defense of any action taken in the name of national security, regardless of efficacy or morality.

Oh, how nice, Cliff May stops by to advance a General Theory of Wingnuttery: "perhaps the reason you have seen only innuendo regarding the various law firms at Gitmo derives from the fact that the MSM is highly selective about which issues are worth investigating."

So, any imagined scandal or dastardly act is plausible, because the MSM loves evil and hides it from us.

Cliff May could be on the take from al Qaeda, advocating actions that diminish American capability and moral standing in the world, but the corporate-owned MSM wouldn't tell us that.

So, because my fantasized version of the world with Cliff May accepting payments from al Qaeda allows me to hate more people and be pleased with my own righteousness, it's almost certainly true.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


We have met the enemy...

... and it may well be our pals in Iraq.

Two Senior Iraqi Generals Eyed in Brazen Attack on U.S. Soldiers
Thursday, February 01, 2007

Several Iraqis have been detained for questioning in the ongoing investigation of at least two senior Iraqi generals suspected of involvement in an insurgent attack that killed five American soldiers on Jan. 20, U.S. officials told FOX News on Thursday.

The attack occurred at a provincial government security compound in Karbala where the Americans were meeting with local Iraqi security officers. Gunmen stormed the facility dressed like American soldiers and driving SUVs, military officials in Iraq said.

The Pentagon has called this a sophisticated and troubling assault and much more orchestrated than the usual attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces. Because of that, military officials say they have strong suspicions that the Iranian government or elements of it may have been involved. Four of the five American soldiers were abducted before being shot execution style.
Why we're feeling the need to introduce a middle man when we've reliably been able to function as our own worst enemy over the past five years is quite beyond me.

Our four-year-long failure to provide basic security and services has led to a level of chaos and resurgent sectarianism that no mere surge can suppress. Gen. Petraeus is as capable a human being as exists on this planet, but he doesn't have magic powers.

Nothing would be better than for me to be proven wrong, but there is no reason beyond wishing and hoping to believe that we're about to turn the metaphorical corner in Iraq.

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