Friday, August 29, 2003

New Look? Hey, you're messing with our brand recognition factor! Actually, I like the new look. Not as hard on the eyes.

Update: Anybody else getting an odd effect? The page seems to load up normally, then cuts off at the bottom of the archive block. Not liking this . . .

New Look: Whaddya think? Bold, aggressive, colorful. Just like us, no?
New Link: New blogger to add to the link list. She's Moxie, and she's got it too. Mostly personal stories, with some political commentary and some strikingly good photos taken by her as well. I just like her style.
The Open: Some good matches being played today. Jarkko Nieminen is taking David Nalbandian into 5 sets in a surprisingly strong showing. Meanwhile, James Blake is up two sets against the seasoned Sargis Sargsian. I'd love to be able to roll a TV into my office. This will do for now.

Update: Nalbandian survived, barely. He can't be looking forward to facing Philippoussis. Blake wins in four, buying himself a shot at Federer.

Kerry Unveils Economic Plan: Kerry seems to be on the verge of self-satire as he rolls out his new "plan" for economic recovery. First, he slaps Bush for inattention to the economy (which, as even the article notes, is recovering nicely):
"When it comes to creating opportunity, restoring fiscal discipline, putting values back into our economy, and preparing for the jobs of the future, George Bush hasn't lifted a finger," Kerry said. "I intend to move mountains."
Kerry then goes on to propose a plan that consists, mainly, of keeping the Bush tax cuts in place. The moving mountains part? Tax cut repeal for the wealthiest 1% -- with that revenue to be spent rewarding state legislatures for passing budgets that lack even a winking reference to reality. If Kerry's plan does nothing else, it at least sends the bold message that, under a President Kerry, the states will not be held responsible for creating the "deficits, debt and doubt" at the state level that Kerry accuses Bush of creating at the national level. In other words, don't worry about running up a deficit . . . unless I'm running for office against you.

If this sort of timid policy is the mainstream Democrats' idea of centrism (which it seems to be, since Edwards claims Kerry ripped this plan from him), Dean is better off staying on the left.

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Speaking of Ahhhnold: I bet you he's the only candidate for a governor's slot to have given an interview to "Oui". I'll give him this much, he says what he wants, when he wants. I don't think too much of this will come back to haunt him, because no one expects him to be the normal, drab candidate, plus he's never been a morality preacher. Nonetheless, you have to imagine Davis and his staffers are blowing up some of the snippets...oh, like this one:
"Bodybuilders party a lot, and once, in Gold's--the gym in Venice, California, where all the top guys train--there was a black girl who came out naked. Everybody jumped on her and took her upstairs, where we all got together." Asked by Manso if he was talking about a "gang bang," Schwarzenegger answered, "Yes, but not everybody, just the guys who can fuck in front of other guys. Not everybody can do that. Some think that they don't have a big-enough cock, so they can't get a hard-on. Having chicks around is the kind of thing that breaks up the intense training. It gives you relief, and then afterward you go back to the serious stuff."
From The Smoking Gun...where else?
I said "no clonations": Boy it sure was refreshing to finally have a candidate who won't accept campaign donations so that he can rise above the special...ah...ummm...oh. "Hey look...Lou Ferigno!"
Brit Hume Is Not Making Sense: Brit obviously got his degree in statistical analysis by mailing away box tops from his Product 19. Justifying comparisons between two disparate populations by referring to their "geographical size" displays the kind of thinking usually restricted to slow four-year-olds and the editors of Social Text.
The Envelope Please: I'm a "realist". Yup, me, Colin Powell, and Ike.
Brit Hume, Mr. Persnickety: Okay, here's Hume on how Iraq is no more dangerous than California (he says the two are roughly the same size):
"Two hundred and seventy seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that, statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California…which is roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they are incurring about 1.7, including illness and accidents, each day."
I think this is sort of besides the point, but thanks Mr. Hume (or rather your intern) for this information.
It's Official: I'm a neoconservative. Well, I am circumcised, after all. (That was a joke, dammit!)

Via Hit & Run.

Stop making me work for my money!: And I thought slavery was outlawed. This poor jerk is paid somewhere in the $60,000 to $100,000 range and has to work 60-70 hours a week for it. God, how could anyone put up with that sort of stress? Thank god he's found a lawyer to take his case. I only hope the lawyer can try to comprehend what it's like to make that kind of money for those kind of hours. I mean, hell, only 60-70 hours a week?
Dumping the Baggage: Clinton's greatest political trick was to run to the center without losing (all of) the left. Howard Dean is beginning to indicate that he will attempt the same feat. TNR's Primary observes that
as this week's Forward notes, a growing raft of single-issue, left-wing groups are taking him to task for some of his more centrist leanings, particularly on Israel, gun control, and medical marijuana. But does this really spell doom for Dean? Not at all. On the contrary, he couldn't ask for a more positive development.

Why? For one thing, Dean has already gotten more mileage out of the far left-wing than he could have reasonably hoped for, having used their early support to cement his image as coming from the "Democratic wing of the Democratic Party." Now that he's trying to strengthen his centrist bona fides, their support isn't so important.

This is a little true and a little false. Months remain before the primaries actually occur, and Dean does court risk by heading for the center too soon. If he can pull his base to the center with him, he's in good shape -- but he shouldn't hold his breath. TNR notes, further, that
when you get criticism from The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, even the most doubting of centrists have to rethink their assumptions about Dean's supposedly ideological tendencies.
This overstates the awareness of the center, while understating its ambivalence. First, centrists are unlikely to be wholly informed about what the Brady Campaign's platform is. (For the record, it's pretty draconian.) This is not to say that mainstream voters are ignorant; they're simply less likely to be in touch with activists on either side. (They're centrists, remember?) Second, and related, centrists are not necessarily anti-gun-control. If they are as informed on the issue as TNR's piece implies, they are still more likely to be divided on the matter. Dean will have to push the left away with far more visibility for it to matter in a general election

This brings up one final point: the "Sister Souljah" moment. This was Clinton's first real break with the left, and it came with the black left, which continued to support Clinton fully. It was a moment of finesse, pulled off effortlessly. It combined several cultural issues (racial attitudes, violent music lyrics) that were on the "kitchen table" at the time. Dean has to make the same sort of high profile break with the uglier parts of the left, and he hasn't shown any real signs of that yet. (Nor has he shown that he has the finesse to do it well; rather he seems impetuous compared with Clinton's easy modulated air.) His support for troops in Liberia was an attempt to show moderation in his attitude toward military power, but in general Liberia just isn't bright enough on America's radar for him to complete the trick. I think, for reasons of timing and politics, it's too early to head for the center.

Worth Reading: USA Today looks at the story that bloggers have been telling for weeks:
Lost amid news of the horrific attacks and Iraqis' complaints about the disorder that war has brought to their nation are signs that this capital city of more than 5 million people is slowly returning to normal and that most people are getting on with their lives.
Iraqis seem to be coming to terms with a couple of facts. First, the U.S. can't simply hand them back a functioning society:
Protests and complaints have dogged the coalition government since Baghdad fell in April. But some Iraqis caution not to read too much into them. They say many Iraqis had unrealistic expectations.

"The image of the United States in the Iraqi mentality is that it is supernatural," says Usama Al-Duri, a professor of Iraqi-American relations at Baghdad University. "That supernatural entity is now on the streets of Baghdad, not just on TV," and it isn't looking so all-powerful.

And nothing's going to happen without the help of the Iraqis themselves:
The United States is making some headway in getting Iraqis to cooperate and participate in government. At first, Iraqis were wary. Slowly, people are coming forward, and in meetings around the country, many Iraqis are building working relationships with U.S. military and civilian officials.
The realization is there, too, that despite the failures of the American presence, occupation is, on balance, the right path:
A half-dozen Iraqi businessmen meet regularly to share kebabs and chew over the issues of the day in the office of one of the men on Harithiyah Street in Baghdad. To a man, they say the U.S.-led coalition is botching the effort to restore order.

But asked who should lead the country, they are equally unanimous. "I would recommend an American," says Kaldoun Abdulatif Othman, 48, an engineer.

Above all, Iraqis seem resigned to the difficult reality that this will all take time:
Muhsin Hamid Akar, 32, has been doing a brisk business selling satellite phones from a small store in another part of downtown Baghdad. He urges his fellow Iraqis to be patient: "A man gets the flu, it takes seven days to recover. After 35 years of dictatorship, what can anyone expect?"
Good point.
One last post: Bruce Bartlett has an interesting take on productivity on NRO Financial. We've talked a lot recently about global competition and America's need to face this competition rather than resort to protectionism as a defense. Barlett points out that our high productivity, particularly in the service sector, is still our greatest advantage in competing on the global stage. An important fact to keep in mind when doomasayers lament our miserable economy.
God, it's hot: The Carolinas are baking right now, so I'm going somewhere much more comfortable. New Orleans, where it's just as hot, but with humidity so bad the air feels like flan. Anyway, I won't be blogging till next week.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Quotas? What quotas?: So, you're a member of NYC's fabled city traffic department, charged with enforcing traffic laws and ensuring an orderly street grid. Faced with a sudden, city-wide blackout (again, fortunately, only NYC was affected), what do you do, hotshot, what do you do? Well, for heaven's sakes, you don't start directing traffic at congested intersections. That's no way to make money. Instead, keep writing tickets. We can't have parking anarchy now can we? Link thanks to Bureaucrash.
'Money Well Spent': The noisy "Fish-heads" at Mardy Fish's opening match in Flushing were hired to cheer for him, ESPN reports:
The six "Fish Freaks" volunteered their services to Bennett Global Marketing Group, the company that was hired by Fish's family to help promote Mardy. In exchange, they received a free ticket and a small stipend.

"We were asked to create some buzz for Mardy, we had the idea, implemented it and I think these guys nailed it," said Jeff Bennett, president of the company.

. . . Mardy's father, Tom, said having the group was "money well spent."

I guess I should have known when the Kournikova phenomenon exploded: it's not about tennis anymore, is it?
Hey, Frosh! Wanna Swallow Some Goldfish? Beloit College (Wisconsin) has published its annual sign o' the times list, 35 items remarking on what the mindset of its new crop of freshmen will likely be. Some of them are eye opening, such as item 21, which notes that to these kids
Michael Jackson has always been white.
Ouch. (Thanks to Jacob Levy.)
Special Interest Follow Up: Jane Galt takes on a topic we covered not too long ago, starting out along our lines:
The Democrats, on the other hand, are a veritable festival of interest groups: unions, teachers, minorities, feminists, gay groups, environmentalists, etc. Each of these groups has a litmus test without which they will not ratify a candidate: unfettered support for abortion, against vouchers, against ANWAR drilling, whatever. A lot of groups means a lot of litmus tests, because with the possible exception of the teachers, no one group is powerful enough to swing an election by themselves.

This causes two problems. First, it drags the party platform marginally farther to the left than the Republican platform is to the right, which in a 50/50 nation is bad news, and it narrows the well of political talent. At the local level this doesn't matter, since districts go reliably for one party or another, but nationally it's a problem . . .

No dispute there. We said much the same, as I recall (here, here, and here). But I disagree with her contention that the
Republicans only have two groups to please: social conservatives, and fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives will, by and large, allow you to throw a bone to the social conservatives so long as you do it somewhere the fiscal conservatives don't have to look at, such as prisons and homeless shelters, or small towns in Alabama. The small towns in Alabama, so long as they are left alone and not asked to celebrate gay wedding ceremonies next to the creche in the town square, will generally leave the fiscal conservatives to their own devices except during the annual farm-subsidy festival.
This is an oversimplification. Social conservatives come in various flavors, just as social liberals do (represented among the Democratic pressure groups on Jane's list by feminists, gays, abortion activists). And we can be fairly certain that, in the near future, GOP nominees will not be endorsing abortion or gay marriage; not because of the "social conservatives," but because social conservatives include anti-abortion groups and anti-gay-marriage groups. Lumping them all together as social conservatives is true in that someone who is opposed to legal abortion will likely be opposed to gay marriage; but it is just as true that a self-identified feminist will likely be "socially liberal" on other issues. I wouldn't deny that Democrats have more (and more powerful) pressure groups barking at them for position statements; in fact, that was my point to begin with. But the GOP has its share of tigers to pet.

Along those lines, Jane's discussion also ignores the NRA, which despite its GOP leanings is neither fiscally nor socially conservative, per se. As I said in previous posts, that makes it a powerful GOP pressure group (since it can't be mollified by low taxes or a sop to the religious right), although it is far from having party-wide litmus test power. Others with a great deal of sway, at least regionally, include farmers (every GOP presidential hopeful goes to Iowa to take the ethanol/corn pledge), oil, timber (viz Bush administration tarriffs), steel (ditto), and telecom. The difference is that most of these groups have equal pull in both parties. And to some extent that benefits the GOP, since they can blow off, say, the teachers, since they know that vote is lost anyway. (Link via VodkaPundit.)

Alan Keyes is Making Sense: I'm not a fan of state religions, and I'd oppose any law that tried to do so, but Keyes has a point -- from a strict constructionist view. Several states at the Constitutional Convention had state religions, and their aim was to keep the federal government from ever being able to overrule them. The First Amendment is quite clear in its language, without those tricky adverbial clauses like the second has. The real question is whether Keyes is right about the 14th Amendment and "privileges and immunities," a question I am not expert on.

I think the Constitution has grown beyond this, though, like it or not. And I'm totally comfortable with the interpretation that the 14th binds the states to the same limits as the federal government regarding the bill of rights. For example, I'm not comfortable with an interpretation of the First Amendment that says, although Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, the states can do so.

The Results: No doubt alienating our vast political readership with a focus on tennis, it's worth making a couple of obsevations about the first round. For one thing, Agassi went through Corretja like a freight train. Corretja may not be seeded in the Open, but he's no pushover, even if this season has been a bust for him. He's beaten Agassi on hard courts, so this is a real boost for Andre. If he plays like this for two weeks, he'll be holding the trophy at the end. The only other high seed to face significant first-round heat was Roddick, who dispatched Henman in straight sets. Like Agassi, Roddick had lost to this opponent recently, though given Roddicks amazing run this summer, that looks like a fluke in retrospect. With both Americans looking good against tough players in the first round, they have the big mo' and would make a great final together.

The surprises thus far are on the women's side, with Maleeva and Bovina both losing to unseeded players, though both (Shinobu Asagoe, who went to the final in Birmingham in July, and Ludmila Cervanova, who has seen some quarters and semis this year) are far from nobodies.

Second round unconventional wisdom: Watch Todd Martin against Martin Verkerk to see if Todd has one more shot at glory. The Croation Sensation Ivo Karlovic blew past clay specialist Felix Mantilla. It's worth seeing if he can take veteran Hicham Arazi, who beat Kafelnikov and put up a respectable performance against Federer in the quarters in Dubai.

I can't stop myself: Okay, more on Moore. But this time, I'm letting Alan Keyes do the talking. Keyes takes the minority position (no surprise here) that the First Amendment does not forbid government from legislating on religion. Instead he says that the Constitution forbids the federal government from making any laws with respect to religion. By extension, he then argues, this task is left exclusively to the states, who can make any law they want re: religion. He argues around the 14th Amendment like this:
"We have already seen that the actual language of the Constitution does not forbid an establishment of religion. Rather, it forbids Congress to legislate on the subject at all, reserving it entirely to the states. No language in the 14th Amendment deals with this power of government.

Portions of that amendment do indeed restrict the legislative powers of the states, but they refer only to actions that affect the privileges, immunities, legal rights and equal legal status of individual citizens and persons. The first clause of the First Amendment in no way deals with persons, however, but rather – in concert with the 10th Amendment – secures the right of the states and the people to be free from the dictates of federal law respecting an establishment of religion."
This tenuous argument is supported with examples like this:
"The government's power to arm soldiers for the community's defense does not inherently contravene the individual's right to arm himself against personal attack. The government's power to establish institutions of higher learning does not inherently contradict the individual's right to educate his young or join with others to start a school. The government's power to engage in economic enterprises (such as the postal service or electric power generation) does not inherently contradict the individual's right to private enterprise. It is possible for government coercively to inhibit or repress any of these individual activities, but it is obvious that government action does not in and of itself constitute such coercion."
Finally, he argues that Judge Moore, in refusing to comply with the Federal order is standing for liberty. More specifically, Judge Thompson's order
"represents a destructive violation of the right of the people of Alabama to decide how their government will or will not express their religious beliefs. This right of the people is the first one secured in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights, and it cannot be compromised without surrendering the moral foundations of republican liberty. Judge Thompson's assault upon this right, and that of the entire federal judiciary for the last several decades, is not, therefore, a trivial threat to the liberty of the people. Judge Moore cannot obey the court's order without surrendering that liberty.
I'll stop now for comment.

Serve and Volley: I'm intrigued by your comment, Razor, that the serve-and-volley technique is passe. I don't disagree, but I'm curious how this works out. If Sampras proved anything, he proved that his solid S&V could beat the best whizzing Western forehand (Agassi, I'd suggest) on most days. Yet Andre's game is the one everyone plays now, even the strapping kids like Roddick, who has a serve that screams for a run to the net. There are still some S&V players who can compete, as Federer showed with his quickness and touch at Wimby. And, before the injuries took them out, Rafter and Krajicek were always threats to anyone in the game.

I wonder if this is corallary to your thought that we remember the flashy players. Up-and-coming players took on the style of the players in the public eye, and that always meant Andre over Pete. Oddly, this wasn't the case with Connors, whose huge, flat swing all but disappeared as technology and racquet size allowed spin to heat up dramatically. At any rate, I can't remember a time when one style dominated so completely.

The Best of the Rest: I think Sampras' Grand Slam record merits his membership in the elite 5 pantheon. If you can assume that everyone shows up for the Slams, and everyone knows that a good showing there is a ticket to endorsement city, then you can safely say that the winner of a Slam has taken on the best his/her opponents have to give. Yes, this buys into the premise that the opponents weren't that good, but as we have seen over and over again, any given player can catch lightning in a bottle for one tournament. Recall players like Stich, Courier, Chang, Noah and Kafelnikov who each had a run at greatness during times when more dominant players were at it (people often forget Courier won at Roland Garros twice and in Sydney twice). Critics complain that Sampras never won the French. Well, neither Connors nor McEnroe never won the Australian, and if there's ever a gimmee tournament, that's the one.

To rack up that number of trophies is an astounding achievement. The fact is most people don't want to give Sampras his due because he was dull, and he and Agassi never really got a great rivalry going as Agassi did sleepwalk through the middle 90s (as Eno points out). This is true, but it cannot take away from his achievements. The fact is we're more likely to enshrine with greatness those who not only won, but did it with elan. See: Bjorg, Mac, Connors, Becker (eventually Agassi, I'd warrant). We forget the boring ones, or downplay what they did, even though they were kicking the arse of everyone they came into contact with, see: Courier, Wilander (a slight stretch), Lendl, Edberg. I'm not saying all these guys are the absolute elite, but they all won more than one slam, and got into countless finals. Only the mythic Laver, who didn't play in many of the "open" tournaments yet still took home 11 Slams, can we unquestionably place at the top. But, if Sampras isn't within one or two slots of him, then it's beyond me. He may have been dull and reserved, but he was the player, above all others, who brought the game into the modern era. While his serve-and-volley techniques have become passe, his big serve, huge forehand, and range all are prevalent today. I didn't always enjoy his game, but I'll miss seeing him nonetheless.
Line of the Day: Greta van Susteren, negotiating with O.J. Simpson for an exclusive post-verdict interview:
O.J., can I have your phone number to call you back? I have to go pick up my husband, and if I'm late, he'll kill me.
From Howard Kurtz.
The Shuttle Program: I won't go too far into this, since I spent some time on it back when, but the shuttle program shows that NASA is stuck in neutral. Imagine if, in the early days of heavier-than-air flight, we were captivated by Charles Lindbergh's famous achievement, but then spent 25 years just repeating and perfecting his Atlantic flight. Instead we continued to go higher, faster, farther, with more people on board. Air travel went commercial, though at first it was only for the very wealthy; it quickly democratized, though. Thus, 100 years from Kitty Hawk, flight is an everyday thing. But it has been 42 years since the first manned space flight, and we seem to have decided that we're happy to orbit the earth indefinitely. A good friend who is a buff on all this says we'd go to Mars if we could, but that it's too dangerous. I've always thought that sounded like an excuse, though. We went to the moon in a tin-foil capsule running on a computer that couldn't keep up with your PDA today. Are we just more risk averse? Probably, since there is no "space race" to motivate the risk.

The shuttle program has done its bit, and I don't mean to be slagging it. It's simply that we must decide what we want from NASA (or a private space program, for that matter). Sending the shuttle up to the space station and back every few months is a nice way to keep a space program without having to think about it. If that's what we decide we want, so be it; but we'll end up as the Branniff Airlines of the space world while someone else (the Chinese, or this guy, probably) is building the Concorde.

Cancel the shuttle program: That's what says after reading the report from the CAIB on the Challenger accident. Money quote:
"NASA is already preparing to repeat its unacceptable response after the first Shuttle tragedy: shuffling around the same managers, firing no one, pretending to reform, and then doing the same old things," Tumlinson pointed out. "This is as unacceptable as it is predictable! The White House and Congress must demand NASA do more than just rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic."
I'm certainly inclined to agree that private enterprise could do a more effective job of exploring and exploiting outer space for its many treasures. NASA is another federal bureaucracy that needs an overhaul. Wouldn't this be a great place for a small government politician to start?

Link via Rand Simberg, who's covering the issue in depth.

The GOP/Libertarian split: I still see myself as a conservative, but recent events, particluarly the recent Supreme Court rulings, have raised a more Libertarian streak in me. It seems this division between the two camps who, supposedly, are the champions of smaller government is getting wider. James Antle, in Tech Central Station, examines the split.
The end result of all this is that many libertarians see no compelling reason to support the Republican right they identify with John Ashcroft and Sen. Rick Santorum. By default this means that they often end up working with the left. They've joined with the ACLU and other traditionally liberal civil libertarian organizations to oppose Patriot Act-style legislation (although some prominent conservatives joined them in opposition). Antiwar libertarian bloggers and Internet columnists often link to left-of-center websites like Indymedia, Common Dreams, and CounterPunch in making their arguments.
I think a lot of the hype over the Patriot Act is unwarranted (I'm not alone in this), and I supported, and still do support, the administrations strategy, if not tactics, in Iraq. But I do agree that the GOP has seriously lost touch with its small government raison d' etre. The GOP is all in favor of a large, intrusive govvernment, as long as it intrudes into the right place, bedrooms instead of boardrooms. This is philosphically inconsistent and leaves would be supporters (like me) scratching their heads in wonder. I don't think, as Antle points out, that Howard Dean is the answer. Sadly, I don't see a legitimate candidate who could carry the small government banner in the next few election cycles from either party. Any ideas?

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

That said: I do feel lucky to have gotten to see a great player like Pete over his whole career. I always seemed to root for Agassi, but I knew that Pete was the better player and the one who deserves to be mentioned in the same league as greats like Laver, McEnroe, and Connors.
Re: the best: Ranking the best at any sport over generations is a tough call. Things change so much that it's really unfair to everyone in the mix. For instance, I think it's fair to say that Sampras would take it to Rod Laver pretty good if we could somehow time travel Laver to 2003 (well, maybe 2000). Sampras is stronger, faster, fitter, has full time coaches and other courtiers on call, and has the advantage of having watched and studied great players, like Laver, to learn about strategy other fine points of the game. But that doesn't earn Sampras the title of best ever, because we have to take Laver's record in the context of the day. The same is, of course, true with Bjorg, McEnroe, and Connors, the other three that typically make up the top five in most lists I see. This is how we come to the great question of "competition faced," because it attempts to level the playing field. How did a player do against the best players, and how does the competition stack up against "the field" in past years.

Barra brings up Tiger Woods, and since I'm more knowledgeable about golf I'll use it as an example. But golf and tennis are very different, so someone else will have to take up that analysis.

The PGA Tour, as a whole, is far deeper today than at any time in the past. There are more players who can truly compete at the highest level now (just look at this year's major winners) than there were in the '60's and '70's, when Jack Nicklaus reigned supreme. However, the key is how many "great players" there are, as opposed to just very good. In that case, I'd say Nicklaus faced tougher competition, having to compete regularly against Palmer and Gary Player in his early days, and Tom Weiskopf and Tom Watson in his later years. They were truly exceptional talents. Tiger faces a very good crop of players, but none that has the same kind of intimidation and ability to win, as opposed to just play well, as a Tom Watson. The closest is Ernie Els, but even he's not at that level and there's noone else even close. So, great as Tiger is (and he may be more talented than Jack) he will have trouble ever measuring up if there's not a complementary group of rivals to test him.

I think Sampras probably suffers from the same lack of real competition. In fact, by these standards, McEnroe and Connors look even more impressive, since they had to face each other so often. But I don't know enough about the competition Laver faced to say how he compares. But I do know that, other than Agassi, Sampras never had to contend with many great players in their prime.

The Best: Allen Barra writes in the WSJ that Pete Sampras may be the most dominant athlete of the past quarter century:
Future sports historians, when looking back on the last 25 years of the 20th century, will probably name Tiger Woods over Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky and Lance Armstrong as the most dominant athlete of the era. In doing so, they will leave themselves vulnerable to those who would take up the case for Pete Sampras.

Mr. Sampras will need no future historians to make his case as the greatest tennis player of our time. His career credentials--the 14 Grand Slam singles championships; the 63-7 record in Wimbledon and seven Wimbledon titles in eight years; the 71-9 record at the U.S. Open with 87 consecutive service games won there; the six straight seasons of being ranked No. 1--do that admirably.

I bet Flyer has a take on this too. With a brief nod of the head to Rod Laver, who sat out several prime seasons, Barra points to Sampras's domination in slam events. This is true enough, but it deserves some context. Despite Barra's implication about the quality of the competition Sampras faced ("At the time when Pete was at his best, there were more good players coming into the game from all over the world than at any previous time in tennis history," he quotes Pete's coach Paul Annacone as saying), it's clearly not true. Several of Pete's best years were men's-game doldrums. Pete's acknowledged rival, Andre, seemed barely conscious for several of those years. Beyond Andre, who else was there as a consistent threat in a slam or elsewhere in the mid-late 90s? Meanwhile, the man with far and away the most tour wins, Jimmy Connors, played during an era that makes Annacone's claim on the talent pool ridiculous.

As for the Tiger Woods comparison, I see Pete's dominance in much the same way as Tiger's: pace Annacone, both dominated at a time when no one was stepping up to the challenge. Both had a reputation for cold, consistent play that invoked the "Who's going to lose to him this week?" mantra. As I said recently, Pete's one of the greats, but is it any wonder that the boom in women's tennis coincided with a decline in men's?

TMQ BS Lovely column by the man, but this part doesn't scan. After castigating Judge Moore as an "incompetent lunatic," Easterbrook says:
And consider that in the same state, Alabama, where the Judge Moore sideshow is getting nonstop media attention, Republican Gov. Bob Riley is risking his political neck to campaign for tax-law changes that would increase taxes on the well-off while exempting everyone who makes less than $17,000 annually. Gov. Riley phrases the campaign in religious terms, saying, "According to our Christian ethics, we're supposed to love God, love each other and help take care of the poor." How come this pure and admirable Christian sentiment gets no media attention while the egomaniac with the hunk of stone in the same state's courthouse enjoys round-the-clock coverage?
Pure and admirable Christian sentiment, sure, but no way to work out a tax code. Some of us, Reverend Easterbrook, might not be Christian, and might therefore not want to pay our taxes "[a]ccording to Christian ethics." This is what I meant by separation of church and state at the wallet's edge. Suggested campaign theme for Governor Riley: "Tax the Christians!"
The Final, Final Word: I'm glad to see you agreed with everything I said. No need for further debate.
TMQ to the Rescue: In addition to his nifty NFC preview, TMQ takes on important topics such as the R*dsk*ns trademark lawsuit, to the Justice Moore debacle, to the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders Lingerie Calendar. All, a must read.
Church/State -- Final: I'll leave off after this. I think we're generally in agreement anyway. But I still think it's worth mentioning several points:

1. There is an argument for the ten commandments as a judicial symbol -- as much as we can have a statue to the personification of Lady Justice without legislating Paganism. Justice Moore himself killed any chance of that, though, by declaring his intention to "honor God," which I think we agree runs afoul of the amendment.

2. The separation between church and state at the judiciary level is, at its heart, about a system of justice that does not judge a person by alien standards. Thus the Bible's denunciation of homosexuality falls short as a cause for sodomy laws -- but so does secular moral disapproval of it. But flip that around. What cause is there to enshrine "diversity" as a good other than simple "secular moral approval" of it -- a moral approval, in fact, that some on the Supreme Court literally took on faith from the University of Michigan? No, it seems to me that if "We think [sodomy] is bad" doesn't work then "We think [diversity] is good" (Michigan's actual argument) doesn't either.

3. I don't think it's possible to have impartial judges. Like you said, all of them have beliefs that influence their decisions. But the left pretends otherwise, as we see with judges like Bork and, lately, Pryor -- whom Russ Feingold implied was too bigoted to serve on the court because he changed the dates of his family trip to Disneyworld so it wouldn't coincide with Disney's "Gay Day." See, a right-wing judge who believes a law is unjust (e.g., abortion) is outside the mainstream, not to be trusted, in danger of legilating from the bench, etc. Never mind that many of the liberal ideas we hold dear were at one time dissents against "settled law" (Dred Scott, Plessy). That's why I characterize modern liberalism as, effectively, a religion.

Phraseology: I would never contend that a judge's own beliefs don't influence her decisions. At the same time, we all know that human beings often have to curtail their impulses/desires/beliefs to a superior, common will, or law. Many men like to sexualize young children. We have laws to punish that behavior. Likewise, many judges would like to imprison homosexuals. We have laws to stop that. Judge Moore might like to penalize me for "dissing" my parents - fortunately, there's no law against that, or we'd all be in prison. Our laws don't reflect, verbatim, any one religion's set of rules. What if Moore put next to the Ten Commandments, a symbolized Book of Leviticus, with laws like this:
"When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening. anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. Whoever touches her bed must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whoever touches anything she sits on must wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he will be unclean till evening. Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, he will be unclean till evening."
Leviticus 15:19-23 Okay, I'm devolving into the slippery slope. I hear Eno concerning the religion of Social Justice or diversity. I also think that such an argument may be a bit stretched - not that the Ten Commandments aren't more rational (ironically), but I think when you go on matters of faith, they have to remain separate. There's no reason the Judge can't have his monument back in his Chambers, for example (I've been before born-again judges whose chambers are riddled with crucifixes, "WWJD" symbols, and the like). The point is, when the black robe goes on, all else is hidden - that symbol, the black robe, is not accidental. The system is not perfect and we do indeed "shop" judges, or at least take that judge's sensibilities into account beforehand. That is different from having to be able to quote from the King James in opening arguments.
That Phrase: I am still, honestly, puzzling out whether I believe that the monement could stand, hypothetically, on symbolic legal grounds. I think there's a case. But you both used this particular string of words that goes, with variation, like this:
A judge may not use his office as a pedestal from which to trumpet his beliefs.
Really? You both believe that? Or is it that, because of the First Amendment, the judge may use that pedestal to trumpet any beliefs he wishes, so long as they are not religious? The tenets of modern left-liberalism make up a religion, with articles of faith (the magic of "diversity"), dogma (PC), punishment of heresy (shouting down dissenters as racist, homophobic misogynists), and a canon of hagiographized saints (Kennedy, King, Gandhi, Margaret Sanger, Sojourner Truth, etc., etc.). Yet you don't have to look very far to find judges who are more than happy to trumpet these principles from the bench. This is how we ended up with a legal system wherein the burglar sues the homeowner when he falls on the rickety back staircase while breaking and entering. This is how we ended up with enormous lawsuits against legal products (cigarettes, guns, Big Macs) that seek the payment of vast sums, though treading carefully to keep the product itself from being declared illegal (which would kill the golden goose). This is why plaintiffs go venue shopping. This is why we had Florida in 2000, for god's sake, why the Florida Court saw one wholly extra-legal (and unattainable) principle as the highest good -- namely, the principle of the "voter's intention."

Sorry to be kick-starting a rant here. I'll take my meds now. Look, I don't particularly see a place for religion in jurisprudence, but I also don't think we should be fooling ourselves. The point of the First Amendment is to not subject non-believers to the articles of faith in which they hold no belief, to judge them by laws that do not rely on faith for their derivation and justification. And judges "reason" from foolish, misinformed, illogical principles every damn day, whether their god is Yahweh or Social Justice (whatever the hell that means) or Diversity (ditto). Hell, at least Yahweh left a book with laws and principles in it. I've never heard a social justice advocate give any principle other than "It's just not fair" which, true as it may be in a given situation, is not a basis for proper jurisprudential thought. Every judge you appear before in court eats, sleeps, and defecates like the rest of us, and is just as likely to be an idiot, a bigot, a holy roller, or a PC whacko as anyone else. And, thus, thinking that religion, as we know it, is a singular threat to a fair judiciary is foolish and blind to the spirit of the First Amendment.

Monday, August 25, 2003

The Ten Suggestions: I suppose the funny part about all this is that the Ten Commandments are indeed precedential. Or rather, just about all of our jurisdictions have laws that mirror, and then expand on, those basic ten precepts. Accordingly, it's really redundant to even mention them. Nonetheless, whether by design or by chance, they do show that our mores are in line with those of societies thousands of years ago. So, the effect on jurisprudence of the Ten Commandments is not really the issue. It's whether one judge can push his agenda at the expense of the public just because it's not particularly offensive. You don't even have to go to the slippery slope to reject that contention. The judge is duty bound to interpret and obey the laws as written. He has no other special standing to be the grand arbiter of all he surveys - only those cases before him may fall beneath his jurisdiction, and if those laws conflict with his beliefs, too bad. As Flyer said, the test is his ability to keep his personal feelings removed sufficiently from his rulings. By making this an issue over and over (recall he did this years ago with the Ten Commandments on his wall), he shows that indeed, he cannot keep his feelings apart from his vocation. He has gone from judging actions in accordance with law, to advocating a religious agenda on a defenseless public. Oh, that's what the First Amendment was all about...
More on Moore: This piece on NRO is worth reading as well. There may be a place for displays of the Ten Commandments, as you suggest, Eno, be it for reasons of symbolism or tradition. But Moore isn't satisfied with that, hence all the trouble.
Church and State: In my original post I was, perhaps, wandering a little off the subject of this particular case. In this instance, I think Judge Moore does cross the amendment's line by placing the monument so prominently in the courthouse. The other eight judges may not feel compelled to adjudicate based on the ten commandments, but it sure gives a clear message about where Moore is coming from.

As for my other comments, about religion and politics in general, I think some go too far by declaring a judicial appointee unfit based on his religious convictions. There's a real good way to tell if a judge will base his rulings on religious principles or, properly, on precedent. Examine his record. No, a judge may not "use his office as a pedestal from which to trumpet his beliefs..." How a devout Catholic wrestles with his conscience when interpreting Roe v. Wade is his business, but he had better follow the law. We'd expect the same from a strict vegetarian hearing a suit involving McDonalds.

My point is that individuals acting in a public capacity are entitled to their own convictions, religious or otherwise. It's how they act in their official capacity that should be the test of their qualifications.

Holy Roller Judges? Razor, I agree with what you say entirely, but you seem to be arguing the question of whether judges should use the ten commandments as precedent. To be fair, I haven't heard Justice Moore argue that he should do so (though I admit I haven't been following this story that closely), nor have I. (Flyer will have to justify his points himself.) I'm simply questioning whether the commandments might have a fair place as a symbolic monument. Obviously a monument to a great lawgiver like Solon (whose image is on a bas-relief in the House of Representatives, I believe) does not mean that we reason our laws from Solon's. Nor does it make us Greek. Or pagans. It is a symbolic acknowledgement of the ages-old process to codify fair laws, a tradition in which the Jews, and thus the Torah, have their place alongside Solon or Hammurabi or even English common law (however much we may or may not depart from their traditions).

Further, to adjudicate in this case in favor of removing the monument based on your reasoning, we must assume that the 8 presiding justices who decided that it should be removed were motivated out of fear that some judge might get the idea, from walking past the monument presumably, that he should be judging cases based on the commandments. With all due respect to the unknowable court, I doubt that was their reasoning.

Perhaps I have missed your point entirely. Oh, and thanks for clarifying the federal/state First Amendment issue.

The State of the Church: Well, it's like this, regardless of the wording of the Ten Commandments, judges are supposed to interpret laws that were created by the legislature. We all know it's a bit silly to think that's all judges do (once you find a law unconstitutional, you are writing new law - often with a nifty tripartite test). So, a judge shouldn't base his decision on what the Bible tells him to do; rather he should consider precedent and whether the facts before him fit into the precedent. If they don't then you to make a determination from whole cloth - often on what is "fair". In any event, you have to back up your decision on something - you can't just say: "See Commandment no. 4". The point is that reason is supposed to carry the day in judicial interpretation, not blind faith. I realize just about all of our laws (well, not CERCLA) can be traced to the Judeo-Christian legacy, but that is a chicken-and-egg question: Did man beget religion which influenced law, or did God create man and hence his laws?

Here's the key: what if the Judge was faced with interpreting a law that was "legal" but not in accordance with his religious beliefs? Would it be okay to overturn it because God told him to? The Judge cannot use his office as a pedestal from which to trumpet his beliefs (you'll notice the other 8 Justices did not agree with him). The statue wears the imprimatur of the state's highest jurist - it's hard to say therefore that the state is not endorsing a certain belief. Interestingly, witnesses are told to put their hands on "The Bible" when they swear in to testify - but, you're allowed to "solemnly swear OR affirm" thereby giving the atheists an out. I've always thought that Bibles should be taken out of courtrooms - but then again, I have alterior motives.

To answer a question, the 14th Amendment passes the 1st Amendment's contents onto the states, so it's not just a federal issue. Also, and although it's a good point, the fact is that all judiciaries are "established" by the Legislature. Federally, we call them "Article III" judges because, uh, that's where they come from in the Constitution. With the states, it's typically the same. Also, the Alabama District Court had a nice little ditty on this:
"The Chief Justice placed the monument in the Judicial Building Rotunda under his authority as administrative head of Alabama's judicial system. Ala. Const. amend. 328, § 6.10 (administration); Ala. Code § 41-10-275 [*1315] (1975) (leases). His placement of the monument, therefore, has the force of law. The Chief Justice is the only person with the authority to place the monument or remove it, authority given to him by the laws of Alabama. To say that his actions in placing the monument in the Alabama Judicial Building does not constitute a "law" obfuscates the truth of the situation: the monument was placed in the Judicial Building by a state official, acting in his official state capacity, under powers granted to him by state law."
Still More: I'm for a common-sense application of the religion parts of the First Amendment. For example, I don't care if the town's Christians put up Christmas decorations on the square -- as long as they pay for it themselves. When they reach into my pocket to celebrate their religion, that is within the scope of the amendment. I'm not offended by an invocation at the public high school graduation. I realize that many people like to mark such occasions by having a word with their particular almighty. I think it would be more contrary to the spirit of the amendment to deny those people the right to do so in order that a handful of people not be "exposed to religion" against their will. And I don't think school vouchers for religious schools are problematic -- we already allow de facto vouchers for colleges; I can get a Pell grant to go to Catholic University that has some of your tax money in it -- because I am getting only the benefit from that tax revenue that my taxes went to support anyway. That is to say, in the case of public school money rolled into vouchers, that such tax revenue would be spent on my education anyway, so the authority to direct it toward a religious-flavored education on my behalf is not imposing on anyone else.

This, as I said, seems like common sense to me. Religion is part of social and cultural life, particularly in a polity of a smaller size than the country as a whole. To do away with it altogether in the public sphere seems like a baby/bathwater mixup of the plainest sort.

More Church/State: I tend to be suspicious of slippery-slope arguments (see Volokh, here), but since the argument for removing the ten commandments from the courthouse is essentially such an argument (e.g., next we'll have to bow to the monument), it's instructive to turn the slope around. We hear the standard conservative argument all the time (about "In God We Trust" on money, etc.), but look even deeper. If the presence of a monument to the ten commandments is enough to create an intolerable mixing of church and state, what of a town like San Francisco, named unambiguously for a Catholic saint. Surely the person disturbed by the commandments monument should be concerned about living in a town founded on a purely religious name, for there is no secondary meaning to the name itself, as there is, arguably, a secondary meaning to the commandments (i.e., the sanctity, tradition, and enduring of the law). But even if not, what if the town of San Francisco memorialized its namesake with a monument in a public square, a statue to Saint Francis? Surely this does no more to "establish" religion than the naming of the town itself. That is, if the town is clearly named for a Catholic saint, what exactly is made different by, in essence, personifying that name in stone on the common? If you don't think the statue should stand, it's a bit hard to argue that you can abide the name. This slippery slope could get ridiculous. Should we censor political candidates who mention god or quote scripture, so that no one is offended?
Church and State: Regarding Justice Moore, I have to admit that I'm on thin ice, too -- because I'm ignorant of the law here. I'm well aware of the First Amendment and its modern readings, but I don't have a grasp of the impact on the states. Does the amendment only bind the federal government? To wit, Congress shall make no law . . . but Alabama is on its own. We know that the free speech part of the amendment has proved itself over state laws, but what is the precedent for the church/state business? Moreover, in what way, exactly, has Moore violated the amendment? As an official of the judiciary, as he notes, he is not covered by "Congress shall make no law . . ." Does the display of the commandments become a de facto making of law when it takes place in a government building? I don't think so. Nor do I think that a statue to Solon makes a law respecting Greekness; nor does a reference to Solomon make a law respecting Jewishness. Like it or not, the Torah is on the highlight reel of legal history. Doesn't that lend a certain relevance to a judicial setting that places a display outside the purely religious?
Establishment of religion: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore defends his position in the WSJ today. He is determined that his decision to place a Ten Commandments monument in the courthouse is defensible.
We must acknowledge God in the public sector because the state constitution explicitly requires us to do so. The Alabama Constitution specifically invokes "the favor and guidance of Almighty God" as the basis for our laws and justice system. As the chief justice of the state's supreme court I am entrusted with the sacred duty to uphold the state's constitution. I have taken an oath before God and man to do such, and I will not waver from that commitment.
Lovely. And the constitutionality question?
The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." It does not take a constitutional scholar to recognize that I am not Congress, and no law has been passed. Nevertheless, Judge Thompson's order states that the acknowledgment of God crosses the line between the permissible and the impermissible and that to acknowledge God is to violate the Constitution.
I have a few thoughts. First, I love how Amendment 1 is written, with that slight ambiguity that makes modernist interpreters do backflips to makes it read to their advantage. There is no "Chinese Wall" between Church and State, no "separation" as such. There is no reason that religion should not have it's legitimate place in social discourse, but it legal or political. If the Gospels or the Talmud or the Koran is what informs your judgement and guides your moral compass, so be it. By the same token, if the writings or Susan Sontag, the movies of Michael Moore, or the work of Milton Friedman are your intellectual touchstones, that's great too. Politicians, and judges, shouldn't be discounted because of religious convictions, though they shouldn't get bonus piints either. To place the emphasis on a candidate's religion (or membership in another controversial but legitimate group, like PETA) is to say that we can't take issue with one's actual judgements or decisions, so we'll attack what we believe motivates or informs the same. This is lazy and not productive. Religion is one aspect of a person's character, and it's frequently a label that's applied cheaply and inaccurately. Intelligent discourse demands more.

That said, I think Judge Moore is on thin ice. The Ten Commandments is not attributed to a generic g-o-d, a "higher power." It's the central teaching of a particular religion, Christianity, and plopping them down in the foyer comes awfully close to "establishment," even if no law has been passed. And even if I'm wrong legally, I think he'll face a hard time just because of his lack of humility. Something I think God commands of his subjects.

Shoveling Blog against the Tide: A big hand for Viking Pundit Eric Lindholm, a smart blogger and fellow resident of the People's Republic of Massachusetts (Western Province), who got a print-media mention last week in our local daily. When you're conservative in Western Massachusetts, you are the man bites dog story.

By the by, Eric also writes Smarter Harper's, which dissects the frequently misleading statistics in Harper's famous "Index" feature.

The Campaign Finance Mess: An old debate for us, Razor, but it rages on. The smart (and pro-CFR) Peter Beinart at TNR looks at why Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi would select the associate general counsel of the AFSCME government employee union (famously anti-CFR, like other unions) for one of the three Democratic slots on the Federal Elections Commission:
The answer is that Daschle had to publicly support McCain-Feingold--in deference to Democratic voters, who overwhelmingly believe unregulated "soft" money has corrupted our political system. But he is now trying to quietly gut it, because party strategists believe soft money is the only way Democrats can compete financially with the GOP, and interest groups like afscme are determined to keep running the bogus, preelection "issue ads" that give them influence over the party.

With another anti-reform vote on the commission, McCain-Feingold may be doomed. And it didn't have to be this way. Republicans never tire of saying that money is like water, that, if you prohibit one method of fund-raising, smart campaign finance lawyers will simply find loopholes and do much the same thing. But campaign finance loopholes, like tax loopholes, don't appear magically--they appear because enforcement agencies like the FEC don't close them. And they don't close them because Republicans--and Democrats like Daschle and Pelosi--appoint FEC commissioners who they know won't.

Aside from the true believers, nobody really liked McCain-Feingold. It makes it harder to get the money. But it doesn't make it impossible. The point here, of course, is that if the money will keep flowing anyway (with or without the guts of CFR after the courts and the FEC get done with it), why not make the central tenet of CFR to shine the most sunlight on the flow of political money as possible? The unintended consequence of CFR is to force money underground. Why not simply make and enforce disclosure laws that bring the money out in the open and allow Americans to see the trail it leaves? In the business world, we'd call this transparency.
Drawing The Open: Well, I mostly agree with your Friday posts. Since that time, however, Venus has dropped out, and Lindsay can hardly walk. You hate to put the whammy on her, but if J-Cap ever had a chance, this is it. Yes, Clijsters and Justine will be a tough act to beat, but with the home crowd, etc., I like her position. For the men, it could prove entertaining. Roddick has a good seeding position, but his first round opponent is Henman (who is the highest ranked, non-seeded player - exposing his yearly ranking at Wimby for what it is). Henman, you may remember beat Roddick about a month ago in the semi-finals of the Legg Mason tournie. However, on the whole, Roddick is playing on a different level since Gilbert took over the coaching reins. Hewitt's section seems replete only with clay courters, and as such, unless he totally flames out a la Wimby, he's the easy favorite all the way to the Semis. Andre has some serious bangers in his section, which you figure he's licking his chops over. Guys like Kafelnikov and Mirnyi, while intimidating, don't have the all-around game of the world's no. 1 player.

MORE: Here's a thumbnail of just about everyone and their chances.

Friday, August 22, 2003

The Open Brackets: With action starting in Queens on Monday, I figured I'd get some almost-certainly-wrong predictions in. Andre looks like he has a fairly easy bracket. His biggest challenge may come in the first match, where he's drawn the unseeded but talented Spaniard Alex Corretja. Others in the bracket include Kafelnikov, who is seeing an early backside to his career and poses little threat, and Max Mirnyi, who has never quite put it all together. The dark horse in this bracket is Grosjean. Lleyton Hewitt, barring another herculean choke, has his bracket wrapped up. Mistakes could open the door for Srichiphan, who has streaked out of obscurity to be seeded 11th. The third bracket should be Andy Roddick's to lose. He's been a hot hand lately. If he's out before the quarters, he needs more than a new coach. In the final bracket, Roger Federer will be on the spot to prove that Wimby wasn't a fluke. He's a great player, but not a great closer. In Wimby trim he can take the competition in his draw from Wimbledon foe Philippoussis and Aussie Open quarterfinalist David Nalbandian. I hope we see a lot of this talented fellow, but he'll have to play consistently. Alas, in that depratment his flawless recent slam win was an exception. Finally, among those in the running for qualifier spots is Ivo Karlovic, the 6'10" Croatian monster who sent Hewitt packing in England this summer. His height and reach could be potent weapons, though one gets no sense of the overarching skill of a Richard Krajicek, another fellow with a huge reach.

As for the chicks, you know the drill: Venus, Kim, or Justine, with outside chances for J.Cap (unlikely, since she's in Venus's bracket), Lindsay (though her 3-seed is a gift), or one of the Russian ladies' mafia. Speaking of whom, USA Today reports that Anna Kournikova will make it to the Open after all. As an "entertainment reporter" for USA Network.

On another entertainment note, Sampras is going to get weepy at another slam, only this time it won't be because he didn't need his usual "injury" excuse. No offense, Pete; you're great and all, but you should have hung it up at your last Wimbledon when somebody still gave a shit.

Dean's Finance Flip-Flop, Cont.: In TNR's Primary, Jonathan Cohn follows up a half-hearted critique of Howard Dean's decision to opt out of public financing with a half-hearted defense of the fact that he's done it before:
. . . Dean had once signed Vermont's "Clean Elections" law; in 2000, he was planning to run under its auspices, meaning he would forgo serious fundraising efforts and abide by a government-set spending limit in exchange for accepting public campaign financing. But then Dean changed his mind: he opted out of the public system and raised his own money, well beyond the limits the Clean Elections option would have imposed. "All of that moral pontificating didn't amount to much when the money became the issue," said Ruth Dwyer, Dean's Republican opponent in that race. "I've seen him do that on many occasions."

Perhaps. But keep in mind the real circumstances of the 2000 election: It came right in the wake of Dean's most controversial move as governor, signing a bill legalizing civil unions for gay couples. That decision drew the ire of conservative groups and financiers across the nation, enabling Dwyer to opt out of the public system--something she was only too happy to do. Dean's choice was to do the same, in order to keep pace, or to stick with a public finance system that would have left him woefully underfunded against what was about to become the most vitriolic statewide campaign in memory.

Translation: Dean was afraid he would lose under the "Clean Elections" law he signed. Squawk on about out-of-state money if you please, but Dean was in trouble for doing something that many people in Vermont didn't like. (I support civil unions, but I don't dispute the right of Vermonters to have problems with it, particularly how it was imposed.) Supporting public financing until you're in trouble does not demonstrate any strength of character.

I wrote a piece for my town newspaper a couple years ago about integrity in political campaigns. In it I noted that Russ Feingold ran his last senatorial campaign without soft money, reasoning that since his McCain-Feingold bill targeted soft money (even though it was not yet law), he should stand on the principle he supports. The GOP knew that this would make him vulnerable, and Feingold knew that they knew. He won anyway. I don't think I've ever agreed with Russ Feingold on politics, especially campaign finance, but good for him for putting his money where his mouth is.

In contrast I wrote about Massachusetts Rep. Marty Meehan. When Marty first ran, his pet issue was term limits, and he pledged not to run again after four terms. Surprise! He ran again, in 2000, for a fifth term . . . and won a sixth term in 2002. And when a term limits lobbying group ran a television ad pointing out Meehan's duplicity, Meehan's campaign called the ad . . . wait for it . . . "a publicity stunt by a right-wing special interest group." How original.

Dean's flip-flop is sheer political hackery, like Meehan's -- a case of wanting the office more than the principles. No matter how much you gussy it with talk of being financially competetive, Dean flaked out on Clean Elections because he wanted to win re-election.

So that's what it means: In case you're hanging out with any Brits sometime soon, you can use this to understand them.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Agricultural Protectionism: Apropos of your posts, Flyer, though with only a passing mention of textiles, Jacob Levy takes on trade at TNR:
Agricultural protectionism--the combination of quotas, tariffs, and subsidies for farm products--may be the purest example of destructive special-interest politics ever created. Rich countries--with a few exceptions, such as Australia--burden their own populations three times over. The policies cost taxpayers directly--the atrocious 2002 U.S. farm bill is slated to cost $180 billion over ten years. (Worse, annual unbudgeted "emergency" farm spending during the late 1990s accounted for a great deal of the spending boom that squandered much of the predicted budget surplus long before the first Bush tax cut took effect.) In return for their largesse, taxpayers get the privilege of paying higher prices as consumers (and, of course, inflated prices for basic foodstuffs hit the poorest proportionately hardest). And, by locking up an excess of labor and capital in an agribusiness sector that couldn't turn an honest profit on its own, agricultural protectionism inhibits productivity growth, preventing shifts in employment and investment to more productive parts of the economy.

Still, the costs agricultural policies impose on their own societies are manageable in the huge economies of the developed world.

He concludes that the current U.S. position is one of stalemate: with the EU not moving toward liberalizing trade, the U.S. has no incentive toward dropping subsidies:
In the meantime, the ostensible U.S. position is an odd one. We accept the principle that trade in agricultural goods ought to be liberalized, and that this is a matter of justice as well as of efficiency. But we're not willing to give any more than Europe and Japan are--and "Europe," in this case, means "France." The current administration is supposed to be unburdened by the temptation to wait for French approval for everything that happens in the international arena; it's supposed to be willing to indulge some American idealism rather than reducing everything to the cynical level of Gallic sophistication. Where's a bit of unilateralism when you need it?
It's a nice piece of analysis, one that calls the bluff of free-trade-for-free-trade's-sake posturing.
Arnold's Interview: Arnie was going to go on Howard Stern to be questioned about his candidacy (wouldn't it be fun if every candidate had to do that? Gary Bauer? Bill Clinton? Bob Dole? Actually, Dole might hold his own . . .), but the FCC put the kibosh on it, telling Stern he'd have to give equal time to the rest of the candidates. Jeff Jarvis cuts though the bullshit:
This is wrong on so many levels. Stern's show is facing this fight because he's not considered news (hey, there's just as much fluff on three hours of the Today Show -- and Stern makes a helluva lot more news than any other show) and also because the FCC has a hard-on for him. The FCC -- the government -- should not be in a position to determine what is news and what isn't and what we can and cannot hear.
Nobody considers the Today Show news anyway; candidates appear there to hit a demographic. But riddle me this: Didn't Bush and Gore go on Oprah in 2000? I don't recall Oprah being told she had to give the fringe candidates equal time. And Oprah is to the female audience what Howard Stern is to the male audience.
The Arianna Trifecta: Matt Welch on Arianna Huffington, from Hit & Run:
You know you're a professional spots-changer when your own ex-husband -- who not only came out of the closet after the divorce, but came out of the closet and questioned his Republican loyalties, to David Freakin' Brock -- calls you a "chameleon" in that New York Times profile you were waiting for.
Not to Crack Wise after Tragedy: But the WSJ begins a series today on the role of the United Nations. The series is entitled "The U.N.: Searching for Relevance." Trust me, it's buried right next to the WMDs . . .
The Public Schools Study: Gallup and Phi Delta Kappa have published a survey being sold to the news under the headline "Most Americans Oppose Vouchers." (The publication is here, if you care to read it.) First, you should know that Phi Delta Kappa is a public school advocacy group. Now a look at the methodology.

I'll start with vouchers, since that's taking the headline. If you wanted a good sample of the public mood on vouchers, how would you ask the question? I bet you'd use the word "voucher," right? The survey asks:

"Do you favor or oppose allowing students and parents to choose a private school to attend at public expense?
That's one way to describe vouchers, but not the most complete or accurate way. Predictably, it only gets 38% support. (Note that the other side is excellent at this technique, too. Christian education boosters trumpet majority support for vouchers in America, though their questions tend to focus on constitutionality, not desirablility.) The follow-up question does use the word "voucher," and -- unsurprisingly -- support for the voucher concept rises, to 42%. (And when asked of only public-school parents, support goes up another four points.) But this number is unreliable anyway, since the interviewer already got the interviewee on record as opposing the concept. Psychologists can tell you all about priming the cognitive dissonance pump.

Briefly, there are flaws with other parts of the report. For example, the report concludes that Americans have "high regard for the public schools"; this is not true. Rather, Americans display the same prejudices they display in most surveys. They tended to grade their public school as "A" or "B" 48% of the time, while grading public schools nationally as "A" or "B" only 26% of the time. This fallacy is so common in polling as to be almost a gimme statistic. For example, poll victims usually say the same thing about their congressmen: "Mine's OK, but the rest are crooks."

Finally, there is the sampling methodology:

Within each contacted household, an interview was sought with the household member who had the most recent birthday. This frequently used method of respondent selection provides an excellent approximation of statistical randomness in that it gives all members of the household an opportunity to be selected.
Well, sure, if you're willing to live with the downside of statistical randomness. They may have got hold of Gramps, who thinks Old Lady Ferguson still teaches grades 2-5 in a single room down at the little red schoolhouse. (And when the sample age composition tells you only that 38% of those polled were "50 and over," that's not a stretch.)

So what's here? Nothing, really. It's a flawed poll with lax interpretation, sponsored and published by a group with a major stake in the answers. Even if you push aside the influence of PDK and rest on Gallup's reputation, you're really only left with a "popular" polling organization; a political candidate or a product placement manager wouldn't twitch a finger based on Gallup's results. Neither should you.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Outsourcing: Brad DeLong has a long but well worth reading post on outsourcing, globalism, foreign trade and such. I get a little charged up when someone starts talking about Say's Law and David Ricardo, but I think it is the single most important economic principle that we should be teaching schoolchildren. That economics is not zero-sum, country B's economic growth does not come at the expense of country A's, at least not at the macroeconomic level (and trying to control microeconomic indicators is a horrible idea - do you want Tom Delay or Ted Kennedy doing your grocery shopping and haggling for you at the Honda dealer? You'll get rooked). Instead it's the gas in the tank (or hydrogen in the fuel cell) of the economic growth engine. And we don't even need to bore the little buggers with The Wealth of Nations, either, since P.J. O'Rourke has a perfectly good crib sheet.

Props to Instapundi.

Don't miss me too much: I'll be out of contact next couple of days - Uzbekistan is getting a bit uppity - we have ways to ensure cooperation. When I get back, I want to tackle some of Eno's excellent posts on the Democratic race, particularly Liebs, who is getting the short-shrift from the media, no doubt about it. I also want to handicap the U.S. Open, as mentioned before. I'm sure some more will come up.
Dangerous Minds: Oh, I didn't mean for a second to imply that the Dems aren't just as guilty of it. In fact, that is really my point. The Dems have always said the conservatives are dangerous - either for the poor, or for our security, or for the elderly, or.... It's just funny now that the conservatives are using it vs. the liberals. Democrats use fear as the selling point (or anger - as noted below). The GOP always used to just laugh at how inept and bloated the Democrats were. That was the dynamic. Even Limbaugh never called them dangerous. Well, the tide is shifting. The offensive is being brought to the airwaves and the book-readings, and the blogs. The liberals will destroy our country if you let them (it's not hyperbole anymore). For Coulter to call McCarthy a hero while lambasting the Kennedys, for instance, is mind-boggling. Even if you hate the liberal agenda, it's hard to call it nefarious - inept, illogical, sure, but nefarious, no. The effect could be disastrous, I suppose, but the intent is always benign ("free stuff for everyone!"). People like McCarthy (and you have to give Coulter her props; she picked about the worst of the lot) were clearly "dangerous" and nefarious at the same time. I dunno, I just find it funny.
Dangerous Types: A fair point, Razor, particularly applied to Savage. As for Human Events, I don't think I'd ever call them "neoconservative" in the sense we discussed earlier. (Note the prominent picture of Bob Novak, the personification of the old guard, on the site. And Ann Coulter?) That said, the rhetoric from the loony right is quite the same as it is on the loony left -- with a single, rather large exception: the political far right is considered non-mainstream. (This obviously doesn't excuse the rhetoric, but it is worth noting.) The political left-wing is decidedly mainstream. To illustrate the point, yes, right-wing pundits call liberals "dangerous." On the left, though, the candidates themselves call George Bush "dangerous." It's not the crazy old aunt at the family picnic anymore; it's Bill Clinton and Gray Davis and their "GOP power grabs" and attempts to "steal elections [they] cannot win"; Hillary Clinton and her VRWC; John Kerry, who said to George Stephanopolous:
You know, George, the nine of us are here to audition for the important job of challenging a reckless, dangerous, untrustworthy president who never should have taken office.
It's a distinction worth noting.
Re: Corporate doublespeak: Razor, I can't tell you what a laugh I got out of the 'graphs you quoted. If I heard about one more pardigm shift between '96 and '00 I was going over the wall, armed. The damn thing shifted more than Volkswagen with a bad tranny. And nobody knew what the hell it was in the first place. The funny thing is, as a sales peon, we never knew where it was coming from. This helps explain it.
New York-based Deloitte Consulting admits it helped foster confusing,
indecipherable words like "synergy," "paradigm," and "extensible
repository," but now it has decided enough is enough. On Tuesday it will
release "Bullfighter" to help writers of business documents to avoid jargon
and use clear language.
What do they say, "Those who can't do, consult." So Delloitte (and Andersen, and PWCL, and Ernst & Young, since no good idea goes uncopied) came up with all this jargon to confuse the hell out of people so they can sell them software to clean up the mess. These guys are good.
"Dangerous Liberals": I've noticed a slow creep with this term. It used to be that the GOP would just dismiss the Dems as "silly" or "misguided" or "wasteful". But now, there is a growing trend to label the "liberals" as "dangerous". As if they are an organized force that could do harm. For example, go on over to Human Events, the "neo-conservative" periodical. If you subscribe you get a "Dangerous Liberals" 52-deck of cards to peruse and, supposedly, use as a dart board. Also, last night Michael Savage was back on the air on WOR in NYC. He is absolutely convinced (like a Bizarro Hillary) of a left-wing cabal bent on not only destroying the American Way of Life, but him as well. He gives paranoid a new meaning, and if I didn't think he only did it for the ratings, he might even worry me. But, that's talk radio, and that's why conservatives are so much more entertaining to listen to.

Knowing more than my share of what are being called "liberals" (usually done with considerable phlegm in the throat), and if there's one word I would not use to describe them, it's "dangerous". Hmmm, could it be a marketing ploy?
This Gosh Darned Madcap World! From Reuters's "Oddly Enough" file: Two Cuban Gymnasts Defect in California:
Two Cuban gymnasts in California for the World Gymnastics Championships have defected and are seeking asylum in the United States, their attorney said Tuesday.
Oddly enough! No doubt that goes right into that man-bites-dog category. I mean, who knew that people would want to leave that sunny workers' paradise, with its free medical care and emphasis on education, for the corrupt capitalist nightmare to the North? Next they'll try to tell us that all those Ukranians weren't actually on the Scarsdale diet after all.
Newt's Follow-Up: Much press attention was given to Newt Gingrich's speech to the American Enterprise Institute earlier this year when he called for a major reorganization of the State Department. His follow-up is in the non-partisan journal Foreign Policy. For gist, he says:
The State Department needs to experience culture shock, a top-to-bottom transformation that will make it a more effective communicator of U.S. values around the world, place it more directly under the control of the president of the United States, and enable it to promote freedom and combat tyranny. Anything less is a disservice to this nation.
More specifically, Gingrich argues that, consciously or not, State serves to undermine administration policy in the world by operating under a structure and according to principles that will prove increasingly ineffective in the post-9/11 world. Much like the UN, it exists as a closed society and an insular culture. To offer just one example of my own, consider Egypt, a State-Department ally, nominally friendly government, and recipient of massive U.S. aid, whose state-run media expose the unfriendly, anti-American side that Foggy Bottom ignores. In a world where the rhetoric of Islamic extremism may be a leading indicator of threat, wouldn't it be useful to treat such relationships with a realpolitik outlook? For another example, see Arabia, Saudi.

When Gingrich first brought this up, it was dismissed in the press as a partisan shot at the perceived doveishness at Foggy Bottom. But the bipartisan Hart-Rudman commission on national security (which co-chairman Gary Hart touted as resume material during his brief flirtation with presidential candidacy) came to similar conclusions about the efficacy of the department in the 21st century. To wit:

This Commission believes that the Secretary of State should be primarily responsible
for the making and implementation of foreign policy, under the direction of the President. The State Department needs to be fundamentally restructured so that responsibility and accountability are clearly established, regional and functional activities are closely integrated, foreign assistance programs are centrally planned and implemented, and strategic planning is emphasized and linked to the allocation of resources. While we believe that our NSC and State Department recommendations make maximal sense when taken together, the reform of the State Department must be pursued whether or not the President adopts the Commission’s recommendations with respect to the NSC Advisor and staff.

. . . We cannot emphasize strongly enough how critical it is to change the Department of State from the demoralized and relatively ineffective body it has become into the President’s critical foreign policymaking instrument.

(Italics in original; bold mine.) One can certainly argue that Gingrich, as a Republican, likes the idea of a State Department more directly under the guidance of a strong GOP president, and would be uncomfortable with the hand of, say, Howard Dean on the wheel. Nonetheless, Gingrich's suggestions, along with the recommendations of the commission, argue coherently for change.
The Legislative Formula: The Canadian Grand Prix finds itself off the schedule next year because of Canadian legislation restricting tobacco advertising. Many of the racing teams are sponsored by tobacco companies. In fact, many of the storied names in racing are closely linked with tobacco brands: Silk Cut, John Player, and -- dominant today -- Marlboro. As John Spiridakis details, at TCS:
When the law was passed in 1997, the Canadian Grand Prix was granted a six-year grace period before the strict ban on tobacco advertising at sporting events would be enforced. The deadline for this reprieve is October 1 of this year. The Formula One teams have agreed to a self-imposed ban on tobacco advertising, effective 2006. Yet, with few exceptions, the teams refuse to race in countries with bans currently in place. Most of the newer Grands Prix on the calendar are being organized in countries such as China and Bahrain, where tobacco advertising is not an issue.

The news of the demise of their largest tourist event has hit Les Montréalais hard. The French-Canadian city relies heavily on tourism and along with a horde of race fans, the annual Grand Prix brings in an estimated US$60 million of revenue.

As Spiridakis reports, Canadian politicians are investigating remedies, but have strictly ruled out modifying the law. It's hard to imagine what sort of solution is available, though, with the law in place as written. This is, as Spiridakis observes, a real shame. Montreal is a great setting for a race, with the course beautifully laid out on an island in the St. Lawrence. It's also the only race an American can easily see in person (leaving aside the silliness of running F1 cars at Indianapolis these past few years). Yet another whack at the decidedly non-powerhouse Canadian economy courtesy of the good intentions of the political left.
Like Attic Greek: Flyer probably has more experience in today's topic than either myself or Eno: corporate-speak. Ever come across language like this:
"XXX Consulting Corporation specializes in the implementation of strategic objectives, change management and skills training. Our clients are from both corporate and social sectors in the United States, Europe and Asia. The XXX network is comprised of over 40 consultants and training specialists working on projects spanning the globe in both established and emerging markets. Our practices are grounded in action learning methodologies and high-performance team protocols."
Or this:
"The basic objective of the Strategic Retail Management Programme is to drive learning in core strategic retailing areas such as embracing the appropriate retail value paradigm, retail market structure analysis and retail life cycle trends, segmentation and positioning in a competitive retail environment, creating the right service mindset, managing the retailer and manufacturer brand mix, and developing successful market entry strategies.
I find this stuff fascinating because I'm amazed anyone has a clue as to what it means. More importantly, these snippets are from websites trying to entice people to use their stuff - I suppose the core paradigm strategy is to make them feel stupid, and thus, have them believe you are smart.
On That Note: Here's TNR on the very issue of Lieberman's campaign against a luftward lurch:
. . . only one of Lieberman's problems is that he's seen as too conservative to be the party's presidential nominee. The other, as Will Saletan recently pointed out, is that he's seen as too wimpy to be the party's (for that matter any party's) nominee. By attacking his fellow Democrats for their leftward drift, Lieberman may be exacerbating one problem, but he's probably solving another.
I think it's fascinating that the W-word has reappeared -- the very label George Bush the Elder fought off. Sure, Lieberman seems a little milquetoast-y. And he talks like the father from the TV show "Alf." But while John Kerry rides around an a motorcycle wearing his dude-shades (and recalling Dukakis in the tank), Rabbi Joe has firmly (but politely!) pushed his homeland security cred, which he has over all the other candidates; his hawkishness on Iraq, for which he cites (and always has cited) the far more appealing humanitarian justification that TNR itself pushed, and which the Bush team is now trying to co-opt with the WMD hunt going at less than a kettle-rattling boil; and his generally conservative fiscal positions, where he might just be able to flank Dubya and hit from the right.

I think Lieberman could win, but he's getting no oxygen with Dean and Kerry arguing over the centimeter of straight-up liberal turf left to stand on.

The Tenor of 2004: Terry Eastland writes in the Weekly Standard that Democrats, courting real risk, are running solely on anger right now:
The case being made against Bush is that, on matters both foreign and domestic, he misleads if he doesn't intentionally lie and that his presidency endangers not terrorists but law-abiding Americans. That is a harsh indictment that, while pleasing to the base, has yet to appeal to voters in the middle who don't share the Democratic hatred toward Bush and don't regard his presidency as a continuous act of deception designed to destroy America.
An obvious point perhaps, but one worth a moment's pursuit. I received my first Bush/Cheney solicitation yesterday, a letter asking me to give money or time to help "campaign efforts in your town." (If I may digress momentarily, here's my contribution to Bush/Cheney: Don't waste your time or money in my town. You lost it already by virtue of not being Howard Dean. The downside is that you'll probably lose Massachusetts, too. The upside? It shows you're doing something right.)

The Bush/Cheney letter hit exactly the right note for the 2004 campaign: It was friendly, but did not fail to address me as Mr. Enobarbus. (All the letters we get from the liberal side assume first-name familiarity.) It mentioned the threat from terrorists, but did not dwell on fear. It asked for help to re-elect the president, but made no mention of the other side; to read the letter one might suspect Bush was running against al-Qaeda, not the Democrats, in 2004. (Ann Coulter will tell you the same thing.)

I haven't received any mail from the Dems yet, though I'm certain I will -- I know for a fact that I'm on both mailing lists. It will be interesting to see if the eventual Dem nominee stays with the angry, aggressive tone. I think it's a losing tenor for 2004, as much as it was a losing tenor in 1996, when the all-but-official GOP slogan was "Anyone But Clinton." So far, Lieberman has come the closest to running a campaign without the "Bush Is The Enemy" theatrics, and even he has had to cut it close. Is it any wonder, then, that Lieberman continues to poll ahead of Kerry and Dean nationally? It's partly name recognition, but with the way the press has covered Dean's white-hot rise from obscurity, there must be another contributing factor.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Quote: Dennis Prager quotes a tax-cutting ideologue:
This administration pledged itself last summer to an across-the-board, top-to-bottom cut in personal and corporate income taxes . . . I'm not talking about a quickie or a temporary tax cut, which would be more appropriate if a recession were imminent; nor am I talking about giving the economy a mere shot in the arm to ease some temporary complaint. I am talking about the accumulated evidence . . . that our present tax system . . . exerts too heavy a drag on growth . . . that it siphons out of the private economy too large a share of personal and business purchasing power; that it reduces the financial incentives for personal effort, investment and risk-taking.
Yep, it was Kennedy.
Passion Play: Tempers continue to run high over Mel Gibson's The Passion. (Think Reuters picked this photo intentionally? Holy crap, he loves baby Jesus and he smokes!) I was happy to see Boston Globe columnist and Reason contributor Cathy Young taking up the issue, but I was less impressed with what she came up with:
The biblical account of Jesus' life and death should not be sacrificed to political correctness. But the cry of "political correctness" can also become a cover for very real bigotry.
That's a bit glib and jejune for a columnist as sharp as Young. When just about anyone else creates art of a controversial nature, the left rushes to defend the various freedoms being trampled under critical foot. Think of Andres Serrano or Chris Ofili. The right, meanwhile, insists on sensitivity and respect. On the issue of Gibson's movie, both sides seem to be getting a cheap thrill from hoisting the other side by its own petard. (There is, of course, a minor distinction to be made: Gibson is financing the picture himself, without the help of taxpayers.)

In the end, I'm disappointed to see Young ignore the underlying issue, which is not bigotry, blasphemy, art, or political correctness. It's money. And the claims by Jewish groups like the ADL that the movie will "fuel anti-Semitism" are worth the scrutiny. For example, if the claim is true, what is the proper remedy? Who decides if the public can handle the release of this film without burning synagogues? Are these even issues we want to introduce into the art world? As I implied in mentioning Gibson's self-financing, there is a legitimate debate over the content of art that citizens are forced to support in the form of tax revenue that goes to, among others, the National Endowment for the Arts. But that legitimacy does not hold here. Those offended by the film can picket theaters, write letters denouncing the film, organize a boycott -- whatever. But I wish they would please leave off the open ended (in their words) "expressing [of] concern" over it, as though implying that someone (perhaps Joe Lieberman) should step in and take care of this. Perhaps I'm jumping the gun a bit on this, but when people start "expressing concern," I foresee calls for censorship not too far behind.