November 04, 2005

Nothing turns me on more than the use of the term "patriarchy" by an older woman...Pandagon gives great ad for Abercrombie & Fitch. FWIW, I like the "Freshman 15" t-shirt !!!

November 03, 2005

Hasta la vista, maybe? With less than five days to go, Ahnold's "reform package" in the special election the taxpayers are spending millions on is apparently stiffing across the board. The Field Poll, which has had the best local rep in California for accurately predicting election outcomes, has every initiative trailing, including the one's (such as the requirement for parental notification before teenage girls can have abortions, and two different prescription drug measures) that are only piggy-backing on the Governor's slate, while the latest LA Times poll shows only the parental notification initiative passing, albeit by a slight amount. Both Field and the Times show Ahnold Ziffel losing head-to-head match-ups with his likely Democratic opponents in next year's election, an amazing result considering no one has ever heard of the guys.

Moreover, it appears that the biggest difficulty these measures are having is their association with the Governor. Another set of polls conducted last month had the same initiatives passing overwhelmingly, after respondents were read a brief (albeit misleading) summary. As soon as the propositions get tied to their sponsor, though, the voters seem to recoil like children from a bowl of leftover brussel sprouts. In fact, Schwarzenegger has not only been the kiss of death for his own proposals, he's also killing off the initiatives he has nothing to do with, including the two diametrically opposite propositions dealing with prescription drug reforms (one sponsored by Big Pharma, the other by consumer groups), as well as the parental notification initiative.

If things stand, not an auspicious start to his reelection campaign....
A lot of people talk about a constitutional right of privacy, but no one seems to want to do anything about it. Until now. So what would an amendment contain?
This article is rather typical of the "analysis" we're hearing in the debate over Alito's prospects in the Senate, so I think it bears repeating that whether the Democrats can successfully block the nomination has absolutely nothing to do with whether Mike DeWine or Lindsay Graham, or for that matter, any Republican member of the "Gang of 14" decides to support a filibuster. If this proves to be a particularly unpopular nominee (as polls from Gallup and ABC-Washington Post already are beginning to show), there will be plenty of other Republicans in the Senate who will be more than happy, when push comes to shove, to defend the prerogatives of the Senate.

The key is whether Harry Reid can keep 41 members of his caucus on the reservation. Then, if Bill Frist (or whoever the Majority Leader will be next January) wishes to invoke the Nuclear Option, we'll see how much support the President, who's approval rating is now hovering in the area Nixon's was at the time of the Saturday Night Massacre, has within his own caucus. If he has the votes, Alito will be confirmed, but the death of the filibuster will be at hand, and a longstanding progressive goal will be accomplished. If he doesn't have the votes, no one will care which side DeWine or Graham falls on.

UPDATE [9/7]: Rick Hertzberg comes to much the same conclusion about why an attempted filibuster may be worthwhile even if the Nuclear Option is imposed, but with bigger, fancier words, in the New Yorker.

November 02, 2005

Since I read this post on Saturday, I have been searching for something, anything, to write in response. Words just aren't adequate to describe the debt bloggers in Southern California owe to Cathy Seipp; she has been one of the prime movers (infiltrators?) within traditional media to open that institution up to bloggers, and the frequent seminars/parties/wine swigs that the LA Press Club hosts under her auspices (as well as Amy Alkon and Emmanuelle Richard) have enabled bloggers to network with those who write for a living, and vice versa. Everytime someone like myself, or Brady Westwater, or "Patterico", gets a piece published in the Sunday opinion section of the LA Times, it is the subtle influence of Ms. Seipp at work, playing a role behind the scenes to open up the Fourth Estate to freelancers, bloggers, and other miscreants throughout the Greater Los Angeles-Long Beach-Orange County metropolitan area.

She is loyal to her friends (and, as evidenced by the rollicking comments section to one of her typical blogposts, no collection of friends was ever so wildly divergent on the political spectrum as hers), a devoted mother to "Cecile", who has inherited her mother's literary gene, and is also wicked funny, both in print and in person. There aren't many websites that have this humble endeavor on its blogroll, much less websites whose politics are as politically dissimilar to mine as Cathy's World. But there is no website on which I'm prouder to be linked.
Cat Fight !! James Wolcott, on David Corn deciding to sully his good name by associating with conservatives:
...I don't understand why someone as politically keen as The Nation's David Corn would lend his name to the editorial board of Pajamas Media, the greatest assembly of conservative deadbeats since Jonah Goldberg's last fondue party. What an illustrious roster of ideological utensils make up Pajamas' masthead: Michael Barone...John Podhoretz...Tim Blair...and this inveterate stirpot, whose presence all decent men and women should shun until proper disinfectant can be found. By allowing his name to be slated on the editorial board, Corn is letting himself be used as a figleaf enabling Pajamas to pretend that it's a bipartisan effort instead of what it so flagrantly is, a neocon popstand.
David Corn, in response:
...I look forward to a new Internet enterprise that seeks to promote varying views, even if the idea came from conservatives. And if James Wolcott, whose work I admire and respect, can bring himself to be associated with a magazine (which I admire and respect) that makes mucho bucks by placing Paris Hilton's jugs in front of our mugs, perhaps I can see if being associated with rightwingers will benefit this blog, my work, and my readers. If not, I'll be happy to chuck it all for a column at Vanity Fair. James, thanks for the vote of confidence.
I'm on Corn's side on this issue. The whole notion that one should not associate with, befriend, or do business with people you disagree is offensive to me. Liberals should not fear engaging the enemy with civility.

October 31, 2005

You can't win them all? This seems to have pissed off Chris Matthews for its alleged anti-Italian undertones, but reading this, together with Alito's bizarre dissent cited below gives me the feeling that the new nominee may combine the moderation of Antonin Scalia with the cluelessness of Harriet Miers:
Federal law enforcement agencies sustained a major rebuff in their anti-mafia campaign with the August 1988 acquittal of all 20 defendants accused of making up the entire membership of the Lucchese family in the New Jersey suburbs of New York. The verdict ended what was believed to be the nation’s longest federal criminal trial and according to the Chicago Tribune, dealt the government a “stunning defeat.” Samuel Alito, the US Attorney on the case, said, “Obviously we are disappointed but you realize you can’t win them all.” Alito also said he had no regrets about the prosecution but in the future would try to keep cases “as short and simple as possible.” Alito continued, “I certainly don’t feel embarrassed and I don’t think we should feel embarrassed.” (emphasis added)
Jeez, why not nominate Marcia Clark next time? [link via TownHall]
More on Scalito: John Cole threatens to hold his breath if the opposition to the nominee gets too vehement:
If I hear one more person state that Alito is in favor of strip searching 12 year olds, or in favor requiring women to notify their husbands if they intend to have an abortion, or in favor of racial discrimination, or whatever, I am going to blow a gasket.
I don't know of anyone who has stated that Alito favors "strip searching 12 year olds" (actually, the referenced case involved the strip-search of a ten-year old girl), or "requiring women to notify their husbands if they intend to have an abortion", or "racial discrimination, or whatever"*. The problem with Bush's latest sacrifical lamb to the high court is that he supports a legal process that permits the strip-searching of children, that forces women to notify their husband before terminating a pregnancy, and that makes fighting racial discrimination harder for our society. Liberals should have no hesitancy in opposing that sort of judicial activism.

*"whatever", although undefined by Mr. Cole, may well be in reference to his eloquent dissent in Riley v. Taylor (3rd Cir.2001) 277 F.3d 261, in which he drew an analogy between a prosecutor excluding black jurors during voir dire in a death penalty case that involved a black defendant, and the election of left-handed Presidents:
According to the majority, however, the "sophisticated analysis of a statistician" is not
needed to interpret the significance of these statistics. "An amateur with a pocket calculator," the majority writes, can calculate that "there is little chance of randomly selecting four consecutive all white juries."


The dangers in the majority's approach can be easily illustrated. Suppose we asked our "amateur with a pocket calculator" whether the American people take right- or left-handedness into account in choosing their Presidents. Although only about 10% of the population is left-handed, left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections. Our "amateur with a calculator" would conclude that "there is little chance of randomly selecting" left-handers in five out of six presidential elections. But does it follow that the voters cast their ballots based on whether a candidate was right- or left-handed?
Ibid., at 326-7. And thus, we get to the core of the conservative argument against civil rights: preventing blacks from sitting on juries is about as worrisome as electing left-handed Presidents.
Sloppy Seconds: Well, this nomination is going to generate some can tell what a party of stiff, white men the GOP has become by the fact that they're already trumpeting the fact that Alito is a "son of immigrants" as his principal qualification, rather than defend his odious reactionary views. What should be interesting is not how many Republican Senators vote against the nominee, but how many signal their opposition before the hearings.

October 30, 2005

Fill in the Blank: The Los Angeles Dodgers will not win another World Series until Bill Plaschke _____________.

It is always a bad idea to allow sportswriters to run your team. There is an inherent conflict of interest: a good GM needs to find the players best suited to win games, while a sportswriter, not bound by the traditional journalistic tenets of strict objectivity, has a vested interest in protecting players who are polite to him in the locker room, and/or give "good copy". Most sportswriters, and particularly baseball writers, are white, so they have a cultural bias in favor of white players over non-whites, who tend to be "moody" and disrupt "team chemistry", especially if they are like (to quote Mr. Plaschke this morning) the "malingering Odalis Perez".

When the scribe is as stupid, as intellectually dishonest, and as bound to the use of hoary cliches and racial code as his guiding philosophy as the aforementioned Mr. Plaschke, who occupies the seat in the LA Times Sports section that Jim Murray used to hold, it can be a nightmare for all concerned. Murray, of course, won bushels of journalistic awards, including the Pulitzer, as a witty vox populi, until old age and illness turned him into a golf writer at the end of his tenure. Plaschke, an all-around know-nothing, has used his pedestal to conduct fatwas against whomever in the Dodger organization expresses a disinterest in kissing the great man's ring, including, it appears, Paul DePodesta.

DePodesta had been the GM for exactly two seasons, one of which they actually managed to win a division title and their first playoff game since 1988. He inherited a team that hadn't seen the playoffs in eight years, with almost no offense (other than the occasional Paul LoDuca single or Shawn Green solo shot), but with a solid rotation and perhaps the most dominant stopper in baseball history. He traded for Milton Bradley, signed Jose Lima, had the good fortune to witness one of the great fluke seasons in baseball history by Adrian Beltre, then acquired Steve Finley with a month to go in the season. And he traded LoDuca, a favorite of the beat writers and fans, and the principal reason Dodger fans eventually got over the Mike Piazza trade,
that same weekend, for Brad Penny and Hee Seop-Choi, neither of whom played much of a role down the stretch in 2004. Finley, of course, did, hitting one of the most dramatic home runs in franchise history to clinch the division.

The 2004 Dodgers were clearly a project assembled for one year, tops; unlike the 1996 Yankees or the 2002 Angels, the players on that team, other than Gagne, Beltre and (maybe) Cesar Izturis, were not going to be a factor on any Dodger team the day they enter the Promised Land of a World Series. LoDuca, while a quality major-league catcher, is not the type of backstop who will turn a loser into a winner; trading him wasn't as stupid, as, say, trading Pedro for Delino DeShields, or Paul Konerko for Jeff Shaw (to name two trades in which Tommy Lasorda, the McCourts' new factotum at the top, played a pivitol role). The McCourts blundered in not resigning Beltre, but the players they did sign in the off-season (Kent and Drew) were more than acceptable substitutes, especially considering the disappointing year Beltre had. Then Gagne pulled up lame in June, followed by Drew and Odalis Perez, and the Dodgers collapsed.

The Dodgers were going to have to start a rebuilding process, pronto, based on the fruits of their minor league system, if they were going to avoid the problems afflicting the team since 1996. But any GM who follows such a philosophy is bound to have problems with the media, since, again, sportswriters have an institutional bias towards players/sources they know, rather than kids playing in some far-off minor league town that they don't. Because free agency is a viable option with large-market teams, that problem will be exacerbated in a town like Los Angeles.

The Dodger farm system has consistently been one of the most productive in all of baseball, as evidenced by the major league-leading total of Rookies of the Year awards its players have won, but if there has been a recurring theme in our local media, it's that our farm system doesn't produce, and our prospects always flop. Ironically, Lasorda, who first drew attention managing one of the all-time great minor league teams, the Albuquerque Dukes, in the early-70's, was a proponent of this view, and he normally wouldn't play a rookie unless management held him at gunpoint. After it took him two years to make Pedro Guerrero a full-time player, the GM at the time, Al Campanis, finally decided that the only way to give a kid a chance was to take the decision out of Lasorda's hands; some of the oddest, most one-sided transactions in team history came when the Dodgers dismantled their great but aging team from the '70's, in order to give time to players like Mike Marshall, Orel Hershiser, and Steve Sax. A similar process happened in the early-90's, when Mike Scioscia, Eddie Murray, Alfredo Griffin and the aforementioned Mr. Hershiser were cast off to give their spots to another generation of players, including Mike Piazza and Hideo Nomo.

And each of those moves was unpopular with the local media. And every time a rookie didn't immediately produce, there were demands from the likes of Mr. Plaschke to trade the loser. The aforementioned trades of Pedro Martinez and Paul Konerko were cheered locally, since it meant the Dodgers were picking up a known quantity, and not risking their future on some unproven kid. For all the goodwill he brought the franchise over the years, Tommy Lasorda's impact on the organization as a whole was akin to a viral pandemic. The talents of a great motivational speaker are not the same as a great baseball mind.

This year, the decision to go with the untried was made easier for the Dodgers. There were so many injuries from Day One that the manager had to use untested players, or else he couldn't field a team. When DePodesta decided not to gut the farm system at the trade deadline in order to give a team that was already ten games below .500 a shot at catching San Diego, he made the right move for the long haul.

The wisdom of playing for the long haul, in order to build something lasting and good, is hard to grasp if you are a sportswriter less interested in the pursuit of the truth than in getting your column into print three times a week. Matt Welch has a good summary of Mr. Plaschke's greatest hits, but I have my own favorite, which of course had to do with a code-filled tirade of his against an African-American player for the Angels, Garret Anderson, during the 2002 World Series. Local fans are inclined to blame the owners, the McCourts, for this incompetent move, and I can't say there isn't some merit to that, but the real blame has to go to the moron, who, from his prominent perch, created the atmosphere that made this firing inevitable.