7/13/2002

Fly the locked-and-loaded skies I'm somewhat of an agnostic on the issue of allowing airline pilots to carry guns as a deterrent to hijacking. I don't oppose the idea, since it's rather hard to make the case that the events of 9/11 could have turned out any worse with armed pilots on board. Given the recent news stories about drunk pilots, all I'm asking is that there be some kind of oversight when it comes to determining who gets to carry guns on a plane. Is it too much to ask that the gun-toting pilots be required to take regular marksmanship and gun-safety tests?

What I really want to know is how much has been done with the proposals to reinforce cockpit doors? This June 19 Reuters story contains the following quote from Minnesota Rep. James Oberstar about the proposal to arm pilots:

The House Transportation Committee's ranking Democrat, Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, had called the original House proposal "horrible." He said he embraced the compromise on Wednesday because other security measures, such as reinforced cockpit doors and the screening of all baggage for explosives, were not completely in place.

How "not completely in place" are they?

One thing I did find while searching for information was this Aviation Safety newsletter from April, which pointed to this Transport Canada news release. Here's what our neighbors to the north are doing:

The Government of Canada has already made numerous enhancements to the air transportation security system since the attacks of September 11, 2001. For example, the Government of Canada:
  • required that cockpit doors on all Canadian airlines' passenger flights, domestic and international, be locked for the full duration of flights; and

  • committed more than $2.2 billion in the December 2001 budget to new aviation security initiatives, including:

    • the creation of the new Canadian Air Transport Security Authority, which is responsible for the provision of several key aviation security services including pre-board screening;

    • implementing a national program of armed RCMP officers on selected domestic and international flights;

    • funding of up to $128 million per year for pre-board screening; and

    • funding of more than $1 billion over the next five years for the purchase, deployment, maintenance and operation of new explosives detection systems.

Coulter gets scammed Atrios, who just recorded his 50,000th hit, points to this hilarious interview of Ann Coulter by topnotch Coulter-mocker Scoobie Davis. Basically, Davis used a legit media contact to help set up a telephone interview with Coulter on the premise that he was a Rush-style local radio host. The result is a hoot.

Meanwhile, Alex Frantz opens to a random page of Coulter's potboiler and finds several things to dissect, including a patently wrong claim about the first Reagan-Mondale debate of 1984. You really have to wonder about people who consider Ann Coulter to be a reliable source of information.

7/12/2002

A lot of people have commented on this earlier post which speculated about a John Kerry-John McCain Democratic ticket for President in 2004. (Once again, trust not the permalinks. Search for "Rob Humenik" if it fails to take you to the right place.) People, this is the political equivalent of pretending to be the general manager of your favorite sports team. We may as well debate about the guys who call into radio sports-talk shows and say things like "What if the Royals traded Neifi Perez for Miguel Tejada? Do you think they could get in the wild card race then?" It's just sound and fury.

That said, there are a couple of things to address. One theme in the comments, a theme I've seen elsewhere as well, is that the Democrats must be really desperate to win in 2004 to consider letting a RINO like John McCain on the ticket. Well, yeah, of course they're desperate to win in 2004. They damn well better be desperate to win in 2004, just as the Republicans were desperate to win in 2000. When a party doesn't feel at least a little bit of desperation (the corporate weasel-speak that I'd use here is "a sense of urgency"), they nominate guys like Michael Dukakis. (When voters don't feel that sense of urgency, they cast their ballots for Ralph Nader.) You better believe I want the Dems to figure out who has the best chance to oust Team Bush in 2004.

Yeah, but McCain doesn't believe in all the things that Democrats believe in, I hear you cry. Sure, but so what? The only potential candidate who believes in everything I do is me, and I ain't running in 2004. I've long since accepted the fact that whoever I punch the chad for in an election is a compromise of some sorts. McCain likes vouchers and has a pro-life voting record? I'll weight that against what I perceive to be his positives, as well as the pros and cons of any alternatives, and I'll consider his odds of helping a ticket win versus someone else's, and make my choice. What's so hard about that? It's not like you Bush voters haven't had to make compromises, unless of course you supported steel tariffs, McCain-Feingold, the farm bill, and the Kennedy education bill. Are you going to change your vote in 2004?

And if McCain wants this, he'll have to make compromises, too. He can start by saying "Though I personally oppose abortion, I no longer think the state should prevent a woman from getting one." Again, it's not like he'll be the first or only politician to ever do such a thing for a prize like the Oval Office. Back in the 1960s there was a Houston congressman who was so progressive on issues of contraception that his nickname was "Rubbers". In a subsequent Presidential primary, he derided an opponent's plan to balance the budget while cutting taxes and increasing defense spending as "voodoo economics". Needless to say, that was Poppy Bush, and he changed his tune on both subjects pretty quickly when he was approached about costarring with Reagan in 1980.

Sure, the True Believers may never fully accept McCain as a Democrat, just as they never accepted Poppy Bush as a conservative Republican. Someone would have to convince them that the alternative of four more years of Dubya is worse. It wouldn't be easy, and in fact I'd bet that a Kerry-McCain ticket would draw spirited opposition in the primary. They'd have to make their case, which I think they'd be able to do, that not only will they ably represent the issues of their supporters, they're also the ticket with the best chance to ever be able to represent those issues.

In the comments to Rob's post, August J. Pollack suggests that the legal issues of divvying up federal campaign funds when there's a two-party ticket involved would bring the whole thing to a screeching halt. While I agree that this would be a legal nightmare, the answer is obvious - McCain would have to switch parties first. Like I said, if he wants it he'll do what it takes.

Finally, a commenter named Zizka thinks that McCain is pulling a fast one on us liberal suckers, and that once in power he'd revert to his previous conservative ways. That's an interesting thought, but I think it's way too deep a position for McCain to take. If he wanted to screw liberals, he could have sucked it up, made nice to Bush, and helped push Bush's agenda through Congress.
Another view David Pinto, who was for many years the lead researcher for ESPN's Baseball Tonight, (and who, alas, has been struck by the Blogger permalink bug) has some words on the competitive balance issue. Check it out.
More competitive balance and salary cap stuff Jeff Cooper has published his promised response to my most recent post about competitive balance in baseball. (Note: My permalink worked when I clicked it, but if it takes you somewhere weird, go back to the top of this page and search for "Fran Blinebury". If Jeff's doesn't work, search for "Charles Kuffner" at the top of his page.)

Jeff focuses on the period since 1995, when baseball signed its last Collective Bargaining Agreement, and came to the conclusion that baseball does indeed have less competitive balance than the NFL. He suggests that the revenue sharing in the NFL as well as its salary cap have helped it to enable more teams to truly compete for playoff spots than in baseball during the comparable timespan.

I don't deny that the rapid increase in average salary in MLB has made it very difficult for small market teams to compete, though it should be noted that when MLB talks about "small markets", they often include places like Houston and Philadelphia, while lumping Seattle and Cleveland as "large market". If you can wrap your mind around that, you're more limber than I am.

What I do dispute is the following:
  1. The NFL model has led to greater competitive balance

  2. The NFL model would be an appropriate one for baseball to adopt

  3. A salary cap would help small market teams to compete better

  4. Competitive balance is in itself a good thing

In order:
  1. Joe Sheehan has put forth the best argument regarding the NFL's competitive balance: It's mostly perception based on a small number of games and a large number of playoff spots (12 for the NFL versus 6 for MLB). In many years, a 6-8 team still has a shot at the NFL playoffs, whereas a 60-80 MLB team is probably 20 games out. The NFL has an unbalanced schedule that rewards weaker teams, so it's not unusual for a 6-10 or 7-9 team to make no significant changes and win a wild card with a 9-7 or 10-6 record the next year.

    If you allow 12 teams (6 from each league) to the MLB playoffs, you add Toronto, Minnesota, Anaheim, and Montreal to Jeff's chart. As the yearly standings show, many years any club over .500 would be in contention. Isn't that how it is in football?


  2. In the same Baseball Prospectus article linked above, Sheehan also discusses how the NFL, with its national TV revenue, operates on a completely different financial model than MLB. For one thing, there's no such thing as a "small market" in the NFL since everyone gets 1/32nd of the TV money, and even if there were it has no effect on competitiveness, as teams have been willing to move from LA to St. Louis and Oakland as well as from Houston to Memphis.


  3. Back in the golden days of the reserve clause, when salaries were entirely dependent on what the owners wanted to pay, there was essentially no competitive balance as I showed back in May. From 1921 to 1964, the Yankees won 29 pennants, while the Cardinals, Giants, and Dodgers combined to win 30. Of the other teams, only Detroit (6) and the Cubs (5) won more than three pennants over this time frame. It's true that there were only two playoff spots per year during this time, but there were also only 16 teams and no such thing as free agency. Having the ultimate salary cap in place was no help to the majority of teams.

    In this article, Joe Sheehan discusses salary caps in much more detail. The Baseball Prospectus has been all over this issue for months now.


  4. In baseball, we talk about "competitive balance" as a good thing. In football, the supposed model for competitive balance, we talk about "parity", usually in a negative fashion. In the 1995 to 2001 time period that Jeff discusses, there are usually one or two really good teams in the NFL and a whole lot of mediocre ones that will compete for the playoffs but have no real chance of getting to (much less winning) the Super Bowl. This is directly attributable to their hard salary cap. To quote Sheehan one more time:

    To the extent that the salary cap contributes to competitive balance, I would say that it works negatively: it punishes success, forcing well-built, winning teams to shed talent on a near-constant basis. It also makes it virtually impossible to trade, increasing the impact of a single catastrophic event in a league where teams cannot make adjustments on the fly. A system that punishes success, rather than rewards it, seems an odd construct for any endeavor, and it's one I have difficulty supporting.

    Even in the era of free agency, a well-built baseball team can be competitive for years because they are not forced to make personnel decisions based on an artificial construct. The Yankees can continue to employ players that they developed in their farm system like Mariano Rivera and Bernie Williams because they won't be prohibited from paying them market value when they acheive free agent eligibility. Not to get all Sam the Eagle on you here, but shouldn't hard work and success be rewarded in America?


It's true that teams make deals to dump salary, and it's true that teams let star players go because they can't pay them what they're worth. As the Mariners and A's have shown, this need not be a death sentence. Smart teams make moves to dump overpriced players for prospects, knowing full well that like the Mariners, Astros, Braves, Cardinals, and Indians of the 90s and the A's, Twins, and Reds of today, every team that has invested wisely in their product has been successful.

One final word: Bud Selig and the owners have spent the years since 1995 denigrating their product in order to get people to believe that a device whose only purpose is to limit their costs is good for the game. The first thing they did after the exhilarating and uplifting World Series of 2001 was to announce that they wanted to kill two franchises, one of which is seven games in first place and the other of which has just traded for two All Stars because they think they can win the NL wild card this year. If they had spent this time talking about all of the wonderful, exciting, unique, and historic things that have happened in baseball instead, would you still feel the same way about the state of the game and its finances?
How is wimpy downstream American beer like making love in a canoe? My blog and Real Life buddy Mike Tremoulet is back in the States after an extended gig in London. He's got some pictures from his deportation party here. I just have one thing to say about this:

You're in England! Where they invented the pint! What are you doing drinking Budweiser?!?!

(BTW, if you really don't know the punchline to the joke, admit to it in the comments and I'll post it there.)

7/11/2002

Beelzebud speaks Larry wants to know what I think about this story that two MLB teams might not be able to meet payroll. Well, first and foremost is that I never believe a word that Beelzebud Selig says. Here's a man who, after Forbes challenged his fuzzy math, responded by calling the magazine a "tabloid". When he's too busy to lie, he sends one of his top assistants to do it for him. If Bud Selig tells you that the sky is blue and that water is wet, the odds are that you've been unknowingly transported into an alternate universe in which those things aren't true.

That said, one team that's had cash flow problems for awhile is the Arizona Diamondbacks. I suspect that David Stern would have words for Jerry Colangelo if his straits were that dire, so I wouldn't put too much credence into this. Larry has since posted a report that the Tigers may be such a team, but again, until I see actual proof, I don't believe a word that Selig says.

One of these days I need to write my How I Would Run Things If Baseball Got Wise and Named Me Commissioner Instead Of That Two-Faced Lying Rat Bastard They Have Now manifesto. I suppose I have to decide what my manifesto is first. Details, details...

Oh, and by the way: Larry Simon is a Norse God

(See here if you're confused.)
And the Democratic ticket for 2004 is... Fellow member of the Houston Heights area Axis of Left-Leaning Bloggers Rob Humenik tantalizes us all with a hand-typed excerpt from the latest issue of Men's Journal:

The partnership [between Massachusettes Senator John Kerry and John McCain] is so tight, in fact, that insiders in both camps are speculating about the pair teaming for a 2004 presidential ticket, according to a source close to the buzz -- even without McCain switching parties, as Beltway rumors have previously hinted.

As Rob says, wow. Sign me up. If nothing else, this ticket would answer Craig Biggerstaff's point about how Dems won't be able to take advantage of Team Bush's business missteps until they "find a war footing at least as hawkish as the Republicans and someone credible to offer up as an alternative."
Going to the dogs Liven up your next staff meeting by bringing your dog to the office. It's good for you, according to a British psychologist. Well, it depends on the dog:

[N]ot all canines are suitable for the dog-eat-dog world of business. Animals which have coat odour or flatulence would be inappropriate, as would those who are over-excitable or over-sexed.

I dunno, that sounds pretty typical of most staff meetings I've heard of. On a more common sense level, the good doctor has one more piece of advice:

"It’s not a good idea to go for small dogs who wear ribbons or which are yappy and excitable. Some people have strong prejudices about such animals."

No Fifis need apply. Link via Being Katie.
He's baaaack Phil Donahue has come out of retirement to host a left-wing Larry Kingesque talk show. No word yet when the male strippers will make their first appearance. Link via Ann Salisbury.
Continuing the case that Charles Murtaugh made about why the whole Harken business is likely to be bad for Team Bush, Spencer Ackerman says that there's a simpler way to frame the debate in a Democrat-favoring way:

Throughout his political career, Bush has cited his experience in corporate America as proof that he understands the world of business and is, by extension, a capable steward of the American economy. But if the "charitable" explanation for Bush's explanation is true--if Bush really had no idea about Harken's troubled finances--it casts the president's business experience in a far less flattering light, whatever the legal implications. Put simply, more important than whether Bush is guilty of insider trading, his Harken past shows him to be either lazy, or stupid, or both.
Those who forget the past are doomed to write silly things Allen Barra gives the by-now obligatory outrage about the All Star Game fiasco, then veers off into something really silly.

He starts by giving the managers a pass on their concerns about overusing someone else's pitchers, a concern which Rob Neyer discussed in his All Star Game diary. Here's Barra:

Let's not blame this one on the managers. The managers are always caretakers of their owners' investments, and it is perfectly understandable that a manager wouldn't want to risk overusing (or, just as bad, to be accused of overusing) someone else's pitcher. That's why it was the commissioner's job to overrule the managers' requests -- in other words, to overrule the owners' wishes -- and let the game continue.

Fair enough. But while Neyer suggests that an answer to the extra innings problem is for the fans to name an extra player and pitcher for each team, both of whom are only to be used in "emergencies", Barra takes a detour out into left field:

As for what is to be done if future games go into extra innings, I would have thought the solution to be staggeringly simple: Let the players play. I mean, this isn't the World Series; isn't everyone entitled to a little fun? Why not let the fielders pitch an inning apiece until the issue is settled? Call for volunteers among the players already in the lineup: Who wants to pitch an inning?

Barra is suggesting that any player called on in these circumstances basically throw batting practice, but I still can't help but think of two words here: Jose Canseco. Remember how Canseco blew out his arm pitching an inning of mopup relief in a blowout? However much Lou Piniella might have griped if Freddy Garcia had thrown five or six innings on Tuesday, imagine his reaction if Torre had put Ichiro on the mound, especially if he were to complain of a twinge in his arm the next day.

Neyer's suggestion is for whoever winds up as the last pitcher to throw batting practice. Jim Caple advocates unlimited substitutions, so a guy like Barry Zito, who threw all of three pitches in his appearance, could come back later if needed. I'd say either of these is a better idea.

Finally, Fritz Schranck has the funniest bit I've seen about all this. It should be noted, however, that Tuesday was not the first All Star Game to ever end in a tie. Back when there were two All Star Games per year, the second game of 1961 at Fenway Park was called off after nine innings due to heavy rain with the score 1-1. I strongly suspect there was a whole lot less fuss about it.
The USOC will be in town this weekend as part of its process to determine which US city will submit a bid for the 2012 Games. The locals will try to dazzle them with technology in hopes of enhancing Houston's chances.

Personally, I hope Houston gets the Games, not so much because I love the Olympics - I'm indifferent - but because I think it would be a huge boost for mass transit, particularly rail. If landing the OIympics helps or forces us to build rail lines along I-10 and I-45, it will be well worth the trouble and expense.
Little relief for the flood Only $300,000 has been raised so far by the American Red Cross for victims of the recent flooding in Central Texas despite the $12 million the agency will spend on disaster relief. In bad economic times and with so many other catastrophes happening, it's gonna be tough for them. The Chron story has a link to the Red Cross donations page, or you can jump there from here.

A lot of people gave their time and money last year to help Houstonians who were wiped out by Tropical Storm Allison. I hope the same will be said of the flood victims this year.

7/10/2002

Texas NoCall has an effect already It's only been in place since July 1, but people are already reporting a decrease in telemarketer calls in Texas. I didn't get off my lazy butt on this until the third wave, so I'm still under assault until the end of the year. But I can enjoy the rewards that others have gotten.

The telemarketing industry is still singing the same sad song:

Since 1998, 26 states have adopted no-call legislation, and nearly everyone in the industry expects the other 24 to follow suit.

Keeping up with the differences in the existing laws has created a costly nightmare for the $668 billion industry, which claims the regulations threaten jobs and violate commercial free speech.

"The problem is each of the 26 states has its own list with its own set of rules," said Christina Duffney, a spokeswoman for the Direct Marketing Association, the largest trade group for telemarketers. "For a marketer to have to learn all 26 of the rules and abide by them, it increases the chance for errors, and it increases the cost of services provided by the marketers."

Yo, Christina. There's a simple answer to this: One federal no-call law. Hey, guess what? Such a thing is in the works:

The Federal Trade Commission also has proposed a national do-not-call list that could arm consumers with one more weapon in the battle against unsolicited calls as early as next year.

The national list, which would fine telemarketers $11,000 per violation, may or may not override the state restrictions, but it looms as another obstacle for the industry to overcome.

Wanna bet the DMA opposes such a thing, even though it would eliminate all of those different rules that telemarketers must abide by? Well, they do in fact oppose the proposed federal law. I know you're shocked to hear that.

Here's one marketer who gets it:

The no-call lists do, however, provide a time-saving benefit for some companies, said C.J. Johnson, senior vice president of CCC Interactive Corp., which employs 385 people at the Houston Community Call Center.

"The people that get on to the DNC lists are the people who are not going to buy anyway," Johnson said, meaning time and expenses can be better spent on potential customers for his call center's Fortune 100 clients.

Which is what I said previously.
Governor Goodhair gets on board Say what you want about our feckless yet photogenic governor, he knows when there's a script to be followed. That would be the reason for this announcement that the State of Texas, whose unofficial motto is "Providing a Good Climate for Bidness Since 1836", will be cracking down on those evildoing CEOs and their rapacious ways.

It's almost a shame that, as our Lege only meets every other year, the Gov won't get a decent photo op out of this until after the election in November. By that time, if he's really lucky, no one will remember any of this. If he's not so lucky, it'll be Tony Sanchez's problem. We can only hope.
More blogrolling I've added a few links to the left. Nathan Newman was kind enough to drop me a line after discovering my pearls of wisdom through Avedon Carol. I followed a link to Kevin Raybould, and the magic of referrer logs took care of the rest. So many people have recommended Brad De Long that I finally acceeded to the inevitable.

I found Jeff Cooper and Paul Orwin through Ted Barlow - good to have you back, btw - and Ann Salisbury via Fritz Schranck, both of whom certainly count as good references.

The blogroll is pretty big these days, which reflects a growing number of quality blogs out there. There was a time (you know, back in the Good Old Days of blogging) when you could read just about anyone who was worth your time to read. Anyone who tries to do that now is either unemployed or soon to become unemployed. I figure I'll visit the favorites more or less daily, and the rest at least weekly.

Anyway, check 'em all out. And remember to use BlogRolling and Weblogs ping to make life easier for you and your readers.
Permalink problems Blogger sure picked a great time to give me permalink problems, when I've been getting cited by Ginger, Scott, O-Dub, Atrios, and Kevin. Republishing my archives seems to have fixed the problem, but I'm still leery. Anyway, thanks to everyone who's pointed people here. I hope the "page not found" errors hasn't discouraged too many of them.

UPDATE: Well, there's another possibility - I just got a message from Blogger that their server went boom, so no publishing is available. Sigh...
Showing a lot more sense than Frantic Fran Blinebury is King Kaufman in Salon, who notes that there was a perfectly good reason for halting the All-Star Game last night, even if it was done in a tin-eared way:

The problem is that All-Star managers want to get all of their players into the game. They'll try to do that if the roster is 30 men or 32 or 35 or 40. With skillful substitutions, it can be done. But if the manager wants to get everyone in the game, he has to get them in before the ninth inning ends, because he can't count on extra innings. So if the game does go into extra frames, he's out of luck.

That's what happened Tuesday. Both Bob Brenly of the National League and Joe Torre of the American League used all their players in the first nine innings except one emergency leftover pitcher, Vicente Padilla of the Phillies for the N.L., Freddy Garcia of the Mariners for the A.L. By the 11th, those two had both gone two innings. It would have been unfair to them and to their teams to ask them to pitch for the duration, when it wasn't their regular day to start and they had prepared themselves to pitch only an inning or two. These guys have regular jobs, you know, in real games, which resume Thursday.

"These organizations and other managers entrust us with their players," Brenly said. "We have to make sure we don't do anything that could hurt them."

Damn right. The All-Star game is an exhibition game, people. It's a sideshow. Get over it.
Personifying problems Chron sportswriter Fran Blinebury shows why he personifies the problems that most of us have with his employer with today's turd-ugly hack job that passes for his regular column. He hits all the usual cliches about Barry Bonds and the players not "getting it", going so far as to blame the MLBPA for the mythical "competitive balance" problem.

How many times and how many different ways do I have to demonstrate that there is no such thing as a "competitive balance problem", at least not in the way that the typical room-temperature-IQ sportswriter understands it? Let's take one more look, just for yuks. In the last 20 years, how many baseball, football, and basketball teams have played for their sports' championship?

Basketball - 14 of 31 teams (Boston, Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey, Detroit, Chicago, Indiana, LA Lakers, Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Houston, San Antonio, Utah)

Football - 18 of 31 teams (Buffalo, Miami, New England, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Cincinnati, Baltimore, Denver, Oakland, San Diego, Dallas, NY Giants, Washington, Chicago, Green Bay, Atlanta, St. Louis, San Francisco)

Baseball - 20 of 30 teams (NY Yankees, Boston, Baltimore, Toronto, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Kansas City, Oakland, NY Mets, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Florida, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Arizona)

And look at the 10 who haven't: Seattle is a pretty good bet to get to one soon. The Angels are three games out of first place. The Astros and Rangers have made the playoffs consistently in recent years. Pittsburgh was a champ in 1979 and had three excellent shots at the Series in the early 90s. Montreal might have made it in 1994 had it not been for the strike. The only complete loser is the expansion Devil Rays. Baseball is the only sport of the three to have a recent expansion team as champions (Florida and Arizona).

I knew most of this off the top of my head, but Fran Blinebury, a Professional Sports Writer, can't be bothered to do the ten minutes of light reading required to see if what he's saying makes sense. And on a newspaper that also features Dale Robertson, he's not even the worst we have. Arrrgh...
Where have I heard that one before? Brian Linse quotes Maureen Dowd as follows:

Can a Bush — born on third base but thinking he hit a triple — ever really understand the problems of the guys in the bleachers?

That's a great line. It was also a great line in 1988 when it was said about Poppy Bush by either Jim Hightower or Ann Richards. Doesn't really matter, my point is that Dowd is actually quoting someone. She ought to say so.

7/09/2002

Another reason why I gave up on Kaus is his recent entry about the possibility of violence from the left, spurred on by Paul Begala and MediaWhoresOnline. It's not so much that Kaus thinks that "the left" may cause violence, it's that he makes the same mistake of lumping "radical environmentalists or fringe anti-globalists" with Begala and MWO. I've had this argument before, and I maintain that the problem is in trying to force the same label on the loony fringe as the mainstream. I find such practice, which Kaus engages in here, to be disingenuous at best. I'll say it again, and I'll type slowly so even Mickey Kaus can understand me: The loony fringe is not the same as the mainstream. Applying the same label to both makes the label meaningless. Using that meaningless label to draw parallels between the loony fringe and the mainstream is dishonest. Is that so hard to understand?

Even if you accept Kaus' lazy labelling, he's still off base. Last I checked, fringe anti-globalists were quite busy throwing rocks at Starbuckses during the Clinton administration, when all us "leftists" were supposed to be fat and happy. EarthFirst! was founded in 1979, and the Earth Liberation Front started setting fires in 1998. So why the sudden fear that we're about to be hip-deep in violent "left-wing" protest?

I don't know who's been peeing in his Wheaties lately, but as noted, I no longer care. Happy blogging, Mickey. Hope your new permalinks work better than your buddy Sullivan's do.

Anyway, O-Dub, Atrios, and Kevin Raybould all give Kaus the business as well. Check 'em out.

(Note: Edited to note the fixed permalink on Lean Left, and to correct the spelling on Kevin Raybould's name. Sorry, Kevin!)
The low-fat myth goes mainstream By now you've probably read that big NYT magazine article about the dawning realization that a low-fat diet may not be all that it's cracked up to be. Of course, if you're a longtime reader of Off the Kuff, this should come as no surprise.
Oh, the noise, noise, noise, noise! For the second time in two years, the Houston Press has had an article about an inner-city resident complaining about the noise of a nearby bar or restaurant. This time, the complainer lives in a downtown loft; previously, the complainer lived just outside the Heights.

You'd think I'd be a pretty sympathetic audience for these guys, given that I'm a light-sleeping homeowner with distinct early-bird tendencies. You'd be wrong, though, for the simple reason that each of these whiners bought their overpriced lofts and townhomes knowing fully well that they were in close proximity to places that featured loud music. In each case, the music venues existed before the residences were built. It would be one thing if one day you woke up and discovered that a nightclub was being built next door. It's another thing entirely to buy a house next door to one and then bitch about the noise.

I note that two years later, the Jax Grill on Shepherd still features live zydeco music on Friday nights. I strongly suspect that in two years, the Spy nighclub downtown will still be playing its music. Which is as it should be.

7/08/2002

Blogrolling Well, my blogroll on the left has finally been converted to BlogRolling. All the blogs that are fit to link are there. I've officially given up on Mickey Kaus, who hits the quinella of defending Ann Coulter and getting the facts wrong on TAPped's web stats in the space of a few days. Hey, Mickey, if I want to read NRO, I'll link to them.

Meanwhile, I'll add Matt Welch and Ken Layne back when I add some new links, since as Movable Type users they ought to show up as modified whenever they get around to updating.

MT sends an automatic ping to Weblogs.com when users add something new, but Blogger users need to do this manually. I suggest you take a moment and check Larry's handy dandy blogrolling tips, with all Blogger users giving extra attention to the one-click Weblogs ping so you too can show up with the nifty "New!" tag on my blogroll. Larry tells you how to add this URL to your Favorites; as I tend to publish from more than one computer, I've found it more convenient to add the link to my template, so it's always with me. Whatever floats your blog.
In case you were wondering, the July 4 shooting spree at LAX by a terrorist disgruntled ex-employee nutball dirtbag was actually Tom Daschle's fault. You just can't make up stuff like this.

Via Atrios.
What we have to look forward to COntenders for the 2003 Houston mayoral race are lining up already in anticipation. I agree with Kevin in that Michael Berry has no chance. The reason is right here in the Chron story:

Berry, 30, has served on council since January after beating Claudia Williamson in a runoff election for the at-large seat formerly held by Chris Bell, who ran last year for mayor and now is a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.

So far in his short council tenure, Berry's only real push was for a property tax rollback that council rejected last month when it set the city budget. He has said he will make another run at cutting taxes by 1 cent per $100 valuation this September.

In other words, he's a one-issue candidate who hasn't had any success on that one issue just yet. There's a compelling resume for you.

None of the known or rumored candidates so far excites me. I'm still holding out hope for Gabriel Vasquez, my City Council person, but given how bloody and expensive the race is likely to be, I'd rather he stay in his nice, safe Council seat until he's term-limited out.
Flooding down in Texas It's hard to believe, but a mere one year after Tropical Storm Allison unleashed hell on Houston, Central Texas has been hit by even worse flooding. Thirteen counties have been declared disaster areas.

Even more incredible, the same storms that caused all this damage then headed northwest and did some more. Buried in this story is the following paragraph:

In Abilene on Sunday, hundreds of people returned to homes that had been deluged by the same storm that dumped more than 30 inches of rain in Central and South Texas last week. The storm moved north and west and poured a foot of rain on Abilene and surrounding areas in a single day.

Take a look at this map. Abilene is about 400 miles from New Braunfels, which is between San Antonio and Austin. That's a really big storm.

Annoyingly, the Chron couldn't be bothered to give info on how or where to make a donation to help these flood victims. I had to go to the San Antonio Express-News and the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, which points to this American Red Cross Page. Thanks, Chron!

7/07/2002

InstaSpanking Mother Nature fact checks Glenn Reynolds' ass, as reported by Brian Linse. Someone needs to tell the InstaPunditWatcher that it's time to get back on the job.
Nice to know that Matt Welch is keeping busy during his blog hiatus. Via the newly permlink-enabled Josh Trevino.
In another 5-4 Supreme Court ruling the SCOTUS has struck down a law that prevents judges from saying in campaign ads how they'd rule on a particular issue. A local former judge disagrees with this ruling:

Most people who can count to three know the separation of powers is why we have three branches of government, instead of two. The judiciary is supposed to declare the law, no matter how unpopular. Unlike the executive and the legislative departments, the judiciary is not supposed to declare public opinion. If people don't like a judicial decision, they can amend a constitution or a statute or they can elect a new judge. But, until now, they could not expect candidates for judge to say in advance how they would vote on particular cases.

Is that change good or bad? Some say it's good. They say the public can't cast a meaningful vote for a judge without knowing how he or she will rule. Without that information, there's nothing to vote for or against. Others say it's bad. How, they ask, can you get a fair trial from a judge who has declared how he'll rule before he has heard the case? A judge who has publicly pledged to vote one way cannot be, or be perceived to be, the neutral magistrate the law requires. If the judiciary is not neutral, it is worse than useless. It's fraudulent.

He also points out that as was the case here a few years ago, a judicial candidate may perhaps win election after promising to make a popular ruling that violates the law. The example cited was a candidate who said he'd never consider probation for DUI offenders, despite a state law that mandates he do so. That guy lost, but are you so sure that the next one will?
Suburbs v. vouchers This op-ed piece in the Sunday Chron makes an interesting point about school vouchers and their promise to improve schools, namely that the better schools, usually located in suburbs, have resisted and will resist efforts to take away their autonomy.

People in the suburbs are generally satisfied with their neighborhood schools. They want to protect the physical and financial independence of those schools, as well as suburban property values, which are tied to local school quality (real or perceived). School choice threatens the independence of suburban schools by creating the possibility that outsiders, particularly urban students, will enter them and that local funds will exit them.

When suburbanites perceive a threat to their schools, they fight back -- and usually win. Consider school desegregation and school finance reform. Suburban districts largely succeeded in insulating their schools from the reach of desegregation decrees, which rarely went beyond urban districts or required suburban schools to participate. Consequently, urban school districts were left to experience the costs and benefits of school desegregation, while most suburban schools remained safely on the sidelines.

Suburban school districts have been equally successful in protecting their financial independence. Efforts to equalize school funding have largely failed. Even when funding schemes are reformed, wealthier, suburban districts are usually left free to devote as much of their local resources as they wish to their own schools.

A similar pattern can be seen in school choice plans, almost all of which work to protect the autonomy of suburban schools. Public school choice programs, which include charter schools, rarely require suburban schools to open their doors to students from neighboring districts or to send locally raised revenues to another district.

The Cleveland plan, at issue in the Supreme Court's decision, is an example: Students in Cleveland were given a voucher that could be used in private schools within Cleveland and in any suburban public school that volunteered to accept voucher students. No schools volunteered.

Meanwhile, proposals to expand voucher programs have been defeated time and again, in both legislative arenas and at the ballot box. Those proposals failed not because teachers' unions opposed them but because suburbanites did.

I've never been convinced that we couldn't solve most of our schools' problems by funding the poor schools at the same level as the rich ones. I've also never been convinced that private schools are the answer, as I attended one crappy private school and two outstanding public schools in my childhood. When the Fort Bend and Montgomery County school districts say that they'll find room for kids from the Fourth Ward, then maybe I'll believe that vouchers are about something other than subsidizing religious education.
RIP, Ted Williams It's been a busy weekend for me, as we threw a housewarming party on Friday night, so I haven't had a chance to blog about the death of Ted Williams. The ESPN piece linked gives a good overview of him, but there's two bits in it that I'd like to expand on. One has to do with the near-trade of Williams for Joe DiMaggio. It was the Yankees who backed out of the trade, giving the reason that their fans thought DiMaggio was the better player. I'm a diehard, lifelong Yankees fan, but the numbers say that Williams was better. Yankee fans will argue that DiMadge was a stellar performer at a much tougher position as well as a much better baserunner. It quickly becomes a bigger morass than Vietnam, which may speak to the wisdom of not taking that particular road.

It also leads in to my second point, about what DiMaggio and Williams said about each other post-retirement. They both figured that stoking the who's-better debate would likely be counterproductive in the long run, so they came to an agreement where DiMaggio would call Williams "the best pure hitter he ever saw" and Williams would call DiMaggio "the best player he ever played against", thus acheiving equal parts truth, wiggle room, and accession to ego.

Jayson Stark now wonders who is the best living player with Teddy and Joltin' Joe deceased. Again, with all due respect to the Yankee Clipper, I think it's only deference to his legend that put him above Willie Mays and Hank Aaron in the first place. (There was also a poll taken in the 1960s that asked this question. DiMaggio won, and no one ever had the cheek to ask when we should ask again.) My vote goes to Mays, but it's close. And I refuse to consider Pete Rose a serious contender.

Rest in peace, Teddy Ballgame.
I really thought I had nothing more to say about the whole Cal Thomas/where's-the-outrage kerfuffle. I'd gotten some good feedback that showed there was some outrage, and this made me feel better.

After reading Kevin Whited and Owen Courreges, I got to wondering about my motives for all this in the first place. I have to confess, a certain part of it was the defensiveness that I, as a left-leaning blogger, have when it comes to right-wing attacks on stupid things that are said and done by leftists. What I see in these attacks is a sometimes implicit, sometimes totally blatant attempt to link outrageous radical left behavior (think "Terror Widows", or that Canadian feminist who claimed that Afghan women were better off under the Taliban than they'd be in America) with, well, me.

(By the way, if you're wondering what I'm talking about, here's an odious little example. What do you say to someone like this? I don't know what blogs this guy does or doesn't read, but either he isn't reading the liberals that I read or he's in serious need of some remedial education. I suppose this guy is barely worth my contempt, let alone any defensiveness, but there's no shortage of this kind of thing out there. Link via Alex Frantz.)

What do you do when you identify as a liberal and you come across people saying that all liberals must be idiots because Ted Rall (a known idiot) is a liberal? I can't speak for anyone else, but I feel like I have to do what I can to demonstrate that I'm a liberal who isn't anything like that idiot. The easiest and most effective way to do that is to join in the attack on the idiot in question.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you - most often, the objects of derision are indeed idiots who should be attacked by anyone who's capable of critical thinking. Some people in the blogosphere, notably Charles Johnson, realized that critical thinkers on both sides of the left/right split had way more in common with each other than they did with the radical fringes of their own sides, and attempted to bridge the gap by dividing the world into idiotarians and anti-idiotarians.

But still I'd feel like I was under attack. Again, I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd be rather surprised if no one else felt this way. And so, when an obvious opportunity came to put the shoe on the other foot, I took it. Cal Thomas is an idiot and a conservative. You conservatives - prove to me you're not idiots! Fair is fair, sauce for the goose, blah blah blah.

It's a pretty lousy reason, I suppose. After all, if what I thought was being done to me was wrong, then what I was doing was also wrong, and if what was being done to me was right, well, what am I bitching about? I'm not sure which contradiction I'd rather choose, but for what it's worth, that's how I felt.

So, I apologize for doing unto others as I don't want done unto me. As it happens, I believe it was ultimately worthwhile, if for no better reason than this little bit of blog synergy that I encountered. In his response to me, Kevin Whited gives a perfectly good reason why he considers slapping Cal Thomas to be beneath him:

I generally don't find him very interesting at all (just went poking through Reductio to see how often he shows up, and the answer is -- not very). I don't really consider him to be one of the columnists that I just can't miss while doing my daily reading. And isn't that a more damning critique than any denunciation TAPped might want from conservative bloggers: I just don't read the guy because, frankly, columns like this aren't all that surprising!

And then I see this in that same Alez Frantz post from above:

So what's a flag-waving leftist to do? Well, there's always bashing the right, which the Nuisance does with zeal and pleasure. I don't spend equivalent energy going after the American far left simply because at this time they don't matter very much, although I always enjoy a shot at Ralph Nader.

So rational conservatives generally consider it a waste of time to respond to their radical fringe, and rational liberals feel the same way about theirs. I wouldn't go quite that far myself, but I appreciate the perspective. I suppose there are better things to do than to bash each other over who is or isn't responding to a given idiot. As long as we're all playing by those same rules.