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Archive for May, 2005

Okrent Clubbed like a Baby Seal. . .

[ 0 ] May 31, 2005 |

Okrent vs. Krugman turns out just as expected:

Believe me — I could go on, as could a number of readers more sophisticated about economic matters than I am. (Among these are several who, like me, generally align themselves politically with Prof. Krugman, but feel he does himself and his cause no good when he heeds the roaring approval of his acolytes and dismisses his critics as ideologically motivated.) But I don’t want to engage in an extended debate any more than Prof. Krugman says he does. If he replies to this statement, as I imagine he will, I’ll let him have what he always insists on keeping for himself: the last word.

I could go on, but I won’t. Trust me, though, there’s a lot of other stuff I know, I just won’t talk about it now. Also, there are a lot of people who agree with me, but I won’t mention them by name. Finally, I find responding to his question tiring, and refuse to continue. But I won. Now I quit.

That Won’t Help You Where You’re Going

[ 0 ] May 31, 2005 |

The Supreme Court today threw out the conviction of Arthur Andersen. It doesn’t seem likely that this will have a major impact on other Enron convictions; indeed, it’s possible that Andersen could still get convicted over a retrial. The unanimous decision threw out the conviction on the grounds of tendentious instructions to the jury which would have covered lawful conduct; one would hope that this isn’t necessary to obtain convictions.

…Actual law-talkin’ person iocaste has more.

One Year

[ 0 ] May 31, 2005 |

On May 31, 2004, three University of Washington blowhards grew tired of spouting prepared rants at one another and decided to found a blog. For an address, they adopted the word “lefarkins,” a term commonly used in reference toward them by other members of the department. For a name, they chose “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” which was kind of cool sounding and vaguely reflected the group’s diverse academic interests.

Since that time, we’ve been more successful than we could have reasonably hoped. Some thanks are in order:

To other bloggers, especially those who helped us out during the early days. In particular, Josh Canel of Quicksauce, Matt Duss of What is the War, Lindsay Beyerstein of Majikthise, Paperwight, Seb of Sadly No!, Roger Ailes, Digby, Brad Delong, the crew at Crooked Timber, Joel Patterson of Vague Nihilism, Erik Loomis at Alterdestiny, Lance Mannion, Julie Saltman, the folks at Martini Republic, Tbogg, Bitch, Ph.D., Roxanne Cooper of Rox Populi, Matthew Yglesias, James Wolcott, and Russel Arben Fox have all been critical in spreading the word about LGM. I’m sure there others I have forgotten, and that Dave and Scott will rectify my omission in comments or updates.

To our commenters, who have made an invaluable contribution to this blog. Frankly, I can’t understand how some blogs survive without comments. We’ve had several generations of commenters here, but in particularly I would like to note the contributions of Abby, Dave Noon, Jon St, Praktike, Kat (who has been with us from the very beginning), Mojo, Jeremy Osner, Redbeard, Thad, Matt (who inspired me to blog), Lindsay Beyerstein, Terry, JadeGold, Minh (who makes such a wonderful contribution to Friday Cat Blogging), Erik Loomis, Aaron, Iocaste, Anderson, Wagster, Roxanne, Josh Canel, Ralph Hitchens, Irrational Robot, grishaxx, Ben Jones, Patrick, gmack, Alex, Russel Arben Fox, Leo, Barry Freed, MrM, Kirk, cathycab, Incertus, JRD, MJD, anon, Paperwight, Jackdaw, Fledermaus, Oh Snap!, C.J. Colucci, bitchphd, Stygius, battlepanda, Ted Barlow, Chuchundra, Mike, and dozens of others who I can’t remember now.

Thank you all very much for a wonderful year.

Ozon

[ 0 ] May 31, 2005 |

While I can understand why my county has the reputation of being a cultural wasteland, it should be noted that right here in bucolic, provincial Astoria the brilliant young French director Francois Ozon will be presenting his new movie this Saturday. (I will, of course, be out of town.) If you don’t live in the area but are interested, I would start with Under the Sand, which a recent screening confirmed is an terrific movie (and its exclusion from my best-of-the-aughts the worst botch I’ve discovered so far.) Swimming Pool is great fun. Water Drops on Burning Rocks, Sitcom and Criminal Lovers are of much more limited appeal, but all good (in roughly that order of preference) if you’re intrigued. And has anyone out there seen 8 Women? I was a little dubious, but great cast at least…

Oh, and while I’m discussing botches (and speaking of Mamet), The Verdict should be a top 5 from the 80s, rather than being relegated to the honorable mention list. The author regrets the error.

LGM Baseball Challenge Standings

[ 0 ] May 30, 2005 |

Noon continues to lead. LGM contributors now occupy last three spots in the standings.

1 Axis of Evel Knievel, d. noon 2178
2 Swinging At Space, K. Jepsen 2074
3 New Mexico Alterdestiny, E. Loomis 1999
4 The Spot, D. Watkins 1869
5 Oregon Bearded Duck, R. Farley 1790
6 Discpline And Punish, S. Lemieux 1787

Memorial Day

[ 0 ] May 30, 2005 |

My uncle died seven years before I was born. My uncle Patrick also served in Vietnam, and my father volunteered in 1965, but was turned away because of a minor heart defect. I would not say that my family has a long tradition of military service, although two great uncles were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and my grandfather served in Okinawa in 1945.

The enthusiasm of my uncles and my father for the Vietnam War was not shared by my grandparents. My family has been Republican for a very long time. My grandmother came from western North Carolina, which was one of a few Republican strongholds in the South. My grandfather came from Missouri, and all of his brothers, save one, were strong Republicans. My grandparents were patriotic, although not terribly religious, and they deeply loved Ronald Reagan. One day, after taking the Cadillac in for service, they were driven home by Governor Reagan’s driver in Governor Reagan’s Cadillac limousine, a story they never tired of telling.

My grandparents hated Lyndon Baines Johnson. They hated him for domestic reasons, but they also hated his foreign policy, which was about to embroil their sons in Southeast Asia. When Marshall was drafted, they begged him to go to Canada, but he refused, saying that he would never be able to hold his head high if he ran. When they sent him back, he had a bronze star and a purple heart.

Although my uncle died seven years before I was born, he was still a presence in my family as I grew up. His portrait graced one of our walls, as did his medals. My grandmother never fully recovered, although I think she saw me, oddly enough, as some kind of replacement. We visited Marshall’s grave every other month or so, but always on Memorial Day, always on September 19, and always on Veteran’s Day. The local community also felt the loss. Marshall was the only Vietnam War casualty from Folsom, California. They named a softball field after him, and have erected a memorial inside the new city library and named the local dog park in his honor. Years later, when I considered a military career, my grandmother’s objections were adamant. I wasn’t quite enough of a rebel, even then, to do something just because she hated it, and rejected the military for other reasons.

I don’t really have a point. Vietnam created 55000 families and communities with holes in them. Iraq, thus far, has created 1600 families and communities with holes. Both conflicts did far more damage to those we were “saving” than they did to us. These effects have lasted and will echo long after the specific conflicts are over. Soldiers ought to be honored and respected, but their particular duties need to be subject to political debate, rather than nationalist fervor. Policymakers who decide to fight a war for reputation often end up defending their own reputation more than that of their nation. Had the media, the people, and Congress asked the right questions n 1964, my uncle might not have been in Vietnam in 1967. Something to think about.

Worst Kaus Ever, Part XVIII

[ 0 ] May 30, 2005 |

Maybe Feuer will answer what seems to me the great mystery of the press in Iraq: Why American reporters, almost to a man, had a more pessimistic view of the war than seems to have been warranted. I don’t think you can simply say they were blindered by anti-war or anti-Bush ideology: these are conscientious, smart, experienced people of varying political stripes and they virtually all seemed to predict a greater disaster than transpired. That goes for the private, unprinted predictions of those few I encountered in person. … P.S.: I’m not saying the war is already great success. Even our own top commanders admit we might lose it and the blowback from Abu Ghraib, etc. will last generations. But it seems a much, much, greater success, so far, than you’d have thought possible reading the dispatches from Baghdad in major papers. …

What?

Um, what?

Precisely when and where have journalists from major, mainstream television and print outlets made assessments of the Iraq War that are less optimistic than the generals were last week? Where? Where where where? 839 Iraqi soldiers have died since January, along with countless civilians; where did I see a prediction of that in the mainstream media? Moreover, where did I see a prediction that the situation would be worse? 27 dead today, and another 120 injured. Did I miss the article in yesterday’s NYT suggesting that it would be more than that? Electricity and oil production in Iraq have continued a slow, but sure, decline since the war; did the Washington Post predict that? Dan Rather? I must have been asleep. . .

Does Mickey even read the papers, other than the Los Angeles Times? Either he doesn’t, and has an appreciation of mainstream reporting that he gets primarily from Glenn Reynolds, or he just doesn’t have the faintest idea of the situation in Iraq. Here’s a question; how come he thinks his assessment of the situation is so much more sound than the assessment of those actually in Baghdad?

Worst. Blogger. Ever. Kim Du Toit is proud of being a right-wing thug, and Glenn Reynolds doesn’t try very hard to deny his political position. Mickey combines a writing style worthy of a high school newspaper with a political sense that allows him to describe himself as a Democrat while being slightly to the right of Paul Wolfowitz. He hides behind a light curtain of journalistic objectivity while throwing bombs at the left.

I should really stop clicking on his Slate link; even the train-wreck attraction is growing thin.

That’s it. . .

[ 0 ] May 29, 2005 |

No constitution for the EU. Might be able to pull it off without the UK, but France is critical. The Netherlands, another original EEC member, is also hostile.

Frankly, I think it’s a bad decision. I can at least understand why the right doesn’t care for the EU; supra-nationalism has never been terribly popular on that side. I’m less compelled by the reasoning from the left, largely because the left seems to be blaming the EU for developments beyond its control, and that the French state will hardly be able to deal with on its own. As Chris Bertram notes, the reactionary nationalism of the right seems to have infected the left, to no good outcome for anyone.

At least Instapundit seems to realize that this doesn’t represent a cry for US-style institutions or economic policies, but instead the exact opposite. Can’t stop him from gloating, however.

The impact? I doubt that we’ll see another referendum in France anytime soon. The process of integration will slow considerably, and all of the defects of the current EU structure will remain, including the grindingly slow bureaucracy and deadening super-majority voting rules. The EU is currently governed by a mish-mash of rules created over the course of fifty years, and EU institutions don’t exactly represent machine-like efficiency. The EU constitution would actually have made the institutions work better, would have made the superstructure marginally more democratic, and would have made everything easier to understand.

Most importantly, it would have made the EU easier to teach. I am stuck assigning Desmond Dinan’s extraordinarily long, comprehensive, detailed, and boring text to my students in Europe and World Politics. I had hoped for a successful constitution, if only to make my job easier.

Oh well.

Bubble

[ 0 ] May 28, 2005 |

On Thursday, good old Neil Cavuto interviewed a pair of real estate CEOs on the potential existence of a housing bubble in the United States. Set aside, for a moment, the question of whether interviewing real estate CEOs is a good way of attacking the problem, and read the interview. It’s genuinely entertaining.

CAVUTO: When you say frothy, what would happen, then, if there were a correction?

ZELL: Well, I think there’s a question as to what would happen. In other words, a correction…

CAVUTO: Some say crash.

ZELL: Crash. I just don’t see how you have a crash. I mean, you have a crash when you have a whole bunch of people selling stock on the same day. I have never seen a housing — quote — “crash,” as you put it.

And I have been in this business for 40 years. And the reality is that, number one, I think that the savants on TV and radio are major contributors to the concept of a bubble…

CAVUTO: You’re not referring to FOX.

ZELL: No, God forbid.

CAVUTO: No, no, God forbid.

ZELL: But the more you guys talk about it, the more likely it is that you are going to create the bubble.

CAVUTO: Self-fulfilling it.

ZELL: By virtue of what you’re talking about it.

CAVUTO: There’s something to that, Sam.

What?

If I’m reading this right, Sam Zell thinks that there is no bubble, because he’s never seen one in forty years in the business, and because people can’t sell houses as quickly as they can sell stock. Whatever. What I really don’t understand is his second point, the one about the role of the media in creating a bubble. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if a lot of people are worrying about the creation of a bubble, doesn’t that drive prices down, thus reducing the chance for said bubble? People, after all, don’t like to have their entire life savings wiped out, and that’s what a bubble can do. So, I’m just a touch uncertain about the causal logic. Fox News talking about a bubble can’t, to my mind, create a bubble. It could, on the other hand, hasten a crash, but you need a bubble to have a crash, and we don’t have a bubble, because Sam has never seen one, and now I’m getting really confused. . .

After finishing up with Sam, Neil moved on to Donald Tomnitz, building industry honcho. I guess Sam, real estate mogul, was the fair, and Don, building industry mogul, was the balanced. Anyway. . .

CAVUTO: So, I guess what I’m saying is, if you are up 58 percent in Florida, if you’re up 79 percent in Arizona, if you’re up 40 percent in California, that pace is hard to maintain, right?

TOMNITZ: No question about it, but ask yourself, three to four years ago, we were up those percentages. We were up those kind of percentages in Denver. We were up those kind of percentages in Tucson. We were up those kind of percentages in Atlanta, that kind of percentage in Dallas-Ft. Worth.

So, as I say, what drives those percentages is simply where jobs are being created.

CAVUTO: All right, very well put.

So, job growth is responsible for a 79% increase housing prices in Arizona? And 40% in California? Given that I’ve lived the last eight years in Seattle, and that housing prices have gone up pretty much without regard for variations in the job market, I have my doubts. But more importantly, doesn’t a 79 percent increase in housing prices present problems regardless of current job growth? Recognizing that job growth in an area will decline, and thus that prices will cease to increase, thus also seems to imply that the people taking out unfavorable mortgages on the assumption that the value of their investment will continue to increase are going to get destroyed when job growth stops.

In fairness, I’m not precisely sure what the 79% number is supposed to represent; it could be housing prices, and it could be housing starts. Neil never gets around to telling us, but it’s problematic either way. However, it’s good to always try to take something away from interviews like this, so here’s Rob’s lesson of the day:

Watching Fox News will create a housing bubble, which will cause a housing crash, which will precipitate the collapse of Western civilization. Think of the children!

Da-dum

[ 0 ] May 28, 2005 |

I wonder what Fred Thompson thought about this.

Mariners

[ 0 ] May 28, 2005 |

The Seattle Mariners have not played well thus far in the 2005 baseball season. They stand at 18-29, third place in the AL West and one game ahead of Oakland. The record is slightly worse that what would be expected given their runs scored and runs against.

The big problem is the Mariner’s offense. Three players (Sexson, Ichiro, and Raul Ibanez) are above average at their positions, three players (Winn, Reed, and Boone) are below average, and three players (Beltre, Valdez, and Olivo) are below replacement level. Replacement level is estimated to be the level at which an available stiff from AAA could be expected to play. Of the last group, Valdez and Olivo are performing at nearly historic bad levels.

Mariner’s pitching has been marginally better than the hitting. The best starter has been Ryan Franklin, pitching 62 innings with a 4.45 ERA. Franklin found himself in the bullpen at the beginning of the season, but replaced Bobbby Madritsch when the latter suffered a season-ending injury halfway through his first start. Jamie Moyer, Aaron Sele, Joel Pinero, and Gil Meche have all performed on the low side of mediocrity, especially given the effect of Safeco Field, which is one of the best parks in the Major Leagues for pitchers.

On the upside, the bullpen has been quite good, as has the defense.

My pre-season prediction now seem to have been on the optimistic side. Let’s revisit those:

Record: 78-84, 4th in AL West
Adrian Beltre Home Runs: 34
Ichiro Batting Average: .343
Felix Hernandez Call Up: July 14
Felix Hernandez wins: 4
Jamie Moyer ERA: 4.21
Jamie Moyer wins: 12
Gil Meche starts: 16

And here are the predicted values, assuming that things continue along the track laid thus far:

Record: 62-100, third in AL West
Adrian Beltre Home Runs: 17
Ichiro Batting Average: .321
Jamie Moyer ERA: 5.70
Jamie Moyer wins: 14 (!)
Gil Meche starts: 34

At least Felix Hernandez is devastating the PCL. Something to look forward to.

The biggest disappointment, as discussed by Derek Zumsteg, has been the performance of Adrian Beltre. Beltre’s performance has been incredibly bad, although it’s worth noting that he’s still been an improvement on Jeff Cirillo. Two months isn’t all that long of a time, but it’s hard to imagine a player as good as the 2004 Beltre ever having a couple of months as bad as these. I’ve heard the steroid argument (which I don’t buy), and I’ve heard the contract-year argument (which I’m skeptical about). Frankly, I really can’t explain his performance, and it’s making my opening day purchase of an Adrian Beltre t-shirt seem, well, optimistic.

But hey, at least I have the Reds to look forward to.

Steinbrenner ought to be paying us. . .

[ 0 ] May 28, 2005 |

Scott Lemieux on May 6.

Yankees record since May 6: 16-2

Grunt.

In Scott’s defense, he predicted a Yankee resurgence here. They followed that up by going 1-4 against Tampa Bay and Oakland.

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