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Democracy Works!

[ 36 ] June 20, 2008 |

Players vote Derek Jeter most overrated player in baseball. (Actually, the title is misleading, as while the #1 pick is unassailably correct, Slappy Rodriguez and Wright are bizarre choices, and J.D. Drew would be a better fit for a most underrated list.)

I’m surprised by the outcome, though. I think the biggest reason that explains the paradox of how Jeter is both at times annoyingly overrated and was screwed out of an MVP award in 2006 is the prejudice against on-base players as opposed to RBI men, but one suspects that the hard sell of the New York media — which, not content to celebrate the many virtues of a first-ballot HOFer, has invented a number out of whole cloth — alienated a lot of voters even as it attracts attention.



[ 13 ] June 19, 2008 |

This really is bad.

To Reiterate

[ 37 ] June 19, 2008 |

Since the first three comments manage to miss the point entirely, allow me to try this again:

  • Like any Democrat capable of winning a national election, Obama will make all sorts of compromises and advance suboptimal ideological positions. It is good for progressives to point his failings, although arguments that move in the “since he isn’t a social democrat, we might just as well have McCain in the White House” direction are where I get off the bus.
  • Such critiques that take the form “many [always unnamed and uncited, because where progressives of any influence are concerned they pretty much don’t exist] Obamabots think Obama is a God Among Men who Transcends Politics but, in fact, he’s a politician who is not about to turn the United States into Denmark singlehandedly! Haha, Obamabots are so stupid!” are incredibly irritating, and I for one will ignore any substantive points made in such frames 100% of the time.

This Is Payback?

[ 0 ] June 19, 2008 |

I dunno, if Rumsfeld really wanted to get back at McCain, wouldn’t he prominently endorse him and suggest that we’d see similar foreign policy under a McCain administration no matter what their conflicts have been?

A Point Endorsed

[ 20 ] June 19, 2008 |

Indeed. One of the most irritating aspects of blog discussion about the primary was the “See — Obama’s a politican, no matter what his supporters say!” / “Obamabots don’t understand that he will not suddenly make Republicans disappear!” talking points, along with similar assorted strawmen.

You Are the Sucker

[ 35 ] June 18, 2008 |

So some PUMAs — the acronym stands for “Republican” — met with John McCain. The PUMAs immediately agreed to purchase an $1,800 vacuum cleaner with a 30-year extended warranty:

Bower said he’d liked McCain’s answer on judges, in which he “pointed out that he supported Bill Clinton with both Ginsberg [sic] and Breyer.”

Of course he supported the appointments of Ginsburg and Breyer by a Democratic president. Breyer — easily the most moderate member of the Court’s liberal bloc — was confirmed 87-9. Ginsburg, who on the appellate court voted most often with Ken Starr, has also not been a Brennan/Marshall liberal, and was all but hand-picked by Orrin Hatch was confirmed 96-3. You have to understand virtually nothing about politics to think that McCain’s votes tell us anything about the kind of justices he’ll appoint.

Of course, alleged “progressives” with an apparent preference order of Clinton > McCain > Obama are idiots by definition, so this isn’t surprising. To add to the comedy, Mickey Kaus happily buys the Nebraska oceanfront time-share. According to Kaus, this proves that McCain doesn’t really believe any of that stuff about “Roberts, Alito, and Scalia” (all of whom he also voted for), because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet! Perhaps more relevant here are his votes for the actually contested nominations of Bork and Thomas. At any rate, of course I believe that McCain would appoint another Alito or Roberts, since his record on all the relevant issues suggests that he will and he will be constrained by a base (cf. Harriet Miers) that has strong preferences about judicial appointments. And certainly, his touting of meaningless votes for justices as moderate as could be expected from a Democratic president to an audience of disgruntled “Democrats” means less than nothing.

The best part: the title of Kaus’s post is “Suckers! Part XVIII.” At least he’s honest in describing himself…

Fair Use For Me, But Not For Thee

[ 9 ] June 18, 2008 |

That’s one pathetic clown show the AP is running right now.

How Much Are the Mets Underachieving?

[ 54 ] June 18, 2008 |

Calling all toasters claims that the Mets are grossly underachieving and that “the personnel is better this year than in 2006.” Kaufman and Sheehan disagree. It seems pretty clear to me that the latter two have the better case.

The Mets have three outstanding players in their primes — and all are having excellent seasons. (Wright ranks #4 among major league 3B in VORP, Reyes #2, Beltran #4 at their positions.) The one other non-old somewhat-talented player, Church, played brilliantly until he got hurt. (And I find it very implausible that it was Randolph’s decision to completely botch his treatment; it’s not like he started in Colorado.) This doesn’t add up to a good offense because…Minaya completely failed to flll out the roster. Castillo is, if anything, having a better year than could be expected for a 32-year old with absolutely no power who has lost most of his speed, putting up a .370 OBP. Schneider is an extensively proven non-hitter. Delgado is doing what immobile 36 year olds who have no skills but walks and homers do: stop hitting. Which of the washed-up guys who weren’t especially good when they were younger who compose the bench was Randolph supposed to turn into a star? As far as I can tell, the offense has been about as good as could be expected; the biggest problem is that Minaya signed a whole bunch of gimpy old guys to back up his stars and didn’t have any viable plan Bs.

With the rotation, it’s about the same thing; everyone’s within a reasonable range of expectations except maybe Perez who had an atypically good year…under Randolph in 2007. As for the bullpen, the current ERA+s of 186, 161, 153, 106, 102, 86, and 72 seems a pretty reasonable rate of return on talent to me. As for claims of 2006, I’d like c.a.t. to identify the Floyd, Valentin, Lo Duca, or still-skilled Delgado on the roster to back up the big 3.

None of this is to say that Randolph has done an especially good job this year. Most managers lose effectiveness over time, and if they haven’t significantly underachieved, they haven’t been over expectations either. (c.a.t also claims that Randolph is a horrendous strategic manager. Since the only example he cites is “pointless running,” and the Mets have an excellent 68 SB and 17 CS, I’ll dismiss the argument for lack of evidence.) But this question can only be discussed in relation to the alternative. If the Mets had a high-pressure manager with good credentials, I think a case can be made for a change. But for a low pressure manager with a record similar to Randolph’s who’s already been with the team? What’s the point? And I don’t see any way in which Randolph can bear primary responsibility for the current season. Given the injuries and predictable declines, the talent just isn’t very impressive.

But then I guess c.a.t. and I evaluate managers very differently; I’m not sure what it is about Davey Johnson’s “take over three mediocre or awful teams, turn them into contenders (including the second of third best team of the last 30 years), and have them get clearly worse when he left” (s)he doesn’t like…

Overrating Judicial Power

[ 20 ] June 17, 2008 |

Buried in David Frum’s endorsement of 9/11 Giuliani is the kind of claim you hear sometimes:

Since World War II, ten men have received the Republican nomination for vice president. Three of those men continued on to win the presidential nomination for themselves, and two actually became president. Meanwhile, a fourth nominee, Thomas Dewey’s running mate Earl Warren, rose to arguably even greater power as chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Can Frum really believe that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court holds more power than the President of the United States? Leaving aside that the Chief doesn’t have the power to affect much of anything without at least four allies — as President Bush and Chief Justice Roberts were reminded again last week — it should be obvious that the Supreme Court has far less power than the presidency. Its effect on most aspects of foreign policy is negligible, and controlling the bureaucracy gives the president far more policy influence than even a relatively active court. For the most part, the policy changes created by Supreme Court decisions are marginal.

It should be noted as well that in its civil rights opinions, the Warren Court was working with the national governing coalition of the time (the Truman and Eisenhower administrations both supported desegregation in amicus briefs, for example.) Moreover, in areas where they were unpopular, the Court’s civil rights, criminal procedure, and school prayer decisions faced very serious enforcement and implementation problems. Without some support from other actors, judicial pronouncements mean little. (To borrow Mark Graber’s line about Marbury, it established little except for the power of the Supreme Court to issue a declarative sentence about its powers. That decision came out the way it did, of course, because Marshall didn’t want to issue a writ he knew Jefferson and Madison would ignore.)

The Warren Court played an important role in some areas, but it should also be clear that not only was it a partner of the dominant governing coalition of the time, it was a junior partner. And certainly, the president is vastly more powerful than the Chief Justice even if you adjust for the greater tenure of the latter.

Just To Be Clear

[ 16 ] June 17, 2008 |

I am aware of all internet traditions. These newbie commenters can’t compete.

Yoo: "Judicial Imperialists" Oppose Arbitrary Detention! The Horror!

[ 14 ] June 17, 2008 |

Well, it’s certainly reassuring to see that the author of transparently ridiculous arguments on behalf of an unlimited right for the executive to arbitrarily detain and torture individuals at its pleasure is very agitated about Boumediene

Dog & Pony Show

[ 13 ] June 17, 2008 |

This is about right.

I can certainly understand firing Randolph last month; the team (after a historic choke) has underachieved on balance this year, although this is at least as much on the GM (I’m not sure what a manager can do when presented with no corner outfielders who hit well enough to be a good utility infielder, for example.) But to fly him out to the west coast for a day and fire him after a win? In the dead of night? And after a week in which the team actually played well but was undermined by am exploding closer and asleep-at-the-switch third base coach (who managed to survive the coaching purge?) To hire the bench coach with a similar personality and similar credentials you could have hired at any time? What a farce.

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