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The fastest pitcher who ever lived

[ 0 ] July 8, 2009 |

Before reading this story I’d heard of Steve Dalkowski, but I didn’t realize his stats were so unique, or that his life story was so grim. Here are his career stats per nine innings (EP = estimated pitches).

1957 3.2 18.7 17.6 229
1958 4.0 18.7 17.7 232
1959 4.4 20.4 15.2 238
1960 5.6 13.9 13.9 205
1961 6.6 17.1 13.1 225
1962 6.6 6.4 10.8 162
1963 5.9 8.8 7.9 169
1964 8.2 6.1 11.1 166
1965 8.8 6.3 7.0 163
Career 6.2 12.2 12.6 222

Apparently he didn’t hit many batters, which I suppose is a tribute to the speed of human reflexes when survival is at stake.


Overstating Judicial Power, Good And Bad

[ 1 ] July 8, 2009 |

I haven’t received my copy of Packing the Court yet, so it may be more nuanced on some points that its initial reviews make it sound. Assuming that the general take of Bazelon and Kakutani is correct, however, it seems to mix one salutary and one bad argument together. On the on hand, it’s always good for scholars to point out to a general audience that the progressive orientation of the Warren Court has generally been the exception, not the rule. On the other hand, Burns seems to cling to conventional myths about judicial power in other respects, both overstating the power of the courts and not paying enough attention to the extent to which the judiciary is more likely to be a collaborator with the national government than an antagonist.

According to Kakutani, Burns plays the ultimate card in attacking an overreaching court: “Dred Scott, a clear victory for the slave-holding states, would fuel tensions between the North and South and push the country down the path toward civil war.” As I (and others) have said before, this argument makes little sense, both because the Supreme Court’s role in the path to Civil War was trivial at best and because the Court was acting with the strong support of both congressional leaders and the president. Perhaps Burns has a plausible historical story explaining why the Court ducking the case would have kept the country together, but I am (to put it mildly) skeptical. The key to the election of Lincoln was the collapse of the Democratic coalition, and there’s no chance that the Democrats could have survived Buchanan’s blundering over Lecompton no matter what the Supreme Court did.

As it happens, right now I’m reading Scot Powe’s excellent new book, which gives a detailed account of judicial collaboration with other political elites throughout history. He argues (after emphasizing that the Court was in cahoots with the political elites of the time) that had Dred Scott came out correctly (with Dred Scott freed and Congressional power to ban slavery in the territories affirmed), this likely would have led to immediate Southern secession — and with impunity, since Buchanan was clearly opposed to using military force to combat secession. This isn’t certain, I suppose, but it is true that I can’t see any scenario in which a normatively good ruling in Dred Scott wouldn’t have made the underlying political situation as bad or worse.

None of which is to say that I have a problem with vilifying Taney and his immoral (and, in places, erroneous) opinion. But from the standpoint of assessing judicial power and American institutions, it’s critical to keep in mind that the Slave Power’s control over the political branches was more important than their control over the Supreme Court by a factor of about a billion — and, moreover, the latter follows from the former.

The World Cannot Allow a Nuclear China…

[ 0 ] July 8, 2009 |

Speaking of Chiang Kai Shek, I have a short article up at Foreign Policy comparing the Chinese and (purported) Iranian nuclear weapon programs:

Even the Soviet bloc worried that the Chinese were crazy. The causes and course of the Sino-Soviet split are complex, but nuclear weapons were near the heart of the dispute. Chinese brinksmanship in the 1958 Quemoy crisis prompted the Soviets to suspend nuclear cooperation. In a ridiculously entertaining series of pamphlets issued between 1959 and 1963, China and the Soviet Union sparred over the role that nuclear weapons were to play in defense of the socialist world. The Chinese displayed on almost casual disregard for the atomic bomb, dismissing it as a “paper tiger,” and argued that peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism was a fantasy. The exasperated Soviets responded with a question: “We would like to ask the Chinese comrades who suggest building a bright future on the ruins of the old world destroyed by a thermonuclear war whether they have consulted the working class of the countries where imperialism dominates?”


[ 0 ] July 8, 2009 |

I expect that future generations will view this as my crowning contribution to American public discourse.

"’Thoughtful, articulate, persuasive’…I do not think these words mean what.."

[ 0 ] July 8, 2009 |

6 months of Aesthetic Stalinism For Dummies!

Perhaps my favorite part of the very articulate and persuasive Victoria Jackson rant Glenn mentions:

Obama legally kills babies and now he can legally kill Grandmas!

Hitler did this. He killed the weak, the sick, the old, and babies and races/religions he didn’t like. Hitler also controlled the media. (Where’s the public debate between scientists on “Climate Change/Global Warming?”) Hitler had the VW bug invented as the state car. What will O’s nationalized car be? So… kill off the weak. That’s the plan. Tax the workers to death. Erase the middle class. Sounds like the evil governments we studied in high school long ago. The evil governments were : kings, oligarchies, facist, socialist, and communist. Now it’s called the Obama Administration. Sounds like candy or a rock band.

In fairness, 1)you have to admit that it’s much funnier than BigHo’s “humor” writing, and 2)if she can just pad this out for a few hundred pages she could get a fluke bestseller out of it…

In Which I Am Forced To Agree With Derek Jeter

[ 0 ] July 7, 2009 |

I’ve long complained about the de facto “every play is a force play” rule that seems to prevail among too many umpires. But I think this is the first time I’ve seen this laziness and incompetence defended so explicitly. At least Ques Tec might stop us from reverting to the fairly recent times in which umpires felt they were entitled to unilaterally enforce individualized strike zones…


[ 0 ] July 7, 2009 |

The Obama administration’s ongoing inaction with respect to the unpopular, unjust, and contrary to national security DADT policy is indeed a disgrace:

In all of this, nothing is more infuriating than Obama’s refusal to act on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It is true that the issue affects a relatively small number of gays and lesbians. But discrimination in our armed forces carries a potent symbolism: It tells an entire class of people that the country is not interested in their service. And it would be an easy problem to fix. As Nathaniel Frank argued at tnr Online last month, Obama may need Congress’s approval to officially repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but he has the legal authority to tell the Pentagon to stop enforcing the policy via executive order. He could do it tomorrow. As for the political risks: Obama should look at some polls. Unlike same-sex marriage, the question of whether gays should serve openly in the military is no longer a particularly controversial issue. According to Gallup, 69 percent of Americans believe gays should be able to serve openly. To put that number in perspective, it is 25 points higher than the percentage of Americans who endorse Obama’s handling of health care, 19 points higher than the percentage who currently support the war in Afghanistan, and 18 points higher than the percentage who approve of the administration’s economic policies. Obama is not afraid to push health care reform, send more troops to Afghanistan, or stand by his stimulus program–nor should he be. But why, when it comes to the far less controversial cause of gays serving in the military, is he apparently willing to punt?

As I said at the time, I could live with the bad symbolism of having Rick Warren at the inauguration…if it were accompanied by good policy on gays and lesbian rights, with the low-hanging fruit of working to repeal DADT the minimum acceptable baseline. But since it hasn’t been, Obama deserves all the criticism he received for it and more.

Must Fight Them There, Etc.

[ 0 ] July 7, 2009 |

This seems kind of interesting. I think that #7 is particularly important, and that some of the rest are actually subsets of the “must protect our women and children” construction of war.


[ 0 ] July 6, 2009 |

Andy McCarthy ingests more than his daily allowance of crazy pills (and let me tell you, that’s a lot of crazy pills):

The Wall Street Journal (as flagged in the NRO web briefing) reports on rioting in China by Uighur “students” that has left scores dead and hundreds wounded. The “students,” described elsewhere in the story as from a “predominantly Muslim ethnic group[, which has] long chafed at restrictions on their civil liberties and religious practices imposed by a Chinese government fearful of political dissent,” expressed their dissent by torching cars and buses, as well as — according to accounts of some witnesses to state-controlled media — rampaging “with big knives stabbing people” on the street.

No reason for non-Muslims in Bermuda, Palau, or the United States to worry, though. The lovable Uighurs are merely trying to address “economic and social discrimination.” Once they get social justice, I’m sure they’ll stop.

It’s hard to figure out where to start… for one, there was a time at which movement conservatives were mildly skeptical of the claims made in Chinese state media. Apparently this is no longer the case. There was also a time at which conservatives would have celebrated a provincial rebellion against our communist superpower existential foe*, but apparently there was a memo or something to the effect that “Anyone from any ethnic group that has members who have ever been incarcerated in Guantanamo deserves the swift, brutal justice of the Chinese state. Pass it on.” I also like how McCarthy has tossed aside the values of democracy and self-determination just to score points against liberals; this doesn’t even rise to the level of coherence displayed by Chucky “Bring back the Shah” Krauthammer.

The rest of the Corner crew, it appears, has tactfully declined comment.

Hat tip to Chet.

*of the week

Sarah Palin: The First Politician Ever to Be Criticized In Less Than Fully Rational Ways!

[ 0 ] July 6, 2009 |

See Adam, Steve, Jill and Steve for the obvious rejoinder to Douthat’s claim that it’s only politicians of Palin’s gender and class background who can expect that their “children will go through the tabloid wringer” and their “religion will be mocked and misrepresented.” Even leaving aside the press’ longstanding war on Clinton and Gore, as Adam notes we have an excellent ongoing example of an Ivy League meritocrat being subjected to all kinds of race-and-gender driven attacks in Sonia Sotomayor. Palin was indeed subjected to some attacks based on her gender and class (as well as many more perfectly legitimate and substantive ones), but this ongoing conservative meme that there’s something unusual about the vitriol directed at Palin is absurd.

Roy has more on winger reactions to the Palin resignation here.

Independence Day, Redux (from a British perspective)

[ 0 ] July 6, 2009 |

Yeah, I know.  But an American colleague of mine at this rain soaked university sent me this yesterday.  These two are amongst the funniest guys on the planet (just ignore all the House bs, his best work was with Stephen Fry by miles).  This is not unfunny.


[ 0 ] July 6, 2009 |

It appears that Old Man McNamara has passed. I’m not sure it’s correct to say he has a “mixed” legacy; he was a terrible wartime Secretary of Defense, and the fact that he apparently felt the war was pointless from the beginning doesn’t really win him any points. Had war been avoided he might be remembered as a fine SecDef, but the war poisoned the reforms he tried to enact at the Pentagon. While I value “Fog of War” as a historical document, I still think that Morris let McNamara get away with far too much at too low of a price. Someday, someone will write a fabulous book comparing and contrasting Robert McNamara with Don Rumsfeld.

. . . update (davenoon): Meantime, this old post from the much-missed Jon Swift will have to do…