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MLB Preview the Second: The Junior Circuit

[ 0 ] April 8, 2009 |

West: 1. LAAOA 2. OAK 3. SEA 4. TEX I would really, really like to think that the gig is finally up for the Angels, whose record last year is highly misleading. And, certainly, with the injuries in their excellent-if-healthy pitching staff the division (remember that less than 10 years ago this was a powerhouse?) is ripe for the plucking. But I don’t see who else is going to do the picking, and think the below-market Abreu signing may save them. I can’t pick the A’s with the kind of rotation they’re throwing out there, although their offense has improved. The Mariners at least have an idea of what they want to do, and until the Angels get healthy probably have the best rotation in the division supported by an incredible OF defense, although the back end remains pretty dire. But the offense lacks both power and on-base ability and the bullpen is to shaky for a team that will need to win close games. The Rangers are an interesting team looking ahead, but it’s hard for teams in bandboxes to develop pitching staffs, so I think they’re a year away.

Central: 1. CLE 2. CHI 3. DET 4. MIN 5. KC And remember when this division looked like it would be really powerful? I don’t especially like any of these teams. Cleveland, though, is a pretty obvious pick despite the ongoing lack of power in the OF corners: the offense is very solid, although the rotation is just OK assuming Lee comes back to earth, and singing Wood will help. After that, it’s desperate work to pick. Most statheads seem to see a White Sox collapse, and certainly Williams doing stuff like starting the year with nothing remotely resembling a major league CF doesn’t inspire confidence. Still, I think their rotation is underrated, and the Ramirez/Quentin/Thome/Dye core should score enough runs to compete in this division, especially if Fields takes a step forward or Konerko a step back. The Tigers still have a pretty good offense with a high upside, but with their pitching they’re probably a better candidate to finish 5th than 1st. I don’t think the Twins can afford to miss two months of Mauer, leaving them with basically a one-man offense (especially since that one remaining man is overrated), and their pitching isn’t any better and probably worse than Cleveland’s, even if they have the division’s best closer. The Royals are beginning to put their world together, but the back end of their rotation is unnecessarily atrocious and they also distinctly lack championship-quality hitters.

EAST: 1. BOS 2. NYY(*) 3. TB 4. TOR 5.BAL I admit this against my instinct; I initially thought that letting Teixera go to the Yankees, while perhaps the right long-term decision, handed the division to a team that otherwise just wouldn’t have had the offense. And if the Yankees’ potentially superb rotation stays healthy it very well might. The Red Sox also have some flaws in their lineup — not much punch in the OF (where the best hitter can’t stay healthy), no SS, a very leaderly and clutchy offensive black hole at catcher, and I don’t believe in Lowell. Wait, why am I picking them again? Well, I like the depth in their rotation more, and between their age, inury risks and realities, and dubious bottom-end the Yankees have their own offensive issues. And Rivera probably doesn’t have more than 15 years left in him as the best closer in the game. (Seriously, 77/6 K/W ratio? 0.665 WHIP? It’s like every year is the postseason now.) Anyway, I think they’re both going to the playoffs. The Braves are the only miracle team to emerge as a good team. The Rays actually have a decent chance to be the second — they would certainly be clear favorites in any other division in baseball — but in this competitive context I worry about the youth of their starting pitching and a bullpen that likely overachieved last year. Still, they’re very good; if the Yankees’ injuries or Red Sox willing to carry offensive dead spots catches up to them, they could win the division again. The Blue Jays have become the new Gabe Paul Indians, with more pitching and less offense; they don’t really have bad players but they don’t have any good players (at least in the sense of anyone who should be leading off or hitting 3-4-5 in a major league lineup), although maybe Lind or Snyder will emerge as one. Riccardi is sort of the same — not as obviously incompetent as a Littlefield or Bonifay, but certainly not good enough to compete in this division. And with Ryan pretty obviously hurt…it’s sad to see Halladay wasting his career on a team like this. I like the Orioles long term a lot more, but this year will still be bleak; they’ll outscore Toronto but the hideous rotation will keep them in last place another year.

More on judicial review and democracy

[ 0 ] April 8, 2009 |

The court’s decision can be defended, in theory, on various grounds.

(1) The state’s constitution actually required the court to rule as it did.

I’m not going to debate this claim any more than I’m going to debate a Scientologist about whether we’re all really Thetans.

(2) The ruling is a “plausible” interpretation of the state’s equal protection clause and associated precedent. This is true. To say it’s plausible is to say it’s the kind of argument you can make in court, and judges might buy it. Note the claim upheld by the court would have been utterly implausible just a few (10? 20?) years ago, even though in the interim there’s been no change in the relevant formal legal materials. So what has changed? Obviously, the beliefs of judges. Just as obviously, this change in judicial opinion is a product of the change in the political landscape in regard to gay marriage.

All of which is to say that judges are now more likely to find a constitutional right to gay marriage than they were a generation ago (when the odds of them “finding” such a right could be calculated as zero) for exactly the same reason that legislators are now more likely to vote for civil union and gay marriage laws than they were a generation ago — because an idea that was politically unpopular has become more popular.

(3) It hasn’t become popular enough in Iowa., however, to be enacted through legislation. The defense of judicial review of this sort by people who aren’t sufficiently clueless to believe that what’s going on is the deduction of formally entailed legal conclusions from authoritative texts comes down to some combination of “it’s not really that anti-democratic for courts to do stuff like this because they need support from the political branches,” and/or “this is too important to be left to the normal political process.” I just want to note that these arguments tend to become somewhere between deeply implausible and utterly outrageous to those who make them whenever courts employ this type of judicial review to invalidate laws they like.

Now it’s certainly possible to defend aggressive judicial review under the guise of interpreting very general constitutional language. But two arguments that seem quite wrong to me are that such a practice is “legal interpretation” in any useful sense of that phrase, and that such a practice isn’t significantly less democratic than the typical legislative process (which of course itself is only very imperfectly democratic).

Great moments in ACORN hysteria

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

This is really funny:

ACORN is “gate busting” Tea Parties nationwide. These far-left goons are attending them and mispresenting their allegiance. They are getting petitions signed, misrepresenting them as opposition to the Obama agenda. They explain something different than that written on the petition. More fraud, and lies from Obama Acorn people. Please be careful when signing your name to anything at these Tea Parties. We are still not sure what these whackjobs are using the names for, these people are known for violent criminal acts,bullying tactics, fraud and harrassment (just to name a few). Groups like ACORN and CODEPINK are nothing but Anti-American criminal organizations. BEWARE.
I just stocked up on Pepper spray at JUST IN CASE

That post, gurgled through the wingnut alimentary canal (i.e., esophagus, stomach, small/large intestine) will now come to rest in the great porcelain bowl from which the right feeds itself each election cycle.

Come 2010, in addition to the usual laughables — ACORN committed vote fraud! ACORN brought down the global economy! ACORN is making the ghost of John Locke cry! — Glenn Reynolds and Michelle Malkin will be able to remind their readers of the time that Barack Obama supplied homeless people with cartons of cigarettes as rewards for disrupting the most awesomest grassroots rebellion since the Third Servile War.

Ed Morrissey: Missile Defense is Too Complicated for Me to Understand

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

Ed Morrissey:

There has always been an air of absurdity about the opposition to missile-defense systems. No one argues that missiles aren’t a threat, but somehow defending ourselves against it is illegitimate unless one stumbles on a complete, perfect defense immediately. That we have never found a perfect defense against any weapon on the first throw doesn’t appear to faze people at all….Is it cheap? Of course not — but it’s a lot less expensive than the alternative of having missiles hit cities in Europe or the US. If Minneapolis suddenly disappeared in a North Korean mushroom cloud, I’d bet that the costs, even outside of the human costs, would be exponentially larger than everything we’ve spent on missile defense for the last 25 years put together.

Ed, let me explain something to you, slowly and carefully. Missile defense, at least when conceived as a response to the threat of nuclear attack on the United States, needs to be “complete and perfect.” Otherwise it’s useless. There are virtually no foreign policy goals that a President will consider worthwhile if there’s a 5% risk that the destruction of American cities will result. 80% doesn’t cut it; 95% doesn’t, and probably not even 99%. This is not a new objection to missile defense; analysts have understood that defense against nuclear armed ballistic missiles needs to be 100% for quite some time, which is why so many intelligent people have rejected the possibility that a missile defense shield could provide useful protection for the United States. Now, it’s fair to say that the same logic does not apply to conventional ballistic missile attacks on either cities or military targets; in those cases, an 85% effective missile shield is useful. But for preventing Minneapolis from disappearing under a nuclear mushroom cloud, not so much.

Ed has two potential objections to this. The first is that North Korea or some other rogue state might send a flight of missiles at the United States just for the hell of it, and not in reaction to some US policy. This is too silly for words; North Korea can commit national suicide right now if it wants. The second is to emphasize the “immediate” portion; this is to say that missile defense may not be perfect now, but it will become so in the future. This is plausible only if you believe that potential enemies of the United States never innovate, and never react to developments in the US. If they do, then “perfection” is transitory, and we can never really be sure that our defense is 100%, which gets us back to square one.

In other words, it’s nonsense all the way down.

The Majoritarian Difficulty

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

Neither house of Iowa’s legislature has the slightest interest in a constitutional amendment overriding the state Supreme Court’s perfectly plausible holding that denying same-sex couples marriage rights violates the state’s constitutional admonition that “the general assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities, which, upon the same terms shall not equally belong to all citizens.” Why, it’s almost enough to make me wonder in what sense the Court’s decision was a “usurpation” of the will of Iowa’s current legislators in the first place.

Meanwhile, the massive backlash is also evident in Vermont. I mean, the Vermont House could only barely scrape up a 2/3rds majority to override the governor’s veto! I hereby arbitrarily declare that to be really democratic they would need at least 90% of the vote in both legislatures and a referendum.

Raptor Jobs Not Preserved

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

General Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff:

All right, all right — some people have to play little games. You play yours. So let’s just say that you’ll give me 60 more F-22s because it is in your interest to give them to me. But I want your answer and the planes by noon tomorrow. And one more thing: don’t you contact me again — ever. From now on you deal with Lockheed.

SecDef Gates:

Uh, General — you can have my answer now if you like. My offer is this — nothing. Not even the reimbursement for the public relations campaign, which I would appreciate if you would put up personally.

In other news, James Inhofe has gone plainly apoplectic. It’s worth noting that the cuts announced thus far have to make their way through Congress, and that Democrats normally in sympathy with the Obama administration may find the prospect of defense cuts in their own states and districts too much to bear. However, Noah makes the argument that the prospect of Congressional opposition may have encouraged Gates to go for broke:

But this parochial opposition may have actually encouraged the Pentagon and the White House to be more sweeping in its plans, one key Congressional staffer suggests. Previous administrations have tried to cut bloated, poor-performing defense projects onesy-twosy — only to be rejected by the Hill. Going after a whole range of weak programs at once makes it more likely that at least some of the Pentagon’s sickliest weapons projects will be amputated.

Finally, I think the question of whether or not keeping Robert Gates on as Secretary of Defense was a good idea has been decisively answered.

That Was Just Pathetic

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

J. Swiderski of “bail this out” has won the LGM Tourney Challenge. Mr./Ms. Swiderski’s victory was clinched by North Carolina’s crushing victory over what purported to be the Michigan State Spartans last night. The owner of “bail this out” should contact me (e-mail is available through profile on the right) for prize collection.

Koh v. Bork

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

One thing to add to Dahlia Lithwick’s superb defense of Harold Koh is a comparison with the Bork nomination, allegedly the Most Uncivil Moment in American History (at least before the era of blog commenters.) The thing about the charges in Ted Kennedy’s “infamous” speech about Bork is that the charges in it were accurate — Bork did oppose the Civil Rights Act, advocate an extraordinarily narrow reading of the First Amendment, strongly oppose the existence of a constitutional right of privacy, etc. And he did these things not in obscure speeches but in public writings. One can dispute the relevance of his past positions, agree with them, etc., but bringing them up was fair game. (Kennedy’s speech was tenedentious, sure, but making that accusation of a politician is like accusing water of being wet. The attacks weren’t false.) Claims the Koh favors the imposition of Sharia law, believes that Mother’s Day should be abolished, etc. are just straightforwardly false. And, yet, the mainstream media remains far less bothered about this particular breach of civility.

2009 MLB Preview: The NL

[ 0 ] April 7, 2009 |

West: 1. LA 2. ARI 3. COL 4. SF 5. SD I’ll pretty much go chalk here. Signing Ramirez makes this a relatively easy call; their offense is by far the best in the division and the rotation and bullpen are both good. The top of their rotation aside I’ve thought many sabermetric types have been overrating the DBacks for a couple years and I still think that; the offense remains unimpressive and losing Hudson will hurt the defense badly. Colorado seems back on the submediocrity treadmill. If the Giants’ young pitchers stay healthy I could see them finishing second, but you can’t count on that and the offense remains hideous. The Padres situation is just sad, a consistently competitive team turning quickly into an awful team with little to build on either. Their under does seem like one of the best bets in history, although admittedly I thought that about the Giants last year.

Central: 1. Chi 2. Mil 3. Cin 4. StL. 5. Hou 6. Pit I’m not really terribly impressed with the Cubs — the bullpen shaky, Dempster will be way down, Harden likely to be hurt, the offense very- good-not-great — but I can’t deny they’re the class of this division. I’ll be rooting for the Brewers to win the division but like most people I think they missed their window unless they can bring along some young pitchers; the impressive young talent is misalinged defensively, and their bullpen is atrocious without any Victor Zambrano to compensate. The Reds are the opposite, impressive young pitchers but (even with Votto) not much of an offense. I thought the Cardinals would be bad last year, and although it’s become foolish to bet against LaRussa/Duncan to pull some good innings out of nowhere and although Pujols is amazing I still think they’re pretty bad. I figure that Berkman and Oswalt will keep the Astros out of the cellar they’re likely to occupy perenially now that the Pirates seem under semi-competent management for another year. But the cautious medium-term optimism a Pirates fan might have shouldn’t be confused with thinking there’s much there yet.

East: 1. NY 2. ATL(*) 3. PHI 4. FLA 5. WAS I know, really dumb to bet against the Phillies again, and they certainly could be back in the World Series. And Minaya does some irritating things, most notably compunding the AIG-level-stupid Castillo contract by not writing off the sunk cost with Hudson available cheap. But to me, the key here is bullpens. Even a mediocre bullpen last year and the Mets would have won easily, and this year the Mets will have two elite closers and a pretty good 7th inning guy instead. The Phillies, on the other hand, got a brilliant performance out of a gifted but erratic closer and decent-to-typically-waiver-wire-bait support, which won’t happen again. That turnaround will be an enormous number of runs. Meanwhile, the Mets had a better offense last year and figure to this year, and the Phillies certainly aren’t making that up in the rotation. I actually think the Braves — better than their record two years running and with the first credible rotation they’ve had in a while — are a bit better shot to take the division, although the offense has a few too many holes to put them ahead of the Mets. The Marlins are interesting — some talented young pitchers and Ramirez ranks with Utley and Beltran as the best player in the league’s best division — but the kid pitchers just don’t have the offensive or defensive support. The Nationals have improved offensively, but it’s still not a good offense and the rest of the team is worse. The bad karma of syndicate ownership…

UPDATE: The commenter is completely right, and I am completely wrong, about the Brewer defense; a consultation of The Fielding Bible shows that they are indeed a top 5 defense.

Fish on Churchill

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

This seems like a very sensible take. As far as I can tell the charges of academic misconduct against Churchill are very, very thin gruel — as Fish says, mostly run-of-the-mill academic debates about whether the evidence is sufficiently strong rather than more serious or unequivocal charges — and it’s inconceivable that he would have been fired had he not written his stupid 9/11 essay. And however offensive the essay was, if academic freedom means anything it’s not a firing offense.

Happy Opening Day!

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

Praise your preferred deity for baseball. Cincinnati has stepped up to the plate with an offering of 37 degrees and snow; it was 71 yesterday. Hopefully it will be better on Wednesday, when Dr. Lemieux and myself take in a first-night-of-Pesach Metropolitans-Redlegs tilt down at Great American.

The Problems That Arise When Glenn Reynolds Is Considered A Libertarian

[ 0 ] April 6, 2009 |

Shorter Jonah Goldberg: Libertarians are actually obliged to ignore the systematic effects of state interventions I favor (like the War (On Some Classes of People Who Use Some) Drugs), as well as policies that the National Review has traditionally supported (like apartheid at home and abroad.)

To add to Holbo’s defense of Wilkinson, allow me to return to one of my favorite quotes in the United States Reports, from Robert Jackson:

“I regard it as a salutary doctrine that cities, states and the Federal Government must exercise their powers so as not to discriminate between their inhabitants except upon some reasonable differentiation fairly related to the object of regulation. This equality is not merely abstract justice. The framers of the Constitution knew, and we should not forget today, that there is no more effective practical guaranty against arbitrary and unreasonable government than to require that the principles of law which officials would impose upon a minority must be imposed generally. Conversely, nothing opens the door to arbitrary action so effectively as to allow those officials to pick and choose only a few to whom they will apply legislation and thus to escape the political retribution that might be visited upon them if larger numbers were affected. Courts can take no better measure to assure that laws will be just than to require that laws be equal in operation.”

The idea that the WO(SCOPWUS)D’s increasing obliteration of the Fourth Amendment would be tolerated if upper-middle-class families were frequently having their doors beaten in, property seized, daughters strip-searched with the approval of future Supreme Court justices, etc. etc. is absurd. Wilkinson is just pointing out the obvious, and libertarians can see the consequences as much as anyone.