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Saturday, January 01, 2005
 
The Best Athlete Nonsense

A couple of talkers on WFAN were going on about who was the best athlete in baseball. This is one of those time-wasters that absolutely drives me up the wall. One of the commenters claimed that Ichiro was clearly the best athlete in baseball, going on and on about his various skills, which include great bat control, blazing speed, solid glove and strong arm.

All of which is undeniably true, but it begs the question: If he's the best athlete in the sport, why isn't he an annual MVP like Barry Bonds? Is the notion that Ichiro would wipe out Barry in a decathlon contest?

A similar point used to be waged in the "Who's a better QB, John Elway or Joe Montana?" debates of the late 1980s-early 1990s. Elway was perceived as the ideal quarterback--taller and huskier than Montana and probably a little faster, with a stronger arm. Of course, Montana's arm was strong enough to lift his team to four Super Bowl championships, while Elway (at the time) still had none.

I know why the radio guys do it: Because it allows them to opine on stuff while not being tied down to what the guy actually did on the playing field. It's the sort of thing that those who propose Archie Manning as a Hall of Fame quarterback (yes, they do exist) indulge themselves in, a fantasy world where Manning is drafted by the Steelers instead of Bradshaw, and leads them to five or six Super Bowl wins, rather than the paltry four accumulated by the bald one.

The problem with these arguments is that you can "prove" anything with them. Just fantasize that the Yankees signed Joe Garagiola instead of Yogi Berra and you can establish that Garagiola belongs in the Hall of Fame. Put Dan Marino on the '49ers and he wins the Super Bowl 10 consecutive times.

A similar argument exists today with Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Yes, Brady's a fine quarterback, people say, but if Manning weren't saddled with the lousy defense of the Colts, he'd be winning titles virtually annually.

Look, this is pretty simple. I don't care what somebody could have done. I care what he did done. And I don't care that Michael Vick is clearly the best athlete at the QB position; it's far more important that he's NOT the best QB in the league (by a large margin).
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Friday, December 31, 2004
 
New and Recommended

Okay, I haven't read Hugh Hewitt's new book, Blog, but I did read his last opus, If It's Not Close They Can't Cheat, which was eminently readable and chockful of useful insights into the political process. Like all the bloggers I am going to pick it up and first give it the old Washington read (look in the index to see if Kerry Haters was mentioned).

Hugh's been a great advocate for blogging, with regular blogger guests on his radio show, with his encouragement of small blogs on his own blog, and now with this book. If you haven't listened to his radio show, you are missing the most intelligent, insightful commentator on politics today. In the dark hours of election day afternoon, when Fox News' analysts were gloomily predicting a Kerry victory, it was Hugh who simply (and correctly) insisted that the exit polls were wrong.
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American Prospect: Democrats Need to Be More Liberal

Let's hope the Democrats listen to this message.

What I found amusing were these two passages:

This message contrasts with that of the DLC centrists, who promote, for instance, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh's free-trade, Republican-lite positions as a model for winning in red states. What they don’t say is that Bayh comes from one of Indiana’s most beloved political families and wins largely by virtue of his last name, not his ideology.

But:

Other Democrats are catching on. In South Dakota, Representative Stephanie Herseth used her family-farm roots to woo Republican voters. As most of Herseth's House Democratic colleagues buckled to corporate pressure and helped pass a free-trade deal with Australia in 2004, the first-term congresswoman attacked her GOP opponent for supporting the pact, arguing that its provisions would undercut American ranchers. She won re-election in the same state where Republicans defeated Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.

Got it? Bayh wins because of his family name, while Herseth wins because of her populism. However, Herseth also comes from a famous political family in her home state as this clip from her official biography notes:

Former Governor Ralph Herseth was Stephanie's grandfather and Lorna B. Herseth, South Dakota's Secretary of State, was her grandmother. Her father, Lars, served in the state legislature for 20 years and was the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1986.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2004
 
Correcting Michael Barone

Is never an easy task, but one small part of this column is just plain wrong.

Take black Americans, the most heavily Democratic constituency -- 88 percent to 11 percent for John Kerry in the 2004 NEP exit poll. Blacks have been voting for Democratic presidential candidates by similar margins since 1964, when Republican Barry Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act.

In fact, Blacks have been voting for Democratic presidential candidates by those margins since the days of FDR; there is a long passage in The Making of the President: 1960 that remarks on Black voting patterns and notes that they had traditionally been Republicans right up until the Depression, and that it was the advent of welfare that caused them to switch allegiance.

Here's a snippet from the book:

Time was, forty years ago [i.e. 1920] when Negroes voted solidly Republican out of gratitude for Abraham Lincoln and emancipation. ("I remember," once said Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, "when I was young in Kansas City, the kids threw rocks at Negroes on our street who dared to vote Democratic."). But Franklin D. Roosevelt changed that. Under Roosevelt, government came to mean social security, relief, strong unions, unemployment compensation. ("Let Jesus lead me and welfare feed me" was a Negro depression chant.) And, like a heaving-off of ancient habit, as the Negro moved north he moved onto the Democratic voting rolls.
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Going By the Numbers

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy thinks that the casualty numbers in Iraq are comparable to those in Vietnam.

While the casualty rate in Vietnam is considerably higher than the rate in Iraq, Jim's comparison led me to realize that the differences are smaller than I would have thought.

Jim Lindgren's original post (also at the Volokh Conspiracy) is here.

I disagree with both posts, but let's tackle Jim's first. Jim says:

Any substantial number of US lives lost in Vietnam was (I believe) unwarranted because the war was a failure and its goals questionable.

Now the interesting thing here is to note the objection that the war was a failure. This is reasonably true, but why? Because it ended with the North Vietnamese conquering the South, and therefore nothing was really accomplished other than delaying the (supposedly) inevitable.

But then who made the war a failure? Isn't the answer obvious? Anti-war activists and Watergate-era Democrats who succeeded in getting the US to cut off support for the South Vietnamese government were responsible. Shortly after this happened, South Vietnam and Cambodia fell, and Southeast Asia descended into nightmare.

Now, let's come around to Orin's post. He is surprised by the comparability of the US casualties today in Iraq and those in South Vietnam 35 years ago. But this war has yet to become a failure. As I commented on his post, the Normandy invasion cost between 2500 and 6000 American lives.

Was that too many? We don't judge it as a failure because we succeeded in the overall war effort and succeeded in the invasion. Will Iraq be a failure? Well, one thing's for certain. If those who have opposed it get their way, it will be, and then they can say they were right all along, just as those who opposed the US involvement in Vietnam do.
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Monday, December 27, 2004
 
The Wisconsin Recount

Ronald Wieck points out that there is none.

Understanding begins with the concept that any Kerry lead is sacrosanct. No “activists” will agitate for a recount in Wisconsin, where Long John won by an eyelash. Until this concept is grasped, enlightenment is unattainable. The operative principle here is something like the Brezhnev Doctrine: states won by the Democrat are inviolate—the result is carved in stone. States won by the Republican are negotiable.

Indeed, Kerry won by only 11,000 votes in the Land of the Cheeseheads, a difference of less than one half of one percent. By contrast, Bush's winning margin in Ohio is over 2%.
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Sunday, December 26, 2004
 
Tough Day for the Jets

They lose and the road gets a little tougher. All of the teams they need to lose are playing very tough teams, but they are playing very tough teams with nothing to play for. If they beat the Rams in St.Louis, they will be in the playoffs with the #5 seed. But if they lose, they have to get some help. Buffalo plays the Steelers, but Pittsburgh has nothing to play for, having sewn up HFA throughout the playoffs. And Denver plays Indianapolis but Indy has the #3 guaranteed, which means Peyton won't be playing late. About the only good news is that the Rams may have nothing to play for, unless they can beat the Eagles tomorrow night.
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