Thursday, August 07, 2008

Baseball ethics

Go check out "Ranking baseball’s ethical transgressions," a description of a recent Willy Stern class at Carlton College.

Then go rank the hundred-odd real-life baseball scenarios yourself.
Which was worse—the murder of minor-league ump Samuel White in 1899 by a player who didn’t like one of the ump’s calls and smashed the poor man over the head with his bat, or the decision to exclude African-Americans from organized baseball for decades?
What about the catcher who heaved a potato (that looked like a ball) into left field in a seemingly failed effort to pick off the runner at third, only to tag the runner out with the real ball when he trotted home?


Obama and ex-Nation of Islamer Keith Ellison

Keith Ellison, a guy with pretty solid record of affiliation with anti-Semitic organizations, is featured on Obama's campaign web site, on a page titled "Arab Americans for Obama." Ellison is the lead character in two videos on that page.

PowerLine's Scott Johnson wrote in June that "Despite the natural alliance that should exist between them, Obama has scrupulously avoided Ellison." Apparently that avoidance does not carry over to elements of the campaign targeting at Arab Americans.

In Obama's defense, Ellison is a duly (if unwisely) elected member of Congress; but I seem to recall Obama taking a wee bit of heat for failing to repudiate some unfortunate affiliations earlier in the campaign.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Yon: We won in Iraq.

From Michael Yon, the single best commentator on military affairs in Iraq:
But by my estimation, the Iraq War is over. We won. Which means the Iraqi people won.
He's got some stats (in a Powerpoint document) to back it up.

But he's a bit gloomier on Afghanistan, where "we clearly are losing." On the upside, though, he concludes that "if we could turn things around in [Iraq], we might be able to do the same in Afghanistan."

(Via Instapundit.)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Shameless self promotion

I've got to start carrying myself with a far more august and intellectual bearing.

This blog has been cited in a real live academic paper by real live paper-writing academic types (namely, by Dina Mayzlin, associate marketing professor at the Yale School of Management; et al). The citation is right there in all its glory. Well, actually, it's in teeny tiny print at the end of footnote 7 at the bottom of page 10. But hey, you take what you can get. Here's the citation in toto:
7 For example, one irate blogger complained in his blog about a discovery that he had been plagiarized, “I recently lost out on a boatload of potential new readers because a blogger plagiarized my work verbatim. A high-traffic blogger (Michelle Malkin) then unwittingly linked to the plagiarist's blog instead of mine, and I missed out on all the traffic that came before I found the mistake and asked Michelle to fix the link.”

The paper is called "Link to Success: How Blogs Build an Audience by Promoting Rivals," and you can read the whole thing at this link. The paper must be a good one, because it contains lots of stuff that makes no sense whatsoever to a layman like me. Like this:
The sufficient condition for this equilibrium to hold is: V(u,u) − V(u,n) > V(u,d) − V(n,n)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Commentary's "Contentions" is on a roll

  • Bernard Lewis describes the presidential canditates as
    competing Chamberlains and the hope of a Churchill.
  • Sam Munson posts Geert Wilders's film Fitna on radical Islamism (also available here). Go watch it. I've got no doubt that many Muslims see Islam as the religion of peace portrayed here. But that doesn't mean that the radical Islamism portrayed by Wilders is any less real, or any less of an existential threat to civil society.
  • Abe Greenwald writes that McCain's new ad is directed at Obama:
    If everyone else is still toying with the idea of Hillary’s triumphant superdelegate finale, no one’s been told at McCain headquarters.
    (See the ad here.) I'm not as quick to count out Clinton. And Jennifer Rubin doesn't count out Gore.

Boola boola, who's managing Harvard's moola?

Heh. Apparently Harvard's incoming endowment manager is a Yalie through and through. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Yale and is currently employed as an advisor to Yale's "top-performing" endowment:
Yale University president Richard C. Levin said Mendillo was once one of his favorite economics students. "We're delighted to see the Harvard endowment in the capable hands of a Yale graduate," he said.

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Delegate quotas and the DNC

I noted in a prior post that lots of state Democratic party rules called for surprisingly strict quotas goals around race, age, gender, income, and even (lack of) education among their delegates to the national convention.

Delving around a bit, it turns out that much of this silliness is mandated from the top, specifically from the Democratic National Committee's "Delegate Selection Rules for the 2008 Democratic National Convention." Of the 21 rules listed in the document, three are entitled, "Non-Discrimination," "Affirmative Action," and "Inclusion Programs."

A certain narrative emerges from those three DNC rules.
  • We've got a history of voting discrimination.
  • Let's compensate for that history.
  • Let's identify groups that need help.
  • Let's establish target numbers.
  • But let's be sure not to call the target numbers "quotas."
  • Except for in the man/woman thing. We kinda need quotas there.
Here are some quotations from the rules to support the narrative. The quotations are snippets out of context, but the themes are unmistakable:
  1. We've got a history of voting discrimination:
    ... right to vote have not always been extended... groups of Americans have been explicitly denied the right to vote... subjected to discriminatory and exclusionary practices... denying them voting rights.... past history of discriminatory denial of the franchise.... effects of past discrimination.... groups of Americans...may be under-represented in Party affairs.
  2. Let's compensate for that history:
    ... a program of effective affirmative action is hereby adopted... Discrimination on the basis of “status” in the conduct of Democratic Party affairs is prohibited...efforts to include groups historically underrepresented in the Democratic Party’s affairs... each state party shall develop and submit Party outreach programs... to achieve full participation by such groups and diversity in the delegate selection process and at all levels... shall adopt and implement affirmative action programs... such affirmative action shall be to encourage participation in the delegate selection process... approved Affirmative Action Plan.... encourage the participation of minority groups... not gerrymandered to discriminate... achieve the full participation of members of these and other groups
  3. Let's identify groups that need help:
    ... race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or disability... African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Americans and women. ...priority of consideration shall be given to African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Americans and women... African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian/Pacific Americans or women.... encourage the participation and representation of persons of low and moderate income.... the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered] community and people with disabilities...
  4. Let's establish target numbers:
    ... implement affirmative action programs with specific goals and timetables... if such priority of consideration is needed to fulfill the affirmative action goals... Plans shall provide for equal division between delegate men and delegate women and alternate men and alternate women... as far as mathematically practicable, also provide for equal division between district-level delegate men and delegate women and district-level alternate men and alternate women... State Parties may use goals to achieve these ends....
  5. But let's be sure not to call the target numbers "quotas":
    ... shall not be accomplished either directly or indirectly by the Party’s imposition of mandatory quotas.... in no event may such participation be accomplished by the use of quotas.
  6. Except for in the man/woman thing. We kinda need quotas there:
    Notwithstanding sub-paragraph A.(2) above [the paragraph that forbids mandatory quotas], equal division at any level of delegate or committee positions between delegate men and delegate women or committeemen and committeewomen shall not constitute a violation of any provision thereof.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Democratic convention quotas? (Sorry, I meant "goals")

This excerpt from the 2008 Delegate Selection Plan of the New York State Democratic Party needs no parody:
SECTION D. Representation Goals

1. Goals:

(a) The following are representation goals of this Plan based on the analysis set forth in Appendix D:

(i) African Americans, 28% (78 delegates and 11 alternates); 21
(ii) Latinos, 18% (50 delegates and 7 alternates);
(iii) Asian/Pacific Americans, 7% (20 delegates and 3 alternates);
(iv) Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Americans, 8% (22 delegates and 3 alternates);
(v) Disabled Americans, 5% (14 delegates and 2 alternates); and
(v) [sic] Native Americans, at least one (1) delegate.
Move along, no quotas to see here. You can't make this stuff up. It continues:
(b) The State Convention shall ensure that representation in the Delegation fairly reflects, consistent with Democratic voting population as a whole, including African-Americans, Latinos, Asian/Pacific Americans, women, Native Americans, persons under 30 years of age, persons over 65 years of age, persons of low and moderate income, workers, persons with a high school education or less, persons with disabilities, lesbians and gays, bisexuals and transgender persons, rural Democrats, veterans and ethnic and other groups historically underrepresented in Party affairs, if necessary by selecting members of those groups as at-large delegates.
Did I read that right--the New York State Dems will go out of their way to make sure that "persons with a high school education or less" are represented? Wow.

And lest you fret, gender is addressed earlier in the document:
2. Equal Division: The Delegation shall be equally divided between delegate men and delegate women and, separately, alternate men and alternate women, with a variance in each group (“the Variate”) no greater than one. The Variate in one group shall be the opposite gender of any Variate in the other group.
Ah, it's clear now: The Variate in one group shall be the opposite gender of any Variate in the other group. Either a reference to a high school dance or something from a seventh-grade biology lesson. You really can't make this stuff up.

Betsy Newmark comments on similar "goals" for California Dems:
Looking at those requirements and I can't help envisioning that that is what the Democrats would love to do for admissions offices at every state university in California if not the rest of the country.

See Mickey Kaus's "Can we go back to ignoring race now?," which seems to be the first major blog to have blogged on the California "goals."

Update: The NJ Dems are no different. Their 2008 Delegate Selection Plan contains the following "affirmative action goals." The list includes the "underrepresented constituent group," the "proposed representation goal %" and the "proposed representation goal # for 2008 delegates":
C. Affirmative Action Goals

Total Delegates: 127+ 18 alternates = 145
  • African-American (Non-Hispanic): 14% 20
  • Asian-American: 7% 10
  • Disabled: 2% 3
  • Hispanic : 15% 22
  • LGBT: 8% 12
  • Native-Americans: 1% 1
  • Youth (18-35): 8% 12
  • Arab American: 2% 3

Total 83 of 145
Same deal for Connecticut Dems. See the top of page 22 of their Connecticut Delegate Selection Plan for the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

Update: Turns out this stuff is more-or-less mandated by the DNC. Details here.

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Classic NY Magazine cover


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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

That man sure can talk

Barak Obama is, to my mind, the most powerful orator of any major American politician today.

His speech yesterday was masterful. The topic--race relations in America--was controversial enough. Add to that the catalyst for the speech--the revelations of some fairly horrific sermons from the preacher Obama has chosen for most of his adult life--and you've got a tough basis for a campaign topic.

And yet by the end of the speech I was thinking, Yeah, I like what this guy could do for race relations in this country. He's good. An effective talk: putting black anger in the context of our nation's history; looking at prejudice, black and white; and framing all of this in the continuation of the Founding Fathers' efforts to form a more perfect union. He was on the defensive and turned it around.

But now for the quibbles.

First, Obama's repeated invocation of Geraldine Ferraro reeked of the same politics he claims to be avoiding.

Second, and more important, the asides were problematic. When straying from the issues of race, Obama managed to remind me that his policy instincts are by and large antithetical to mine. What purpose did those asides (condemning war; assailing the greed of corporate culture; sneering at profits; or implying that it is up to the government to invest more in healthcare, education and the like) play other than to reinforce that--inspirational rhetoric aside--his politics are no different from a long line of left liberal political candidates? Ah, well.

Update: Virginia Postrel's take on the Obama speech reflects my views. (And as of this week, Postrel is a TV star for her donation of a kidney to an acquaintance.)

Charles Murray, too, liked the speech. As did Peggy Noonan, who writes in "A Thinking Man's Speech,"

I thought Barack Obama's speech was strong, thoughtful and important. Rather beautifully, it was a speech to think to, not clap to. It was clear that's what he wanted, and this is rare.

More from Murray here. Like me, he cannot vote for Obama; like me, he was impressed by this speech.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Name that party

The New York Times today covered two stories that broke yesterday about politicians involved in unsavory sexual situations. One of the two politicians is a Republican, one is a Democrat. Guess which one the Times identified by party?

  • The first story is about a New York City Councilman who pleaded guilty Monday to two misdemeanors connected to unwanted sexual contact. The second sentence of the Times story mentions the guilty party's party:
    Mr. Gallagher, 43, a Queens Republican, told the court in a non-emotional tone that he touched the 52-year-old victim against her will....
  • The second story is about New York's new governor who, soon after his inauguration Monday, admitted that he and his wife had carried on extra-marital affairs. The Times reporter must have had a hard time tracking down the new Governor's political affiliation, because in the nine-paragraph article he neglected to mention that the new governor is a Democrat.
Update: Yeah, I posted this before Taranto did. Yeah, he used my stuff without linking me. Yeah, I sent him the link to my piece before he published. And though he did credit me (by my non-blog name, in the list at the bottom of the page), he is well enough steeped in blog etiquette to know he shoulda linked me. James, James, James.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

This should quell any doubts about whether post-Castro Cuba is free

Cuban sports officials were stunned by the desertions of up to seven soccer players at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Florida.

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Obama pork tit for tat?

This does seem a bit cozy.

Within months of Obama's swearing in, his wife got a huge raise in the department of her hospital that presumably lobbies for government grants. The next year, Obama apparently requested $9 million in pork for the hospital. Hmmm.

Here's the timeline:

2004: Michelle Obama's pay at the University of Chicago Hospital, where she was executive director for community affairs, was reportedly $121,910.

2005: [January] Michelle Obama's husband Barack becomes a United States Senator.

2005: [May] Mrs. Obama is promoted to vice president for community and external affairs at the hospital, and her pay reportedly jumps to $316,962 (260% of her 2004 salary).

2006: Senator Obama requests $9 million in earmarks for the institution, according to a list of earmark requests released by the Obama campaign:
  • "In 2006, Obama requested $8 million for Human Genome Expression at the University of Chicago."
  • "In 2006, Obama requested that the University of Chicago receive $1 million to support its Construction of New Hospital Pavilion."
Looks like the hospital got its money back--and then some--from Mrs. Obama's raise.

Obama's family has other connections to the institution as well:
  • "Top campaign adviser and friend Valerie Jarrett is the Chair of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board and also Chair of the Executive Committee of that board. She has also been named Vice-Chair of the University's Board of Trustees. "
  • "Obama taught at the U. of Chicago law school and the Obama's two daughters attend school there."

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Sine, cosine, cosine, sine/Three point one four one five nine/Gooo team!

If St. Patrick's day is around the corner, it can only mean one thing: Pi Day! (3/14 -- get it?)

Here are some videos on the topic

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Podhoretz and Dickens

It makes me feel better about my own inability to wade through Dickens when I find out that I'm in good company: Norman Podhoretz can't either.

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If you're interested in Eliot Spitzer's background, motivations and methods as attorney general, check out Roger Donway's 2005 analysis. Here's a sampling:
... In the case of business, he seems to begin with the moral principle that self-interested behavior, such as moneymaking, is at best a merely practical activity, and if not constrained by noblesse oblige a positively malign one. ... Spitzer therefore wages war against the self-seeking, moneymaking bourgeoisie in the name of the little guy. All he asks in return is ever more power to do so.

... Spitzer's moral outlook has definite, discernible contours, and at its core are three elements that have shaped his crusades against business.
  • First is an antipathy toward anything he perceives as greed. He may not be a socialist who wants to eliminate the pursuit of economic self-interest altogether, but he demands that self-interest be restrained and decorous—a necessary evil
  • Secondly, Spitzer is profoundly egalitarian in his outlook. He assumes that conflicts of interest between the classes are manifold, and the danger of exploitation constant. With that conviction, he invariably sides with workers and small investors against the wealthy and successful.
  • Third, and worst of all, Spitzer is a Jacobin: he is willing to sacrifice the political principles of a free society—individual rights, the rule of law, and democratic processes—when they stand in the way of his moral views.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Name that party

Mark Hemmingway:
As a sidebar to an article at ABC news about Elliot Spitzer, they've helpfully put together this slideshow of 13 politicians involved in famous sex scandals.(Collect them all!) Anyway, it's rather interesting that of the 7 Republicans on the list, all of them save one are identified by ABC as Republicans. Of the six Democrats on the list, only one is identified by party affiliation.

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David Mamet changes his mind

David Mamet in the Village Voice: "I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind."

As the good professor says, read the whole thing.

(Hat tip: my sister.)

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Hypocrisy -- some quotations from the Spitzer record

In light of today's revelations, here are some choice Spitzer quotations (all emphasis mine):
  • From Spitzer's Jan. 2007 inaugural address:
    "And so in order to return to policies of opportunity and prosperity, we must change the ethics of Albany and end the politics of cynicism....

    "If ever there was a time that called out for introspection by those in government, it is now. Lincoln spoke of listening to "the better angels of our nature." Indeed, those of us who work in the great building behind me must hear and heed the serious responsibility that public service demands and rise to this moment and show the public in words and in deeds that we understand that our responsibility is to the people of New York."
  • From a Jun. 2006 statement by Spitzer regarding pending legislation:
    Another important issue that needs to be addressed is the problem of sexual predators. For over six years I have been pushing for legislation allowing the civil commitment of such individuals, and we should not let another year pass without action.

    In addition, we need legislation to punish those who engage in human trafficking. This is a particularly heinous crime that primarily targets women and immigrants, including those forced into prostitution. This is a growing crime, and we need strong provisions allowing us to address it.

  • From an Apr. 2004 press release from Spitzer's office:
    Attorney General Spitzer said today that 18 people associated with popular "escort services" operating in New York City, Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey have been indicted for promoting prostitution and related charges.

    The indictments by a Staten Island Grand Jury follow a lengthy investigation of the escort services, which authorities believed were really a front for a massive prostitution ring.

    "This was a sophisticated and lucrative operation with a multi-tiered management structure," Spitzer said. "It was, however, nothing more than a prostitution ring, and now its owners and operators will be held accountable."

  • From a Feb. 2004 press release from Spitzer's office:
    New York State Attorney General Spitzer announced the indictment by a Dutchess County Grand Jury of the operators of a travel agency on charges alleging that they used their tour business to solicit customers for prostitution rings operating from South East Asia.

    The defendants... are charged ... with Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree, a class "D" felony, and Promoting Prostitution in the Fourth Degree, a class "A" misdemeanor. If convicted on the charges, the defendants face up to seven years in state prison.

  • From an Oct. 2003 description of Spitzer's "Clean Sweep" program from Neighborhood Watch: A Report from New York 's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer:
    To qualify for this initiative, a house, apartment or store must ... have been the site of repeated convictions in recent years for drug dealing, prostitution, or other type of illegal business...

    Attorney General Spitzer remains committed to filing Clean Sweep
    cases wherever appropriate.
  • From an Oct. 2003 press release from Spitzer's office:
    Attorney General Spitzer today announced that a Monroe County couple were arrested and arraigned on a[n]... indictment filed by an Erie County Special Grand Jury, charging them both with running a prostitution business in Erie, Monroe and Niagara counties.

    The defendants... are each charged with two counts of Promoting Prostitution in the Third Degree, both are class "D" felonies....

  • From an Aug. 2003 press release from Spitzer's office:

    Attorney General Spitzer today announced a lawsuit against the operators of a travel agency operating in Dutchess and Queens counties that arranged tours of South East Asian bars that serve as a venue for illegal prostitution.

    "The company ... promotes prostitution and the abuse of young women," Spitzer said. "This suit seeks a halt to this egregious conduct."

    ... Joselito A. Jimeno, Acting Head of Consular Post at the Consulate General of the Philippines said:

    "The Philippine Consulate General in New York hails the lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General against "sex tour" operators as an important move in the international battle against crimes against women and children.
(Disclosure: My view of today's news may be a bit colored by the hit my pocketbook took from then-Attorney General Spitzer's aggressive approach to prosecution.)

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