Thursday, April 30, 2009

You talking about my ratings, punk?

Pretty hilarious White House press conference tick-tock from Marc Ambinder:

There's a moment -- usually with about two minutes to go -- where four or five network correspondents, standing feet apart, talk over each other, saying much the same thing. Then you hear the voice of CBS's Mark Knoller, who gives a last minute radio update. Then the same from ABC's Ann Compton.

Ed Henry finished his stand-up early. Only NBC's Chuck Todd and CBS's Chip Reid were left standing.

Chuck groaned. He knew that he and Chip were about to stumble over one another.

Chuck then realized that everyone was looking at him. He informed his producer of this.

Then he joked that someone was going to Twitter the conversation. (I did.)

Chip, who has sworn off Twitter and has never been on Facebook, dryly wondered how many people would read it.

Chuck misheard Chip, thinking that Chip was talking about ratings.

So Chuck struck back, saying something like: "Do we really want to get into a ratings comparison?"

Everyone from the photogs to members of Obama's staff said "Oooooh."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter to switch parties

Everybody seems genuinely astounded by the news that Arlen Specter is going to run for re-election as a Democrat. I'm not sure why. Running as a Republican was not going to be an option for him. Just last Friday, a Rasmussen poll found he was headed for certain doom at the hands of his primary challenger, bona fide wingnut Pat Toomey. Twice in his statement today he acknowledged that this was a contributing factor to his decision:

I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. [Emphasis added. Not that you have to examine a 51%-30% poll too carefully.]

and later...

I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. ["You didn't appreciate me anyway, you jackals."]

I thank especially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance. ["Sorry you backed the wrong horse, fellas."]

Being a professional politician who doesn't want to retire, Specter was presented a choice of I or D, and the D is very much in style these days. Joe Lieberman wishes he were still a D. And Obama carried Pennsylvania by 10 points.

Meanwhile, his statement makes perfectly clear that he hasn't had a change of heart about any actual issue. He specifies the Employee Free Choice Act as something he's still planning on opposing. This is purely a venue-shopping deal, to ensure that he's still a U.S. Senator, in a position to cast votes one way or the other. So he goes from being a great Republican to a horrendous Democrat... and that's about it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Well said

SamT, in response to Jon Heyman's article about "Mets officials" despairing after the first two weeks of the season:

You know those Mets fans who post irrationally [on] forums, calling for Beltran's trade everytime he makes an error? Yea, turns out those people run the Mets.

The bit at the end about how they're all torn up about not signing David Eckstein is especially eye-popping.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What do we do when we fall off the horse?

It was almost exactly nine months between Eliot Spitzer's prostitute-related resignation and his debut column in Slate, and now just a few months later, unnamed sources are telling the Post he thinks he can be a contender for Attorney General (again).

First of all, when Post readers start in on a piece about Eliot Spitzer, they don't want to be kept waiting for the single entendres, and Murdoch's wordsmiths don't disappoint. The fourth and seventh words of the piece are "flaccid" and "re-erecting," respectively.

But what of Spitzer, the man? I still say he's a huge scumbag. As an anonymous "longtime observer" said: "The whole idea of returning to Albany is preposterous. You can't go home again. He's a pariah. It wasn't just the prostitutes -- there was also Troopergate."

Or at least, I think the idea of him returning to Albany should be preposterous. In practice, I like his odds. He may have done all he could to squander it, but as personal political brands go "Scourge of Wall Street" is just too hot right now.

Spitzer is beloved by what I think of as the Greenwald/Digby segment of the Democratic electorate. They think the whole prostitute thing was a bad rap, noting that a) nobody really cares and b) when a Republican senator was caught doing the exact same thing he didn't even have to resign. And I agree with them on both those points. I just think Troopergate was that bad, and while his first stint as AG was useful in getting him elected governor, he didn't actually achieve much in the way of convictions or reforms.

I like the idea that sex scandals are becoming like Tommy John surgery (season-ending but not career ending, with the recovery period getting ever shorter as the technique is perfected). I just wish that this particular politician weren't so likely to make it back.


Hard to satirize, those Powerline guys

Roy Edroso's roundup of wingnut responses to the Somali pirate story, yesterday:

...And [Red State blogger] Huston yelled that "the French... THE FRENCH... use proper military force against these criminal pirates" -- referring to a rescue mission that ended with the death of a hostage.

But getting the hostage killed has got to be the right way to run a rescue, because Obama didn't do it.

Ha ha, right? No, this actually does seem to be the wingnut house view. Powerline last night:

This weekend, while the focus was on the hostage situation involving Captain Phillips, the French military rescued four French hostages, including a three-year-old boy, after President Sarkozy authorized a military attack on a French yacht that pirates had seized in the Gulf of Aden a week earlier. The rescued hostages were all unharmed [Yay!], but another hostage, the skipper of the yacht, was killed... [But you just said... Oh, I see. He doesn't count as a "rescued" hostage.]

Although the French government did negotiate for a while with the priates on the captured yacht last week, President Sarkozy's overall approach to these incidents seems more aggressive and proactive than President Obama's.

After downplaying "hostage survival rate" as an overrated metric in evaluating hostage situation responses (certainly when compared to "perceived machismo quotient"), Mirengoff imagines that the Navy commanders must have been construing Obama's instructions to take out the pirates more broadly than he intended.

Just when you think it can't get any more embarrassing, Hindrocket shows up in an addendum and together they riff on how the French aren't wimps at all but are in fact "cynical cowboys." The French aren't wimps now? I'm almost sorry to see them like this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mets drop Citi Field opener

First of all, though I would have liked a ninth-inning comeback even more, I have to confess that I was a little happy that Heath Bell got to fulfill his revenge fantasy of recording the first save in Citi Field history.

I just learned tonight from Gary Cohen that Bell harbored a grudge against the Mets for how they handled him, but it makes sense, since I was furious about it (not so much for his sake as the team's) and it stands to reason he would be even more so. Here's just one of several posts I wrote at the time to the effect that the Mets needed to give him the damn ball and stop demoting him after his first bad inning:

Since his much decried demotion, Heath Bell has saved three games for Norfolk in dominating fashion, striking out 11 and not allowing a single baserunner in 6.2 innings. As has been pointed out before, the Mets need to promote him and have him pitch the crucial innings that are now being entrusted to Manny Aybar and Mike Dejean. I would even submit, for your consideration, that the Tides may currently boast a better closer than the Mets.

That was April 2005, and the incumbent closer in question was Braden Looper, who indeed had about as bad a 28 Save season as one could have (8 blown saves, 3.94 ERA). Bell was no prize that year either, to be sure, but the peripherals were still excellent. After '06, he was sent to San Diego in a trade for... Ben Johnson, a fifth outfielder whose Mets career consisted of a grand total of 27 (wasted) at-bats.

Well now that, sure enough, he was a keeper and everyone knows of Heath Bell as San Diego's dominant setup man-turned-Closer, I can hardly begrudge him his desire to rub the Mets organization's face in it.

It's just one game anyway. The biggest negative from tonight was Mike Pelfrey, but I've already done enough "I told you so" for one post.

The Cardinals' closer situation

There have been years where a team announces that it's going to a "closer by committee" and the media makes a huge deal about it and there's a lot of hand-wringing about how you can't win without a designated closer.

But even with those teams there were really only 2 or 3 guys that really ended up getting saves. LaRussa has taken the Cards one step beyond that, I think. There was supposedly a job battle between Perez, who's now in Triple-A, and Motte, who pitched in the 6th inning of a blowout yesterday. So now there's a completely separate competition going on involving two right-handers (Franklin and McClellan) and a lefty (Reyes). The "favorite" among them is supposedly Franklin, yet he is the only one of the three that hasn't actually recorded a Save yet.

As a baseball fan, it's nice to see LaRussa (implicitly) insist that he's not going to let a stupid accounting system dictate how he uses his pitchers. As a fantasy baseball player, it's a total nightmare. I've gotten sucked into it in both my leagues, having drafted Motte in one and Perez in another. I thought I was being smart when I did that, too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sign of the times

Back in the early oughts, when it would have been much more helpful, Joe Klein wasn't especially interested in mocking neoconservative fruitcakes like Charles Krauthammer. But now that he feels comfortable doing so, he's pretty good at it.

And there was--oh. my. God.--the failed North Korean rocket launch. The Gates Defense budget is cutting anti-missile defense systems in Alaska. More Obama wimposity! Except that Gates has decided not to spend tens of billions on an anti-missile system (that doesn't work) to counter a North Korean rockets (that don't work) carrying North Korean atomic bombs (that have, so far, fizzled when tested).

People really don't have an adequate appreciation for just how stupid the National Missile Defense program is. There are a lot of low-frequency, high-severity risks that we could be preparing for but don't. We could put all our country's resources into a system that would deflect an incoming asteroid, because if an asteroid were to hit us, it would be that bad. But one reason why we don't is because the success rate of the system would have to be incredibly high. And there wouldn't be money left over for roads, hospitals, soldiers, tanks, etc.

Then there's the fact that a long-range ballistic missile requires government sponsorship to develop (i.e. can't be launched from a cave in Pakistan), and governments, even evil dictatorships, tend not to pursue the vaporization of their own country by U.S. nuclear subs. Then there's the fact that you could shoot down 100% of incoming missiles and still be extremely vulnerable to a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city (suitcase or container bombs).

Anyway, I'm very happy about this "Gates budget" generally. Less money on F-22s, "Future Combat Systems" (more like Ridiculous Gadget Systems), and the like. More money for the stuff that our actual armed forces actually use.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rosa Brooks will be working at the Pentagon

Excellent news:

This will be my last column for the L.A. Times. After four years, I'll soon be starting a stint at the Pentagon as an advisor to the undersecretary of Defense for policy.

Rosa Brooks is awesome.


Seems appropriate given the circumstances

When I saw the headline "Britain's Top Antiterror Officer Resigns Over Slip-Up" I thought it was going to be a story about an exceedingly principled and honor-oriented (ya know, British) functionary who chose to resign over a relatively minor infraction. That seemed like the kind of story the NYT would be drawn to.

But it turns out he was photographed getting out of a vehicle while holding a top secret document out in the open, sans manila envelope or file folder or anything. The document detailed a raid being planned on suspected terrorists. It was apparently legible enough so that the police had to consider the information compromised, and conduct the raid earlier than they wanted to.

So of course he resigned!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Roger Ebert: Stealing from Jimmy Cayne?

Roger Ebert writes a satisfyingly uncivil open letter to Bill O'Reilly in the Chicago Sun Times, which he concludes thusly:

Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?

That reminds me of the famous story about Squeaky the Chicago Mouse. It seems that Squeaky was floating on his back along the Chicago River one day. Approaching the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, he called out: Raise the bridge! I have an erection!

Now, as much as I appreciate the sentiment, I'd wager that this is a self-consciously regionalized version of what former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne said of Tim Geithner:

"The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” [Cayne] said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a hard-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he's got a big dick..."

Ebert probably read that and thought. "Oh that's good. I've gotta stash that one away."


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Andrew Rosenthal is a sleazy hack

The name J. Ezra Merkin didn't mean anything to me until I read he's being sued by Andrew Cuomo for having been a big feeder/marketer for Bernie Madoff.

Presumably, it didn't mean anything to Andrew Rosenthal when he published Daphne Merkin's op-ed just weeks beforehand arguing that Madoff's victims weren't really victims because "no one was holding a gun to their head, saying sign up with Madoff or else."

How did she disclose in said op-ed that her brother had placed roughly $2.4 billion with Madoff?

"I did not know Mr. Madoff nor did I invest with his firm, but have a sibling who did business with him."

Now that Andrew Rosenthal knows the extent of Ms. Merkin's brother's legal liability in the Madoff case, surely he regrets letting her pose as any sort of disinterested observer... or not:

In a brief phone interview, editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told TPMmuckraker that he had no plans to revisit the issue, even to edit the online version of the now-17-day-old article to offer readers fuller disclosure.

Indeed, Rosenthal appeared dismissive. "I answered this call against my better judgment," he said. "I thought you had something more substantive you wanted to talk about."

Pressed as to whether or not he viewed the issue of disclosure in the Merkin op-ed as substantive, Rosenthal replied: "I'm just not interested in discussing it."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Pittsburgh shooting

Yesterday I approvingly quoted Charles Blow's op-ed about how the wingnuts are really starting to come loose, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with the use of the 23 year-old skinhead cop killer in Pittsburgh as evidence of that trend.

My objection is not that it's necessarily unseemly to "play politics" with tragedy, and pretty much all shootings seem like good arguments for gun control to me. But the pool of people who actually go on shooting rampages is thankfully too small and too fucked up to extrapolate much from their politics. It may be a cliche ("crazies on both sides"), but it seems that taking it seriously means really not caring which websites a person was posting on before they started shooting at the cops.

The argument about which political ideology is intrinsically brutal and crazy is easily winnable without deploying actual murdering psychopaths as data points.

2009 Preseason Predictions

After the longest spring training I can remember, the regular season starts tonight with ATL @ PHI. Which means it's time to etch my preseason predictions indelibly in the internets, so that after they prove prescient I'll have proof.

NL East

NL Central
Brewers (Wild Card)

NL West

AL East
Red Sox
Yankees (Wild Card)
Blue Jays

AL Central
White Sox

AL West

World Series
Diamondbacks def. Red Sox

NL - David Wright
AL - Josh Hamilton

Cy Young
NL - Dan Haren
AL - C.C. Sabathia

Rookie of the Year
NL - Jordan Zimmermann
AL - Matt Wieters

All-Underrated Team
C - Chris Iannetta
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Kelly Johnson
SS - J.J. Hardy
3B - Adrian Beltre
OF - Cody Ross
OF - Carlos Beltran (that's right)
OF - Adam Jones

SP - Ricky Nolasco
SP - Javier Vazquez
SP - Clayton Kershaw
RP - Frank Francisco
RP - Carlos Marmol

All-Overrated Team
C - Joe Mauer
1B - Justin Morneau
2B - Mike Aviles
SS - Alexei Ramirez
3B - Evan Longoria
OF - Ichiro
OF - Magglio Ordonez
OF - Nick Markakis

SP - John Lackey
SP - Carlos Zambrano
SP - Chad Billingsley
RP - Kevin Gregg
RP - Francisco Cordero

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My kind of opening graf

Charles Blow:

Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nice outing, Mike

Getting a full season from Johan Santana is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the Mets to win the NL East. We need at least one guy behind him who's "good" and no more than one guy behind him who's "awful" (Livan Hernandez being the leading candidate for that role).

Mike Pelfrey is supposed to be good. He's our #2, followed by Maine, Perez, and Livan. So when I see that he's given up 8 earned in 4 innings against the Orioles, raising his spring ERA to a nifty 7.71, I'm not inclined to shrug it off. And Baltimore's best hitters weren't even in the lineup. This is the lineup that put a snowman on our No. 2 (respectable major league hitters in bold):

Salazar, O.
Cabrera, J.

Let's just hope Ollie and Maine keep up their end of the bargain.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Omir Santos: Who is this guy?

It looks like we may have yet another catcher in the organization who's more deserving of the starting role than Brian Schneider, who looks better in those Manhattan Toyota commercials than he does at the plate. All last year, we had Ramon Castro wasting away on the bench, and now we've got a 29 year-old Puerto Rican non-roster invitee who will probably end up getting discarded outright.

There's not much of a pro record on this guy (although he does, rather incredibly, have a wikipedia entry). But I can tell you what he did this afternoon: hit more home runs (2) than Brian Schneider will hit before the All-Star break. Plus I think he can throw.

Qualcomm brings teh funny

Almost unsettlingly high production values in this April Fool's video from Qualcomm:


Gary Sheffield doesn't know how to react?

When I read that the Tigers released Gary Sheffield, my first thought was to fear for the safety of whichever team representative imparted the news to him. But Sheffield has apparently mellowed because this was his quote:

“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked, but I am surprised,” Sheffield told The Oakland Press of Pontiac. “To do this when somebody is one home run away … I don’t know how to react to it.”

WTF? I mean really, I didn't necessarily expect a tirade about how maybe if he were Latin the management would keep him around longer, but this is weak sauce, Sheff.