Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I suppose I like James Bond movies as much as the next guy, but I have to admit: I thought Joe Montana was an odd choice.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Hard Habit To Break

The guy in the office across the hall from me and I can't seem to stop singing the Chicago song "25 or 6 to 4" today. A favorite of marching bands and 30-year class reunions everywhere, it kind of gets stuck in your head like an errant spike from a recklessly-wielded nail gun. But I've realized that I have no idea what in the world "25 or 6 to 4" means. I know what "six of one, a half-dozen of the other" is, and I know that "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." But I've never heard "25 or 6 to 4" come up in conversation. Maybe it's a point spread. "I'll take Chicago over Houston, 25 or 6 to 4." Beats me. Anybody?

Okay, and it's kind of unrelated, but is anyone else finding themselves creeped out by the new Outback Steakhouse theme song/jingle? If you've been looking for Wang Chung lately (and really, who among us hasn't?), I think I know where they might be.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Rudy Awakening

The evangelical outpost today lists seven reasons Rudy Giuliani is unelectable as president of the United States.

I know Giuliani formed an "exploratory committee" the other day, and is thinking about running. And there are a few things I genuinely like about Rudy Giuliani. But he doesn't have a Glenlivet bottle's chance at the Kennedy compound of scoring the GOP nomination.

While one of the seven reasons given (that Giuliani was a mayor, and only one other president has ever been a mayor) is unpersuasive, the rest are spot on. The bottom line is, Giuliani's personal life is an absolute horror, and his political positions on the hottest social issues are anathema. He's got a better chance of growing a pompadour than of being a Republican president.

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Then Emmanuel Lewis Did A Cartwheel

I haven't caught this show yet (and don't intend to), so I have little idea what any of this is about. But there's not a word of this lede from USA Today that I don't find side-splittingly hilarious:
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joey Lawrence wore just the right outfit to be cast off Dancing With the Stars— a sailor suit.

Lawrence, who donned a version of the Navy uniform to honor his grandfather's World War II service, lost out to Emmitt Smith and Mario Lopez for the chance to compete in next week's finale of the ABC celebrity dance contest.
Federico Fellini, call your office.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Elective Perspective

The always-entertaining Ann Coulter provides some much-needed perspective on Tuesday's elections for Democrats who will mistakenly think some massive, unprecedented change in public opinion has taken place:
In fact, if the Democrats' pathetic gains in a sixth-year election are a statement about the war in Iraq, Americans must love the war! As Roll Call put it back when Clinton was president: "Simply put, the party controlling the White House nearly always loses House seats in midterm elections" — especially in the sixth year.

In Franklin D. Roosevelt's sixth year in 1938, Democrats lost 71 seats in the House and six in the Senate.

In Dwight Eisenhower's sixth year in 1958, Republicans lost 47 House seats, 13 in the Senate.

In John F. Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson's sixth year, Democrats lost 47 seats in the House and three in the Senate.

In Richard Nixon/Gerald Ford's sixth year in office in 1974, Republicans lost 43 House seats and three Senate seats.

Even America's greatest president, Ronald Reagan, lost five House seats and eight Senate seats in his sixth year in office.

....During eight years of Clinton — the man Democrats tell us was the greatest campaigner ever, a political genius, a heartthrob, Elvis! — Republicans picked up a total of 49 House seats and nine Senate seats in two midterm elections. Also, when Clinton won the presidency in 1992, his party actually lost 10 seats in the House — only the second time in the 20th century that a party won the White House but lost seats in the House.

Meanwhile, the Democrats' epic victory this week, about which songs will be sung for generations, means that in two midterm elections Democrats were only able to pick up about 30 seats in the House and four seats in the Senate — and that's assuming they pick up every seat that is currently too close to call. (The Democrats' total gain is less than this week's gain because Bush won six House and two Senate seats in the first midterm election.)

So however you cut it, this midterm proves that the Iraq war is at least more popular than Bill Clinton was.
Make sure to read the whole thing for a few much needed (and on-target) chuckles.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Sen. Tom Coburn Gets It Too

From a piece written by Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn. Coburn, for my money, along with Sam Brownback, is among the very best in the Senate (though he does part his hair in the middle, which makes him look a little like an early 80's Michael McDonald album cover):
Although this election represents a short-term setback for Republicans, it could be an important turning point for the Republican Party and, more importantly, the country. Every incumbent was reminded that the American people, not party establishments, hold the reins of government.

....This election does not show that voters have abandoned their belief in limited government; it shows that the Republican Party has abandoned them. In fact, these results represent the total failure of big government Republicanism.

The Republican Party now has an opportunity to rediscover its identity as a party for limited government, free enterprise and individual responsibility. Most Americans still believe in these ideals, which reflect not merely the spirit of 1994 or the Reagan Revolution, but the vision of our founders. If Republicans present real ideas and solutions based on these principles, we will do well in the future.

What Republicans cannot continue to do, however, is more of the same.
We'll see if the party takes the advice and uses this as an opportunity to recapture it's vision, rather than an opportunity to sulk and become even more pseudo-Democratic.

(Hat tip: Brother Jon)

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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"We Lost Our Way"

This is from Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN), a true conservative who, with any luck, will be the next House minority leader. Hopefully there will be others who "get it" too. It's going to take guys like this to put the GOP back on track:
It is the duty of the losing party in a free election to humbly accept defeat and to acknowledge that the people are sovereign in the People's House.

As we examine the results of this election, it is imperative that we listen to the American people and learn the right lessons.

Some will argue that we lost our majority because of scandals at home and challenges abroad. I say, we did not just lose our majority, we lost our way.

While the scandals of the 109th Congress harmed our cause, the greatest scandal in Washington, D.C. is runaway federal spending.

After 1994, we were a majority committed to balanced federal budgets, entitlement reform and advancing the principles of limited government. In recent years, our majority voted to expand the federal government's role in education, entitlements and pursued spending policies that created record deficits and national debt.

This was not in the Contract with America and Republican voters said, “enough is enough.”

Our opponents will say that the American people rejected our Republican vision. I say the American people didn't quit on the Contract with America, we did. And in so doing, we severed the bonds of trust between our party and millions of our most ardent supporters.

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Missed It By That Much

Well that was fun.

There's nothing else you can call it--the Republicans got beaten like the wife of a guy in a sleeveless undershirt on "Cops." Of course, I'm convinced that it's all part of evil-genius Karl Rove's master plan. He and President Bush masterminded the wildly successful alienate-the-base strategy as a way of giving up the House and the Senate, thus paving the road for a Hillary Clinton presidency which will be a miasma, ultimately setting the Republicans up for big wins in 2012. They've got it all under control, and are working from the master playbook.

The media is interpreting the election as being a referendum on the Iraq war. That's a simple explanation, but perhaps too simple. It may well be the explanation for why Democrats turned out so heavily, but there is a concurrent explanation for why Republicans did so badly. I did go to the polls and vote conservative yesterday (or at least as "conservative" as I could vote given who was actually on the ballot), but I never felt anything more than a sense of duty about it. There was no excitement, no anticipation, no sense of getting to be part of something great as in the last few elections. It was mainly apathy, barely overcome by duty. So I have to wonder how many conservatives' senses of apathy weren't overcome by a sense of duty. How many just couldn't bring themselves to be excited and moved on to other things? I suspect that it was millions.

Even with the Iraq war going badly (and all but the most impervious partisan hacks have to admit that it is), if Republicans were cutting spending and actively working to close the borders--you know, being conservative--they'd have won in a landslide. Think about that: Republicans were getting hammered by Democrats in the campaign on spending and immigration.

Two years ago, I wrote this now-amusing sentence:
[The 2004] election, following on the heels of the 2002 shocker, might very well be the death knell of the Democrat Party as a significant national force.
It looks amusing and quaint now. In 2004, the Democrats had gone further and further to the Left and gotten spanked, and I failed to foresee the Bush Administration's wildly erratic behavior over the following two years, from Harriet Miers (in which the administration accused its base of sexism) to the immigration debacle, to the disastrous near-deal to sell our ports to the United Arab Emirates (in which the administration accused its base of racism).

My suspicion is that Republicans are going to try to move to the Left as a result of this election (pointing to the defeats of swing-staters Jim Talent and Rick Santorum as justification), culminating in the nomination of John McCain for president in 2008. If they do, it will officially mark the end of the Republicans' 21st century dominance, as conservative and evangelical voters will have even more reason to sit it out.

If they're smart, however (and I frankly see no evidence of that), they'll see this as a well-timed wakeup call to begin becoming conservative again to reinvigorate their underwhelmed base. Fortunately for them, this was not a presidential election year. They still have time to right the ship (and it does need to be turned Right) in time to avert an era of disaster.

We'll see what they decide to do. I'm not optimistic.

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It's Like Playing A Really Dull Video Game

Make sure to do your duty and head to the polls today. Have conservatives given us a lot to be excited about over the last couple of years? No. Well, everyone got excited about the scuttled ports deal and potential amnesty for illegal immigrants, but, but I'm talking about positive excitement. It's been scarce, to be honest. But here's why conservatives still need to hit the polls today. To borrow from Justin Taylor, here's why the election still matters:
All eyes are on Alito in abortion case

First clues on how he will treat Roe vs. Wade may come tomorrow

Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Star-Ledger Staff

Six years ago, Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined two other federal appeals judges in striking down a New Jersey law banning partial-birth abortion. Alito made a point of stating he had no choice: A month earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had declared a nearly identical Nebraska law unconstitutional by a vote of 5-4.

Tomorrow Alito is scheduled to hear arguments on the constitutionality of a nationwide ban on partial-birth abortion signed by President Bush in 2003. This time, Alito has a choice. It is the first abortion case to come before the U.S. Supreme Court since Alito succeeded Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who cast the decisive vote against the Nebraska law.
Alito is only on the bench today because of a Republican Senate. And there's a hot rumor in Washington today that Justice John Paul Stevens is getting ready to retire. Now, there isn't one Republican in ten that I'd walk across the street to see, but ultimately this is why the election still matters.

So get on out there while you still have a few hours. The lines aren't too bad (since most people don't care about midterm elections), and you get one of those apple-polishing, brown-nosing "I voted" stickers to slap onto your chest to help you feel superior. There's no downside. Head on over to that library or school or malaria clinic or wherever you're registered to vote--especially you folks in Pennsylvania. Rick Santorum is one of the few I would walk across the street to see. We need him.

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Around the Horn

  • It's been widely linked on the Internet already, but if you haven't yet read Dilbert creator Scott Adams' account of his sudden recovery from an incurable disease that had taken his voice for a year and a half, you really should. It's fascinating. (HT: Jollyblogger)
  • A couple of (world champion) St. Louis Cardinals are actively opposing the cloning/embryonic stem cell ballot initiative in Missouri. [This is the infamous initiative that prompted Michael J. Fox to make an ad for Senate candidate Clair McCaskill.] In my recent visit to Missouri, I was pleasantly surprised to see the pro-life passion on this issue and the degree with which even the average St. Louisan is now able to articulate the crucial difference between adult stem cells (which do not damage embryos and which have been used to develop truly amazing treatments already) and embryonic stem cells (which kill embryos and which have produced zero treatments).
  • I know the participants are all distancing themselves from it (mainly complaining that they had been assured it wouldn't run until after the elections), but this preview of a piece to run in Vanity Fair in which "neocons" Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, Michael Ledeen, Frank Gaffney, and others who were among the strongest voices advocating war in Iraq, is absolutely brutal. The president is in deep trouble on this war.

Tomorrow Is Election Day

With the national elections tomorrow, it's only appropriate to point out that:

It's Peanutbutter-Jelly Time.

(HT: My kids)

Friday, November 03, 2006

From The Onion

This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time (though be warned that The Onion can get obscene at times. I didn't find anything objectionable on the page I linked to, but if you were to click around there, it wouldn't take you long to find something not so good):

Cardinals Apologize for Winning World Series

ST. LOUIS—Calling Friday night's victory on baseball's grandest stage "a terrible mistake," members of the St. Louis Cardinals issued a formal apology for making the playoffs, winning the World Series, and depriving baseball fans everywhere of a season featuring the kind of heartwarming, storybook ending to which they have grown accustomed in recent years.

"I'm still struggling to understand how this could have happened," said a sober Tony La Russa during a press conference following Game 5. "It seemed all but certain coming into this series that we were going to be a part of something truly special, that we would easily put the finishing touches on a magical season that inspired millions of fans around the country, but instead we somehow ended up winning."

"It's disappointing, to say the least," La Russa added. "We were rooting for the Detroit Tigers just like everyone else."

....According to Albert Pujols, some teammates took the World Series victory harder than others.

"For a lot of young guys like [Anthony] Reyes and [Yadier] Molina, this was their first chance to see an exciting, inspirational, and truly deserving team win a championship," Pujols said. "Even though the outcome of this series has definitely left a bad taste in my mouth, I can handle it, because I was there in 2004 when we were able to see Red Sox beat us in the World Series. Man, what an incredible feeling that was… Just watching those guys celebrate, I really felt like I was seeing history unfold before my eyes. It was definitely my greatest baseball moment."

"I hope we have the chance to see something like that again next year," Pujols added.
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Thursday, November 02, 2006

It's Italian For "The Russa"

Okay, one more baseball post before I let this glorious season pass on into eternity. I know there's an election in a few days, but I'm a native St. Louisan, so baseball trumps it.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what makes Tony La Russa a great manager. As anyone who's ever read this blog can see, I'm often highly critical of him. So are the fans in St. Louis--they've never fully warmed up to TLR the way they did Whitey Herzog, who is considered the managerial gold standard in the Gateway City.

The criticism is not without merit. Whereas Whitey was a beer-driking, steak-eating Midwesterner who delighted in sharing his strategic thinking with the media, Tony is an animal-rights activist Californian who you suspect might eat soy and rarely tries publicly to justify a managerial move. When Whitey did something odd (as he often did, including stationing closer Todd Worrell in left field a couple of times), he would explain it afterwards in a way that, even if you didn't agree, you had to admit made some sense. Tony leaves baffling moves (having the cleanup hitter try to bunt for a base hit, batting Juan Encarnacion fourth, etc.) largely unexplained, causing those who watch the team daily to accuse him of overmanaging.

Nevertheless, La Russa's record is undeniable. He's won more games than any manager alive today. He's now one of only two managers to win World Series championships in both leagues. He's managed ten division-winning teams. He's won four manager of the year awards. If you Google the phrase "managerial wins" (which I just did), you'll find that six of the first seven entries that come up are specifically about him.

So what gives? Why is La Russa so good? First, I'll talk about what I think it's not, and then we'll look at what it is.

What it's not: Strategy. Tony La Russa is not a great strategist. There. I said it. Let the mountains fall down and the planets explode. I know this is contrary to everything you hear the sportscasters and sportswriters saying. But that's because most sportswriters are drunk, and most sportscasters are hired for having nice voices or pretty faces rather than for their understanding of sports.

The Common Baseball Wisdom is that La Russa is a master strategist, squeezing each percentage out of ever move he makes (and boy does he make a lot of moves). La Russa encourages and cultivates this portrait, which has been propagated by George Will in Men at Work and Buzz Bissinger in Three Nights in August (both of which are delightful, must-read books, by the way). Here are the facts:
  • La Russa's strategy is often downright baffling
  • La Russa rarely deigns to explain said baffling strategy.
  • La Russa wins a ton of games.
  • Ergo, the sports commentators assume it must be brilliant strategy even though they don't understand it, because he wins.
But if they were a little smarter, they'd trust their first instinct. La Russa's most befuddling moves are confusing because they're usually wrong. It's not "genius" to have cleanup hitter Larry Walker try to bunt for a base hit (like in the 2004 Series) when he's the only guy on the team hitting for average. It's not good strategy to place huge strikeout hitters in the four and five holes in the lineup (like he did frequently through the post-season). It's not wise to pull a pitcher who's throwing well just to do the lefty/righty thing.

Herzog used to say that the best manager could strategize his team into an extra three or four wins a season, at most. That seems like a modest estimate, but I think it's possible even that is overstated. Some (like the guys at Baseball Prospectus) have even crunched numbers that lead them to believe that the absolute best thing a manager can do during a game is stay out of the way, since not even batting order has a substantial impact on a team's overall output. According to some of these analysts, most managerial contributions to a game will actually be harmful. In any case, it's clear to me that it's not strategy (despite his reputation) that make La Russa great.

What it is: LaRussa, perhaps more than any manager in the Major Leagues, gets the absolute most out of nearly every one of his players. Whether superstar or third-stringer, players give LaRussa everything they have. All one has to do is see how players thrive under him as opposed to other managers they play for.

Some examples: Chris Carpenter (who never had an ERA under 4 before coming to the Cardinals and is now in line for a possible second Cy Young award), Woody Williams (who made an All-Star team with the Cardinals and was otherwise mediocre both before and after playing for La Russa), Mike Matheny (who was in the majors for six years before he was acquired by the Cards and immediately started winning Gold Gloves), Jim Edmonds (who began putting up the biggest numbers in his career offensively and defensively in mid-career after being traded to the Cardinals), Jose Canseco (who was never the same player again after being traded by Oakland in 1992), Fernando Vina (who, though he did make an All-Star team before coming to St. Louis, had the best three-year period of his career and won his two Gold Gloves under TLR), Dennis Eckersley (who's career was badly fading when La Russa and Dave Duncan turned him into a closer and bought him a ticket to the Hall of Fame--all while TLR played Deuling Mullets with him throughout the 80's), and many others. That's not even to mention guys from this championship team who played way over their heads like Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver, So Taguchi, etc. People forget that even future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols, a 13th round draft choice, was not considered to be anything special even within the Cardinals' organization until after he was already playing for La Russa on the big league roster and started tearing the cover off the ball.

So why do players play so well for La Russa? I don't really know, to be honest. Whatever it is, it's rare and it's important. It's probably the kind of thing you'd have to be a fly on the wall to know--interpersonal stuff that the public never gets to see. Certainly pitching coach Dave Duncan deserves some of the credit for the pitching turnarounds. But tons of position players have also had their best years under La Russa. Tony shows faith in his players and goes to the wall for them. He defends them in the media. He orders retaliation when one of them gets beaned. He protects them with the umps. Somehow, some way, Tony La Russa has conducted himself in such a way where many of his players would walk through a wall for him.

The lesson is that managerial strategy is overrated. Joe Torre's terrible strategy looked awful in St. Louis in the early '90's when he had no players. Give him Derek Jeter and Roger Clemens, and suddenly he's got four rings, even with the same lousy strategy. A manager has to protect his players and handle the media, which is no small thing. If he has some talent on his team and does those things right, they can win. Tony La Russa has done that better than just about anybody. It's not strategy; it's knowing how to take care of a team. The St. Louis Cardinals are fortunate to have one of the best.

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