Thursday, March 30, 2006

D.C., i.e., hypocrisy, at work

According to this article in today's Post, "[a] D.C. lawmaker has introduced two bills to promote the use of respectful language in District laws and publications that refer to people with disabilities." The bill's sponsor noted that the word "lunatic" appears in the D.C. Code 29 times, while "idiot" appears 13 times. Which is interesting and amazing, because there are precisely 13 idiot-lunatics on the D.C. Council.

I know I'm overreacting, but this rubs me the wrong way. It is a natural evil to suffer from low IQ or psychological problems or mental defects or what-have-you. It is much better to be a person of normal intellect, who does not suffer from those difficulties. But so what? I think the two previous sentences are true, but I also happen to think that the mentally deficient are human beings made in the image and likeness of God.

Which brings me to my meager point. The people who want to remove "offensive" language from public life are the same people who think women should be able to abort their unborn children if it appears the child is going to be an idiot or a lunatic. This is preposterous.

(Of course "idiot" and "lunatic" were abandoned by the psychology industry long ago. If the DC government just wanted to update thet Code to correspond to more modern categories, that would be fine. But the article makes clear that that is not the intention here.)


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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

An Historical Parallel

What do ancient Rome and modern-day Los Angeles have in common? For the answer, one must turn toward historical literature.

In his book Europe and the Middle Ages (Prentice Hall, 1989), Edward Peters addresses a subject that can be found in just about any Medieval textbook: the Visigothic invasions of the Roman Empire in the late fourth and early fifth centuries A.D.

The arrival of the Visigoths, a branch of the Gothic people, at the Danube frontier in 376 constituted the first of the new invasions [of the Roman Empire]. Although the Romans permitted the Goths to entire the empire en masse (the first time the Romans had ever done this), Roman officers and administrators appear to have mistreated them. The Goths revolted in 378, destroyed a Roman army and killed the emperor Valens at the battle of Adrianople in 378, and began their wanderings through the Balkans, northern Greece, and northeastern Italy. Negotiations with the western imperial court proved unsuccessful, and the Visigoths marched through Italy itself briefly capturing Rome in 410, and then moved north and west into Gaul and Spain. There they patched up a temporary alliance with Rome and settled down to establish an independent Germanic kingdom inside the western part of the Roman Empire. (p. 38)
Peters then dedicates the subsequent chapters to detailing how it was these invasions that prompted the evolution of Europe from a Roman government rooted in law to a mishmosh of ethnic kingdoms and communities, most of which went on to form the core of modern Europe. Peters does not claim that these invasions were an ominous moment in history, as they ultimately did form the precursors of nation-states that we know today, but he makes it clear that the political entity that came before was done in as a result of the waves of invading foreign peoples.

I imagine that, if Roman authorities had had photographic equipment during the sacking of Rome in 410 A.D., they would have taken pictures akin to this:



Before those of you out there start bellowing bigotry or racism, I encourage you to remember that there is a legitimate pro-law, pro-sovereignty, anti-illegal immigration counter-argument that does not think it is acceptable for non-citizens illegally, and brazenly, present in the United States to remain here. Many give lip service to the United States being a "nation of laws." I would submit to you that becomes mere lip service in the absence of enforcement of those laws.

In sum: Rome died not because of some overwhelming military counter-empire, or some vast intellectual movement. Rather, Rome died because it permitted itself to decay from within via what was essentially illegal immigration, through inaction and complacency, until it was too late. Unless the United States government (at least some people seem to grasp the dangers of unchecked illegal immigration, and seek positive action on that front) can find the time to brush up on its history, we run the very real risk of repeating history.


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Monday, March 27, 2006

What is wrong with France

What the heck is wrong with the French?

The link above gives a fair analysis of the state of the protests in France today.

In case anyone is unfamiliar, the youth of France are protesting a national bill that would, effectively, change the nature of work among younger workers from that of an entitlement to that of an agreement. Basically, one's employer would be able to fire an employee for, say... failing to show up for work or being rude to customers.

Now, I know this sounds silly.

Surely no modern economy guarantees a worker his job despite his/her unwillingness to actually work? Remember that we are talking about the most disfunctional market economy in the world. It neither has the benefits, if there be such, of Socialism, nor the flexibility and energy of capitalism.

This is not new. The French economy has been laughable since WWI. So too, the ability of young French "students" to overthrow the government merely by burning cars and disrupting the socio-economic sphere is well documented.

However, please explain to me how their behavior is any different than that of their "immigrant" brethren who burned cars and disrupted the socio-economic sphere a few months ago. Only, in that case, the troublemakers were Moslem and "of color." Oh... the "immigrant" protestors were complaining about police brutality, social alienation, lack of opportunity, and the highest unemployment of any group in the country. The present protestors are complaining because... because... Well... They don't like employers being able to fire them.

Ah... France. The bastion of tolerance. The nation of Fraternity, Equality, and Liberty.

For those among our populace who harp on about "pure democracy." Take a look at France. "Pure democracy" means government impotence, public disorder, and economic chaos.


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Sunday, March 26, 2006

A Saad Day

On Friday, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Henry W. Saad asked President Bush to remove him from consideration for a vacancy on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Saad, whose nomination has languished for literally years at the hands of Democrats upset with the fact that they cannot win presidential elections, had apparently (and understandably) grown tired of drifting in limbo without a simple up or down vote on the Senate floor. (Fortunately, the good people of Michigan will still have the benefit of having Saad serve as an appellate judge in their state. I guess Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow cannot completely ruin a qualified man's life. Perhaps they will yet find a way. Time will tell.)

If anything, Saad's withdrawal highlights two major problems with the current Republican majority in the Senate. First, the current crop of Republican senators, from the senate majority leader on down, have mastered the grotesque art of being in power without actually wielding any. Perpetually huddled in the corner, afraid to speak up or do anything that might anger a hyperbolic minority, these spineless excuses for statesmen have, by virtue of their weakness, given Democrats their best chance of recapturing a house of Congress since the early 1990s. There was a time when the prospect of Democrat electoral victory would have bothered me, but with friends like the current crop of Republicans, can the Democrats really do any more damage? (Don't misunderstand me: I still think that the Democrats will manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as they have managed to do over the last six years. I just don't think a Republican victory means as much as it used to.)

Second, and more importantly, it has become apparent that the deal struck by the so-called Gang of 14 has crippled Senate Republicans' abilities to hold hearings for new appellate nominees. Don't ask me how, but it has. Some might argue that that agreement served a higher purpose in that it allowed both of Bush's Supreme Court nominees to be confirmed without incident (although that did not stop the Democrats from trying), but I don't buy it. Such a narrow view of the agreement can hardly render that agreement a victory. There are dozens of vacancies throughout the various federal circuit courts, and since the pact was made, even fewer federal circuit court nominees have gotten floor votes. I challenge someone to explain to me how that could be considered victory, particularly when the purpose of the arrangement was to ensure more floor votes.

For the first time in a long time, I could care less what happens in November. Maybe the Republicans will learn their lesson, shape up, confirm some nominees, and earn themselves some goodwill as we roll into the midterms. I am not holding my breath.

I do, however, wish Judge Saad the best. On behalf of the American people, who want and deserve the most qualified judges out there, I apologize to you, sir. Maybe someday, there might actually be people in the Senate who believe in something other than their own elite status, people who will uphold their promises to the American people. Again, I am not holding my breath.


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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Baseball preview

The last of my fantasy previews is here. I'll be posting the regular season preview there as well.


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Iraq - 3 articles

Real Clear Politics has three articles up today on the Iraq war written by, respectively, Mark Steyn, Jonah Goldberg, and Sheila Kennedy. Because I'm cranky, I'll start with the worst of the lot.

Kennedy starts her article with this leftist template:
Some wars, regrettably, are necessary. Iraq was not such a war. It was a war of choice, impelled by ideology and sold to Americans (wittingly or unwittingly) under false pretenses. Worse yet, it was justified by appealing to our fears -- fears of "the other," fears of terrorism, fears of impotence.
Okay, let's play spot the tired cliches. We've got 1)war of choice, 2)this is a war of ideology, 3)the "selling" of the the war to the public through 4)"false pretenses," and 5)the playing upon of fears of the American people.

Now, at this point it's almost fruitless to continue because we're obviously dealing with an intellectually lazy individual. But let's continue to spot the misguided innuendos and outright misrepresentations.
It's obvious that none of the decision-makers in the Bush administration had bothered to learn what the region's history had to teach.
Really? it's obvious that this is a fact? Do you mean that former National Security Adviser and current Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, a woman of the keenest intellect and who possess more foreign policy knowledge than, say, Sheila Kennedy, completely refused to learn anything about the history of the region or its culture? So Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and others just sort of looked at a globe, said, "gee, that looks like a good spot to invade. Lets," and went on their merry way.?

We sent courageous and patriotic young Americans into a quagmire
How exactly do you send troops into a quagmire? Don't the troops themselves have to create the quagmire? Is Iraq arabic for quagmire, and I'm just not aware of this?
And thanks to criminally misplaced priorities, we sent them there without proper equipment and supplies. There has been plenty of money for Halliburton and other contractors, but not enough for bulletproof vests or Hummer armor.
I won't even address this because it's just too silly to be considered, but I have a simple question: does anyone reading this really believe that Sheila Kennedy even know what Haliburton is or does? Exactly.

Government experts wrote memos that warned about these dangers and many others in great detail. The administration was warned about precisely what has happened, just as it was warned that Hurricane Katrina could cause the dykes to fail.
You see, Sheila, when you write a sentence like that last one you lose all credibility. As was reported by many sources, there was a significant difference between what Bush was told might happen with the levies and what actually did happen. The levies were breached, but Bush was told they could be topped, which is a completely different thing. But I'm sure you knew that, just like you know that Haliburton is a company of some kind that does something with like energy or oil or whatever it is you think they do.
Our crumbling roads, our impoverished urban school systems, our embarrassing national health care system and our neglected national parks all could have benefited from the nearly $1 trillion his foolhardy, unnecessary and arrogant unilateralism has cost us.
Yeah, I'm always complaining about those dirt roads I'm driving on. We sure could use, like a trillion dollars to fix our ever deteriorating roads. And obviously our schools are underfunded. Why, how can we expect school kids in DC to learn when we're only spending around $10,000 per student? It's just such a bankrupt system.

I wonder if Ms. Jackson would have complained about liberating Europe during the 1940's because we were ignoring the all the poor people suffering the effects of the Great Depression.

We are less safe than we were; Iraq was not a sanctuary for terrorists before the war, but it is now.
Once again, this is just an out and out lie, but again I guess we shouldn't expect Ms. jackson to, you know, do any research whatsoever. She has important columns to write for the Indianapolis Star.
Our standing in the world community has never been lower. Our citizens are angrier and more polarized than ever. And worst of all, our belief in our own inherent goodness -- the belief that America is not an aggressor nation -- has been profoundly shaken.
This is just purely meaningless fluffery. We're more polarized now than we've ever been? Honey, ever heard of a thing called the civil war?

But you know what's most frightening about this drivel: the byline.

Kennedy is associate professor of law and public policy at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs in Indianapolis.
There's a reason I decided not to go to law school.

Now, onto columnists who actually possess innate intelligence. Jonah Goldberg tackles some of the administration's real problems, including its refusal to acknowledge that it was right to invade after all:
But what these documents — as well as other after-action intelligence gathering — demonstrate is that given what he knew at the time, George W. Bush was right to invade Iraq. We now know that the CIA bureaucracy was simply wrong to insist that "secular" Iraq would never work with Islamist terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and Abu Sayyaf. We know that Iraq harbored and very likely supported Abdul Rahman Yasin, one of the suspected bomb makers involved in the first World Trade Center attack in 1993.

According to the Pentagon's definitive postmortem on the invasion, some of which was leaked to the New York Times, even many Iraqi generals were stunned to discover that Hussein didn't have WMD. Hussein practiced a strategy that one Republican Guard commander called "deterrence by doubt," in which he hoped to bluff the world into believing he had WMD in order to deter Iran and keep his rep as an Arab strongman with serious mojo.

And that's the point Thomas et al don't want to understand. For reasons that still baffle me, the WMD threat — never the sole reason to invade Iraq — not only became the only argument, it became a thoroughly legalistic one, as if foreign policy has rules of evidence and procedural due process. After 9/11, that kind of foreign policy by lawyers looked ridiculous, and rightly so.

The fact that Hussein turned out to be bluffing about WMD isn't a mark against Bush's decision. If you're a cop and a man pulls out a gun and points it at you, you're within your rights to shoot him, particularly if the man in question is a known criminal who's shot people before. If it turns out afterward that the gun wasn't loaded, that's not the cop's fault.
Mark Steyn doesn't even want to hear about the WMD (and I agree). That's not why he (or I) supported the war. Simply put, containment was not working.
That's easy for him to say, and committing other countries' armies to "contain" Iraq is easy for him to do. A quarter million soldiers cannot sit in the sands of Araby twiddling their thumbs indefinitely. "Containment" is not a strategy but the absence of strategy - and thug states understand it as such. In Saddam's case, he'd supposedly been "contained" since the first Gulf War in 1991, when Bush Sr. balked at finishing what he'd started. "Mr. President," Joe Biden, the Democrat Senator and beloved comic figure, condescendingly explained to Bush Jr. in 2002, "there is a reason your father stopped and did not go to Baghdad. The reason he stopped is he didn't want to be there for five years."

By my math, that means the Americans would have been out in spring of 1996. Instead, 12 years on, in the spring of 2003 the USAF and RAF were still policing the no-fly zone, ineffectually bombing Iraq every other week. And, in place of congratulations for their brilliant "containment" of Saddam, Washington was blamed for UN sanctions and systematically starving to death a million Iraqi kids - or two million, according to which "humanitarian" agency you believe. The few Iraqi moppets who weren't deceased suffered, according to the Nobel-winning playwright and thinker Harold Pinter, from missing genitals and/or rectums that leaked blood contaminated by depleted uranium from Anglo-American ordnance. Touring Iraq a few weeks after the war, I made a point of stopping in every hospital and enquiring about this pandemic of genital-less Iraqis: not a single doctor or nurse had heard about it. Whether or not BUSH LIED!! PEOPLE DIED!!!, it seems that THE ANTI-WAR CROWDS SQUEAK!!! BUT NO RECTUMS LEAK!!!!
And he gets to why we needed to invade Iraq:
So three years on, unlike Francis Fukuyama and the other moulting hawks, my only regret is that America didn't invade earlier. Yeah yeah, you sneer, what about the only WMD? Sorry. Don't care. Never did. My argument for whacking Saddam was always that the price of leaving him unwhacked was too high. He was the preeminent symbol of the September 10th world; his continuation in office testified to America's lack of will, and was seen as such by, among others, Osama bin Laden: In Donald Rumsfeld's words, weakness is a provocation. So the immediate objective was to show neighboring thugs that the price of catching America's eye was too high. The long term strategic goal was to begin the difficult but necessary transformation of the region that the British funked when they cobbled together the modern Middle East in 1922.
But don't tell that to Sheila Kennedy. She knows the truth. We invaded Iraq to help Haliburton acquire more steel for its car manufacturing.

Cross posted at the Cranky Conservative


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How a Bill Becomes a Law

We all remember civics/government classes or lessons, whether they were in 5th, 8th, 12th grade, or all of the above. There was always, or should have been, that cartoon about “How a Bill Becomes a Law” and well if you took advanced versions there was a nice little pamphlet produced by some group that tried to put it all in writing. Basically the message was simple, both the House and the Senate have to pass IDENTICAL versions of the same bill then send it to the President for his signature. Sounds simple, right, if a 5th grader can understand that you would think Members of Congress could as well. Well let’s not be too optimistic here sports fans. It seems that Congress doesn’t always do things correctly, and this time they may have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar. I’ve tried to keep this short, but well I still need the Read More button after all.

Here is the background: While Congress was considering the Deficit Reduction Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 2005, there was a minute but extraordinarily significant clerical mistake that resulted in the two chambers passing slightly different versions of the same bill. This bill has a complex history, but I’ll try and summarize it in a couple of sentences. First, dramatically different versions passed both the House and Senate separately, resulting in a conference committee. The conference committee reconciled the two bills and produced its final version. The House adopted the conference report by a 6 vote margin at the end of December 2005. The Senate, however, did not pass the conference bill. Invoking arcane provisions in the Senate rules (known as the “Byrd Rule”), they required 3 sections to be stripped from a normally non-amendable conference bill. Thus, the Senate approved its “amended” conference bill and sent it back to the House, who had recessed until January 31, 2006. The error, it seems, occurred after the Senate vote, when a Senate clerk changed a provision relating to a Medicare reimbursement period for the rental of a certain kind of medical equipment from 13 months to 36 months before sending the bill to the House. After the House reconvened, they voted on the Senate version, which passed albeit by only a 2 vote margin as several moderate GOP members changed their minds after being home for 3 weeks and hearing it from angry constituents. After the House voted, apparently the clerk then changed the reimbursement period back to 13 months before it was sent to the President for his signature. President Bush signed the measure into law on Feb. 8. According to several sources including the Congressional Budget Office, this seemingly minor change may cost the Treasury a whopping $2 billion over the next five years.

To further complicate matters, according to Marty Lederman, of the excellent law blog Balkanization, the House did not vote directly on the Senate amended reconciliation bill. Rather, it voted on a House Resolution, H. Res. 653, which reads, in its entirety: “Resolved, That the House hereby concurs in the Senate amendment to the House amendment to the bill (S. 1932) to provide for reconciliation pursuant to section 202(a) of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2006" See H. Con. Res. 95, 108th Cong. (2d Sess. 2006). This development both in Marty’s mind and mine as well, raises the question of what was actually before the House when it voted. If one can argue that all that was before the House was a resolution agreeing to whatever the Senate did, than it seems one could argue that identical versions were passed as the Senate clerk corrected the error before sending the bill to the President. If on the other hand, what was before the House was the House conference report containing the error and no one was aware of that fact, than you might have a strong argument to suggest that the House passed a bill with a 36 month provision, while the Senate adopted a non-identical version with only a 13 month provision.

Ah, but this is not the end of the story. The Constitution’s “Presentment Clause,” Article 1, section 7, cl. 3, which we all learned in civics, requires that both the House and Senate must pass a bill, the identical bill in both Houses, and that it must be presented to the President for his action. Now, as previously mentioned there is some doubt that each House passed bills with this minuscule but enormously significant different figure in it. So the bills that passed arguably were not identical. Thus, the presentation clause is potentially violated, and the bill that the President is signed is invalid; right? Well, there is a kicker, Supreme Court precedent, which as one would expect is not entirely clear. There is an old case, Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649 (1893), which promulgated what is known as the “enrolled bill” doctrine. In Field the text of a bill signed by the President was different from the text as it appeared in the then Congressional Journal (now the Congressional Record). According the Court, they could not, in fact, would not, look behind the certifications of the presiding officers to ascertain whether the bill signed was indeed the bill passed. If this precedent holds, it would seem that the Court will not look at the actual bills before each House. This precedent was cited favorably by Justice Brennan in Baker v. Carr as part of the “political question doctrine,” which allows federal courts to abstain from deciding certain kinds of cases, even when a valid case or controversy is before it. Subsequent, more recent cases, however, have held something a bit different, albeit never expressly overruling Field v. Clark. For example, in United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495 U.S. 385 (1990), the Court refused to rely on the “enrolled bill” rule and instead looked to see whether the bill at issue, which arguably was a revenue generating measure, originated in the House, as it was required to do under the Origination Clause, rather than the Senate. See Art. I, sec. 7 cl. 1 (stating that, “All Bills for Raising Revenue shall Originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.”) So which case approach applies? The answer is we don’t really know. The Court might strictly apply the Constitution and do what the plain meaning of the Constitution requires. That said, however, there is precedent for the Court flinching especially when something is really politically important, such as this budget cutting bill, and the flaw is arguably small and really inadvertent. See United States v. Ptasynski, 462 U.S. 74 (1983) (dealing with the uniformity clause with respect to taxation).

What will happen to this "law?" No idea, there are two cases challenging it's constitutionality that are currently pending. Only one, however, Public Citizen v. Clerk, U. S. District Court, appears to have a legitimate chance of moving forward. Public Citizen is being a bit creative here (basically in order to get standing they have to be). In essence, they are challenging the law not basedon the Medicare provision that caused the problem, but rather on a different provision. Public Citizen's challenge is based on a provision that raised federal court filing fees from $250 to $350 per case. Public Citizen, who files a lot of federal cases, argues that this change adversely affects them, and since there is a question about the bill's constitutionality their claim should be reviewed. I can only assure you this will be interesting to watch.


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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sussudio

Oh look at that, there's another new blog in the ever expanding blogosphere, and its proprietor is . . . me.

That's right, it's the Cranky Conservative, and it is my foray into single person blogdom.

Oh don't worry, you'll still get more of my crazy antics here on the Spectrum. This blog will be more of an outpost for personal stuff, sports, Catholicism. I'll still be posting political stuff in both locales, and finishing up my baseball preview as well.

It's sort of like Phil Collins recording solo records in the eighties while staying with Genesis. It's two for the price of one. So come on by and visit, though there's nothing much substantively yet.

And yes, I just basically cut and paste the links here over there.


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Fantasy Preview - Starting Pitchers

Before I get into pitching, I neglected to mention a key drafting strategy for people who play in a 5x5 roto league with a fantasy budget. Most strategists say, and I agree with them, that you should not allocate a 50-50 split between hitting and pitching. Most recommend a 65-35 split, and there are two reasons for this. First of all, generally speaking you will usually have to draft more offensive than defensive (pitching) players. Also, hitting is much more predictable. Oh, sure, people have career years (or career off-years), and players get hurt, but you can often reasonably assume that a hitter will generally meet expectations.

Pitching is different, and much more unpredictable. Part of the problem is that it depends much more on luck. For example, wins are a near impossible category to predict. Pedro Martinez pitched like a 22-game winner last season, but his bullpen cost him several games. This year, with Billy Wagner closing and a somewhat more reliable crew behind him, Pedro's luck should improve. But it's still impossible to guarantee a pitcher's win total. A bad bounce here and a defensive miscue there, and the win totals dwindle. But then you could be Mike Mussina, pitch like crap, and still win 15 because your offense scores a bundle of runs behind you.

Well, with that out of the way, a time to look at starting pitchers.

Player Value
Johan Santana 57.45
Pedro Martinez 51.57

Jake Peavy 46.97
Randy Johnson 40.31
John Smoltz 39.23
Ben Sheets 38.21
Roy Oswalt 37.62
Carlos Zambrano 36.05
Chris Carpenter 35.51
Roy Halladay 35.31
Jason Schmidt 35.16
Andy Pettite 33.85
Mark Buehrle 33.07
Bartolo Colon 31.26
Dontrelle Willis 30.80
Rich Harden 30.26

Mark Prior 29.74
Barry Zito 29.26
Zach Duke 29.15
C.C. Sabathia 27.54
Doug Davis 26.54
Livian Hernandez 26.46
Tim Hudson 26.44
Josh Becket 25.94
Felix Hernandez 25.76
Freddy Garcia 24.32
Javier Vasquez 24.30
Mark Mulder 24.16
Aaron Heilman 23.81
John Patterson 23.73
John Lackey 23.66
A.J. Burnett 23.48
Cliff Lee 23.06
Derek Lowe 22.96
Odalis Perez 22.92
Noah Lowry 22.85
Curt Schilling 22.72
Kevin Millwood 22.66
Brett Myers 22.54

Dan Haren 21.70
Jeff Weaver 21.68
Chris Capuano 21.62
Kelvim Escobar 21.56
Bred Penny 21.48
Scott Kazmir 21.35
Mike Mussina 20.97
Greg Maddux 20.80
Jon Garland 20.58
Jake Westbrook 20.34
Kerry Wood 20.31

Esteban Loiza 20.16
Matt Clement 19.34
Jeremy Bonderman 19.25
Brad Radke 19.19
Matt Cain 19.10
Joe Blanton 18.98
Aaron Harang 18.65
Brian Lawrence 18.19
Jon Lieber 18.16
Jarrod Washburn 17.89
Jeff Suppan 17.77
Miguel Batista 17.42
Kenny Rogers 17.21
Bronson Arroyo 17.04
Paul Byrd 16.88
John Thompson 16.41
Jorge Sosa 16.32
Oliver Perez 16.29
Chris Young 16.26
David Wells 16.09
Matt Morris 15.92
Tim Wakefield 15.81

Erik Bedard 15.49
Joel Pineiro 15.07
Nate Robertson 14.83
Adam Eaton 14.78
Gustavo Chacin 14.65
Ted Lilly 14.65
Carl Pavano 14.63
Josh Towers 14.61
Scott Baker 14.57
Jason Marquis 14.17
Kris Benson 13.89
Carlos Silva 13.82
Brandon Claussen 13.57
Ryan Franklin 12.53
Kyle Lohse 11.81
Daniel Cabrera 11.23

Ervin Santana 10.41
Horacio Ramirez 10.28
Anthony Reyes 10.09
Chien-Ming Wang 7.24
Brandon Backe 7.03
Tony Armas 6.42

Many of the guys at the top have some questions that should give you pause before you spend mucho denaro on them. Pedro, Ben Sheets, and Mark Prior all have injury concerns. Prior will almost certainly be starting the season on the DL, as will Ben Sheets. And both Sheets and Prior have a history of injury concerns, though Prior more extensively so. And we all know that Pedro always seems like he's one bad step from a season-ending injury. But if Martinez gets 30 or more starts, he's a prime contender for the Cy Young and a 20-win season.

Then there are senior statemen - Smoltz and Johnson. Smoltz has not shown signs of slowing down, but Randy is starting to put the age of 40 more and more in the rearview. I'd think twice before burning an early round draft pick on him.

And then there are the inconsistent guys - Willis, Schmidt, Halladay, and Becket - though Becket is more of the injury-prone type concern. Willis finally put it together for a full season last year, but expect a comedown this season, particularly as he now starts for a young team that might often fail to give him run support. Halladay has looked great so far this Spring, so there might be less need for caution as far as he is concerned.

Sleepers? I don't know if you'd qualify Barry Zito as a sleeper, but he is in the walk year of a contract, and he's pitching for some money. I fully edxpect a return to the form of earlier in the decade.

Brandon Webb is set to have his breakout season. He's in his third year, which is usually when a pitcher blossoms. If his teammates can provide any sort of run support, watch for him to have a very big year.

What will become of Aaron Heilman? Brian Bannister is giving him a run for the money as the fifth starter in the Mets rotation (why Victor Zambrano has locked up the fourth spot is beyond me). Even if Heilman wins the job, he might be bumped a few times in the early months of the season. But if he is in the rotation, he's the sleeper pick of the draft. Expect 12-15 wins, a low ERA and WHIP, and around 150-160 K's. He'll be a bargain, and a great mid-to-late round pickup. Hopefully Willie will have made his decision before your draft takes place.

I've left Roger Clemens off the list for now. Who the heck knows if this guy is gonna come back, but the odds are he will at some point. It's not unreasonable to select him for the your bench if you are allotted one. Would I waste a draft pick? - maybe my last or next-to-last. If he comes back, or should I say when he comes back, he will have been away for a couple of months, and even Roger Clemens is (I think) human. But he's also the best pitcher of the last thirty years and maybe longer, and it would be awfully nice to have that weapon in your arsenal.

In the end, when it comes to late-round picks the aim should almost be the same as it is for catchers. Find someone who won't necessarily hurt you because you're not going to wind up with five aces, and if you have you probably have no offense to speak of. But first solidy the rotation with at least two studs at the top. Don't try to be el cheapo and pick up a superstar and piece together a shoestring rotation for the remainder. It's honestly a tough category to pick because, again, it's more unpredictable than any other category.


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Great Idea

My friend TSL at Geek Sop Box has a birthday wish in mind:



Why yes, that would be a great birthday gift, TSL. Any Met fan would truly be lucky to receive a birthday gift as fine as that.


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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Fantasy Preview - Outfielders

Here's a look at the deepest position in baseball.

Player Value
Carl Crawford 66.49
Juan Pierre 52.50
Bobby Abreu 50.74
Scott Podsednik 47.49

Ichiro Suzuki 46.05
Vlad Guerrero 44.99
Carlos Beltran 44.10
Manny Ramirez 39.51
Grady Sizemore 39.38

Willy Taveras 38.38
Coco Crisp 38.10
Rocco Baldelli 37.67
Gary Sheffield 36.39
Jason Bay 36.17
Carlos Lee 35.41
Matt Holiday 35.39
Johnny Damon 34.36
Vernon Wells 34.27
Andruw Jones 33.46
Randy Winn 32.62
Hideki Matsui 31.09
Cliff Floyd 30.72
Aaron Rowand 30.60

Jacque Jones 28.99
Jim Edmonds 28.64
Brad Wilkerson 28.41
Jeff Francouer 28.27
Torrii Hunter 27.74
Jermaine Dye 26.48
Pat Burrell 26.30
Jeremy Hermida 26.16
Craig Monroe 25.71
Shawn Green 25.43
Brian Giles 25.15
Kevin Mench 24.22
Jeromy Burnitz 23.56
Geoff Jenkins 23.02
Jason Lane 22.91
Milton Bradley 22.43
Corey Patterson 22.06
Preston Wilson 21.90
Mike Cameron 21.88
Brady Clark 21.77
Raul Ibanez 21.76
Mark Kotsay 21.54
David Dellucci 21.08
Ken Griffey 20.75
Austin Kearns 20.12

David DeJesus 19.91
J.D. Drew 19.36
Willymo Pena 19.32
Brad Hawpe 19.19
Luis Gonzalez 18.99
Casey Blake 18.70
Eric Byrnes 18.55
Moises Alou 18.48
Barry Bonds 18.26
Garrett Anderson 17.02
Jay Gibbons 16.90
Trot Nixon 15.26
Jose Guillen 14.71
Rondell White 14.33
Jason Michaels 11.48
Magglio Ordonez 10.34

This is a tough field to sort through because of the sheer amount of players. On top of that, there are a certain couple of guys here that are highly rated that probably don't merit your full attention. I'm looking at you Scott Podsednik.

Look, Podsednik is almost completely worthless in every category, but he'll steal fifty bases (thus the disproportionately high rating), so if you are thin there, it's not a terrible pickup. But steals alone are not worth burning an early draft pick or spending 20 fantasy bucks on a guy who ZERO homeruns last year. The most completely overrated ballplayer among moronic ESPN commentators like John Kruk tends to be overrated by fantasy owners. You can accumulate steals elsewhere in this category, so it's not like you're in a situation as you are with middle infielders. There are plenty of guyss who can steal bases . . . and also produce in other categories. And the same is basically true for Juan Pierre, and even more so for Willy Taveras.

Carl Crawford, on the other hand, is worth the inflated value. He will have a monster year this year - I guarantee it. He's valuable in every category - over .300 average, over 100 runs scored, 15+ homers. His power numbers are not as striking as some of the other outfielders, but he's a complete fantasy player. I think he's worth the high value.

Coco Crisp is in a similar position to have a breakout season. He'll hit around .300, he'll pop over 15 homers, steal over 20 bases, and in that lineup he should easily pass one hundred runs scored. In fact I am fairly confident he will have a better season than Johnny Damon, so the Sox actually upgraded in that position.

Almost all the other guys in the top three tiers are players who are good in almost every category. If you do not have at least one of these guys on your team, then don't even bother playing fantasy baseball. Don't overstock - but grab one of these guys because they'll give you a boost in every fantasy categroy. That will allow you to get a couple of cheap players and give you a balanced team.

Think about it this way. Yesterday we covered catchers. You have to go down to the 38th outfielder (Kevin Mench) before you get one worth less than the top catcher. That should put things in perpspective for you.

And you're probably wondering about Barry Bonds. If he's available in the middle rounds, he's worth a look. It's doubtful that he'll put up the monster batting average that he has recently, but he should still be in the .300 neighborhood. It depends a lot on how the lack of playing time will affect his timing. But I fully expect him challenege Aaron's recrod if he plays a full year - which means around 40 dingers. But will he play a full year? Your guess is as good as mine. I do think that the controversy will not affect him, and in fact it might motivate him. But he's over 40, and he missed most of the previous season. You cannot expect him to be the Barry Bonds of 2002 or even 2004.


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Soriano

Is a putz.

And he's an overrated putz at that.

And this is all Major League Baseball's fault. It all started when they refused to decide upon an owner before the stadium deal was finalized (and that's a whole 'nother story). This left the Nats completely leaderless heading into the offseason. Oh. Wait. Not leaderless, they had super GM Jim Bowden at the helm. So Bowden decides to pull one of the most foolish trades of the offseason. They deal one of the bright stars of their franchise for a guy who will whiff 150 times, has no concept of the strike zone, and who is a terrible defensive player. Oh, and he's a complete crybaby on top of all that.

I had to laugh this morning as I heard some folks on the local talk station defend Soriano. I heard a couple of guys saying that we live in a day and age of specialization, and Soriano is technically proficient at second base and thus uncomfortable playing the outfield. Clearly they have never seen a major league baseball game. Soriano is a disaster at second base, and he'd be no worse off in left. What this is all about, plain and simple, is that Soriano's value as a left-fielder is vastly inferior to his value as a second basemen. Offensively speaking there is no second baseman on a level with him, despite his many troubles. But as an outfielder he would be in the middle of the pack. His monetary value thus would markedly decrease with a shift to the outfield.

I'm not sure what the Nats should do or what they even can do. There are certainly many teams that would be willing to take him (Walk away Omar. Just walk away.) But there is no way they can get full value for him. He's too expensive to merely bench, and Lord knows the Siths over that the player's union would attempt to block any efforts to suspend his pay for the entire season (oh how like a real union, making sure their guys get paid for not working). So, they're basically fucked.

But then again, that was the case when they made the deal in the first place. Have fun in the cellar, boys.


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Monday, March 20, 2006

Strong Words from the President

For those of you who think George W. Bush has been ambiguous on potential conflict between Israel and Iran, I encourage you to read this.

All I can say is, I hope it never comes to this, but if it does, the right thing will be done by this president. Which is more than can be said for another.


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Fantasy Preview - Catchers

Only because I am contractually obligated, I hereby present a breakdown of MLB catchers. This is not pretty.

Player Value
Victor Martinez 23.13
Joe Mauer 23.03
Jason Varitek 20.14
Ivan Rodriguez 20.02

Jorge Posada 18.01
Javy Lopez 17.27

A.J. Pierzynski 16.74
Jason Kendall 16.46
Kenji Johjima 16.41
Brian McCann 15.32
Rod Barajas 14.20
Josh Willingham 14.05
Paul LoDuca 13.44
Michael Barrett 13.22
Benjie Molina 13.15
Ramon Hernandez 13.03
Mike Lieberthal 12.60
Ryan Doumit 12.33
Mike Piazza 12.19
Toby Hall 10.76
John Buck 10.75
Jason LaRue 10.57
Yadier Molina 10.33
Johnny Estrada 9.56
Dioner Navarro 9.04
Damian Miller 8.99
Brad Ausmus 8.34

Ugh. What's worse, in most fantasy leagues you are obligated to pick two of these duds.

The best thing one can do is simply pick players who will not hurt you. That means drafting catchers who will compile at least halfway-decent batting averages. In that case A.J. Pierzysnki, Paul LoDuca, Mike Lieberthal, Ramon Hernandez, and Benjie Molina should all hit above .270. But there's not a single player on this list that will pop much more than 20 homers, and many will not even approach that total.

You might be tempted to draft one of the better catchers, but the guys at the top - Vic Martinez, Javy Lopez, Joe Mauer, Ivan Rodriguez, and Jason Varitek - are ultimately only going to give you equal production to the average second baseman, thus they're not worth the inflated value. If you somehow find youself in a situation where you can get one of these guys on the cheap, sure, go for it. But the better bet is to let them go and find your value elsewhere.

The one potential advantage to this category is that there is some ability to gamble on a sleeper. The prime suspect is Seattle's Japanese import Kenji Johjima. By all reports the guy's got a cannon for an arm, but that doesn't really help from a fantasy baseball perspective. The more positive projections see him as a mid .260's hitter with somewhere between 15-20 homers and knocking in a little under 60. But it's tough to predict how Japanese players will adapt to the majors. I'd take a shot on him if he's available in the mid-to-late rounds, or if he comes in under $6.

Then there's Mike Piazza. At this point in his career it is difficult to expect much, but he has shown flashes of the old Mike off and on the past few years. I don't know that playing in San Diego will give him a boost, and home games at Petco won't boost the statistics - though he'll play 9 games in Coors, where he usually puts up insane numbers. If he's sitting there late in the draft, he might still be worth the shot.

Ultimately I will just repeat what I said above: look for catchers who won't hurt you, and do not waste resources at this position.


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Sunday, March 19, 2006

On Anniversary, Secret Documents Revealed

Last month, audio recordings of Saddam Hussein's high-level meetings with political and military advisers did significant damage to claims by opponents of the administration that Saddam's Iraq had neither an ongoing weapons program nor the desire to make use of it. It was only through the efforts of Bill Tierney, John Loftus, and the Intelligence Summit that these tapes were made known and translated for public consumption (and I would be remiss if I did not remind you that only a small fraction of those audio recordings has been translated to date -- one can only guess as to what else can be found on those tapes).

Now, on the third anniversary of the Iraqi invasion, even more telling information has come to light, in the form of recently unclassified pre-war Iraqi documents -- documents which, if authenticated, will show Saddam had his tyrannical tendrils deep into other activities, possibly even those affecting the United States. These documents, which can be directly accessed here (although I should warn you that most of these documents remain untranslated), only further bolster what the administration has been saying since 2002, which is that the pre-war Iraqi regime was systematically developing weapons systems, muddying the waters by preventing U.N. inspectors from doing their job without interference, and working with enemies of the United States. At least one document even intimates a link between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks.

According to ABC News:
An Iraqi intelligence service document [dated September 15, 2001] saying that their Afghani informant, who's only identified by a number, told them that the Afghani Consul Ahmed Dahastani claimed the following in front of him:
  • That [Osama bin Laden] and the Taliban are in contact with Iraq and that a group of Taliban and bin Laden group members visited Iraq.
  • That the U.S. has proof the Iraqi government and "bin Laden's group" agreed to cooperate to attack targets inside America.
  • That in case the Taliban and bin Laden's group turn out to be involved in "these destructive operations," the U.S. may strike Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • That the Afghani consul heard about the issue of Iraq's relationship with "bin Laden's group" while he was in Iran.
At the end, the writer recommends informing "the committee of intentions" about the above-mentioned items. The signature on the document is unclear.
Another set of documents from the summer of 1999 discusses possible Iraqi involvement in the making of campaign contributions to French politicians:
[This batch of documents] includes a document from the Iraqi intelligence service classified as "secret," ordering the translation of important parts of a 1997 report about campaign financing laws in France. It also includes a document from the foreign minister's office indicating the report was attached. The attached translated report included very detailed information about all the regulations regarding financing of election campaigns in France. Translation was done by someone called "Salam Abdul Karim Mohammed."
Here is information about a document discussing Iraq's (ultimately successful ) strategy for scuttling weapons inspectors dating from 1997:
A letter from the Iraqi intelligence service to directors and managers advising them to follow certain procedures in case of a search by the U.N. team, including:
  • Removing correspondence with the atomic energy and military industry departments concerning the prohibited weapons (proposals, research, studies, catalogs, etc.).
  • Removing prohibited materials and equipment, including documents and catalogs and making sure to clear labs and storages of any traces of chemical or biological materials that were previously used or stored.
  • Doing so through a committee which will decide whether to destroy the documents.
  • Removing files from computers.
The letter also advises them on how they should answer questions by U.N. team members. It says the intelligence service should be informed within one week about the progress made in discarding the documents.
ABC News also cites a document, dated August 2002, purporting to be investigating the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq, as if this were unknown to the government:
A number of correspondences to check rumors that some members of al Qaeda organization have entered Iraq. Three letters say this information cannot be confirmed. The letter on page seven, however, says that information coming from "a trustworthy source" indicates that subjects who are interested in dealing with al Qaeda are in Iraq and have several passports.

The letter seems to be coming from or going to Trebil, a town on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. Follow up on the presence of those subjects is ordered, as well as comparison of their pictures with those of Jordanian subjects living in Iraq. (This may be referring to pictures of Abu Musaab al Zarqawi and another man on pages 4-6) The letter also says tourist areas, including hotels and rented apartments, should be searched.
ABC News, which leaves no major news story unspun, feels compelled to attach editorial comment to each of these translated snippets -- editorialization which, in my opinion, is done to make it appear as if nothing in these documents contradicts or undermines critics of the administration by showing that there is nothing new or revelatory here. For instance, with respect to the document discussing possible Al Qaeda links with Iraq, ABC News states that "[t]he controversial claim that Osama bin Laden was cooperating with Saddam Hussein is an ongoing matter of intense debate. While the assertions contained in this document clearly support the claim, the sourcing is questionable . . . ." It also feels obliged to bolster the August 2002 document that claims surprise at the presence of Al Qaeda in Iraq by firmly declaring that it "indicates [only] that the Iraqis were aware of and interested in reports that members of al Qaeda were present in Iraq in 2002" and that it "does not support allegations that Iraq was colluding with al Qaeda" (although anyone with half a neuron would allow for the possibility that documents produced a full year after 9/11 might have a self-serving quality).

(There are other documents that address other matters, ranging from Iraq's role in sending "volunteers" to fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan to the development of explosive devices. I encourage you to check out the direct link to the documents above, although they are mostly in Arabic. If you know anyone who knows Arabic, I encourage you to pass them on.)

At any rate, the documents are out there and available for all to see (thank God for the Internet); perhaps the biggest problem right now is not a lack of information, but a glut of information that is in desperate need of translation.

What strikes me about these documents is not that they definitively prove anything one way or the other, but that they paint a picture that is very, very different than the one the liberal elite in the media and elsewhere want you to have. It severely undercuts claims that the Bush administration was lying about Iraq's ongoing weapons programs, its obstruction of weapons inspectors, and its involvement with enemies of America -- and that document discussing Iraqi links to Osama bin Laden, if corroborated by other information, would be powerful proof that even the administration had not used to justify the war.

I have no doubt that, as more and more information comes to light, the revelation of even more incriminating information will go a long way toward vindicating President Bush and Operation Iraqi Freedom.


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Friday, March 17, 2006

Magnum Opus on Line-Item Veto Authority

Since I promised it some time ago, I figured I would enlighten you all as to the substantive legal and policy reasons why I am adamantly opposed to the enactment of a “line-item veto,” or any other sort of recession authority granted to the President.

Simply put, my objection is institutional as well as practical; the Constitution vests the “power of the purse” with Congress not the President. The fact that Congress, in the eyes of many, mostly conservative, commentators, has shown an unwillingness to control the growth of the federal government does not mean that the delicate balance of powers that was established in 1787 should be abandoned or tinkered with in any way, shape, or form. Presidents are no more or less capable of controlling government spending as Members of Congress are, period. There is no empirical or statistical evidence to support the claim that federal executive branch officials are capable of reducing their own budgets. The fact that such authority may have achieved moderate successes at the state level does not mean that it will have the same effect when applied to Congress and the federal government. Furthermore, the new dynamics of a federal budget process should line-item veto authority be injected into it, likely will have no substantive effect on spending and will only further shift the balance of power away from Congress and to the President. Click Read More to get my full unedited rant.

Let’s begin at the beginning with the text of the Constitution. First, Article I, section 8, clause 1 empowers Congress to “pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States,” and to “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” Next, the so-called Appropriations Clause, Article I, section 9, clause 7, provides that “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law….” Simply put, these clauses taken together mean that regardless of the nature of the payment, whether it be for government salaries, payments under a contract, payments ordered by a court, or what have you, a federal agency, including the President of the United States, may not obligate funds from the United States Treasury unless Congress has specifically made the funds available. As the Supreme Court stated more than 155 years ago, regardless of how “much money may be in the Treasury at any one time, not a dollar of it can be used in the payment of any thing not… previously sanctioned [by a congressional appropriation].” See Reeside v. Walker, 52 U.S. (11 How.) 272, 291 (1850); see also Cincinnati Soap Co. v. United States, 301 U.S. 308, 321 (1937); Office of Personnel Management v. Richmond, 496 U.S. 414, 425 (1990).

So how exactly does Congress allocate money? Umm, well, let’s see, good question, well there is … ah screw it, you don’t really want to know. Okay, it is here where part of the problem exists and where part of the policy argument in favor of the line-item veto lies. Fact is there are very, very few people who can adequately explain how the federal budget and the Congressional appropriations process works. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them; although, as the saying goes, I know just enough to be dangerous. For the sake of the post I’ll give a brief, highly simplified, very truncated overview of the process, which if there is anyone reading this with expertise, please augments in the comments section. First, I should note that the federal fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Oct. 1, which in itself causes some problems, but it is important to distinguish the fiscal year from the calendar year, though in some states they are the same. Thus, at the federal level FY 07 will start on 10/01/06, and FY 08 on 10/01/07 and so forth and so on. At the beginning of each calendar year (i.e., usually after the State of the Union) the President submits his annual budget to the Congress. After which Congress has until April (15th, I think) to pass what is known as the Budget Resolution, which is the agreement that will guide the process for the annual budget cycle. The Budget Resolution sets a discretionary spending limit and directs the funding of certain specific programs, but by and large it is not legally binding and can be waived or circumvented at will. Basically, the Budget Resolution is a political guidepost, however, it does provide some significant procedural protections for certain budget related issues, especially in the Senate, that makes them easier to enact later in the process. For example, items that are authorized in the Budget Resolution cannot be filibustered and only require a simple majority vote to pass, which is why ANWAR drilling, among other controversial topics, has found such a prominent place in Budget Resolution battles over the last few years.

Basically, the remainder of the process is then turned over to the appropriations committees, which is a select group of Members who wield an enormous amount of power and influence, even though you’ve likely never heard of any of them (except, of course, for Sen. Robert C. Byrd who has managed to have everything in West Virginia named after him). It is often said that there are three classes of legislators, Republicans, Democrats, and Appropriators. I’m not really sure if this is true, but I can say that the appropriations process is lawmaking at its absolute worst. Some basic facts: There are 12 annual appropriations bills (now that Homeland Security has its own), that all have to be enacted by September 31st of each year or else Congress has to pass a “continuing resolution,” which funds those parts of the government whose appropriation bill has yet to pass, usually at the previous years levels. Appropriations bills are just like all other pieces of legislation, except that all they are technically supposed to do is spend money. There is supposed to be no substantive legislation in appropriations bills, in fact, each house has specific rules prohibiting legislating in appropriations bills. This rule, however, is routinely waived, so every bill contains thousands of pages of not only funding allocations, but legislation directing the government to do specific things. Moreover, appropriations are generally time limited; meaning that unlike normal legislation, the provisions contained in appropriations measures is only good for the year of the appropriation unless more time is specifically specified. The fact is that all of the so-called rules that apply to the appropriations process can be waived either by consent or by majority vote that going through them all is really useless.

Bottom line, all appropriations bills become “legislative Christmas trees,” there is usually something special in them for everyone and a lot of things for the Chairmen and other important members, otherwise known as “earmarks.” Now, one asks, how is it, and why is it, that these people get all these special provisions inserted into the bills? Well there are lots of ways, but let me first say that the term “earmark” is a bit misleading and overbroad. What people usually mean when they say “earmark” is something like the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” that was included in last years Transportation, Treasury Appropriations bill. Generally, these are special provisions inserted at a lawmaker’s behalf that instead of funding generally applicable projects, like roads and bridges in Alaska, are targeted to fund specific projects, such as a Bridge in a specific county or a road from point A to point B in a member’s district. I’ll defer to others experts on the number and amount of earmarks, but they are particularly prevalent in transportation bills and they are usually, but not always, funding amounts in addition to what the state or locality is already receiving in federal funds under the bill.


The conventional wisdom is that these earmarks are needless driving up the cost of appropriations bills and are responsible for the huge deficits and national debt. That to a certain extent is true, however, there are also plenty of “earmarks” that do not involve additional funds, but rather provide that already allocated funds be spent on specific things, or that money appropriated to buy X are spent with company Y, who happens to have his/her business in a member’s district. My point is that earmarks take all shapes, sizes, and language, and can be used for just about anything that the appropriators want. About the only thing that the various types of earmarks have in common is the fact that they rarely, if ever, vetted through the normal legislative process. By this I mean that “earmarks” are usually inserted into bills during conference committee meetings as a way to bring the two houses together on a final version of a bill that can be passed by both houses and sent to the President for his signature into law. Remember from my previous posts that conference reports cannot be amended, but must either be accepted or rejected as presented. Even craftier, is when the appropriators don’t actually include the earmarks in the text of the legislation itself, but rather place them into conference report language and then incorporate the report language into the actual legislative text. This makes the earmarks even less obvious, but they still retain the force of law and require the executive to carry out the earmarking legislator’s intent.

The line-item veto is designed to combat the problem of congressional largess and excessive earmarking in spending or appropriation bills. Legally, however, the line-item veto has taken many forms. An early version was known as impoundment, which was a specific congressional authorization to the President that stated that he could refuse to spend funds that he deemed were not necessary or in excess of what was required to carry out a specific program. President Nixon was the last President to exercise a general impoundment authority, and it was the general consensus that he and his administration abused the authority given to them, and so impoundment was scrapped from the books. The next iteration came in the form of general recession authority. Like impoundment, the President was authorized to single out provisions that he deemed were excessive and request that Congress grant, on a case-by-case basis the authority to rescind the funds and return them to the Treasury. This required approval of both house of Congress, usually by joint resolution, which rarely, if ever happened. In 1996, however, Congress passed the line-item veto and gave President Clinton the authority to strike out specific spending provisions even after he had already signed the appropriations measure into law.

The line-item veto was the subject of two Supreme Court cases. The first in 1997 Raines v. Byrd, involved the issue of whether Senators or members of the House who had voted against the line-item veto has standing to challenge the laws enactment. The Court held that they did not, but declined to rule on the merits of the act itself. In 1998, however, by a 6 to 3 vote, the Supreme Court held that the Line Item Veto Act violated the Bicameralism and Presentment Clauses of the Constitution. The Court rejected the argument that the President's power to cancel items was a mere exercise of discretionary authority granted by Congress. Instead, the cancellation authority represented the repeal of law that could be accomplished only through the regular legislative process, including bicameralism and presentment. In other words, all legislation including appropriations legislation has to be passed by both houses of Congress (bicameralism) and signed by the President (presentment) to have the force of law. In the case of the line-item veto, the Court concluded that "the President has amended two Acts of Congress by repealing a portion of each.” Phrased another way, the President’s striking of excess spending provision, was in the view of the Court legislation that did not go through the constitutionally required process. See Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417 (1998).

The latest version of the line-item veto is designed to avoid this constitutional problem. What it appears to require is that in cases where the President wishes to rescind a provision he must send a notice to Congress, who must then pass specific authorization permitting the President to act on the request. Because congressional approval is required, it is believed that this method avoids the problems raised by the Court in Clinton v. New York. Constitutional questions aside, is this a good idea? Will it accomplish the goal of reigning in Congress and reducing spending? Not likely. Moreover, it harms the institution and removes the impetus for real reforms within the Congress.

Basically I have three objections to the line-item veto in whatever form it takes. First, as I’ve already stated, it disrupts the balance of power established by the Constitution and it erodes Congress’s constitutional authority over the Treasury and appropriations process. Second, it destroys any incentive for change within the Congress, by shifting the burden and the political blame to the President. Finally, it won’t reduce spending. Let me elaborate a bit.

The balance of power argument is simple, Congress, not the President controls the purse. Now this is not to say that the President plays no role, for he clearly does. He proposes an annual budget, and he reserves the right to veto legislation that he does not like, subject of course to Congressional override. To allow the President, any President, to item-by-item object to provisions significantly weakens Congress’s role in the process, especially if a President is politically powerful. It’s one thing to include outsiders, including the administration in the law making process, there are excellent reasons for doing so, and the President is an active required participant in every law that is passed, but currently inclusion is at the will of Congress. If Congress doesn’t want to include the President until presentment it is under no obligation to do so. Line-item veto will inject the President into every one of the 12 appropriations bills that go through Congress. If every member has to clear or pre-approve every spending request with Administration officials to ensure that it will not be vetoed, then the process will drag to a screeching halt and never be completed. Congress needs to have the ability to act independently and be independently politically accountable for its actions. If the President doesn’t like provisions in a bill he already has a constitutionally approved remedy, he can veto the bill and send it back. Line-item veto requires Congress in essence to pass appropriations laws twice, once as a package and then again on a line-by-line basis after the President has exercised his power.

Second, there are already ways internally that Congress can address some of the ills of the appropriations process. Just for example, it could strengthen the procedural protections of the Budget Resolution, making it harder to waive it’s application. Second, it could self-impose more transparency on the process by eliminating the ability of Members to insert provisions in conference reports. It could make conference reports amendable for appropriations purposes only, thus allowing full votes on earmarks that are last minute insertions. It could self impose earmark limits, say 1 per member per year or total cost not to exceed 1 million per member per year, this would force members to choose more wisely the projects that they were going to expend political capital on and limits the increase in discretionary spending to $535 million per year, a paltry sum in a 2.4 trillion dollar budget. These are only a few ideas off the top of my head, and I’m sure there are many others. Point is, none of these will happen if the line-item veto passes, as Congress will look to the President to fix the problem after the fact and the politics and finger-pointing will destroy what little incentive there is to actually fix the problem.

Finally, reducing spending; yeah, right. Anyone who seriously thinks that this will accomplish that is seriously deluding themselves. Congressmen and 1/3 of the Senate are up for re-election every time the President is, so every 4 years or so, you can pretty much guarantee there wouldn’t be any line-item vetoes, and if there were, Congress would simply override them in order to protect their jobs. No President is going to cut funding in an area where he/she will eventually have to campaign in, and no member is going to stand by while funding is cut, thereby giving an opponent an easy election year issue. I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made my point. True the appropriations process is horribly broken, but the line-item veto isn’t the solution.


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Fantasy Preview - Third Basemen

All right, this is one instance where I'm going to ask that you disregard a player's ranking to some degree. The top player on the list of third basemen is not really the top pick, though he certainly has much value in at least one category.


Player Value
Chone Figgins 51.84
Alex Rodriguez 49.14
David Wright 47.30
Miguel Cabrera 41.63

Hank Blalock 29.84
Eric Chavez 28.91
Melvin Mora 28.58
Morgan Ensberg 28.29
Bill Hall 28.25
Aramis Ramirez 28.19
Adrian Beltre 26.96
Garret Atkins 26.83
Troy Glaus 25.42

Edwin Encarnacion 24.70
Brandon Inge 22.65
Pedro Feliz 21.61
Mike Lowell 20.13
Joe Crede 19.72
Scott Rolen 18.54
Chipper Jones 18.31
Ryan Zimmerman 17.93

David Bell 15.72
Joe Randa 15.56
Bill Mueller 14.43
Kevin Youkilis 13.87
Sean Burroughs 12.74

Chone Figgins is a real threat at the top of the Angels lineup, and he will provide a boost for both stolen bases and runs scored. But the class of this category are the two New York superstars. Undoubtedly there should be a lot friendly - and not so friendly - banter between Met and Yankee fans as to which of David Wright and Alex Rodriguez is the premier third baseman in baseball. David Wright has already proven that for the first time in about two decades all the hype over a Met prospect was actually merited. He is the future (and present) of this franchise. And for all the crap that gets thrown A-Rod's way, he is the second best offensive player in the game, and you'd be a fool to pass on him. He will have even more RBI opportunities with Johnny Damon leading off for the Yanks, and might blow all previous statistical seasons away.

Of course, what's funny is that even with paycuts and everything A-Rod is still costing the Yankees around $20 million. Wright, who should produce similar numbers, will be paid less than $400,000 this year.

Joining those two studs at the top of the list is Miguel Cabrera, as the Marlins have moved him in from the outfield. He'll have less protection in the lineup, and also fewer RBI opportunities. But he should still produce monster numbers - .325 BA, 35-40 homers, 120+ RBI, 100+ runs.

Scott Rolen is a mystery. I have low numbers projected for him, so much depends on how he bounces back from injury. I'd be cautious, taking him only in the later rounds and not allocating much cash. Troy Glaus also comes with a bit of a warning label, but I have much more confidence in his ability play 150+ games this season.

I expect Adrian Beltre to bounce back a bit, but I don't think he'll ever put up the kind of numbers he did in 2004. He's a mid-round pick in my estimation.

There are a couple of sleepers here. Kevin Youkilis has a shot at a full-time job this year, and could put up some big power numbers. If he's available in one of the later rounds, grab him. The same holds true for National rookie Ryan Zimmerman, a potential Rookie of the Year candidate. He plays in a cavernous ballpark, but he looked good late last season when he was called up. He'll probably put up better numbers than Youkilis, at least this year.

And I almost forgot my own keeper - Morgan Ensberg. He's been two players thus far in his career - an outstanding power hitter in 2003 and 2005, and a major diappointment in 2004. I'd expect him to be more like the true power threat he has been in his two good seasons, but I would also expect his numbers to slip just a tad off his 2005 season. And for ten bucks, he's a no-brainer keeper as far as I am concerned.

Long story short - just like second base and shortstop was where you needed to find speed, here's where you should get a big bopper. Don't be like me and get stuck with Corey Koskie. There's plenty to choose from in this loaded category.


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The Liberal GOP

Someone want to try and explain what exactly is "conservative" about these provisions? I kid because I can. Actually I'm being a bit unfair; the debt ceiling actually needed to be raised to avoid a default and subsequent government shut-down. That said, however, one has to wonder why we've had to raise the debt ceiling every year since 2002, especially when the fiscally restrained GOP has controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. I think Arlen Specter (R-Pa) said it best when he said "[t]he Republican Party is now principally moderate, if not liberal!" Have no fear, conservatives, the line-item veto will solve all your spending problems. Didn’t you hear, George W. Bush, the budget hawk, pervasive user of the veto pen, he’s coming to the rescue.


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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Fantasy Preview - Shortstops

If ever there were a category that made me reconsider my own valuation method it is this one. Take a look -


Player Value
Jose Reyes 60.14
Jimmy Rollins 48.61
Rafael Furcal 47.05
Julio Lugo 39.05
Derek Jeter 38.00
Michael Young 33.90
Miguel Tejada 33.88

Felipe Lopez 30.84
Edgar Renteria 29.04
Jhonny Peralta 28.49

Orlando Cabrera 26.96
Adam Everett 24.04
David Eckstein 22.98
Clint Barmes 21.00
Juan Uribe 20.87

Russ Adams 18.85
Carlos Guillen 17.80
Y. Betencourt 17.32
Bobby Crosby 16.66
Khalil Greene 15.26
Nomar Garciaparra 8.96
Wilson Betemit 6.99

So how does a leadoff guy who doesn't walk and who does not possess a lot of pop top the list? Stolen Bases. Again, they are valued more highly than any other category. Jose Reyes stole 60 last season, and I have actually downgraded him to a "mere" 55 this season. But that represents about half the total you'd need to be near the top of that category in most leagues. Furcal, Lugo, and Rollins also have inflated values because each of them should nab more than 30 bases.

So are they really worth more than Michael Young and Miguel Tejada? The answer is: it depends. Michael Young is a truly complete player- he'll hit over .300, should have somewhere around 25 homeruns, and will drive in over a hundred and score over a hundred. The same holds true for Miguel Tejada. But you can also get those types of numbers from about 20-30 outfielders and a lot of cornermen. What you won't get from those positions are as many guys storming the basepaths. So why not grab a Jimmy Rillins and Rafael Furcal for less money than you'd spend on Young or Tejada, and then make up the power differential elswhere. You won't be able to make up the stolen base differential. You should be looking at the middle of the infield to pad a category that you won't elsewhere.

So it's with that in mind that I would suggest skipping over a player like Derek Jeter - good in every category, but great in none (save runs). He's perenially overvalued, so save your money or save your pick for somone who has greater value but who will come cheaper, or who you'll be able to nab in later rounds.

Okay, not convinced that you need to go for speed here? Then a sleeper of sorts is Jhonny Peralta. He started off slow last season, but ended a house afire. He's got the same power production totals of Michael Young, except for less money and a later draft pick.

Clint Barmes missed half a season, and his value above reflects that. If he plays a full season in Colorado, he should be in the second class of shortstops.

And Mr. Glass, err Nomar? He might be worth a gamble in later rounds, but only after you've selected all other position players.

Finally, if you're in the John Kruk "all-grit" fantasy league for morons, David Eckstein should be a nice pickup alongside Scott Podsednik. But if you actually value players who put up real numbers, then pass. (But Paul, what about Podsednik and stolen bases? I'll elaborate on that next week.)


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They may as well parade ICBMs through the streets of Baghdad...


...or maybe have GWB don his flight suit again and yell "we have big guns so things are going well...they hate us for our freedom." Today, U.S "and" Iraqi "forces" launched the largest air assault operation since the invasion of Iraq nearly three years ago, the U.S. military said.


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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Moussaoui Mess

Recent coverage of the federal sentencing trial of the so-called twentieth hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui (spelling?) gives the impression that prosecutorial misconduct will be the primary reason Moussaoui likely will receive a life sentence (if that) in lieu of the death penalty. After U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema ruled that she would permit the prosecutors overseeing his case to pursue the death penalty, she nevertheless instructed the prosecutors they would be forbidden from using certain prosecution witnesses who were allegedly coached prior to trial. To quote one blunt member of the prosecution team, Brinkema's ruling essentially made it "impossible for us to present our theory of the case to the jury."

Relax, kids. I am not blaming the coverage here; the problem here is not media slant on an issue. The problem here is loss of focus on some key issues. Allow me to adjust the lens.

1) Prepping Witnesses. Any prosecutor worth his (or her) salt will tell you that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with talking with your witnesses before they testify.

Rules pertaining to witnesses can be complex, and no doubt vary from state to state, so forgive me if I speak in generalities, but the basic rule is: Preparing a witness for testimony is okay, even desirable; outright telling them what to say is not. That means you can speak with your witnesses, review what they can expect upon testifying, and even do mock direct and cross examinations in order to give witnesses an idea of what it will be like on the stand. In a somewhat grayer area are situations where you shape a witness's testimony by emphasizing what you will be seeking to bring out, or where you intimate that you wish to avoid certain areas of discussion. Clear no-no's include telling your witnesses exactly what you want them to say, talking to them about their testimony while their testimony is in progress (for instance, during an overnight recess that bisects direct examination), and giving your witnesses information about what was said at trial by other witnesses. Indeed, these latter three behaviors could be loosely construed as coaching (although I can also tell you that well-intentioned prosecutors can do one or all of the above in good faith, with no intention to skew results in an unfair direction).

There have been allegations that transcripts of prior testimony were shown to witnesses that had not yet testified. If so, that is problematic for the prosecution, and Brinkema was right to exclude those witnesses from testifying. Before there is any more discussion on the subject, someone should get to the bottom of just what happened with these witnesses.

(As an aside: with regard to the last sentence, please do not construe it as a call to prosecute the prosecutor who allegedly coached witnesses. Again, I can tell you from contact with colleagues that these types of things are done good-naturedly on a daily basis in prosecutor's offices around the country. That doesn't mean it is okay, but it also doesn't mean someone should herself be prosecuted for slipping up.)

2) The Larger Lesson. We can bicker about evidence and judges all day long, when it comes to this case. I welcome such debate. There is, however, a larger issue here, which is whether or not terrorists should even be brought into the civilian, peacetime criminal justice system. This case is a screaming example of the pitfalls of employing best intentions in lieu of the latitude permitted by the federal Constitution.

While it is true that Moussaoui was arrested prior to September 11, and that he once had permission to be in the United States (he allowed his visa to lapse), his status should have been re-evaluated in the wake of the events of September 11, and he should have been shipped forthwith to a location where a military tribunal could have dispensed swift justice. Our nonsensical insistence in bestowing upon foreign terrorists the rights belonging to citizens only may eventually be our undoing.

Consider this latest episode People's Exhibit Number One.


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Fantasy Preview - Second Basemen

Thank goodness for catchers, or else second base would be the position to overlook in fantasy baseball. (Read more)


Second Basemen Rankings:
Player Value
Alfonso Soriano 40.15
Brian Roberts 36.92
Marcus Giles 31.44
Ryan Freel 30.67
Tadahito Iguchi 29.95
Rickie Weeks 28.42
Jeff Kent 26.51
Craig Biggio 25.44
Adam Kennedy 24.73
Craig Counsell 23.76
Jorge Cantu 23.61
Luis Castillo 23.44
Omar Vizquel 23.23
Placido Polanco 20.66
Robinson Cano 20.02
Ray Durham 19.21
Ron Belliard 19.16
Orlando Hudson 19.00
Aaron Hill 17.94
Mark Loretta 17.89
Mark Ellis 14.78
Todd Walker 14.56
Jose Vidro 11.65

There's not a lot here to drool over. As much as I detest Alfonso Soriano, he's head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the pack. Even though he is playing in the National League now, and moreover playing in a terrible park for hitters, he still is the most complete second baseman as far as fantasy stats are concerned.

The best bet is to let some other poor schmoe overpay for Soriano and wait for any of the other interchangeable players at this position. Really, what you're looking for here is someone who can help you in the stolen base category as there are no real power threats save for perhaps Jeff Kent and Jorge Cantu. Thus, with stolen bases in mind, the prime targets should be Brian Roberts and Ryan Freel - two guys who should be in the 30+ range. A healthy Craig Counsell will also be a stolen base threat, as well as Adam Kennedy and Rickie Weeks (who also qualifies at third base). All of these gents should steal about 20.

If you're looking for a more well-rounded threat then both Marcus Giles and Tadahito Iguchi should do nicely. They'll both hit around .290, hit somewhere between 15-20 homers, and steal between 15-20 bases. Giles might be more of a stolen base threat if he hits leadoff this season, as it appears he will. Iguchi will probably be more of a bargain if you're in a salary cap league. At any rate, these should be bargain players who will not hurt you in any category.

The wild card in all this is Jose Vidro. If he comes back healthy he'll be right at the top of the list for second basemen. He might be worth a late round pick or perhaps a bench pickup if your league has one. Of course he also has the RFK curse, and that will cut down on his power numbers if he comes back and plays every day. There's also the chance that he will wind up elsewhere before the season ends, and that anywhere will almost certainly be better for his stats.

There really are no sleepers at this position. I did nicely gambling on Iguchi last season, and he might fall under the radar once again. Craig Biggio might still be able to put up some good numbers, and there's a good chance many other players will ignore him. But he's also a risk.

Bottom line: Ignore Soriano and go for speed. Save your money for the true power positions at 1st, 3rd, and outfield.


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The Ides of March

Just a reminder that today is the Ides of March... I wonder how different the world would have been if Ceasar had not been killed.

Anyway, if you wanted to know the origin of the expression...


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Free Coffee

If you go Starbucks before noon today, you receive a free 12 ounce cup.


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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fein

Bruce Fein produced an absolute muddle of a column today, on the one hand calling Roe an "embarassment," while also urging that it be by and large upheld.

I respond to him at Confirm Them.

Andrey Hyman also responds, noting some more factual errors in Fein's column.


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The baseball blitz - 1st Basemen

It's time. Oh, thank God, it's time. Baseball is back, and over the next few weeks I'll be previewing the upcoming season. First I'm going to preview the fantasy season, position by position. I'm sure many of you will be doing fantasy baseball this year, and in preparation for your respective drafts, I'll be supplying my own bit of analysis based on my own draft prep. Of course taking fantasy baseball advice from a guy who finished eight in his league of fourteen may be not be the best course, so take it for what it's worth. Then, in the week before the season starts, I'll be previewing the real baseball season and making some pennant predictions.

So let the fantasy talk begin. First up: First Basemen(Click read more)


A note on methodology: The following numbers were devised in my own draft prep for my 5x5 roto league, thus the numbers may or may not correlate to your fantasy setup. Statistical projections were based on a combination of the following: 1) Past performance, 2)Dave Luciani's (of Baseball Notebook) projections, and 3) my own revision of number two. A player's value is arrived at by adding value in the following five categories: Homeruns, Batting Average, RBI, Runs, and Stolen Bases. The values in each category class were based on my own fantasy league's final standings last season. For example, I project Adam Dunn to hit 49 homers this year, which would be roughly 17.5% of the homers I need to finish near the top in homeruns for the season. His value in the other statistical categories add up to a total value of 36.90, putting him near the top for all first basemen. It should be noted that stolen bases are more heavily weighted because they are rarer than homers and runs, thus a player with a high stolen base projection might have a higher overall value than anticipated.

Now that I've utterly confused you, let's get down to business.

Player Team Value
Albert Pujols StL 65.01
Derek Lee ChC 45.78
Mark Texeira TX 44.17
David Ortiz Bos 41.12

Adam Dunn Cin 36.90
Todd Helton Col 34.87
Paul Konerko CWS 30.77
Lance Berkman Hou 30.38

Ryan Howard Phi 28.93
Aubrey Huff TB 28.27
Carlos Delgado NYM 27.05
Chad Tracy AZ 26.47
S. Hillenbrand Tor 25.48
Justin Morneau Min 24.35
Prince Fielder Mil 23.34
Darin Erstad LAA 22.06
Lyle Overbay Tor 21.66
Sean Casey Pit 21.08
Richie Sexson Sea 20.70

Dan Johnson Oak 19.73
Nick Johnson Was 18.76
Dmitri Young Det 18.22
Mike Sweeney KC 18.10
Conor Jackson Ari 17.74
Nick Swisher Oak 17.55
Ben Broussard Cle 17.42
Casey Kotchman LAA 17.34
Adam Laroche Atl 17.06
Jason Giambi NYY 16.50
Mike Jacobs Fla 15.54
Jim Thome CWS 14.50
Chris Shelton Det 13.89
Kevin Millar Bal 13.24

No big surprises here. Albert Pujols has already established himself as arguably the greatest offensive force in the game, and yet he is prepared I think to have a breakout season. He is the sort of player fantasy players drool over: dominant in all categories (save stolen bases, where he's merely above-average). In a position where you should wind up with a big bat unless you really screw up (like me drafting Lyle Overbay last season), Pujols shines above the rest.

But you can spend a few bucks less and still wind up with a dominant player. Texeira and Dunn are set to have breakout seasons as well, and if the other players in your league are asleep at the wheel, you should be able to swoop in and grab them and still have enough left over to form a more balanced team. Down even further is another emerging star - Chad Tracy of Arizona. He's a sleeper that should be easily gotten for a reasonable draft price, or if you're in a snake-draft league, in one of the middle rounds.

If you're a gmabling man, good value could be gotten with Jim Thome. A fresh start in Chicago could be the shot in the arm that boosts Thome's value to where it was but just a couple of short years ago. It should also be noted that I am far more down on Adam LaRouche than many others doing projections. If he realizes his full potential, then he's another good sleeper pick. But I expect he will continue to be a relative disappointment, so look elsewhere in this deep position.

And a word on Nick Johnson: I've already read a couple of articles about how this is the year he stays healthy and puts up great fantasy numbers. I ask you, how many years have we been reading that crap? If he hasn't put it together yet, he's not going to. Face facts and let him slip on through. You won't regret it.


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If they only knew

Michael Ledeen relates an e-mail he received from Yuri Yarim-Agaev, a democratic revolutionary in the former USSR. It seems the local New Jersey Barnes & Nobel is not exactly stacked with the works of America's greatest thinkers.
A few days ago, I stopped by a neighboring Barnes & Nobel bookstore in Holmdel, NJ, to look for the writings of Thomas Jefferson. The store is large and contains many different departments, including some strange to my archaic education, such as New Age, Self Improvement and Gay and Lesbian studies. There still are some sections (though not as capacious) that are more familiar to me, such as U.S. History, Philosophy, and Law. I started to browse these sections for Jefferson's works. I found several biographies of the great man but none of his original writings. In the Philosophy section, however, I came across six different editions (editions, not copies!) of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto and two editions of Capital.

Somewhat puzzled, I approached the customers' desk. The lady at the desk looks into the computer database, finds one book of Jefferson's s elected writings and goes in search of it to the shelves. Soon she returns empty-handed.

"We do not have any in stock, but I can order it for you."

"Thank you," I reply. "I'll find the book myself on the Internet. Could you tell me, though, how is it that you have six different editions of the Communist manifesto but none of Jefferson's writings?"

"You know," she says, "Marx is often requested by college students, but they never ask for Jefferson."
Ah, silly students. If they had only read some Thomas Jefferson they'd realize he's a much more radical revolutionary than Marx. Tut tut. What is it with the youth today?
As for students, it is hard to entertain the thought that they have such a natural overwhelming aspiration for the works of Karl Marx. Most likely it is the curricula of nearby colleges that require them to study the original works of the founder of communism, but not of the father of American democracy.
The father of American democracy. Sigh. Well, Yuri is a courageous hero who helped bring down the Soviet Union, so I'll cut him some slack. Maybe he's just confused Jefferson with this chap.


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