Friday, January 09, 2004

Things that would make a really happy new year

Here are some of the things that need to happen in 2004 to bring peace and harmony to the world and make everything right again.

* Pete Rose is reinstated by Major League Baseball and declared eligible for election to the Hall of Fame.
* The “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” wins the Oscar for Best Picture.
* Howard Dean wins the Democratic presidential nomination and selects Wesley Clark as his running mate.
* Texas A&M beats t.u. in the only football game that matters.
* The San Antonio Spurs repeat as NBA champions.
* The Supreme Court strikes down the Texas GOP’s re-redistricting scheme.
* The U.S. hands control of Iraq over to the new Iraqi governing body and gets our troops the hell out of there!
* George W. Bush loses the election - again. And this time the Supreme Court does not step in to declare him the victor on a technicality.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Defending Pete Rose

So far one of the best articles defending Pete Rose has appeared in the right wing journal National Review.

"Should Rose be in the Hall of Fame? Well, he has more hits than anyone, the most singles, he's second in doubles, fifth in runs scored, was rookie of the year, a 17-time All Star, and probably has as much of the requisite fame as any living baseball player. Fan polls regularly give him overwhelming approval margins, and when he appeared before Game 4 of the 2002 Series at a ceremony honoring to his record-breaking 4,192nd career hit as #6 on the list of the 10 most-memorable baseball moments, the crowd went wild. But Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig has sat on Rose's 1997 application for reinstatement to eligibility. Reading some of the recent editorials on Rose you get the sense that baseball is not so much a sport as a brotherhood established to protect a rarefied morality. Witness Rose's horrible crime — he gambled. He committed the ultimate sin. He attacked the game's integrity; he "called into question the moral core of an entire industry."

Man, get over it. So he gambled. So what? Betting is synonymous with sports, and has been since ancient times. It is often a crime — increasingly less so these days — but also socially acceptable, within reason. For spectators, betting makes the game more interesting. It gives the outsider a chance to participate, to have more riding on the outcome than local bragging rights....

This is what has always bothered me about the Pete Rose case. He was suspended for gambling on his team — but there is no evidence to suggest, nor has it been charged, that he ever bet against his team or himself. Given Rose's personality, his dogged pursuit of achievement, his legendary single-minded focus on the game, it is impossible to believe that he ever would. It is true that a manager could change the way his team won in order to win a bet, but Rose has not been charged even with that. His bookie Ron Peters, stated that "Every time [Rose] called, he'd bet on the Reds if they were playing," which suggests that Rose was not betting on the Reds strategically and manipulating victories, but doing so all the time as a matter of course. This was his team, and he wagered his money in the same way he wagered his skill. For him, betting was just another arena of competition, another test of his ability and manhood. It was an act of arrogance, the monetizing of hubris. It was not particularly admirable behavior, and probably illegal, but it did not affect the game.

The standard anti-Rose line is that he is being kept out for the good of baseball, that his actions were an insult to the integrity of the game. Integrity? At these ticket prices? You're kidding me. Endorsements, free agency, television markets, licensed souvenirs and trinkets, skyboxes, not to mention multimillion-dollar contract negotiations and players strikes — the game is all about money. I have nothing against the profit motive, but let's not pretend baseball is some kind of morality play enacted for the benefit of a needy society. It is a business. And if MLB really wants to cleanse itself, I'd like to see some proof that no current Hall of Famer ever placed a bet of any kind that violated rule 21(d). Perhaps a full-scale investigation would restore the moral core of the industry. Or maybe the commissioner could just admit that Rule 21(d) is outdated and its punishment provisions are disproportionate. A lifetime ban? The average sentence for murder is 15 years."

I would have thought that defenders of Pete Rose would more likely come from the left since they tend to be more forgiving as a rule. But so far that hasn't been the case. Rose is being bashed on the left for lying about gambling just as hard as Clinton was bashed on the right for lying about sex. And in each case the punishment that is being foistered on them is far disproportionate to the crime - lifetime banishment/impeachment.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Bush's "Nixon in China" moment

Every president needs some big issue that they can go against the grain on.
Something that can be their 'Nixon in China' moment. It was said that Nixon
was able to muster the political support to open the doors to communist
China because he had such strong anti-communist credentials.
For Clinton, the issue was welfare reform. If a Republican had tried to go
in and make such huge sweeping changes in the welfare laws, he would have
met with much opposition.
Now George W. Bush has defined his Nixon in China issue as immigration reform.
It is obvious that he is doing this now during an election year to pander to the growing Hispanic vote. But I applaud his effort anyway because it is long overdue and it needs to be done. The illegal immigrants that I met when I was growing up were some of the hardest working people I have ever known. They provide a needed service in our society and they should be allowed to do so without the constant fear of deportation hanging over them. This will also free up our border patrol people to concentrate on the real problem areas - the drug smugglers and the terrorists coming across the borders.
I hope that Bush will stick to his guns and not give in to pressure from both the right and left to abandon this initiative.

Global warming and real science

Here is a great article on global warming by actual scientists. I found it in a recent issue of Chemical & Engineering News, one of those geeky science publications that I only know about because my wife is a Ph.D. chemist.

"Clearly, Earth is warming. Surface air temperature records, radiosonde (a small instrument package suspended below a balloon) data, and satellite observations all indicate that the planet has heated up over the past century. The 11 warmest years since the beginning of instrumental records have occurred since 1990. The warming observed in the Northern Hemisphere since 1900 has been greater than any other during the past millennium. At the same time, ocean temperatures have risen significantly since the mid-1950s.

Even without temperature records, there is strong evidence the planet is heating up. Mountain glaciers all over the world are retreating. Snow cover is decreasing. Snow is falling later in the season and melting earlier than it did a few decades ago.

Concomitant with the warming have been increases in cloud cover and precipitation at mid to high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, and decreases in precipitation in the subtropics. Droughts are more severe in Asia and Africa and in some parts of the U.S. and Europe. Since 1900, sea levels have risen 10 to 20 cm, from thermal expansion and melting glaciers. El NiƱo events--the periodic warming of the tropical Pacific that affects weather patterns around the world--have apparently become more intense and more frequent."

The article is densely packed with real scientific data and takes pains to expose a lot of the myths that right-wing groups tout and which frequently end up in the popular media.

I was going to point out a particularly bad column by J. Francis Gardner that parrots some of those same right-wing myths (Part II on his Kyoto bashing series), but for some reason it is not online. Maybe the E-N decided to yank it for being so filled with wrong-headed and incorrect statements. But if that were the case, they still have not pulled the Jonathan Gurwitz' column that was quoting an article in the London Daily Telegraph that turned out to be based on forged documents. And of course Gurwitz has never offered a correction either.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Hall's partisan charade is over

U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall has finally ended his long charade and declared himself to be a Republican. The final straw came in 2002 when he would not even vote to support the Democratic House leader to be Speaker of the House. Once that line was crossed the party label was all but meaningless. I'm not sure when the last time Hall actually voted with the Democrats on anything. Probably not for a dozen years or longer. Hall always made Charlie Stenholm seem like a party loyalist.
It's too bad that Hall didn't take his wife's advice and just retire, but obviously the one Republican position that he still hasn't come to terms with is term limits.