Saturday, June 11, 2005


Steinbrenner places his what on Torre?

From this headline one must gather that things are getting worse in the Bronx than people thought!!! The Boss' "crack" baseball committee must be falling apart. All because the Yankees are so far "behind."

(Sorry, every now and then my inner 15-year old needs channeling.)

Fortunately, the Yankees won 4-0 Saturday to quell the panic -- however briefly.

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Friday, June 10, 2005


Friday Comic Book blogging (Marvel Version)

For those people who have noted my DC bias (not exactly hidden by yours truly), I should give some props to something that the House of Ideas (as it once was known) is doing. Here's a great compilation of the first six issues of ASTONISHING X-MEN:

I gave up on just about all the X-titles in the '90s when it became nearly impossible to follow characters, books and storylines. One almost began to hope for a miniseries entitled "Crisis On Infinite X-titles" where some villain worked to crush all the books into a cohesive whole.

No such luck, of course -- there are more than ever. (I mean, it's a little hard to take seriously the "whole world hates mutants" conceit that informs the X-men titles, because there are so many of them, one wonders why mutants aren't a majority of the population on Earth-Marvel.)

But, this title -- created especially for Buffy The Vampire Slayer author Joss Whedon's first foray into mainstream comics -- is an Old School fanboy's dream. These are the X-men of the Claremont-Byrne classic days (minus Jean Grey, who's dead -- again. She's replaced -- both in telekinetic ability and in Cyclops' bed -- by the once(?) villainous Emma Frost). Anyway, it's a great return to form with Wolverine and Cyclops fighting as ever. The Beast/Hank McCoy, who seems to be mutating yet again, is an even more sympathetic character than in the past. The walking-through-walls Kitty Pryde returns, as does another beloved old "New" X-man. Long-time Marvel readers will love the role of SHIELD here -- acting like any real spy agency, i.e. not in a completely trustworthy manner.

Yeah, there are references to such major Marvel-Universe incidents as the genocide on Genosha and some other Magneto atrocity. But, returning fans can just ignore these -- or track the back story online in one of the million other "X" trade paperbacks. Whedon's writing is so good one wonders why he hasn't done written for comics before.* Fans of the Wildstorm/DC title "Planetary" will love the crisp John Cassady artwork.

In any event, the trade was so good, Astonishing X-men is now one of the few Marvels that I read monthly.

Feel free to jump on board.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: *As Belinda helpfully notes in the Comments, Whedon has written comics before -- for Dark Horse's Buffy-based titles. I should have been clearer on that point.

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Here's To You, Mr. Robinson

Thank goodness black, Hispanic and Asian women never go missing! Do they just have a greater sense of direction? Eugene Robinson examines the odd media phenomenon of wayward white chicks.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin has a great compendium of commentary on the Missing White Girl problem.

UPDATE II: Scott at Slantpoint responds to my post. He makes several good points. However, he may be too quick to reject Robinson's main point that producers jump on these missing white girls because they recognize that they could be ratings winners. Scott says, "Sorry Bub, but in order to subscribe to your conclusion you'd have to believe the public drives news. Now that's a timeless debate, but I can put good money down that in the fast-paced cable TV cycle, the public has little time to offer feedback before a story is already elevated to Helenic heights."

But, Scott, you don't need that sort of feedback to know that the story would be a winner. Why do L.A. stations focus on yet another freeway car chase? Why do anchors rush to cover hurricanes? From previous experience, the networks know what will be ratings catnip and what won't. Speeding white van? Missing white chick? Ka-ching!!

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Thursday, June 09, 2005


Will The Real Federalist...

...on the Supreme Court please stand up? That's the question Randy Barnett who argued the medical-marijuana case before the Supreme Court asks. Also asked: "Will the president name someone who, like Justice Thomas, is truly committed to federalism? Or will his nominee be a fair-weather federalist, as Justice Scalia has turned out to be when the chips were down?"

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NY Post For Hillary

Well, that's Ben Smith's theory. How silly. That makes about as much sense as a Post editorial writer declaring that it was impossible to support George Bush. Oh, wait. Never mind.

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Wednesday, June 08, 2005


Senate Confirms Sharecroppers' Daughter To Federal Judicial Post!!!

Sorry, couldn't resist. If you don't get the joke, read here.

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Lies, Damned Lies & Pollsters

I may not be the president's biggest fan, but it's important to be fair all around. This is a great analysis of why the ABC/Washington Post poll is not all that it seems in terms of gauging president's popularity. (Hat tip: The Corner)

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London Calling

Appropriately enough, given Tony Blair's White House visit this week, New York's loss is apparently London's gain, so says The Guardian. Forget about Africa, on this, one can say that Blair is, ahem, in Shelly Silver's debt.

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Silver & Gold

Welcome, Offwing Opinion visitors! Thanks for dropping by. I appreciate Eric's view on the stadium (it's one shared by Mike Lupica over at my day-job's competition), but am rather conflicted myself. On the philosophical front, as well as the historical record of publically financed stadiums, Eric is absolutely correct. On the specifics of this project, as I noted below, Bloomberg made some major mistakes that might well have doomed the project regardless.

However, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon -- Democrat from Manhattan and a practicing trial-lawyer -- has had such a lengthy record of underhanded "negotiating" over the years, that it is almost impossible for me to give him any props for a "principled" stand. Toss in the fact that the other major legislator involved in dooming the project -- Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno -- had no qualms about being lobbied by his own son to deep-six the stadium (of course, New York has no laws against such conflicts-of-interest). In short, this is much of the same behavior that helped the state richly win over the last year the "title" as the most dysfunctional legislature in the country. (Note that the group that bestowed the award is hardly a conservative, less-bureaucracy type organization.)

Sheldon Silver has helped preside over that. Thus, it is difficult for those of watching these shenanigans over the years to ascribe anything coming from the man as more than just another Shelly scam. He may -- emphasize may -- have done the right thing with this vote, but believe me, principle had nothing to do with it.

No principle. Maybe a lot of interest. And sure as heck a whole lot of political vigourish.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005


Bloo Monday?

Since Ben Smith was nice enough to mention me on what was certainly NOT a slow news day, it's appropriate to chime in on the apparent collapse Monday afternoon of Mayor Bloomberg's West Side stadium dream.

For those who don't understand New York state politics (and believe me, you can live here for years and not understand it), the quick-and-dirty of it is that state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver -- whose district is a large swath of downtown Manhattan -- has a vote on the a state panel that had to authorize funding for the project to go through. Silver decided to vote "No."

The controversy over the stadium has always centered around whether it is primarily a "giveaway" to the New York Jets football team or whether its multiple uses -- conventions, hotel space, other sports events -- would provide enough economic development and continuing revenue to be a benefit for the city for years to come. Bloomberg has primarily pushed the necessity of the stadium in order to guarantee New York's 2012 Olympics bid.

In the next few days, there will be no end of shots over "Who Lost The Stadium?" For Michael Bloomberg, it's not just an academic question. Along with education reform, the stadium has been the signature issue of his first term. It will be now much easier for his opponents to say that he fought the wrong war at the wrong time (sound familiar?). Indeed, in announcing his opposition to the stadium, Silver said that, ""There is already an incentive plan for that commercial space on the West Side of Manhattan -- yet how long it will take to get a brick in the ground at Ground Zero remains to be seen. And therefore the relative competition between the two is of major concern to me and a lot of other people in this city."

Interestingly, in promoting his book on the legacy of Rudy Giuliani's administration, author Fred Siegel has made a similar criticism of Michael Bloomberg. In a recent Manhattan Institute event, Siegel said that there was no way that Giuliani would have started a fight over a huge west side project while a terrorist-produced hole remained in downtown Manhattan. Siegel's clearly not a liberal Democrat, so it can't be said that he's reflexively against anything that a Republican mayor would propose.

Retrospectively, it can be said that Bloomberg made two decisions that may be considered fatal mistakes -- one strategic and one tactical. Strategically, it was the decision to link the stadium to New York's getting the Olympics. For one thing, the city hasn't been enthused about the idea of getting the Games. More significantly, nearly everyone realized that New York was, at best, second behind Paris in actually getting them (possibly third after London). Thus, one had to buy into two things to accept the need for the stadium on these terms -- 1) Building a costly stadium (even though the Jets were paying for the actual complex, the entire project depended on $300 million from the city and the state for various infrastructure improvements. The state portion is what was voted down on Monday.)

Bloomberg's major tactical mistake was his decision to practically give away the railyard area where the platform would have to be constructed to enable the Jets to build the stadium. The land -- owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) -- was actually valued at least $300 million. Bloomberg was willing to allow the MTA to accept a no-bid offer from the Jets for $100 million. A later survey found the actual worth of the property to be closer to $700 million.

At a time when New York subways appear to be increasingly in disrepair, letting the authority leave at least $400 million on the table seemed to be an incredibly poor idea for Bloomberg to suggest. Opening up the bidding on the property forced the Jets to make a more proper offer -- but it also gave stadium opponents more time to further refine their arguments that this was a rich man's giveaway to another rich man (Jets owner Woody Johnson). Having Cablevision -- owners of Madison Square Garden and threatened by a stadium/convention center just a few blocks away -- bankrolling millions of dollars in advertising as well as put forth a competing bid obviously didn't help.

Because of his money and his rather weak opposition, Bloomberg is still the favorite to win re-election. But, the certainty of that took a major hit this week. Since all the Democrats in the field were against the West Side stadium, they will speak with one voice now in saying that Bloomberg's priorities are not right for the city. However, the risk they run is that if the project is dead, they lose the biggest example for their message. They are vulnerable to the charge from Bloomberg, "OK, what are your ideas." That's tough because, except for the always perennial in New York -- "affordable housing" -- none of the Democrats seem to have any. Bloomberg can at least say that he tried and failed because of lack of support from Albany.

Will it work? It will be an interesting summer to say the least.

UPDATE: I would be foolish not to underscore how, despite Bloomberg's own mistakes, how much the collapse of the deal is connected to the long-term dysfunctionality of New York state politics. This Times article provides a good snapshot of that ongoing problem.

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Monday, June 06, 2005


What Can Brown Do For, uh, TO You?

Oops. Citigroup says UPS loses data

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Justice O'Connor's Unique Toke

In the Supreme Court's medical marijuana decision, Sandra Day O'Connor is right from a philosophical standpoint (when was the last time you heard that?).

But her choice of words is somewhat awkward.

"This case exemplifies the role of states as laboratories," O'Connor writes in dissent.

Isn't the true headline, "Supreme Court Justice Endorses States As Drug Labs"? Maybe, after all these years, the
words of a certain Hall of Fame running back have finally sunken in: "Loosen up, Sandy baby; you're too tight." (Some quote Riggins as saying, "lighten up," which being close to "light up" may be even more prescient.)

UPDATE: Of course, serious analysis of this decision can be found at the Volokh Conspiracy here and here.
UPDATE II: Even more in-depth overview of the "High" Court's work can be found here.
UPDATE III: Radley Balko observes rightly why Clarence Thomas is first among equals on this case.

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Bush Doctrine Update

According to the President and the Vice President, we have basically won in Iraq and the insurgency is in its "last throes." Except, not even congressional Republicans believe that anymore.

Well, fortunately, democracy is on the march in Lebanon, even if that means the terrorists win...elections.

At least, you won't find the U.S. actually working with with Middle East terrorist groups, right? Say hello to "Sinn Hamas."

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Sunday, June 05, 2005


Colour* My World

When last we left the Live 8 multi-city free concerts designed to draw attention to Third World debt, Bob Geldof and Co. announced that the Spice Girls were dis-invited because "their kind of pop act didn't seem right for this kind of event."

Well, now it seems that there are are more than a few who think that Geldof and Co. don't want another "kind" at the bash -- performers of color: "If we are going to change the West's perception of Africa, events like this are the perfect opportunity to do something for Africa's self-esteem," [DJ Andy Kershaw] said. "But the choice of artists for the Live8 concerts will simply reinforce the global perception of Africa's inferiority."

Another critic, black British TV producer Patrick Augustus chimes in, "It seems like the great white man has come to rescue us while the freedom fighters never get a mention. Where are the reggae artists that have been campaigning for truth and justice over all these years?"

Geldof claims that many black acts were otherwise committed. But, this dispute underscores the basic problem with his latest project. Not making a greater attempt to bring in more of the Third World musical performers that have emerged over the last two decades (most of the black artists who are performing -- Jay Z, 50 Cent and Stevie Wonder, for example -- are American) once again gives the impression that the primary answer to Africa's problems lies with the developed world.

Yet, as a column in The Guardian, perhaps the UK's most-Left paper, argues, this isn't true. This anti-poverty overture will fail just like previous ones, because certain realities on the ground haven't changed:

Whenever I hear talk of a 'new generation of political leaders' in Africa, I have to suppress a laugh. That's not the Africa I see on my travels, and if plans for an African recovery are built on such naivete and wishful-thinking, they are doomed to go the same way as every other grandiose project drawn up for the continent...

...The fact that more African countries are run by nominally elected governments instead of military dictatorships obscures just how structurally similar the new administrations often remain to what went before. The elites that have sabotaged development since independence have adapted to the times, learning to play the democracy game with panache. Africa's lootocracies have reinvented themselves.

And, as noted previously, Geldof has yet to learn from the experiences of the earlier Band-Aid/Live-Aid events where the dictator responsible for the Ethiopian famine got control of much of the money raised to combat that famine.

Rather than learning from that, Geldof instead is calling for a million to gather to protest the upcoming G8. As the saying goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

*appropriate British spelling

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