Begging The Question

Saturday, March 27, 2004

We Paid For The Stadium, And They Still Charge $7.50 For A Small Beer?!
I just love it when I find a really cool blog that I haven't seen anyone else link to. I was reading this New Yorker piece about the various plans for new sports arenas for the New York area professional sports teams. I think it added up to seven, but who knows if or when any of these will ever get built. I suppose if NYC lands the 2012 Olympics (a huge long-shot, right?), that might spur some new building, but you can't outlaw smoking and simultaneously plan to pay for stuff with cigarette taxes. (I don't think any of these proposals depend on such financing ideas, but you never know.)

Anyway, the story mentioned the web site Field Of Schemes. The site is a companion/update to a book by the same name. The authors "cast[] a critical eye on the roughly $2 billion a year in public subsidies that go toward building new pro sports facilities." It looks like they update it almost daily, blog-like, which in some ways is kind of sad.

Let me say that I don't some public financing of sports venues is always bad under every circumstance. And I'm no economist. But many of these -- well, there really isn't a better word for it than "schemes" -- don't make sense from an economic or political standpoint. (And naturally, being a liberal, I can think of plenty of better ways to spend all that money!) The giveaways are breathtaking, and the recepits are often far less than the public bargained for. Of course, sometimes the public doesn't get much say in the matter. For example, in Charlotte, part of the reason the Hornets left was because voters soundly rejected a referendum that would have approved a new sweetheart arena deal for class-A jerk George Shinn. Despite this failure at the ballot box, local officials are going ahead with plans to build a publicly funded arena for the new basketball team there. Maybe with Shinn gone, the fans will return and make the Queen City once again the league leader in attendance. But if even if that does happen, the deal is so good for billionaire owner Bob Johnson that the city's never going to recoup all of the money. They have to count on subsidiary ventures like the restaurants they hope will spring up around the arena. How is this any way to run a local government? We no longer have to worry about the scalpers outside the stadium. We've elected them to office.

Two funny items from the FoS site. Here's a clip from a Minnesota columnist:

"My wife and I have often talked about a small addition that would extend the back porch the full width of the house ... It would be nice if the government would give us the money to do this. The value of the house would increase and so would our taxes. The higher taxes would pay the government back eventually, so it wouldn't cost taxpayers anything. ... It seems like a great idea, but for some reason the government is not willing to step up to our plate. We threatened to move to Portland or Charlotte if we don't get help, but officials just laughed."

And a story from Dallas:

Cosmetics giant Mary Kay has notified the city of Dallas that if it goes ahead with plans to fund a new Cowboys stadium with a 3% hike in hotel taxes, the company would yank its five annual conferences from the Dallas area. Dallas County Judge Margaret Keliher replied that county commissioners would certainly take the threat into account as they mull the stadium project, saying "if Mary Kay pulled out of Dallas, that would certainly affect the economics." Added Mayor Laura Miller, a stadium opponent with a pithier way with words: "We want to keep those pink ladies happy."

Anyway, if you find this issue as interesting as I do, or if you live in a city that is selling you out to billionaire owners, this site looks like an invaluable resource. It's going on the blogroll if you need to find it later.

Friday, March 26, 2004

My job growth prediction is bigger than yours. Well, in a manner of speaking. Actually, it is bigger, but it isn't.
Oh Moses smell the roses. First, President Bush (index finger raised to corner of mouth) promised 2.6 million new jobs this year. Now, John Kerry (pinky finger raised to corner of mouth) promises that, if he is elected in November, he will create 10 million new jobs in his first term. Wow! 12.6 million new jobs! Let's elect both of them! U-S-A! U-S-A!

In all honesty these numbers are ridiculous. So far '04 remains firmly in the "jobless recovery" category and unless we reinstitute the draft I don't see any way Bush's prediction will come to pass. John Kerry is a buffoon to predict how many jobs will or won't be created 5 years from now.

But what I find most amusing is that Kerry's 10 million number sounds more impressive...until you divide 10 million jobs (come on, say it like Dr. Evil) by 4 years in his imaginary first term. 10 million divided by 4 equals 2.5 million jobs per year (math even a lawyer can handle), fully 100,000 jobs per year less than what President Bush has predicted. Both candidates' numbers are laughable, so why choose the guy (in fact, why be the guy) who promises wildly implausible but lower numbers?

The AP story on John "Never set the bar too high" Kerry is here.

My previous post (with links to CNN) on the President's crazy numbers is here.

Response to Fitz's Bias Post Below
I was going to respond in the comments to Fitz's excellent post just below, but I could see it was going to get a little lengthy, so here's a full-blown post on the matter. Read that post first.

Here is the New York Times Magazine profile of Al Franken, and here is its discussion of the event:

Some of Franken's recent behind-the-scenes actions are at least as interesting as his public performances and show the depth of his seriousness. Last fall, when Dean seemed the inevitable nominee before a single primary vote had been cast, Franken was troubled that John Kerry was being written off. ''I liked Dean, but I also think Kerry is just a really smart, capable man,'' he told me. ''I'd noticed that he was very good in a small gathering, so I thought, What if I invite some opinion makers over to hear him?'' On Dec. 4, an impressive collection of the media elite and assorted other notables -- Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker, Frank Rich of The New York Times, Howard Fineman and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, Jim Kelly of Time, Jeff Greenfield of CNN, Eric Alterman of The Nation, Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, Jacob Weisberg of Slate and others, including, as eminence grise, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. -- responded to his call and had a little powwow with Kerry at the Upper West Side apartment of Franken and his wife, Franni.

''The whole thing was odd, I would say, because people didn't know why they were there,'' Kelly said. ''But I think the idea was to put John Kerry into the belly of the beast. It may have been the actual beginning of the new approach he took -- 'I'm going to stay in this room and take every question you throw at me.''' Alterman grilled Kerry on his vote on Iraq, and he gave a long, tortured answer. Then he was asked about it a second time. ''By the third go-round, the answer was getting shorter and more relevant,'' Kelly said.

''It was a really interesting event,'' Alter said. ''A lot of these people hadn't actually met Kerry before. Al wanted them to get to know him. It was an example of him playing a sort of intermediary role in the nexus of politics, media and entertainment.''

The next time Franken saw Kerry was at the rally in Nashua, seven weeks later. Things had changed significantly; Kerry was considered a new and improved candidate and now looked almost unbeatable. The senator took Franken aside, and they talked for a few minutes. ''I told him I'm taking credit for the turnaround,'' Franken told me. ''He said, 'I knew you would.'''

Out of context, the "depth of his seriousness" line sounds laughable, but I should point out that a big chunk of the story is how almost-childlike in his idealism about the political process Franken is. Apparently, he really believes that things like hearing John Kerry talk in a small group can change things. It's like Guest Speaker Day in Civics class all the time.

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that this description of the meeting doesn't seem like a "debate prep session" per se, and more like the "informal news conference" they claim it to be. Obviously, Kerry is using every meeting with the press as practice for eventual debates with the President. The NYT take on it sounds more like we have Al Franken as our national press secretary or something. As for the question, Why not include conservative journalists, well, I think the answer Franken would give is that his goal was not to "inform the electorate" of the whole nation, but rather only the Democratic primary voters. Plus, is this really any different from the President freezing out journalists from certain papers when he takes questions in a press conference?

Finally, I'm no expert on journalism ethics. But I don't think every meeting between a politician and a member of the press -- even an editor -- needs to be "on the record." The White House (not just the current one, either) holds "deep background" sessions from time to time. I remember a National Review editor being invited, along with a group of like-minded media folk, to the White House for a chat with President Bush recently. I can't find a link right now, because The Corner's archives aren't searchable, but I think it was a State of the Union preview session. Clinton used to do these off-the-record chats on Air Force One a lot, as I recall. The idea is for the press to understand what the Administration is trying to say, and then attribute it to someone like "high-level White House sources" or "a very senior White House official" or "a senior official familiar with the President's thinking." People who know the code can read between the lines and understand that this was the President himself, or one of a tiny handful of folks very close to him. So, when I read something in Time or Newsweek attributing something to "a high-level Kerry campaign official," I'll just assume it was Kerry himself. I'm going to need something more than an argument for "on the record for its own sake" to convince me that there was some terribly nefarious doings at Casa del Franken.

Is the standard "actual bias" of just the "appearance of bias?" (not a Scalia post)
Capt. Jason Van Steenwyk, the Nattering Nabob of Nebuchadnezzar and proprietor of Iraq Now has returned safely from Iraq. I am glad he made it home in one piece and I am glad to see that he intends to maintain his excellent blog. Apart from his posts that provide an insider's view of the Iraq war, he has written some very good posts taking the media to task for its misreporting of all things military. Jason (a professional journalist and warrior) is also on alert for political bias in the media. He hits the nail on the head with today's post in which he directs our attention to the debate prep session that John Kerry held at Al Franken's NYC apartment last Thursday. In attendance were the following:

Jim Kelly, the managing editor for Time,
Newsweek senior political correspondent Howard Fineman,
Newsweek senior editor Jonathan Alter,
Jeff Greenfield from CNN,
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, and
Jacob Weisberg, editor of Slate
among others.

Jason sets out some very important questions that are raised by this event. Namely:
Is Time going to disclose Kelly's participation in its own pages, in every Kerry profile or general election debate article it runs? Why not?

* * *

Now that all these guys are part of the campaign process for Kerry, how are they going to disclose that when their publications cover the general debates? Or will they even bother?

Did they bother writing up this little soiree themselves at all? And was everything that was said, said "on the record?"

After all, if it was just an informal news conference, then why hold it in a private apartment?

If the purpose was to inform the electorate, then why nobody from the New York Post, FOX News, or the Wall Street Journal?

Space considerations?

As Arsenio Hall (or was it Rodin's Thinker?) once said, "Things that make you go hmm."

Thursday, March 25, 2004

He's back!
Milbarge is back from his extended vacation with a couple of new posts (see below). For the past week or so BTQ was dangerously close to being combat ineffective. I am so happy that we are back at full operational strength.

This must be what it sounds like when doves cry.

What If Lessig Had Won?
I just read Larry Lessig's mea culpa about the Eldred case in the latest Legal Affairs. It's a good read, although it kind of sounds like Lessig is beating himself up for being too principled and not expecting the Supreme Court to take political considerations into its decision.

Anyway, it got me thinking. What if Lessig had won? More specifically, what if the Supreme Court had effectively stripped countless works of copyright protection and placed them in the public domain (which I think it should have done, by the way)? Would that be a taking the government would have to compensate? If we say "no" only because a constitutional decison means the copyrights should never have been granted in the first place (which I'm not certain it would mean), what if Congress just got tired of sucking up to Mickey Mouse and repealed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act? Would that constitute a taking? After all, there is some tiny property interest in most of the copyrighted works, and a pretty valuable one in a few (like Steamboat Willie or whatever).

If anybody knows, or has a thought about, whether the repeal of a copyright is a compensible taking, I'd love to hear from you.

A Little Taste of Heaven
I got this year's supply of Girl Scout cookies the other day. "Stoked" does not even begin to describe how happy I am about this. I really like those cookies, but I'm sure part of the appeal is that I can't just get them anytime I want them. And I almost missed them this year. A woman in our office put out the order form, but she removed it before I got around to ordering. So I was afraid I would have to go without. But then someone said that when the cookies come in, the Scouts set up tables at a local grocery store and sell the extras. This person suggested I just go by there and keep an eye out. Me: "Yeah. I'll just cruise parking lots looking for Girl Scouts. Why don't I just get a big van with tinted windows while I'm at it?" Well, I didn't have to resort to that, because I just ordered some extras from my co-worker when they came in. So I didn't even have to go through the usual wait -- I got mine the next day. Anyway, now I'm very happy about this. By the way, my favorites are the Tagalongs (the peanut butter/chocolate ones), and I hate the Thin Mints and the coconut ones that everyone else likes. I'm just weird that way, I guess.

Do Not Adjust Your Monitors
Sorry for the trouble people may be having accessing BTQ. We're trying to figure out what the problem is -- we suspect a bandwidth limit -- and will endeavor to have things back to "normal" soon. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Never to be outdone by NBC, the NY Times apologizes for murderer, terrorist and "spiritual leader" Sheik Yassin
Mike Rappaport of The Right Coast has the scoop here. The NYT piece is here. My post about NBC's dance around the facts is here.

Hey everybody we landed on the moon!
I previously posted on the five planets visible with the naked eye here. Today, I supplement that post with more information (via on the planets visible with the naked eye during the month of March:
Mercury is in superior conjunction on March 3 (9 p.m. EST), meaning that it is aligned with the Sun, but on the far side of the Sun. It emerges from the solar glare into the evening sky by mid-month, and reaches its best position for observing during 2004 at the end of the month. Greatest Eastern elongation occurs on March 29th, when the planet will be 19 degrees from the Sun.

Venus rules the early evening western sky! By far the brightest night-time object other than the Moon, Venus is well placed for viewing this month, at least until it sets several hours after the Sun. Look for it just a few degrees to the West of the Pleiades star cluster. Venus reaches Greatest Eastern Elongation on March 29th, at a whopping 46 degrees away from the Sun.

Mars has lost much of its glory in the night sky, even though spacecraft adventures on its surface have brought so much attention in recent weeks. Although far less bright than Venus, Saturn or Jupiter, the Red Planet is still well-paced for observing. It is about midway between the Pleiades (M45) and the red eye of Taurus, Aldebaran.

Jupiter dominates the heavens once Venus sets. At magnitude minus 2.5, Jupiter is the third brightest object in the night sky, after Venus and the Moon. Look for it near Regulus in Leo.

Saturn is not as bright as Venus or Jupiter, but at magnitude 0, it vastly outshines the nearby stars in Gemini. You will find it near the feet of Castor. The rings are tilted about 26 degrees relative to Earth, and hence are quite easily observed. Saturn ceases retrograde motion and resumes normal, prograde motion on March 7.

The clear skies over the east coast have made for great viewing conditions over the past two nights. Those clear skies should also permit good viewing tonight. So, law students take a study break tonight and go look out at the sky. Lawyers (especially BIGLAW lawyers) sneak out the fire escape - don't let the partners see you! - and take a break from overbilling your clients. The view will be well worth it.

If you want more information on this and other astronomy topics, go to the Sky Calendar.

These are not the droids you're looking for
Here is a little round-up of my favorite searches that have brought people to BTQ lately:

I'm looking to appeal my case on a car accident


"bag of broken glass" aykroyd

"barely seventeen" non jovi <-- yes, Non Jovi not Bon Jovi

montana naked

Hopefully they came for the broken glass and Big Sky nudity, but stayed for the legal analysis, Afghanistan updates, and Simpsons quotes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

No reporters were injured in the fighting
I am constantly irritated by the "liberal" media (how's that for a segue to your soon-to-be posted rant on the media, Milbarge?) and its complete failure to provide even marginal news coverage of the war on terror being waged in Afghanistan. Say what you will about "imminent threats," WMDs, and the Saddam / al Qaeda connection (or lack thereof), no one can seriously contest that the war we are prosecuting against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan is very much a part of the war on terror. But do you read or hear anything about it? Apart from the official US government website Defend America you hear nothing except the rotten accusation that now with an election pending, the president has finally gotten serious about finding Osama bin Laden.

But no one reports about the good things happening in Afghanistan. And a lot of good things have happened there, starting with the expulsion of the Taliban. New roads, schools, and infrastructure are making daily life better and safer for all Afghans. A new constitution has laid the framework for a more democratic society. And a centralized military force not controlled by local strongmen is being trained and equipped. CNN? AWOL. NYT? Likewise.

Similarly, no one reports on the legitimate (even in the eyes of John Kerry) coalition of nations that is assisting in the transition from Taliban rule to freedom. Even the French and Germans are on board. MSNBC? Bueller? Bueller?

And the major media likewise fail to report on the heroism and sacrifice of the American warriors who have committed their lives to making ours safer. From previous posts our readers know that this omission most irks me. But it is not only the omission that I cannot stand, it is that combined with the media's blatant manipulation of casualty counts from Iraq to support their premise that freeing Iraq was a costly mistake unrelated to the war on terror. Talk about the dead when it helps your cause, and ignore the dead when their deaths hurt your position. It is a questionable, but I suppose possibly acceptable tactic for politicians but it is downright disgraceful when employed by the media.

Why the venom you ask? Well, two brave young men were killed in Afghanistan on Friday and I have yet to see a single major media report on their deaths. The deaths strike very close to home for me because these two men, Staff Sgt. Anthony Lagman and Sgt. Michael Esposito, Jr. were close friends of, and served with, my brother. Lagman and Esposito are two of eight men that Alpha Company of the Triple Deuce (2-22) has lost since they deployed to Afghanistan in August of last year. My brother fortunately survived the firefight in which Staff Sgt. Lagman and Sgt. Esposito were killed and I spoke with him today. He lost two good friends in an operation that, if successful, "means that we are all going to come home for good" and the top stories on CNN, MSNBC, CBS & Co. are about Muslim outrage at (and media sympathy for) the death of a vile, murderous fiend and whether Dick Clarke got his feelings hurt because his ideas for counterterrorism were not implemented by the Bush White House. Meanwhile, the war on terror progresses and the world is none the wiser. Where is the media? Surely I am not the second (or third or fourth or fifth...) best source of news on Afghanistan. Surely.

Anyway, for some cool pictures of the Triple Deuce in action in Afghanistan, click here. I'd post 'em on BTQ, but we don't have the space. . . yet.

UPDATE: Phil Carter at Intel Dump has posted an AP story on the escalating conflict in Afghanistan and some alleged cross-border cooperation between American special operations forces and the Pakistani military. Good stuff and Phil promises more to come. If only Phil was the news director at CNN.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Ashcroft at the Podium?
I'll try to have more to say on the merits of Justice Scalia's decision not to recuse himself from the Cheney case soon. But, I noticed something in it that got me thinking. Scalia mentions a case Attorney General Robert Kennedy argued before the Supreme Court as part of his evidence that Justices have long been chummy with high government officials (Kennedy and Justice White went skiing together).

I recall once hearing that this used to be a tradition in the Justice Department, that is, Attorney Generals arguing a case once in a while. As a matter of fact, I remember hearing this when word came out that Janet Reno was going to argue a case early in the Clinton administration. As memory serves, it had become a standard practice that the AG would pick a fairly easy case to make his (Ms. Reno was the first her) bones, but Reno chose a harder case, and may have lost, but I get fuzzy on the details.

I can't find any record of this after some brief Westlaw searches. Does anyone know if any of this is true? Is this really a tradition, or was it at least a tradition as of ten years ago? Did Ed Meese or Dick Thornburgh ever argue a case as AG? Did Reno ever even argue a case, or am I all screwed up? If anybody can point me to the answers to any of these questions, I'd be most appreciative. But mainly, reading Scalia's memorandum, and thinking of Attorneys General arguing before that Court, I just got to musing about the chance of John Ashcroft arguing a case. I can't picture it; or rather, I can't picture it seriously happening. I know, arguing a case on appeal is a sort of specialized art, and there's no real reason to expect the President to pick an AG just because of his or her skill in that art. But it shouldn't be laughable to expect the AG to be able to discuss intelligently for a half hour, say, the constitutionality of an act of Congress and how it fits in the Supreme Court's precedent, should it?

I know that Fitz may not be too excited about whoever the candidates are for AG in a Kerry administration. But I just hope, when and if he pulls the lever (or touches the screen) for Bush, that he sees John Ashcroft's face, because he's on the ballot too.

Programming Update
I've got a case I need to finish today, and if I do, I'll be back to full-time blogging tomorrow. Thanks, everyone, for your indulgence during my spring break.

In movie news, two tidbits. First, a radio dj yesterday was chatting about movies opening this week. He mentioned the new Jim Carrey movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind . He said, "It looks like it's not the usual Liar, Liar or Me, Myself & Irene sort of thing, so you may just want to wait for the dvd." Uh, dude, some of us aren't looking for the usual thing, especially if those films are your definition of "usual."

Also, I see that the bloody, gory movie about death is still topping the box office....uh, wait...never mind.

NBC: the terrorist apologist network
So, the leader of Hamas was killed by an Israeli rocket yesterday. The West Bank is in turmoil and Hamas has announced that it will retaliate with a wave of bombings in Israel AND against America.

And what do I see on NBC's Today show this morning? No, not Couric (thank God). Instead, I see Matt Lauer (only slightly less objectionable) speaking with a reporter in Israel. The reporter's name escapes me now (Martin Fletcher, I think), but his name is not important. What is important is his report. For starters, the reporter described Hamas as a Palestinian political organization. In describing the rocket attack on Ahmed Yassin, Fletcher said, "Israeli forces assassinated Yassin, a political leader whom Israel blames for the murders of hundreds of people."

Political leader? Israel blames? So many things wrong with this report. Hamas are terrorists, pure and simple. Yassin was a thug and an admitted murderer, not a politician. And when someone expressly claims responsibility for murdering hundreds of innocent people, we do not blame him for the murders. We acknowledge his admission of guilt. These are not difficult concepts to grasp, and yet Lauer did nothing to rein in this Hamas apology. Just another reason not to watch morning "news" shows.

My concern now that Yassin is dead is that his death removed Yassar Arafat's (another murderous thug) chief political rival. I am not sure how that will play out, but anything that is good for Arafat is bad for Israel, bad for Palestinians, and bad for the prospect of peace.

Bonus sickening Today show moment: the rehabilitation of Wes Clark! Say it ain't so! Fade away Clark, fade away!

To infinity and beyond!!!
No, I am not referring to President Bush's proposed invasion of Mars ("we will not wait until Mars poses an imminent threat..."). I wanted to let our northern hemisphere readers know that for the next two weeks they will be able to see with the naked eye a fairly rare astronomical event: five planets in the western sky. For about two hours after sunset you should be able to spot Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. To find the planets, locate the Orion constellation and look to the right of Orion's shoulder. The planets should line up vertically with the crescent moon. Mercury will be near the horizon (below the moon) and visible in the last light of the setting sun. Mars and Venus will both appear near, but above, the moon. Saturn and Jupiter will be visible higher in the sky.


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