June 20, 2003

If there actually was such a thing as the "liberal media", it would look like this. [link via Altercation]

June 19, 2003

The second edition of Valley Beat is out. This time, other than the cover story (about cyber cafes in Northridge attracting the wrong sort of crowd), there is but a solitary article that has anything to do with the Valley, concerning a West Hills woman who abandoned her baby in a hospital parking lot (unless you count the brief note about the proposed lap dancing ordinance as "Valley-related"). The remaining 55 pages are LA Weekly-lite, with the exception of an "anti-PC" slam at the LA Times (concerning the infamous Carroll Memo, covered here) that was commonplace to the point of banality at the late and lamented New Times L.A..

In any event, nothing's changed. The restaurant review, in a weekly purportedly serving half the city, was about a taqueria in Hollywood. No Casa Vega. No Jill Stewart. A disturbing trend developes.

June 18, 2003

Blocking the confirmation of a number of judicial nominees has become the painless way for Democrats to act out the role of an opposition party, to paint the President as an extremist without having to take any hard positions on their own. The pending nomination of former Ken Starr protoge/hatchetman Brett Kavanaugh is a sign that the Bush Administration is no longer serious about significantly altering the ideological position of the federal courts: by picking a nominee who has no chance of confirmation, and who can be filibustered even easier than Charles Pickering or Miguel Estrada, he sends a message to his base that he's on their side, without having to concern himself with the possibility that his nominee will embarass him with a controversial ruling from the bench before the next election.

For Democrats, this will be like shooting fish in the proverbial barrel. Besides writing the Starr Report, Kavanaugh was one of the more obsessive investigators hunting leads on the death of Vincent Foster, at one point arguing before the Supreme Court that the attorney-client privilege expires upon the death of a client. This nomination allows Senate Democrats the chance to conjure up the spectre of Kenneth Starr, a prospect that already has the party base salivating. Bush, on the other hand, appeases his base, then gets the political benefit of nominating a less reactionary candidate when a Supreme Court vacancy opens up. Both sides win by this doomed nomination; the only loser is the hapless Mr. Kavanaugh.

This sort of mythomania would be hilarious if it didn't impact public policy so gravely: the non-partisan website Spinsanity reports on the invented charge that Senator Robert Byrd criticized the cost of President Bush's stuntflying on board the USS Abraham Lincoln last month. Because Byrd has a well-earned rep for delivering pork to his constituents, the media could charge him with being a hypocrite. Too bad the charge wasn't true: when the senior Senator from West Virginia made his May 7th speech on the well of the Senate, he didn't mention whether taxpayer funds were burned for the photo op. In fact, it was Henry Waxman who requested that the GAO investigate.

It is a thing to behold the Fourth Estate at work...by the time the media got done, Senator Byrd's eloquent speech had been turned into a shrill partisan denunciation. It's not hard to fact-check something. With my limited resources and staff, I still have access to Google, and thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to read the Byrd speech on my own; I would venture a guess that almost all of the people quoted in the Spinsanity piece had access to Nexis, and/or other more powerful search engines, plus interns, a secretary, a staff, editors, etc.

And yet each of those writers chose to propagate a falsehood. Coming on the heels of some other recent myths (ie., the stories of Jayson Blair, the Whitewater "scandal", allegations that Al Gore claimed to have "invented" the Internet, the false claim that the New York Times disproportionately covered the discriminatory policies at Augusta, etc.) that have gained credence, it is fair to wonder if a "free press" continues to serve any useful social purpose. If a reporter does not care about the truth, then what exactly is the Constitution protecting?

No point on trying to improve on this blogger's take on the story that the President is accusing yet another country of having WMD, except to point out what I wrote last week. Oh, what a tangled web we weave....

June 17, 2003

American sports fans are often surprised at how relatively low the salaries of European soccer players are. A variation of the reserve clause, long outlawed in American sports, continues to exists overseas, allowing a team to keep a player indefinitely. In the case of a few star players, some freedom of movement does exist, but the teams can keep salaries within reason by "transferring" a player to another team, in effect swapping a star for cash.

Such is what happened today, when the world's most famous athlete, David Beckham (as in Bend It Like...) was sold today to Real Madrid for $41 million. The former Manchester United star, who is sort of a combination of Kobe Bryant and Ben Affleck (according to a recent poll in his new home country, he is second behind Brad Pitt in terms being the "sexual fantasy" of Spanish women--btw, that same poll has me in third), and whose rabid following has been known to do some rather unusual things in honor of their hero, will earn about $9 million a year from the transaction, making him one of the most well-paid soccer players in Europe, which is still less than what the average free agent makes in baseball or basketball. Chuck Finley and Brad Radke made as much money last season. Zydrunas Ilgauskas "earned" even more.

Selling a player, rather than trading him straight up for other players or draft picks, allows the team to control the market for the services of athletes. Beckham's only leverage was to refuse the deal, a move he made last week when he refused a deal that would have sent him to FC Barcelona, but he did not have the ability to put his services up to the highest bidder. Obviously, playing in America is no option, as it was back in the glory days of the North American Soccer League; only a few national leagues have teams that have the wherewithal to financially compete for the top players, creating a system dominated by less than a dozen teams. Anyone who thinks that "small market" teams have it bad in baseball should take a look at the English Premier League, where every year the league title is a foregone conclusion for United or Arsenal.

blogomania (bläg‘ō mān‘ēو) n a persistent compulsion to post entries in one's weblog (or "blog"), based on the irrational belief that in doing so, one is providing a benefit to the public.

June 16, 2003

United no more: our "special relationship" with Great Britain has now been rocked by our ally's unwillingness to share its secrets.

June 15, 2003

The last word on l'affaire Raines goes to Frank Rich. Remarkable how the three most significant pundits of the past thirty years were not political reporters, but instead were an ad-man turned speechwriter (Safire), a drama critic (Rich), and an economics prof (Krugman). [link via Matt Welch]

If the owner is a man of his word, today the Sherman Oaks Lounge will celebrate its last day on the planet (at least until the football season starts, when it has (hopefully) reopened at its new address) with a real wake: all beer goes for a buck. They ran out of Chimay last night, and the pool table is gone, but still...you can't beat that.

UPDATE: Not a man of his word !! The place was shut all day (and I checked, on several occasions). What I hate about it is that I knew there was a good chance he was lying to me at the time, and he knew I knew he was probably lying, but he made the above promise anyways.

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