Posted on June 27, 2003


Cranial Tumbleweeds

Bad baseball, Spike Lee, Belgians, etc.


Daniel Clark



* Will Major League Baseball ever do anything right again? The slogan for this year's All-Star Game is "This time, it counts." For some reason, they've decided to market the game by reminding fans that last year's result underscored the fact that the game doesn't count. That 2002 All-Star Game went eleven innings before being stopped and declared a draw by commissioner Bud Selig, because the benches had been exhausted, and he was afraid the players left in the game to the end would become fatigued and risk injury if it went any longer. Such concerns do not arise in a game that counts. The Cardinals and Marlins played a 20-inning game earlier this season, and nobody talked about calling it off because the players were tired.

Even more stupidly, the idea that is supposed to make the All-Star Game "count" again is that whichever league wins the game will secure home-field advantage for its champion in the World Series. This is a ridiculous idea for two reasons. First, it makes no sense for one team to be penalized in the playoffs because a different team, composed mostly of different players, lost one game in mid-July. Second, All-Star team managers are determined by which team won the pennant the previous year. A manager will only have an incentive to win the next year's game if his team is in the hunt for another championship. The defending World Series champion Anaheim Angels are only a .500 ball club this year. What motivation does Angel manager Mike Scioscia now have to win home-field advantage for the Yankees or Mariners? And what is supposed to motivate the players from non-contending teams?

If they really want fans to start taking the All-Star game seriously, they should start playing it like a regular baseball game, with the best nine players on each side staying in the lineup until tactics dictate a change. The way it usually goes, the managers worry primarily about letting all the players make an appearance, and few of them stay in longer than two innings. It's changed from a competition into little more than a parade. All that's missing is the giant helium balloon shaped like Underdog. If, instead, the National League's best pitcher faces the American League's best hitter four or five times, their competitiveness will come through despite the fact that the game doesn't count in the standings, and fans will want to watch that.

* Republicans and Democrats have agreed on a massive new plan to provide prescription drugs for Medicare patients, regardless of their ability to pay. Ted Kennedy calls this, the largest entitlement program created since Johnson's Great Society, "a good downpayment for seniors." What does he have in mind next, free whiskey?

* On June 22nd, the panel on CNN's Late Edition pondered the question, "Iraq: a quagmire for the U.S.?" Considering the duration of the war, that's an absurd question, but it's easy to see why they would ask it, since Iraq has definitely been a quagmire for CNN.

* The amorphous and little-watched cable network currently known as The National Network has decided to concentrate on ultra-horny men as its target audience. It is supposed to lardheadedly rename itself Spike TV, but it might not be allowed to, because Spike Lee is suing on the grounds that TNN is trying to capitalize on his popularity. Does he think he originated the name Spike? If Lee succeeds in scamming any money out of this deal, there will be cartoon characters lined up around the block to demand their cut.

* It turns out that Spike Jones Jr. is working on a film about his father, the working title of which is Spike. Will Lee now claim that a man who was named Spike long before he was is not entitled to use the name?

* One of Lee's films was entitled School Daze. Can you possibly think of anything less original? That title was probably tired when the Little Rascals used it.

* Come to think of it, when is Sylvester Stallone going to sue Spike Lee for stealing "Yo"?

* What happened to all the people who were demanding that we take action against North Korea instead of Iraq? North Korea hasn't changed since then, so there's no reason for them to have become unconcerned.

* If the Constitution is a "living document" as liberal judges claim, then how can rulings based on this living document be etched in stone? Shouldn't it logically follow that a Supreme Court ruling handed down thirty years ago is a product of the time in which it is written, and does not necessarily apply today?

* The University of Michigan's race-based admissions standards, which were partially struck down by the Supreme Court this week, directly conflict with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which says, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." If "civil rights leaders" like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton disagree with this, they should be willing to come right out and say that they think the Civil Rights Act is wrong.

* While the Supreme Court rejected Michigan's undergraduate quota system, it upheld its color-based admissions to its law school on a 5-4 vote, citing "the compelling interest of diversity," which is presumably in one of those constitutional penumbrae which remains invisible to us mere mortals. How fascinating that Justices Stevens, O'Connor, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer would vote in favor of lowering admissions standards to law school. They seem less interested in upholding the law than in producing future judges who will be more likely to uphold their past rulings.

* Justice O'Connor, who wrote the majority opinion in this second case, wrote that "The Court defers to the Law School's educational judgment that diversity is essential to its educational mission." Put aside, for the moment, the question of how this justifies breaking the law. How does "diversity" matter to the educational mission of a law school? Statutes and court rulings do not change depending on the color of the person reading them. A law school's educational mission should be the same whether teaching an all-white or all-black student body, or any variation in between.

* Probably the least "diverse" colleges are the traditionally black schools, like Howard and Grambling. Nobody ever argues that the lack of "diversity" makes the education that students receive in those schools any less valuable. In the absence of liberal feelgoodism, the absurdity of such a suggestion is clear to anyone.

* If, when the Civil Rights Act was being debated in Congress, it had been amended in such a way that allowed a state to override it if it felt it had a "compelling interest," the entire law would have meant nothing.

* Any criticism of Justice Clarence Thomas on the basis that he benefited from affirmative action at Yale is morally vacuous. Thomas' academic record was easily good enough to get him into Yale law school, but he was admitted shortly after that university instituted an affirmative action program, so it is assumed that his acceptance was due to a racial quota. When asked directly about this during his confirmation hearings, Thomas explained, "I have not during my adult life or my academic career been a part of any quota. The effort on the part of Yale during my years there was to reach out and open its doors to minorities whom it felt were qualified, and I took them at their word on that."

... But let's assume for a moment that his critics are right, and that Yale admitted him as part of a quota system. The assumption is that his opposition to racial quotas is hypocritical, just as if he had imposed such a quota himself, instead of perhaps being the unwitting beneficiary of one. By extension, all blacks, Hispanics and women who have attended universities or been hired by companies that use affirmative action quotas (i.e., "goals and timetables") must likewise be corrupted, and must forfeit their right to criticize the quotas. That's an insidious lie. Somebody who might have accidentally benefited from an injustice is not bound by loyalty to the person who committed it.

* If liberals looked at taxes the same way, "super-rich" Democrats like Ted Kennedy and Jay Rockefeller could not vote against tax cuts without being hypocritical, because they had benefited so greatly from tax cuts in the past.

* Thomas' brief dissenting opinion in the Lawrence v. Texas sodomy case illustrates why he should be elevated to Chief Justice whenever Justice Rehnquist retires. Thomas began by remarking that, if he were a member of the Texas legislature, he would vote to repeal that state's sodomy law. "Notwithstanding this," he continued, "I recognize that as a member of this Court I am not empowered to help petitioners and others similarly situated." Unable to detect any constitutional demand to overturn the law, he concluded that he could not do it. That's called judicial temperament, which is something that is lacking in the six justices who voted in the majority in that case, who based their ruling on their feelings about the law, while making only the most superficial attempts to tether it to constitutional principle.

* Rick Santorum was right. There is nothing in either Justice Kennedy's majority opinion or Justice O'Connor's concurring opinion in the Lawrence case that couldn't be argued just as easily on behalf of polygamy or incest. But he won't be holding his breath waiting for the apologies to come rolling in.

* Dick Gephardt says that, if he becomes president, he will use executive orders to repeal any Supreme Court decision he deems to be wrong. At last, the justices would be challenged by somebody with every bit as little respect for the constitutional separation of powers as they have.

* Former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean's son was arrested recently for breaking into a country club to steal beer. Strangely, Dean figured this would serve as a useful metaphor for his campaign. "It's a bit of a country club down there," he said, "the Democratic Party, all the candidates from Washington, they all know each other, they all move in the same circles, and what I'm doing is breaking into the country club." Reportedly, he later turned to his campaign manager and asked, "Why do I say these things?" What a brilliant campaign slogan. Just picture the bumper stickers.

* In the new book that she has "written," Hillary Clinton complains that the Starr Report was "gratuitously graphic and degrading to the presidency." But if it was an accurate description of what her husband had done, then what does that say about him? Mrs. Clinton is said by some to be presidential material, but when she makes statements like these, she sounds every bit as incapable of responsibility as Monica Lewinsky's parents.

* By the way, Hillary has still not retracted her claim that the whole scandal was fabricated by the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy.

* First, the Canadian government proposed the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, so that people could openly smoke it even while driving without getting arrested. Now, it has allowed a "safe-injection site" to be opened in Vancouver, so that intravenous drug abusers can shoot up "safely," under the supervision of nurses. Someone in Ottawa must have commissioned a study that concluded that the Canadian people were just too doggoned productive.

* The Belgians, who presume to try everyone else for crimes against humanity, are now considering a bill to legalize assisted suicide for high school students. That nation's current euthanasia law allows people aged 18 or older to have themselves killed if they claim to be suffering constant physical or psychological pain. Many legislators now want to drop the age to 16, or even lower. To present suicide as a socially acceptable alternative for despondent teenagers is a moral outrage, even if you take into consideration that they'd be spared the continuation of life in Belgium.

* If these last two items have led you to accuse me of "xenophobia," then I must confess: the warrior princess frightens me very much.

* When a long-forgotten movie is suddenly televised on an almost daily basis, sometimes you have to wonder why. American Movie Classics has recently unearthed a thoroughly stupid 1969 anti-war film called Castle Keep, in which American soldiers occupy a Belgian castle during the Battle of the Bulge, ostensibly to protect it from the Germans. Instead, they end up using the castle as a tactical stronghold, ultimately destroying it, along with its collection of artwork, and other priceless artificats. The fiends! They were probably only after all that Belgian oil.

* According to a typically weird news story from Ananova, some fishermen in a small Russian town are claiming that they have been driven to drink by a UFO that frequently passes overhead. If they ever sober up, they'll probably realize that it was actually their drinking that drove the UFO, and not the other way around. But that won't be as interesting a story, so never mind.



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