No Panaceas

Wednesday, September 24, 2003
Book Review Roundup: After reviewing the Master of the Senate back in June, I thought I might regularly review the non-political science books that I read. (I'll also skip the untold number of books that I read to my toddler, though it might be kind of interesting to talk about them sometime. Some are great, some are good, some suck.)

Unfortunately, I've let the list of books pile up pretty high before getting around to this. I'll try to do better in the future, but over the next few days I'm going to post brief, impressionistic reviews on the books I've read since Master. Here's the list:

Tim Krabbe - The Rider
David McCullough - John Adams
Pat Toomay - The Crunch
Oscar Wilde and Audrey Beardsley - Salome
J.K. Rowling - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Ann Patchett - Bel Canto
William Berger - Wagner Without Fear
Rob Neyer - Big Book of Baseball Lineups
Augusten Burroughs - Running with Scissors

I think that's the whole list. I'll start off with the Krabbe and Toomey books.

Tim Krabbe -- The Rider
The Rider is one of the those cult favorite type books that I've been meaning to read for a while. It's a novella about a 1-day bike race in France, though it features frequent flashbacks to others races and events in the rider's life. If you are into bike racing -- either as a rider or spectator -- then you will like it a lot. If you are mildly into watching racing then you might enjoy it. It will probably bore a person who has no interest in cycling.

On several occasions I've seen The Rider described as the finest cycling novel ever. I don't know. Obviously we are talking about a small list. I've now read exactly two cycling novels. Despite the protagonist tedious misogyny, I'm slightly more partial to The Yellow Jersey.

Pat Toomay -- The Crunch
I picked up this book after reading an interesting essay that Toomay wrote for Salon. If you are an old Cowboys fan like me you will find the book an interesting, if disturbing, take on the team's true glory years. For example, through anecdotes Toomay shows how the Cowboys organization cynically, and more than a little hypocritically, helped its players avoid the Vietnam War draft.

Even for non-Cowboys fans it's a valuable book mainly because it provides a rare undistilled look at early 1970s professional sports. Basically it is a Ball Four for football. (A lot of these kinds of books came out about this time. The ultimate example, this time about college football, is Meat on a Hoof.

For Atlanta fans there is a great anecdote about Dan Reeves in his less, umm, conservative days. It involves the wives of Tom Landry and Tex Schramm, and a full moon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
The Last Train to Clarkville: The other day I talked about why I think Wesley Clark's chances of getting the Democratic nomination are nil. The obvious other point to make about Clark is that his candidacy might be about something else. I suspect he really thinks he can win this thing. But he might also think that if he loses he can still be a dealmaker and perhaps even score the vice-presidential slot.

Clark's name started coming up quite a while ago as a possible VP candidate, especially for Dean. So does running for president enhance Clark's chances to run for number two? Yes and no. Let's think about this from the perspective of the presidential nominee. As I've said before, the first rule of choosing a VP nominee is Primum non nocere -- First, do no harm. (This, by the way, is the very reason why the Democratic nominee is not about to make Hillary Clinton the VP candidate.) Right now Clark's downside is unclear. That's because he has never run a major campaign and he's never been vetted by the media in the way that only the national media can vet someone. So if a nominee had to make a VP choice right now, the choice of Clark would be exceptionally foolish. You just don't know if this guy is going to meltdown on the campaign trail or turn up with a campaign-wrecking skeleton in his closet. By running for president now, Clark will be a known quality come convention time. We'll know where he is on issues, we'll know how well he handles a national campaign, and we'll probably know if he beat his dog or dabbed his 2d grade classmate's ponytail in his desk ink well.

On the other hand, by running now Clark guarantees that by convention time he will not be the flavor of the month. Even if he handles himself well on the campaign trail and no skeletons emerge, he'll be, by definition, a loser.

And the ruling is...: So en banc the 9th circuit says the recall will be in October rather than March. I'll get into this later, but from a practical/constitutional standpoint this was probably the right decision. The real reason the election should have been delayed is because it's a colossal waste of money to hold a special election in October when the state is already holding an election in March.

Except there is nothing unconstitutional about wasting taxpayers' money.