Saturday, April 30, 2005

The 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon

I wrote yesterday about the Israeli raid on Entebbe, and the tendency for "blind spots" in historical education. Well, today's another sterling example of that phenomenon. 30 years ago, Saigon fell to the communist North Vietnamese, after the support that the United States had pledged for South Vietnam had been withdrawn.

For people who came of age in the 60s, they remember the debates over the war, whether we should have been there or not. I was born in 1963. I have memories of body counts on the news and in the papers, but had no conception at the time of what we were doing, why we were there. I've learned more as the years have passed, of course, and I still have no firm position as to whether or not the United States should have been fighting in Vietnam. I'm very sympathetic to the argument that we had no vested national interest at stake. But I'm also sympathetic to the argument that we were fighting evil, that communism was a great moral evil, and had to be fought whereever it was.

The position that I'm not now, and never have been, sympathetic to is the argument that there was nothing to fight for in southeast Asia. There was. I think it was summarized brilliantly by two former anti-war left-wing 60s radicals, Peter Collier and David Horowitz. I saw it originally in a piece in Insight magazine close to 20 years ago, and it stuck with me. "More people had been killed in the first two years of the Communist peace than in the thirteen years of America's war."

Whether it was the responsibility of America, or how the responsibility manifested itself, to fight for those people is debatable. The fact that there was something to fight for is not.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Historical blind spots - Entebbe

There are blind spots in the educational process, no matter what type of schooling you take, whether you're in the public schools, or private schools, or, like my kids, schooled at home. There's a transition period that you live through in your youth, that you live through but never learn. It's a period that is current events when you're too young to care, and not history yet when you begin to study history.

My youngest brother, who's now in his early 30s, has been working his way through college over the past decade-plus. He's also hung a lot of sheet rock and siding, covered a lot of roofs, and pulled a lot of lobster traps. Last fall, he was talking about one of his classes where a professor had been talking about the Berlin Wall, and one of the girls in the class, probably 19 or 20, had interrupted with "you keep talking about a Berlin Wall. Is this a figurative expression, or is there a real wall?" And, of course, to anyone who was of age after before 1990, it sounds like an absurd question. But if you were five years old in 1990, you weren't paying much attention to current events when the Berlin Wall fell. The Berlin Wall wasn't news when you were studying Current Events. And it was too recent to have been integrated into your history curriculum. So you've got a massive blind-spot, a perspective on the world that is un-impacted by what was a seminal event to someone just 10 years older.

I'm thinking of this, because I watched, last night, the 1977 TV movie "Raid On Entebbe." On July 4th, 1976, I was 13 years old, and watching the fireworks in Canandaigua, New York, at my grandmother's house on the lake. Halfway around the world, Israeli special forces were raiding the airport at Entebbe in Uganda, and rescuing 105 (or 106 - I've seen different numbers) Jewish and Israeli hostages. The hostages had been taken 7 days earlier, on an Air France flight from Athens to Paris. On July 1st, the non-Jewish, non-Israeli hostages had been released. The French flight crew had also been released, but chose to stay behind with the rest of their passengers.

I've heard of Entebbe. I vaguely recall the made-for-TV movies airing in the late 70s. But I didn't know what it meant, where it was, what had happened. At some point in the last 10 years, I became aware that there had been a hostage-taking and a rescue. At some point I learned that former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's brother had been one of the leaders, and had been killed. But it's a fascinating historical event that I really hadn't much awareness of. It was, for me, one of the historical blind spots.

The movie was actually pretty well done. It was apparently the second made-for-TV version of the story, and much better than the first. It tells the story in a very straightforward fashion, without an excessive amount of over-the-top drama or emotional music. It's just a historical recounting that seems, from what I'm able to find right now, to be pretty accurate.

One of the things that never gets mentioned, however, is something that I think has to have had some emotional impact on the people planning and carrying out the rescue. There is talk in the cabinet meetings about whether the attempted rescue will cause international problems, and I'm sure that those issues were genuine concerns at the time. But less than four years earlier, Palestinian terrorists had taken 9 Israeli Olympians hostage in Munich, and all of the hostages were killed in a rescue attempt by the Germans at the Munich airport. (Another historical event about which I hadn't much knowledge until relatively recently.) While I'm sure that the security forces took lessons from that attempt, it's hard to believe that there wouldn't have been some consideration of the possibilities for disaster based on the Munich events.

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Thursday, April 28, 2005

The starters may be falling, but the sky is not

The Sky is Falling! The Sky Is Falling!

Wells is on the DL! Schilling's on the DL!

The Sky is Falling!

Or is it?

If Curt Schilling is gone for the entire season, they've got serious issues. If Schilling's gone for 3 weeks, it's just not that big a deal. One of the strengths that the Red Sox had coming into the season was depth of starting pitching. Fans have been wondering for weeks "what's going to happen when Wade Miller's ready?" and though he's not ready yet, all indications are that he will be shortly. They've got a short-term gap to make up right now, until Schilling's back in a couple of weeks, and when he is, if Miller's back, then Wells' absence isn't a problem.

To cover the gap, they've got John Halama in the bullpen, they've got Jeremi Gonzalez at Pawtucket, they could bring up Abe Alvarez (who made a Major League start last year.) Obviously, Wakefield, Arroyo and Clement will pitch the 3 games in Texas. The question is what happens when they get to Detroit. Halama presumably gets one of those. Lenny DiNardo's been starting in Pawtucket, or they could bring up Alvarez. If Miller's ready in 2 starts, if Schilling's back in 2 weeks, if, if, if...

But it just isn't that bad. Here's what the schedule and pitching rotation look like for the next 3 weeks, starting with yesterday's rain-out.




Friday4/29/2005at Texas Wakefield

Saturday4/30/2005at Texas Arroyo

Sunday5/1/2005at Texas Clement

Monday5/2/2005at Detroit unknown?

Tuesday5/3/2005at Detroit unknown?Miller

Wednesday5/4/2005at Detroit Wakefield

Thursday5/5/2005at Detroit Arroyo

Friday5/6/2005Seattle Clement

Saturday5/7/2005Seattle unknown?

Sunday5/8/2005Seattle unknown?Miller

Monday5/9/2005Oakland Wakefield

Tuesday5/10/2005Oakland Arroyo

Wednesday5/11/2005Oakland Clement


Friday5/13/2005at Seattle Miller

Saturday5/14/2005at Seattle Wakefield

Sunday5/15/2005at Seattle Arroyo

Monday5/16/2005at Oakland Clement

Tuesday5/17/2005at Oakland unknown?

Wednesday5/18/2005at Oakland Miller


Friday5/20/2005Atlanta Wakefield

Saturday5/21/2005Atlanta Arroyo

Sunday5/22/2005Atlanta Clement


Tuesday5/24/2005at TorontoMiller

Wednesday5/25/2005at TorontoWakefield

Thursday5/26/2005at TorontoArroyo

They're putting Schilling on the DL, presumably dated back to Saturday when he last pitched, which makes him eligible to come back on May 8th against Seattle, but I think we can assume that he won't be back then. If it takes 2 full weeks from yesterday, he'll probably make his next start on May 13th in Seattle. But let's assume that it takes 3. He may pitch on the 18th in Oakland, or maybe not until the 24th in Toronto. I've slotted Wade Miller into the rotation starting on the 13th, because his 30-day rehab stint started on April 13th, so has to be over by May 12th. Frankly, I expect him to make two more starts in Pawtucket and then pitch the Sunday home game against Seattle on the 8th of May.

But what we're looking at is patching essentially 5 games over the next 3 weeks with the likes of John Halama, Lenny DiNardo, Abe Alvarez and Jeremi Gonzalez. The difference in expected winning percentage between Curt Schilling and John Halama over the last 3 years is about 61% vs. 37%. Basically, that's one win over 5 games. They'll be fine. They need to hit. They desperately need for the bullpen to get straightened out. But this isn't a huge deal, assuming that Schilling's actually ready in 3 weeks and that Miller doesn't re-injure himself.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Ugly. Very ugly.

The Red Sox bullpen coughed up another one last night at Fenway. When they took a 5-1 lead, the game felt comfortable. When they took an 8-3 lead, the game felt comfortable. But it never lasted long. Matt Clement put up his worst performance of the year, but things got no better when he left, as Embree gave up a two-run double to the first batter he faced. They got two innings from Mike Timlin, not perfect but scoreless. Then Foulke came in, needing two more scoreless for the win. Double, HR, fly out, single, HR. 4 hits, 2 of them HR, to the first 5 batters he faced.

Which they might have been able to get away with, had the offense not stopped scoring with Manny's 4th inning HR. They didn't do much, but, with a one-run lead, they left a runner at 3rd in the 5th, a runner at third in the 6th, and runners at 2nd and 3rd in the 7th. If they had gotten two of those 4 in, the Tejada home run doesn't give the Orioles the lead, and the rest of that inning may play out differently.

But they didn't, and the end result is yet another ugly loss. It's frustrating when you don't hit, it's frustrating when the starting pitching isn't working, but there may be no more demoralizing way to lose than having the bullpen consistently blow up with leads. Foulke and Embree, in particular, have been very bad so far. I don't expect it to continue, but their record should be better than it is, and it's largely the responsibility of those two...

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Great piece from Moneyball author

If you're a fan of Moneyball, you don't want to miss this excellent Michael Lewis piece in the New York Times Magazine. It starts out as if it's going to be another steroid expose, but it isn't. He looks at the career paths of two minor-league players, Steve Stanley and Mark Teahen, who have demonstrated the ability to get on base, but not home run power. The Baseball Crank called it "Yet Another Look at Steroids", which I disagree with, but it's definitely a great and interesting read.

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Monday Pythagorean report - 4/25

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/25/2005









New York5.53(4)5.89(13)0.471(8)910811-1





Tampa Bay4.79(7)6.26(14)0.38(13)7128111

Kansas City3.63(14)5.84(12)0.295(14)613514-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)





The White Sox aren't as good as their record. The Red Sox are better than theirs...

Standings for the week





New York7.43(1)5(8)0.674(4)5243-1








Tampa Bay5.86(3)7.86(14)0.369(12)34431

Kansas City3.86(10)5.71(12)0.328(13)2516-1


Three painful 1-run defeats. Three blow-out wins (and a 1-0 beauty). That's the recipe for Pythagorean underachievement.

Fabulous starting pitching this week. 7 games, almost 7 ip/g, an ERA of under 3. What's shocking is what it looks like without Schilling.

Red Sox Starting pitching 4/18-5/24



Not Schilling571.541.11

The non-Schilling portion of the starting rotation has been outstanding so far. The bullpen's been shaky, in places and at times, but it doesn't look yet like anything other than early shakiness. I said over the winter that this was actually a better team than last year's, and I still think it is.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Odds and ends

  • The Celtics blew out the Pacers in game 1, a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score (102-82) would indicate. Indiana went out to an early 12-4 lead, not because they were outplaying Boston, but because Boston's shots weren't falling. They were 1-13, and they weren't bad shots - they just weren't falling. When they did, the Celtics went up - big - and never looked back.

    It was actually concerning that it might have been a bit too easy. They won't all go the way game 1 did. If they come out expecting to do the same thing tomorrow night, they may be in for a surprise. What they've got to do is come out to play the same way, not come out expecting the game to go the same way.

  • The Celtics victory brings to 12 the number of consecutive post-season victories for the Boston professional sports teams, going back to the 2004 ALCS. The Red Sox won their last 4 against the Yankees and swept 4 against the Cardinals. The Patriots won 2 play-off games and then the Super Bowl. And now the Celtics have won their first.

    I'd bet any amount of money that you want to name that the streak ends within the next 3 weeks...

  • It was comical to watch the reaction of the ESPN broadcast crew to the Patriots first round pick, Logan Mankins, OT/OG out of Fresno State. They clearly weren't expecting it, and thought it was a reach. But as soon as the started to imply that, you could see them catch themselves. This was the Patriots! and Belichick! and Pioli! You could see that no one wanted to be the one to say that they didn't know what they were doing. So they danced around it and ended up praising the pick. They wouldn't have praised that pick from anyone else in the NFL.

  • Ponder this - if it weren't for Curt Schilling, the Red Sox rotation would look awesome right now...
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    Saturday, April 23, 2005

    Saturday sports thoughts

  • In a 162-game season, there are going to be a lot of losses. Some sting more than others. One of the particularly painful ways to lose is to trail for most of the game on the road, tie the game in the 9th, and immediately lose it in the bottom of the 9th. That never happened to the 2004 Red Sox in any of their 81 road games. WIth the 5-4 loss in Tampa last night, the 2005 Red Sox have done it 3 times in their first 9.

  • Today provides one of the worst excuses on the yearly calendar for the sports fan to spend hours in front of ESPN, as the NFL draft takes center stage. The signal-to-noise ratio is lower today than any other ESPN broadcast of the year (and that's saying something.) The fact is that no one knows what's happening, and won't for a while. Everyone will produce their obligatory draft grades next week, and by the time there's enough information to grade the grades, they'll be long forgotten.

    It's exciting for the fans of the teams with top 10 picks, or multiple first rounders. For the teams at the bottom, there will be 5 hours of talk about players that will be long gone before your team's on the board. I've watched in the past, and may (if it rains) flip through this afternoon. I may even offer thoughts on it early next week. But I'll try not to pretend that I know what I'm talking about.

    There will be some good and accurate analysis of the draft. It's just impossible to know, ahead of time, which it is. No one came out of the 2000 draft talking about what a steal the Patriots had gotten with Tom Brady in the 6th round.

    The best piece of analysis that I remember seeing came from Dr. Z after the 2003 draft.

    B+) New England -- I was on a Boston radio show the day after the draft and the host said to me, "Well, another lousy draft for the Patriots," and I had to take issue with that. The point I tried to make was that you don't need a flashy name up on top to have a good draft list. Depth is important, too, and I can go through five rounds of New England's draft before I can find someone I don't think will help the Patriots this year. At the top is Ty Warren, a good, functionally sound DT. Eugene Wilson was in the thick of the CB mix, right after the elite pair of Terence Newman and Marcus Trufant. Bethel Johnson, also taken in the second round, was the second-fastest runner in the draft, at 4.30 in the 40, and he returns kicks, too. DT Dan Klecko (fourth) is the son of Joe, who should be in the Hall of Fame, and I've seen the same kind of comments I did when daddy was coming out -- lacking all the measurables except heart, desire and the ability to play football. Their other fourth rounder, Asante Samuel, is a nickel CB type with good ball skills. One round later is a hard-working center, Dan Koppen, who was ranked by some scouts among the top five at the position. That's six guys I think can help, before we get to QB Kliff Kingsbury, and who knows about QBs? I call it a pretty good draft, and they did more trading and hustling than any other team in the league, and sure, they traded away one of their first-round picks but what they're left with for next year's draft are two No. 1s, two No. 2s and three No. 4s.

    The vast majority of what we see today and for the next couple of weeks won't be close to that correct.

  • The Celtics take the court tonight against Indiana in the first round for the 3rd consecutive year. Two years ago, they won in 6. Last year they got swept. One of the big problems they've had with Indiana over the past couple of years is the presence of Ron Artest, completely shutting down Ron Artest. Artest is, obviously, not playing this year. In addition, the Celtics have got scoring that goes far beyond Pierce. I think Boston's a better team, with more talent and more depth, and I expect them to win this series in 5-7 games.
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    Friday, April 22, 2005

    Starting pitching through 16

    The Boston Red Sox starters are on a roll. Since the last game of the first road trip, the team is 8-2 and the starters' ERA is 2.17. They've allowed 5 ER twice, 3 ER once, 1 ER 4 times and no ER 3 times. (And one of the 5s and the 3 were allowed by Schilling.) Outside their Ace, they've been dominant.

    Writing about the starting pitching before the season started, I claimed that there was no reason to think that the Red Sox rotation was downgraded from 2004, and that there was no reason to think that the Yankees had a better starting rotation. Through 12 games those were clearly true. And they're still clearly true now. Updating today, just because 16 games is approximately 10% of the Major League season.

    Red Sox/Yankee starting pitching through 16 games - 2004-2005

    2004 Red Sox6.231.4354.33450.13956%

    2005 Red Sox6.251.343.1553.441063%

    2004 Yankees5.831.5215.01445.56638%

    2005 Yankees5.671.5995.4642.75425%

    I'm not sure how often I'll update this, but through 16 games, the 2005 Red Sox starters have been noticeably better than the 2004 Red Sox, and vastly superior to the Yankees...

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    Thursday, April 21, 2005

    Short series, sweet sweep series

    The Baltimore Orioles were one of the hottest teams in baseball when Boston arrived. They'd averaged 7 runs a game in their previous 11 games, scoring at least 5 in 10 of the 11. On back-to-back nights, the Red Sox starter (David Wells on Tuesday, Matt Clement on Wednesday) went 8 innings without allowing a run, as the Sox take two shutout victories in Baltimore, 8-0 and 1-0.

    That's an awesome job by the two additions to the rotation. As they've now played about 10% of the schedule, I'll update the starting pitching comparisons tomorrow.

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    Homeschooling - Not for everyone is not the same as not for "most"

    A post from Spunky brought to my attention this piece - Home Schooling not a good idea for most - by Illinois talk show host Scott Thomas. I don't know Scott Thomas. Based on some of the things that he has to say, I think that I probably agree with him on a great many issues. Homeschooling, however, is not one of them.

    We homeschool our four children. When I say "we", of course, I mostly mean "she", as in my wife. She's at home with them during the day, she plans their work and watches and helps as they do it. But it's a team effort. I help out when she's traveling or when there are math lessons that need more explanation.

    We decided on home-schooling before we had children. My wife was a teacher in the public schools, and we never considered putting our kids into them. There are many reasons for that but the big one was this - if we wanted to have and raise children, why would we hand them off to other people to raise for us?

    Anyway, Scott Thomas is not a homeschooling fan.
    I guess, as a true blue (or is that true red) conservative, I’m supposed to be a big supporter or home schooling. It’s one of those bedrock conservative issues, like the right to carry guns and lower taxes. But, I’m not in the home school camp.

    To further thicken the soup I find myself in, I am a Christian and, for a myriad of reasons, home schooling has become quite fashionable among conservative Christians who wish not to subject their children to the liberal secularism prevalently found in our public schools.

    So, to maintain my conservative Christian membership credentials, let me clearly state that I am not against the parents’ right to home school their children. I just think, by and large, it’s not a very good idea.

    Certainly, he has a right to his opinion. But what is it based on?
    But, much more common, from my observation, is that parents choose to home school as a form of protection for their children.

    Parents "protect[ing]" their children? Outrageous!

    Obviously, all parents want to protect their children. Who sends their kids out in the winter without coats? Who doesn't put up gates to keep them away from stairtops, or teach them not to touch hot stoves, or keep matches and sharp objects away from infants? Who doesn't teach them the dangers of smoking and drugs? Of drinking and driving?

    So, if "protection for their children" is actually a normal and obligatory function of parenthood, what is he saying here? I think that what he saying is not that parents are protecting children, but that they're over-protecting children. Which is, of course, a very different thing.

    Typical of the emails I received from listeners is this: "We don’t want them (children) to be indoctrinated by Tolerance of everything & everyone (except for conservative Christians), Pro-gay lifestyles, Evolution-is-fact teaching throughout the curriculum (and not just science), Prayer in school is forbidden, and many other examples that permeate the academic agenda."

    I don’t like all of that junk, either.

    So, there are legitimate reasons for the children to be "protected" from the public school. And he seems to agree that there are things for the children to be protected against, but that the parents are somehow wrong for exercising that protection.
    But, at what price, protection?

    Good. He's going to tell us why.
    As one public school teacher told me, "As a teaching professional, I am deeply hurt by the Christian community's pull-out from the public school system. The (public school) teachers I know are excellent! And many of them are Christians! They have a wealth of experience and resources that can't be matched by home schooling parents. Not only are teachers highly-educated (all having Bachelor's degrees, and many having Master's or PhD's), but they are specialists in their fields. We go to conferences, read up on the latest research and have teams of Master Teachers who mentor educators new to the profession.

    Every time elections start approaching, or teacher's union contracts come up, we suffer an assault of advertising on the television and radio from those unions, explaining how important it is to give the teachers what they want "for the children." Every time teachers need more vacation time, or more raises, or more sick time, it's "for the children."

    The fact is that teacher's unions don't represent children - they represent teachers. And the teacher's interests and the children's interests are not the same. Look at that last paragraph again. "As a teaching professional" (not just a teacher - a "teaching professional" - do they get paid more than teachers?) "I am deeply hurt by the Christian community's pull-out from the public school system." That carries as much weight with me as "as a buggy-whip professional, I am deeply hurt by the pull-out of the traveling community from the carriage industry." Obviously, teachers are losing "customers" when people pull their children out of the school system. That doesn't mean that there can't be legitimate concerns on their part, but they've got a vested interest in having kids in the public school system, and that needs to be understood.

    "Most parents do not have the level of expertise that we do. The parents that I have seen home school their children often struggle along needlessly, comparing various curriculums, uncertain of what their children should know.

    Of course they "struggle along needlessly" - it's hard work to homeschool, and if you just drop the little urchins into the state run indocrination center, you don't have to do it! And anyone who takes it seriously spends hours "comparing various curriculums." Is that a negative for the children, or a positive? As to whether or not some people may be "uncertain of what their children should know", I consider that to be bunk. Bogus. A complete and total strawman. Everyone learns differently, learns different things at different times. To the extent that there's a common knowledge base that children should know at certain ages, it's not a mystical knowledge, handed down on tablets and hidden from all but the elect. It's easily available.
    Add to that children who are struggling with disabilities or learning to read, and the gap between what parents know about teaching and what the trained professionals know, widens. Most adults wouldn't rewire the electrical system of their home on their own, they lack the expertise to do it right. Many would hire a professional.

    Most adults wouldn't rewire their own home, not because they lack the expertise, but they know that it would be a poor use of their time and resources to acquire the expertise. That's a poor analogy to home-schooling. There's no skill set or knowledge base required to educate your children that you won't develop if that is what you choose to spend your time doing.

    That, in one sense is what teachers are hired to do."

    Bingo! That is what teachers ARE hired to do.

    In one sense. In another, their hired to maintain discipline on a group of kids for an hour at a time, and hopefully impart some knowledge at the same time. Let's be honest here - the people complaining about school vacations and teacher education days aren't complaining that their children aren't learning during that time - they're complaining that their day-care has been shut down.
    That’s why I like the sound of "school choice" or "school vouchers".

    Well, I like the sound of those things, too. But tell me this - if parents aren't capable of choosing a curriculum or understanding what their children should be learning, how are they capable of telling a good school from a bad one?

    Let’s give parents, most of whom are NOT great teachers, the option to send their kids to real, professional, great teachers.

    So most parent are not "great" teachers, but most "real, professional" teachers are?

    Give me a break.

    Listen, this sounds like a slam on teachers, and that is NOT my intent. I'm painting with a broad brush here, and I understand that. I grew up on a high school campus. I lived in dormitories until I was 12, I ate in a cafeteria until after I'd graduated from college. My parents are teachers, my brother's a teacher, I married a teacher. There are great teachers in this world, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them.

    But it's silly to the point of being offensive to pretend that the percentage of "great" teachers in the public school is somehow much higher than the percentage of "great" pitchers in Major League Baseball or "great" talk show hosts on the radio or "great" engineers in the computer industry. There are a small number of great teachers, there are a small number of bad teachers, and a vast middle-ground of interchangeable ones. Just like in any other walk of life.

    And no teacher who has a child in their classroom as 1 of 20 in 1 of 5 classes has the desire or motivation or time to devote to my child's needs as my wife does. Or I do.
    Let’s hold teachers accountable to high teaching standards, and only hire and maintain those who do. Let’s insist on not allowing public schools to trample on the constitutional rights of our children, and let’s hold our elected school board officials accountable for maintaining the standards that we, as citizens of each school district, demand.

    Hey, those are great goals - sign me up.

    In the meantime, until we accomplish them, we'll keep teaching our kids at home.
    If you perceive problems with your public schools, you can choose, as a family, to be part of the solution, or you can run from the problems and home school.

    Nonsense. Poppycock. There is absolutely no other "business" on the face of the earth where someone would say that continuing to patronize an inefficient, non-competitive and non-productive business would be called being "part of the solution". Ridiculous. If you take your family out to a restaurant where the tables are dirty, the service is slow and the food is bad, are you "part of the solution" to go back again next week? Preposterous.
    While that may be the right decision for a few, in my opinion it is more often a decision that deprives students of some very fine teachers, and doesn’t teach them a thing about how to get along in the real world.

    This is the socialization canard. If you don't put your children into the fantasy world of the public schools, where everyone goes at the same pace, waits in line for lunch, moves onto the next project when the bell rings whether it's done or not, are bunched in only with people of the same age and raises his hand to get permission to go to the bathroom, you're not preparing them for "the real world."
    There’s the key. Feel free to open the box. But, before home schoolers email me in droves, I hope you’ll ask yourself if you really are, at the end of the day, the very best Algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Spanish, English, German, Latin, Literature, Grammar, Health Science, Physical Education, Music Appreciation, Composition, Psychology, Social Studies, Current Events, American History, World Geography, Communications, Astronomy, Computer Skills, Graphics, Art teacher, classmate and soccer coach your child can possibly have within your school district.

    Straw. Man. The only way that question is remotely relevant is if putting them into the public school system is somehow going to insure that they get "the very best Algebra, Trigonometry, Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Spanish, English, German, Latin, Literature, Grammar, Health Science, Physical Education, Music Appreciation, Composition, Psychology, Social Studies, Current Events, American History, World Geography, Communications, Astronomy, Computer Skills, Graphics, Art teacher, classmate and soccer coach" available. Does that match anyone's real world experience in the public schools?

    Of course not..
    If the answer to all of those is "Yes", then home school. If not, then ask yourself if the "price" of missing all that is worth the protection they’re getting.

    Again, it's an utterly preposterous construct. It's an intellectually dishonest argument.

    The whole piece is intellectually dishonest, featuring appeals to authority ("one public school teacher told me"), biased samples ("parents that I have seen home school their children often struggle along needlessly"), appeal to tradition ("I am deeply hurt by the Christian community's pull-out from the public school system"), appeal to emotion ("let’s give parents, most of whom are NOT great teachers, the option to send their kids to real, professional, great teachers"), begging the question ("parents, most of whom are NOT great teachers"), hasty generalizations galore and strawmen.

    I agree that home-schooling is not for everyone. But I think "most" people could do it, and do it effectively, if they chose to. And I disagree entirely with the premise that it's somehow bad for the children not to be institutionalized at the age of 6.

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    Wednesday, April 20, 2005

    Media attitude - Oh No! The new Pope's a Catholic!

    There's an attitude permeating the coverage of the elevation of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger to Pope Benedict XVI, and it's everywhere. In picking on Maureen Dowd, I don't mean to imply that she's the only one demonstrating it, because she certainly isn't. But it's an excellent example of the attitude that I'm talking about, so that's the example I'm using.

    I'm not a long-time reader of the New York Times. I don't like the paper - I don't even like their advertising. I look at it less as a news source than as the position paper for the American left. It contains not news, but Democratic position papers, policy statements and advertising. It has the same credibility with me as the spam e-mail that I receive daily from Paul Begala, John Corzine, Ann Lewis and John Kerry.

    In any event, I'm not a regular reader. But the position the paper holds lends a certain prominence to members of its staff, and, particularly in the internet era, familiarity with the work of the op-ed writers does not require frequent perusals of the paper itself. So, over the past 5 years or so, I've become familiar with the name Maureen Dowd, and eventually, with some of her work. And it remains a complete and total mystery to me why she's taking up space on the New York Times op-ed page.

    It isn't any of her positions that make me say that. Obviously, she's a down-the-line doctrinaire liberal. All well and good. What she isn't, as near as I can tell, is an interesting writer. I've yet to read a Dowd column that makes me say "that was well said" or "that was interesting". I understand why they employ someone of Dowd's persuasion - I just don't know why it's Maureen Dowd.

    So today, she's commenting on religion in the public realm again, in fairly typical Dowd fashion, scattershot and immature. And including the following:

    The white smoke yesterday signaled that the Vatican thinks what it needs to bring it into modernity is the oldest pope since the 18th century: Joseph Ratzinger, a 78-year-old hidebound archconservative who ran the office that used to be called the Inquisition and who once belonged to Hitler Youth. For American Catholics - especially women and Democratic pro-choice Catholic pols - the cafeteria is officially closed. After all, Cardinal Ratzinger, nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" and "the Enforcer," helped deny Communion rights to John Kerry and other Catholic politicians in the 2004 election.

    The only other job this pope would be qualified for is "60 Minutes" anchor.

    Let's look at that again.

  • Sarcasm? "The Vatican thinks what it needs to bring it into modernity is the oldest pope since the 18th century." Check. (Not particularly effective sarcasm, but sarcasm nonetheless.) And, of course, "The only other job this pope would be qualified for is "60 Minutes" anchor." I suppose I should be laughing now, right?

  • Pejorative language? "Hidebound archconservative." Check.

  • Smearing innuendo? "Who ran the office that used to be called the Inquisition and who once belonged to Hitler Youth." Right again.

  • Name calling? "Nicknamed "God's Rottweiler" and "the Enforcer." Yes indeed.

  • "Facts" that aren't really "facts"? "Helped deny Communion rights to John Kerry and other Catholic politicians in the 2004 election." Absolutely.

  • That's a lot to cram into one paragraph.

    It's true that there was talk of refusing communion to pro-abortion politicians, a group to which Kerry certainly belongs. I find no evidence that Kerry was ever actually refused communion. (If someone presents some, I'll retract this particular criticism.) What Ratzinger did do, in the summer of 2004, was clarify the church's position on the issue of Catholic politicians, and their responsibilities with regards to abortion and euthanasia.
    Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

    Again, Maureen Dowd may not agree with that position, but it's tough to see anything unreasonable about it. The church's position is that abortion is a grave sin. Given that, it has not only the right, but the obligation to make it clear to its followers, and do whatever possible to help them avoid a grave sin.

    1 Cor 11:26-29
    26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
    27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.
    28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
    29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.

    I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the liberal media's wishful thinking for a "liberal" pope. Everything there is still relevant. There is a profound desire on the left to have a church that conforms to their lifestyle, rather than imposing onerous restrictions that they don't want to deal with. I'm reminded of a line from "The Wanderer", a song written by Bono, but sung by Johnny Cash on U2's Zooropa album.

    I stopped outside a church house
    Where the citizens like to sit
    They say they want the kingdom
    But they don't want God in it

    That's what I see in most of the coverage. People want cheap grace, they want to consider themselves good people, religious people, but don't actually want any external judgement or constraint on their behavior.
    Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.

    Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.
    - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    That's the kind of grace that far too many of us are looking for, and I believe it's the attitude that is largely driving the coverage of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

    UPDATE: I'd written my take on this before seeing this post from The Anchoress which, it seems to me, says it far better than I did. With far more credibility, as she's a Catholic and I am not. But she's got some wonderful and important stuff.
    I have one thing to say to all of this - to all of the breathless ranting from the left and the grim, woe-is-us prognostications of SOME members of the press. It is this:

    Fer cryin’ out loud, CHILL OUT.

    God, through the Holy Spirit, is NOT DONE WORKING ON THIS MAN - OR FOR THAT MATTER, ANY OF US.

    I don’t know what they actually expected. It has always seemed very odd to me that people would think the Catholic church will suddenly put a finger to the chin and say, "you know, we’ve been all wrong about this stuff, all this time! Abortion is okay! Jesus didn’t really mean it about divorce! That whole thing about marriage being between a man and a woman, why that was just written in by some homophobe or other!"

    Read the whole thing...

    (H/T to A Large Regular)

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    Fenway parking furor

    Dean Barnett has a must-read Weekly Standard piece (which he blogged about here) about the Boston Globe, Boston's mayor and the parking situation around Fenway Park. The impetus was this Boston Globe story about the parking prices on opening day. Suffice it to say, Boston's mayor doesn't think much of the free market.

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    A frustrating night in the fens

    In the course of a 162 game season, you're going to get some frustrating evenings. Last night was one of them. With Bronson Arroyo out-pitching Roy Halladay over 7 innings, with Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz both hitting mammoth home runs, the Red Sox went to the bullpen with 6 outs to get and a 2-run lead to protect. The lead lasted 2 batters, as Alan Embree came in and served up single-HR to tie the game. The bottom of the 8th featured a single-pitch out to Jay Payton with 2 on and 2 out. Payton came into the game for defensive purposes in the top of the 8th, replacing Manny, who may have had a better chance of getting the go-ahead run in. Keith Foulke struggled again in the 9th, giving up 1 run, and the Red Sox ended up falling 4-3, the last out coming off the bat of Ramon Vazquez with a runner at 3rd.

    One of frustrating aspects of the evening was that the Red Sox approach at the plate wasn't the typical Red Sox approach. Halladay faced the Red Sox in Toronto last week and threw 95 pitches through 6 innings. Last night, he entered the 7th having thrown only 66. The Red Sox went down on 3 pitches in the 4th. Now, it's true that two of them were a single, followed by a hard-hit ball that resulted in a spectacular double-play, but 3 pitch innings are rare against anyone, and virtually unheard of against the Red Sox.

    There were several "second-guessable" moves, most of which I had no problem with.
  • In the 7th, Kevin Millar was hit by a pitch and David McCarty ran for him. No problem with that whatsoever. McCarty's a better 1st baseman, marginally faster, and the spot in the order's unlikely to come up again.

  • In the top of the 8th, Alan Embree came in for Arroyo, who'd gone 7 innings and only given up 1 run. Again, no problem with it. Arroyo had thrown 103 pitches, and he's very seldom gone beyond that. First up in the 8th was Corey Koskie, who'd been hammering Arroyo. No problem lifting him. No problem with bring in Embree, either. If you go to Myers, he's in for 1 batter, Koskie, and you've got to bring in Timlin or Mantei to pitch to Wells. Embree's not a lefty-specialist - he can pitch to right-handed hitters also. He happened to pitch badly last night. That doesn't make it a bad move, just a move that didn't work.

  • Jay Payton entering as a defensive replacement in the 8th. This was a bad move. It feels like over-reacting to the two balls Manny lost in the sun on Monday. Manny was two base-runners away from hitting in the 8th (which actually happened). The odds of their being a play in the top of the 8th that Payton would make and Manny wouldn't pales in comparison to odds of that spot in the lineup coming up again.

  • One of the results of the defensive changes was that you got to the 9th innings with only Doug Mirabelli on the bench. Bill Mueller was sick and unavailable, Kevin Youkilis is down in Pawtucket so they don't have to run Blaine Neal through the waiver process. (Give the GM an error on that one.) So Ramon Vazquez faced Miguel Batista with a runner on 3rd and two outs in the 9th. They didn't have another bat except Mirabelli. I probably would have hit Mirabelli there, but it's tough to complain about it too much. Vazquez and Mirabelli actually have similar career batting averages and OBPs, Mirabelli's just got more power. He's more likely to win the game in the 9th, but not necessarily a lot more likely to get the tying run in.

  • So they "wasted" an excellent start from Arroyo, and finished the home stand at 6-2 instead of 7-1. Baltimore and Toronto both moved back ahead of them in the East, but the Yankees, playing at home, with Randy Johnson on the mound, fell to Tampa Bay, so the Sox are still 3 games ahead of them.

    UPDATE: According to the Red Sox notebook in the Globe, Manny's got tightness in his quad.
    "I would love to leave Manny in," said Francona, who replaced Ramirez with Jay Payton in the top of the eighth inning of last night's 4-3 loss to Toronto. "His quad is bothering him. It was bothering him [Monday]. When he said he needs to go ice it, that's the thing to do. We didn't take him out for defense. That was health-related."

    Which gets Terry off the hook for the one "bad" managerial move of the night...

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    Tuesday, April 19, 2005

    Red Sox resurrect Reserve Clause

    In a fascinating contract extension, the Boston Red Sox and Tim Wakefield have essentially resurrected the Reserve Clause, abolished in 1975. According to the initial Boston Globe staff report:
    The Sox will have the option to extend the contract for 2007 and any season thereafter. The contract will remain in effect as long as the Red Sox continue to exercise their yearly option.

    I can see why the team would do it. It is not immediately obvious to me what Wakefield gets out of it, but maybe that'll come to me later...

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    Celtics clinch home-court

    With the Pacers' 92-88 loss to Orlando last night, their 38th, the Celtics have clinched the home-court advantage in the first round of the NBA play-offs. Who they will play is still up in the air, as the 6th seed could be either Indiana or Philadelphia. Right now, with each team having one game remaining, Indiana is 1 game ahead of Philadelphia. If Indiana wins in Chicago on Wednesday OR Philadelphia loses at home to Atlanta on Wednesday (yeah, right) then the Pacers would be the 6th seed. If, however, Philadelphia wins AND Indiana loses, they'd finish tied, and Philadelphia would get the 6th seed, and the Celtics in the first round, by virtue of their 4-0 record against Indiana head-to-head.

    The Celtics have 2 games left, and they're both relatively meaningless - they are already locked into the 3rd seed and the home-court in the first round. It is conceivable that they could catch Chicago for the 3rd-best actual record in the conference, or drop behind Washington to 5th, but it's unlikely that either scenario would have any actual ramifications. As the 3rd seed, they are, in all probability, going to play Detroit in the 2nd round if they get through the first, and it doesn't matter if they finish ahead of Washington and Chicago, behind them, or in between...

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    Monday, April 18, 2005

    Ancient text, modern technology

    There's a fascinating story in the UK Independent Online today, about the way that some new technologies are resurrecting texts from antiquity.
    (H/T to the Corner)
    For more than a century, it has caused excitement and frustration in equal measure - a collection of Greek and Roman writings so vast it could redraw the map of classical civilisation. If only it was legible.

    Now, in a breakthrough described as the classical equivalent of finding the holy grail, Oxford University scientists have employed infra-red technology to open up the hoard, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, and with it the prospect that hundreds of lost Greek comedies, tragedies and epic poems will soon be revealed.

    In the past four days alone, Oxford's classicists have used it to make a series of astonishing discoveries, including writing by Sophocles, Euripides, Hesiod and other literary giants of the ancient world, lost for millennia. They even believe they are likely to find lost Christian gospels, the originals of which were written around the time of the earliest books of the New Testament.

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    Patriot's Day

    The States of Massachusetts and Maine celebrate a Holiday that no one else in the country does. Patriot's Day. It commemorates the day of "the shot heard round the world", April 19, 1775, and the battles at Lexington and Concord that are considered to have been the beginning of the American Revolution. What people think of now is the Boston Marathon, which begins in Hopkinton at noon, and the Boston Red Sox, who play the only morning game on the MLB schedule, playing at 11AM on Patriot's Day.

    But in 1860, the day was still remembered for its historic significance, and poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote one of the best known poems in American Literature.

    Listen my children and you shall hear
    Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
    On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
    Hardly a man is now alive
    Who remembers that famous day and year.

    He said to his friend, "If the British march
    By land or sea from the town to-night,
    Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
    Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
    One if by land, and two if by sea;
    And I on the opposite shore will be,
    Ready to ride and spread the alarm
    Through every Middlesex village and farm,
    For the country folk to be up and to arm."

    Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
    Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
    Just as the moon rose over the bay,
    Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
    The Somerset, British man-of-war;
    A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
    Across the moon like a prison bar,
    And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
    By its own reflection in the tide.

    Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
    Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
    Till in the silence around him he hears
    The muster of men at the barrack door,
    The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
    And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
    Marching down to their boats on the shore.

    Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
    By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
    To the belfry chamber overhead,
    And startled the pigeons from their perch
    On the sombre rafters, that round him made
    Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
    By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
    To the highest window in the wall,
    Where he paused to listen and look down
    A moment on the roofs of the town
    And the moonlight flowing over all.

    Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
    In their night encampment on the hill,
    Wrapped in silence so deep and still
    That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
    The watchful night-wind, as it went
    Creeping along from tent to tent,
    And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
    A moment only he feels the spell
    Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
    Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
    For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
    On a shadowy something far away,
    Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
    A line of black that bends and floats
    On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

    Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
    Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
    On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
    Now he patted his horse's side,
    Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
    Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
    And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
    But mostly he watched with eager search
    The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
    As it rose above the graves on the hill,
    Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
    And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
    A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
    He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
    But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
    A second lamp in the belfry burns.

    A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
    A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
    And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
    Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
    That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
    The fate of a nation was riding that night;
    And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
    Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
    He has left the village and mounted the steep,
    And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
    Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
    And under the alders that skirt its edge,
    Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
    Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

    It was twelve by the village clock
    When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
    He heard the crowing of the cock,
    And the barking of the farmer's dog,
    And felt the damp of the river fog,
    That rises after the sun goes down.

    It was one by the village clock,
    When he galloped into Lexington.
    He saw the gilded weathercock
    Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
    And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
    Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
    As if they already stood aghast
    At the bloody work they would look upon.

    It was two by the village clock,
    When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
    He heard the bleating of the flock,
    And the twitter of birds among the trees,
    And felt the breath of the morning breeze
    Blowing over the meadow brown.
    And one was safe and asleep in his bed
    Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
    Who that day would be lying dead,
    Pierced by a British musket ball.

    You know the rest. In the books you have read
    How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
    How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
    >From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
    Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
    Then crossing the fields to emerge again
    Under the trees at the turn of the road,
    And only pausing to fire and load.

    So through the night rode Paul Revere;
    And so through the night went his cry of alarm
    To every Middlesex village and farm,---
    A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
    A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
    And a word that shall echo for evermore!
    For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
    Through all our history, to the last,
    In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
    The people will waken and listen to hear
    The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
    And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

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    Celtics win the Atlantic Division

    Congratulations to Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and the Boston Celtics, who are Atlantic Division champions for the first time in 13 years. Frankly, they've accomplished this in large measure because of the weakness in the division, but not many people predicted them to win it anyway. And they clinched it themselves, on the court, with their win in Toronto last night.

    They've won the division, but they've not yet clinched a home-court advantage in the first round of the play-offs. As things stand right now, the Celtics go in as the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference play-offs, and Indiana goes in as the 6th seed. The Celtics are 2 games ahead of the Pacers with each team having 2 games remaining. If the Celtics lose both of their games and Indiana wins both of theirs, the Pacers would have the home-court by virtue of a better head-to-head record against the Celtics, even though Boston would technically be the 3rd seed and Indiana the 6th. So the Celtics have a magic number of 1 to clinch the home-court - 1 Celtic win or 1 Indiana loss wraps it up.

    When Danny Ainge took over in May of 2003, they were in the process of being swept out of the second round of the Eastern Conference Play-offs by the New Jersey Nets. They finished the 2003 season at 44-38, with an old roster. They're finishing 2005 with a record that will be at least 45-37, possibly as good as 47-35. While they took a step back record-wise in 2004, they have currently got a team that's going to finish with a better record than the team 2 years ago, and they've gotten more talented and significantly younger in the process.

    Celtics Roster Change - 2003-2005
    2003 Roster2004 Roster



    Paul Pierce25.55Paul Pierce27.55

    Antoine Walker26.72Antoine Walker28.72

    Mark Blount27.42Mark Blount29.42


    Tony Delk29.25Gary Payton36.77

    Walter McCarty29.24Ricky Davis25.6

    Eric Williams30.79Tony Allen23.3

    Tony Battie27.22Marcus Banks23.45

    J.R. Bremer22.61Al Jefferson20.32

    Kedrick Brown22.12Raef LaFrentz28.92

    Grant Long37.14Delonte West21.77

    Mark Bryant38.02Kendrick Perkins20.47

    Bimbo Coles35.02Justin Reed23.29

    Vin Baker31.44



    That is a roster that is not only better than it was two years ago, it is much younger, and carries with it vastly more potential for improvement. Do they have, in Marcus Banks, Al Jefferson, Tony Allen, Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins, the foundation of an eventual championship team? Will any of these players hoist banner number 17? There's no way to know that now. But it was obvious and knowable that no one who was on that team two years ago was the right answer. There's no doubt about it - Danny Ainge has, in his first two years, done an outstanding job as the GM of the Celtics.

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    AL Pythagorean report - week 2

    The second week of the season featured a much better performance by the Red Sox than the first, with fairly consistent offense and several very well pitched games. The bullpen was outstanding as well.

    Standings for the week













    Tampa Bay3.67(10)6.33(12)0.269(12)2415-1

    New York3.67(10)6.83(14)0.242(13)15150

    Kansas City2.17(14)6.33(12)0.123(14)15150

    So far, the Toronto Blue Jays have been the best team in the AL in terms of outscoring their opponents. Kansas City and New York have come by their records the old-fashioned way - they've earned them...

    AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2005













    Tampa Bay4.17(10)5.33(11)0.389(12)5748-1

    New York4.42(9)6.42(14)0.335(13)48480

    Kansas City3.5(14)5.92(13)0.277(14)39481

    Projections, based on what's happened so far:

    Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





    This isn't the top 5 Pythagorean winning percentage teams, but the top 5 final records assuming that everyone plays the remainder of their games at the Pythagorean winning percentage that they've exhibited so far.

    Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)





    It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that we're dealing with ridiculously small sample sizes here, as well as unbalanced competition...

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    Sunday, April 17, 2005

    Red Sox/Yankee starters through 12 games

    One of the statistical reports that I'm going to do, probably weekly, is a comparison of the 2005 Red Sox starters to the 2004 Red Sox starters and the 2005 Yankee starters.

    Before the season started, I addressed the issue of the Red Sox starting pitching and how it compared to both the 2004 Red Sox and the 2005 Yankees. It seemed to be the conventional wisdom that the 2005 Red Sox starting pitching would pale in either comparison, conventional wisdom that I rejected. Conventional wisdom from the likes of Tony Massarotti, who told us
    Torre believes he has the best pitching staff he has ever managed. And deep down, you can bet that he rests comfortably armed with additional knowledge, too.

    His New York Yankees have better pitching than the Red Sox.

    An opinion? No, no, no. That’s a fact.

    No, Tony, that's an opinion. One that contradicts my position. And I provided evidence in support of my position.

    Two weeks is a ridiculously small sample size. It proves nothing. But just for the fun of it, here's what the data on the first couple of weeks suggests.

    Red Sox/Yankee starting pitching through 12 games - 2004-2005

    2005 Red Sox61.3893.87550.42758%

    2004 Red Sox6.031.4654.47949.92650%

    2004 Yankees5.721.5154.98145.58542%

    2005 Yankees5.391.6555.28942.67325%

    Through 12 games, the Red Sox starters have more quality starts, a lower ERA, and a lower WHIP than they did last year, while pitching only 1/3 inning less. Through 12 games, the Red Sox starters have more quality starts, a lower ERA, a lower WHIP and more innings pitched, than the Yankees do. And that's not counting the 10 un-earned runs that the Yankee starters have allowed compared to only two for Boston's.

    Again, it's only 12 games, 7.4% of a season. It might look completely different in another week.

    But I don't see anything here that suggests that Tony Massarotti was right and I was wrong...

    Red Sox/Yankee starters through week 2











    Tim Wakefield has been dominant so far. The Yankees have gotten 3 largely mediocre starts from their ace, Randy Johnson, the Red Sox have gotten 1 poor start from their ace. Carl Pavano's ERA vastly overrates his actual contribution, as it ignores 4 runs that he allowed in Baltimore because a hard ground ball was called an error and not a single, on what would have been the first out of an inning. When a pitcher gives up single-walk-single with 2 outs, it's tough to let him off the hook just because 5 batters earlier a scalded ground ball wasn't handled. Jaret Wright's been awful, his high-wire escape in Boston on Wednesday notwithstanding.

    I've said it before, I'll say it again. There's no reason to think that the Yankee starting pitching is better than Boston's. There's no reason to think that Boston's starting pitching can't match Boston's 2004 starting pitching.

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    Saturday, April 16, 2005

    Saturday sports page

  • "He gets it out deep and Havlicek steals it! Over to Sam Jones! Havlicek stole the ball! It's all over! Johnny Havlicek is being mobbed by the fans. It's all over! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball! Oh, boy, what a play by Havlicek at the end of this ballgame! Johnny Havlicek stole the ball on the pass-in!"
    - Johnny Most

    Outstanding Bob Ryan piece in the Globe this morning, talking about the 1965 Boston/Philadelphia series that ended when John Havlicek deflected Hal Greer's inbound pass, Johnny Most's call of same, and the NBA in general.

  • The Celtics are now 3 up on Philadelphia with 3 to play, needing only 1 more win or 1 Philly loss to clinch the Atlantic Division and the 3rd seed in the East. But they're a lot further away from a home court advantage in the first round. They are currently even with Washington (though holding the tie-breaker vs. the Wizards) and 1 game ahead of Indiana (who would have the tie-breaker advantage against them). If they maintain that position, they'll have the home court advantage in their first series. But if Washington finishes 6th with a better record, or Indiana finishes 6th with the same or better record, the Celtics would be the 3rd seed, but the 6th seed would have the home court.

  • The Red Sox bombed former Red Sox pitcher Hideo Nomo last night for 8 runs in 2+ innings. But former Red Sox pitcher Casey Fossum, one of the keys to the Curt Schilling trade, was very effective for four scoreless innings in the 10-0 Boston win.

  • The big story, however, was the 7 scoreless innings from David Wells. In the 3rd inning on Sunday in Toronto, Wells gave up back-to-back-to-back home runs with 2 outs. Since then, he's thrown 10 2/3 innings, allowing 5 singles, 3 doubles, no walks and only 1 run, which scored after he'd left the game. In other words, he's been David Wells. He's going to be effective, and we've now seen what that looks like.
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    Thursday, April 14, 2005

    Red Sox vs. Yankees - another barn-burner

    Since May 18, 2003, a span of less than 2 calendar years, the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees have played 58 times. They've played 44 regular season games with the Red Sox leading 23-21. They've split 14 post-season games, with the Yankees winning a 7-game ALCS in 2003 and the Red Sox winning a 7-game ALCS in 2004.

    Red Sox vs. Yankees since May 18, 2003


    New York2123226246


    New York777570


    New York2830301316

    There's a certain drama inherent in Yankee/Red Sox match-ups. But these two teams always seem to raise it a couple of notches. No lead is ever safe. And it's never easy. In the play-offs 2 years ago, we had the Pedro Martinez/Don Zimmer altercation and the brawl in the bullpens in Fenway. Last July, we had Jason Varitek and Alex Rodriguez instigating a benches-clearing brawl, in a game that the Red Sox eventually won on a walk-off home run against Mariano Rivera. In the play-offs last year, we had the riot squads on the field in New York. And tonight, we had Red Sox hitting coach Ron Jackson and Manager Terry Francona ejected by home plate umpire Greg Gibson (who had an awful night), and Gary Sheffield tangling with a fan in the right field stands. And when the dust had all cleared, the Yankees had taken 2 of 3 in New York, and the Red Sox had taken 2 of 3 in Boston.

  • The initial reaction to the altercation in right from the NESN broadcasters was that the fan had taken a swing at Sheffield. The AP was even worse:
    Sheffield was fielding Jason Varitek's two-run triple along the right-field fence in the eighth inning of Boston's 8-5 victory Thursday night when a fan swung a short uppercut in his direction, appearing to graze the side of the slugger's face with his right arm.

    I'm sorry - I don't see it. I've watched the replays several times, and I don't think that there's anything that looks remotely like an intentional swing at Sheffield. It may have been, but it sure doesn't look like it. It looks like he was leaning over to watch the play and lost his balance. Sheffield came very close to costing himself some games, but he stopped in time, and I don't think a suspension is warranted.

  • Edgar Renteria had a big night, with a two-run homer and a double to drive in the go-ahead (and eventual winning) run in the 8th.

  • Jason Varitek had a big night, with a mammoth home run to tie it up after the Yankees had taken a 5-4 lead, and a 2-run triple to pad the lead in the 8th.

  • Randy Johnson was the big reason that the Yankees are now supposed to have a better rotation than the Red Sox. Through 3 starts, he's 1-0 with 2 no decisions, one very good start and two very mediocre ones. (He could easily be 1-2, but for a lot of offensive support pulling him even after allowing the opponents big leads.) Through 3 starts, he averaging 6 1/3 IP with an ERA of 4.74. That's not what they're paying him for. And frankly, it's not good enough for what they need. If his numbers at the end of the year look anything like they look now, there's an excellent chance that the Yankees will not only not win the AL East, they won't win the Wild Card, either.

  • Manny Ramirez is now homerless in his first 9 games, the longest homerless streak to start a season in his career.

  • Did I mention that Greg Gibson had a terrible night behind the plate? Just in case I didn't, let me say this - Greg Gibson had a terrible night behind the plate. The Yankees scored 4 runs in the 4th after Sheffield walked on strike 3 with 2 outs. Yes, he was bad both ways, but that had disproportionate impact on Arroyo, who's not a swing-and-miss pitcher, as opposed to Johnson, who is.

  • Of course, the worst umpiring call happened at first base on the first play of the game, when Renteria made a great stop on a ball into the hole by Tony Womack, but threw wide to first only to have the umpire completely miss the fact that there was no tag and call Womack out.

  • And now the teams are done with each other until May 27. They're tied at 4-5 each, 3 games behind the hot-starting Toronto Blue Jays. I would bet that they'll be first and second in the AL East when they meet again in May...

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    If the constitution means what it says, why are we doing this?

    Mike Krempasky at Red State has a piece about Congressman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) introducing a bill in Congress to "exclude the Internet from the definition of "public communication" in the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act of 2002". While that's probably a good thing, I think that the entire FEC is out of control. Instead of piddling around the edges of the BCFRA, it is time for radical action.

    It is time to amend the constitution.

    The language I'm thinking we should use is something to the effect of "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." You know, something like that.

    Anyway, that would obviously supersede any attempt by the Federal Government to regulate speech on the internet, right?

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    Wandering the sports pages...

  • With their win over the Bucks in Milwaukee last night, the Celtics have clinched a play-off spot, even if the ESPN standings page doesn't seem to have realized it yet. They've got 35 losses with 4 games left, and are one of the 8 Eastern Conference teams with fewer than 40 losses, so they've clinched. Winning just 2 of their last 4 would guarantee that they win the Atlantic Division, something they've not accomplished since 1992, when the roster featured Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. It's a weak division, it's not the greatest accomplishment (assuming they pull it off) and they're not yet a legitimate contender, but it's something.

  • When Ainge took over 2 years ago, they were a 44-38 team getting swept out in the second round of the play-offs. They could very easily be a 44-38 team getting swept out in the second round of the play-offs again this year. Yet if you look at the roster composition right now compared to what it was two years ago, it's hard to come to any other conclusion than Ainge has done a great job so far. They're at least as good as they were when he was hired, but significantly younger and more talented.

  • The Patriots' schedule was released yesterday, along with everyone else's. Some of the highlights:

    • They've got 4 prime-time games

      • Thursday, September 8 - Kicking off the NFL season at home against Oakland

      • Sunday, October 30 - Coming off their bye, at home against Buffalo

      • Monday, November 7 - 1 week after hosting the Sunday night game, they host the Monday night game against the Colts.

      • Monday, December 26 - The day after Christmas, 3 weeks after hosting the Jets, they play in New York on Monday night

    • In addition, they've got 4:15 games at Pittsburgh and Denver, and hosting the Jets, as well as a Saturday afternoon game hosting the Buccaneers in December.

    • They play only 2 home games before their week 7 bye.

    • They've got back-to-back road games twice in the first 6 weeks. Because they open and close at home, they've only got back-to-back home games once during the season. Their last 9 games are all alternating home-away.

  • Schilling made his debut for the Red Sox last night, and was strong for four innings, and OK for 5. He gave up 2 HR in the 6th that provided the margin in the Yankee 5-2 win. The big problem was the Boston offense, and, in particular, the opportunities wasted by David Ortiz. With runners on 2nd and 3rd and 1 out in the first, he hit a weak fly ball to left that didn't get a run in. With the bases loaded and 1 out in the 3rd, he hit a medium fly ball to left, far enough to get 1 run in, but not to advance anyone else. His first two at-bats, he had 5 men on base, 4 in scoring position, and brought in 1 while making two outs. Jaret Wright wasn't particularly effective, but they let him off the hook. I continue to be unimpressed with the Yankee rotation, with, as always, the exception of Johnson. Tonight, the Red Sox face him with Bronson Arroyon on the mound. Last night, the Red Sox had the better starter and lost. Can they turn the tables tonight?

    Johnson, 1-0, 3.75
    Arroyo, 1-0, 3.00

    Anyone want to make the case that the Red Sox have a starting pitching edge tonight?

  • In 2003, Manny Ramirez went homerless in his first 8 games, the longest stretch to start a season in his career. If he fails to hit one out tonight, he'll extend his current streak to 9.

  • One of my pet peeves is people who greet any statistical information with the old "lies, damned lies and statistics", what I like to call the "mating cry of the innumerate". But there sure are things that get thrown around as if relevant that really aren't, people that "use statistics like a drunk uses a lamppost - not for illumination but for support." There was a wonderful example of that in yesterday's Mike Vaccaro panic piece in the NY Post, in which he wrote the splendid paragraph:
    Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera have never missed the postseason, which is remarkable, and even more astonishing if you think that Mickey Mantle missed October six times in 18 years as a Yankee, Joe DiMaggio three times in 13 years, Lou Gehrig seven times in 17 years and Babe Ruth eight times in 15 years.

    Wow - sounds impressive, right?

    Of course, Dimaggio (and Ruth and Mantle) played in a time when you had to have the best record in the league to play post-season ball. Jeter came up in 1995, the same year the baseball went to a 3-division format with a wild card. Now, not only did you not have to win your league to make the play-offs, you didn't even need to win your division. Since Jeter first came up, the Yankees have won their division 8 of 10 years. They've had the best record in the AL, however, only 5 of 10. Dimaggio's Yankee teams had the best record in the AL in 10 of his 13 years. And all 3 of the Dimaggio Yankee teams that didn't win the AL had better records than the 2000 Yankees.

    Even Mantle, who played several seasons into the decline of that edition of the Yankee dynasty, and which Jeter's team hasn't fully reached yet, had the best record in the AL in 12 of his 18 seasons. 4 of the 6 seasons in which Mantle's teams didn't make the post-season were in the early 60s, when the team was old and the pitching was gone. And at least one the other two were seasons that would have resulted in post-season play in the Jeter era. The 1954 Yankees won 103, and finished 8 games behind the 111 win Cleveland Indians.

  • Nate Silver has an interesting piece (pay-side only) at the Baseball Prospectus site on the possible effects of change-ups on BABiP. When Voros McCracken developed the DIPs statistic, he identified that knuckleball pitchers did have some small tendency to reduce hits on balls in play. Nate's research indicates that it may be true of pitchers with extremely effective change-ups as well.
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    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    NRO on judges

    One of the big issues facing this country right now is the rule of judge. From the 9th circuit decision that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional to the Massachusetts SJC's outrageous Goodrich decision to Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy's appeal to international law in Roper v. Simmons, there is the appearance of a fundamental disconnect between the proper constitutional function of our nation's courts and the functions that they are assuming. There are many courts that act to make, as Antonin Scalia so accurately put it, their own "personal policy preferences" into law.

    There's a National Review Online editorial today that sums the problem up perfectly in one line.

    "It is profoundly unhealthy for the republic to have a judiciary that effectively defines the limits of its own power."


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    Good Felger column - not, as previously thought, an oxymoron

    I don't like Michael Felger. I think he's a mediocre reporter, nothing special as a writer, and utterly obnoxious on the radio. He's a left-liberal who thinks it's funny and appropriate to complain that the Terry Cashman song on opening day was "gay. It was a gay song."

    That said, he has an excellent piece in the Boston Herald today, addressing the Patriots draft tendencies and techniques. Some of the highlights:

  • Through five drafts in Foxboro, the philosophies of Belichick and Pioli have become clear.
    We all know the buzz words. They want players who are coachable, versatile and tough. They value position flexibility on the field and character off it. They demand football intelligence. They want size, speed and strength, but those traits don't have to be a player's defining characteristic.
    They believe the most important skill for a wide receiver is catching the ball -- not running or jumping. They believe the most important attribute for a lineman is leverage -- not bench-press strength. They like their linebackers big and don't care if their cornerbacks are small, as long as they are willing to tackle.

  • With a few notable exceptions -- Tom Brady [news], Richard Seymour [news], Corey Dillon and Rodney Harrison [news] among them -- the Pats are a team made up of role players. And the way [Gary] Horton [an area scout under Belichick in Cleveland in 1991] sees it, that's the way Belichick and Pioli draft.
    "I remember sitting in a meeting with Bill that first year in Cleveland and the scouts were going around explaining what this guy does wrong and what this other guy does wrong and on and on. It was all criticism. And Bill said, 'Stop telling me what this guy does wrong. I want to know what he does well. Let's focus on that, and I won't even worry about the rest of it. We just won't ask him to do those things.'
    "And you can see he still does that. Everyone else seems to be looking for the perfect player, and he's just the opposite. He says, 'Find out what they do well, we'll use them in that situation for 20 snaps and be thrilled with it.'"

  • "Going back again to that first year with the Browns, Bill came in and for three straight days he held meetings with the scouting staff going over the entire roster and what he expected out of every position," said Horton. "We must have spent four hours on nose tackles, going over exactly what he wanted from that position. It was all very well-defined. And I don't think he's changed that much. Thorough, extremely hard working. That's Bill."

  • Belichick got a bad rap coming out of Cleveland. He built a good team there, starting with an awful one, and improved every year, until he went 11-5 and won a play-off game (against the Patriots.) The following year, they got off to a mediocre start, then it was announced that the team was moving to Baltimore, and everything cratered. Vince Lombardi, assissted by Knute Rockne and Paul Brown, couldn't have won in that situation. Before the move was announced, he'd built something very similar to what he's built in New England - a smart, tough, physical football team. If he'd found a Tom Brady instead of Vinnie Testaverde, he might have won a Super Bowl in Cleveland, very likely at least an AFC Championship. The Patriots were very lucky to get him.

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    Boston Sports Guy at opening day

    Mullet, at The House That Dewey Built, went after some comments in the latest Bill Simmons (AKA Boston SportsGuy) column. And he's absolutely right.
    The emphasis is mine, but the words are his. Pedro’s absence was unconscionable and unforgivable? Does it take Simmons or his editors at Page 2 too long to click over to their baseball page ... to see that Pedro Martinez and the New York Mets had their home opener on Monday as well? I don’t know, maybe it was best for Pedro to join his teammates for his first appearance in Shea Stadium as a member of the Mets, a team that will be paying him $53 million dollars?

    As much as I love Pedro, and I truly do love the guy, I’ll admit that there are plenty of legitimate reasons to harp on him. This simply isn’t one of them.

    Absolutely correct.

    But there were a couple of other things that irritated me in the column. Let me say up front that I'm not the BSG fan that a lot of people are. I've been reading him, off and on, since the early days of the AOL only BSG, and I think the same thing now that I thought then - there are occasional clever remarks, he's sometimes very funny, but there's far, far too much that isn't entertaining, enlightening or educational. He needs an editor.

    And there were several things in the opening day column that were either irritating or just wrong.

    On Monday afternoon, we finally had the chance to pay our respects to last year's team.

    You know, it's funny, but I thought we'd already done that. I have vivid memories of a drizzling October day and hundreds of thousands (at least) of screaming fans watching a long parade of the 2004 Boston Red Sox in duck boats, "pay[ing] our respects".

    When I met some friends at a bar called Dillon's on Boylston Street, both bartenders were wearing Red Sox gear and the waitress was sporting an "I BELIEVE" shirt. These are the things that happen when your team wins the World Series.
    These are the things that happen when you live in Boston. Was yesterday the first time those bartenders wore Red Sox gear and "I BELIEVE" T-shirts? I don't think so. There were a lot of them around when they were down 3-1 in the 2004 ALCS, for example.

    Then he demonstrates why he's just a fan and not actually in position to make roster decisions.
    For instance, the front office made the incredible decision to tinker with a championship team, revamping the starting rotation, changing shortstops, overhauling the bench and threatening last year's unique chemistry.

    In the first place, "last year's unique chemistry" was over. Every team, every year, has it's own personality. 98% [fabricated statistic alert] of the Red Sox/Patriots comparisons I've heard since 2001 are utterly nonsensical, because of the fundamental differences in the games, seasons and roster construction restrictions. But this is a legitimate comparison - every team, every year, has it's own personality.

    Secondly, circumstances made the "incredible decision to tinker with a championship team". Derek Lowe was a free agent who was mediocre in 2003 and awful in 2004, two excellent October starts notwithstanding. Pedro Martinez was a free agent that they tried to retain, only to have someone make a silly offer. They could have re-signed Orlando Cabrera, I suppose, but the evidence that he was an irreplaceable part, particularly since they upgraded with a better player, escapes me. I suppose that they could have kept Dave Roberts on the bench and miserable instead of upgrading the back-up infielder and getting a better outfielder and hitter back. They kept Mirabelli. They paid obeisance to the chemistry issue by overpaying Varitek. I think it's legitimate to suggest that they might have done a better job in replacing the starting pitching, though as I've made clear, I think they're fine, but the rest of the roster looks even better than last year.

    One of the biggest and easiest mistakes to make is falling in love with players that win a championship for you. You end up locked into old guys on the down-hill slide, and overpaying for replacement parts. The Red Sox did an excellent balancing act this off-season, identifying the key guys (Varitek) and not overpaying for the replaceable ones (Cabrera, Lowe).

    We watched everyone move to center field, the conquering brigade, with Ortiz and Pesky walking arm in arm. They raised the 2004 flag together, a red triangle whipping happily in the wind.

    I'll cut him slack on this, because he may not have been able to tell from his seat, but Ortiz and Pesky didn't raise the flag, as he seems to be saying here. It was Pesky and Yaz.

    Regardless, she's entering a world where the Red Sox aren't considered lovable losers, where we can watch playoff games without enduring dozens upon dozens of Babe Ruth references, where 35,000 people aren't secretly expecting the worst possible outcome in every big game.

    In reverse order, I suspect that 35,000 people will still be secretly expecting the worst possible outcome, only possibly now with more hope that it won't come.

    We will, at least for the next couple of years, have to continue enduring dozens upon dozens of Babe Ruth references, though the beginning of the end is in sight for that. Assuming that they win again fairly quickly, of course. If 10 years from now, they haven't got another one, I'm not convinced that the media won't go back to it.

    And lastly, one of my pet peeves, the Red Sox haven't ever been "lovable losers." Never. When they were losers (before 1967), they weren't lovable. Fenway Park was empty. Since 1966, they've been one of the most successful teams in baseball. Consistently. Since 1966, they've got more >.500 finishes than any other team in baseball. They've got a better cumulative winning percentage than anyone except the Yankees. There are only 5 teams with a higher average finish in their division. They've been anything but losers - they've just (painfully) failed to win the World Series. Until last year. The Cubs have had 14 winning seasons in the last 40. The Cubs have consistently filled their stadium despite an average finish of 4th in their division. The Cubs have been "lovable losers". The Mets have been "lovable losers", back in the 1960s. The Red Sox, for the past 40 years, have not. Ever. They've been lovable, and they've been losers, but never, ever at the same time.

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