Saturday, July 30, 2005

Military media coverage

No Right Answers - an anonymous Navy chief comments - brilliantly - on the media coverage of matters military. Read and enjoy...

(H/T to John Hawkins)

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Yankee bullpen woes - shocking, but Embree didn't fix 'em

Riding out to do a couple of errands for my wife a little earlier this afternoon, I was listening to the Yankee game (sometimes those New York AM stations can come in pretty well in northern MA and southern NH). The thing that particularly caught my attention was how enthusiastic both Sterling and Waldman were to have Alan Embree, released by the Red Sox with a 7.65 ERA. They were exulting in the belief that boy, that Yankee bullpen, with "professionals" like Felix Rodriguez and Alan Embree, was all set now. And they seemed to think that Embree, who's always thrown a straight over-the-top fastball and whom lefties have always hit, was a lefty-specialist.

So the Yankees take a 3-1 lead into the 7, and here comes that 'pen... (pbp via Sportsline)

Angels 7th
Felix Rodriguez pitching:
Jeff DaVanon: Foul, Ball, Strike looking, Foul, Ball, Ball, DaVanon walked.
Alan Embree relieved Felix Rodriguez.
Adam Kennedy: Pickoff attempt, Strike looking, Strike looking, Kennedy singled to left, DaVanon to second.
Chone Figgins: Ball, Figgins reached on fielder's choice to pitcher, DaVanon scored, Kennedy to third, Figgins to second on pitcher Embree's throwing error.
Tom Gordon relieved Alan Embree.

So those "professionals" faced 3 batters and retired none. They gave up a hit, a walk, and committed an error to allow another runner to reach. In the process, they blew the game, wasting an excellent 6 inning stint from Shawn Chacon, making his Yankee debut.

I'll definitely have to call up the game and listen to the Sterling/Waldman call of the Angels' 7th...

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Red Sox / Yankee tidbits.

The Baseball Crank did an interesting little analysis yesterday, looking at the Red Sox and Yankees down the stretch, historically. It should come as a shock to absolutely no one that the Yankees have traditionally played better in the last two months of the season, and the Red Sox worse.

I predict that that trend continues, in spades, if the Red Sox are dumb enough to turn Manny Ramirez into a bag of baseballs, as so many rumors are predicting that they will. A couple of points:
  • The Yankees front office, as of a couple of hours ago, were reportedly telling people that the deal was done, that Ramirez was going to the Mets. By all accounts, that was premature, to say the least.

  • The Yankee and Blue Jay and Oriole front offices are all thrilled with the prospect of any of the purported Ramirez trades taking place. Does the Red Sox front office really need to know any more than that to say "NO!"?

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The Schumer standard

I missed this a couple of days ago, but there's an excellent Weekly Standard piece by Steven G. Calabresi suggesting the Senator Chuck Schumer be held to the same standards that he's recommending for John Roberts...

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Wisdom on the Manny situation

Words of wisdom:
The bottom line is that Manny Ramirez had a day off on Wednesday is OK. I took a day off in Chicago and it wasn't front page. But Manny Ramirez has a day off and we play in Tampa Bay. If we're not confident to start Adam Stern in the big leagues in right field, then why is he on the major league roster?

- Kevin Millar (of all people!) echoing me...

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Analysis of a bad (rumored) trade

The rumors are swirling rabidly (it seems that ESPN has two people devoted - full time - to this trade rumor) that the Red Sox are going to send Manny Ramirez to the Mets, with the help of the Devil Rays. The trade that's being talked about:

Proposed Trade

Major LeaguersManny RamirezRed SoxMets

Aubrey HuffDevil RaysRed Sox

Mike CameronMetsRed Sox

Danys BaezDevil RaysMets

Minor LeaguersKelly ShoppachRed SoxDevil Rays

Anibel SanchezRed SoxDevil Rays

Yusmeiro PetitMetsDevil Rays

Lastings MilledgeMetsDevil Rays

A lot of player movement there. Let's break it down by team, to see what it looks like for each organization:

Proposed Trade
Gives upReceives

BostonManny RamirezAubrey Huff

Anibel SanchezMike Cameron

Kelly Shoppach

New YorkMike CameronManny Ramirez

Yusmeiro PetitDanys Baez

Lastings Milledge

Tampa BayAubrey HuffKelly Shoppach

Danys BaezAnibel Sanchez

Yusmeiro Petit

Lastings Milledge

We can see why Tampa Bay would be eager to do this. Aubrey Huff's a decent player, but he's not going to be a part of the first winning Devil Rays team, and neither is Danys Baez. And, while always remembering that TINSTAAPP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect), Sanchez and Petit are very high ceiling players. So Tampa Bay gives up 2 Major League player that have limited value for them and gets 4 high-level prospects. Good deal for them.

The Mets are giving up a couple of top prospects, but the change from Mike Cameron to Manny Ramirez is an enormous upgrade for a team that's in the middle of the pack in run-scoring, and only 4 games out in the Wild Card race. And add in a closer, when their other big problem has been the end of the bullpen. Their giving up value and getting value, trading the future for the present.

But how are the Red Sox benefiting? By VORP, Manny's been worth 34.3 runs so far this season, Cameron and Huff have combined for less than 32. They're downgrading their Major League team, and giving up two high-level prospects to do it. This trade, as outlined, makes no sense from the Red Sox point of view. They've got a 2 1/2 game lead in the AL East, and they don't need to downgrade their team headed into the last two months...

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Friday, July 29, 2005

More on Manny

This just in: Manny Ramirez is not a perfect baseball player. Manny Ramirez is not a perfect human being.

Some people seem shocked - shocked! - to discover that. It's a discovery that's launch a thousand lines, or a thousand times a thousand line, of outrage and hyperbole. As it did last year. And the year before. And the year before that. It's an annual event, as much a part of the baseball season as the All Star break, as the Boston media, and particularly the ranters on WEEI, scream and shout and wave their hands in the air, at least metaphorically, at the "outrages" that Manny commits against his teammates, the fans, the management, baseball and, apparently, humanity.

I've made it quite clear what I think about the Manny issue. But there's a lot of commentary out there in the Boston sports media, and I want to address it again. A certain amount of it is just noise, but some of it's particularly irritating. First, let's examine the situation.

First, from the Boston Globe:
According to manager Terry Francona, Ramirez wanted a day off Sunday in Chicago. Sensing the importance of the game -- the White Sox began last week's series against Boston with baseball's best record -- Francona asked Ramirez to wait until Wednesday in Tampa Bay.

But Trot Nixon landed on the disabled list Tuesday night with a strained oblique muscle. Short on outfielders, Francona approached Ramirez that night and asked if he could play the following day. Ramirez said he needed the day off, leading Francona to start Kevin Millar in left field for only the fifth time in his career.

Next, from the Boston Herald:
The short story: The Red Sox were going to give Ramirez a day off in Chicago last weekend, but the club and player agreed to postpone that day until yesterday. But when Nixon went down to a strained left oblique Tuesday - the right fielder was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday - the Sox went to Ramirez and asked him to adjust.
Ramirez said no.
Explained Sox manager Terry Francona of the exchange: ``After (Tuesday's) game, we went to him and asked, and he said, `I still need it (off).' So we gave it to him.''

So Manny needed a day off. He'd played or traveled every day (to and from the All Star game) for 2 1/2 weeks and said he needed an off-day. After agreeing to give him a day off in Chicago, the manager came to him, asked him to re-schedule it for Wednesday, and Manny agreed. Wednesday arrived and because of the injury to Nixon, they asked him to put it off again. He said that he needed it, so he got the day off, and they went ahead and won without him.

Does that sound like a hanging offense? It sure doesn't to me. Whatever the reason, if he needed a day off, either for his physical or mental well-being, they're better off with him taking it than playing and getting hurt. It's not Manny's fault that Nixon got hurt Tuesday night. Would it have helped the team to have a tired Manny pull a hamstring running out a ground ball on Wednesday and have to join him on the DL? Obviously, there's no way of knowing whether that would have happened, but we're talking about 1 game out of 162. Does the fact that Trot's on the DL mean that Manny can't have another off-day the rest of the year? If not, why does it matter that it was the first Trot-less game as opposed to the 7th or 32nd?

I can understand how the manager might be irritated that he asked Manny to give up his day off and Manny declined, but it still seems like a grotesque overreaction is taking place on the airwaves.

The following quotes are from the weekly radio interview of Red Sox President Larry Lucchino by Gerry Callahan and John Dennis on WEEI.

On whether Manny can be traded:
LL: "I think it's hard, because of the size of his contract"
GC: "And the size of his heart."

That had me swearing at the radio. Who the [expletive deleted] is Gerry Callahan to be questioning Manny Ramirez' "heart?" How does he know what's in Manny's heart, or his head, or his hamstrings?

We know that Damon's playing hurt, because they make a big deal about it. We know when Nixon's playing hurt, because they make a big deal about it. Do we know when Manny's playing hurt? What Major League player isn't banged up, sore, tired, 100 games into the season? With most guys, a big deal doesn't get made about it. Who's started more games for the Red Sox than Manny Ramirez this year? David Ortiz, who doesn't play the field. That's it, the only one. Other than Ortiz, only Damon has played in as many games as Manny, and no one's made as many starts.

JD: "Either this is a brilliant plot by Manny to 'Jay Payton' his way out of Boston ... or he's a complete and total moron who doesn't realize that what he did the last two nights disrespects his team, the uniform, the game and the organization all at once."

That's about the level of intellectual discourse provided. Lucchino, to his ever-lasting credit (and I'm not a particular fan of his), didn't buy it, and expressed, intelligently, that there may well be a reasonable and rational explanation for Manny's behaviour.

GC: "Do you think he notices what Damon does, and Renteria, and Varitek, and Schilling, and Clement? Do you think he notices how they put their heart and soul into it, how they take on the obligation of playing every day, and playing hurt?"

What the hell is he talking about? All of those guys get more days off than Manny. Varitek only plays 4 games out of 5. How the hell is Clement relevant to this discussion? And, again, is Renteria (who gets more off-days) hurt more than Manny is? What injuries has Edgar had? This is just utter nonsense, Manny-bashing for the sake of Manny-bashing.

And one of my favorite writers, Art Martone, the sports editor of the Providence Journal, a smart guy that "gets it" as a general rule, gets into the act, too:
As we said, this isn't Manny Ramirez having a brain cramp and doing something on the field that you'd normally only see in a T-ball game. This is Manny Ramirez deliberately, and against the team's expressed wishes, placing his own interests ahead of the needs of the Red Sox.

The Red Sox "need" for a healthy Manny Ramirez over the next 3 months VASTLY outweighed their "need" to have Manny play yesterday. The fact is that Manny's long-term "interests" and the team's long-term "interests" are actually the same right now - to have Manny get the proper amount of rest to maximize his playing time and productivity throughout the baseball season. It's not "placing his own interests ahead of the needs of the Red Sox" if he really needed a day off.

A couple more things:

"Ramirez didn't run out a 10th-inning ground ball Tuesday night in an extra-inning game the Sox won."
- Chris Snow, Boston Globe

This is the other thing that Manny's getting hammered about. When Dennis and Callahan talked about the "last two nights", this is the first thing being mentioned. In the top of the 10th on Tuesday, with the Sox up 9-8, he hit a double-play ground ball to 2nd and trotted down to first. He absolutely didn't look to be top-speed sprinting. Not that it mattered - the fact was that it was a play that, if the defense handled everything properly, he'd be out regardless of how hard he "ran." So he didn't sprint down the line, just headed to first, in case the defense screwed up.

Interestingly enough, he was actually safe on that play where he "didn't run." True, there was a bad throw required for that to happen. But a good defensive play would have had him regardless of how hard he ran. There's a lot of baseball "hustle" that's just "hustle for show." Manny doesn't usually bother. One time in a hundred, that will cost him a chance to be safe when there's a bad defensive play, but not quite bad enough, but it's silly to be up-in-arms about it. While you'd love him to run hard all the time, that's not part of his game. Stop whining about it.

"[T]his is a refusal to play on a day when the Red Sox truly needed him."
- Art Martone, Providence Journal

Final score of that game that the Red Sox "truly needed him" for: Boston 4, Tampa Bay 1.

I guess they didn't "truly need" him after all...

One of the things that you need to recognize in order to be successful in this world is that everyone is different. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, everyone is motivated differently. In order to manage people, you need to recognize and accomodate those differences. You need to determine whether the weaknesses outweigh the strengths or the other way around. Manny Ramirez is a great baseball player. According to all of the information available to us, he works very hard at his craft, putting in long hours every day. If he needs a day or two, or five, off during the course of the season, because his legs hurt, or he's tired, or he's irritated by the press, then that's one of the weaknesses. Looking at what he's done, it seems extraordinarily silly to let a half-dozen days off when you'd rather he'd played outweigh the 150+ games that he does play, and the offense he produces over the course of the year. This isn't football, where the success of every play depends on the proper execution and timing of 11 players. Baseball is, at it's core, an individual game, where the outcome of the game is determined by the results of the batter-pitcher matchups. Very few players in history have been more successful at those matchups than Manny Ramirez, and if Manny's day off results in worse performance by Jason Varitek or Johnny Damon or Bill Mueller, that's their fault, not Manny's. One would think, or at least hope, that the front office does, in fact, understand all of this, even if there are members of the media that don't, or at least purport not to for the sake of their own ratings...

Update: Chris Lynch has got some good thoughts on this as well...

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Red Sox in the Potter-verse...

LOL! Over at Blue Cats and Red Sox, someone's been photo-shopping the Red Sox into Harry Potter's world…

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Exploring a false analogy

Daniel Macintyre has an outstanding rebuttal to one piece of that NEA article I wrote about the other day. Must-read stuff...

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The Red Sox' problem child

(Just for a little context and perspective, I wrote this a couple of years ago, when the anti-Manny fervor was at a particularly high point. As the feeding frenzy swirls - again - after Manny's decision to take yesterday's promised day-off even after the Nixon injury, it seems appropriate...)

The Boston Red Sox have got a problem. They've got a player and they don't know if they want him back or not. He's a great player, but the behavioral issues may be more trouble than they're worth.

They've got an expensive outfielder, Mr. R-, who's not as complete a player as some would like to see. He's cost them a lot of money, and will cost more in the future. And he's not the "5-tool" player that media and fans crave.

Take his defense, for example. He's an average and indifferent defender, far more concerned with hitting than with fielding. He's got a decent arm, but doesn't always throw the ball to the right place.

And then there's the baserunning. He's not a very good baserunner. He doesn't always pay attention on the bases, running into outs, getting picked off, jogging instead of sprinting on easy ground balls. Yes, he's a great hitter, but is that enough?

And there are problems off the field, as well. If you're looking for a player who's disciplined, a player who responds well to management, who respects authority, you need to look somewhere else. Mr. R- marches to the beat of his own drummeer, doing what he wants when he wants regardless of the potential impact on his teammates. Is the manager in charge of this team? Not really, at least so far as Mr. R- is concerned. He lives his own life and does his own thing. Yes, he's a great hitter, but is that enough?

Can the team survive with this kind of player? Can they succeed? Maybe, just maybe, they can find someone to take this expensive player off of their hands. But should they? Yes, he's a great hitter, but is that enough?

And should anyone else be willing to take a chance on him? Yes, he's a great hitter, but is that enough? Why should anyone else be willing to take this overpaid problem child off of the Red Sox' hands? After all, pitching is the name of the game. Defense and pitching wins championships, and hitting just doesn't matter. So a great hitter who's an average defender, poor baserunner and responds poorly to management just has to be more trouble than he's worth, right? It seems that the only thing for Red Sox management to do is to find someone on whom to dump Mr. R-...

So long, Mr. George Herman "Babe" Ruth. It was nice knowing you. You can be someone else's problem now...

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Not all wins are the same...

For today's guest commentary on the Red Sox, we reach back to 279 BC and the Greek General Pyrrhus.

"Another such victory and I shall be ruined."
- Pyrrhus, following his defeat of the Romans at Asculum

Midway through the top of the third inning, things looked good for the Red Sox. Facing a pitcher who'd started (and lost) against them just a week earlier, who'd faced 6 batters and retired none, they had a 4 run lead with runners still on when the evening started to go sour. First, Trot Nixon hurt himself swinging, and had to leave the game in the middle of the at-bat, headed for what is likely to be a lengthy DL stint. Then, leading 5-0 in the bottom of the 3rd, Matt Clement took a line drive off his face and lay motionless for several minutes before being taken off the field on a stretcher. (At the moment, the damage to Clement physically seems to be limited - the mental and emotional damage, potentially much worse, is unknowable.) To add insult to injury, Chad Bradford, who doesn't give up home runs, gave up a grand slam, allowing two of Clement's inherited runners to score, and allowing Tampa Bay to tie the game.

When Edgar Renteria's 7th inning error (mistakenly called a hit by the official scorer) allowed the Devil Rays to take an 8-6 lead, it looked unlikely that even a Pyrrhic victory would be achievable. (And as bad as Pyrrhic victories are, Pyrrhic losses are even worse.) But the Sox scored 2 in the bottom of the 9th to tie. Then, in one of the most stirring sequences on a stirring evening, Johnny Damon sent the game into extra innings with a leaping catch against the centerfield fence to end the 9th, and on the next pitch homered to lead off the 10th. The Sox would score once more, then hang on for dear life in the bottom of the 10th for a 10-9 win.

  • After setting a new Major League record by playing no extra-inning games in their first 98, they've now gone 10 in two straight.

  • There's been much criticism of Dale Sveum in certain corners of Red Sox nation for sending Olerud in the 9th. I don't agree with it. It took a good relay followed by a perfect relay to just get him. The Red Sox were out of pitchers at the time. The risk was worth it to take the lead at that point. It didn't work, and that's life, but it's not necessarily great 3rd-base coaching to never get anyone thrown out...

  • Nixon looks to be gone for a while. Will the team consider playing Millar in RF and giving Roberto Petagine a shot? Unfortunately, it looks doubtful.

  • Congratulations to Boston native Manny Delcarmen, who pitched a perfect 8th inning for his Major League debut, striking out the first man that he faced in the show...

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The Political Ad du jour...

2008 election preview...

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

More on (not to be confused with moron) education

Excellent piece at TechCentralStation this morning by Veronique de Rugy (a Research Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute) and Kathryn Newmark (a Research Assistant at the American Enterprise Institute) entitled The Sinkhole Grows. (H/T John Hawkins) They're talking about - what else? - education.

When our first child was born in 1993, my wife had been a teacher in the public schools for 7 years, and we had spent over a year investigating home-schooling. There was no way that we were going to hand our kids off to the school system. There are school systems where we would, I suppose, have considered it, but we weren't near one. So we're home-schooling our 4, and they're thriving.

But there are people out there who are vehemently opposed to homeschooling. The opposition tends to take the form of the same tired arguments every time. Basically, there are two.
  • Teachers are "trained professionals" and parents aren't.

  • Home-schooled children are missing the important "socialization" that happens in school.

Before I go any further, I want to re-iterate something I've said before - there are many great teachers out there in the school systems, and I have nothing but enormous respect for them. I certainly had my fair share. I had excellent math (2) and science (1) and English (3) teachers in High School. I grew up on a high school campus, my parents taught, my siblings have taught, my friends parents taught - I grew up in an environment of teachers. Most of them were great people, and I cannot overstate that, or overstate my opinions of them.

But there are problems, real significant problems, with the schools, and they've gotten worse, not better, in many places over the last half century. The following are some of my thoughts about education in general, and the public schools in particular.

  • People understand that the United Auto Workers represent Auto workers. They recognize that electrician's unions represent electricians. Yet somehow, the Teacher's unions are considered to represent the children. That's wrong. What's good for teachers isn't necessarily good for children. What teachers want is not what children want, which is not what makes a great education.

  • There is a certain minimum funding required to run a school. You've got to have a physical facility, a staff, curricula. There are a lot of schools spending a lot of tax dollars on items that are not necessary to teach children to read and write, math and science and history. Which is what the function of the schools should be.

  • A computer is a tool. Like a hammer. There's no question that it's a tool that can be integrated into the learning process. There's also no question that it's not a necessity. The people that created the computer, the people that landed on the moon, got not only through high school but college without them. In too many places, the computer has become a crutch (when present) and an excuse (when absent). The basics that need to be taught can all be done with books and pencil and paper.

  • Many people, far too many, look on the schools as child care. I'm never certain whether to be amused or infuriated when the talk radio stations spend an hour or two bitching about the inconvenience of arranging to have kids taken care of during April vacation, or teacher's workshop days. The public schools are supposed to be about education - they aren't, far too often, for far too many people. I don't think anyone consciously takes the position that "I raised 'em to age 6 - it's the governments job to do the rest," but there are a lot of indicators that project that position.

  • There are too many agendas driving curricula. No one's satisfied teaching basic skills, basic history. Everything has to have a point of view. Which becomes a problem when the points of view conflict. If half the population wants the children taught about the brave settlers who came across the ocean to found a nation in freedom, and the other half wants the children taught about how the ravaging dead Europeans raped the land and killed the noble natives, there's never going to be an agreeable curriculum. Only one of those points-of-view can be emphasized.

  • There's a difference between not teaching religious beliefs, and teaching irreligious beliefs. The former is a position of neutrality, the latter is a position of religious antipathy. In which direction have we been, as a society, moving for the last 50 years? Has that made things better or worse? You have to answer for yourself, but I know what I believe...

In any event, The Sinkhole Grows addresses (and supports) much of what I believe. A couple of excerpts:
Whenever he can, President Bush touts the huge spending increases necessary to promote his No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But it's not just NCLB funding that has increased: the entire education budget has ballooned during the president's time in office. The Department of Education's budget has grown by 82.5 percent in real terms from $34.9 billion in FY2001 to $63.7 billion in FY2005. This is the largest increase of any president since Lyndon Johnson.

And President Bush's 2006 budget asks for more of the same. Every state sees an increase in grant money, nearly 5 percent on average. The average state receives a level of grant funding that is more than 50 percent higher than when President Bush took office; no state has an increase less than 35 percent.

In spite of the GOP's extravagance, Democrats constantly criticize the Administration for not spending enough. During the presidential campaign, Kerry told voters that the President was not serious about education and promised that, if elected, he would spend an additional $27 billion.

And this:

The only real measure of success is not how much we are spending but whether we are getting the most bang for our bucks. American schools are already very well-funded. Moreover, there is little evidence that additional funding would much improve the quality of education.

In international comparisons of per-pupil expenditures, the U.S. ranks near the top of the list. According to OECD figures, the U.S. spends 78 percent more per primary school student than Germany, 58 percent more than France, 31 percent more than Japan, and 71 percent more than the U.K. But despite these large spending differentials, American students perform no better than average on international comparisons of math and reading skills.

Comparisons over time reveal a similar story. From 1960 to 2000, inflation-adjusted spending on education in the U.S. nearly tripled, yet test scores show little improvement, dropout rates are high, and a large racial achievement gap persists.

Education economist Caroline Hoxby explains that public schools today are doing less with more: school productivity -- achievement per dollar spent -- declined by 55 to 73 percent from 1971 to 1999. Meanwhile, private and charter schools are boosting student achievement with lower expenditures per pupil than public schools. In other words, there is no consistent, systematic relationship between education spending and student outcomes.

A good piece. Read it all...

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Link of the day

Excellent timewaster "game"...

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Two things I think I think

I'm a big fan of Peter King's MMQB at I don't always agree with Peter, but he's generally entertaining, getting a lot of stuff in. Sometimes it's incisive, sometimes it's banal, sometimes it's silly. But it's almost always interesting.*

Anyway, a couple of things caught my eye from today's piece:
I think, still, that the Dolphins brought Ricky Williams back to try to trade him --- either in October or next offseason.

You can't that kind of incisive analysis just anywhere, you know. Martha Stewart, for example, has probably never opined that the Dolphins will want to trade Williams. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, have Mark Steyn or Hillary Clinton.

(We should probably cut Peter a bit of slack, however, as the NFL's been basically off for the last month, as has he.)

I think the reason I can't get all excited about Lance Armstrong -- and this is not to demean his accomplishments -- is that everything he does is due in large measure to a great team and yet all we hear about is Lance Armstrong. Strikes me that bike racing is a team sport, with all the help the leaders of each team get. And yet individuals get the glory.

I don't know where Peter's been getting his tour de France reporting, but Lance's teammates have been praised - repeatedly - and the team has been praised. But the fact is, there are many great teams, and only one Lance. He won in 1999 and 2000 when they said that he couldn't because his team was too weak. Only one of his teammates, George Hincapie, has been with him for all 7 wins. Roberto Heras was with him and is now leading his own team. Floyd Landis was with him and is now leading his own team. Tyler Hamilton was with him and led his own team last year. Yes, Lance's teammates did a great job and they won the team time trial. Yes, he's had great teamwork from his team in setting the paces on the big climbs. But they didn't put that time on Basso in the individual time trials - Lance did that himself. They didn't put the time on Vinokurov and Ullrich in the mountains - Lance did that himself. Lance is the best of the best, and what he's done the past 10 years is one of those stories that only happen in real-life - it's too unrealistic for fiction...

* - I have no interest in the Montclair softball stuff, but it doesn't bother me - I just don't read it...

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You couldn't make this up

I said repeatedly during the last campaign that John Kerry was the most tone-deaf politician that I've ever seen. From the cussing-out of the secret service agent on the ski-slope, to the wind-surfing, to the "reporting for duty," to the "global test," if there was a tone-deaf comment to make he made it, if there was a tone-deaf action to take, he took it.

Well, he's no longer the worst that I've ever seen - we've got a new low.
The family of a Marine who was killed in Iraq is furious with [PA] Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll for showing up uninvited at his funeral this week, handing out her business card and then saying "our government" is against the war.

Rhonda Goodrich of Indiana, Pa., said yesterday that a funeral was held Tuesday at a church in Carnegie for her brother-in-law, Staff Sgt. Joseph Goodrich, 32.

She said he "died bravely and courageously in Iraq on July 10, serving his country."

In a phone interview, Goodrich said the funeral service was packed with people "who wanted to tell his family how Joe had impacted their lives."

Then, suddenly, "one uninvited guest made an appearance, Catherine Baker Knoll."

She sat down next to a Goodrich family member and, during the distribution of communion, said, "Who are you?" Then she handed the family member one of her business cards, which Goodrich said she still has.

You could not make up behavior this repulsive - no one would believe it...

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Another article on the inadequacies of parents to teach their children

I had a fascinating piece (and I mean that in the most sarcastic possible way) on the NEA (National Education Association) website pointed out to me today. It's yet another mind-numbingly conformist list of the standard canards on the woeful inadequacy of un-trained parents to teach their own children (all of the anti-homeschooling articles have the same arguments), and the untold damage that accrues to the little tykes because of the lack of "professionals" to teach them.

I've made it quite clear the high regard I have for good teachers, and there are a lot of them out there. I want to re-iterate that again. I know many people, including my parents, that gave years of their lives to education, and did a phenomenal job. If all teachers were like them, the home-schooling movement would be much, much smaller. That said, all teachers are not like them, there are many bad teachers and horrible schools, and home-schooling is not going away...

Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs
Schools With Good Teachers Are Best-Suited to Shape Young Minds
By Dave Arnold

Really, that says it all, right there in the headline. Of course, there's no self-interest involved when the NEA criticizes home-schooling, oh, nosirree. The NEA, you know, is only interested in the welfare of the children!
There's nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education.

There are few homeowners who can tackle every aspect of home repair. A few of us might know carpentry, plumbing and, let’s say, cementing. Others may know about electrical work, tiling and roofing. But hardly anyone can do it all.

Same goes for cars. Not many people have the skills and knowledge to perform all repairs on the family car. Even if they do, they probably don’t own the proper tools. Heck, some people have their hands full just knowing how to drive.

So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children?

Let's turn that around - why would anyone assume that a parent WOULDN'T know enough about "every academic subject" to home-school their children, at least through high school? Weren't most of them educated by "trained professionals?"
You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals.

Wow. There's the money quote, right there. "Leave ... the shaping of their children's trained professionals."

A simple question, Dave - what if I don't like the shaping that those trained professionals are doing?
That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!

Because we all know that there are no rookies or drunks or incompetents or pedophiles in the public schools. And if there are, it's easy to identify and remove them.

There’s nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Whether it is window-washing, bricklaying or designing a space station.

At this point in time, I start to wonder - "is this serious? Is my leg being pulled? He's comparing teachers to window-washing and bricklaying in terms of experience and training required?" But no, it's on the NEA website.
Certain jobs are best left to the pros. Formal education is one of those jobs.


I guess we're not going to get a because. It's argument by assertion.
Of course there are circumstances that might make it necessary for parents to teach their children at home. For example, if the child is severely handicapped and cannot be transported safely to a school, or is bedridden with a serious disease, or lives in such a remote area that attending a public school is near impossible.

But what about the trained professionals? Should parents be allowed to live "in such a remote area that attending a public school is near impossible" or should they just be forced to move?
The number of parents who could easily send their children to public school but opt for home-schooling instead is on the increase.

Pretty scary, n'est-ce pas?
Several organizations have popped up on the Web to serve these wannabe teachers. These organizations are even running ads on prime time television. After viewing one advertisement, I searched a home school Web site. This site contains some statements that REALLY irritate me!

I know what that's like...
“It’s not as difficult as it looks.”

The “it” is meant to be “teaching.” Let’s face it, teaching children is difficult even for experienced professionals. Wannabes have no idea.

Right. Because reading and addition and subtraction are much harder to teach than speaking and toilet-training and eating and walking and being polite and sharing and ...

The fact is, before any child comes near to one of Dave's "trained professionals," he or she has been home-schooled for years in many and varied life-skills. Parents are teachers, and they're teachers right from the start, "trained professionals" or not.
“What about socialization? Forget about it!”

Forget about interacting with others? Are they nuts? Socialization is an important component of getting along in life. You cannot teach it. Children should have the opportunity to interact with others their own age. Without allowing their children to mingle, trade ideas and thoughts with others, these parents are creating social misfits.


If, in fact, someone ever said "forget about it" about socialization, they were dismissing it as a concern, not as a "goal." The canard is that socialization is taking place when children are herded together to sit quietly among others of their own age. There are two key points to make about "socialization:"

  1. When people talk about "socialization," they're talking about learning behavior, human interaction. Who do you want 5 year-olds learning behavior from, other 5 year-olds? Or adults?

  2. It does not have to take place in a classroom. Socialization takes place whenever children are in contact with other human beings. It takes place at church, it takes place in Sunday school, it takes place at the YMCA, it takes place on the playground. It takes place at sporting events, at museums, at birthday parties and play dates. The fact is that socialization takes place at schools only because children are there, not because it's the best place for socialization to take place.

If this Web site encouraged home-schooled children to join after-school clubs at the local school, or participate in sports or other community activities, then I might feel different. Maine state laws, for example, require local school districts to allow home-schooled students to participate in their athletic programs. For this Web site to declare, “forget about it,” is bad advice.

Maybe they meant "forget about it" in the sense of "don't worry about it - you can socialize your children just fine without putting them into the public school system."
When I worked for Wal-Mart more than 20 years ago, Sam Walton once told me: “I can teach Wal-Mart associates how to use a computer, calculator, and how to operate like retailers. But I can’t teach them how to be a teammate when they have never been part of any team.”

And, of course, the only way to be a part of a team is to be institutionalized starting at age 6, right?
“Visit our online bookstore.”

Buying a history, science or math book does not mean an adult can automatically instruct others about the book’s content.

This is a true statement. So is this: "Getting a Masters of Education degree does not mean an adult can automatically instruct others competently." As anyone who's been through the public schools is well aware...
Another Web site asks for donations and posts newspaper articles pertaining to problems occurring in public schools.

It’s obvious to me that these organizations are in it for the money. They are involved in the education of children mostly in the hope of profiting at the hands of well-meaning but gullible parents.

LOL! The NEA, of course, doesn't profit at all by keeping kids in the public schools...
This includes parents who home-school their children for reasons that may be linked to religious convictions. One Web site that I visited stated that the best way to combat our nation’s “ungodly” public schools was to remove students from them and teach them at home or at a Christian school.

I’m certainly not opposed to religious schools, or to anyone standing up for what they believe in.

Unless they believe in home-schooling...
I admire anyone who has the strength to stand up against the majority. But in this case, pulling children out of a school is not the best way to fight the laws that govern our education system. No battle has ever been won by retreating!

What if I don't want to fight a battle? What if I just want to raise my children? Why do I have to sacrifice their upbringing in a pointless quixotic battle to change the public schools?
Don’t most parents have a tough enough job teaching their children social, disciplinary and behavioral skills?

Doesn't that job get tougher when they have the public schools "shaping" the minds of their children?
They would be wise to help their children and themselves by leaving the responsibility of teaching math, science, art, writing, history, geography and other subjects to those who are knowledgeable, trained and motivated to do the best job possible.

Again, the NEA has a fiscal interest in perpetuating the stereotype that all teachers are "knowledgeable, trained and motivated to do the best job possible," but that doesn't make it so. Just as in every other walk of life, there are good teachers, teachers who are talented and motivated. There are also a lot of mediocre teachers, who'd like to do a good job, but just aren't very good at it, despite the fact that they may know the subject matter. There are teachers who just don't care - they like the hours, the long summer breaks and the fact that it's tough to get fired. If you get the right teachers and the right school, it can be a great experience. There are a lot more iffy situations out there, however, than great ones.

But the really amusing part of this particular article shows up down at the very bottom:
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois.)

There's a wonderful (possibly apocryphal, possibly not) Einstein anecdote that goes something like this:
Albert Einstein was traveling the country, lecturing on his theory of relativity at various colleges and universities. As he didn't drive, he had a driver who accompanied him. At one point the driver made the comment to Einstein that he'd heard the lecture so many times that he could give it himself. Einstein, musing on the fact that no one at the next school knew him, told him to go ahead - they'd switch places.

So Einstein sat in the back of the hall and listened as the driver delivered the lecture flawlessly, and even handled some of the questions from the audience. But then someone asked a question that he hadn't heard before. Thinking quickly, he responded, "that's so easy that I'm going to let my driver answer it."

That's what's basically happening here. The anti-homeschooling arguments are so stale that the NEA is letting the custodian make them.

Not that there's anything wrong with being a custodian, or that he isn't entitled to his viewpoint. But it's still rather amusing to see someone whose entire livelihood comes out of tax revenue and is dependent on enrollment numbers talking about home-schooling as if he weren't personally dependent on people not taking their kids out of the schools.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.

Right. Because all big organizations put opinion columns on their websites that don't reflect their views. Please...

Update: Others addressing this piece -
  • Doug at The Powers That Be

  • Joanne Jacobs

  • Kurt at The Shallow End Of The Gene Pool

  • Spunky

  • Agent Tim
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    Joe Morgan vs. Harry Potter

    In 2003, Michael Lewis wrote a fantastic book called Moneyball, in which he wrote about the success of the "small market" Oakland A's, and their GM Billy Beane. This was met with derision in many parts of the baseball establishment, as new ideas are always a threat to old. This was particularly evident in an interview with Joe Morgan, Hall-of-Fame baseball player and ESPN's "why does he still have a job, because he doesn't know he doesn't know what he's talking about" baseball announcer. Morgan spouted off about how bad and incorrect the book was, and what a mistake it was for Billy Beane to write it, despite never having read it.

    For anyone that wasn't aware of that situation, it's the background for this: Chris Lynch asking Joe Morgan about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. LOL funny - brilliant...

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    Quote of the day

    "The generally accepted notion that the court can only hear roughly 150 cases each term gives the same sense of reassurance as the adjournment of the court in July, when we know the Constitution is safe for the summer."
    - SCOTUS Nominee John Roberts (H/T to John Podhoretz in the Corner)

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    Congratulations Lance

    Every baseball fan knows the hollow feeling that comes on day 2 of the baseball season. Baseball, unlike the other sports, is an everyday event, and you look forward to it, as it flows with the summer, knowing that there's a game tonight basically every night. Then, after the anticipation, you get the special opening day followed by ... a day off.

    Well, I'm feeling a little bit of that today. For the last 3 weeks, with the exception of the past two Mondays, there's been a stage to follow in the morning, and watch the re-broadcast of at night. And now le Tour de France is over for the year, and le Tour de Lance is over for good. It is an event that I've gotten a lot of enjoyment out of over the past couple of years, and I'm sorry to see it end.

    Congratulations to Mr. Armstrong, and to all the riders who finished the race. It's an amazingly grueling 3 weeks, and an incredible accomplishment even to come in last. They rode 2240 miles in 21 separate race stages over 23 days. They rode for over 86 hours, and averaged over 25 miles/hour. 189 men started the race (21 teams of 9) and 155 finished it, representing 27 different countries. All-in-all, a tremendous event...

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    Monday Pythagorean Report

    AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/25/2005









    New York5.54(1)5.13(11)0.534(8)524552450





    Kansas City4.32(14)5.5(13)0.391(13)38603662-2

    Tampa Bay4.48(10)6.03(14)0.368(14)36633564-1

    Top 5 projections (using current winning %)





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





    Standings for the week







    Tampa Bay4.17(10)4(4)0.519(6)33421


    New York5.43(3)5.29(10)0.512(8)4334-1



    Kansas City3.86(12)5.14(9)0.371(11)34431




    4-3, with a split at league-leading Chicago, is not a disaster. They extended their lead by a game over the 2nd place Yankees, and by more over 3rd place (and fading-fast) Baltimore. But they've still been disappointing.

    One of the reasons that this has felt like a lack-luster stretch of baseball is that they've stopped scoring runs. When they left Texas on July 6th, they had a 48-35 record, and a 4 game lead over Baltimore and New York, facing them in their next 8 games. They had an excellent opportunity to basically end the division race. Instead, they lost 6-of-8, and they did it because of putrid offense. Since leaving Texas, they're 6-9, and they're averaging 4.8 runs per game. And they haven't been that good - it's skewed by a 17 run performance again New York. They've averaged 3.9 runs/game in the other 14. That's not going to get it done.

    Red Sox last 15 games

    Manny Ramirez 46121430513110.3040.4480.6961.144

    Jason Varitek 38512402660.3160.4090.5790.988

    Trot Nixon 47713303960.2770.3580.5320.89

    Johnny Damon 621220602440.3230.3640.5160.88

    Kevin Millar 377114003130.2970.4710.4050.876

    David Ortiz 589133031490.2240.3240.4310.755

    Tony Graffanino 1414100110.2860.3750.3570.732

    Bill Mueller 50213300650.260.3270.320.647

    Edgar Renteria 50912200480.240.3450.280.625

    Mark Bellhorn 2253001130.1360.240.2730.513

    Alex Cora 2516000100.240.2310.240.471

    John Olerud 2202000120.0910.1670.0910.258

    Manny's been hot. Varitek's been good, as have Nixon and Damon. Millar's not hitting, but he's at least drawing walks (.297/.471/.405 is a very strange line, but has great value, because there are so few outs).

    But the rest of the team's been bad. There's just nothing out of the infield at all other than Millar's walks. Nothing from Mueller or Renteria or any of the 2nd basemen. The lineup looks like the Florida keys with the bridges all down. There's no connecting the successful players, so hits are wasted, base-runners are erased on double plays - they can't string a bunch of hits together, because there are outs between all of the hits. Very frustrating.

    But this too, shall pass. They're too good for it not to. Frankly, the good news here is that, as bad as they've been for the last 3 weeks, they're still in first, and they've still got a much easier remaining schedule than the Yankees do. The BP playoff odds report says that there's a 56% chance of them winning the division. That's based on how the teams have all played so far, then simulating the rest of the season a million times. I think that the Sox are actually going to play better. In any event, I'm very confident this morning that they end up winning the East.

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    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    Stage 20- individual time trial around St Etienne

    So Lance won his stage and extended his lead. He'll take a 4'40" lead onto the road tomorrow morning, wearing his 82nd maillot jaune, for a nice easy ride into Paris, and his record 7th win in the Tour de France. An outstanding performance in a fascinating event...

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    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Chutzpah and more chutzpah...

    About a month ago, I thought we'd seen the new proto-definition of "chutzpah" as Harry "Chutzpah" Reid, leader of the "judicial candidates require extended debate" party in the Senate was complaining about how much time the Senate was spending debating judicial candidates. Well,the AP has brought us two more splendid examples today.

    • Saddam Hussein, no one's idea of a due process leader, "complained that he has not been allowed sufficient access to his lawyer."

    • John Kerry, who made it through the 2004 Presidential campaign without ever releasing all of his military and medical records, "urged the White House on Friday to release "in their entirety" all documents and memos from Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' tenure in two Republican administrations."

    Frankly, I'm not sure that "chutzpah" is even adequate...

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    Post of the day

    John Hawkins has gathered, this morning, a fabulous collection of Conservative Economics In Quotes. Great stuff, all of it. Short, sweet, to the point.

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    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Karl E. Rove - Super Genius

    OK, so we all know that Rove's a genius, right? Well, Chris Lynch has been digging, and sheds light on the extent of his foresight.


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    The Crank On The Prince

    The Baseball Crank's looking at the Half Blood Prince today. A couple of odds and ends: (Again, spoilers a-plenty - highlight to read...)

    it hit me that it [R.A.B.] really had to be Sirius' brother, Regulus Black

    I agree. In fact, given the fact that he's actually mentioned - by name - three times in The Half-Blood Prince, I don't think that there's any doubt. There's got to be a reason that a non-character, who died years ago, and never met Harry, and has but a dubious connection to him, was mentioned three times. Just hints to remind us that he was out there.
    Page 50: "...Sirius was the very last of the line as his younger brother, Regulus, predeceased him..."
    Page 70: "...Sirius ended up in Gryffindor! Shame - he was a talented boy. I got his brother, Regulus, when he came along..."
    Page 106: "...I'm surprised he stayed alive for even a year after deserting the Death Eaters; Sirius' brother, Regulus, only managed a few days..."
    (Page numbers from the Scholastic edition).

    Three times, by name. Each mention is rather gratuitous - not one of those places would have been changed a whit by the omission of the name. She did it on purpose.
    *I felt rather betrayed by the revelation that Snape had been a bad guy all along...Dumledore's death serves two necessary plot elements - like Obi-Wan and Gandalf, his death leaves the hero to finish the task alone, without the aid of the bad guy's equal; and, his death underlines the point he had long made about the need to not fear death. Of course, it was nonetheless sad to see his last act be the betrayal of Snape, whom he had trusted.

    I don't think we know that.
    Pages 403-404:

    "Well - I jus' heard Snape sayin' Dumbledore took too much fer granted an' maybe he - Snape - didn' wan' ter do it anymore -"
    "Do what?"
    "I dunno, Harry, it sounded like Snape was feelin' a bit overworked, tha's all - anyway, Dumbledore told him flat out he'd agreed ter do it an' that was all there was to it. Pretty firm with him."

    Pages 595-596:

    But somebody else had spoken Snape's name, quite softly.
    The sound frightened Harry beyond anything he had experienced all evening. For the first time, DUmbledore was pleading.
    Snape said nothing, but walked forward and pushed Malfoy roughly out of the way. The three Death Eaters fell back without a word. Even the werewolf seemed cowed.
    Snape gazed for a moment at Dumbledore, and there was revulsion and hatred etched in the harsh lines of his face.
    Snape raised his wand and pointed it directly at DUmbledore.
    "Avada Kedavra!"

    Frankly, reading it again, I'm even more convinced that Snape's on the right side. I think that the "revulsion and hatred" is for what he has to do. It's Dumbledore's pleading that convinces me. Nothing that we've seen from Albus Dumbledore, nothing, leads us to believe that he'd plead for his life. I'm 90+% convinced that Snape did what Dumbledore wanted him to do...
    *The opening scene with the Prime Minister was funny, but it will have to be cut from the movie version - partly because the best parts were his internal dialogue, and partly because on film you can't finesse the "do we make him Tony Blair or not" aspect, which will be a distraction. Overall, the scenes with Scrimgeour underline Rowling's contempt for politicians and government, as they demonstrate that the more hawkish Scrimgeour is really not much of an improvement over the denial and appeasement of Fudge.

    I'll go a step further, and say that the whole "Stan Shunpike in Azkaban" thing irked me. I felt (and I may be reading too much into it) like that was a shot at the US and Britain holding enemy combatants. Certainly, many on the left would take the position (which I do not agree with) that we're holding innocent people without trial. I could be mis-reading that section, but that's how it struck me.

    *The door is still open for Pettigrew to play a Gollum-like role, after Harry spared him, if Rowling wants to be that unoriginal.

    I don't know how "Gollum-like" it will be, but I'll be very disappointed if there is not some pivotal role yet to be played by Pettigrew.

    "Pettigrew owes his life to you. You have sent Voldemort a deputy who is in your debt...When one wizard saves another wizard's life, it creates a certain bond between them...and I'm much mistaken if Voldemort wants his servant in the debt of Harry Potter."
    "I don't want a connection with Pettigrew!" said Harry. "He betrayed my parents!"
    "This is magic at its deepest, its most impenetrable, Harry. But trust me...the time may come when you will be very glad you saved Pettigrew's life."

    I trust Dumbledore - she's got to use Pettigrew somehow.

    And she's also got to explain this: "For a fleeing instant, Harry though he saw a gleam of something like triumph in Dumbledore's eyes." (Goblet of Fire)

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    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Mellman - trolling for clients

    Mark Mellman's got a piece in The Hill today talking about the fundamentals that will determine the 2008 presidential winner. He concludes that Basics look good for Dems in '08 Some of this reads as real wishful thinking masquerading as analysis.

    I am something of a fundamentalist — not religiously, but when it comes to presidential politics.

    In presidential campaigns, fundamentals — incumbency, war and peace, the economy — matter most. While the fundamentals cost John Kerry the ’04 election, they bode well for the Democratic nominee in 2008.

    As professor James Campbell wrote, “The fundamentals are the cards dealt to the candidates. … In general, the candidate dealt the stronger hand wins. … All … of these fundamentals favored President Bush in 2004.” But 2008 already looks much different.

    Fundamentals. As in "it doesn't matter who's actually running."
    Since 1948, seven candidates, including Bush, have been incumbents seeking a second term for their party. Only one lost.

    But the odds are quite different when non-incumbents are trying to extend their parties’ control past two terms — the situation confronting Republicans in 2008. Since 1948, there have been five such instances and the in party has won only once.

    In the first place, why go back to 1948? Is there something magical about 60 years, as opposed to 72 or 48? He's cherry-picking end-points to make a statistical case that can't be made with a different sample size. Maybe there's some inherent reason, maybe something changed 60 years ago to make it hard for a party to extend past two terms in the White House, but he's not made any kind of case for it - he's just chosen the end-points to make his argument.

    (Obviously, something did change, but it changed in 1951 with the adoption of the XXII amendment limiting Presidents to two terms, and has been a factor only twice, 1988 when the incumbent party extended its hold on the White House, and 2000, when it failed to.)

    Secondly, and more important, is the fact that each election is different, and a couple of those failures were in significant circumstances that cannot expect to be repeated. So let's look at them.

    1960 - Sitting vice-president Nixon is defeated (or not) by Kennedy.
    1968 - Sitting vice-President Hubert Humphrey, at the height of unrest and dissatisfaction over the war in Vietnam, running because President Johnson's popularity had fallen to the point where he was not re-electable, loses to former VP Nixon. Many on the Democratic side will try to make the case that there will be significant 2008 parallels to this election, with a long-term, unpopular war dragging on overseas. I don't see it.
    • There's no draft.

    • This war started with major attacks on US soil.

    • As much as the media tries to play up casualty counts, what's happening overseas now is just not comparable to what was happening then, never mind the fact that we don't have major unrest on the streets right now, and are unlikely to in 3 years.

    1976 - Watergate. 'Nuff said
    1988 - Despite a second-term scandal (Iran-Contra - whatever you think about what actually took place, the media certainly played it as a scandal) and a candidate who had a great resume but not a great persona, and trouble with "the vision thing," the Republicans held the White House.
    2000 - Well, most of the Democrats will tell you that they actually kept the White House in 2000. I don't agree, but there's no question that it was an exceptionally close race, and that Gore had more counted votes in the country than Bush did. It's difficult to see how the 2000 election, with the Clinton Scandal fatigue, the complete lack of Gore charisma, and the economy that was clearly a) slowing and b) getting ready to pop a bubble, bodes ill for the Republicans' chances in 2008.
    The economy is another fundamental. In 2004, it was not bad enough to oust an incumbent. In the first half of 2004, real gross domestic product grew by 3.3 percent, putting it just below the middle of the pack for the 15 elections since 1948. In 1980, when Jimmy Carter became the only incumbent to be defeated for a second term since we’ve had such economic statistics, that number was negative 8.1 percent.

    I don't know how to break it to him, but George H. W. Bush was an incumbent defeated for a second term, and the real GDP growth in 1992 was significantly higher than negative 8.1 %.
    Economic forecasts are notoriously inaccurate, but the growth rates predicted for 2008 range between 2.0 percent and 3.3 percent. Thus, no one is forecasting an economy better than it was in ’04 and many predict it will be worse.

    I believe that "economic forecasts are notoriously inaccurate," but "no one" is forecasting economic improvement? Pardon me while I scoff. Maybe none of Mark Mellman's economic heroes are, but I'm skeptical that "no one" is. And whatever anyone's predicting right now, it bears repeating that, as he's said and I've already agreed, "economic forecasts are notoriously inaccurate."

    In the instance when a non-incumbent trying for a third party term was victorious, the growth rate was well above those forecasts — 5.1 percent in 1988. Republicans can’t count on the economy to help them in ’08, and it is more likely to be a drag on their ticket.

    Whether they can count on the economy to help them or not, I don't think that there's any question that they can't count on the reporting on the economy to help them. On the other hand, it's unlikely that the media will manage to portray the 2008 economy much worse than they portrayed the 2004 economy...
    War is another fundamental. Several recent columns dealt with this topic, and I will not belabor the analysis. Suffice it to say that majorities now believe the war was not worth the cost and that we are no longer making real progress.

    But in 3 years, if we've got, say, Germany levels of troops still in Iraq, and Iraq's running itself, and the bombings are monthly instead of weekly, and Assad's fallen in Syria, will this be the case? If someone's fighting to make the case every day during a campaign instead of letting the opposition and media run basically unopposed, as has happened for the last 8 months, will it still be the case? Again, allow me to express a healthy skepticism.
    In advocating his reelection, Bush could argue that we should not change horses in the midst of a war. In ’08, we will be changing horses no matter who is elected. Moreover, history suggests that drawn-out wars have a negative impact on the parties that undertook them; witness Adlai Stevenson during Korea and Hubert Humphrey in the midst of Vietnam.

    Again with the Vietnam comparisons. It's not going to work - the situations are far more different than similar.
    Finally, there are the candidates. Of course, we do not yet know who they will be.

    Right. We don't. I suspect that it matters.
    We are certain though that the Republican nominee will not be as well-known as Bush or even Vice President Cheney.

    Kerry suffered from an asymmetry of information. Each new impression constituted a huge percentage of what people knew about him.

    No, Kerry suffered from an asymmetry of unlikeability. Each new impression was negative. Bill Clinton suffered that same "asymmetry of information" but won. Bill Clinton was upbeat, charismatic, likeable. (Not by me, but by enough voters.) Kerry's a snobbish bore, an effete elistist snob, and it showed in everything he said or did. Consequently, Bill Clinton defeated a vulnerable incumbent, and John Kerry failed to.

    By contrast, every new piece of information about Bush was a relatively small share of voters’ storehouse of knowledge about the president. As a result, it was much easier for the Republicans to paint a negative portrait of Kerry than it was for Democrats to raise Bush’s unfavorables.

    The reason that it was much easier for the Republicans to "paint a negative portrait of Kerry" was that he was a horrible candidate. If he's nominated in 2008, he'll lose again. Because he'll still be a horrible candidate.
    In 2008, the Democrat will not suffer from that asymmetry. Both candidates will have a roughly equivalent chance to define themselves and their opponent.

    Really? Regardless of who it is? How much room is there, really, for definition in a race between Hillary Clinton and John McCain?
    Sadly, I have not been endowed with the gift of prophecy.

    Frankly, a lot of this makes me question how much of a gift of hindsight he has...
    But the fundamentals suggest a great opportunity for the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008 — whoever that might be.

    Let me say this - there's a great opportunity for a good Democratic candidate to win the presidency against a bad Republican candidate. It's almost as good as a good Republican candidate's opportunity to win the White House against a bad Democratic candidate. How's that for prophecy?

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    Nothing if not predictable...

    The first public comments from everyone on the Democratic side following the nomination, whoever it is, will go something like this: "The President had an opportunity to nominate a qualified and confirmable candidate. Unfortunately he chose to be a divider, not a uniter, and nominate X, a far-right extremist who clearly lacks the judicial temperament for a lifetime seat on the highest court in the land."

    - Me, 7/1/2005

    It is disappointing that when President Bush had the chance to bring the country together, he instead turned to a nominee who may have impressive legal credentials, but also has sharp partisan credentials that cannot be ignored.

    - Howard Dean, 7/19/2005

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    More on Judge (hopefully soon to be Justice) Roberts

    Tom Goldstein has posted a link to the transcript from Roberts' judiciary hearing. I've not read it all, but there are a couple of things that jump out quickly.
    Senator WARNER.

    Now, Mr. Chairman, I should like to say a few words on behalf of Mr. Roberts. This is my second appearance on behalf of this distinguished individual, and I must say in my 25 years in the Senate, I do not believe I have ever done this before. But at the invitation of the Chair, I will appear over and over again, be it necessary, on behalf of this individual because I personally and, if I may say, professionally feel very strongly about this nominee. He has been nominated for a position on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. If I may say, following my graduation from the University of Virginia Law School in 1953, I return this weekend for my 50th reunion, where I am privileged to address my class. But following that, I was privileged to be a law clerk to Judge E. Barrett Prettyman on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals, the very circuit to which this nominee has been appointed by the President of the United States. I have a strong knowledge of this circuit, having started my career there 48 years ago, and I feel that this candidate will measure up in every respect to the distinguished members of the circuit that have served in the past and who are serving today. And I urge in the strongest of terms that he be given fair consideration by this Committee and that he will be voted out favorably.

    Mr. Chairman and Senator Leahy, we start with he graduated from Harvard College summa cum laude in 1976. Three years later, he graduated from Harvard Law School magna cum laude, where he served as managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. He served as law clerk to Judge Friendly on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and worked as law clerk to the current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Hon. Judge Rehnquist. Also, he has practiced law for over 20 years. He served as associate counsel to President Ronald Reagan, worked as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States, and has worked as a civil litigator in the firm of Hogan and Hartson, which, I must say, I also served in following my clerkship with Judge Prettyman. So I do urge upon this Committee, Mr. Chairman, and all members, that the fair consideration that is the duty of the United States Senate under the Constitution under the advise and consent provisions be exercised on behalf of this distinguished nominee.

    Senator Warner is one of the seven Republican signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding. Is he going to consider the Roberts' nomination to be "extraordinary circumstances" that justify a filibuster? I think not.

    From Senator Hatch: (emphasis mine)
    One letter the Committee received is from 156 members of the D.C. Bar, all of whom urge Mr. Roberts’ swift confirmation. The letter is signed by such legal luminaries as Lloyd Cutler, who was White House Counsel to both President Carter and President Clinton; Boyden Gray, who was White House Counsel to the first President Bush; and Seth Waxman, who was President Clinton’s Solicitor General. The letter states: "Although, as individuals, we reflect a wide spectrum of political party affiliation and ideology, we are united in our belief that John Roberts will be an outstanding Federal court of appeals judge and should be confirmed by the United States Senate. He is one of the very best and most highly respected appellate lawyers in the Nation, with a deserved reputation as a brilliant writer and oral advocate. He is also a wonderful professional colleague both because of his enormous skills and because of his unquestioned integrity and fair-mindedness. In short, John Roberts represents the best of the bar and, we have no doubt, would be a superb Federal court of appeals judge."

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    Football's coming...

    From today's Boston Globe:
    The Patriots will be the first NFL team to begin the 2005 season, with approximately 17 rookies expected to report today at Gillette Stadium.

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    John Roberts

    Not Edith Clement. Judging from the early reaction, the right is thrilled, the left is offended and outraged. Not that you would have expected anything different, regardless of who'd been standing with the President last night.

    John Hawkins has gathered a collection of reaction statements from the port side of the blogosphere. It's really pretty funny. I'd be willing to bet that most of those guys no no more about Roberts than I do. All they know is that Bush chose him, and that's all they need to know.

    Nice table from Xrlq looking at some of the recent close decisions to determine what might change with a Roberts for O'Connor switch...

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    Tuesday, July 19, 2005

    A choice has been made

    Reportedly. Drudge is reporting, as are others, that President Bush has chosen a nominee for the Supreme Court to replace outgoing justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and will announce the choice at 9:00 tonight. Speculation has centered on Edith Brown "Joy" Clement, who was nominated to the 5th Circuit in September of 2001 by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the Senate in November. She was confirmed by a vote of 99-0, with Tim Johnson of SD not voting.

    If she is, in fact, nominated by the President, we'll all know a lot more about her in a week than we do now...

    A rolling list of decisions by Judge Clement.

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    Sunday sports - overseas was where the action was

    Had I not been away over the weekend, I'd have spent Sunday morning in front of the television. For that one weekend, the major sporting events are taking place in a time zone 5 hours ahead of the eastern United States.

    • In Scotland, Tiger Woods won his 2nd British Open, and 10th Major championship. He led wire-to-wire, and though there was a brief moment on Sunday when he could have been tied (Olazabal [or maybe Montgomery - I don't remember which] missed the putt), it was never really in jeopardy. He ended up winning by 5, the largest winning margin in The Open Championship (or any other Major) since 2000, when, playing the Old Course at St. Andrews, it was won by 8. By Tiger Woods.

      So he's one step closer to achieving his stated goal of passing Jack Nicklaus' record 18 Major championships. Sunday's win in Scotland moved him out of a 3-way tie for 3rd with Gary Player and Ben Hogan. His next Major will tie him for 2nd with Walter Hagen. And then only Nicklaus will have more.

      And there's been one more fascinating sub-plot playing out as Nicklaus heads into retirement. Over the past several years, he's gradually stopped playing tournaments, because he can no longer be competitive. It was widely known and covered that this past April's foray at August was his last Masters, and this trip to the Old Course at St. Andrews was his last British Open. But look at this table to see what's happened at Nicklaus' last Major championships:

      Nicklaus' Last Majors

      2005MastersAugusta NationalTiger Woods

      2000US OpenPebble BeachTiger Woods

      2005British OpenSt. Andrews Old CourseTiger Woods

      2000PGA Championship ValhallaTiger Woods

      One of the greatest examples in sporting history of "passing the torch"...

    • Also on Sunday, George Hincapie won the race from Lezat-sur-Leze to Pla-d’Adet, the 15th stage of the 2005 Tour de France, to become the first of Lance Armstrong's teammates to win a stage since Armstrong's domination of the race began in 1999. Hincapie joined an early escape, thinking to be positioned to help Armstrong later in the day, but the escape built such a large lead that they never got reeled back in, and Hincapie ended up outsprinting Oscar Pereiro Sio to the line for the stage win.

      In the meantime, Armstrong from 1'41" (over Mickael Rasmussen) to 2'46" (over Ivan Basso) by dropping Rasmussen on the final climb to Pla d'Adet. It is too strong to say that Armstrong's clinched the race. There are still a lot of different things that could happen to prevent his winning his seventh straight Tour. But all of them are exceptions, things like accidents or illness. They're done in the Alps. They're done in the Pyrenees. The stages where one of his GC competitors could take time off him and win the race are pretty much over. There's one individual time trial left. There are no more HC or class 1 climbs. No one with a deficit of less than 10 minutes is going to be allowed to break-away. It really is only accident or illness that could prevent the 7th win at this time.

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    More Half-Blood Prince

    Note: The following post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. If you want to read it, highlight it. If you don't, don't...

    Nice piece by Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, giving a review of the Half-Blood Prince. I do, however, have one point of serious disagreement with her.
    The sixth book is in some ways a series of answers to questions raised by earlier ones. For example, we learn at last where Dumbledore has been during his mysterious absences from Hogwarts, where oily Professor Snape's loyalties truly lie and the vile means by which Voldemort has secured a reeking kind of immortality.

    On the last point, absolutely. On the first point, yes, more-or-less.

    The middle point, however, is nowhere near as cut-and-dried. I've spoken with someone who's absolutely convinced that Snape is working, really legitimately working, for Voldemort. I've spoken with someone else who's just as convinced that he's working, really legitimately working, for Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix. As I said yesterday, "which side is he on?" As far as I'm concerned, it's still a very open question. My inclination is to the latter, that his ultimate sympathies lie with Dumbledore and the Order. Regardless, it's by no means clear where "Snape's loyalties truly lie."

    On the whole, though, an excellent piece, and spot-on review.

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    Debacle in the fens

    One of my pet peeves is people that respond to statistical information with "lies, damned lies and statistics." I call it the mating cry of the innumerate, as you can't lie with statistics to people that understand what the statistics are and what they mean. But there's no question that you can manipulate numbers and make them misleading.

    The Boston Red Sox are averaging 4.5 runs scored over their last 9 games, a stretch that has now seen them go 2-7 and fall into 2nd place. How are they 2-7 when they've averaged 4.5 runs, and been outscored by only 1 over a 9 game stretch? In the 7 losses, they've been outscored 39-17. In the 2 wins, they've outscored the opposition 24-3. With last night's debacle, they've now scored exactly 1 run in 4 of their last 9 games. That's not going to get it done.

    Last night's game was actually lost in the first inning. It wasn't over after the first, but that's where it was lost. The first 6 batters:

    - Reached on error
    - Single
    - Walk
    - GIDP
    - Walk
    - Walk

    Notice that 5 of the first 6 batters reached base safely? Right. The one that didn't grounded into a double play, and the Red Sox scored one (1) run. Damon, their first batter of the night, reached on an error and scored their only run on the night. They never came close to scoring again. The first was the only inning in which the lead-off batter reached base safely, the only inning in which more than one hitter reached base safely and the only inning in which they got a runner past first base. All-in-all, it was a pathetic offensive showing, the 4th in the last two weeks.

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    Monday, July 18, 2005

    Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince

    Note: The following post contains spoilers for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and speculations, by no means all original, on certain matters to be addressed in book 7. If you want to read it, highlight it. If you don't, don't...

    So, now we know. The Half-Blood Prince is none other than Severus Snape. And he killed Albus Dumbledore. Which leaves us with one big question - which side is he on? OK, that's just one question. There are obviously several others.

    • Is Harry actually going back to Hogwarts, or is his seemingly hasty decision not to return going to stick? I incline towards the former. He's not ready yet - he can't even stand up to Snape directly, never mind Voldemort. Yes, he did in the Goblet of Fire, but that was a fluke. He's got too much to learn to go off now.

    • We know that JKR spent a long-time on The Order Of The Phoenix because there was a lot of information that she needed to plant to "play fair" with her readers. So, if R.A.B. is not Regulus Black, who is it? I don't think the end of that gets answered, because I think it is Regulus Black. At least today, that's what I think...

    • When Snape killed Dumbledore, was he loyal to Voldemort or Dumbledore? Did he actually kill Dumbledore? With the emphasis on non-verbal spells, I'm very suspicious that the "Avada Kedavra" which he verbally cast was not the spell that it appeared to be. On the other hand, he was bound by the unbreakable vow. I think A.P.W.B.D. is really gone. I think that the office portrait and Fawkes lament are supporting information on that.

    • "The shape is not the most significant aspect of that scar, and that's all I'm going to say!" - JK Rowling. The obvious assumption is that Harry himself is one of the remaining horcruxes. Does Harry have to die to finally defeat Voldemort?

    It seems pointless to actually review it. It isn't really a book - it's a continuation of an epic story that millions of people world-wide are captivated by. It would feel like reviewing chapters 14-16 of "A Tale Of Two Cities." Suffice it to say, it was an excellent read. Fully as entertaining as any of its brethren, continuing to advance the story. Where does it fit in the set in terms of quality? I don't know yet. I have to read it again, probably a couple of times, before I know. I didn't love the Order Of The Phoenix the first time through, but on subsequent readings (and listenings to the excellent Jim Dale audio version) I came to really respect it. There's a ton of good stuff in there. I suspect that will prove true for the latest as well...

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    Read of the day

    Today's read-of-the-day, in the "Non-Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince" category comes from the always entertaining, ever enlightening one-man global content provider, Mark Steyn. OK, it's actually yesterday's read-of-the-day, in the "Non-Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince" category, but I didn't see it until today...

    Karl Rove? Please. I couldn't care less. This week finds me thousands of miles from the Beltway in what I believe the ABC World News Tonight map designates as the Rest Of The Planet, an obscure beat the media can't seem to spare a correspondent for. But even if I was with the rest of the navel-gazers inside the Beltway I wouldn't be interested in who ''leaked'' the name of CIA employee Valerie Plame to the press.
    What's this really about? It's not difficult. A big chunk of the American elites have decided there is no war; it's all a racket got up by Bush and Cheney. And, even if there is a war somewhere or other, wherever it is, it's not where Bush says it is. Iraq is a "distraction" from Afghanistan -- and, if there were no Iraq, Afghanistan would be a distraction from Niger, and Niger's a distraction from Valerie Plame's next photo shoot for Vanity Fair.

    The police have found the suicide bomber's head in the rubble of the London bus, and Iran is enriching uranium. The only distraction here is the pitiful parochialism of our political culture.

    Steyn combines an ability to turn a phrase brilliantly, with a clear-headed global worldview, and a spectacular talent for expressing it. As always, it's must-read material.

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    Monday Pythagorean Report

    What a disappointing stretch. After building a lead of 4 games in the East, the Red Sox have lost 6-of-8 to the two teams chasing them, losing with a combination of inept offense and poor pitching. The one game in which the offense and the pitching worked together, they won by 16 runs.

    AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 7/18/2005







    New York5.54(1)5.12(12)0.536(6)484249411







    Kansas City4.35(13)5.53(13)0.392(13)36553259-4

    Tampa Bay4.51(10)6.16(14)0.361(14)34593162-3

    Top 5 projections (using current winning %)




    New York8874

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




    New York8874

    Standings for the week





    Kansas City5.25(3)4.5(7)0.57(5)22220



    Tampa Bay5(5)5(9)0.5(7)22311




    New York5.25(3)7.5(14)0.342(12)13312



    So coming off the All-Star game, they just outscored the Yankees and lost 3-of-4. They lost by 2, 3 and 2, and won by 16.

    But as bad as they've been for the last two weeks, and as good as the Yankees have been, they're still in first place. And here comes Tampa Bay...

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