Friday, December 30, 2005

More from the "all-gay, all-the-time" Boston Globe

One of the central political issues facing the American People over the past few years, and certain to be one in the next few, is the issue over whether or not governments are required to recognize same-sex relationships in the same manner that marriages are recognized. Ground-zero in that debate, and one of the places where that discussion has joined arm-in-arm with the debate over judicial activism, is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In November of 2003, in the case of Goodridge v. Massachusetts, the Commonwealth's Supreme Judicial Court ruled on a 4-3 vote that the state constitution required that the institution of marriage be extended to same-sex relationships. I'm not aware of any public opinion surveys which show a majority of the people of Massachusetts agreeing with or supporting that decision, but it is now the law in Massachusetts anyway.

One of the entities which has been strongly supportive of that decision, however, is the Boston Globe. The largest media entity in New England, it is referred to in some circles as the "all-gay, all-the-time Boston Globe" because it is clearly an entity with an agenda. Unfortunately for the news consumers in New England, that agenda isn't confined to the editorial pages. I've mentioned it before, a couple of times, on front-page stories that don't warrant the front-page on any news judgement other than mainstreaming same-sex marriage.

Well, they've got another story in today's Boston Globe which has no particular news value other than to promote same-sex marriage, "Same-sex couple's lawsuit a test of tolerance in Ireland."

In a country that has had its share of revolutionaries, Katherine Zappone and Ann Louise Gilligan hardly look the part.

They are smartly dressed, well-coiffed, middle-aged members of Ireland's burgeoning middle class. But in trying to get the government to recognize their 2003 marriage in Canada, they are challenging the very notion that Ireland has become a less socially conservative, more tolerant corner of Europe.

Given that "tolerance" is obviously, in this time and place, one of the significant virtues in the world, the story clearly has a point of view. And that point of view is that "tolerance" of same-sex marriage is a good thing and the opposite of "socially conservative." Did the Globe find room for this in the Living/Arts section? No, this story apparently warranted the front-page.

Obviously, this is pressing news. Were the women "married" in Massachusetts? Is that the local hook? No, they were "married" in Canada. Are they Massachusetts natives? Have they lived here recently? No. The local angle is that they met while going to school in Boston. 19 years ago.

As I've said before, and expect that I'll say again, ...there's no question that the "gay marriage" angle, whether real or not, gets it onto the front page of the Globe... The Globe is sometimes a news provider, and sometimes just a propaganda organ for the pro-gay "marriage" movement.

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Bucking the conventional wisdom

There's this perception out there that the Red Sox have had an awful offseason, that they're rudderless and reactionary, and that they've got gaping holes at CF and SS and 3B and 1B and in the bullpen.

About a week ago, I addressed the issue of the alleged holes on the Red Sox team. In response to the comment that they didn't have a shortstop, I said"...except Cora and Loretta and Graffanino and Pedroia and Machado. Each and any of whom could reasonably be expected to give the 2006 team a) better defense and b) better production than they got from Edgar Renteria (who was still better than Orlando Cabrera.) "

Well, today's Baseball Prospectus notebook (which does not appear to be subscriber only) says the following: "Shortstop is also not as bleak as it seems on the surface. Looking at members of the current 40-man roster, we can see that Alex Cora, Mark Loretta, and Tony Graffanino have played 308.2, 265.3, and 68.6 AdjG at SS at the Major League level, all at an average or slightly below average Rate. There is also Alejandro Machado, a player whose ’05 PECOTA forecast suggested he could be what Edgar Renteria was for Boston. His untranslated minor league Speed Score has been 6.50 or higher the past two seasons, and his OPS in Pawtucket was on par with the Sox SS production last season. While none of these candidates are Miguel Tejada, they are players who are capable of replicating and/or besting Renteria’s 2005 production. In addition, if the shortstop is not sucking away potential runs in the two slot because they don’t have Renteria’s "status," all the better for the offense as a whole. As far as non-40 man roster candidates go, there’s this Dustin Pedroia guy, who played SS full-time as recently as last year (and wait until you see his PECOTA forecast!)."

So they're ripping me off AGAIN!

Anyway, read the piece. It's a good analysis. The fact is, the Red Sox need one player - a center fielder. They've got at least 2 extra starting pitchers that they can utilize to get that outfielder. Otherwise, they're loaded. Again.

That's not to say that they can't screw things up, because they sure could. The Flaherty signing shouldn't give anyone north of the Bronx a warm-fuzzy-feeling. They could trade Ramirez and Clement for Tejada, they could sign Alex Gonzalez, they could trade valuable pieces for Torii Hunter - they're not out of the woods for having a bad winter. But they haven't had one yet. The moves have been, for the most part, good, (magic beans and beads and baubles for Beckett [not strictly accurate, but I like the alliteration], Renteria for Marte, Mirabelli for Loretta), and so have the non-moves (not overpaying Millwood, not overpaying Damon, not trading Manny for 2 cracked fungo bats and a used resin bag.) Whether the "nitwits" (and I use the term affectionately) at WEEI understand it or not, it has not yet been a bad off-season...

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Quote of the day

There’s Syriana, a film in which the CIA subverts a Middle Eastern government. Pardon me while I fall to the floor doubled up with laughter. If only the CIA were that good. The only government they seem the least bit capable of subverting is America’s.

- Mark Steyn

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Media coverage of religion

Over at NewsBusters, Tim Graham was talking about media coverage of religion. I think that the media coverage of religion is just as biased and lazy and agenda-driven as everything else that they do. I dug out a couple of things that I wrote earlier this year, and I agree now with what I said then.

I wrote about the media attitude towards the Catholic Church (of which I am not a member) a couple of times this year, the first time on the death of JPII (actually referencing an MRC Cyberalert.)
One of the predictable responses to the death of the Pope is being played out in the Mainstream (don't call us liberal) media. As documented by the Media Research Center, ABC and NBC are essentially lobbying for a less "doctrinaire" Pope. Katie Couric was quoted as asking an American Cardinal "Polls have showed that 60% of American Catholics want priests to be allowed to marry, and 64% want women to be allowed to become priests. Can we expect that the new Pope will institute some of these reforms?" I don't watch, so I can't vouch for the quote, but it sure sounds plausible.

The New York Times obituary spoke of how "John Paul's extraordinary effort to cleanse his church's conscience ... and his steadfast resistance to changes in church teachings on birth control, priestly celibacy, the ordination of women and other issues were among the fundamental traits of his pontificate." Today's times features an opinion piece from Thomas Cahill which derides the pontificate of John Paul II as "almost the polar opposite of John XXIII, who dragged Catholicism to confront 20th-century realities after the regressive policies of Pius IX."

...the point is clear. The Catholic Church needs to change its position to remain relevant in the modern world. We know better. The liberal modern world is right, John Paul II was wrong, the Catholic Church is wrong, if it feels good, do it. Etc.

And then this is what I wrote on the selection of Benedict XVI (Media attitude - Oh no! The new Pope's Catholic!)

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.

Nothing that I've seen in the last 7 months makes me want to change a word of it...

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Is 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman'u-el.

Is 9:2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.

Is 9:6-7 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Lk 2:8-14 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace,
good will toward men.

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The Lemming media, in full roar...

In an amazingly influential way, the New York Times article on NSA intelligenge gathering last week has touched off a feeding frenzy in the press, where every outlet is rushing to get out their stories about how the Bush administration is violating the rights of average American citizens in their paranoid fantasy about terrorist enemies. The latest entry comes from US News And World Report as they reveal, in news that's sure to shock America, that the government is actually taking concerns about possible nuclear terrorism seriously.
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned.

(Down at the bottom of the piece, we find out that "officials... reject any notion that the program specifically has targeted Muslims. Which means that they're either lying, or putting political correctness ahead of efficiency.) In any event, this is obviously a bad thing.

Oh, you don't think it's obviously a bad thing? Well, read further.

In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program....Federal officials familiar with the program maintain that warrants are unneeded for the kind of radiation sampling the operation entails, but some legal scholars disagree.

Now, if "some" legals scholars disagree, that would imply that others agree, right? Which kind do you suppose get quoted in this piece?

OK, that wasn't a real tough question.

Government officials familiar with the program insist it is legal; warrants are unneeded for monitoring from public property, they say, as well as from publicly accessible driveways and parking lots. "If a delivery man can access it, so can we," says one.

Georgetown University Professor David Cole, a constitutional law expert, disagrees.

For those of you waiting for the quotes from constitutional law experts who agree with the unnamed government officials as opposed to Professor Cole, let me end the suspense now. US News And World Report didn't seem to find any of them. If found, their quotes were not considered newsworthy. (And those of you who might find it relevant that Professor Cole is the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, and suspect partisan motives as a result, would have to look it up for yourselves, as US News And World Report didn't mention that piece of information, either.)
In any event, by going to Professor Cole, the story managed to dig up a Supreme Court decision that could be made to sound relevant to the case, and, by implication, impugn the efforts.
Cole points to a 2001 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs. Kyllo, which looked at police use -- without a search warrant -- of thermal imaging technology to search for marijuana-growing lamps in a home. The court, in a ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that authorities did in fact need a warrant -- that the heat sensors violated the Fourth Amendment's clause against unreasonable search and seizure.

Well, that sounds sort of like what they're doing, although (and to their credit it does get mentioned) it's not really the same thing.
officials familiar with the FBI/NEST program say the radiation sensors are different and are only sampling the surrounding air. "This kind of program only detects particles in the air, it's non directional," says one knowledgeable official. "It's not a whole lot different from smelling marijuana."

Funny that the knowledgable official should use that analogy. Because there's a Supreme Court case that's more recent than Kyllo, that seems to be more relevant, as well. Yet somehow, in their extensive research for the piece, they missed ILLINOIS v. CABALLES, decided just over a year ago, in which the US Supreme Court ruled that
Official conduct that does not “compromise any legitimate interest in privacy” is not a search subject to the Fourth Amendment. Jacobsen, 466 U. S., at 123. We have held that any interest in possessing contraband cannot be deemed “legitimate,” and thus, governmental conduct that only reveals the possession of contraband “compromises no legitimate privacy interest.” Ibid. This is because the expectation “that certain facts will not come to the attention of the authorities” is not the same as an interest in “privacy that society is prepared to consider reasonable.”

In other words, there can be no legitimate right for a citizen to possess a nuclear weapon, and any search that would reveal only that would not violate any constitutional right to privacy.

And the SCOTUS hadn't forgotten Kyllo - no, as a matter of fact, they mentioned it in the Caballes decision.

This conclusion is entirely consistent with our recent decision that the use of a thermal-imaging device to detect the growth of marijuana in a home constituted an unlawful search. Kyllo v. United States, 533 U. S. 27 (2001). Critical to that decision was the fact that the device was capable of detecting lawful activity—in that case, intimate details in a home, such as “at what hour each night the lady of the house takes her daily sauna and bath.” Id., at 38. The legitimate expectation that information about perfectly lawful activity will remain private is categorically distinguishable from respondent’s hopes or expectations concerning the nondetection of contraband in the trunk of his car. A dog sniff conducted during a concededly lawful traffic stop that reveals no information other than the location of a substance that no individual has any right to possess does not violate the Fourth Amendment.

One can assume that Professor Cole doesn't agree with the 6-justice majority on Caballes, but an unbiased news story that mentioned Kyllo would probably not stop there. But it's plain that that, an unbiased news story, is not what this particular piece is...

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dungy tragedy

I want to extend my sympathy to Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, whose eldest son was found dead this morning. It's a nightmare that I cannot even imagine, and while I'm not a Colts fan, I have enormous respect for Dungy. A very sad event...

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The AP - at it again...

The Associated Press is very good at what it does. It's such a shame that straight news reporting isn't it.

They've run a piece this morning (Lawmakers Hasten to Return Abramoff Gifts) dealing with lobbyist and equal-opportunity crook Jack Abramoff. Regular AP readers will remember that Abramoff when was indicted back in August the AP story mentioned one congressman by name, Republican Tom Delay, and they mentioned him 5 times. Despite the fact that Abramoff has given money to many congresspeople of both party, the Republican Delay got mentioned, and no one else.

Well, they're at it again. (H/T to Michelle Malkin). Today's AP story makes it seem, again, as if Abramoff gave, or steered, contributions to Republicans, and to Republicans alone. They start with a quote from the President:

This week, President Bush said it seemed to him that Abramoff "was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties."

And then immediately go on to present information which seems to contradict him.
Historically, tribal money had been going to Democrats almost exclusively. Abramoff changed that.

The lobbyist ordered one tribal client to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations. A list, obtained by The Associated Press, earmarked $90,000 of the money for the Republican Party, none for Democrats.

Of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Abramoff directed the tribe to donate to congressional campaigns, the Republican-Democrat breakdown was 11-to-1.

Wow! 11-to-1! Boy, those Republicans are dirty, aren't they? But it's only a tiny piece of the story. Go look again. "One tribal client." "Abramof directed the tribe." There's no actual information about what other tribes, or Abramoff clients, may have been giving. And that turns out to be different than 11-to-1.

It was less than two weeks ago that the Washington Post ran this chart outlining the "Team Abramoff" contribution distribution. And it's clear that neither party has clean hands. The Republicans, overall, received about twice what the Democrats did, nothing like 11-1. Of the top 10 recipients, 7 were Republicans and 3 Democrats. Of the top 15, 10 were Republicans and 5 were Democrats. The AP mentions, by name, the following politicians in this story of government corruption:

  • President Bush - Republican

  • Senator Sam Brownback - Republican

  • Senator Conrad Burns - Republican

  • Representative Tom Delay - Republican

  • Representative Bob Ney - Republican

  • Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich - Republican

  • Senator Max Baucus - Democrat

Notice a pattern? None of them are necessarily accused of corruption, and the President and Speaker Gingrich are mentioned in only ancillary fashion, not as having taken Abramoff money, but those are the names in the story about corruption. Seems like a pretty Republican-heavy list. Conrad Burns received the most money from Abramoff clients, but Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, who's second on the list, somehow avoids a mention. Meanwhile, Tom Delay and Bob Ney and Sam Brownback, none of whom received as much as Kennedy, all merit inclusion.

And the one Democrat mentioned, is mentioned in the context of Republican attacks. "In Montana, the state Republican party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Democratic Sen. Max Baucus violated federal campaign finance laws." You see, it's nothing that Baucus did - it's a partisan attack from the Republicans.

One could be forgiven for supposing that the distribution occurs because the Republicans have held power in the Congress, as opposed to some inherent corruption in the Republican Party to which the Democratic Party is not susceptible. One would have to draw that conclusion on one's own, however, as the Associated Press story isn't going to lead anyone in that direction, or even give the whole truth...

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Johnny Damon - exit stage left...

As everyone now knows, Johnny Damon is going to New York. At first glance, this helps the Yankees and hurts the Red Sox. And, to a certain extent, that's true. One of the things that we used to talk about during certain electrical engineering classes was that we had electrons, and we had "holes." As an electron moved down the wire in one direction, a hole moved in the other direction. I think that the correct way to characterize this move is that a hole just moved from New York to Boston. The Yankees had a hole in center field - now the Red Sox have a hole in center field.

The reaction in Boston has been predictable. The Boston media is not world-renowned for its calm deliberation and cerebral analysis. From the Globe's Dan Shaughnessy ("now your Boston Red Sox have no center fielder, no shortstop, and no first baseman to go along with no Theo Epstein and no clue") to WEEI's Big Show ("this looks like a 3rd-place team right now") the "analysis" has been instantaneous and universally negative.

I'm not even slightly interested in jumping on that particular bandwagon.

I'm reminded of the firestorm that took place when Mo Vaughn signed for too much money with the Anaheim Angels in 1998. For a couple of reasons. One, the reaction was very similar. Two, the contract that the player signed was for too much money, more money than made sense for the Red Sox to match. And despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the 1999 Red Sox were actually two games better in the regular season, and one series better in the post-season.

I don't say that that's going to be the case here. But it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. Damon has been, at times, a very good player, and he was excellent in 2004. But he's not a superstar. He's not the greatest lead-off hitter in baseball history, not even if baseball history just extends to 2005. If the Yankees put him at the top of the order, bumping down Jeter, who loses ~18 plate appearances, bumping down Rodriguez, who loses about ~18 plate appearances, bumping down Sheffield, who loses ~18 plate appearances, that's not a great thing for the Yankees. Damon's OBP last year (.366) was good, but not great. It wasn't as good as Jeter's (.389) or Sheffield's (.379) or within shouting distance of Rodriguez' (.421). It was an improvement over Bernie Williams or Tony Womack or Bubba Crosby, but part of the benefit to upgrading that lineup spot is lost by moving it to the top and losing plate appearances for the better hitters. As to the defense, he's an upgrade, but not what he once was, and as bad as Williams' arm is, I'm not certain that Damon's is any better.

And he's benefited enormously from Fenway Park. Over the last 4 years, he's hit .310/.383/.442/.825 at home, and only .281/.341/.440/.782 on the road. If the Yankees have just given $52 million dollars for a weak-armed, aging, declining range center fielder and lead-off man who's going to put up a .341 OBP and hit 15 HR, that's not going to bother me one little bit.

For a little context, there have been 197 Major League players with 800+ road at-bats over the last 4 years, the length of Damon's stay in Boston. Out of that group,

  • Damon's road OBP is .342, 96th best. Middle of the pack.

  • Damon's road SLG is .449, 94th best. Middle of the pack.

  • Damon's road OPS is .782, 97th best. Middle of the pack.

And those were his age 28-31 seasons. Actuarially speaking, the next four are far more likely to be worse then just as good, never mind better. If we look at his career, we see that his OBP is .040 points higher at Fenway Park than it is everywhere else. That difference is the difference between a very good lead-off hitter (.383 OBP) and just another guy (.344 OBP).

Johnny Damon



Everywhere else116248634/6/1902138125067108550442556.284.344.430.774

I will say this, unequivocally: there is no way on God's green earth that Johnny Damon is a $13 million dollar a year player in ANY of the next 4 years.

That said, the question remains - was it the right thing for the Red Sox not to match that offer? Yes, someone' going to be overpaying him (mildly next year, and progressively worse for the life of the contract.) But the Red Sox do not, at the moment, have a replacement. In that sense, this is a loss for the Red Sox. They'd be better prepared right now for the 2006 season than they are, had Damon signed with Boston instead of New York. And New York would be less prepared.

So where do they go now? David Murphy has shown signs of getting it, but he was only in AA this year, and jumping to Fenway is probably not the right next step for him. Trot Nixon can't play it (and it wouldn't help much if he could, because then they'd need a right-fielder.) Gabe Kapler, coming off Achilles surgery, isn't going to be ready, and really isn't good enough even if he were. I think Adam Stern's still in the system, and he's a conceivable stopgap for a year. In all likelihood, they're going to have to make a move to add a center fielder.

Now, they've got some pitching that they could probably get away with moving (Wells/Clement/Arroyo) to try to pick up a Jeremy Reed or a Coco Crisp, or even a Dave Roberts. The fact is, that with Renteria gone and Loretta here, they can probably put together a 1-2 from Loretta/Graffanino/Youkilis that will be on base as much as, if not more than, Damon/Renteria were on base in 2005. They've got enough pieces, assuming that Lowell shows any kind of bounce back, that they offense will probably not suffer greatly. I don't expect them to score 910 runs again, but I sure don't expect them to allow 805, either. Frankly, if Manny's back, and Varitek, Loretta, Nixon, Ortiz and Ramirez are healthy, this team's still going to score runs, no matter who's in center field. So signing a great glove, weak-bat CF, batting him 9th and letting him track down balls in the OF, wouldn't be the worst idea in the world.

Ideally, they'd have been able to sign Damon for 1-2 years and continue to develop Murphy (and Moss) and Ellsbury behind them. That wasn't ever going to happen. Given that, the choice was between vastly overpaying Damon (they were willing to overpay him, as he isn't going to be worth $40 million over the next four years, either) or going to plan 'B.' So they're going to have to go to plan 'B.' We'll have to wait until we see what it is to evaluate it, but the level of panic in Red Sox nation today was completely unjustified. And while it may benefit the Yankees to have signed Damon for 2006, I'd put money on it that the Red Sox, and Red Sox fans, will be glad that it's George Steinbrenner signing those Damon checks in 2008-2009 rather than John Henry...

Further commentary from:

  • The Baseball Crank - ("I can't wait for the day when he and Bernie are in the outfield at once. Opposing teams won't even need third base coaches anymore.")

  • A Large Regular - ("This is a very good move by the Yankees. Damon makes them much better both offensively and defensively." - I [obviously] disagree...)

  • David Pinto - ("this is a positive for the Yankees, if for no other reason than the Red Sox need to find a new center fielder...")

  • The House That Dewey Built - ("thank the Good Lord we didn’t sign this deal. Warning signs for Damon abound...")

  • Soxblog - ("Bill James once wrote that a player’s career is like a watermelon. You’ve got the skin, the rind, and the tasty pink part. As a franchise, you want to make sure you get a given player’s tasty pink part and as little of the rind and skin as possible.

    That’s what the Red Sox did with Damon.")

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Globe's concern over sex-ed programs

According to the worldview of the mainstream press, there are really two kinds of people in the world - normal people who hold normal views, and conservatives, who hold abnormal views. There's a front-page story in Today's Boston Globe that demonstrates this, yet again.

The news story ("State to push abstinence in schools") addresses a plan proposed by the Romney administration to utilize federal funds for an abstinence-only plan in certain schools where there are believed to be higher levels of sexual activity.
The Romney administration plans to introduce a new abstinence education program in Massachusetts schools beginning next month, the state's most aggressive effort yet to use a controversial method of teaching Bay State teenagers about sex.

Right off the bat, first sentence, we find out that the method is controversial. And reading the piece, you discover that it's controversial because...well, apparently, because it's being pushed by conservatives.
Like abortion and gay rights, sex education -- and abstinence specifically -- is an important social issue to conservatives around the country, whom Romney would have to court if he runs for president in 2008. But the administration's decision promises to revive a fight in Massachusetts over how to teach sex education.

If there's a fight over "how to teach sex education," who are the participants? Conservatives are mentioned. No one else. Apparently the other side is non-ideological. Ladies and gentleman, this is a textbook example of lying by telling a piece of the truth. Is it debatable that, to the extent there is a "fight...over how to teach sex education" in this country, it was started not by the conservatives, who were happy not to have it in the schools, but by liberals? But there aren't any liberals, not in the Boston Globe's world-view.

And there's more. The funds would be used, according to Romney's spokesman, "in addition to comprehensive sex education programs already in place," but the article appears to ignore that completely.
Opponents of abstinence-only programs say they have no problem with teaching abstinence -- in fact, many believe it should be the primary message of any sex education program. But they say any program that teaches only abstinence is putting teens at risk.

"The problem here is not the abstinence, it's the only," said Angus McQuilken, director of public relations and governmental affairs for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, a leading provider of comprehensive sex education in the public schools. "We're doing them a disservice if we deny them medically accurate information about how to protect themselves."

Didn't they just say that that's not what's happening? If the new programs are in addition to the current programs, why do we need the scary quotes? Particularly, what probative value do the scary quotes have when they come from an organization that profits from teenagers who don't exercise abstinence only? Let's remember that teenagers who aren't sexually active provide no business for Planned Parenthood. One could easily see them as a party with a vested interest in the outcome. But no, to the Globe they're just a non-partisan "leading provider of comprehensive sex education in the public schools."

And they have more scare quotes, from a (surprise, surprise) Democratic state legislator.
"Of course it puts them at risk," said state Representative Alice K. Wolf, a Cambridge Democrat who sits on the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education. "It could be misleading. It could be incomplete. And in the end, if the kids are not going to [get comprehensive sex education], then they are ignorant and they are at severe risk of health issues as well as pregnancies."

The Globe did not bother, again, to point out that the Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Programs are being used in addition to the comprehensive plans already in place.
...opponents cite a 2004 congressional report released by US Representative Henry A. Waxman, a California Democrat, which found that many federally funded abstinence programs provide teenagers with distorted, misleading, and incorrect information about sex, pregnancy, and contraception.

If there are any reports which found that many "comprehensive sex education programs" also resulted in "distorted, misleading, and incorrect information about sex, pregnancy, and contraception," they weren't mentioned...

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The "quintessential" Favre

I watched a few minutes of the Packers/Ravens game last night, but just a few, as there was neither good football nor good competition in evidence. But I heard something that made me laugh. At one point, Favre was rolling out to his right, setting up to make a deep throw, and as he was doing so, Al Michaels made the comment that "this is quintessential Favre." Less than four seconds later, the ball, thrown into double coverage, nestled into the arms of one of the defenders for another interception. At which point I just had to laugh. The "quintessential Favre" indeed. I rather suspect that if Michaels had known what would happen to the throw, he'd not have used that terminology, but I thought it covered the case perfectly...

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Quote of the day

Today's quote of the day comes from Ramesh Ponnuru in the Corner, talking about the ridiculous failure of the Senate to renew the Patriot Act.
Let's imagine that intelligence agents have discovered that suspected Al Qaida agent Mohammed Atta is in the United States and that he has hired another individual to work for him. Under the Patriot Act legislation being considered now, it will be easier for the federal government to subpoena records in order to make sure that Atta is paying that individual the minimum wage than it will be to obtain records to find out if Atta is using him to engage in international terrorism...

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

"Everything I thought I knew was wrong...

Margaret Friedenauer is a reporter for the Fairbanks News-Miner, and is currently embedded with the 172nd Stryker Brigade in Iraq. In addition to whatever reporting she's producing for the newspaper, she's also blogging her experiences. Yesterday, she put up an interesting entry on "The view from on the ground" (H/T to K-Lo in The Corner) which was enlightening in ways she intended, and also in ways that I don't think she intended. It dealt with the situation on the ground in Iraq, and the comment she had was that "everything I thought I knew was wrong."
Think about everything you’ve heard about the conditions in Iraq, the role of U.S. forces, the multi-layered complexities of the war.

Then think again.

I’m a journalist. I read the news everyday, from several sources. I have the luxury of reading stuff newspapers don’t always have room to print. I read every tidbit I could on Iraq and the war before coming.

Everything I thought I knew was wrong.

Well, that's certainly an interesting way to start. So here we have a reporter, someone who's following the news carefully, thinks that she has great sources and a clear picture of what's happening, and discovers that it's all wrong. What, exactly, does that tell us about the media's coverage of what's happening in Iraq?

Well, it tells us that it doesn't match reality. To many of us, this is not a surprise. But I thought she revealed more than she intended when she wrote of some of the things that didn't match her preconceptions.
I still haven’t seen U.S. troops engaged or encounter car bombs or explosives. But I did see them play backgammon with some local police and Iraqi soldiers. I saw them take photos with more locals and make jokes mostly lost in translation. They gave advice and expertise to local troops on how to conduct a neighborhood patrol. They drank the local customary tea, and many admitted they’ve become addicted to it. They know several locals by name. I didn’t hear one slight or ridicule of a very distinct culture. One soldier mentioned it might be a good idea to clean up the trash around one polling place, and another commented on the status of women in the culture, but they were nothing but respectful, friendly and buddy-buddy with the Iraqis they mingled with today.

This is what got to me. She's a J-school graduate, a member of the media, she thinks that she's getting all of the relevant information to understand what's happening. And yet she seems to be shocked that the US Military is behaving in a professional manner, that they are not mocking and ridiculing the natives. And she seems to be shocked that the natives are interacting with them, not treating them like barbarian hordes.

And then she admits what every reporter makes such an effort not to. She's biased. She's biased against good news stories. She was biased against the US Military, though she didn't admit it in so many words, but she's clearly biased against reporting good news.
I’ve listened to the soldiers and Parrish about the missing pieces of the puzzles that don’t reach home. My selfish, journalistic drive immediately thinks “Perfect. A story that hasn’t been told. Let me at it.”

But I have a slight hesitation; I need to keep balanced. I can’t be a cheerleader, even if I have a soft spot for the hometown troops, especially after the welcome they’ve shown me. I still need to be truthful and walk the centerline and report the good or bad.

But then I realize it’s not a conflict of interest. If I am truly unbiased, then I need to get used to this one simple fact; that the untold story, might in fact, be a positive one. It takes a minute to wrap my mind around it, as a news junkie that became a news writer. The great, career-making, breaking news stories usually don’t have happy endings; they usually revolve around disturbing news, deceit and downfall. Nasty political doings. Gruesome crimes and murders. Revealing secrets.

If only more of them would realize that, it might make a significant difference in the coverage of Iraq...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Idle thought...

How much shorter would Les Miserables have been if Fantine had had access to a good Planned Parenthood clinic and the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade?

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Ah-nuhld gets it right...

California Governor Schwarzenegger has decided to deny clemency for Tooky Williams. As there's no reason whatsoever to think that clemency was appropriate, it was a bit concerning that it took the Governor so long to come to a decision. Fortunately, he got it right. Good job, Governor. Good job.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bill Plaschke on Grady

Out on the west coast, the LA Times employs a sports columnist by the name of Bill Plaschke. Plaschke is one of those "traditional baseball guys," someone who resents the hell out of Bill James and Billy Beane, and anyone who's spent time trying to objectively learn to evaluate baseball players and baseball teams. He called for Paul DePodesta's execution as soon as he was hired and spent the entire DePodesta era trying to run him out of town. Small, petty, spiteful and gloriously ill-informed, Plaschke is the man who wrote in December of 2000 that "today, the Twins wake up with zero chance to make next year's playoffs. Like the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like the Montreal Expos. Like about all but five or six teams." Of course, 8 teams made the play-offs in 2001. One of them happened to be the Minnesota Twins...

See this "outside the tent" piece from Matt Welch for more Plaschke background. Well, here we have another Plaschke masterpiece, just begging for a fisking...
Let me see if I have this straight.

Based on your track record, I'm thinking probably not.
There was an unemployed manager out there whose last night of work was Game 7 of the American League championship series.

There was a former manager out there whose last season contained 95 wins.

There was an ex-manager out there who was fired because he trusted instinct over statistic, people over paradigms, baseball over everything.

And this same guy, the Dodgers just hired him?

Well, not exactly, no. Yes, the 2003 Red Sox, with Grady Little at the helm, did win 95 games. But he wasn't "fired." They hired him in 2002 and gave him a 2 year contract. That contract expired at the end of 2003. After looking at the body of work, they decided that they didn't want to sign him to a new contract. That's not "firing." He was a free agent, they didn't re-sign him.

And he wasn't "fired" because he "trusted instinct over statistic." He was "fired" because they weren't happy with the job he did. Not to mention the ticket holders who wouldn't have been back if Grady had.
Ned Colletti can pump his right fist any time now.

In resurrecting Grady Little as the new Dodger manager, he hit a late-inning, backdoor slider out of the park.

The baseball folks in Boston may be wincing, but baseball folks everywhere else are smiling, waxing in the rebirth of a good man wronged.

Anyone else feeling misty-eyed? Emotional? I admit it, I reacted emotionally to this line. But I wasn't sure whether to laugh before or after I threw up...

I'm actually reminded of Dickens. And Oscar Wilde. Charles Dickens was a great writer, capable of great emotional impact. But sometimes he went just a bit too far, and it didn't work. The great comment from Oscar Wilde, with which I wholeheartedly agreed, was about "The Olde Curiousity Shoppe." Wilde said that "a man would have to have a heart of stone not to laugh at little Nell's death..." There are tragedies and rebirths in this world. Grady Little's managerial career isn't one of them.
"I love baseball, this is my life, this is what I do," said Little, a former cotton farmer with a voice like syrup and the expressiveness of grits. "To be able to get another chance like this, I'm very, very fortunate."

Little's only other major league managerial experience consisted of two years with the Boston Red Sox, who fired him because of one bad decision he made when the still-cursed franchise was six outs from going to the 2003 World Series.

Which "one bad decision" was that? Sending Pedro out for the 8th? Leaving him in to face Jeter? Leaving him in to face Williams? Leaving him in to face Matsui? Leaving him in to face Posada? Going to Wakefield in a tie game with Williamson still available? Or was it one of the myriad of other decisions to leave pitchers in games too long over the course of his two seasons at the helm? Or just his one decision to ignore all of the information that his bosses had tried to give him on how they wanted things done?
Going with his gut,

Instead of the mountain of other evidence, such as Martinez' past performance record when over 100 pitches, or the fact that he clearly thought he was done after seven, or that his velocity was going up but his pitches were straightening out. Or the fact that he allowed 3 straight hit, including a home run, and a hard line drive out to the last 5 batters he faced in the seventh. Or the fact that, by the time he was removed, he'd allowed 3 singles, 3 doubles and a home run to the last 9 batters he'd faced.
his gut failed him, as he left a tiring Pedro Martinez on the mound to face the New York Yankees in the eighth inning with a 5-2 lead. Martinez gave up three runs before the Yankees won it on Aaron Boone's home run in the 11th.

Little was gone shortly after the ball, canned by weak-kneed Boston officials who bowed to a region of whiny, self-absorbed fans.

Anyone who's read Plaschke's virtually non-stop assault on Paul DePodesta since he was hired can only react to this with 3 words. Pot. Kettle. Black.

And it has apparently escaped his attention that they did, in fact, upgrade, as the following year, the team won 11 games in October, as opposed to just 6, and captured the World Series, and Terry Francona outmanaged Mike Scioscia, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa in the process. The day a Grady Little managed Dodger team does anything comparable, it'll rain up instead of down.
Two things about then, as they relate to now.

First, if Grady Little can guide the devastated Dodgers to within six outs of a World Series, the only decision that will be questioned will be the size of his statue.

I can just picture it now. Grady manages a Dodger team to a lead in game 7 of the NLCS, then completely gags, making awful tactical moves that cost LA the pennant. Bill Plaschke will be leading an effort to build a statue to Grady.

Second, leaving the Red Sox is generally a good and fortunate thing.

It happened to Babe Ruth. It happened to Roger Clemens. Heck, it has made a saint out of that lucky kid Theo Epstein.

The Red Sox fans who tell you Little was a terrible manager — and there are plenty of them — will also tell you that Bill Buckner was a terrible baseball player.

I'll tell you that Little was a terrible manager. And he's right, I'll also tell you that Bill Buckner was a terrible baseball player. In 1986, anyway. Not because of the 6th game, though - that was Rich Gedman's fault. And John McNamara's fault. And Calvin Schiraldi's fault. No, Buckner was a terrible player in 1986 because he didn't hit for power and he didn't take walks, and he wasn't very good defensively anymore at a weak defensive position. He led all of baseball in one category that year - outs made. Bill Plaschke may not understand this, but for an offensive player, making outs is a bad thing. That means that someone else doesn't get to bat, and you don't get more chances to score runs. The player who makes the most outs in baseball, if he's not countering with something pretty spectacular (the fact that Buckner hit 18 HR doesn't come close to qualifying), is hurting his team. Badly.

Which is not to say that Buckner was terrible for his whole career. He wasn't. But he wasn't ever a great player, and he was a bad one for longer than he was good.
Yeah, that same Buckner who had 2,715 hits.

And made over 7000 outs in the process. Context, Bill. Context. He really had no business in the Majors the last 5 years that he played.
Before breaking the 86-year-old "Curse of the Bambino" — which was really the curse of being the last integrated team in baseball — the Red Sox did all sorts of silly things to their managers in the name of voodoo.

Dick Williams won a pennant in his first year, and was gone in his third year. Don Zimmer averaged 96 wins for his first three seasons, and was gone in his fourth.

Williams wound up winning two World Series titles in Oakland and Zimmer became a legendary bench coach with the Yankees, both men lucky to have left town.

"It's New England, it's Boston, all they want to do is win," said Little with a huge sigh and great restraint.

Funny, but that's all Little, 55, did there. He won.

Funny, but that's not all that he did there. Yes, his (superbly talented) teams won 188 games. They also lost 136. They were 6-6 in the post-season, the one time that they got there.

After 16 years as a minor league manager, he won the Red Sox clubhouse after being appointed full-time boss in the spring of 2003. The ovation was so loud, it was heard by reporters outside the room.

This was a guy who had been director Ron Shelton's inspiration as the real manager of the Durham Bulls, with one publication selecting him best minor league manager of the last 20 years.

Players understood and loved that he was all about the grass-roots part of the game. That he would judge them not for only how they looked, but who they were.

"It's like [former player] Dante Bichette once said," Little explained Tuesday. "When you see a pretty girl wearing a bikini on the beach, she shows you a whole lot. But she doesn't show you everything."

He added, "My philosophy is like that. Statistics can't show you everything. I'm a human kind of guy."

There's a wonderful scene in Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot" (gee, I wonder how it is that Bill Plaschke writing about Grady Little makes me think of "The Idiot") in which characters are having a discussion about things that they've done in the past that embarrassed them. Only, as is actually the case, no one really wants to share the things that are deep down and embarrassing - we hide them away, from everyone else, yes, but especially from ourselves. Well, most of the people share events or occurrences that make them look good - ostensible "embarrassments" that really show their nobility or intelligence or the pride of their spirit. That's how I read that. "Statistics can't show you everything." No one ever said that they could. Grady ignored all of the statistics that his bosses provided him. He ignored all of the data that people gathered, gave him to work with. He ignored it all, and when the things that those statistics would have told him beforehand actually happened, he's wearing his ignorance as a badge of honor.

And Bill Plaschke loves him for it. He's a "human kind of guy." Unlike those of us who actually want to understand how the game works.
This humanness pulled together a clubhouse with players as diverse as Manny Ramirez, Derek Lowe and Nomar Garciaparra.

Ramirez averaged 34 homers and 106 runs batted in in two seasons with Little despite being benched for missing games.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Notice how Plaschke derides numbers, hates statistics, but now wants to praise Grady Little by using Manny Ramirez' statistics?

Now, maybe Plaschke should just stick to that whole "anti-stats" thing, because even when he does it, it makes him look like an even bigger idiot than when he just sticks his fingers in his ears and says "I can't hear you!" Little gets praise because Ramirez "averaged 34 homers and 106 runs batted in" under Little. He ignores the fact that he average 40 and 125 in the two years before Little got there, and 44 and 137 in the 2 years since.

I've decided. Definitely I'll laugh...
Lowe was 38-15 under Little and channeled his nervous energy into a force.

A force that had him put up his worst ERA since his rookie year in Grady's second season.
Then there was Garciaparra, who had his last good season under Little, 28 homers and 105 RBIs.

You see, if they hadn't replaced the "human" Grady Little with that evil alien robot Terry Francona, Garciaparra wouldn't have had that serious tendon injury to his ankle.
Little took a diverse group and turned them into winners who, months after he was fired, became nationally known as "the Idiots."

Many months. Like, 5 months into the following season.
Then, of course, they finally won the World Series.

Right. Without Grady Little.
Yet, when he was fired, he accepted it with humility and grace, never really ripping, instead disappearing into the Chicago Cubs' system as their roving catching instructor, an important yet anonymous and thankless job.

"I'm not sure that I want to manage that team. That's how I felt when I drove out of town. If Grady Little is not there, he'll be somewhere. Right now I'm disappointed that evidently some people are judging me on the results of one decision I made -- not the decision, but the results of the decision. Less than 24 hours before, those same people were hugging and kissing me. If that's the way they operate, I'm not sure I want to be part of it...Just add one more ghost to the list if I'm not there, because there are ghosts. That's certainly evident when you're a player in that uniform."
- Grady Little, leaving town with humility and grace...
"Why would I be bitter?" Little said Tuesday. "If I was going to be bitter, I'd have to be bitter for the rest of my life. Hey, things happen. Either you get busy living, or get busy dying, and I was going to live."

In an era when a first-time manager wins a World Series, today's hot hires are young or fresh, so Little received little interest the last two seasons until Colletti smartly delved deep into the system of his former Cubs and dusted him off.

Little is relaxed enough to handle veterans, but crusty enough to gain the respect of kids, and media-savvy enough to handle buzz. All of that is required in this market, where the new manager must deal with an unsmiling Jeff Kent and effusive "Entertainment Tonight" and seemingly every shade of blue in between.

The Rafael Furcal signing was a strange surprise. The Little hiring was a pleasant one. With much work left to be done, we'll for wait for more.

We'll see how pleasant it is when the Dodgers don't improve, and the starters are consistently left in to give up leads in the 7th...

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

How did I miss this?

Andy McCarthy, in the Corner, noted a story that I'd missed. And it is appalling.

According to the NY Times, the "Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is asking a court to set aside a jury verdict finding the authority negligent in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center." Hmm. I had thought that Ramzi Yousef, assisted by Abdul Rahman Yasin (from that peaceful, non-threat to the US, non-terrorism supporting fantasyland Iraq), had been responsible for that bombing. But maybe the Port Authority had been a little bit negligent. Maybe they should have been checking any vans entering the parking garage, or looking for Middle-eastern men driving vans in (I'm sure that the ACLU would have approved.) So maybe, possibly, a jury could look at the whole situation and think that, oh, .01-.02% of the responsibility fell on the Port Authority.

No. The jury found the Port Authority 68% responsible.

That is not a misprint. That is not a typo. 68%. 68%!

A jury of Americans found that more than 2/3 of the responsibility for that bombing went, not to the people who plotted, planned, made the bomb and set it off, but to the regulatory authority in charge of the building for not knowing that the bomb was in that van. Absolutely unbelievable.

And I don't want to hammer lawyers, as a general rule. There are many good and great people out there doing important work. But when I see something like this, it just boggles my mind that someone was willing to go out and play lawsuit lottery with this.

Back in the mid-80s, there was a great Bloom County strip about this phenomenon.

As is so often the case, to quote Homer Simpson, "it's funny because it's true." But this decision is far beyond funny...

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Birthday, Larry Legend!

Larry Bird, who led the Celtics to 3 NBA Championships during the 1980s, turns 49 today.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Dodgers hired WHO???

Dipping into my personal archives...

Two years ago, the Red Sox lost to the Yankees in the 7th game of the 2003 ALCS. The loss was almost universally blamed on Boston's manager Grady Little. The venom and vitriol directed at him over the course of the next couple of weeks was amazing to watch, and it resulted in the team not offering him a new contract to continue in that position. On 10/24/03, I made the following comments:
It's time to stop the Grady-bashing...just so there's no confusion about this, I think Grady Little was responsible for the Red Sox losing the ALCS. Yes, if they'd scored more runs, they could have overcome his decisions. Yes, if Pedro hadn't given up the HRs to Giambi, or if he'd made it through the 8th, they could have won. Yes, if Wakefield hadn't given up the HR to Boone, they might have won. That said, they scored 5 runs, and got 7 innings of 2 run starting pitching. The offense did enough to win, the starting pitching was good enough to win. The team, through 7 innings, had done everything necessary to win the AL Pennant. They had control of the game, and needed just 6 outs.

Whether the bullpen would have gotten the 6 outs without giving up 3 runs is, obviously, unknowable, but given their past performance, it's a good bet. In any event, the bullpen didn't fail, as they didn't get a chance to succeed. The manager cost the team the game. I know that some people are upset by that, but I'll say it again - the manager cost the team the game. Had he gone to the 'pen, and they'd failed, then the 'pen would have cost them the game.

All of that said, there's been enough Grady-bashing. There have been too many "village idiot" jokes, too many "dumb" comments, too many "idiot" comments. Grady's not an idiot. He's not a stupid man. There are a lot of people who've responded to criticism of Grady all year with "but they won the game" who now want him fired because they lost the game. And that's not fair.

...Grady needs to go. And it's why I wanted him gone before the season started. Not because he made a critical mistake that the team couldn't overcome (after all of the critical mistakes that they have overcome over the past two seasons.) But because his world-view is such that he's going to continue to make that mistake, and other mistakes like it. Which is not to say that he did everything wrong. He did a decent job with the lineup (though there weren't, in many places, a lot of options.) He didn't bunt much, which drives some people crazy, but I believe is the right way to go.

He clearly had the respect of the players, but I think that's vastly overrated. Not that respect isn't important, just that I think most managers get it. It's kind of like hearing announcers go crazy about a first baseman making a good dig on a throw in the dirt, and raving about how many runs he saves the team. Well, maybe he does, and maybe he doesn't. But the alternative to that Major League first baseman isn't a little league player, or some schmoe off the street - it's another Major League first baseman. And far too often we get raves about plays which, as impressive as they look, get made by every Major League player! It's like that with managers, particularly ones that are clearly tactically deficient.

People assume that...if a manager clearly can't manage the game, he must be great in the clubhouse. Well, I don't have any way of knowing how good Grady is in the clubhouse. I do know this - if they replace him, they'll replace him with someone else who'll have some effect in the clubhouse. I don't see any reason to assume that that effect will be worse than Grady's.

I don't want to run Grady out of town for one mistake. I want him replaced because I believe that his tactical decisions, particularly with regard to the pitching staff, cost the team games. Period. Not for vengeance. Not for punishment. Just to improve the team. The same reason that I wanted him replaced before the season started. I think that Theo's got to take at least a smidgen of the blame, because he put the team together, and then left Grady in charge. I don't give him much blame, however, because I think that, politically speaking, it would have been nearly impossible for him to fire Grady at any point before game 7. I think it's legitimate to criticize Pedro for the HRs to Giambi. I do not blame him for the 8th - he clearly shouldn't have been out there. He was still throwing hard according to the radar gun in the 7th. But he had velocity at the cost of touch and movement. He was out of gas, and overthrowing. It was obvious to me in Lawrence, MA. How it could have not been obvious to Grady 120 feet away, I've no idea...

There are a lot of people angry with Grady, and a lot of vitriol spilling out. I'm still stunned about the game, and I am upset. I guess I'm angry with the decision, but at this point, I feel more sorry for Grady than anything else. All Red Sox fans are upset that we lost the opportunity to watch the Sox beat the Yankees and win the AL pennant. Grady cost himself all of that, plus several million dollars, and his job. He seems like a genuinely good guy.

But he also seems, in my opinion, like a baseball dinosaur. I believe that we're going to see fewer and fewer Grady Little's, as the Jamesian view of the world takes over. We're going to reach a tipping point eventually, and it's coming. There are clearly statheads in charge in New York, Boston, Oakland and Toronto right now, and they're succeeding. And there will be more coming. Grady, and other baseball lifers who share his world-view and lack of respect for statistical analysis, are not going to get a managing jobs from JP Ricciardi or Billy Beane or Theo Epstein. And those guys, and others like them, are going to be responsible for more and more of those managing jobs as the years go by.

I still think that I'm right. I think it's safe to say that Paul DePodesta wouldn't have hired Grady Little. But Ned Colletti is not Paul DePodesta, and Grady, much to my astonishment, has got another gig...

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Monday, December 05, 2005

Terry Teachout piece in Commentary

Terry Teachout's got an outstanding piece in Commentary, reviewing Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck. And he does a great job going into the historical context on each, and the way that the latter plays up, and the former shows the reality behind, the journalist-as-unbiased-purveyor-of-truth-hero model in which the mainstream media is so deeply invested.
There has always been something faintly silly about Hollywood’s worshipful portrayal of journalists. With the exception of such cynical comedies as Howard Hawks’s His Girl Friday (1940), most American movies purporting to show journalism as it is take for granted the trustworthiness and good intentions of the average reporter. Not surprisingly, these films are usually the work of outsiders who know nothing about the daily workings of newspapers, magazines, or TV news divisions. Even when a branch of the media is shown as gravely flawed, as in Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), James Brooks’s Broadcast News (1987) or Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999), one need not look too hard to find the starry-eyed idealists in the woodpile, earnestly speaking truth to power.

If George Clooney’s Good Night, and Good Luck, a docudrama about Edward R. Murrow—the title is the catchphrase with which Murrow closed his radio and TV newscasts in the 1940’s and 50’s—were merely another such exercise in hagiography, it would be unworthy of consideration for other than its purely cinematic qualities. But Clooney, the latest of Hollywood’s Left-liberal actors to go behind the camera and make politically oriented films of his own, has added to the mix a more telling form of idealization: in this movie, he also becomes the latest Hollywood director to make a film in which the truth about American Communism is deliberately falsified. Moreover, in a piece of bad timing, his film happens to have been released simultaneously with Bennett Miller’s Capote, in which a serious effort is made to suggest precisely some of the inherent moral ambiguities of real-life journalism that Good Night, and Good Luck mostly overlooks.

I haven't seen either film yet, but I'll see both eventually, as the both have topics that interest me. I've read In Cold Blood, and thought it a fascinating read. And I've got a personal interest in McCarthy. My grandfather was, before his death, the secretary to Sen. William Jenner of Indiana. He and my grandmother knew Joe McCarthy, and I've been told for years that the press and conventional wisdom on him was wrong. I do know that one of my great pet peeves is to hear what McCarthy did called "witch hunts" - there are no witches, but there certainly were communist spies in the state department in the 1940s and 1950s. I know that Alger Hiss was guilty, and the press never forgave Nixon for being right about him. Well, Teachout addresses some of the historical context on McCarthy and Murrow in his piece:
As is now widely acknowledged by scholars of the period—and as American intelligence officials knew at the time—the American Communist party was used by the Soviets as an intelligence apparatus through which, starting in the early 30’s, Soviet spies successfully infiltrated the U.S. government. Yet with the exception of one glancing, carefully unspecific reference to Alger Hiss, the script of Good Night, and Good Luck takes no notice whatsoever of this well-known fact. Rather, we are invited to suppose that the activities of Hiss, Julius Rosenberg, and other Soviet agents were nothing more than a paranoid fantasy on the part of McCarthy and his supporters.

We know better, but, damningly for Clooney’s project, Murrow himself did not. He had been, for example, one of the most vocal defenders of Laurence Duggan, a State Department official who committed suicide in 1948 after the House Un-American Activities Committee revealed that Whittaker Chambers, the Soviet agent who was Hiss’s controller, had identified him as another agent. Decoded Soviet cables made public years later proved that Chambers was telling the truth, just as he had told the truth about Hiss.

Needless to say, Duggan goes unmentioned in Good Night, and Good Luck. Instead, Clooney devotes several minutes of the film to footage from another episode of See It Now in which McCarthy is shown interrogating Annie Lee Moss, a Pentagon employee who worked in the Signal Corps code room, a highly sensitive area. McCarthy accused Moss of having been a Communist without offering evidence to back up his claim. Murrow in turn offered this interrogation as proof of McCarthy’s irresponsibility—yet, again, no mention is made in Good Night, and Good Luck of the fact that the Communist party’s own records later proved Moss to have been a party member.

It's a great read - I recommend it highly...

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