Thursday, August 31, 2006

The lousy trip

Overheard on the web...


A woman was at her hairdresser's getting her hair styled for a trip to Rome with her husband.

She mentioned the trip to the hairdresser, who responded: "Rome? Are you kidding!? Why would anyone want to go there? It's just over-crowded and dirty. You're crazy to go to Rome. So, how are you getting there?"

We're taking Continental," was the reply. "We got a great rate!"

"Continental?" exclaimed the hairdresser. "Are you kidding me? That's a terrible airline. Their planes are old, their flight attendants are ugly, and they're always late. So, where are you staying in Rome anyway?"

"Oh! We'll be at this exclusive little place over on Rome's Tiber River called "Teste, it's said to be so nice....."

The hairdresser stopped cutting, and looked at her with disgust. "Don't go any further. I know that place. Everybody thinks its going to be something special and exclusive, but it's really a complete dump! Ugh! The worst hotel in the city! The rooms are small, the service is surly and they're disgustingly overpriced. So, whatcha' doing when you get there?"

Getting discouraged, the woman said hesitently, "Well, we're going to go to see the Vatican and we hope to see the Pope."

"Ha! That's rich," laughed the hairdresser. "You and like a million other people trying to see him. He'll look the size of an ant. Boy, good luck on this lousy trip of yours. You're so going to need it."

A month later the woman again came in for a hairdo. The hairdresser asked her about her trip to Rome.

"Oh, it was wonderful!" explained the woman, "not only were we on time in one of Continental's brand new planes, but it was overbooked and so they bumped us up to first class! The food and wine were wonderful, and I had a handsome, attentive 28-year-old steward who waited on me hand and foot.

"Really?" asked the hairdresser.

"Yes! And the hotel! Oh my gosh, it was absolutely fabulous! They'd just finished a $5 million remodeling job and now it's a jewel, I'm tellng you, the finest hotel in the city. They, too, were overbooked so they apologized and gave us their owner's suite at no extra charge!"

"Well," muttered the hairdresser, "that's all well and good, but I know you didn't get to see the Pope."

"Actually, we were quite lucky, because as we were touring the Vatican, a Swiss Guard tapped me on the shoulder, and explained that the Pope likes to periodically meet some of the visitors, and if I'd be so kind as to step into his private room and wait, the Pope would personally greet me! Sure enough, five minutes later, the Pope walked through the door and shook my hand! I knelt down and he spoke a few words to me."

"Oh really! What'd he say?!"

"He said: 'Where'd you get the lousy hairdo?' "

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Today's global warming story

From the Boston Globe, columnist Alex Beam talks to, and about, MIT's Inconvenient Scientist, Richard Lindzen.
I sat in a roomful of journalists 10 years ago while Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider lectured us on a big problem in our profession: soliciting opposing points of view. In the debate over climate change, Schneider said, there simply was no legitimate opposing view to the scientific consensus that man - made carbon emissions drive global warming. To suggest or report otherwise, he said, was irresponsible...I attended a week's worth of lectures on global warming at the Chautauqua Institution last month. Al Gore delivered the kickoff lecture, and, 10 years later, he reiterated Schneider's directive. There is no science on the other side, Gore inveighed, more than once. Again, the same message: If you hear tales of doubt, ignore them. They are simply untrue.

...

I decided to check out Lindzen for myself...He's smart. He's an effective debater. No wonder the Steve Schneiders and Al Gores of the world don't want you to hear from him. It's easier to call someone a shill and accuse him of corruption than to debate him on the merits.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Duh.

The media is shocked - SHOCKED! - this morning to discover what everyone else knew a week ago, that John Mark Karr was as guilty of the death of JonBenet Ramsey as Pluto, either the dwarf ex-planet or the cartoon dog...

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 8/28

This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run, and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond.


That's where the Red Sox are this morning. Coming off another sweep at the hands of another bad team, Seattle this time. Eliot said that April is the cruelest month, but for these Red Sox, it's been August that has been the Waste Land.

After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and place and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying

With a little patience
Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road


4 weeks ago, on the morning of July 31, the Boston Red Sox had the second-best record in the American league. They had just lost Tim Wakefield, Trot Nixon and Jason Varitek, and they've cratered since. They've played poorly enough that they should be 11-15, they've been unlucky enough that they've actually been 9-17. They've scored 4.96 runs per game, which is mediocre. They've allowed 6.12, which is horrible.

Mike Timlin's protestations notwithstanding, it has been the pitching that has been the problem. Most of the time, anyway. The offense has been nothing to write home about, but it has, on the whole, been mediocre. With mediocre pitching, they might be 13-13 over the past 4 weeks, rather than 9-17. If they were, they'd still be in competition for both the division and the Wild Card, as opposed to looking wistfully in from the fringes, as they are now.

It's not, of course, over yet. But. They need to put together the kind of run that it doesn't look like they're capable of putting together. They have 3 at home against both Minnesota and Chicago. They basically need to win all 6. They've got 4 in New York. They need to win all 4. It does not look as if this team, as currently constructed, is capable of doing those things. We'll know soon enough. Another week like the last 2, and we won't be talking about possibilities next week - we'll be talking about the Patriots and the baseball hot stove...




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/28/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit4.99(8)3.99(1)0.601(1)785281493

New York5.65(1)4.77(6)0.576(2)745476522

Chicago5.58(2)4.83(7)0.566(3)735675542

Minnesota5.08(7)4.41(3)0.565(4)725676524

Cleveland5.52(3)4.99(10)0.545(5)70586068-10

Oakland4.63(11)4.38(2)0.525(6)686174556

Boston5.4(4)5.14(11)0.523(7)676271584

Texas5.17(5)4.93(9)0.521(8)68636665-2

Toronto5.09(6)4.88(8)0.52(9)676268611

Los Angeles4.88(9)4.68(4)0.518(10)676369612

Seattle4.54(13)4.77(5)0.478(11)62676069-2

Baltimore4.86(10)5.5(13)0.444(12)577258711

Tampa Bay4.28(14)5.25(12)0.408(13)53775278-1

Kansas City4.57(12)5.98(14)0.38(14)50814784-3




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10161

New York9666

Minnesota9666

Chicago9468

Oakland9369




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10062

New York9666

Minnesota9567

Chicago9468

Oakland9171




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Oakland6.83(2)4(3)0.727(1)42511

Minnesota6.33(3)3.83(2)0.715(2)42511

Cleveland7.67(1)5.5(12)0.647(3)42511

Los Angeles5(6)4(3)0.601(4)42420

Seattle4(10)3.67(1)0.54(5)33421

New York5.43(4)5.14(9)0.525(6)4334-1

Toronto4.83(7)4.67(7)0.516(7)33330

Chicago4.57(8)5.14(9)0.446(8)3425-1

Tampa Bay3.57(12)4.14(5)0.433(9)34340

Kansas City5.17(5)6.17(14)0.42(10)3324-1

Detroit4.14(9)5.29(11)0.39(11)3425-1

Texas3.71(11)5.57(13)0.323(12)25250

Boston2.71(14)4.14(5)0.316(13)25250

Baltimore3(13)4.83(8)0.295(14)24331

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

NY Times: Half of the news that's fit to print...

The New York Times continues its coverage of the world the way they think it ought to be, with the Democratic party in control of the United States Congress. This morning's piece - Issues Await if Democrats Retake House - goes through the issues facing our gallant Dems as they prepare to take back the various House chairmanships that were usurped by Speaker Newt lo these many years ago. The New York Times, of course, is in favor of that happening. So they're willing to make sure that NY Times readers are aware that the potential Democratic committee chairs are "increasingly being portrayed by Republicans as liberal extremists." They aren't liberal extremists, of course. But they're being "portrayed as liberal extremists." John Conyers has a lifetime rating of 5 (out of 100) from the American Conservative Union, Barney Frank and Charles Rangel have 4s, but they're just being "portrayed" as liberal extremists.

Democrats and others call it a tired scare tactic with more than a whiff of bigotry because Republicans often point to gay and black Democrats who would lead committees.

"Others" presumably includes the New York Times. John Conyers wants to impeach President Bush, but it's "just a tired scare tactic" for the Republicans to use that in campaigning. Has Charles Rangel ever seen a tax cut he liked, or a tax hike that he didn't? Has Barney Frank? But they're in line for "tax-writing" and Banking Committees, and it's a "tired scare tactic with more than a whiff of bigotry" to bring it up.

But the amusing comment is with the man in line for the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee.

At the Intelligence Committee, Representative Alcee L. Hastings of Florida, who was removed from the federal bench in the 1980’s, is in line to take over, although that decision would be the responsibility of Ms. Pelosi and could prove explosive.

"Removed from the federal bench." Hmm, I wonder why that happened? I wonder HOW that happened?

Well, I don't, really. As I don't rely on the New York Times for my news, I know more about Alcee Hastings than that he was "removed from the federal bench." I know that he was a federal judge in Florida from 1979-1989. I know that he was impeached by the House of Representatives for corruption and perjury. I know that he was only the 6th federal judge in the history of the United States to be so impeached. I know that he was convicted and removed from office by a majority Democratic United States Senate.

Readers of the NY Times might not know that. That's understandable. If there were to be publicity about the fact that the man in line to be head of the Intelligence Committee was impeached and convicted for corruption and perjury, it might tend to distract from the Democratic Party's accusations of a Republican "culture of corruption."

The New York Times. All the news that's fit (for our agenda) to print...

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Friday, August 25, 2006

John Mark Karr

...has been the lead story on The Early Show and Good Morning, America (and, I'd suppose, The Today Show, but I haven't seen that) each and every day this week. Because...well, because. That's the important news in the world, I guess. Those morning shows continue to raise inanity to an art form.

But I've got a couple of thoughts, mainly on the media circus.

1) From the information in the public domain, it is obvious, and has been for a week, that this guy, as disturbed as he seems to be, had nothing to do with JonBenet Ramsey's death. His ex-wife, who's got a restraining order against him (and probably a huge book deal out there IF he's guilty), says that they were always together at Christmas. His family says that if he'd been apart from his wife and kids at Christmas, it would have been a family scandal. His alleged comments about picking JonBenet up from school aren't credible - school was out. There's no evidence that he was ever in Colorado. It didn't happen. He wasn't in Colorado, he didn't kill her. I'm amazed that they're continuing to cover this as if he were guilty.

2) The big question is who looks more foolish when they end up releasing him - the Boulder authorities or the national media? I'm thinking the latter. The coverage has been utterly ridiculous. Not a first...



Technorati tags: JonBenet, JohnMarkKarr, Ramsey, murder

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Red Sox. Defense. Over-rated. Significantly.

What I'm about to say does not match the conventional wisdom. But I think that the conventional wisdom, that which we all "know," is wrong. Badly wrong. And I want to address it.

Before I do so, there are a couple of things that I want to say.

1) Yes, I watch the games. If you want to tell me, "get your nose out of the book and watch the game!" don't bother. It's a waste of my time to read it and yours to write it. I watch the game as much as anyone does.

2) No, numbers can't tell you everything. Particularly on defense.

3) The number of errors that the Red Sox have made is staggeringly low. They've been phenomenally sure-handed. And some of them have looked really good, and there have been some spectacular plays.

Now, here we go.


You've heard it said that real problems come, not from what we don't know, but from what we do know that's just plain wrong. Well, there's something everyone knows about the Red Sox that's wrong.

There's been a constant drumbeat, a refrain that talks admiringly about how good the Red Sox defense has been. "Wow, a ground ball pitcher would do great in front of that infield." "The best defense in baseball." "The best Red Sox defense in 50 years!" "Alex Gonzalez prevents more runs with his glove than anyone in baseball - who cares what he hits?" "This pitching staff's been really lucky to be playing in front of that defense." Chris Lynch, for example, wrote, last week, that "the Red Sox' defense has been the best in baseball this year." This isn't to pick on Chris - everyone's said it. I've addressed it a couple of times in a couple of different forums. They say it every night on NESN and WEEI.

You know what? I haven't seen any evidence that that's the case. None. It looks to me like the Red Sox defense is below average this year. Sure-handed, certainly. Stylish, smooth, occasionally spectacular, check. Making the plays on everything they get to, no doubt. I don't deny any of that - I affirm it.

But they aren't out there to look good. They have a specific function - take batted balls, and turn those batted balls into outs. They're not doing a good job, at all, at turning batted balls into outs. A player who makes 45 plays and 5 errors is a better defender than someone who makes 30 plays and no errors given the same opportunities. There has been a tremendous focus on the errors that the Red Sox haven't made, and no consideration at all to the plays they haven't made.

Let's think about defense for a minute. There's really not a great way to measure what an individual defensive player does, without a rigid methodology and multiple spotters working with the same parameters at every game. But we can look at the pitching statistics to get a feel for what the defense is accomplishing. Basically, every time there's a plate appearance, there's the potential for the defense to make a play, unless the pitcher does something to prevent it. The pitcher can allow a HR, he can strike out the batter, he can walk the batter or he can hit the batter with a pitch. Everything else that happens provides the opportunity for a defensive play to be made.

So, if we look at it in gross terms, this is what we can divide it down into. First, there are balls in play. Balls in play consists of Plate Appearances minus HR, SO, BB and HBP. Then, there are hits on balls in play. These are hits that aren't HR. (There are exceptions, and Fenway hurts the Sox a little bit, but it's a reasonable approximation.) So we can calculate what happens against every defense when the offensive player puts a ball in play. Here are the numbers for the AL through Monday:



AL defense - Batting Average on Balls in Play - 2006
Balls in PlayHits in PlayBABiPRankH + E in playBABiP (w/E)Rank

Detroit Tigers33539230.27519990.2981

Chicago White Sox353210290.291311050.3132

New York Yankees34009790.288210660.3143

Oakland Athletics349910410.298611050.3164

Seattle Mariners339510170.3710860.325

Los Angeles Angels33089650.292410620.3216

Cleveland Indians349810810.3091211260.3227

Toronto Blue Jays33719990.296510840.3227

Baltimore Orioles340710300.302811070.3259

Boston Red Sox339810410.3061011030.3259

Texas Rangers352910810.3061011500.32611

Kansas City Royals356210850.305911650.32712

Tampa Bay Devil Rays351510930.3111411690.33313

Minnesota Twins329510170.3091211050.33514


So when an opposing batter puts a ball in play against the Red Sox, he's hitting, on average, .306. That's tied for 10th in the AL. Even if you assume that every error results in a batted ball not being turned into an out, they only move up to 9th. They are not doing a great job, not even an average job, at turning batted balls into outs.

Which is what a defense is supposed to do.

Here is the BABiP for the Red Sox since 1995:


Red Sox defense - Batting Average on Balls in Play
Balls in PlayHits in PlayBABiPRankH + E in playBABiP (w/E)Rank

1998439112380.282113430.3061

2002423211930.282112970.3061

2000437512600.288413690.3133

2004439212710.289513890.3164

1999430512360.287313630.3175

2003449713500.3814630.3256

2006339810410.3061011030.3256

2001423012660.299713790.3268

2005457513860.303914950.3279

1995406312110.298613310.32810

1997462314200.3071115560.33711

1996451114210.3151215560.34512


So, contrary to having the "best RedSox defensive infield in 50 years," it looks like they've had better defensive teams several times in the last decade.


None of this is an exact science. That said, the evidence that I see suggests that the error total is leading people to vastly overrate the Red Sox defense. I don't think they're anywhere near as good as they're getting credit for. As smooth as Lowell and Gonzalez are, as good as they look playing the positions, as sure-handed as they've been, there have been a lot of ground balls get through Boston's infield this year. I'm not buying, at all, that the defense has been an asset...

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Bryant Gumbel

Let us try, for a moment, to imagine a media figure. Let us assume that this figure has been a major media personality for more than 20 years, but has, on occasion, been known for making racially tinged comments. This media personality has built a reputation as an intellectual, so he's aware of what kind of comments can be mis-interpreted or mis-construed.

Now, let us a imagine a professional sports league which is in the process of changing commissioners. It has been an extremely successful league, with billions of dollars in revenue, and a long period of relative labor peace between ownership and the player's union. Let us suppose that the Commissioner in question (we'll call him "Paul Tagliabue") is a white man, and the President of the Players Association ("Gene Upshaw," for short) is a black man.

Now let us imagine that, in a taped commentary, the major media personality says something like the following, in the form of advice for the incoming Commissioner:
Before he cleans out his office, have Paul Tagliabue show you where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash. By making the docile head of the players union his personal pet, your predecessor has kept the peace without giving players the kind of guarantees other pros take for granted.


Now, remembering the firestorm that surrounded Howard Cosell's calling Alvin Garrett a "little monkey," pondering the journalistic outcry that accompanied Rush Limbaugh's suggestion that the media wanted to see Donovan McNabb succeed because of his skin color, do you think that someone might see racial overtones in that derogatory passage? Do you think it might generate comments from the NAACP? Front page stories in the Washington Post and New York Times?

It would be interesting to see, but I'm skeptical. The media personality in question? Bryant Gumbel. A black man. I predict no outcry whatsoever, save for a brief discussion in the NFL offices as to whether they want to maintain Gumbel in the employ of the NFL network. Not, of course, because of any racial sensitivities, but because he's offended his employers.

I'd like to make it clear that I don't think it was a racist comment. I don't think that the racial arsonists in the American mainstream press should go nuts about this comment, nor do I think Mr. Gumbel should be pilloried for it. But I would think that even if a white man had said it, and I'm skeptical that that would be the response. I'm virtually certain that if a conservative white man said it, it would be a major media story, along the lines of Trent Lott's throw-away comment at Strom Thurmond's birthday party. But Gumbel's a black man, and a beautiful person of the left, and I suspect that this comment disappears without a ripple. I could be wrong, of course. But I don't expect that I will be...

(Simulposted with video at Newsbusters)

Technorati tags: Gumbel, Upshaw, leash, Tagliabue

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 8/21/2006

The horror. The Horror...


  • I think, and have said, that, for the most part, Terry Francona has done a pretty good job. That said, there were two moves last night that I disliked. Intensely. This is not second-guessing - I disliked the moves before they were made.

    The first came in the 8th inning. I was surprised and upset to see Mike Timlin start the 8th rather than Papelbon. They needed to win that game. They needed 6 outs without allowing 2 runs. The very best opportunity to get those outs came from putting Papelbon on the mound. He had only thrown 1 inning in the previous 6 days, and should have been used for 6 outs last night. As it turned out, he was used for 6 outs. Unfortunately, there were already 3 runners on when he entered, one of them scored, and the lineup turned over so that he faced the top of the order in the 9th. And he gave up another run.

    The second issue I had was in the bottom of the 9th. As the Yankees were walking Manny Ramirez, Joe Morgan (and, briefly off-topic, is it possible that he's gotten even worse?) was blathering about how Youkilis would bunt. I was saying, "there's no way on God's earth I'd have Youkilis bunt." Yes, you can score a run on an out, but only a deepish fly ball. The infield will be in, so you can't score on a ground ball that doesn't get through. With Lowell, Pena and Mirabelli to follow, there's just no way that I'd have taken the bat out of Youkilis' hands. They did, and they didn't score. (The bunt didn't work, but since Rivera threw the wild pitch on the next pitch, we can look at it as if it had. It didn't help.)

    There's absolutely no guarantee that they'd have won had they handled either of those situations differently. None. You can't blame the manager for the loss - the bullpen failed again, miserably. But I didn't like those moves, and thought that they both hurt the team.


  • The 2006 Boston Red Sox' play-off hopes were not eliminated last night. But they've been significantly damaged over the past week. When you're in a 2-pronged race, competing with 1 good team for one spot and 2 good teams for another, you can't really afford a 1-6 week in late August unless you've got a hefty lead. The Red Sox entered the week trailing in both races. This morning, it's much worse.


  • That said, it's not over. They're 6 in the loss column behind NY. They trail Chicago by 4 and Minnesota by 3. They have 39 games left. I don't believe that Boston is going to make the play-offs, but it wouldn't be shocking if they did. For that to happen, they're going to have to play, and particularly pitch, much better than they have.


  • Mike Timlin came out last Wednesday and said that, "I'm not calling anyone out, but we need to score more runs." In the Yankee series, Timlin appeared twice. He hit one batter, walked another, and gave up 5 hits and 5 runs, while retiring 2 batters. He's not in a position to comment on the offense. And, while they did have a couple of low-scoring games last week, the pitching has been worse over the last month than the offense.


  • Speaking of the pitching...Ugh. Ugh-ly. "Brutal" is too kind to describe what happened this weekend. Other than a decent Schilling start, the starters were uniformly awful. The second-best start actually came from Jason Johnson, who was designated for assignment after his start. And the bullpen was worse. They led into the 7th inning in two of those four losses.



    Red Sox pitching vs. Yankees - 8/18-8/20
    IPHRERHRBBKWHIPERAK/9BB/9HR/9

    Starters20.67282323415162.0810.026.976.531.74

    Bullpen16.33282423316182.6912.679.928.821.65

    Non-Schilling starters13.6722202031492.6313.175.939.221.98



    Just hideous.

    Now, some of that was defense and luck, too. NY hit almost .390 on balls in play. Neither hit in the 9th inning last night, for example, was hit particularly well. The Jeter double on Friday night was a ball that happened to find a good spot. But they've made a lot of their own luck, all of it bad. You can't walk a batter per inning and give up 1 1/2 HR per game and expect to succeed.


  • Manny Ramirez has had an unbelievable series. 8-11 with 7 walks, 5 intentional. 2 2B, 2 HR. All wasted...






AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/21/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit5.04(7)3.92(1)0.613(1)754879444

New York5.66(1)4.75(5)0.579(2)705173483

Chicago5.64(2)4.81(6)0.572(3)705273493

Minnesota5.02(8)4.43(3)0.556(4)685471513

Cleveland5.41(4)4.97(10)0.539(5)66565567-11

Texas5.25(5)4.9(9)0.532(6)66586460-2

Boston5.56(3)5.2(11)0.531(7)655769534

Toronto5.11(6)4.89(8)0.52(8)645965581

Los Angeles4.87(10)4.72(4)0.515(9)646065591

Oakland4.52(13)4.4(2)0.513(10)636069546

Seattle4.57(11)4.82(7)0.475(11)58655667-2

Baltimore4.95(9)5.53(13)0.45(12)556855680

Tampa Bay4.33(14)5.32(12)0.407(13)50734974-1

Kansas City4.54(12)5.97(14)0.378(14)47784580-2




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10458

New York9864

Chicago9765

Minnesota9468

Boston9270




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10359

New York9765

Chicago9666

Minnesota9369

Boston9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Baltimore8(1)2.4(1)0.901(1)5041-1

Minnesota4.2(10)2.6(2)0.706(2)4132-1

Oakland5.17(4)3.33(4)0.69(3)42420

New York8(1)5.71(11)0.649(4)52520

Texas4.6(8)3.6(5)0.61(5)32320

Chicago5(6)4.67(8)0.532(6)33330

Detroit3.33(11)3.17(3)0.523(7)33330

Kansas City4.86(7)4.86(9)0.5(8)43430

Los Angeles5.17(4)5.33(10)0.485(9)33421

Tampa Bay4.4(9)4.6(7)0.48(10)23230

Cleveland3.2(12)4.4(6)0.358(11)23230

Boston5.33(3)8.83(14)0.284(12)2415-1

Toronto3(13)7(13)0.175(13)14231

Seattle2.5(14)6.17(12)0.161(14)1506-1

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

"I trained with the legend"

On Wednesday night, I had the opportunity to go to Malden and attend a seminar taught by Martial Arts legend Joe Lewis. I've seen him before, as he was at the ATA summer camp two years ago, but it's always great to get an opportunity to be with people who have been successful, and there's been no one who's been much more successful than Joe Lewis. This seminar covered various aspects of sparring, at which he's an expert. He was the World Heavyweight Kickboxing Champion, and also the World Heavyweight Karate Champion. And he's an excellent instructor, a lot of fun to train with.

At the end of the class, I picked up one of the Joe Lewis Fighting System T-shirts which they had for sale. When I showed it to my older two kids, who had been in the seminar also, I pointed out the back where it says "I trained with The Legend." Their response was "aw, dad, it was just a couple of seminars." I said, "Wait until the pictures come back." Well, I got the pictures yesterday, so I could put them up on Grandmaster Byrne's website. Here's my favorite - me sparring with, and getting punched by, living legend and international karate Superstar, Joe Lewis.

Joe Lewis and Me

We weren't really sparring, just doing sparring drills, but it was still very neat...

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

RIP, Bruno Kirby

Working Chris Lynch's side of the street here, with...

Top 5 Bruno Kirby movies

  1. The Godfather, Part II

  2. When Harry Met Sally

  3. City Slickers

  4. Good Morning, Vietnam

  5. This Is Spinal Tap



(For the record, This Is Spinal Tap is 5th only because his part was so small. It's a better movie than at least 3 of the others...)

Bruno Kirby

Kirby died on Monday from complications related to leukemia. He wasn't a great actor, but he took good roles and always gave good performances...

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

AL MVP

The Baseball Crank, referencing Joe Sheehan's piece at BaseballProspectus.com, is running a poll on who should win the AL MVP. Stop by and vote.

My vote, on August 15, is going to Joe Mauer. I reserve the right to re-vote before the season ends...

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NY Times - House organ for the Democratic Party

One of the interesting evidences of bias in the mainstream press is the way that all political discussions tend to be written from the point-of-view of "what do the Democrats need to do to win?" This New York Times "analysis" is just the latest example. All of the factors that you'd expect to see from a PR firm trying to help Democrats get elected are present.

Introductory paragraph framing the issue from the Democrats' perspective? Check.

After being outmaneuvered in the politics of national security in the last two elections, Democrats say they are determined not to cede the issue this year and are working to cast President Bush as having diminished the nation’s safety.


Accusations of unseemly political gamesmanship from the Republicans? Naturally.

Seeking to counter White House efforts to turn the reported terrorist plot in Britain to Republican advantage, Democrats are using the arrests of the suspects to try to show Americans how the war in Iraq has fueled Islamic radicalism and distracted Mr. Bush and the Republican Congress from shoring up security at home.

Quotes from Democrats outnumbering quotes from Republicans? Absolutely.

...said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House...

Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., a Democrat running for the Senate in Tennessee, issued a statement...“The president told us that the British attacks are a stark reminder that the nation is at war with Islamic fascists..." Mr. Ford said...

"...Republicans tried to sow fear in the American public by claiming that they were the only ones who could keep America safe,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said...

...Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said such findings ...

Obligatory quote from Republican, immediately countered by Democratic response? Oh, yes.

“Some say that America caused the current instability in the Middle East by pursuing a forward strategy of freedom, yet history shows otherwise,” Mr. Bush said, ticking off terror attacks that occurred in the United States, Africa and elsewhere long before he took office.

Democrats say that such comments may have had power in the past, but that Republicans are no longer getting the benefit of the doubt.


Polling that shows negative results for Republicans? It's in there.

While Republicans are still seen as doing a better job than Democrats in handling terrorism, the difference in the latest CBS poll is now about 8 points, about the same as a month ago, compared to the 25-point advantage Republicans held on the question four years ago.

Insertion of unrelated negative for Republicans? Of course.

Mr. Emanuel said that Mr. Bush’s public standing was cemented in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and...could not overcome the damage done by the bungled response to the storm.

"Katrina equals competency," he said.


And yet, for some reason, their circulation keeps dropping. Hard to believe, isn't it?

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Out at home

There were several key plays in last night's Boston loss to Detroit. Probably the one that stands out the most as the Red Sox' last best chance was Manny Ramirez getting thrown out at home with one out in the bottom of the 8th, down 7-4. If Manny's safe, the deficit is 2 runs, with 2 on and 1 out. If he hadn't run, they would have been down 3 with the bases loaded and 1 out. When he was thrown out, they lost a potential run, and they lost the opportunity to score a run on an out, and they lost an at-bat with runners on in the 8th. Very costly.

There's been some discussion over whether Manny was running hard or jogging. I think Manny was fine, and should never have been sent. The ball was hit pretty hard, pretty much right at the center fielder, and, this is a key point, Manny had to hold up to make sure that the 2nd baseman didn't catch it. He wasn't off with the hit - his first move was back to 2nd. Granderson had the ball in CF before Manny reached 3rd - he should never have been sent. This one's on DeMarlo Hale.

Video of the play can be seen here.

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Monday, August 14, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 8/14/2006

The Red Sox got swept in Kansas City, and somehow made up ground in the division race this week. Now, they've got 3 home games against the possibly-reeling Tigers leading into one of the biggest series of the year. Starting Friday, the Red Sox will host the Yankees for 5 games over 4 days. A Yankee sweep would come close to ending the division race. A Red Sox sweep would probably put Boston into first place. I don't expect either of those things to happen. It is very likely to be a 3-2 series one way or the other. If the Yankees win 4 or 5, it is unlikely that Boston makes the play-offs. If the Red Sox win 3-5, the race goes into late September.




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/14/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit5.13(7)3.96(1)0.616(1)724576414

Chicago5.67(1)4.82(8)0.574(2)674970463

New York5.52(3)4.69(5)0.574(3)654968463

Minnesota5.05(8)4.51(3)0.551(4)655268493

Boston5.57(2)5.01(11)0.548(5)645268484

Cleveland5.5(4)4.99(10)0.545(6)64535364-11

Toronto5.19(6)4.8(7)0.536(7)635563550

Texas5.28(5)4.95(9)0.529(8)63566158-2

Los Angeles4.86(9)4.69(4)0.516(9)615761570

Oakland4.49(13)4.45(2)0.503(10)595865526

Seattle4.68(11)4.75(6)0.493(11)58595661-2

Baltimore4.82(10)5.66(13)0.427(12)506851671

Tampa Bay4.32(14)5.35(12)0.404(13)48704771-1

Kansas City4.53(12)6.03(14)0.371(14)44744177-3




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10557

Chicago9864

New York9765

Boston9567

Minnesota9468




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10458

Chicago9666

New York9666

Minnesota9369

Boston9369




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Cleveland7.14(2)2.71(2)0.855(1)61610

Texas8.71(1)4.71(7)0.755(2)52520

Toronto4.57(8)2.57(1)0.741(3)52520

Chicago5.14(4)4(3)0.613(4)43521

Boston6.67(3)5.67(11)0.574(5)33330

Oakland4.67(6)5(8)0.468(6)33512

New York4.67(6)5.17(9)0.454(7)3324-1

Detroit3.33(12)4.5(6)0.366(8)2415-1

Seattle4.43(9)6(13)0.365(9)34340

Los Angeles3.86(11)5.29(10)0.36(10)34431

Kansas City4(10)5.71(12)0.342(11)25341

Baltimore5(5)7.33(14)0.332(12)2415-1

Minnesota2.43(13)4.29(4)0.261(13)25341

Tampa Bay1.83(14)4.33(5)0.172(14)1506-1

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Today's must-read

I'm not a fan of MSNBC or Newsweek, but there's a Newsweek piece up at MSNBC.com by Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, that is absolutely fantastic. He lays out, with clarity, the situation in the world today, and what our options are. A couple of excerpts:
First, the nation may be tired, but history doesn't care. It is not fair that the challenge of Iran is rising with Iraq, bloody and unresolved. But, as President Kennedy used to say, "Life is not fair."

...

Some commentators say that America is too exhausted to confront this threat. But presidential decisions on national security are not primarily made by the divination of public sentiments; they are made by the determination of national interests. And the low blood-sugar level of pundits counts not at all. Here the choice is not easy, but it is simple: can America (and other nations) accept a nuclear Iran?

... All options have dangers and drawbacks. But inaction might bring the harshest verdict of history: they knew much, and they did nothing.


...

At some point, those who decide on aggression must pay a price, or aggression will be universal. If American "cowboy diplomacy" did not exist, it would be necessary to invent it.


...

Five Augusts from 9/11, in a summer of new fears, in a war on terror that has lasted longer than World War II, public weariness is understandable. And that exhaustion is increasingly reflected in our politics. In a conservative backlash against the president's democratic idealism. In a liberal backlash that has moved from the fringes to the mainstream of the Democratic Party. Ned Lamont, in his primary victory over Sen. Joe Lieberman, summed up the case this way: "We are going to get our troops out of Iraq ... we're going to start investing in our own country again." Lamontism—the elevation of flinching to a foreign policy—is McGovernism, and a long way from "bear any burden, pay any price."

I urge you to read the whole thing. Excellent perspective on the geo-political state of the world in 2006...

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Boston Globe: Crime, bad. Punishment, worse.

The Boston Globe has been running an occasional series of editorials on the issues for the upcoming gubernatorial campaign. Today's, they're talking about crime and punishment. The Globe opinion writers, doctrinaire liberals that they are, are concerned about the former, but more concerned about the latter. But sometimes you have to wonder whether they're even reading and paying attention to what they themselves are writing. The following paragraph comes directly from this morning's essay.
But for several years now, fortunately, the pendulum has swung back toward rehabilitation. None of this year's candidates for governor would subscribe to the busting rocks doctrine. But being smart on crime, as well as tough, takes leadership. With violence on the rise and a majority of inmates being released unsupervised, the next governor will have to make reshaping the state's corrections policy a public-safety priority. (emphasis mine)

OK. The pendulum has swung back toward rehabilitation and violence is on the rise. Therefore, apparently, we need more rehabilitation and less punishment. The fairly standard liberal approach to all societal ills. We spend tons of money on poverty programs and poverty increases? Spend more! We spend on education, test scores go down? Spend more! We swing from punishment to rehabilitation and violence increases? More rehabilitation!

Interestingly, the issue does allow the Globe to, in a very rare event, criticize a labor union for being obstructive. They're critical of the Massachusetts Correctional Officers Federated Union, calling it an "obstacle to serious prison reform." The next time they criticize the Massachusetts Teacher's Association for being an obstacle to serious education reform, it'll rain up instead of down.

There's also another interesting snippet in the crime editorial.

In a state with little appetite for the death penalty, for example, Healey's and independent candidate Christy Mihos's support for it will make both vulnerable to attack from Patrick or Gabrieli

There is "little appetite for the death penalty" in the offices of the Boston Globe, certainly, but that doesn't necessarily hold for the state at large. As a long-time resident of Massachusetts, it seems to me that there has always been majority support for the death penalty. What there is not is majority legislative support. And sure enough, a quick google search supports my position.

A University of Massachusetts poll in 2003 indicated that those surveyed supported the death penalty by a 54-to-45 margin

Where was that printed? In an April, 2005 piece in the ... The Boston Globe.




Technorati tags: Globe, crime, deathPenalty, Massachusetts

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Friday, August 11, 2006

NY Times reality-based? Not so much...

It comes like a punch to the gut, at times like these, when our leaders blatantly use the nation’s trauma for political gain.

Profound words, from the NY Times. And, of course, we all remember when they said that. They've pointed out how the Democrats have attempted to use the trauma of every dead American soldier for political gain. They've criticized John Kerry and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. They've excoriated John Murtha and Ned Lamont. Attempting to score political points on the flag-draped coffins of American servicemen. It's reprehensible behavior, and the NY Times has rightly called them on it.

Oh, wait - no they haven't. As a matter of fact, if memory serves, they've actually played that same tune themselves. So, what, exactly, are they talking about in this editorial today? Who do they think is "blatantly us[ing] the nation's trauma for political gain" if it's not the Ned Lamont's of the left? Why, it's Ned Lamont's opponent, Joe Lieberman!

that did not seem to deter Mr. Lieberman from scoring a cheap sound bite yesterday. Leaving Iraq, as Mr. Lamont advocates, “will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England,” he said. “It will strengthen them and they will strike again.”

Leaving aside, for a moment, the fact that what Lieberman said is unquestionably true, what does the Times think he should have done? His position since day one has been that Iraq is not a distraction, but a central battle in the war against Islamic terrorism. Given that, he had three options when asked to comment.
  • Be true to his position, and say what he said.

  • Say nothing.

  • Change his position.

In any event, it's more than a little bit pathetic that the New York Times' first reaction to yesterday's news is to make sure no one the Times dislikes derives any political gain from the fact that the Times appears to be wrong, again.





Technorati tags: Lieberman, Lamont, NYTimes, Terror, british, plot, editorial,

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cognitive dissonance

Massachusetts Attorney General and Gubernatorial candidate Tom Reilly is currently running an ad that depends, for its effectiveness, on the people of Massachusetts not having the slightest idea, in the aggregate, how the economy works. A brief glance at the current roster of elected officials from the Bay State makes that seem, unfortunately, to be a pretty solid basis.

The ad is promoting, simultaneously, two absolutely contradictory positions.

1) First, he castigates the current Governor (who's not running for re-election) and Lieutenant Governor (who's running to move up) for their record on job creation.

2) That done, he criticizes them for not supporting an increase in the minimum wage, as he does.

Idiotic as it is the ad probably, unfortunately, works...

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Alert Level Red

Just woke up. Discovered that we're taking terrorism seriously again, for a day at least. Haven't read much, but a couple of initial thoughts, as a I wander the web...


  • Chertoff has just cautioned that we don't know that it's Al Qaeda. That may be true, but everything about what has been said sounds like Bojinka. I'd like to be the first to remind everyone that Bojinka was the brain child of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was captured in Pakistan in March of 2003, while the run-up to the invasion of Iraq was "distracting" the US from the War On Terror.


  • This is obviously a disruption on a massive scale of the transportation system. The best that can be said about flying today is that the only thing worse than today's flying experience is the one that is being prevented.


  • One of the things to watch for is whether, and how, the word "muslim" is used in the news reports. Are we ever going to mature to the point where we call the threat by its proper name? I'd be willing to bet that today's not the day.


  • How many Kos diarists and DU posters will blame this on George Bush? "Wag the dog! Distractions from the failure in Iraq and the price of gas and the failure to capture Osama! Blair is Bush's lapdog!"


  • And, in the same vein, who's going to link the arrests to the election of Ned Lamont? "They're being called on all of their BS and so they're wagging the dog again!"




Update: The moonbats are nothing if not predictable. You don't need to follow this link - I'd recommend against it, but there it is.
Excerpts:
WHY did they decide to go balls-out TODAY, the day after they got their wake up call, the day after every spokesman on the GOP side the crazy lefties will make us unsafe?"

"Pay no attention to the election in Connecticut! Pay no attention to the mounting death toll in Lebanon and a loud voice accusing Israel of crimes against humanity!"

Sickening.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Prediction time

I've heard a lot of analysis today that suggests that Joe Lieberman should just hang it up. Concede. Not run as an independent. Which strikes me as very silly. Why on earth would a sitting Senator who wanted to still be a Senator walk away? Yes, the moonbat faction managed to put up a sock-puppet to barely out-poll him in the primary, but so what?

Here's what happens in November: Ned Lamont has peaked. There will be a much higher turnout, so he'll take more votes, but the people that want to vote for Ned Lamont? That's the 146,000 that showed up at the polls yesterday. The people that want to vote against Lieberman? Well, the Democrats that want to vote against Lieberman were at the polls yesterday. The other 30+% of the electorate will show up in November and vote for Schlesinger, or the Concerned Citizens candidate, or the Libertarian candidate, or the Green candidate.

Lieberman keeps the vote he got yesterday. He takes a much bigger share of the independent vote than Lamont. He takes a chunk of the Republican vote that recognizes the futility of the Schlesinger campaign, and respects national security. He took about 2/3 of the vote in 2000, during his last re-election. That will drop significantly, but nowhere near enough for him to lose. Lamont's constituency is small, as is Schlesinger's. Joe-mentum carries Lieberman back to Washington.

Prediction: Joe Lieberman wins the Senate seat from Connecticut in November. Easily. Final tally:





Lieberman (I):454,52940.06%
Lamont (D):306,68627.03%
Schlesinger (R):343,77430.30%
Others :29,58602.61%

Lieberman and Lamont combine to take 2/3 of the votes, but Lieberman wins handily.


Update:
John Hawkins has different numbers but the same result - another 6 years of Senator Lieberman...

Technorati tags: Lieberman, Lamont, November, Election

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The Early Show finds a way to criticize a Democrat - from the left!

On Wednesday's edition of CBS' The Early Show, anchor Harry Smith discussed the primary election results from the state of Connecticut with Senator Joe Lieberman and political analyst Amy Walter. Harry took his standard, normal position - the left side. (I would bet that at some point in his life, some place and some where, at some time, Harry Smith asked a question of someone from the more conservative side of an issue, but I've never seen it.) In the course of his interviews, Smith asked a question or prompted Lieberman with a comment, 5 times. 4 of them could be considered as coming from a neutral point-of-view, though the emphasis and context certainly seemed to be the Democratic point-of-view. The fifth was clearly a question from the Democratic point-of-view.

HS: Incumbents do not get turned out of office, especially in primaries in this country. Do you understand that your support for the war is the reason you lost Tuesday?


HS: And that's why you've said you're going to run as an independent, even though polls show among Democrats, 61% of people polled yesterday said don't do it.


HS: I hear that. Also, though, through this race, there was a sense among people just, you know, talking to people in the corner store, at the local gas station, 18 years in the senate. Some folks there just said maybe Joe's lost touch with his constituency.


HS: But you are so closely aligned with his -- with his war policy.


HS: A final quick question. You'll run as an independent at risk of losing the seat to the Republicans? You understand that risk. By splitting the Democratic vote.


Clearly the last question is a question that comes from a partisan Democratic perspective. The interesting one to me is that first one. He doesn't ask Lieberman whether he thinks or considers that he lost because he supported the effort to go into Iraq - he asks whether Lieberman understands that that's why he lost. Smith's position assumes that position. It may, probably is, the case, but a "fair-and-balanced" questioner would not have started that way.

And there's a huge political analysis question that went unanswered. It went unanswered because, of course, it went unasked. It is a question something along the lines of "Senator, do you think that the fact that the extreme left was able to generate enough votes to beat you in the primary carries potential negative ramifications for national security?" But that's the kind of question that you see only if you're in the center or on the right. Those aren't places that Harry Smith stands.

After finishing with Lieberman, Smith went on to discuss the results with Amy Walter, who is a senior editor for the Cook Political Report. And again, his prompting came primarily from the left, from the "what does this suggest that the Democrats need to do?" position. (The mainstream press is always concerned about what the Democrats have to do to win.)

HS: Does this send a message to Democrats to say, if you want our support, you better get out there and be against the war and against the president?


HS: By and large, it's kind of a moderate state in many, many ways. A lot of Republican congressional seats there. Is this -- is there a wind? Is in a shift? Is there something that can be gleaned out of this?


I love that amusing suggestion that Connecticut is a "moderate" state. When I look back two years, I see that there were only 5 states (plus Washington, DC) where John Kerry got a higher percentage of the two-party vote than he did in Connecticut. The extremely liberal Chris Dodd more than doubled the vote total of his Republican challenger. While it is true that there are three Republicans and only two Democrats in the US House of Representatives at the moment, a quick glance shows that the three Republicans, none of whom are conservative, won close races and the two Democrats won blow-outs. In the 2004 US Representative voting in Connecticut, the Democratic candidates took over 55% of the two-party vote. In other words, to call Connecticut a "moderate" state is to suggest that there's no such thing as a "liberal" state.

Which, come to think of it, probably accurately represents Harry Smith's feelings...

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Variations on a theme

So, it was just a week ago that I talked about the mythology of the 2006 AL East race. I thought it was a pretty good piece, as did a couple of other people, who linked to it. But there was some Yankee fan yahoo who responded to The Baseball Crank's link and accused my of setting up straw men to knock down. He was wrong, of course, because the things I was responding to were real comments and attitudes from real people. And now, they're exemplified, again, in this utterly idiotic piece from Murray Chass in the NY Times. Here are a couple of gems:
the Yankees have played much of the season without a third of their starting lineup...Bruised and bloodied, the Yankees have been winning with players named Melky and Bubba.

Yes they have. Players named Melky and Bubba, along with Alex ($22 million per year), Derek ($20 million), Johnny ($13 million), Jorge ($12 million), Jason ($20 million), Mariano ($11 million), Mike ($19 million) and Randy ($16 million).

And there's this:
by now, the Red Sox should have had a commanding lead over the Yankees.

Honestly, this is so thought-impaired that it just isn't worth going over again. I did it last week, I've done it in the Red Sox newsgroup and the Yankee newsgroup. There's just no relation to reality here. None. Zip, zero, nada.



There was more, of course, because after all, this is the New York Times, where fact-checkers need not apply.
With only a third of the season to go, they have won more than the Red Sox, who until catcher Jason Varitek had knee surgery last week, had not dealt with the extended absence of an everyday player.

Except for that 2 months that they lost their starting center-fielder.

And that's the only mention of Boston injuries. No acknowledgment that they've been without their 4th (Wells), 5th (Clement) and 6th (DiNardo) starters for most of the year. Their opening day closer (Foulke) has been out for two months. Their 3rd starter (Wakefield) has been out for a couple of weeks now. Varitek, when he went onto the DL, was joining the starting right-fielder, who's been playing 1-armed for a couple of months. Yet somehow, the Yankees, who've still got $40+ million more payroll dollars on the field than anyone else in baseball, are the plucky overachievers, and the Red Sox are the "poor excuse for a good baseball team."

I've not read much of Murray Chass' work. If this is a representative sample, I'm unsure why anyone would want to...

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Monday, August 07, 2006

AP on Cuba - Propaganda in, "news" out

Sometimes, the credulity of the press is very amusing. And very indicative of their biases. Consider, for example, this story from the Associated Press.
Elian Gonzalez sent a note Sunday wishing a speedy recovery to "my dear grandpa Fidel," ...Gonzalez, the Cuban boy at the center of an international custody battle with family members in Miami six years ago, published a letter in the Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde signed with "little kisses" from him and his half-siblings and cousins.


"We send you this letter to let you know that we are worried about your health," Elian, now 12, wrote. "We hope for your speedy recovery and take the opportunity to wish you a happy birthday, may you have many more."


Question - does anyone with children think that sounds like the un-prompted action, and un-scripted words of a 12-year old boy?

Of course not. It is, I suppose, remotely conceivable that Elian Gonzalez did, in fact, of his own free will and volition, compose that letter which has been attributed to him, but it strikes me as extremely unlikely. As a father with kids that age, I'm not buying it.

Let us not forget, as the AP has apparently done, who and what Elian Gonzalez is. The key to understanding any comments attributed to young Mr. Gonzalez is this statement from Cuban spokesman Luis Fernandez back at the height of the controversy over his potential return to Cuba: "He [Elian] is a possession of the Cuban government." Not a free citizen - a possession. Anything that is attributed to Elian Gonzalez, therefore, is coming from...The Cuban Government. How credulous do you have to be to take ANY reports out of Cuba at face value?

Elian has been a public relations puppet for the ailing dictator more than once in the last half-dozen years. But the AP doesn't find it necessary to include any background, or cast any suspicion on the provenance of the letter. It doesn't find any reason to suggest to its readers that this might just be a piece of Cuban propaganda, from the Communist dictatorship still clinging to the reins of power. No, Elian wrote it. An innocent child. Freed from his oppressive relatives in Miami to return to his dear father in good old Cuba. That's good enough for the AP. And they think it's good enough for their readers...


UPDATE: Browsing around, I came across this story at the invaluable BabaluBlog. One of the things that we in late 20th century, early 21st century America tend to lose sight of is how an oppressive government actually operates. The political left in this country, the people who are terrified of the Patriot Act and the Terrorist Surveillance Program tend to be the same people who speak glowingly of Fidel Castro because he provides "univeral healthcare" and "free education" for his people. If you want to understand what that means, follow the link and read about some of Val Prieto's experiences with the "free education." Read the comments that have been left for more.

And then ask yourself if George Bush is really the source of evil in the modern world...


Technorati tags: Elian, Castro , Cuba, Gonzalez

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She's back...

So, Cindy Sheehan is back in Crawford, and the Associated Press is continuing to act as her publicity agents. They still haven't shown any inclination to address any comments of hers that might be controversial. They still treat her as the grieving mother of a marine, rather than a leftist peace activist.
A year after her first war protest in President Bush's adopted hometown attracted thousands and reinvigorated the nation's peace movement, Cindy Sheehan resumed her vigil Sunday.
...

"It doesn't say my new address, but I do live here now," said Sheehan, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., and recently bought land in Crawford for war protests. "My name is Cindy and Bush killed my son."

The group then chanted, "This is what democracy looks like! This is what democracy sounds like!" and a few people sang "This Land Is Your Land" while standing near the roadblock before returning to the protest site.




Sheehan continues to get press and publicity for one reason, and one reason only - she's a hammer that the media can use to bludgeon President Bush. There is no news value in her return to Crawford. There's no reason that anyone outside of Crawford should care about her. She got her interview with the President, which the AP continues to not bother mentioning. She's just a pawn in the chess game of American politics, with the President and the Republicans on one side, and the Democrats and the mainstream press on the other...

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The Wicked Cool news story of the day

I have an inner-classical scholar and an inner-geek (some might say that that inner-geek is awfully close to the surface...) This story really appeals to both:
Previously hidden writings of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being uncovered with powerful X-ray beams nearly 800 years after a Christian monk scrubbed off the text and wrote over it with prayers...The X-rays, generated by a particle accelerator, cause tiny amounts of iron left by the original ink to glow without harming the delicate goatskin parchment.

Wicked cool.

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Monday Pythagorean - 8/7/2006

It has been a brutal 8 days in Red Sox nation. On Sunday morning, July 30, they were one game in the loss column ahead of the Yankees for the East, and the White Sox for the Wild Card. Since then, the Yankees have significantly improved their roster, while the Red Sox have lost Trot Nixon, Jason Varitek, Doug Mirabelli, Mike Lowell and 5 games. And they've been lucky to lose just 5 - 2 of their 3 wins have come in games in which they trailed heading to the bottom of the 9th. If Cleveland hadn't just traded their best reliever, they might be 1-7 instead. And, just to put a cherry on top, the Toronto Blue Jays, apparently demoralized when I pointed out that they weren't really a legitimate play-off contender at this point, chose to lose 5 straight to the Red Sox play-off competition.

Ugly. Very, very ugly.

  • None of that means, by the way, that they season's over and they're out of it. They are still very close to the play-offs, and there's a lot of baseball left, including several games with the teams with whom they're in direct competition.


  • Javy Lopez was a smart acquisition. Ken Huckaby can't hit. Period. Adam Stern is not a high price to pay. That said, Lopez has not had a good first week in a Red Sox uniform. 0-9, including a first-pitch, game-ending double play with the Sox down 3 and the bases loaded.


  • Toronto had a chance to help Boston this week. They didn't. One wonders if they'll lay down the next time they face the Red Sox, the way they lay down against the Yankees and White Sox this week. I suspect not.


  • I think that the Red Sox need to finish ahead of Chicago and Minnesota to get into the play-offs. They aren't going to catch New York. The Yankees, with the addition of Lidle and Abreu, are too strong right now, and the Red Sox are too banged up.


  • That said, they're 1 game behind Chicago and 3 behind New York. Those two teams play each other this week. If the Red Sox can go win 3 in Kansas City, they'll go into the weekend tied with one of 'em, or ahead of Chicago.







AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/7/2006
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

Detroit5.23(6)3.93(1)0.628(1)704175365

New York5.56(2)4.67(5)0.58(2)634566423

Chicago5.71(1)4.87(7)0.572(3)624765443

Minnesota5.22(7)4.53(3)0.565(4)624865453

Boston5.51(3)4.97(10)0.547(5)605065455

Toronto5.23(5)4.94(8)0.527(6)585358530

Los Angeles4.92(9)4.65(4)0.526(7)58535754-1

Cleveland5.4(4)5.14(11)0.523(8)58524763-11

Texas5.06(8)4.96(9)0.509(9)57555656-1

Oakland4.48(13)4.42(2)0.506(10)565560514

Seattle4.69(11)4.67(6)0.502(11)55555357-2

Baltimore4.81(10)5.57(13)0.433(12)496350621

Tampa Bay4.46(14)5.4(12)0.413(13)466647651

Kansas City4.56(12)6.05(14)0.373(14)41703873-3




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit10953

New York9963

Chicago9765

Minnesota9666

Boston9666




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit10755

New York9765

Chicago9567

Minnesota9468

Boston9369




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck

New York5.17(5)2.33(1)0.811(1)51510

Minnesota8.29(1)5.14(8)0.705(2)52520

Oakland4.17(11)2.67(2)0.694(3)42511

Detroit4.86(7)3.57(3)0.637(4)43521

Los Angeles4.86(7)3.71(4)0.62(5)4334-1

Chicago5.67(2)4.67(7)0.588(6)42420

Cleveland5(6)5.14(8)0.487(7)3425-1

Tampa Bay4.71(9)5.14(8)0.46(8)34431

Boston5.43(4)6.14(12)0.444(9)34340

Seattle3.67(12)4.17(6)0.442(10)3324-1

Texas5.57(3)6.43(13)0.435(11)34431

Baltimore3(13)3.83(5)0.39(12)24240

Kansas City4.43(10)8.43(14)0.235(13)2516-1

Toronto2.67(14)6(11)0.185(14)15150

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Myths and legends - the 2006 AL East race

The Boston Red Sox are currently in first place in the American League's Eastern division, with a record of 63-41. They have a 1-game lead over the 61-41 New York Yankees. This one game lead is the source of a couple of attitudes, found mostly, though certainly not exclusively, among Yankee fans. The attitudes are contradictory, almost mutually exclusive, though frequently simultaneously held and expressed.

And they're both wrong.

1) Wow! Those plucky underdog Yankees have been decimated by injuries and struggles, and they're only 1 game out!

The Yankees have had 2 significant long-term injuries this year. Gary Sheffield and Hidecki Matsui have each missed about 2 1/2 months so far, and they're good hitters. Robinson Cano has missed about 1 month. (Carl Pavano's been out the entire season, but shame on anyone who expected anything from him before the season started.) How have those "plucky, underdog" Yankees survived?

Well, they've got former or current All Stars at catcher, SS, 1B, 3B and CF, they've got two in the starting rotation and 1 in the bullpen. Does anyone think that might help? Those "plucky underdog" Yankees, the ones that are so devastated by injury, are still running the highest payroll in baseball out there every night. As the following table shows, the Yankees started the season with a payroll that was $74,000,000 (about 62%!) higher than the 2nd highest payroll in baseball. If you remove from their payroll the salaries of Matsui (~$13M), Sheffield (~$11M), Pavano (~$8M) and Cano (~$400K), they've still got far and away the highest payroll in the game.



2006 Major League Salary by team (top 5)
TeamPayroll

New York Yankees$194,663,079

Yankees without injured players$165,263,079

Boston Red Sox$120,099,824

Los Angeles Angels$103,472,000

Chicago White Sox$102,750,667

New York Mets$101,084,963


Surely that $165 million payroll that they're playing with - before taking on Abreu's salary - shouldn't leave them as "plucky underdogs!" They've still got 5 players (Johnson, Mussina, Giambi, Rodriguez and Jeter) who are making more money than anyone who's disabled, and three more (Damon, Posada and Rivera) who are making $10M+. No other team in baseball is spending as much on their roster as the Yankees are on those 8 players. Not that money translates directly into wins, but is it really surprising that they're still having a pretty good season?



2) The Red Sox have really blown it, because they haven't taken advantage of the Yankees struggles and injuries! They should be 8-9 games up now! What a missed opportunity!

The Yankees, despite their "struggles and injuries," are currently 61-41. That's a .598 winning percentage, which, if maintained for a 162 game season, would result in 97 wins. The Red Sox are currently 63-41, 1 game ahead of New York. In order to be 8 games ahead of New York, they'd need to have a record of 70-34, for a winning percentage of .673, a 109 win pace. There have been 64 teams in baseball history finish with a .673 or better winning percentage, out of 2505 team-seasons. To say that the Red Sox, who've had significant injury problems of their own (60% of their opening day starting rotation has been on the DL), have wasted some "opportunity" because they aren't currently one of them is just nonsense. To just be 4 games up, they'd have to be on a 103 win pace. That they aren't is not an indictment of their performance - given their own "struggles and injuries," the 98 win pace that they're on is quite an achievement...

The fact is this - the Red Sox have the 2nd best record in baseball. The lead is one game because of the way the Yankees have performed, not because of anything that the Red Sox have failed to do.

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