Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Biased? Us?

Linda Greenhouse is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who covers the United States Supreme Court for the New York Times. As we all know, the New York Times, along with the rest of the mainstream press, is adamant about their commitment to unbiased journalism. Reporters don't have opinions, at least not opinions that impact their journalism. It's nonsense, of course, but nonsense that's maintained by the likes of the Times.

Well, Linda Greenhouse, in a recent speech at her alma mater, Radcliffe, expressed some opinions. And if she really feels this way, there's absolutely no way that it could possibly not color her reporting. What she chooses to highlight, the way she expresses things, what she covers or doesn't cover, what she thinks is news and what isn't - that's all determined by her worldview.

And what is her worldview? Where is she coming from? Well, here's a small sample.

Thinking back to my college days in those troubled and tumultuous late 1960’s, there were many things that divided my generation...Yet despite all these controversies, we were absolutely united in one conviction: the belief that in future decades, if the world lasted that long, when our turn came to run the country, we wouldn’t make the same mistakes. Our generation would do a better job. I cried that night in the Simon and Garfunkel concert out of the realization that my faith had been misplaced. We were not doing a better job....And of course my little crying jag occurred before we knew the worst of it, before it was clear the extent to which our government had turned its energy and attention away from upholding the rule of law and toward creating law-free zones at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, and other places around the world. And let’s not forget the sustained assault on women’s reproductive freedom and the hijacking of public policy by religious fundamentalism.

Is a person who feels that way going to give us "fair and balanced" coverage of the Supreme Court when they decide Hamdan? When the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program gets there? How about if there's a challenge to Roe v. Wade?

Obviously not.

If you were asked to choose one, two, or even three words to identify yourself, which would spring to mind? In my own case, I could choose from: woman, American, Caucasian, Jew, wife, mother, daughter, sister, straight, journalist, temporarily able-bodied, pushing 60, Democrat, Radcliffe graduate (as I call myself), Harvard graduate (as the post-Radcliffe College world would call me.) ... As I look toward the next chapter in my life, I feel a growing sense of obligation to reach across the absurd literal fence that some of our policy makers want to build on the Mexican border and to do what I can to help those whose only offense is to want to improve their lives.

How about issues related to illegal immigration. Is this an unbiased journalist who'll give equal time, space and consideration to both sides in the fence discussion? How could she? She's already publicly expressed that the idea of a fence is "absurd!" More than that, she feels a growing obligation to "do what [she] can to help" illegal immigrants. Might that, some of that, show in any "news" stories that she produces? If she's a human being, of course it will.

Now, Linda Greenhouse is absolutely entitled to her opinion. And she's absolutely entitled to report for the New York Times. And they absolutely have the right to run her stuff. But just remember, the next time that someone suggests that the mainstream press is unbiased, the expressed feelings of one of the people behind the story that you read when the New York Times reaches your doorstep...



Simul-posted at Newsbusters.

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Global warming advocacy at ABC

Yesterday, Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma took to the floor of the United States Senate and gave a passionate and informed speech about Global Warming and the American media's coverage of it. He noted that

During the past year, the American people have been served up an unprecedented parade of environmental alarmism by the media and entertainment industry, which link every possible weather event to global warming. The year 2006 saw many major organs of the media dismiss any pretense of balance and objectivity on climate change coverage and instead crossed squarely into global warming advocacy.


Well, ABC's Good Morning America addressed the Global Warming issue this morning. One might think that the entire point of this morning's report was to prove Inhofe right.

The segment was hosted by Robin Roberts, and she introduced passionate global warming alarmist - excuse me, "unbiased journalist" - Bill Blakemore, with the following:

Now a wake up call, our series "Global Warming/Global Warning." There is disturbing new research about the earth's soaring temperatures, approaching temperatures hotter than the earth has been in 1 million years. We're just two degrees away from that record. Experts say there's little chance of stopping that.

All experts? Some experts? Apparently, only the important experts. Any experts who disagree with that point (and they do exist) need not apply at ABC. But that's OK, because they don't just have experts - they've got "scientists," too. And those scientists, apparently all scientists from the sound of this report, have some fairly apocalyptic views of the near future.

...Another 2 degrees doesn't sound like much, but scientists say that it means over the next four or five decades at least, the world will suffer increasingly frequent heat waves, more wildfires, droughts as even more mountain glaciers and snow pack vanish, no longer sending water to the valleys below. As we approach 2 degrees hotter, it will mean mass extinctions, say many scientists. Animals and plants simply unable to adjust.

(The footage behind the voiceover? Tremendous lightning storms, raging wildfires, stunted corn stalks in dust. Not for the faint-of-heart.) And then we go to one of the scientists, who somberly tells us that, "it's going to be a real challenge to my grandchildren to live in this world."

And there's more, just in case you aren't sufficiently frightened to give up your automobile and air conditioning yet.

Diseases that almost always spread to where it's hot enough, such as mosquito-borne Malaria and West Nile and water born bacterial infections will likely spread, including further north in the United States and into Canada.

There are scientists who disagree with this take, of course. Back in April, a group of 60 scientists wrote to the Prime Minister of Canada, saying

"Climate change is real" is a meaningless phrase used repeatedly by activists to convince the public that a climate catastrophe is looming and humanity is the cause. Neither of these fears is justified. Global climate changes all the time due to natural causes and the human impact still remains impossible to distinguish from this natural "noise." ... It was only 30 years ago that many of today's global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe. But the science continued to evolve, and still does, even though so many choose to ignore it when it does not fit with predetermined political agendas.

But a "predetermined political agenda" is precisely what ABC has, and demonstrates repeatedly. There was not a hint of any neutral, unbiased journalism in this report. It wasn't a news report - it was issue advocacy, plain and simple. (Just in case you missed the point, the banner at the bottom of the screen read, "WILL EARTH BECOME TOO HOT? ARE OUR CHILDREN IN DANGER?" Very subtle, don't you know...)



Simul-posted with the scary video at Newsbusters.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

The next governor of Massachusetts...

...unfortunately, is named Deval Patrick.

Just watched the first gubernatorial debate of the general election season. Some thoughts:

- Christy Mihos denies, when asked, that he's just in the race to spoil it for the Republicans. But he used every question as an opportunity to attack Kerry Healey. If I'm Deval Patrick, I'm thrilled with his presence in the race and on the stage.

- Ditto for Grace Ross. The Green-Rainbow Party candidate clearly did not belong. And her presence, combined with Mihos', benefited Patrick greatly, as she's clearly the furthest left. It's tough for Patrick to look as liberal as he actually is when she's sitting at his left.

- Deval Patrick won the debate, big time, because he came across as well-spoken and not insane. He loses if - and only if - the voters are faced with a stark contrast, a race that, on election day, is Dukakis redux vs. a continuation of the Romney administration. He did nothing, said nothing, to move the race in that direction.

- Kerry Healey was unimpressive. Not a great performance. No, strike that. Not a good performance. Not a decent performance. Not an acceptable performance. She didn't have a good answer for the Big Dig question. She didn't have a response, any response at all, to the repeated accusations from everyone else that the Romney administration has recommended or implemented $980 million dollars in increased taxes and fees. Her chances for election rest entirely on being able to convince people that Patrick is the tax and spend candidate, and she's not. She failed. Miserably.



My inital assessment of tonight's event, from a Healey/Republican/taxpayer point-of-view? Disaster. Patrick's got an enormous institutional and demographic advantage. Healey has got to change the perception of him, and the perception of her, to make this competitive. Nothing that happened tonight advanced that cause one iota. Indeed, if this is people's introduction to Patrick, he made ground tonight. A bad night...


Update: Over at HubPolitics, they've got a different take.
As far as performances go, Healey gained the most from her performance and likely helped turn Republicans who feel "they have to vote for her" into Republicans who "want to vote for her." ... Whether his supporters are willing to admit it or not, Patrick truly lost a chance to really do some damage

What can I say? I disagree.


Technorati tags: Massachusetts, governor, healey, patrick, mihos

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Monday Pythagorean - 9/25/2006

And so we wend our desultory path towards the finish line. The good news this morning is that there's only one week remaining in this train wreck of a season...



AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/25/2006
ProjectedActual

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

Detroit5.01(6)4.03(1)0.598(1)936293620

New York5.66(1)4.7(6)0.584(2)906493613

Minnesota4.98(7)4.28(2)0.569(3)886691633

Chicago5.43(2)4.87(9)0.55(4)857086691

Texas5.21(4)4.81(8)0.536(5)83727877-5

Oakland4.71(10)4.39(3)0.532(6)827290648

Cleveland5.32(3)4.96(10)0.532(7)82727183-11

Toronto4.92(8)4.67(5)0.524(8)817381730

Los Angeles4.66(11)4.55(4)0.511(9)797583714

Boston5.12(5)5.08(11)0.504(10)787783725

Seattle4.64(13)4.79(7)0.485(11)758075800

Baltimore4.78(9)5.51(13)0.435(12)678868871

Tampa Bay4.26(14)5.27(12)0.404(13)62925995-3

Kansas City4.64(12)5.99(14)0.386(14)59955896-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit9765

Detroit9765

Minnesota9666

Oakland9567

Chicago9072




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9864

Detroit9765

Minnesota9666

Oakland9468

Chicago9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Los Angeles4.5(6)2.25(1)0.78(1)31310

Detroit6.5(3)3.67(3)0.74(2)42420

Texas6.6(2)5.2(10)0.607(3)3223-1

Seattle7.17(1)5.83(11)0.593(4)42420

Tampa Bay3.6(12)3(2)0.583(5)3223-1

Baltimore4.5(6)3.83(4)0.573(6)33421

Minnesota5.2(4)4.6(8)0.556(7)32320

Oakland4.5(6)4.5(7)0.5(8)33421

Boston4.2(10)4.2(5)0.5(8)3223-1

New York3.8(11)4.2(5)0.454(10)23321

Cleveland4.5(6)5.83(11)0.383(11)24240

Toronto3.6(12)5(9)0.354(12)23230

Chicago4.67(5)6.83(13)0.332(13)24240

Kansas City2.25(14)7.5(14)0.099(14)04040




(Once again, the data site's been slow to update - data currently through Saturday...)

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Big game

When the Patriots and Broncos take to the field in Foxboro tonight, the outcome could wind up being a very large factor in AFC post-season play. The Broncos knocked the Patriots out of the play-offs in Denver last winter, and it wouldn't be surprising to see them face each other again this season. Where that game is played could depend largely on tonight's game, a game that will have, essentially, a 3-game swing. Right now, the 2-0 Patriots are 1 game ahead of the 1-1 Broncos. If New England wins, they'll be 2 up (3-0 vs. 1-2) with the tie-breaker advantage, meaning that Denver would have to win 3 more than the Patriots over the course of the remainder of the season in order to host a head-to-head play-off game. If Denver wins, they'll be tied, and the Broncos will just need to play to the same record as the Patriots to host a head-to-head.

In other words, this looks to be a big early-season game for both teams...

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Ryder Cup, day 2

I got to see a fair amount of the Ryder Cup action from Saturday, despite the fact that the broadcast was almost over before I sat down (the DVR is a fantastic invention) and the Americans are, again, failing miserably. They'll start Saturday's individual matches with the European team up 10-6. It's not over yet, but it's not a good situation.

A lot of what I saw reminded me of a couple of quotes from Wodehouse's golf stories. The Americans were not putting well. Tiger Woods, who I'm not sure has ever missed a 3 foot putt in a PGA event, missed a 3 foot putt that would have won a hole. Everywhere you looked, the Americans were rimming out putts.

"Young Parsloe...doesn't seem able to do a thing on the greens. He has been putting like a sheep with the botts."
- PG Wodehouse, "The Heart Of A Goof"


The Europeans, on the other hand, weren't missing putts. They were either making putts, or, an unbelievable number of times, not putting at all, because of the way they were sinking chips.
"He had not been prepared for this sort of thing. The way things were shaping, he felt that it should hardly surprise him now if the cups were to start jumping up and snapping at Bott's balls like starving dogs."
- PG Wodehouse, "High Stakes"


It was kind of like watching a game of H-O-R-S-E - one guy's slamming the ball of the driveway so that it goes over the garbage cans, bounces off the tree branch and banks in after rolling around the rim twice, the other guy's missing lay-ups...

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The clueless question of the day, and the "blame America firsters"

A couple of snippets from this morning's "news" segments on ABC and CBS...

On The Early Show, Rene Syler interviewed the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, and former Bush administration official, Richard Haass. After having played the video of Chavez calling Bush "the devil," of crossing himself and saying that he could still smell the sulfur in the air, Syler's first question for Haass, her first question on this head-of-state behaving that way on the world's primary diplomatic stage?

Is this appropriate?

What, Rene - you couldn't figure that one out for yourself?

OK, that was not a particularly biased comment. Just a clueless one. But over on ABC, at just about exactly the same time, they were also talking about Chavez' speech. And Diane Sawyer brought back to us those insightful words from Jeanne Kirkpatrick, 22 years ago. The Democratic party had just nominated Walter Mondale at their convention in San Francisco, and the Republicans were convening in Dallas. Kirkpatrick took to the stage, and in her speech she coined a new term - the "blame-America first Democrats."

When Marxist dictators shoot their way into power in Central America, the San Francisco Democrats don't blame the guerrillas and their Soviet allies. They blame United States policies of 100 years ago. But then they always blame America first.

And it stuck. For a reason. As Diane Sawyer demonstrates again today, on Good Morning, America.

But a lot of people felt blindsided by this, in a way, because they say we understand that the Arabs and we may seem like adversaries in some situations, but Venezuela? What did we do to Venezuela?

You see? It isn't Chavez' fault - we must have done something. It's our fault that Chavez is speaking that way. It's unrelated to the fact he's a totalitarian communist dictator - no, we must have done something.

The more things change...

Simul-posted with video at Newsbusters...

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Congratulations Papi!

David Ortiz' home run in the 6th inning of last night's Red Sox loss tied him with Jimmy Foxx for the team's single-season record with 50. He's got 10 games left to try to set a new one. He failed to do it, however, in the number of games that Foxx did it. The 1938 Red Sox played 149 games. Ortiz tied Foxx in game number 152.

Interestingly, Foxx entered the 2006 season as the single-seaon HR leader in two different cities, Boston and Philadelphia. (I've heard people say "two different franchises," but the Philadelphia team that Foxx played for was the A's, not the Phillies.) And there could be hitters in both cities that pass him this year. Ortiz has tied him with 50 in Boston, and Ryan Howard has 57 in Philadelphia, 1 fewer than the 58 which Foxx hit in 1932.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

So I'm watching Good Morning, America...

So I'm watching Good Morning, America, this morning, and they go to a news piece on the appearances at the UN yesterday by President Bush and the President of Iran. I had to rewind and watch it again - it was a nasty little piece. The United States (with most of the rest of the world) are in a diplomatic and strategic conflict with the terror-sponsoring state of Iran. And ABC has either refused to take sides, or has sided with the Iranians. While President Bush was "harsh," President Ahmadinejad was "potent." While President Ahmadinejad was "nowhere in sight" when President Bush spoke, President Bush was "safely ensconced in his hotel room" when President Ahmadinejad spoke.

The entire piece took a position of moral equivalence between the two, with the repressive leader of the terrorist regime in Iran portrayed better than the leader of the free world.

As I was getting ready to write it up for Newsbusters, Mark Finkelstein beat me to it. For more on the piece, and the video of the segment, see here.

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Massachusetts Gubernatorial Election

The election match-up is set, and, for the conservatives and Republicans in the state, it's either the worst-case scenario, or the best. It's hard to tell, at the moment.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is obviously one of the most heavily democratic states in the country. In the state's congressional 11-member congressional delegation, there are 11 Democrats, 0 Republicans. The state legislature, both the house and the senate, are controlled by the Democrats with veto-proof majorities. Democratic presidential candidates routinely take over 60% of the two-party vote, with the Republicans less than 40%.

In other words, it's hard to imagine a more hostile environment for Republicans. Yet somehow, for some reason, the Republicans have held the Governorship in Massachusetts for the last 16 years, winning the last 4 elections. Each of those had their own quirks and characteristics, but demographically speaking, they've each been somewhat of a fluke.

1990: Bill Weld vs. John Silber. Silber, the President of BU and the Democratic candidate, was actually the more conservative, or at least perceived as being the more conservative, of the two. Weld, the former US Attorney, was a libertarian-leaning Republican who promised to re-introduce prison inmates to "the joys of busting rock." (If any rock was actually busted, I'm not aware of it, but it was good, and very popular, rhetoric.) Coming off of the Dukakis presidential candidacy of 1988 and the ending of the "Massachusetts miracle," it was probably the best possible environment for a Republican, and was still anyone's race before Silber, who had a tendency to come across disagreeably on television (a sharp contrast to Weld), got testy with a popular Boston female news anchor. Weld ended up winning the race by 4 points, 52-48, in what was the best possible environment for a Massachusetts Republican.

1994: Weld, who was a popular governor during his first term, was faced with an unknown, seriously underfunded legislator, outspent him significantly, and won re-election easily.

1998: Weld had stepped down after running against, and losing to, John Kerry for the US Senate in 1996. So, once again, it was an incumbent Republican, Paul Cellucci, against another Democrat who was not a likeable candidate. Cellucci carried some of the Weld glow, tarnished though it was, and was obviously not a particularly conservative Republican. He had been a former member of the Massachusetts legislature, was an "insider" and didn't arouse the kind of emotional reactions that made the Democrats feel that it was necessary to get rid of him. All of that enabled him to hold the corner office for the Republicans.

2002: Acting Governor Jane Swift, who had taken the office when Cellucci resigned on being appointed Ambassador to Canada by George Bush, was a disaster. There's absolutely no way on God's earth she'd have been able to hold the office against any imaginable Democrat. Fortunately for the Republicans, Mitt Romney came back from fixing the Salt Lake City Olympics and decided to run. Swift, recognizing that she'd be lucky to take 20% in the primary, withdrew from the race. With Romney, the Republicans had an extremely attractive candidate, who already had generated good feelings in the citizenry, having run a challenge against Ted Kennedy 8 years earlier, but never having gone negative. Romney was/is tall, good-looking, accomplished, well-spoken, obviously intelligent, and non-threatening. He was virtually a dream candidate for the Republicans in Massachusetts. He ran against another Democratic insider, State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien, and, in a state slightly less liberal than Massachusetts, it wouldn't have been competitive. Massachusetts being what it is, Romney took 50% of the vote to O'Brien's 45%.


Romney has chosen not to run for re-election this year. He would, I think, be re-elected if he ran, but he's chosen not to. He hasn't officially declared yet, but he's obviously gearing up for a White House run in 2008. (My personal opinion - he's far and away the best potential candidate for the Republicans, and if I had to bet, I think he's the most-likely person to be the next President of the United States.) The Republican candidate, in a Romney-less election, is going to be Romney's Lieutenant Governor, Kerry Healey. Healey is probably the best choice that the Republicans have at the moment. She has name recognition, as Romney's spent a lot of time out of state for the past year. She's an attractive candidate, she's a woman, so she can't be slandered as misogynists by the usual suspects on the left. She's not Romney, but she's probably the best the Republicans could have hoped for without him.

The Democratic primary featured 3 candidates. The worst potential Governor from a Republican point-of-view, was Deval Patrick. Patrick won yesterday. The reason that it may be the best-case scenario for the Republicans, as opposed to the worst-case, is that he may be more beatable by Healey than the other candidates. Certainly, I think it very likely that Chris Gabrieli would have run stronger against Healey than Patrick. Patrick is clearly the furthest left of the candidates, and ended up taking 50% in a 3-way race in the Democratic primary. The issue is, how much of the Reilly and Gabrieli vote is actually closer to Healey than Patrick? We don't know yet.

What we do know is that Patrick has many positions that even the Democrats in Massachusetts don't like. He's in favor of giving in-state tuition and drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Neither of those is a majority position. There's no question, it's not even open to debate, that taxes in Massachusetts are likely to go up more and faster under Patrick than under Healey. I am of the belief, on September 20, that Patrick is very susceptible to attack, and there's an opportunity, a possibility, that the Republicans can, in fact, keep the corner office for another 4 years. I'd put it at 50-50 right now, not having seen any polling data yet.

One of the things that is the strongest argument for the Republicans to use is the "legislative restraint" argument. Like everywhere else in the world, Massachusetts voters like their own legislators, but recognize the tendencies of the legislature as a whole. There are many legislative excesses that have been curbed by having a Republican Governor for the past 16 years. That is one of the strongest arguments that the Republicans can make as we enter the last 6 weeks of this campaign...




Technorati tags: Romney, Healey, Massachusetts, Governor, Patrick, Deval

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Monday, September 18, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 9/18/2006

So it's come to this - Boston goes into Yankee Stadium in mid-September, splits one double-header, sweeps another, and no one cares. It doesn't matter - it's irrelevant. Why? Because the Red Sox "played" themselves entirely out of contention - and relevance - in August.

They did that by having some of their pitchers and several position players hurt. Now, some are back, but the starting pitching is still a mess. With a capital 'M'. The Red Sox starters for this should-have-been-vital-but-wasn't four games series were Josh Beckett (which one could have hoped for at the start of the season) and then Julian Tavarez, Kyle Snyder and Kevin Jarvis (which one would never in his worst nightmares have imagined at the start of the season.)

The only items of interest right now relate to 2007. Are Dustin Pedroia and David Murphy ready? It's impossible to say, but they each had a nice weekend in New York. Is Papelbon going back to the starting rotation? Indications are that he is. How well will that work? Who will close? Can they finally get a bullpen right next year? Will Coco Crisp be back? Mark Loretta? Alex Gonzalez? One of those last two, I'd guess, but not both. Is Mike Timlin done? Will Trot Nixon come back? Will they try to move Manny again? Can they find a back-up catcher? One who can play when Varitek goes down, as becomes increasingly likely at his age? Is this another lost year in the development of Wily Mo Pena, or can he continue to progress?

There are a lot of questions facing this team. There were things they did last off-season that I didn't like, and they didn't work out. There were things they did last off-season that I did like, and most of them didn't work out, either. This team had some design problems, but an enormous amount of really bad luck to go with it.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/18/2006
ProjectedActual

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

Detroit4.95(8)4.05(1)0.591(1)886189601

New York5.72(1)4.72(6)0.587(2)876290593

Minnesota4.97(6)4.27(2)0.569(3)856488613

Chicago5.46(2)4.79(8)0.56(4)836684651

Cleveland5.35(3)4.93(10)0.538(5)80686979-11

Oakland4.72(10)4.39(3)0.533(6)796986627

Texas5.16(4)4.8(9)0.533(7)80707674-4

Toronto4.97(7)4.66(5)0.529(8)797079700

Los Angeles4.67(12)4.61(4)0.505(9)767480704

Boston5.15(5)5.11(11)0.504(10)767481695

Seattle4.54(13)4.75(7)0.479(11)717871780

Baltimore4.79(9)5.58(13)0.431(12)648564850

Tampa Bay4.28(14)5.35(12)0.4(13)60895792-3

Kansas City4.71(11)5.95(14)0.395(14)59915892-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9864

Detroit9765

Minnesota9666

Oakland9468

Chicago9171




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9864

Detroit9765

Minnesota9567

Oakland9369

Chicago9171




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Minnesota6.38(2)2.75(3)0.823(1)7162-1

Toronto5.29(6)2.57(1)0.789(2)6152-1

Texas5.57(5)2.71(2)0.789(3)6143-2

New York6.78(1)4.78(7)0.655(4)63630

Boston5.25(7)4.13(5)0.609(5)53621

Oakland5(9)4.71(6)0.527(6)43521

Chicago3.86(11)3.86(4)0.5(7)4325-2

Kansas City6.29(3)6.71(12)0.47(8)34431

Detroit5.67(4)6.5(10)0.438(9)33330

Seattle5.13(8)6.5(10)0.393(10)35350

Baltimore4.75(10)7.13(13)0.323(11)3526-1

Cleveland3(13)5.14(9)0.272(12)25250

Los Angeles2.63(14)5(8)0.235(13)26442

Tampa Bay3.86(11)7.43(14)0.232(14)2507-2

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Peter Jackson's King Kong

I don't remember what we were in the theater to see - possibly Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire - when I we first saw the trailer for Peter Jackson's King Kong, but I do remember my reaction. My wife and I both looked at each other and mouthed, "Wow!" It looked spectacular.

Well, I've now seen it, and it is. Jackson's a master at putting impressive visuals together, as he demonstrated in The Lord Of The Rings. King Kong was clearly a labor of love for Jackson, and it shows in every frame.

But there's a serious problem. The movie is too long. Way, way too long. The departure from New York takes too long. It takes too long to get to the island. The scene with the ship in trouble is too long. The scene when they meet the natives is too long. The trek across the island is too long. The fight with the giant insects is too long. The fight between Kong and the dinosaurs is too long. The capture scene is too long. Kong wanders the streets of New York for too long. The scene on the Empire State building is too long.

Don't misunderstand - it's all spectacular. It's a visual treat (with a couple of minor exceptions - the men running through the dinosaur stampede didn't work. The effects were overdone, and looked fake. Oh, and it went on too long) but there's just too much of it. There's not nearly enough story for a 3-hour movie. There are far too many scenes that don't do anything to move the narrative forward. At all. From how many evils, exactly, does Kong need to rescue Ann for us to understand that he's caring for her? How many dinosaurs does he need to kill to demonstrate that they can show us that? How many sailors need to die at the hands of how many monsters to establish that the island is full of dangerous creatures?

In 1933, Merian Cooper produced the original King Kong move. It runs about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Jackson's version, which follows the original very closely from a plot point-of-view, takes nearly 3 hours. The extra 1:15, while looking great, does nothing to enhance the movie. And even at that length, he doesn't close all of the plots that he opens. You've got the story of Jimmy, for example, which is fraught with ominous portents and goes nowhere. He went to all the trouble of getting the police out to the dock for Denham, of having the news wired out to the ship that Denham was wanted, but didn't bother with even a line or two about the return.

It took Cooper 20 minutes to get from Kong's appearance on Broadway to the end of the film, and it doesn't feel rushed. Jackson took 40 minutes. In the 1933 version, it's about 24 minutes from the opening titles to the landing on Skull Island. Jackson managed to cram that into 54 minutes, with very little additional benefit. Again, the 1933 version wasn't rushed - the 2005 version is overblown.

From start to finish, it takes longer to get from point A to point B than the story really warrants. Yes, we know that Kong loves Ann. Does he really need to take her ice skating? Wouldn't seeing him chase the car around 5 corners have been sufficient? Did he need to go around 7 more? Is a fight with 7 Tyrannosaurus really more impressive than a fight with 2?

That isn't to say that all of the additional time is wasted. I fell in love with the film from the start, as the first scene is fabulous. He opened by setting the scene, early-depression era New York. With "Sitting On Top Of The World" playing, he intercuts between the vaudeville stage, prohibition raids, steel-workers assembling the NY skyline and shanty-towns. It's extremely well-done, enormously effective.

But then everything just slows down. The casting is all fine, the performances are all good, the visuals are virtually uniformly spectacular. It's just that every step the film takes after the opening is a ponderous step. Jackson's so in love with the images that he's putting on screen, that he can't actually use them to service a story. He's using the story just as an excuse for putting the images on screen.

When Thomas Wolfe brought his manuscript entitled "O, Lost" to Charles Scribner's in 1928 it was brilliant. It was also too long, rambling and unfocused. Maxwell Perkins worked with Wolfe, fought with Wolfe, and, in the editing process, cut hundreds of pages from what would go on to be the classic novel, "Look Homeward, Angel." Peter Jackson's King Kong would have been immeasurably improved by an editor fighting with Jackson to cut an hour out of it...


Technorati tags: KingKong, Jackson

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Thursday, September 14, 2006

One more reason why we homeschool

Here in Massachusetts, 2006 is a gubernatorial election year. Right now, we're being treated to the spectacle of three Democratic candidates seeing who can pander furthest to the left. Not being registered to vote in the Democratic primary and having already seen enough to know that I'd never vote for any of the three, I've watched very little of the debates. But I caught a little bit of last night's debate on the radio, and it re-inforced for me, yet again, how glad I am that we've chosen to homeschool our kids. This was my reaction to a question, and the answers, on the public schools in Massachusetts.

The question to the candidates, posed by moderator Jon Keller, actually came from a citizen of the commonwealth.
My husband and I are spending money we can't afford on a private school for our seventh grader because the local middle school refuses to allow tracking and instead lumps our advanced reader in with kids learning at a much slower rate. They get special services, we get the shaft. We're told this is all about being "inclusive," but it excludes us from getting a fair shake for our son and a fair value for our tax dollars. Will you order the public schools, if you're elected, to restore tracking based on ability?

The question, I'll admit, caught me a little bit by surprise. I was unaware that the school system didn't "track" or "group" children by demonstrated ability. That was certainly never the case when I was in school. In junior high, the groups were labeled with different colors, but everyone understood what they meant. There are some kids who are going to be capable of reading and appreciating A Tale Of Two Cities or Hamlet as freshman and sophomores, and some for whom ever getting through A Wrinkle In Time will be a great accomplishment. Some will breeze through The Waste Land, other will struggle with The Outsiders. That's reality. There are kids who can easily get through Trigonometry and Calculus before they finish high school, and others who aren't ever going to finish Algebra. The idea that you'd lump them into one classroom and expect them all to thrive is just silly.

But not to the Democrats running for Governor in Massachusetts. Look again at that question. Slam Dunk, right?

Wrong.

Tom Reilly: "No, I will not." (It's nice, I guess, to get an unequivocal answer to a question from one of these guys, but what an answer!)

Chris Gabrieli: Listening live, I thought I heard him basically agree with Reilly. Looking through the transcript, I don't actually see an answer. I'm uncertain whether he just blathered, or whether the transcript's incomplete.

Deval Patrick: "I do reject tracking,"

(The full transcript of their answers can be seen here.)

Sometimes, you'd think that common sense, reality, would begin to intrude in the fantasy world these guys live in, but apparently not. Here's more from Reilly: "I believe in giving every one of our kids and every one of our children the opportunity to be whatever they can be and go as far as they can be." How, exactly, he thinks that's going to happen if he groups children of vastly disparate native ability in the same classroom is beyond me. What happens is you have teachers who, in order to get anything done, have to teach to the bottom half of the middle third. You lose kids at the bottom who can't keep up. You lose kids at the top who are bored out of their minds. But, to the radical egalitarians on the American political left, that's apparently how you give everyone the "opportunity to be whatever they can be."

It's obviously nonsense. You can't serve ANYONE'S best interest that way, never mind everyone's That doesn't mean that you're throwing anyone away. God created everyone with different talents, abilities and interests. The best interests of some kids are served by getting them into rigorous math courses that have them completing Calculus before graduation. There are others who are best served by making sure that they can add and subtract, and have some concept of what to do with fractions and percentages. There's no way that that can all be best accomplished by having them all in the same math class.

And we're all paying for that system.

In more ways than one...


Technorati tags: Reilly, Gabrieli, Patrick, Homeschool, Massachusetts, education

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Review: The Path To 9/11

I wrote a bit the other day about my thoughts before the broadcast of ABC's 9/11 docu-drama, The Path To 9/11. I had some concerns about it, and some thoughs about both the production and the hype in the run-up to the broadcast. I've now seen it, and had a chance to think about it a little bit.

My first thought on having digested The Path To 9/11 was a thought I've had before. What the hell is Bill Clinton talking about? As a Clinton watcher since the early 90s, my opinion is that ABC was far, far more generous to Bill Clinton, and his administration, than was warranted. I think that there was some pre-show hype from the right hand side of the poitical commentariat in this country that was vastly overblown (yes, Rush, that means you) and the Clinton people reacted to that.

Just as a motion picture, an example of story-telling art, I thought it worked. Very well. The casting was good, the performances were uniformly strong, the grainy jittery camera work was appropriate to the subject matter, the music was well set. The settings were well chosen, any special effects were well-integrated - it was a strong, effective piece of film-making. I thought it was, at times, harrowing to watch. When it started, when they showed the flights taking off, I felt the pit of my stomach knot up.

As a documentary, well, it wasn't. And ABC acknowledged that. They put a disclaimer on-screen at the beginning and in the middle and at the end. They didn't just put it on-screen, they put it on-screen and read it. Anyone watching knows that it's a dramatization. Including "fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue as well as time compression."

So the question becomes, in dramatizing the story, in putting together the "fictionalized scenes" and the "composite...characters," did they do actual violence to the story? Did they libel anyone?

I don't see it.

The portrayal of the film shows the Clinton administration concerned with Al Qaeda, concerned with Bin Laden. But it also portrays the administration as believing that it was not a military problem. While there were some who felt that we were at war, the overwhelming impression is that the administration, as a whole, believed that we were dealing with criminals. In the film, the attitude is summed up in a conversation between FBI agent John O'Neill and "Kirk" (one of the composite characters, a CIA agent played by Donnie Wahlberg).
O'Neill: The fact is, terrorism is perceived by this administration as being a law and order problem. Period.
Kirk: How do you win a law and orderly war?
O'Neill: You don't.

Is that conversation and dialogue fictional? Probably? Does it represent the attitudes of the Clinton administration? Let's go to the 9/11 Commission Report, 3.1 (p. 72):
An unfortunate consequence of this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort was that it created an impression that the law enforcement system was well-equipped to cope with terrorism. Neither President Clinton, his principal
advisers,the Congress,nor the news media felt prompted,until later,to press the question of whether the procedures that put the Blind Sheikh and Ramzi Yousef behind bars would really protect Americans
against the new virus of which these individuals were just the first symptoms.

Frankly, the portrayal of the Bush administration, while shorter (Bush was inaugurated less than 8 months before 9/11), was no better. (For long-time fans of the Fox show "24," Condoleeza Rice is the one who has the most legitimate complaint about the show, as Penny Johnson Jerald is someone to whom a "24" viewer has a extremely negative reaction beforehand.) But it is a fact, it is not disputable, that the United States government, neither the Clinton administration nor the Bush administration, had taken the kind of military action before 9/11 that became obviously necessary after 9/11. The Clinton people can tell us, as long and as loud as they want, that Clinton spent the last several years of his Presidency "focused like a laser beam" on terrorism. That will never make it so. No one who lived through those years will ever believe it.

One of the individuals portrayed in the film as someone who really "got it" is Richard Clarke. Clarke has also had harsh words. It's tough to be sure why that is, as he certainly came across well. And his own words have supported the portrayal of the Clinton administration that was shown in the film. He is quoted, on the PBS Frontline page covering the special on John O'Neill, as saying:
Certainly after the embassy bombing in Africa in 1998, it was very obvious that what John was saying, what I was saying, was right: that this was more than a nuisance; that this was a real threat. But I don't think everyone came to the understanding that it was an existential threat. The question was, "This group is more than a nuisance, but are they worth going to war with? After all, they've only attacked two embassies. Maybe that's a cost of doing business. This kind of thing happens. Yes, we should spend some time some energy trying to get them, but it's not the number one priority we have." ...

I think if you ask most terrorism experts in the mid-1990s, "Name the major terrorist organizations that might be a threat to the United States," they would have said Hezbollah, which had a relationship with Iran. They would have said Hamas, which is a Palestinian group. Most people would not have said Al Qaeda. Most people wouldn't have known that there was an Al Qaeda.



Bottom line? The villains in this piece are not the Clinton administration officials who didn't capture Bin Laden. They are not the Bush administration officials who did not stop the attacks. They aren't the FBI agents who under-reacted to Zacharias Moussaoui's flight training or the judges that didn't let the FBI examine his laptop. No, the villains are, as is rightly the case, the terrorists themselves. Ramzi Yousef. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Osama Bin Laden. In hindsight, there were "dots" that could have been connected. There were missed opportunities, there were turf battles, there was red tape, there was bureaucratic infighting. But the villains are the ones the planned and executed the attack, not the ones who failed to prevent it. And that is clearly what the movie shows. All things considered, it's an impressive accomplishment.




Technorati tags: Clinton, ABC, Path To 911, Sandy Berger, 911

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

CBS gives up pretending...

Julie Chen and Wonkette

Back in July, Time magazine elevated left-liberal blogger Ana Marie Cox, better known as Wonkette, to Washington editor of their online site, Time.com. Cox, whose background includes stints at Mother Jones and The American Prospect, had built her reputation, and audience, with occasionally witty, constantly snarky and generally profane commentary on the sex lives of Washington residents. But she had an audience, and Time apparently felt that that justified her promotion. So she moved from the fringes of the blogosphere towards the mainstream press.

And now she's moved further. It's a good bet, I'd think, that most of the audience of The Early Show don't know her background. Well, they didn't learn any of it from her appearance this morning, when she was introduced as, yes, the Washington editor of time.com. Yes, that's what she is. But she's not a non-partisan political analyst, not in any way, shape or form, even though CBS treated her, presented her to their audience, as if she were. She was the first analyst that CBS had on to talk about the President's speech last night. At least through the first hour, she was the only analyst that CBS had on to talk about the President's speech last night.

A major speech from the President. Carried live by all of the networks. And the only analysis that CBS presents its viewers with the following morning is from a liberal blogger, presented to that audience as a non-partisan analyst.

Julie Chen: Ana Marie Cox is Washington editor for time.com, the Time Magazine website. Good morning, Ana.

Ana Marie Cox: Morning.

Julie Chen: The white House was trying to say the speech we heard last not was nonpolitical and more reflective. Would you agree?

Ana Marie Cox: I would say it was repetitive, not reflective. He said things like we need to put aside our differences and agree with them. They don't want us to actually have any debate. They want us to get on the same side. That's what they mean by putting aside differences.

Julie Chen: What is the difference between the 17-minute speech we heard the President deliver last night and the one we heard him deliver five years ago right after our nation was attacked?

Ana Marie Cox: It didn't feel very different. I thought he gave a better performance last night, but a lot of the themes were very much the same. And I think the main difference was he did go ahead and talk about Iraq. Obviously he didn't talk about Iraq five years ago, but to put Iraq in the context of the War on Terror and to talk about it on the anniversary of 9/11 I thought was fairly brazen, although he obviously made a distinction between Saddam Hussein and the attacks on the towers and didn't say anything Saddam Hussein had anything to do with those attacks. He was making a very emotional argument for us to stay in Iraq.

Julie Chen: Of course he couldn't not mention the war in Iraq, although five years ago we were not in Iraq yet. But does it seem like the President is trying to connect a dot between the war in Iraq and the War on Terror?

Ana Marie Cox: Clearly they are. I think the Republicans have seen through focus groups and polling that the only was that they can gin up support for the war on Iraq is to remind people of the War on Terror and of 9/11. But I think that's an emotional argument, that's kind of a propagandistic argument and not a policy argument. That's not something that's really going to stick with voters, I don't think. It's a very ephemeral way to argue for support in Iraq.

Julie Chen: We also heard the president draw parallels to World War II. What do you make of that?

Ana Marie Cox: Well, I honestly think it's something like saying, remember those wars that you liked, remember those wars you supported? This is like those wars, the World War II, the American Revolution. This isn't like the wars you didn't like. It's not at all like Vietnam. It's like the wars we have good movies made about.

Julie Chen: Do you think making that parallel was not appropriate?

Ana Marie Cox: Well, I do think it was inappropriate. I think it's a very different kind of fight we're doing now. This is an unending war. This is a war he's admitted is going to take a long time. It has no definite winning point. There's no point in which you can say we won the War on Terrorism. Is it when all the terrorists are dead? When there's no terrorists left in the world? Unlike in World War II or the American Revolution there were visible goals, things we could define we wanted. I think he's sort of trying to make the American public believe there's an end goal to this when really all of us can agree there isn't something like that.

Julie Chen: Time's Ana Marie Cox, thank you Ana.


Yet they get offended when anyone suggests that there might be a slight bias to the left in the mainstream press. Based on the last couple of days, it looks as though they aren't even trying to pretend anymore...

The "analysis" runs just under 3 minutes and can be seen here.

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Mallard Fillmore

Mallard Fillmore
September 11th, 2006
Amen.

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Execrable performance from CBS' Early Show - 9/11

Jim Axelrod
I wrote, earlier today, about how The Early Show began the broadcast this morning by politicizing 9/11. I had stopped watching after the Axelrod segment to write about it, and just recently got back to it. I was almost stunned by how right my headline had been. I just didn't know the half of it. The first hour of the show was filled with politics, the vast majority of it negative towards the Bush administration and the rest just inappropriate.
First, we had the Axelrod piece, as referenced earlier.

Axelrod: The President's aides have made it clear this is no time for politics, although his very presence here is a reminder of the lost popularity for Mr. Bush in the past five years....In the days and weeks after the President climbed that rubble pile at Ground Zero and promised revenge, the President had an 89% approval rating. Five years later that number is 36%. Later today the President will head from here in Manhattan to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At 11:45 A.M., Mr. Bush will participate in a ceremony in Shanksville. He will then fly to Washington to lay a wreath at the Pentagon. At 9:00 tonight the President will address the nation in what we're told will be a non-political speech.


Hannah Storm

This was followed by Hannah Storm, reminding everyone that the Bush administration has not yet captured Osama Bin Laden.

Hannah Storm: On the eve of the 9/11 anniversary a videotape came out showing Osama Bin Laden and his followers planning the 9/11 attacks, one more reminder that five years later Osama Bin Laden is still out there.


Next, she spoke with Secretary of State Rice. And wanted to know when the Bush administration would start treating terrorism the way the Clinton administration did. And pointing the finger of blame. And challenging the Bush administration's overall strategy.

Hannah Storm: When we go to trial? When will this be criminalized?

Hannah Storm: There's still talk about who has responsibility for 9/11. There is this ABC movie, that has stirred controvery by saying that the Clinton administration had a chance to get Osama Bin Laden and didn't. Others have blamed the Bush administration for not recognizing the terror threat. Who is to blame?


(Notice there the assumption that it's controversial to say that the Clinton administration had the opportunity to get Bin Laden, and didn't. The latter is, of course, inarguable. The evidence is overwhelming that the former is, as well. Hannah apparently thinks that it's controversial to say 1+1=2.)

Hannah Storm: I want to ask you about this spreading of democracy and changing the Middle East and combating this ideology of hatred. We have seen terrorist organizations flourish in democratic nations in the Middle East and also seen them flourish in western Europe. So is that really the answer for terror?


Rene Syler

Rene Syler interviewed Rudy Giuliani. She tried to get him to criticize the Bush administration, by playing a segment of a Katie Couric interview with Christie Todd Whitman. And she tried to get him to discuss his political aspirations.

Katie Couric; Did your people do enough to call the people who were overseeing the site, i.e, the city officials that said we have to protect these people?

Rene Syler: If I could ask you about your political aspirations. You remain a presidential prospect for 2008, will you run for President?


5 years, almost to the hour, after the attacks that changed the world, she's asking him whether he's running for President. Completely inappropriate, and he pointed that out.
Harry Smith

Finally, we went to Harry Smith, who spoke about ... politics. With Hilary Clinton. Who had nothing but criticism of the Bush administration, with basically no push-back from Smith. It is absolutely inconceivable that a Republican Senator could have appeared on national television this morning and made the types of comments about the Clinton administration that Senator Clinton made about the Bush administration. There would have been furious condemnation from the press. With Senator Clinton, it's basically a question of "how else would you like to criticize the President?"

Harry Smith: Right after 9/11 party politics was not part of the War on Terror but now Democrats say the Bush administration has not done enough to protect Americans. Republicans say no attacks in America is proof that the War on Terror is working. Senator Clinton joins us this morning. One of the questions we've been asking for the last week, are we safe, are we safer and the question I want to ask this morning -- is the world any less dangerous than it was five years ago?

Hilary Clinton: Well we are safer, we are not safe enough and the world is dangerous. The world has always been dangerous, but now we have a lot of copycats, jihadist terrorists. We have a lot of spreading of this ideology. So we need to be safer and smarter. We have to have a strong but effective response.

Harry Smith: Has the country done enough, with the fighting in Afghanistan has re-escalated. The Taliban has reconstituted itself and numbers even greater than before, how can it be five years later?

Hilary Clinton: We took our eye off the ball. We diverted resources and attention to Iraq and we didn't finish the job. That, to me, is one of the great missed opportunities. I don't understand why that happened but it did. So now we are going to have to get more NATO troops, more American support to go in and support the government of Afghanistan, to try to redo what we should have done right the first time.

Harry Smith: You were among those who advocated going to war in Iraq. We are in Iraq now, more than 2,500 Americans have died there, there is still an unbelievable lethal situation on the ground day-to-day for Iraqi civilians. The President says this is the centerpiece in the War on Terror do you believe that is true?

Hilary Clinton: I did not advocate that. I voted to give the President authority to have the United States congress behind him when he went to the U.N. To put inspectors back in to figure out what Saddam Hussein had. That would not have been the choice, in my opinion, that we should have pursued at that time. But I thought it was reasonable to give him that authority. Nevertheless, it is a big problem now. It is a source of terrorists and getting better tactics, learning how to be suicide bombers.

Harry Smith: Where there were no terrorists before, it's full of terrorists now?

Hilary Clinton: It's full of people learning and applying tactics in terrorism that have been both imported from Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere, and now can be exported.

Harry Smith: Very quickly, there's a tug of war, a war of words, between Christie Todd Whitman and former Mayor Giuliani about the dangerous level of the air here at ground zero. Do you remember that time? And who is, in the end, responsible for people not wearing respirators?

Hilary Clinton: I remember it well. I was the first person within days who said this air is not safe and we have to protect the people working on the pile. The federal government basically lied. They said the air was safe to breathe. They tried to dismiss the concerns that many of us had and people are suffering now. All levels of government should have done more. We should have done more to be honest with people about what they were encountering and done more to make sure that the men and women on that pile day in and day out had appropriate equipment to protect themselves.

Harry Smith: Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.


All in all, a truly repulsive performance across-the-board this morning from CBS. The producers of The Early Show should be ashamed of themselves. They're not, I'm sure. But they should be...

Highlights from CBS' in-kind contribution to the DNC can be seen here. It runs just over 6 minutes, and includes segments from Mr. Axelrod's news story, highlights of Ms. Storm's questions to Secretary Rice and Ms. Syler's questions for Mayor Giuliani, and the entirety of Mr. Smith's interview with Senator Clinton.

(Simul-posted at Newsbusters)

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CBS' Early Show playing politics with 9/11

Jim Axelrod

The 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, is clearly an event that needs to be marked and acknowledged. One can only imagine the furor that would arise if the President of the United States were to neglect observing and commenting on the day. On the other hand, if he were to choose this particular time to come out with partisan political attacks, to attempt to take advantage of the anniversary observances in purely political ways, I believe we can say, with some confidence, that the mainstream press would be vociferous in their condemnation. History suggests to us that the media in this country is on the lookout for any signs of partisanship from the President today. (It also suggests that that vigilance is, shall we say, one-sided. Attacks against the President for allowing the towers to be destroyed "on his watch," as it were, would be unlikely to arouse the same sense of outrage.)

On The Early Show this morning, however, CBS has chosen to play politics right from the start. In the very first "news" segment of the show, at 7:03 EDT, Harry Smith spoke to CBS White House correspondent Jim Axelrod, who chose to focus his report on ... the President's approval ratings.

Jim Axelrod: The President's aides have made it clear this is no time for politics, although his very presence here is a reminder of the lost popularity for Mr. Bush in the past five years....In the days and weeks after the President climbed that rubble pile at Ground Zero and promised revenge, the President had an 89% approval rating. Five years later that number is 36%. Later today the President will head from here in Manhattan to Shanksville, Pennsylvania. At 11:45 A.M., Mr. Bush will participate in a ceremony in Shanksville. He will then fly to Washington to lay a wreath at the Pentagon. At 9:00 tonight the President will address the nation in what we're told will be a non-political speech. (emphasis mine)

So, we start the 9/11 anniversary show by focusing on the President's approval ratings. (I believe we can safely assume that, if the ratings were 55-60%, instead of 36%, that would not have been where they focused the first story.) He refers to "the President" and "Mr. Bush," but never to "President Bush."

And, when speaking of tonight's speech, he makes sure we understand that "we are told" it will be non-political, bringing politics into it again. Of course the President will address the nation tonight. It is the 5th anniversary of the most traumatic day in the last 40 years of this nation's history. There's no reason whatsoever that anyone should hear that the President is addressing the nation tonight and think, "hey, he's playing politics!" The simple citation of that, along with the "we are told," serves one purpose - to make people think that it may, in fact, be a political speech*. Nice work, CBS.

The entire clip can be seen here.


* - Of course, it is a political event. The fact is, the President of the United States is not just the Commander in Chief - he's the Politician in Chief. Any act that he takes, any word that he says, has political implications and overtones. But when the network focuses, the way that CBS did this morning, on the political implications, rather than on the events or words themselves, it imputes a certain cynicism to the events or words that aren't necessarily there. It represents negative politicking on the part of the media to approach it this way.


(Simul-posted at Newsbusters.)

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Monday Pythagorean - 9/11

NOTE: It appears that CNN/SI has failed to update properly each of the last couple of Mondays, so the weekly standings are apparently, at least in some cases, Sunday-Saturday. It makes no difference, but there it is.


For the first time since the debacle that was 2001, the Boston Red Sox are playing an irrelevant September. And they're playing it as if they understand that it's irrelevant. I don't actually have much of a complaint about the pitching - the fact is, they've got no pitchers left. They have one (1) of their starting pitchers left. Clement's hurt. Wakefield's hurt. Wells has been traded. Schilling's hurt. The only starter left is Beckett, who's not pitched well, though he's been better recently.

But the offense has done very little in the last two months. They're averaging 4.18 runs/game in the 39 games since July ended. To put that in perspective, the worst offensive team in the AL for the season this year has been Tampa Bay. They've averaged 4.3 runs/game this year. Some of that is, of course, the injuries, as Varitek, Nixon, Ramirez and Ortiz all missed significant time. But no one picked up the slack, either. Loretta and Lowell have been fine, but if they're your two best hitters, you're in deep trouble. Youkilis had a bad stretch. Crisp was awful, the catchers worse. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/11/2006
ProjectedActual

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

Detroit4.92(7)3.94(1)0.599(1)865786570

New York5.65(1)4.71(6)0.582(2)815984563

Chicago5.54(2)4.84(8)0.562(3)806282602

Minnesota4.89(8)4.35(2)0.553(4)786382594

Cleveland5.47(3)4.91(10)0.549(5)77646774-10

Oakland4.7(11)4.37(3)0.534(6)756681606

Texas5.14(5)4.9(9)0.522(7)75687271-3

Los Angeles4.78(10)4.59(4)0.519(8)746876662

Toronto4.95(6)4.76(7)0.518(9)746874680

Boston5.15(4)5.16(11)0.499(10)717175674

Seattle4.5(13)4.65(5)0.485(11)687368730

Baltimore4.79(9)5.49(13)0.438(12)627962790

Tampa Bay4.3(14)5.25(12)0.41(13)58845785-1

Kansas City4.63(12)5.91(14)0.39(14)56875489-2




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Detroit9765

New York9765

Chicago9468

Minnesota9468

Oakland9369




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Detroit9765

New York9765

Minnesota9468

Chicago9369

Oakland9270




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Los Angeles3.5(11)1.67(1)0.795(1)51510

New York6.17(3)4.17(6)0.672(2)42420

Cleveland5.29(4)4.57(8)0.566(3)4325-2

Seattle4.5(6)4(4)0.554(4)33421

Kansas City6.67(1)6(13)0.548(5)33421

Oakland6.33(2)5.83(12)0.538(6)33330

Texas4.67(5)4.33(7)0.534(7)33330

Detroit3.86(9)3.71(3)0.517(8)4325-2

Toronto3(13)3(2)0.5(9)33421

Minnesota3.71(10)4(4)0.466(10)34431

Chicago4.43(8)5(9)0.445(11)34340

Tampa Bay4.5(6)5.33(11)0.423(12)33330

Baltimore3(13)5.17(10)0.27(13)2415-1

Boston3.17(12)6(13)0.237(14)15241

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9/11

Five years ago this morning, I woke up in Washington, DC. When the planes hit the World Trade Center, I was waiting to get into the US Capitol Building. When the plane hit the Pentagon, I was inside the US Capitol building.

I wrote about my experiences a year ago...

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Friday, September 08, 2006

The Path To 911

The big story of the week, media-wise, is the upcoming ABC miniseries, "The Path To 9/11." There's been a lot of coverage everywhere. Newsbusters, in particular, has been all over this story (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here) but I haven't had anything to offer, preferring to wait until I've had a chance to see it.

But I do have a couple of comments to make at the moment. It appears that ABC, in the editing process, has altered or deleted a couple of scenes under pressure from former Clinton administration officials. I don't know that for a fact, but it is certainly being reported as a fact in various places. There are people fulminating all over the place, on both ends of the spectrum, and it warrants comment.

The biggest comment is this - if ABC really has scenes in it which are libelously wrong, then they've brought this entirely upon themselves. If they're portraying Sandy Berger as hanging up a phone rather than authorize capturing Bin Laden and that never happened, if they've got Madeline Albright tipping off Bin Laden by telling the Pakistanis, and that never happened, then they're not asking for trouble - they're insisting on it. I've got nothing but contempt for Sandy Berger, but you'd expect a mouse to be able to generate some righteous indignation over a specific like that, and he is, by definition anyway, a man.

You absolutely cannot produce something like this, something that you know will be controversial, and start with big, specific things that are wrong. As soon as you give someone the opportunity to stand up and say, "That never happened!" you call into question the entire effort. ABC may have been looking at this project as an entertainment piece, but they have to have known the way people would react. Sometimes, you've got to be extra careful. They, apparently, were not.


  1. The Path To 911. It is not a documentary. It was never portrayed as a documentary. It is a drama, a fictionalized portrayal of the basic timeline of persons and events that led up to the attacks in September of 2001. There are scenes which represent real events, scenes that are composites of real events, and scenes which are dramatic fiction or speculation. It is based on the work of the 911 commission, and the story that was pieced together from the commission hearings. It is not a documentary.


  2. The Clinton Administration. Apparently, the portrayal of the Clinton administration in this drama is not flattering. The drama, apparently, portrays the administration as having done virtually nothing to seriously combat terrorism in the wake of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. This has the officials of that administration up in arms. My reaction to that is to laugh. As if the world somehow needs a fictionalized drama to understand that they never took terrorism seriously. The Clinton administration never did anything, never took any action, to make anyone think that they were seriously concerned about the potential threat to the United States that was forming in the muslim middle-east, and there's no way that ABC could "edit" this program to make it look like they were.


  3. The Clinton Legacy. There isn't one, not the way he wants there to be. This ABC drama will have no effect on that.


  4. The Hypocrisy of the left. There are many on the left who were grossly offended when the political right savaged the CBS fictional biopic on The Reagans. The series was, as this one is, dramatized history that was, in places, slanderous. The people on the right wanted CBS to pull it, they started boycotts, they raised a fuss, and CBS eventually capitulated. The leftists were outraged. Free speech! The first amendment! How could they!? Many of those same people who were outraged that CBS would be pressured to not show a dramatized history the reflected negatively on Ronald Reagan are now outraged that ABC might show a dramatized history that reflects negatively on Bill Clinton.


  5. The Hypocrisy of the right. Unfortunately, the right doesn't look any better here, from a hypocrisy point of view. Many of the same people who were outraged by the Reagan picture and wanted CBS to change or pull it are now outraged by the left demanding the same thing on the Path to 911.


  6. The First Amendment. There is bound to be, no matter what ABC does, a lot of fulmination about damage to the first amendment and free speech.

    Poppycock.

    As long as there is no official government intervention, there's no harm done to the first amendment. ABC has the free speech right to produce a dramatized history. Bill Clinton and Madeline Albright and Sandy Berger have the right to wave their fists and stamp their feet and write letters to Robert Iger. There's plenty of free speech taking place, more than enough to go around. No harm, no foul.


  7. There is one exception to that, however. Bill Clinton's a private citizen, he's got no authority over anything, he can send all of the letters he wants. Likewise with Sandy Berger and Madeline Albright.

    But the Democrats in the Senate are elected officials wielding power in the United States government. They have sent a letter to ABC in which they spoke of ABC being a "beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves." That's a problem. That is nothing more nor less than a veiled threat, and it is completely inappropriate. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin should be ashamed of themselves. They're not, of course - I don't see any evidence that either is capable of it. But that's embarrassing and completely inappropriate conduct, an abuse of power. (I'll not hold my breath waiting for that commentary from the mainstream press.)


  8. I'm still looking forward to it.





Technorati tags: Clinton, ABC, Path To 911, Sandy Berger, Robert Iger, 911

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

AP - Anti-President, At it again...

The President of the United States addressed the nation, the media and the world today (well, most of the world - the mainstream networks felt it unnecessary to break from their soaps to carry the speech) from the White House. He spoke for 37 minutes, and addressed the current state of the War On Terror. He talked about the attacks on September 11th. He talked about the terrorists who have been caught, and how the information from them led to the capture of other terrorists. He talked about multiple attacks on the United States that had been thwarted by the capture and interrogation of these terrorists. He spoke about the need to continue to gather information. He spoke about the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision, and the bill that he has sent to Congress to authorize military tribunals. He talked about the transfer to Guantanamo of certain high-profile terrorists, and the treatment that everyone at Guantanamo has received. He talked about trying the men responsible for 9/11, the USS Cole, the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

So how does the AP treat this as a news story? "US War On Terror Prevents Attacks?" "US Ready To Try 911 Planners?" No. The AP has decided that the headline from this speech was Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons.

The article, by AP writer Nedra Pickler, is focused, as is so often the case with the AP, not on the speech, but on information that can be used as a weapon against the President.

President Bush on Wednesday acknowledged previously secret CIA prisons around the world and said 14 high-value terrorism suspects — including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks — have been transferred from the system to Guantanamo Bay for trials.

He said a small number of detainees have been kept in CIA custody including people responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in addition to the 2001 attacks.


To the extent that the CIA prisons were "secret," they remain secret today. The fact that the President had never officially announced that prisoners were being held by CIA operatives in undisclosed locations is not remotely the same as stating that anyone was unaware of the fact that prisoners were being held in undisclosed locations by CIA operatives. I'd bet that a Lexis/Nexis search would reveal that the AP itself has run stories with that information.

In any event, there was a lot of news in the President's speech. The transfer of the prisoners, the readiness to try the 911, USS Cole and embassy bombing planners when a plan is approved by Congress for so doing, the number of attacks thwarted, and the information that the prisoners have provided are all big stories. But they all reflect well on the President, his administration, and their administration of the War on Terror. Obviously, the AP can't lead with anything that might be positive for this President...


I've said it before, I'll say it again - the AP is very good at what it does. It's just a shame that unbiased news reporting isn't it...

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Live-blogging the Presidential address

The topic for today, according to all of the "pre-game prep," is that the President is announcing the transfer of 14 terrorist leaders to Guantanamo Bay, and the formation of a mechanism for trying them.

1:45 - Punctual as always, we're starting with a recitation of the facts. "Americans awoke on September 11th..."

1:48 - "The foiled plot in London shows that the terrorists are still active, and they're still trying to attack America...Another reason that the terrorists have not succeeded is that the government has changed its policies."

1:50 - Why are the captured terrorists important? "This is information that can not be gotten any other place." It is so straightforward that it continues to boggle the mind how people can have fought so hard against every step this administration has taken and still consider themselves patriotic Americans. Yes, I'm serious about that. And that means you, New York Times. And that means you, ACLU. And that means you, CBS. And Russ Feingold. And Arlen Specter.

2:00 - Wow. He's actually talking about what's been done. "He told us...We captured...He told..." Wow. Wow.

Will ANY of this make the press? Will it make any difference if it does? Will we hear more about Iraq "being a distraction from" the War On Terror? I'd guess some (but not a lot), some (but not a lot) and yes.


2:10 - "I'm announcing today that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh and 11 more have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay...As soon as congress authorizes the military tribunals, the men who orchestrated the attacks of September 11, 2001, will face justice."

Standing ovation.

Good stuff. "We'll also prosecute those responsible for the US Cole and the attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."

2:14 - "Of the thousands...only about 770 have ever been transferred to Guantanamo..."

Again, this is the kind of thing that should have been said over and over again for the past several years. This is the defense of everything that should have been made for the past 5 years, repeatedly. And he should be doing this in prime-time - how much of the nation is seeing and hearing this right now? Not enough.

2:22 - "Today's War on Terrorism is, above all, a struggle for Freedom."


About 37 minutes long, and fantastic. I'd call it a grand slam, if I thought that anyone had seen it. I suspect that it goes into the books as a single, because the American people are, by and large, going to get this only through the filter of the media. The media, by and large, has a deep antipathy to the Bush administration, and everything that it attempts to do.

But it was a great speech. A defense of the administrations efforts that really needs to be made frequently and forcefully. It was forceful today, it needs to be done more often.

As great as this was, it's much too little, much too late, if it is not followed up...

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Scrappleface Shrugs

Sometimes, Scott Ott is just too true (except for the Nancy Pelosi part) to be funny...

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Editor needed

The Boston Herald's Karen Guregian started her column this morning with, "Tiger Woods is playing as good as, if not better than, he did during his finest season to date..." Pretty sad. What's even worse is that no one corrected it, and they published it that way. At least on the web.

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Monday, September 04, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 9/4

The death march that is the 2006 Red Sox season continues. This week's injury news featured David Ortiz' heart palpitations, John Lester's cancer, Curt Schilling's strained oblique and Jon Papelbon's strained shoulder. How bad have things gotten? This week's lineups featured Mark Loretta DHing and batting 3rd. There's really nothing else that needs be said...


I'm always eager for the NFL season to start, but I can hardly recall a time when it approached with such a promise of relief from what I've been watching.






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

Oakland4.67(5)2.67(1)0.736(1)42420

Detroit4.5(7)3.17(3)0.655(2)4233-1

Seattle3.67(12)2.83(2)0.616(3)42420

New York5.17(2)4(6)0.615(4)42420

Cleveland4.67(5)3.67(4)0.609(5)42511

Chicago6(1)4.83(9)0.598(6)42420

Texas5(4)4.83(9)0.516(7)33330

Toronto4(9)4.14(7)0.484(8)3425-1

Baltimore5.17(2)5.67(14)0.458(9)33330

Tampa Bay4.5(7)5(12)0.452(10)3324-1

Kansas City3.83(11)4.33(8)0.444(11)33330

Los Angeles4(9)5.5(13)0.358(12)24240

Minnesota2.33(13)3.67(4)0.304(13)24240

Boston2.14(14)4.86(11)0.183(14)16251

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