Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Meditations on a 31-7 victory

Odds and ends, following Monday night's Patriot demolition of the Vikings...


  • Several years ago, the Monday Night Football powers-that-be decided that just listing the starting lineups wasn't good enough - they had to actually take the field off-screen and allow each starter to introduce himself. Amusing once, this very quickly became tedious and obnoxious, as players would throw out nicknames of schools while attempting to present the best "attitude" that they could muster. This year, they've changed it a little, in that they allow one player for each unit to introduce himself and some of his teammates.

    Not an improvement.

  • The combination of the Colts victory over Denver, and the Patriots victory over Minnesota, moved New England into the 2nd seed slot in the AFC. It also gave them the fabled "control over their own destiny." Indianapolis comes to Gillette Stadium on Sunday night. A Patriots win moves them into the top seed slot in the AFC. If they win out, they're number one, with a bye and homefield through the playoffs. Now that Denver's lost, the Patriots don't need any help to accomplish that.

  • Three men in the broadcast booth sort of worked once, back in the 70s when Howard Cosell was still there. It hasn't worked since. The Dennis Miller experiment was a disaster. Apparently no one learned from it, leading to the painful presence of Tony Kornheiser on the MNF broadcast.

  • Speaking of Kornheiser, we were treated - again - to a fundamental misunderstanding about the way the Patriots do business. "Here's their organization motto - they don't pay a lot of money and they are not sentimental." While the latter is basically true, the former is nonsense. It represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what's going on. Tom Brady is making a lot of money. Richard Seymour is making a lot of money. Adam Vinatieri was one of the highest paid kickers in the game for the past couple of years. Dan Koppen's now one of the highest paid centers. They pay up to the salary cap every year. Billy Yates, the 3rd string guard who played so well last night was signed to the highest practice squad contract ever earlier this year.

    What they don't do is over-pay for someone just because they've been good before. And they don't gut the bottom half of the roster to overpay the top half. I'm sure that they'd love to have kept David Givens, but Tennessee gave him stupid money. Substitute Deion Branch for David Givens and Seattle for Tennessee. And many others along the way.

  • And while we're on the topic of mis-leading information - early in the second quarter they ran a scroll of people that have left New England in the last five years, labeled "Key departures," while Mike Tirico said "They keep winning championships, even with a great list of departures." Here's the list - see if you can tell what's wrong with it.

    Key departures:
    Charlie Weis
    Romeo Crennel
    Eric Mangini

    Offense:
    Drew Bledsoe
    Jermaine Wiggins
    Damien Woody
    Joe Andruzzi
    David Patten
    Adam Vinatieri
    Deion Branch
    David Givens

    Defense:
    Lawyer Milloy
    Ted Washington
    Ty Law
    Willie McGinest

    They have not yet won a championship without Charlie Weis. Or Romeo Crennel. Or Eric Mangini. Or Adam Vinatieri or Deion Branch or David Givens. Or Willie McGinest.

    And the idea that Jermaine Wiggins and David Patten and Joe Andruzzi represented "key departures" is just silly. Not that those guys didn't do a good job for New England, but they were just guys - fungible parts.

    That's not to say that they won't win championships without those people. I think that they're the best team in the NFL right now, and, while it's probably too strong to say that I expect them to win this year, it wouldn't surprise me at all. But they haven't done it yet without a bunch of those guys, and it's dishonest to say that they have, as ESPN did last night. I know, I know - just filling broadcast time. They could do it with truth, as opposed to lies...

  • For all the talk about how dominant the Denver defense has been this year, they've allowed 9 fewer points than the Patriots through 7 games (while the Patriots have outscored them by 57). And of the 87 points that New England, 7 were on the punt return last night, and 7 were on the incredibly fluky McCareins TD in week 2.

  • I wonder what the NFL record is for giving opponents their first loss of the season. The Patriots will have the opportunity on Sunday to knock their 3rd opponent from the ranks of the unbeaten, and, if the Bears keep winning, they could conceivably have a shot at 4. That's probably not a record, but I can't believe that it happens very often, either. And has anyone ever beaten two undefeated teams with at least 7 wins in the same season? The Patriots might have that chance... (But I doubt it - Chicago's got to go to New York twice in the next 3 weeks, and I suspect that one of those teams will beat them.)

  • Looking at some numbers:


    NFL Standings - 10/31/2006
    TeamWLTPCTPFPASTRKPF/GPA/GDiffPyth

    Chicago 700122169Won 7 31.619.9121.710.9111

    San Diego 5200.714216109Won 1 30.9215.6615.320.7972

    New England 6100.85716787Won 4 23.9712.4311.430.7873

    Baltimore 5200.71414591Won 1 20.7161347.750.7174

    Dallas 4300.571204142Won 1 29.1420.3128.940.6745

    Denver 5200.71411078Lost 1 15.72711.124.690.6656

    NY Giants 5200.714180134Won 4 25.7619.186.670.6437

    Indianapolis 7001205153Won 7 29.3321.9217.460.6428

    Jacksonville 4300.571138107Won 1 19.71915.354.4100.6259

    Philadelphia 4400.5206160Lost 3 25.8520115.880.62410

    New Orleans 5200.714167145Lost 1 23.9720.7163.1110.5711

    Atlanta 5200.714153134Won 2 21.91219.182.7120.56612

    Cincinnati 4300.571155142Lost 1 22.11120.3121.9130.54413

    Pittsburgh 2500.286157145Lost 2 22.41020.7161.7140.5414

    Minnesota 4300.571127126Lost 1 18.1221870.1150.50415

    Kansas City 4300.571152152Won 2 21.71321.7200160.516

    St. Louis 4300.571163166Lost 2 23.3923.723-0.4170.49117

    Green Bay 3400.429152176Won 2 21.71325.127-3.4190.42718

    Seattle 4300.571149177Lost 2 21.31525.328-4200.41519

    Carolina 4400.5137163Lost 2 17.12420.415-3.3180.41420

    NY Jets 4400.5160193Lost 1 201724.124-4.1210.40721

    Washington 2500.286140171Lost 3 201724.425-4.4220.40122

    Cleveland 2500.286108139Won 1 15.42819.910-4.4220.37623

    Miami 1600.143102145Lost 4 14.62920.716-6.1240.33124

    Detroit 1600.143132189Lost 1 18.9212731-8.1290.32825

    Arizona 1700.125134196Lost 7 16.82524.526-7.8270.31926

    Houston 2500.286121182Lost 1 17.3232630-8.7300.30727

    Buffalo 2500.286100153Lost 3 14.33021.921-7.6250.29928

    Tennessee 2500.286113179Won 2 16.12625.629-9.4310.28529

    Oakland 2500.28692148Won 2 13.13121.119-8280.27930

    Tampa Bay 2500.28688142Lost 1 12.63220.312-7.7260.27731

    San Francisco 2500.286134235Lost 2 19.12033.632-14.4320.24532

    The Bears have been unbelievable. The Chargers look better than the Colts everywhere except their record. The Patriots are 7th in points per game, 3rd in points allowed, 3rd in point differential and 3rd in overall record.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

MMQB

One of the treats of the week during football season is Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column at cnnsi.com. He covers a wide range of topics, not all football-related, and it's almost always interesting. That doesn't mean that it all makes sense, however...

You figure out the Eagles. I can't.

- Peter King, Monday Morning Quarterback

What's to figure out? They're a run-of-the-mill, mediocre football team right now. They've got wins against the 2-5 Texans, 2-5 49ers, 3-4 Packers and 4-3 Cowboys. Cumulative record of opponents in Eagles' wins: 11-17. They've lost to 5-2 New York, 5-2 New Orleans, 2-5 Tampa Bay and 4-3 Jacksonville. Cumulative record of opponents in Eagles' losses: 16-12.

Isn't that about what you'd expect from a not-very-good, not-very-bad team? What, exactly, is Peter looking for here?

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Arnold "Red" Auerbach

When the news came, on Saturday night, that Red Auerbach had died, I popped open a window to write. I quickly realized that I had nothing to say that wouldn't be said, probably better, by a thousand other people, with better access to the facts. Everybody knows about the championships, the victory cigars, the gamesmanship (some true, some, no doubt, apocryphal), the chinese food, the nickname (Bob Cousy called him Arnold - no one else ever did, not in public, anyway). My younger brother met him and had his picture taken with him when he was a boy, but I didn't - I've got no Red Auerbach memories that aren't public domain.

What I will say is that Auerbach's work provided me, personally, with a lot of enjoyment in my life. It was Red who brought Larry Bird to Boston, Red who traded the rights to Joe Barry Carroll for Robert Parish and the rights to Kevin McHale. Red traded Rick Robey for Dennis Johnson. Red drafted Danny Ainge when he was playing for the Blue Jays. Red, after the spectacular history of the Celtics in the 60s and 70s, compiled what was, in my opinion, the best team in NBA history in the 1986 Celtics. I know that there have been a couple of teams that finished with better records, but I'd put that team up against any team in history. That was a team that was bringing Bill Walton off the bench. They played 41 games in the Boston Garden that season, and won 40 of them.

If Auerbach had never accomplished anything else, I, as a Celtics fan who was privileged to watch that season, would always be greatful to him.

Unfortunately, the championship which they won that year was almost the last real high point for this franchise. Shortly after the Championship series, the Celtics, because of a canny trade made earlier by Auerbach, added the 2nd pick in the draft, Len Bias, considered by many to be the best player in that draft, to the roster. As good as the season had been, the future looked just as bright. 24 hours later, Bias was dead, and the franchise (and Red) have never recovered. It turns out that the 1986 season was the last high point for the Auerbach Celtics.

But, as Rick and Ilsa realized, "we'll always have Paris." As frustrating as they've been since 1986, that season is always there to look back on, with great affection. And so, we remember, with great affection, the man who gave it to us...

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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Same-sex marriage

I'm irritated. It seems to happen any time that the "gay marriage" debate comes up. And today I'm annoyed at someone with whom I agree on a great number of issues.

I consider myself to basically be a socially conservative libertartian. No, that is not a contradiction. I'm someone who has never smoked a cigarette or had a drop of alcohol in any form, never mind anything stronger. I think drugs and alcohol and tobacco are all bad things. I also think that most of the anti-drug laws are silly - the idea that alcohol and tobacco are legal but marijuana isn't is utterly ludicrous.

I don't gamble, I don't even play the lottery, but I think that the anti-gambling laws are silly. I would never think of going to a prostitute, but I think that at least some of the anti-prostitution laws are silly. OK? Just because something's bad shouldn't mean that it should necessarily be illegal.

But I also think that there's a huge chasm between "shouldn't be illegal" and "should be endorsed by the government."

There was a lot of talk a couple of years back about the work of UC Berkeley Professor George Lakoff, and his contention that conservatives were winning politically in America because of language, and that what Democrats needed to do was to change the language of the debate, the terminology that people use when talking about issues. While I'd disagree with much of what Professor Lakoff had to say about the current state of the language debate, there's no question that the language being used in a discussion carries with it enormous weight.

Here's where we come to gay marriage. Glenn Reynolds, the Insta-pundit, had a post last night briefly talking about this issue again. And I think that the language of the discussion is dishonest, in a couple of different respects.

The first dishonesty comes in the very start of the dicussion. The people of Tennessee are facing, on the ballot this fall, a "gay marriage" question. Professor Reynolds links to, and endorses, a column from Sam Venable that refers to Tennessee's "proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage." Well, I haven't read the text of the amendment, but I'd be willing to bet that it does no such thing. I suspect that what it does is make explicit in the state constitution that marriage, as recognized by the government of Tennessee, only takes place between a man and a woman. Banning government recognition of same-sex marriage is not the same thing as banning same-sex marriage. Some would argue, I suppose, that this is a distinction without a difference. I disagree. If the state were actually "banning same-sex marriage," they'd have to put laws on the books, and some kind of policing in effect, to look for homosexuals gathered in their living rooms with friends and families and clergymen. I'm skeptical, to put it mildly, that any of that's going to happen.

Later, in response to a reader comment, Professor Reynolds says,
Well, ideally I'd take the state out of the marriage business entirely and make it a matter of contract. But if the state is in the business of recognizing marriages I think it needs a good reason to discriminate. That some people say "Yuk" is, as with Leon Kass's concerns about science, not a good enough reason in my opinion.

Professor Reynolds is a smart guy. This kind of comment is utterly unworthy of him. He's reduced the entire opposition to government recognition of same-sex marriage to a knee-jerk, uninformed "yuk" reaction. He can go on, as he does, to say "it's a terrible mistake to call those who oppose gay marriage 'bigots'," but he's essentially just done so. The fact is, the opposition to government recognition of same-sex marriage is both wide and deep, and while there may be, in some corners, a "yuk" reaction, there are a great many principled objections that the supporters do not, as near as I can tell, ever address. They just say "Fairness!* Equality!" wave their hands, and presto! same-sex marriage is all good. It doesn't work that way.

Marriage is, fundamentally, a social construct. It's not a government construct, but a social one, developed over the course of centuries of human civilization. It developed because it serves three purposes.

  1. It civilizes/domesticates men.

  2. It provides support/protection for women.

  3. It produces a stable environment for producing, supporting, nurturing the next generation.



Governments recognize heterosexual marriages, and grant them certain legal rights, because they serve those three purposes. A marriage of two homosexuals serves none of the three. The government of the people, by the people, for the people, recognizes that "the people" have a vested interest in stable marriages, stable families, having and raising children. Society has no vested interest in the sexual union of two men or two women. There is no greater societal good that accrues from the government recognition of the sexual partnering of two men or two women.

Now, if two men or two women want to make a vow to each other, want to commit, and bring their families together for a ceremony, and call themselves "marrried," that's fine with me. I don't care. But when they want the government to change the rules, to force society to treat that couple exactly the same way as it treats a couple that will be having children and raising them, that affects everyone.** It is impossible to know what all of the effects will be, but the law of unintended consequences doesn't get repealed just because open-minded liberals and libertarians think that the government should bestow "equality" on same-sex couples. It's easy to look at modern society as already paying the price for significant undermining of the family structure (does anyone think that the black community in America benefits from nearly 70% of births being out-of-wedlock?) and, while it is conceivable that same-sex marriage could be legislated without further negative societal impact, it is, in my opinion, extremely unlikely. It is difficult to see any reason for the government to legislate societal recognition of same-sex marriages which is nearly as compelling as the reasons for not doing so.






* - An aside, on the whole "fairness" issue. Marriage laws tend to limit one's ability to get government sanction of marriage only when one marries someone who is a) not a close blood relative, b) the opposite gender, c) of age and d) not already married. There are certainly far more people restricted by b than a or c, but every law on the books affects some people more than others. The fact that some people want to marry someone of the same sex imposes no obligation whatsoever on the government, or the society at large, to endorse that action. Comparisons here to anti-miscegeny laws are, in my opinion, inapt. The three fundamental purposes of marriage that provide the basis for government recognition are served whatever the race of the marriage partners. A same-sex marriage, on the other hand, is a fundamentally different social construct. It's different behavior, with different implications, and it is not unreasonable or bigoted to give it different treatment.

** - Yes, there is some percentage of homosexual couples, primarily female, who will, through some means, be raising children. I don't believe that fundamentally changes the issue.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The List

Bill Quick has posted The List of reasons why he's not voting for Republicans this year. In the spirit of the list, I'm now offering The List of reasons not to vote for Derek Jeter for AL MVP.

  • He struck out 102 times. That's 102 times, over 10% of his plate appearances, when he couldn't even put the ball in play. Pathetic.

  • He was personally responsible for over 300 outs for the Yankee offense. He made an out over 58% of the time that he went to the plate.

  • There were 13 times that he not only made an out for himself, he actually hit a ball that caused 2 outs for the team.

  • Home runs? 14. In over 700 plate appearances. That's right, only one more HR than GIDP. What kind of ratio is that? I mean, the season is 26 weeks long - he hit about 1 HR every other week. Why bother?

  • He had problems in the field, too. There were 15 errors, balls that any Major League Shortstop handles, but Jeter ended up booting them or throwing them away, and allowing a runner to reach where there should have been an out.

  • The errors are just the tip of the iceberg. Those are the balls he got to. How many did he miss? Yankee pitching allowed 1463 "hits" in 2006. Over 1000 of them could have been outs if a fielder had been positioned properly or had better range. The fact that they weren't is a scathing condemnation of Jeter, the acknowledged "leader" of the Yankees.

  • Speaking of "leading," here's the big point - he "led" his team to 67 losses in 2006. Why would anyone vote for him?






OK, that was fun. Obviously, it's a flawed analogy, but I think that there's truth there, too. The fact is, there's been an enormous amount of time and energy focused on what this congress has failed to do, and there are certainly some glaring failures. The lack of discipline in dealing with Federal spending and government growth is extremely discouraging. McCain-Feingold was an abomination, and shame on George Bush for signing it. The Medicare prescription drug entitlement was a bad idea. There have been any number of things that have been silly or irritating or wrong.

But you can't just say, "they haven't done everything I wanted - throw the bums out!" In the first place, there have been good things that would NEVER have happened with a Democratic Congress. The Bush Tax cuts, Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Alito. The Secure Fence Act. And there are bad things, many of them, that would have happened with a Democratic Congress, up to (and probably including) impeachment proceedings for the "lies" that "misled" America into the war in Iraq. It's important to recognize not only the flaws, which are glaring and blatant, but the strengths, which are sometimes less obvious.

In the second place, it's a fact that there are two choices here. One is that the Republicans, who haven't earned it, keep control of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The other is that the Democrats, who've done far less to earn it, take control. There is not a single item on Bill Quick's list, not one, that will be better rather than worse with a Democratic Congress. And the things that the Republicans have done well, and are getting no credit for (tax cuts, judges, understanding the importance of national security, the fence on the southern border), well, those are things that will get worse with the Democrats in charge.

It's is understandable that some would say, "the worse, the better." The "throw the bums out" idea is an idea with significant appeal. But I think that the "teach the Republicans a lesson now and everything will be better when they come back in 2008" is wishful thinking at its most wishful. If I were absolutely convinced that a Democratic takeover in 2006 would inevitably lead to a stronger, chastened and more conservative Republican majority in 2008, I might agree with the "throw the bums out" sentiment. I'm nowhere near that sanguine.

If the voters have, to use Peter Jennings' 1994 terms, a "temper tantrum," and change party control of the Congress this year, what earthly reason is there to expect them to change it back in 2 years? There has been 1 change of party control in the House of Representatives in the last 52 years. The Republicans have held control of the House of Representatives for the last 12 years. The Democrats held it for the previous 40. I see no particular reason to expect a Democratic takeover, if it occurs, to be a transitory, 2-year event. If the people haven't seen enough from Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean and the party they lead to recognize their fundamental unseriousness yet, what is the wellspring of the belief that they'll recognize it two years from now?

I'm a voter whose top three concerns at the Federal level are 1) National Defense, 2) Taxes and 3) Judges. There's not one of those concerns that would be better served by a Democratic Congress than a Republican one. So I'll be voting Republican. (Not that it matters - I'm in Massachusetts, and there is not now, nor will there soon be, a Republican in my congressional delegation. I'd vote libertarian, as I've done before, if there were one.)

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Cheating in baseball...

"Of course, this could all be moot if it turns out that Rogers is cheating. Cheating, as we’ve learned over the past few years, is a horrible, horrible thing, arguably the worst thing a baseball player can do. Cheaters should have their achievements struck from the record book, become ineligible for honors, and banished to the upper reaches of the Yukon Territory, joining Whitey Ford and Gaylord Perry and John McGraw.

No, wait, that’s just for some types of cheating. I get confused… "


- Joe Sheehan, BaseballProspectus.com

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Accidentally stumbling across the truth

For all those conservatives who may be thinking about staying home to teach the Republicans a lesson, ponder this one.

"The gavel of the speaker of the House...will be in the hands of America's children."
- Speaker-presumptive (should the Democrats win the House) Nancy Pelosi

The world is a serious and dangerous place. Do we really want our government in the hands of children right now? (I'll give her credit for this much - I think it's an apt and accurate expression of the unseriousness of the Democratic party, though I doubt that she meant it that way...)

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Patriots 28, Bulls 6

Nice effort up in Buffalo yesterday for the Patriots. Not spectacular, mind you. There were certainly some flaws. But 28-6 is a nice final score, and it never, not from the moment the Patriots took the opening kickoff and drove for a touchdown, felt competitive. Even if there were moments when it felt like Buffalo might be outplaying New England in very short stretches, there was never any sense that it might continue for an extended period.

And it didn't.

The Patriots are now the only NFL team to be 4-0 in division competition, with only two division games left, at Miami and home to the Jets. They'll be favored in both.

They're 2-0 against Buffalo. They've played 120 minutes of football. In the first 18:20, Buffalo outscored the Patriots 17-7. In the last 101:40, the Patriots have outscored the Bills 40-6.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

More media non- (or mal-) feasance...

Wow.

More allegations that make the media in this country look like personal attack dogs for the Democratic Party, at least when they aren't being lap dogs for the Democratic Party.

When the Lewinsky story broke, the Clinton flacks put together a big flowchart, describing the way that the "vast right-wing conspiracy" (of which I'm a charter member, according to my mug) moved stories from the fever swamps of the right to the internet, to talk radio, to conservative media, and, finally, produced such noise the the "legitimate" press was forced to acknowledge it. While there was, of course, some truth to the path that many of the stories took to get to the press, it was because of the complete lack of interest of the mainstream press of covering any stories negative on the Democrats.* Negative stories about Republicans don't take that circuitous route into the press - the Democrats leak them, and the press runs with 'em.

Two years ago, I spent some time documenting the AP coverage of Cindy Sheehan, and the utterly uncritical way that they acted as PR for her charges that George W. Bush had killed her son. Now, it appears that the situation is even more indicative of bias. A new book alleges that Cindy Sheehan was recruited as an anti-Bush crusader by the John Kerry campaign in 2004.
MORGAN: We have documents from the FEC that tracked the money, and that's generally how you get to a good investigative stories. And we've spent a lot of time in putting this all together.

It was John Kerry's political campaign, John Kerry personally, along with Michael Moore, went to Cindy Sheehan just days and a couple of weeks after the death of her son and asked her to make a commercial for him.

And they did the same thing, political operatives, they asked the other families.

Gosh, that sounds like a story, doesn't it?

But it's not. The press doesn't care. That story could only reflect negatively on Kerry, not Bush. Therefore, it wasn't news. It wasn't investigated. It wasn't followed. No one at the Washington Post or New York Times or CBS or the Associated Press thought it was relevant. No, Cindy Sheehan was hammering George W. Bush, and that made her newsworthy. Period. Her comments about anything else? Irrelevant. Her contemporaneous comments on having actually met with the President? Not news.

The authors of American Mourning told Fox News that
We found that John Kerry and Michael Moore personally recruited Gold Star family members just within days and sometimes even at the funerals of their sons to come and work for the campaign in order to undermine the candidacy of George W. Bush at the time.

I'm not a professional journalist, but that sounds like a relevant news story to me. If true, that certainly sounds like something that should have been run in the media while it was going on. Certainly, one thinks that, were the parties were reversed, the NY Times might have found space for a front-page story and an editorial decrying the distasteful procedure. If they ran such a story on the Kerry campaign, I must have missed it.

Now, maybe it's not actually true. I haven't seen the evidence, and I don't believe anything just because someone prints it. But I will say that they idea that it happened, and wasn't covered, certainly fits neatly into my worldview. It wouldn't surprise me. It would cause me no cognitive dissonance. It's certainly something that should, in my opinion, be looked into. Not that it would have been illegal or even unethical. Just slightly unseemly. But it's dereliction of duty - again - for it to have been going on with no mention in the media.




* - Please don't bother making comments to the effect that the press covered Lewinsky extensively for months. They did, after the story broke in a way that they couldn't spike it any longer. And everyone was talking about it. And don't bother to comment that they covered Whitewater extensively for months. Yes, to some extent they did. Mostly in a way that made the story seem like a Republican vendetta, rather than actual coverage of the corrupt financial events.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Hoyer, Steele, slavishly - The double standard, yet again...

Over at The Corner yesterday, Kathryn Jean Lopez noted the comments from Maryland Representative Steny Hoyer on Republican Senatorial candidate Michael Steele. Hoyer, speaking at a political event on Sunday, "told the audience that [Michael] Steele had had 'a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party.'" Today, she's posted a note from a friend of hers. K-Lo's friend writes:
My own take on the Hoyer “slavishly” flap is a yawn. I don’t think he had any ill intent; I also think we need to be consistent on the issue. Conservatives stuck up for Washington D.C.’s director of the Office of the Public Advocate when he used the word “niggardly,” and rightly so. And I think we need to stay consistent in the absence of any evidence of racist beliefs by Hoyer.

I’m as partisan as the next guy, and I’m always happy to use opportunities to highlight the failures of political opponents. But this isn’t one of them.

As far as that goes, I agree with it entirely. No question about it.

The incident warrants comment, though. Not because of what he said. Not because it makes Hoyer look bad, or makes him out to be a racist. No, it warrants comment because it is yet another example of the double-standard that the mainstream press presents. How many barrels of ink did the Washington Post, and other mainstream outlets in this country, waste on the George Allen 'macaca' flap? Of course, Allen's a Republican.

Conservatives shouldn't be using this event to claim that Hoyer's a racist, but they absolutely should be using this event to continue hammering on the Post and the NY Times for their outrageous partisanship. If Bob Corker had made a comment about Harold Ford "slavishly supporting the Democratic Party," does anyone really believe that the left, and the press, wouldn't take it as prima facie evidence of racism?

Of course they would. So conservatives should absolutely be hammering this story. But they shouldn't be hammering Hoyer, just the media...

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Odds and ends (sports)...

One of the things that happens when you don't write anything for a day or two, for whatever reason, is that the pressure mounts to make the next posting spectacular! Epic! Which, of course, serves to prevent anything from getting written on that day, and increases the pressure on the next. I've got to have been working on something fantastic! and that's the reason that I've missed days, right?

Uh, sorry. Nothing spectacular here...


  • I have no great affection for Steve Lyons as a broadcaster. But his firing for the comments during Saturday's game was ridiculous. I've seen blustery "outraged" commentary about how offensive it was. What I've yet to see is any explanation about what, exactly, was offensive about it. That's because there wasn't anything. It was gibberish, clearly just "airy persiflage," banter to bring "artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative." He accused no person or group of any untoward behavior. Fox may have wanted to replace him, and that's their right, but the way that they did it was absolutely wrong.


  • Watched a little bit of football on Sunday. Saw the end of the Cincinnati-Tampa Bay game. Was shocked that the Bengals attempted a 62-yard field goal as time ran out. Surely Carson Palmer could reach the end zone from there. The odds of a win weren't great, but it struck me that they were more likely to get a touchdown or a pass interference call in the end zone than they were to hit that field goal.


  • I was unimpressed with the Bears on Monday night. They've got one really impressive win (at home vs. Seattle), and a couple of blow-outs against bad teams (Green Bay and Buffalo.) They struggled against Minnesota, and they struggled big-time against the Cardinals. I'm not convinced yet. Though they may be the best of the NFC. I don't think they win in New England.


  • The Cardinals, on the other hand, absolutely deserved to lose that game. The first Bear touchdown came on as bad a botched blocking scheme as you'll ever see. That wasn't a blitz from the outside. The end head up on the blind-side tackle went straight to Leinart and never even got waved at. The 2nd touchdown came when the multi-million dollar running back decided to go into a pile of 5 guys while holding the ball in one hand. And I don't care how good your punt returner is, a punt returned for a touchdown is always poor coverage.

    The Cardinals had things that they were doing to move the ball in the first half. In the second half, they stopped doing them. They decided to run the clock out, starting with about 17 minutes left. Edgerrin James has taken a lot of abuse for having the absolute worst rushing night in the history of the NFL, but the vast majority of that was not his fault. The offensive coordinator kept sending him into the middle of the line where there was no room whatsoever for him to run. The offensive line opened up nothing remotely resembling a hole - James had nowhere to go, and nothing to do. And then they did it again. And again. And again. Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator Jim Fassel lost his job this week. If there was an offensive coordinator anywhere who deserved to lose his job, it was in Arizona...


  • If Detroit beating the Yankees in the ALDS is proof that pitching is more important than hitting, isn't the Cardinals beating the Padres in the NLDS proof of the opposite?


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Republican Straw poll

You've noticed the Republican Straw Poll at the top of this page. I got the script from Captain Ed, who got it from GOPBloggers.org (and blogger will let me put it in the page template, but not in a post). Just out of curiosity, what do people think? I think that Gingrich, Hagel, Huckabee and Pataki are completely unacceptable. (For different reasons - I like Mr. Newt, for example, but think he's completely unelectable.) Everyone else is more or less acceptable to me. Even Giuliani, though I don't think he's electable in a Republican primary, either.

My first choice at the moment is Mitt Romney. I don't know if he's the best fit for all of my positions, but I'm very comfortable with the positions that I'm aware of. I think he'll be very strong on National Security, I think he'll appoint non-activist judges, and I think he'll be pretty good on Taxes. (I don't think ANYONE will be particularly good on spending.) And I think he'll be a great candidate.

Anyway, let's see what you think. (And be honest about what you are. If a lefty troll should decide to take it - you know who you are ;-), though I wouldn't use the term "troll" myself - admit it...)

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Thurman Munson redux

Did the Yankees just lose another player piloting a small aircraft? There are reports that the plane that flew into the side of a Manhattan apartment building this afternoon was being piloted by Cory Lidle, who the Yankees acquired from the Phillies (with Bobby Abreu) at the trading deadline...

As to the people asking "where was homeland security?" short of closing the airspace over Manhattan entirely, and putting anti-aircraft batteries around the city's perimeter to shoot down anything approaching, what, exactly, would they sugggest is the proper way to defend against the accidental crash of a small plane?

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Zucker ad - too funny...

Producer David Zucker, who was one of the brains behind Airplane, Top Secret, The Naked Gun and Scary Movie, moved from the Democratic Party to the Republican over the last few years, based on National Security concerns. He's now produced an ad for Republicans highlighting some of the issues, and the way that the Democrats have handled them. According to Drudge, no one's going to use it. Which is understandable. But that doesn't mean it won't get seen. And it should. Because it's right. On the basics. Way, way over-the-top, but with a point that is very defensible.

"History has taught us that evil needs to be confronted, not appeased. Evil dictators will be evil dictators, no matter what we do."

And it's hilarious.




Technorati tags: Zucker, Albright, Ad

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Over-reaction about Yankees/Tigers

Lex III: Actioni contrariam semper et æqualem esse reactionem: sive corporum duorum actiones in se mutuo semper esse æquales et in partes contrarias dirigi.
- Sir Isaac Newton, Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."
- Common English Paraphrase

"For every over-reaction, there is an equal and opposite over-reaction."
- My analysis of current Yankee analysis



A week ago, the New York Yankees were overwhelming favorites to beat Detroit in the first round, and probably club their way to the World Series. The conventional wisdom in most quarters was that the Yankees had the greatest lineup in baseball history, would score double-digit runs regularly, and would win handily with mediocre pitching. They won game 1 handily. When Johnny Damon's 3-run HR in the 4th inning of game 2 to put the Yankees up 3-1, many thought that the series was already over.

Well, we all know what happened next. Damon's HR provided the only Yankee runs for the next 20 innings. When they next scored, they were already down 8-0 in the 7th inning of what would be their last game of the season. And all of a sudden, the conventional wisdom is completely different. Now, the Yankees are a "mess," an old team with lousy pitching, no passion, a team that "can't perform in the clutch." There's talk in some circles that somehow the Red Sox have just passed them, despite the fact that Boston finished 11 games back in the East. The fact that New York won their 9th consecutive division title, the fact that they won 97 games and finished with the best record in the AL, those facts are apparently irrelevant today.

Baseball is a great and wondrous game. But the idea that you can determine who's a better team by watching head-to-head performance over 3 days is so silly as to defy all logic. 3 games into the 2004 ALCS, it was obvious to everyone watching that New York was vastly superior to Boston, 4 games later, the converse was equally clear.

So the over-reaction to what happened is exactly that - an over-reaction. Any batter can hit anything for 10 at-bats, any team can put up any record over 4 games. The Yankees are a very good team, the Tigers are a very good team. We knew that last week - we know it now.


Period.

Are the Tigers better than the Yankees? How can you possibly know? There were 2 games separating them over 162 games. What happened last week gives us a little bit of additional information, but very little. Yes, the Tigers took 3 of 4 from the Yankees. In May, the Yankees took 3 of 4 in Detroit. That's the way baseball works.

The idea that somehow the ancient myth about "good pitching always beats good hitting" is just confirmation bias for the people that already believe that. It doesn't prove it. It doesn't even provide good evidence for it. It's just the way it happened to go last week. It's 4 games.

Period.






Technorati tags: Yankees, Tigers, RedSox, MLB, play-offs, baseball

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Insurgency

An insurgency against an occupying force. Young muslims fighting western law, order and civilization.

Baghdad?

No, Paris...

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

Patriots vs. Dolphins

My prediction for this game (which I failed to post):

"The Patriots will win this. Pretty handily, but not by a lot. What will happen is this - they'll control the game, but they won't score a lot. They'll end up winning by 10-14, in a game in which the difference is one score or less in the 4th quarter. To anyone seeing the score progression and final score, it'll look like it was a close game. To anyone actually watching, it won't ever feel close. It'll be comfortable the whole way..."

I post this to point out that I could not have been more wrong. Yes, the scoring stuff was fairly close, but this was a nail-biter until the Brady-Evans TD with 9 1/2 minutes to go. It did not EVER feel comfortable. And the Dolphins, in many ways, significantly outplayed the Patriots today. It was an ugly, ugly win.

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Congratulations, Detroit!

I'm seeing lots of chortling and gloating and trolling from Red Sox fans on the Yankee's loss of their 3rd straight game, and the ALDS, to the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. Which strikes me as rather pathetic. The Red Sox have been out of it for 6 weeks - the idea that Red Sox fans are trolling the Yankee fans is pretty offensive. There's absolutely nothing about the 2006 season that should allow Boston baseball fans to give anyone a hard time.

That said, I hate the Yankees, and I'm glad that they're gone. The post-season is far more interesting and enjoyable without the possibility of the Yankees winning the World Series. And it's good to see the Tigers successful. Detroit has been a great baseball city, in the past, and it was sad to see what happened to them over the past 19 years. A strong franchise there is a good thing. And you get strong franchises only when there's at least occasional success...

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

"The Wanderer..."

"I went drifting
Through the capitals of tin
Where men can't walk
Or freely talk
And sons turn their fathers in.

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


- U2, The Wanderer (lyrics by Bono, vocals by by Johnny Cash)

This story says something. I don't think that it's something particularly good, or particularly healthy. My initial reaction is not positive, but I know that my knee's jerking there, so I'll refrain from further comment for the moment...

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Foley. "Mastur-gate". Alternate reality...

I had a dream last night. I dreamed that there was a media feeding frenzy over the actions of the Republican leadership in the US House of Representatives.

In this dream, which took place in a world not entirely dissimilar to our own, a Florida Republican congressman, unmarried and "openly secretly" homosexual, had developed, or attempted to develop, relationships with male congressional pages. There were no allegations that any actual sexual contact had taken place, but the House leadership was informed, by the parents of one of the pages, that there had been some e-mails from the Congressman to the boy which were described as "overly-friendly." Not explicit, but perhaps inappropriate under the circumstances.

The House leadership determined that this behavior was unacceptable, and took a hard-line with the Representative. Rather than just suggesting to him that he not continue to engage in that behavior, the caucus began an investigation. And when they discovered that the Congressman had engaged in sexually-explicit e-mails with an 18-year old former page, it seemed as though that had been a wise decision. The House formally began proceedings to expel the Congressman.

This began a firestorm. The first to jump were the Gay Rights activists, accusing the Republicans of taking an anti-Gay position. "Mr. Foley is surely not the first Congressman ever to be 'overly-friendly' with a page. What he is, however, is the first homosexual Congressmen since Gerry Studds to be 'overly-friendly' with a page. The anti-gay neanderthals on the right cannot abide this. They went after Studds, now they're going after Foley."

The media clamor began in earnest. The morning shows brought in analysts who spoke of the Republican party's obsession with people's sexual behavior. "The right-wing 'sexual McCarthyists' who went after President Clinton for his private sexual behavior are at it again."

The New York Times jumped in. "Once again, the Republicans are abusing the power of the government. Speaker Hastert didn't hire Mark Foley. Mark Foley is not his employee, not his subordinate. Mr. Foley works for the people of the 16th Congressional District in Florida, and it is their responsibility to decide whether his private sexual behaviors warrant dismissing him, not Mr. Hastert's."

The privacy debate was re-ignited. "All those who were concerned with the President's Domestic Surveillance Program find validation of those concerns here. Why are Mr. Foley's private and personal e-mail and instant messages being made public?"

And then I woke up. It was all a dream. The House leadership, rather than being castigated for obsessing over private homosexual behavior, violating privacy and abusing the power of the office, are being castigated for not doing those things...


-----------


For the record, I find Mr. Foley's behavior repulsive. Just as I found Bill Clinton's behavior repulsive. And Bob Packwood's. It's a grotesque abuse of the power of the office, and he's forfeited any right to hold that office. (As had Bill Clinton before him.) His resignation was appropriate. (As Clinton's would have been.) I want Mark Foley gone. (As I wanted Bill Clinton gone.)

Furthermore, the House leadership appears to have handled the situation badly. I have absolutely no sympathy whatsoever for Mr. Foley, and damned little for Mr. Hastert. But that said, I'm not certain the scenario existed, once Mr. Foley had behaved as he did, for the Republicans to come out of this without a media feeding frenzy. I'm absolutely convinced that the scenario I outlined above is both realistic and likely, had the leadership taken the steps that many are now castigating them for not taking.


----------


There's one more aspect of this current frenzy that warrants comment. The mainstream press in this country has demonstrated absolutely no curiosity or interest in the provenance of this story. It appears to have a jumped to the media from a "blog" which seems to have been set up for the sole purpose of creating this story at a politically advantageous time for Democrats. The "independent" press in this country is behaving like a pack of well-trained hounds. Give them the scent of a Republican, and let 'em loose! Watch them go nuts! They've been played like an instrument, and not only have they not displayed the kind of resentment that they ought to feel, they don't even appear to have any understanding that that's what has happened.

None of that means that Foley's behavior isn't scandalous - it is. None of it means that Foley shouldn't leave - he should. None of it means that the House leadership has handled it well - they haven't. But it does mean that there's another story out there, and the press in this country doesn't appear to have any interest in it, because there's probably a Democrat at the far end, and not a Republican. If this story were about a Democrat, if it reflected poorly on Democrats and appeared to have been foisted into the media by a Republican, there would be significant investigative journalism taking place, and many stories about "dirty tricks." Have you seen any of that yet? No, you haven't. Because when a Republican reveals an unpleasant truth about a Democrat, it's a "dirty trick" - when a Democrat reveals an unpleasant truth about a Republican, it's a truth, and the provenance is irrelevant.




Technorati tags: Foley, masturgate, StopSexPredators, Hastert, scandal

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Monday, October 02, 2006

Monday Pythagorean - 10/2/2006

And so the regular season ends with the Red Sox, out of the play-offs for the first time in 4 years, and out of 2nd place for the first time in 9 years. They finished at 86-76, a record better than they actually played, as they allowed more runs than they scored. A lot of different factors went into the final record, and I'll be addressing some of them over the next week or so. The biggest factor involved with them falling out of play-off contention, back in August, was health. Those things happen. And the record in September might have been better, but they were realistic about it, and took an opportunity to get something for David Wells. They didn't rush Jonathan Papelbon back into the lineup. They didn't rush Schilling back. I don't have a problem with any of that - they were still mathematically alive on August 31, but not realistically. So they played for next year. Which made sense.

Anyway, as I say, I'll be doing a wrap-up over the course of the next week.

But a couple of quick thoughts:

- The season goes into the books as a disappointment. The fact that the Red Sox can legitimately be disappointed with an 86 win season following 3 consecutive play-off appearances speaks volumes to how spoiled Boston fans are. It's important not to get too caught up in the "hey, look at those guys down the road - woe is us!" mentality, because Boston's had it better over the past 5 years than anyone else in MLB. Other than the guys down the road. And the Red Sox have won a World Series in that span, unlike the guys down the road (though they might do it this year.)

- 2002-2006 - There are 3 teams with more wins over that stretch than Boston - NYY, St. Louis, and Oakland. The Braves are tied. Boston has won a World Series. 3 of the other 4 have a chance this year, but none has won one. This has been a golden age of Boston baseball, and that fact should not be obscured by a disappointing finish to 2006.

- That disappointing Red Sox team finished ahead of St. Louis, who made the play-offs, and Philadelphia, who were eliminated the day before the season ended. They ended up two games worse than San Diego and LA who both made the play-offs, and were ahead of both when September started. Perspective remains important. Yes, from the Red Sox fan perspective, with the lead through late-July and the cratering of August, the season was a disaster. It's important to realize that "disaster" is a very relative term...




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 10/2/2006
ProjectedActual

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

Detroit5.07(5)4.17(1)0.589(1)956795670

New York5.74(1)4.73(6)0.587(2)956797652

Minnesota4.94(8)4.22(2)0.572(3)936996663

Cleveland5.37(2)4.83(7)0.549(4)89737884-11

Chicago5.36(3)4.9(10)0.541(5)887490722

Toronto4.99(7)4.65(5)0.532(6)867687751

Texas5.15(4)4.84(8)0.529(7)86768082-6

Oakland4.76(9)4.49(3)0.527(8)857793698

Los Angeles4.73(11)4.52(4)0.521(9)847889735

Boston5.06(6)5.09(11)0.497(10)818186765

Seattle4.67(13)4.89(9)0.479(11)788478840

Baltimore4.74(10)5.55(13)0.428(12)699370921

Tampa Bay4.25(14)5.28(12)0.402(13)659761101-4

Kansas City4.67(12)5.99(14)0.388(14)639962100-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9765

Minnesota9666

Detroit9567

Oakland9369

Chicago9072




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9765

Minnesota9666

Detroit9567

Oakland9369

Chicago9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Cleveland5.71(5)1.71(1)0.901(1)61610

New York7.86(1)4.57(7)0.729(2)5243-1

Los Angeles5.86(3)4.29(4)0.639(3)43521

Minnesota4(9)3(2)0.629(4)43430

Toronto5.43(6)4.43(5)0.592(5)43521

Oakland6.43(2)6.29(12)0.51(6)4334-1

Kansas City5.43(6)5.43(9)0.5(7)43430

Boston3.67(11)4.17(3)0.442(8)33330

Texas3.67(11)4.5(6)0.407(9)24240

Seattle5(8)6.17(11)0.405(10)24331

Detroit5.83(4)7.67(14)0.378(11)2415-1

Baltimore4(9)6.5(13)0.291(12)24240

Tampa Bay3.14(13)5.71(10)0.251(13)2516-1

Chicago2.33(14)5.33(8)0.181(14)15332

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Steroids. Again.

So I get up in the wee hours, as always on a Sunday, to have a few minutes to myself before getting the kids up to get ready to go to church, and ESPN is leading with more steroid accusations. Clemens is certainly the biggest non-Bonds name to come out so far, but my reaction to this morning's news is, again, not shock or surprise. As I wrote last year:
The ability to "enhance performance" was available to any player who wanted to take advantage of it. Once the players have done that, their performance is their performance....The drugs were everywhere. We know that baseball players have used substances, both legal and illegal, as long as there have been baseball players, because baseball players are all human beings, with the same fallibilites and frailties as all human beings.

Let's look at the simple economics of the situation. Major League baseball had in place, for the late '70s, the '80s, the '90s and the early 2000s, policies that a) rewarded -abundantly - players who succeeded in the Major Leagues and b) provided no testing for detecting, or penalties for using, substances that were nominally illegal, but could be expected to improve performance. It's just unrealistic to think that it was only a few "bad apples" that tried them. Speaking from personal experience, there were division III college football players using in New England in hte early '80s. Are we to assume that division III football in New England was more susceptible to the lure of improved athletic performance than division I baseball in Texas?

Clemens may or may not have used. I've said this before, I'll say it again - I don't care. I don't care about what Bonds did, or McGwire, or Palmeiro. The fact that a highly-driven, highly-paid professional athlete did whatever necessary to make himself the best physical specimen that he could? I'm supposed to believe that 90% of these guys have never taken anything stronger than a Bayer's children's aspirin? To quote Wodehouse quoting Gilbert, "I am young, says one of Gilbert's characters, the Grand Duke, I think, but, he adds, I am not so young as that."



Technorati tags: Steroids, Clemens, Pettitte, Grimsley, Tejada, baseball

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