Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 6/30/2008

Another 3-3 week drops Boston into second place, as the Rays beat up on the NL dregs, and the Red Sox fail to.

  • Interleague play is over for another year (excepting the All Star and World Series games). Good. I hate interleague play. And I hate pitchers batting.


  • Over the next week, Boston plays 3 at Tampa and 4 at Yankee Stadium. It would be useful for them to actually put together a week with everyone playing well, as opposed to the 2-3 players red hot and everyone else ice cold that we've seen for the past month. This week, it was Pedroia, Lowell, Youkilis and Crisp who hit, combining on a 0.464/.495/.690/1.185 line, while the rest of the team hit 0.177/.278/0.290/.568. Some of that is the pitchers over the weekend, but a lot of it is the heart of the order, (Drew - .118/.304/.294/.598 and Ramirez - .217/.308/.391/.699) and the top (Ellsbury - .227/.292/.318/.610) and bottom (Lugo - .263/.364/.316/.680) of the order. You're never going to actually have everyone hot at once, so that's OK - it's the degree to which the not-hot hitters are not-hot that's really hurting.


  • Speaking of hurting offensively, Jason Varitek is now hitting .127/.215/.183/.398 in June, and .132/.218/.187/.405 in his last 101 plate appearances since May 25.


  • I was getting ready to put together the obligatory "has Jon Lester reached a new level of performance" post when he gave up six runs in five innings on Saturday. But it will still be coming, I think, as the answer appears to be "yes."


  • John Perrotto had a note at Baseball Prospectus yesterday about the Yankees pitching, and how they've "allowed an average of 4.2 runs per game since May 21, after allowing 4.6 before." Well, yes, that's true. It's relevant to consider, though, just who they've done it against. That stretch includes three games against the San Diego Padres (3.64 runs/game, 29th in MLB), four against the Kansas City Royals (4.09, 27th), three against Seattle (4.09, 25th) and three against Toronto (4.14, 24th). All told, six of their eleven opponents over that stretch are in the bottom third in runs/game, and only two of the eleven are in the top third. So, yes, their pitching has been better. But context suggests that a significant part of their improvement is a result of facing lousy offenses.


  • With interleague play over, the Yankees have missed a big opportunity to make up ground on Boston. They're still 5 games back, despite the schedule advantage that they've enjoyed thus far. New York went 10-7 vs. the NL, while Boston went 11-7. (Tampa went 12-6).




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/30/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago4.83(4)3.79(2)0.609(1)49324635-3

Boston5.05(2)4.18(6)0.586(2)493550341

Oakland4.41(9)3.68(1)0.582(3)47344437-3

Tampa Bay4.72(6)4.04(5)0.571(4)463549323

Toronto4.14(12)3.81(3)0.539(5)45384043-5

New York4.7(7)4.44(8)0.526(6)433944381

Los Angeles4.15(11)4(4)0.516(7)424049337

Cleveland4.4(10)4.27(7)0.514(8)42403745-5

Minnesota4.8(5)4.7(11)0.511(9)424045373

Detroit4.85(3)4.8(12)0.505(10)414041400

Baltimore4.49(8)4.53(9)0.496(11)404041391

Texas5.49(1)5.63(14)0.489(12)414242411

Kansas City4.09(14)4.66(10)0.44(13)364637451

Seattle4.09(13)4.81(13)0.426(14)34473150-3




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9864

Los Angeles9765

Boston9666

Chicago9270

Minnesota8973




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Boston9666

Chicago9567

Tampa Bay9567

Oakland9171

Los Angeles9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Seattle6(2)2.67(2)0.815(1)51510

Tampa Bay7.33(1)3.33(7)0.809(2)51510

Toronto6(2)2.83(3)0.798(3)5142-1

Chicago4.83(8)2.5(1)0.77(4)51510

Minnesota4.83(8)3(5)0.705(5)42511

Baltimore5.83(4)4(9)0.666(6)4233-1

Kansas City5.5(6)4.17(10)0.624(7)42420

Detroit5.5(6)4.5(11)0.591(8)42511

New York5.67(5)5.33(14)0.528(9)33330

Boston4.83(8)4.83(12)0.5(10)33330

Los Angeles2.67(13)2.83(3)0.472(11)33330

Texas4.5(11)4.83(12)0.467(12)33330

Cleveland3(12)3.67(8)0.409(13)24240

Oakland2.5(14)3.17(6)0.394(14)24331

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Campaign 2008. SCOTUS. Absolutely an issue...

I saw some analysis yesterday which suggested that Heller actually removed the Supreme Court as an issue in the 2008 campaign. I completely disagree. As I noted yesterday, we were perilously close to losing the second amendment, and that's on the heel of several other egregious, or at least questionable, decisions from the court over the past couple of years, decisions that indicate that the Constitution apparently says whatever Anthony Kennedy thinks it says. I think that the court is a significant campaign issue, and one of the three or four top reasons to prefer McCain over Obama. As Jim Geraghty so aptly put it,
four of the justices ruled that a state cannot sentence a child rapist to the death penalty, but that state can deny almost all of its citizens the right to own a gun. And when asked for his model justices, Obama listed three of those four...

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We're winning this War on Terror

In the Times of London, Gerard Baker says Cheer up. We're winning this War on Terror
In America, large swaths of the political class continues to insist Iraq is a lost cause. The consensus in much of the West is that the War on Terror is unwinnable.

And yet the evidence is now overwhelming that on all fronts, despite inevitable losses from time to time, it is we who are advancing and the enemy who is in retreat...We are prevailing in this struggle. We know it. And everywhere: in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and among Muslims around the world, the enemy knows it too.

Good stuff.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

District of Columbia v. Heller

In deciding the long-awaited Heller case, the Supreme Court today decided that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." means that people actually have a right to keep and bear arms. That's a good thing, I suppose, though it's sad that it was only a 5-4 decision. And it is very likely that, had President Kerry appointed the last two Justices rather than President Bush, the decision would have come down the other way. So it's good that the second amendment lived to fight another day, but frightening to consider that 60,000 changed votes in Ohio, just over 1% of the electorate, would have likely resulted in its evisceration. That's not a good thing, and it is scary to watch the decisions continue to come down.

In any event, one of the things that leaps out of the decision is a comment from Justice Stevens' dissent, a comment that I've seen quoted approvingly in some of the less-conservative corners of the blogosphere (if the blogosphere can be said to have corners...) Writing for the minority, and joined by Justices Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer, Stevens noted that
The Court properly disclaims any interest in evaluating the wisdom of the specific policy choice challenged in this case, but it fails to pay heed to a far more important policy choice—the choice made by the Framers themselves. The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons, and to authorize this Court to use the common-law process of case-by-case judicial lawmaking to define the contours of acceptable gun control policy. Absent compelling evidence that is nowhere to be found in the Court’s opinion, I could not possibly conclude that the Framers made such a choice.

I included the whole paragraph for context, but want to consider, for the moment, just that highlighted phrase.

The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons...


What are some of the tools that might be useful to "elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons?"


  • The ability to commit "unreasonable searches and seizures" might be a "useful tool" but unfortunately (from the minority's point-of-view) the fourth amendment provides a "limit [on] the tools..."

  • If the well-meaning "elected officials" were to have soldiers "in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner," that could be a very useful tool, but alas, that pesky third amendment gets in the way.

  • If "excessive bail" could be required, or "excessive fines imposed," or "cruel and unusual punishments inflicted," well, those would all be enormously useful tools in the hands of a group of "elected officials" trying to "regulate civilian uses of weapons" - or do anything else, for that matter. But those damned Framers lacked the foresight to leave out the eighth amendment.

  • Hey, what if people could be held without "presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury?" Or "compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against [themselves]?" Or "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law?" One could easily picture those being super-"useful tools" in the "regulat[ion of] civilian uses of weapons." But no, the Framers were not as enlightened as Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer, and they foolishly "made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials" by including the fifth amendment.

One could go on, of course, but what's the point? The minority embarrasses itself by including that rationale for gutting the second amendment. Of course the Framers “made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials” – that is why the United States Constitution exists in the first place. Its entire purpose is to limit elected officials, to limit the power of the government. The fact that these four Justices want to ignore those limits in this case doesn’t change the fact that the limits exist. There are any number of tools that elected officials are not constitutionally allowed to use, and outright banning of handgun ownership is clearly one of them.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Kennedy v. Louisiana

Once again, we see how much was lost by the failure to confirm Robert Bork. Justice Kennedy, siding again with the liberal four, has penned the decision in Kennedy v. Louisiana which now deems unconstitutional the imposition of the death penalty for raping a child. They have done this by the simple expedient of reading the public mood, by methods which are unscientific at best, and determining that the United States is now a country in which imposing the death penalty for this particular case would violate "currently prevail[ing] norms1."
The Eighth Amendment...provides that "[e]xcessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." The Amendment proscribes “all excessive punishments, as well as cruel and unusual punishments that may or may not be excessive.” Atkins, 536 U. S., at 311, n. 7.
...
Whether this requirement has been fulfilled is determined not by the standards that prevailed when the Eighth Amendment was adopted in 1791 but by the norms that “currently prevail.” Atkins, supra, at 311. The Amendment “draw[s] its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.” Trop v. Dulles, 356 U. S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion).
...
Evolving standards of decency must embrace and express respect for the dignity of the person, and the punishment of criminals must conform to that rule.

The decision walks through the cultural history of "evolving standards of decency," outlining the path by which the majority has determined that application of the death penalty in this case would be "cruel and unusual." A disturbing number of the milestones on that path happen not to be societal changes where elected bodies do away with potential death penalty causes, but judicial changes where non-elected judges determine that the laws enacted by the elected representatives of the people don't accurately reflect the "evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society2."

Frankly, the majority gives the game away in the penultimate paragraph of the decision. This decision is based on their personal animus toward the death penalty, not any constitutional requirement. And they admit it.
In most cases justice is not better served by terminating the life of the perpetrator rather than confining him and preserving the possibility that he and the system will find ways to allow him to understand the enormity of his offense.

Indeed, it is not at all difficult to imagine the current court, with one of the conservative justices replaced by another liberal, invalidating all death penalty statutes. Again.



1 - I rather suspect that, if given the facts and allowed to vote, an actual majority would think that lethal injection in this case would be, not "cruel and unusual" but actually too good for the perpetrator. As Justice Kennedy and his cohorts apparently believe that their role is to act as a national moral weathervane (albeit one with the authority to do whatever the hell they feel like doing), I wonder if they'd be willing to put it to the test...

2 - For example, "[i]n 1972, Furman invalidated most of the state statutes authorizing the death penalty for the crime of rape; and in Furman’s aftermath only six States reenacted their capital rape provisions...All six statutes were later invalidated under state or federal law...In 1981, however, the Supreme Court of Florida held the death penalty for child sexual assault to be unconstitutional."


UPDATE: More here...
Well, as long as five Justices count the votes, what are you going to do about it? The majority expressly rejects the idea that the messy business of finding consensuses should be left to the representatives of the people whose "consensus" is being announced, and instead announces a default presumption against the death penalty wherever a clear national consensus does not exist in its favor

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Quote of the day

From Don Surber, noting that "Congress stop[ped] offshore oil drilling while allowing coal mining in Appalachia:"
Despite pretensions of acting locally and thinking globally, today’s environmental movement is basically a mixture of socialism, new age religion and NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Anbar province handoff

A year ago I wrote that "my expectation is that a year from now, the media will no longer be able to hide the fact that things are going well in Iraq."

Today, we see (from Reuters) Iraqi forces to take over security in Anbar
The U.S. military will transfer control of security in Iraq's Anbar province to Iraqi forces this week, a remarkable turnaround given the vast western region was considered lost to insurgents less than two years ago.

Anbar will be the 10th of Iraq's 18 provinces returned to Iraqi security control since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but it will be the first Sunni Arab region handed back.

No word yet on when the "reality-based community" will be apprised of this reality...

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Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Warning: Some spoilers

Some movies get made because people have a story to tell. Some movies get made because the makers are looking to get paid. And others get made because the people involved just like making movies. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was, I suspect, made almost entirely for the third reason. It certainly wasn't made for the first.

When Raiders of the Lost Ark was released in the summer of 1981, it was a throwback for a certain generation, and a revelation for another. It was modeled on cliffhangers of the 40s and 50s, the black and white serials, and at the same time, there had never been anything like it. They had a wonderfully appealing hero, tremendous production values, and a story that moved from peril to peril seamlessly, allowing just the right amount of time to catch your breath before moving into the next hopeless situation. And while there were certain liberties taken with reality, at no point during that movie did the action strain credulity to the point where the suspension of disbelief was broken.

"Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," on the other hand, was made as if they were concerned that the first three Indiana Jones movies were too realistic, and they wanted to ensure that this one could never be mistaken for a documentary. When Dr. Jones climbs out of the refrigerator and walks away, the filmmakers have already made it clear that all critical thinking skills must be suspended in order to remain in your seats. Don't bother wondering how it's possible that a special truck can cut a road through the heart of the rainforest at 30 miles per hour. Don't bother wondering why the truck is there in the first place, since it gets blown up and the chase continues on what appear to be two parallel roads. Don't wonder how Mutt's Tarzan act is a) possible or b) perfectly coordinated with the car chase. Don’t look for suspense on the river, or a clever response from anyone involved – just wait until they get to the bottom so they can set up the next set piece. It's all there, not because it's an integral part of any story, not because it's necessary, but just because they can do it.

But the more the action gets ratcheted up, the less interesting and exciting it is. The need to constantly top what came before has resulted in a situation where there is nothing plausible remaining. (See Bond, James for further examples.) You go into a movie like this knowing beforehand that the main characters are going to survive, but the thrill and suspense in a tight situation is the "how."

As the action removes from reality, the "how" becomes "movie magic" and suddenly ceases to be interesting other than as an exercise in visual effects. When Indiana Jones is hanging over a pit on a vine in the first movie, you know that he'll survive but there is still suspense - the vine could break, or he could slip, and save himself another way, but it feels like real danger. When he plunges over a waterfall in the fourth movie, there's no suspense, no sense of peril at all. There is no way to survive it, so they just blithely move on to the next scene. A "thriller" as this is supposed to be should have the viewer on the edge of his seat. It does not.

I have a couple more little quibbles. The first is one that no one else seemed to notice, and it is certainly true that it concerns a subject about which I am, possibly, overly sensitive. It irritated me - greatly - when Dr. Jones was fired from his teaching job. There is no question that the anti-communist environment of the 1950s ended up damaging some people. But it's an article of faith with the Hollywood left that Joe McCarthy led a "witch hunt" worse than anything that happened in Salem, and the anti-communist patriots in this country during that age are, at this point, a convenient, conventional and clichéd "bogeyman." It's tiresome and it annoys me. That scene served no purpose in the film - it contributed nothing to the story other than to give Jim Broadbent a few lines and let us know that Denholm Elliot was dead. There were other ways that they could have done that, and possibly even moved the story forward. They took the easy way out, and annoyed me in the process1.

The second thing that bothered me was this - the movie inhabits a different universe than the first ones. One need not be a religious person to recognize that one of the key precepts of Raiders of the Lost Ark is that the Old Testament is true. The Ark of the Covenant was real, meaning that the God of the Old Testament was real, the wrath of God was real, the Jews were the chosen people, and the biblical story was true. The third movie established that the New Testament was true. The Knights Templar were, in fact, guarding the real Holy Grail, which existed and confirmed that the New Testament was true.

That universe has no room in it for trans-dimensional aliens in a flying saucer2. It is out of context.

All that said, the movie is fun, and most fans of the first three will enjoy it. Harrison Ford still has great screen presence, and everyone involved does the job that needs to be done. But it's not a great movie, and more than a sequel or even an homage, it a caricature of the first one. The production values are strong, it never gets boring, and there are certainly worse ways to spend a couple of hours. But, with the possible exception of “closing” the Marion story, it does nothing to enhance the franchise.



1 - As I say, I'm sensitized to that. Two other people who'd seen the movie had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned it. The firing is, as I say, utterly irrelevant to ANYTHING else that happens in the film.

2 - When we left the theatre, my 14-year old daughter said, "Not just a spaceship, but a flying saucer! Could it be any more cliché?"

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 6/23/2008

3-3. If that's the bad week, you're OK, if it's the good week, you're in trouble.

  • The Red Sox remain in first place, in a virtual tie with the LA Angels for the best record in the AL.


  • A so-so week in all respects. Taking two of three in Philadelphia was impressive, losing two of three at home to St. Louis was ... less so. On the whole, the pitching (3.5 runs allowed/game) was pretty good, the hitting (4 runs/game) was not not. The culprits this week were Ellsbury, Ramirez and the catchers, who combined to go 9-66, hitting .136/.197/.182/.379 with no HR, no RBI, and (using Runs Created) creating less than one run while using up 61 outs. It's tough to put consistent offense together when 1/3 of the lineup is going that badly - when that 1/3 includes both the lead-off and clean-up hitters, it is very tough.


  • They got a big helping hand from the Cincinnati Reds, who took 2-of-3 in Yankee Stadium over the weekend. Yes, I still think that the Yankees are a threat.


  • On the injury front, Ortiz is out of his cast and into a splint. Everyone involved is making happy noises, and they expect him to pick up a bat in the next 10 days or so. Matsuzaka came back and looked as if he shouldn't have, giving up 7 runs in 1-plus innings of work on Saturday. No one is expressing any concern other than "rust," though, so I'm not going to worry until I see it happen again. And Schilling's having surgery today, and is done for the year, and possibly forever.


  • Interleague play results in unfair schedules. (Well, so does the unbalanced schedule when combined with the Wild Card.) The Yankees seem to have a much easier schedule this year than the Red Sox. I broke it down, and this is what we see:








    Red Sox - Yankee Schedule comparison
    Head-to-head18
    common113
    common opponent, different site11
    different AL8
    different NL12
    Total162

    So they've got 20 games that differ. In the AL, Boston has 1 with the Tigers, 4 with the A's and 3 with the Rangers while New York has 1 with the Angels and Indians and 3 with the Twins and Royals. In the NL, the Red Sox have 3 with Arizona, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and St. Louis, while the Yankees have 3 with the Pirates and Padres and 6 with the Mets.

    The opponents current records for those 20 games are:







    Red Sox - Yankee Schedule comparison
    Red Sox OpponentsYankee Opponents
    WL%WL%
    Different AL317289.523300308.493
    Different NL498417.544426477.472
    Total815706.536726785.480


    So essentially, the Yankees get 20 extra games against a 78 win team while the Red Sox get 20 extra games against an 87 win team. Anyone think that that could make a 2-3 game difference?


  • Friday night, the Red Sox start a 10-game road trip that includes stops in Tampa and New York. They are going to have an opportunity to open up a lead in the division (or fail to do so) before the All Star break arrives...





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/23/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago4.83(3)3.89(3)0.597(1)45304134-4

Boston5.06(2)4.13(6)0.592(2)463247311

Oakland4.56(7)3.72(1)0.592(3)44314134-3

Tampa Bay4.51(9)4.09(5)0.544(4)413444313

New York4.62(6)4.37(8)0.525(5)403641351

Cleveland4.51(8)4.32(7)0.52(6)40363541-5

Los Angeles4.26(11)4.09(4)0.519(7)393746307

Toronto4(12)3.88(2)0.514(8)40373641-4

Minnesota4.8(4)4.83(12)0.498(9)383840362

Detroit4.8(5)4.83(11)0.497(10)37383639-1

Texas5.57(1)5.69(14)0.491(11)383939381

Baltimore4.39(10)4.57(9)0.481(12)363838362

Kansas City3.97(13)4.7(10)0.424(13)324433431

Seattle3.93(14)4.99(13)0.393(14)29462649-3




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston9864

Los Angeles9864

Tampa Bay9567

Chicago8973

Oakland8973




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Boston9765

Chicago9369

Oakland9369

Tampa Bay9171

Los Angeles9171




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Minnesota6.67(2)2(1)0.901(1)51601

Los Angeles5.33(5)3.33(4)0.703(2)42420

Texas5.83(3)4(6)0.666(3)42420

New York4(11)2.83(2)0.653(4)42420

Tampa Bay4.17(10)3.17(3)0.623(5)42420

Chicago8(1)6.17(14)0.617(6)4233-1

Oakland5.83(3)4.5(10)0.617(7)4233-1

Detroit5.33(5)4.17(7)0.611(8)42420

Boston4(11)3.5(5)0.561(9)33330

Kansas City4.83(7)4.33(8)0.55(10)33512

Baltimore4.67(8)4.33(8)0.534(11)33421

Seattle4.33(9)5.5(13)0.393(12)24240

Cleveland3.83(13)5(11)0.381(13)24240

Toronto3.67(14)5.33(12)0.335(14)2415-1

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Curt Schilling

Schilling has announced this morning that he'll be having shoulder surgery on Monday, and will not be back in 2008. He probably won't be back at all, at any time.

There's a pretty decent chance that I've thrown my last pitch forever..."
Curt Schilling, 6/20/2008


There will time for retrospectives, and maybe I'll do one today. The short reaction, from a Sox fan point of view, is that Schilling was a huge part of the biggest baseball story of our lifetimes, and he will be remembered fondly for that, whatever else one thought of him...

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Twelve down...

three to go...

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Dude, where's my recession?

Glenn Reynolds has a run several posts in the last few months titled, "Dude, where's my recession?" The clear implication being that the media coverage doesn't match the actual economic conditions, that things are actually better, or at least significantly less bad, than the media tends to report. I have long felt that to be the case, and frankly, have taken it as an article of faith that the economic reporting is significantly influenced, if not actually determined, by the party designation of the occupant of the White House. Particularly as we approach Presidential elections.

Well, someone has actually looked at it, and guess what? There's evidence to back up that suspicion. Kevin Hassett at the American Enterprise Institute writes that
Economist John Lott and I studied thousands of economic news stories written over the past 30 years or so, and found that coverage tended to be far more negative when there was a Republican in the White House as there is now.

The bias has an easy explanation. Yale University economist Ray Fair has shown that a weak economy hurts the incumbent party. If a Democratic-leaning press can convince everyone that the economy is in recession, then it can influence the election.

Our analysis indicates that the treatment of the economy would be much different if there were a Democrat in the White House today. If so, then the headline of each bad piece of news would be, more accurately, "Economy Hovering Above Recession."

But instead of that, we get doom and gloom.

Well, imagine that. As BJ Honeycutt once said, "you could have knocked me over with a sledgehammer."

A couple of weeks ago, someone in a business strategy class that I'm taken wrote a message about Exxon's Board of Directors debating various "green" strategies.

Now consider this... what if this is just an ingenious way to delay/deny political action by Washington on the largest public oil company who has been declaring obscene profits in order to prevent a windfall profit tax from being enacted?


This was my response:
Before I'm willing to consider that, I have to ask this - what, exactly, is it that qualifies Exxon's profits as "obscene?"1 They made $40B in 2007 on total revenue of $390B. Is that more "obscene" than the $22B, for example, that GE made on $172B of total revenue? (It's worth noting that Exxon also paid $29B in taxes, too, as well as paying 107,000 employees and distributing nearly $7B of that profit to shareholders, including, very probably, some of the people in this class.) Their gross margin, profit margin, RoE, RoI, RoA, operating margin were all down from 2006, and their effective tax rate was up. (There were 21 US companies that made over $5B on higher profit margins than Exxon last year. There were 119 more that made $1B to $5B in net profits with higher profit margins.)

Given that, I ask, again, what qualifies Exxon's profits as "obscene?" Obscene is a pejorative - what has Exxon done wrong?



1 - If I may rant for a moment, I am of the opinion that news coverage of the economy in this country is bad, incomplete, inaccurate, slanted, twisted and biased. On its good days. I said in another post that "context is king" - I believe that the US mainstream press does a woefully inadequate job providing context for ANY economic news. So when an oil company announces results during a period when gas prices are rising [due entirely to government regulations and supply/demand] it is presented to the public as a shock value. Far, far too many "journalists" started their careers with the desire to "change the world" or "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" when what they are theoretically supposed to be doing is distributing information. That's the mind set which labels profits as "obscene" and then it becomes the working narrative.



I stand by every word, and think that Hassett and Lott's work is likely identifying an all-too-real phenomenon.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Congratulations, NBA Champion Boston Celtics!

Boston Celtics 131
Los Angeles Lakers 92

For the first time in 22 years, the Boston Celtics are the NBA Champions. The 1986 Celtics were one of the great teams of all time. The 2008 Celtics were probably not, but they sure finished in style. After being taken to 7 games by Atlanta and Cleveland, they took care of Detroit and LA in 6 games each. They set an NBA finals record with their comeback in game 4. They were tied late in game 5. And game 6 was a clinic, a complete and total demolition of a team that many considered a prohibitive favorite before the series started. They did it with two of their four starters missing significant time and Paul Pierce at less than 100% after a game 1 injury.


I said the other day that some of the Lakers wouldn't want to make the trip back to Boston. Well, it looks like some of them didn't. I'm thinking that a bunch of them wish that they hadn't...


On opening night of the Celtics season, this is what I said:
There has been talk that the supporting cast is weak, and I can't judge the truth of that, but clearly, this is a team that is a threat to win the East. At the very least, they are relevant now, for the first time in close to 20 years.

And I'm looking forward to watching them play with a hope that they'll be playing late into the playoffs, as opposed to the last few years where we were looking for signs that some of them might turn into NBA players at some point. Danny Ainge has taken a lot of abuse, but he did a great job stockpiling assets, and when possibly the best player in the game was available, he had what it took to get him.

Well done, Mr. Ainge.

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Halftime thought...

58-35

The Celtics are taking a 23 point lead into halftime. And all I'm thinking is, "if they should somehow lose this game, there's no way I'll be able to watch game 7..."

UPDATE: The lead is up to 29 after three. They've shown Celtics GM Danny Ainge several times, and you know that the clock cannot possibly run fast enough during this fourth quarter to suit him.

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Why we homeschool, part 689,775

A paper recently crossed my desk, a strategic plan being prepared for a graduate-level business class. The following excerpts are taken verbatim (with the company name redacted) from that paper. They are taken from about a two page span in a 14 page paper. The material here is representative of the paper as a whole, and all of the author's classwork.
Materials and products used to sell to consumers depend heavily on domestic and foreign vendors for its high end products. The company boasts its global inspired accessories and diverse home furnishing products. It’s not afraid to go above and beyond to all corners of the globe to unique pieces that will captivate customers’ attentions.
...
The cost of new entries is a lot. It’s difficult for new entries to enter because they don’t have the brand reputation and it takes longer to build brand awareness. It’s not impossible to do; however, [redacted] needs to monitor its market share. Competition is high in the home furnishing industry and it continues to be more difficult in the future.
...
Suppliers are as important as suppliers. Suppliers are one of the business lifelines. [redacted] depends on its suppliers for products to sell.
...
Their wants and needs will change and [redacted] needs to stay on up of it. In addition, the brand needs to create quality products that will add values to consumers. Buyers need to believe why they should pay $36 for a towel when they can get a substitution for half the price. By learning the target consumers, [redacted] will able bring unique products that will distinguish the brand from competitors.

What has that got to do with homeschooling?

The author is a tutor. In the local public schools.

Tutoring students in English.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 6/16/2008

Lose one, win two, lose one, win two. It doesn't sound great, but it is. That's the way the baseball season works - if you win 2 out of 3 all year long, you win 108 games. So a 4-2 week is a good week.

  • The Red Sox continue to be dominant at home, finishing a nine game homestand at 7-2, including a three game sweep of the first-place-at-the-time Rays.


  • Heading out on the road this time was, however, a little bit concerning. Start with the fact that they've played badly on the road all year. Toss in the fact that they're playing without David Ortiz and Manny's hurt. Throw in Papelbon blowing a save. All things considered, I'd say that coming out of Cincinnati having won 2-of-3 makes for a productive weekend.


  • In the last two weeks, they've gone from one game behind Tampa to 2 1/2 games ahead. They've done that without David Ortiz. They've done it without 40% of their opening day starting rotation, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buccholz. They've done it with 1/3 of their lineup, the catchers and middle infielders (Varitek, Cash, Lugo, Cora and Pedroia) hitting a combined (and shockingly bad) 0.185/.286/.265/.551. They've done it because of the good-to-great performances from the corner infielders and most of the outfielders, led by the white-hot J.D. Drew.


  • Since Ortiz' last at-bat, Drew has hit third, taking his spot in the batting order. OVer that 14 game stretch, he's 21 for 47 with 12 walks, six doubles and seven HR. He's hitting .447/.557/1.106/1.663. A lineup of nine players hitting the way Drew has hit for the past two weeks would be scoring over 21 runs per game. He has been unbelievable, and demonstrated why some of us loved his signing before the 2007 season.


  • More on Drew. He hit poorly for the first four months of the 2007 season, and there was a lot of the kind of "analysis" that drives me crazy - "he's gutless, he's not tough enough to handle the Boston market, he doesn't care, yadda, yadda, yadda." Well, over the last calendar year, 6/16/2007-6/15/2008, he's played in 142 games, hitting .304/.407/.514/.921 with 18 HR. Since August 1, 2007, he's hitting 0.318/.420/.549/.969. I think he can handle the Boston market. This guy is a great hitter and right now, they're sure glad that they've got him.


  • I haven't talked much about the Yankees this year, but they're only six games back, and it might get closer this week. Boston's at a good Philadelphia team the next three nights, still without Ortiz and (probably) Ramirez, while the Yankees have an off-day before hosting the punchless Padres. I suspect that, for the second straight year, people have written them off too soon. That doesn't mean that I think that the Yankees are as good as the Red Sox (I don't) or that they'll catch Boston (ditto). But they remain a threat, and no one should think that they're out of it. They are 3 1/2 games behind Tampa in the race for the AL Wild Card. Does anyone want to bet his house that the playoff streak ends?





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/16/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Boston5.15(2)4.18(6)0.595(1)432944281

Chicago4.56(7)3.7(2)0.594(2)41283831-3

Oakland4.45(9)3.65(1)0.589(3)41283831-3

Tampa Bay4.54(8)4.17(5)0.538(4)373240293

Cleveland4.57(6)4.26(7)0.533(5)37333337-4

Toronto4.03(12)3.76(3)0.531(6)38333536-3

New York4.67(4)4.5(8)0.517(7)363437331

Los Angeles4.17(11)4.16(4)0.502(8)353542287

Detroit4.75(3)4.88(11)0.488(9)34353237-2

Texas5.55(1)5.83(14)0.477(10)343735361

Baltimore4.36(10)4.59(9)0.476(11)323634342

Minnesota4.64(5)5.07(13)0.46(12)323834362

Kansas City3.9(13)4.73(10)0.413(13)29412842-1

Seattle3.9(14)4.94(12)0.393(14)27422445-3




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston9963

Los Angeles9765

Tampa Bay9468

Chicago8973

Oakland8973




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Boston9864

Chicago9369

Oakland9369

Tampa Bay9072

Los Angeles8874




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

New York5.14(7)2.57(2)0.78(1)52520

Boston6.17(2)3.67(5)0.721(2)42420

Cleveland6.43(1)4(6)0.704(3)52520

Oakland4(10)2.5(1)0.703(4)42420

Detroit5.29(6)3.57(4)0.672(5)52611

Kansas City5.57(4)4.43(9)0.604(6)43430

Tampa Bay5(9)4.5(10)0.548(7)33330

Minnesota5.14(7)5(11)0.513(8)4334-1

Texas5.5(5)5.67(13)0.486(9)33330

Baltimore6(3)6.5(14)0.463(10)33330

Los Angeles3.67(11)5(11)0.362(11)24331

Chicago3(12)4.14(8)0.356(12)25250

Toronto2.5(14)3.5(3)0.351(13)24240

Seattle2.67(13)4(6)0.323(14)24240

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Friday, June 13, 2008

Boston Celtics 97 - Los Angeles Lakers 91

I won't deny it - I did not see the whole game last night. I watched most of the first half, but I saw little of the third quarter. I was doing other things, and missed the comeback in the third. When I checked in at 75-75, I stayed, so I saw the end of the game.
  • There will be a lot of talk about the 18 point halftime lead, and the 57-33 second half. The comeback is even more impressive than those numbers make it sound. Over the first half of the 3rd quarter, the Lakers actually extended the lead. It was 70-50 with 6 minutes left in the third. When the quarter finally ended 6 minutes (of clock time - 35 minutes of real time) later, the Celtics trailed 73-71, as they put together a 21-3 run.

  • There were a lot of people concerned about the Lakers comeback in game 2, cutting a 24 point lead to 2 before losing by 6. I was less concerned, because the Celtics had the lead in the middle of the fourth quarter, clearly let it affect the way they played, and when it got tight, they finished the job. I thought that the Celtics were the better team, and the Lakers comeback to make it close didn't change my opinion. Last night, the Lakers let the big lead change their approach, but when the Celtics cut it close, they weren't able to respond and put it away. The Celtics are a better team than the Lakers.

  • Three related points:
    1. No team had ever trailed after the first quarter in an NBA Finals game by more than 20 points. It was an embarrassing moment for Celtics fans when the the first quarter ended, as they set a new record, trailing by 21.

    2. No team had ever won an NBA Finals game when trailing at halftime by more than 14 points. The embarrassment of point one was completely ameliorated (and then some) by the victory as they set an NBA Finals record for the largest halftime deficit (18) overcome for a win.

    3. No team has ever lost an NBA Finals after taking a three games to one lead in the series. People who are looking at that as evidence that the series is over should re-read points one and two (and meditate on the 2003 ALCS and the 2004 ALCS and the 2008 Super Bowl...)

  • That said, it seems to me that the Celtics are clearly the better team. They have played the Lakers six times this season and won five of them. They are 3-0 in Boston and 2-1 in Los Angeles. They need to win one more game, and have three more chances to do it, two of them in Boston if necessary.

  • I don't expect that it will be. At least some of the Lakers have, I suspect, subconciously or emotionally conceded at this point, and are going to have a hard time raising their game for the reward of two more cross-country flights and a loss in Boston. I fully expect Boston to win Sunday night.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Reagan at the gate

21 years ago today, President Ronald Reagan spoke at the Brandenburg gate:


Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace.

General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!


Just over two years later, of course, the wall did come down...

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Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee's Screen test for the Green Hornet



He was quick. Very quick. I think he was a real martial artist, though there's some dispute over how much of his reputation is deserved and how much was hype. But he sure was quick...

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

No Sister Souljah moment forthcoming?

This is pretty clearly true...
By now, it is clear: there will be no Sister Souljah moment by Obama because he is Sister Souljah, the very sort of peace-at-any-price, you-can-never-have-enough-tax-hikes, abortion-in-and-out-of-the-womb zealot that other Democrats need to run away from.

It is going to be fascinating (in a disturbing, sickening kind of way) watching the mainstream press pretend for the the next five months that this is not the case...

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It matters who wins elections

Informative1 and amusing chart from the office of Republican whip Roy Blunt...

Gas price chart

Of course, while they would never admit it, the Democrats love high gas prices.

  1. It reduces the number of cars on the road, and the pollution associated with it.

  2. It gives them the opportunity to indulge in populist pandering, to wail and moan and demand punishment for the "greedy oil companies."

  3. A crisis! More opportunity for Federal Government intervention in the market!


(h/t Powerline)




1 This is a political document, obviously, and it should go without saying that expecting it to be strictly accurate would be silly. That said, even with the one-sided American mainstream press, it remains astounding that Democratic politicians are allowed to rail about "our dependence on foreign oil" while simultaneously fighting tooth and nail against developing domestic oil or building nuclear power plants, and they don't get laughed out of office...

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 6/9/2008

A 5-2 week moves Boston from 1 game back to 1 1/2 games ahead in the AL East.

  • The big stories of the week weren't performance related. The first was the brawl on the field on Thursday night. The second was the "brawl" in the dugout on Thursday night.


  • The brawl on the field was Coco Crisp's fault. Entirely. I can understand that he was upset when Bartlett dropped a knee in front of the bag on his stolen base attempt on Wednesday night, and I did not have a problem with his slide in the 8th. I thought it was hard but clean. Tampa Bay obviously disagreed. Clearly, Shields hitting him in the second inning on Thursday was intentional and expected. But Crisp should have just gone to first base, and gone hard into second again. There was absolutely no reason to charge the mound, and he deserved his suspension. That said, it was absolutely moronic of Shields and Tampa Bay to do it with no outs in the second. There's always the chance, when you throw at a batter and everyone knows that it's intentional, that the starting pitcher is going to get tossed. Tampa Bay put themselves in position to need 8 innings out of the bullpen in a game that, if won, would have moved them back into first place. Why not wait until the sixth to hit him? Just plain stupid, short-sighted, and it's going to cost them more than just that game, too. Gomes, Iwamura and Crawford all certainly earned their suspensions with their behavior in the pile.


  • The second "brawl" of the night was in the Red Sox dugout, as cameras caught Manny Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis needing to be separated. A different camera caught Ramirez giving Youkilis a backhand across the face. The apparent cause of the altercation was Youkilis behavior, throwing things around the dugout after flying out to center, despite the fact that the team was up 7-1. Various reports suggest that his teammates are tired of the flying equipment, and have even held a meeting to tell him so. Apparently Manny spoke to him in this case, and Youkilis responded. Whatever Youkilis' response was, it prompted Ramirez' reaction. We don't know exactly what either of them said. I think that there have been two schools of thought, and both of them are wrong. We have the "Manny is a total punk" crowd, and then the "it happens every day" group. I belong to neither. I don't think that physical altercations between teammates happen everyday. I do think it happens more often than outsiders believe, just because of the amount of time that these highly-competitive, phyically oriented men spend in close proximity, but I don't think that it "happens every day." But I don't think Manny's behavior is correct, either. It's tough to tell without knowing exactly what Youkilis said, but it really isn't a good idea to be striking teammates in the dugout. Period.


  • Any of the permutations of the proposed Johan Santana deal which did not get made last winter included Justin Masterson. Masterson has now made four starts for Boston, and he's 3-0, with a 1.07 WHIP and 2.59 ERA. It's a cliche to say that sometimes the best trades are the ones you don't make, but cliches become cliches by being used frequently, and often things get said frequently because they're true. This cliche is true, and, while it's far too early to make a final evaluation, this non-trade looks likely to be a great example of a trade that was better not made.


  • The news on Ortiz is more optimistic than I thought last week. It sounds like there's a reasonable-to-good chance that the sheath heals without surgery, and that he's back on the field at the beginning of August. If that's the case, there's no need to go get Bonds. If it isn't, I'd strongly consider.


  • It also looks as though they dodged a bullet, because it looked like Ellsbury had broken his wrist on Thursday night (with Crisp already having been ejected, they finished that game with the...interesting...outfield of Chris Carter in left, J.D. Drew in center and Kevin Youkilis in right - I don't expect a Major League team to run a worse defensive outfield out there during the rest of the season.) Instead, it seems it was just a sprain, and he may return tomorrow having missed just three games. Which would be good news.


  • Some of us were optimistic about Craig Hansen. Well, in his last six outings, he's thrown 6 2/3 innings, struck out seven, walked three, and allowed one hit and no runs. Even bad pitchers have good stretches, so this doesn't mean that he's going to be the dominant reliever that they thought they were drafting. But it does mean that it doesn't look as unlikely as it once did...




AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/9/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago4.73(3)3.65(1)0.616(1)38243626-2

Boston5.06(2)4.23(6)0.582(2)382840262

Oakland4.49(7)3.76(2)0.58(3)37263429-3

Toronto4.17(12)3.78(3)0.544(4)35303332-2

Tampa Bay4.49(7)4.14(5)0.537(5)342937263

Los Angeles4.22(10)4.08(4)0.516(6)333139256

Cleveland4.37(9)4.29(7)0.508(7)32312835-4

New York4.62(5)4.71(9)0.491(8)313232311

Baltimore4.21(11)4.41(8)0.478(9)303231311

Texas5.55(1)5.85(14)0.477(10)313432331

Detroit4.69(4)5.03(12)0.468(11)29332636-3

Minnesota4.59(6)5.08(13)0.454(12)293431322

Seattle4.02(13)5.03(11)0.398(13)25382241-3

Kansas City3.71(14)4.76(10)0.388(14)243924390




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Los Angeles9963

Boston9864

Tampa Bay9567

Chicago9468

Oakland8775




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Chicago9864

Boston9666

Oakland9171

Tampa Bay9072

Los Angeles9072




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Chicago9(1)3.5(3)0.849(1)51601

Oakland4.83(8)3.17(1)0.684(2)42420

Boston5(7)3.43(2)0.666(3)52520

Baltimore5.43(6)4.29(5)0.606(4)43521

Los Angeles4.17(11)3.5(3)0.579(5)33512

New York5.86(4)5.71(9)0.511(6)43430

Toronto5.5(5)6(10)0.46(7)3324-1

Cleveland7(3)7.71(13)0.456(8)34340

Texas7.57(2)8.43(14)0.451(9)34340

Detroit3.83(13)4.67(7)0.411(10)24240

Seattle3.67(14)4.5(6)0.407(11)2415-1

Tampa Bay4.33(10)5.5(8)0.393(12)24240

Kansas City4.5(9)6.67(11)0.328(13)2415-1

Minnesota4(12)7.29(12)0.25(14)25250

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Piano Recital Day

Yesterday was Piano Recital day, as Ben and Sam performed over at Gordon College.


Ben Beverage playing "Waterfall Jewels" and Pachelbel's "Canon" in the recital hall at the Phillips Music Building, Gordon College, Hamilton, Ma. 6/8/2008


Sam Beverage playing Bach's "Minuets in G Major and G Minor" and Beethoven's "Sonatina in G Major, Anh. 5, No. 1 Moderato" in the recital hall at the Phillips Music Building, Gordon College, Hamilton, Ma. 6/8/2008

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

Elections matter

This comment from Fred Kagan doesn't necessarily say it all, but it says a lot...
When American strategy in a critical theater was up for grabs, John McCain proposed a highly unpopular and risky path, which he accurately predicted could lead to success. Barack Obama proposed a popular and politically safe route that would have led to an unnecessary and debilitating American defeat at the hands of al Qaeda.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obamamentum

The Baseball Crank has been tracking the Obamamentum in the Democratic primary. Earlier, I referred to Barack Obama as "the Anointed One." There's a reason for that. The mainstream press fell in love with him early, and to call his media coverage "fawning" is to understate the degree to which the press has gone into the tank for him. But stories are still leaking out, largely driven by the blogosphere (both left and right, as the Hillary half of the left-wing blogs are also savaging him), and the public, rather than coalescing behind the essentially-determined-nominee-to-be, have been deserting him in droves.
Obama ends the last 3 months of the primary season more than 600,000 votes in the hole, losing the popular vote decisively to Hillary over a stretch of 16 primaries in which 13 million votes were cast.

So the Democratic party has chosen a candidate who cannot, once chosen, even carry the Democratic primary in such battleground states as Pennsylvania and Ohio...

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Anointed

I thought it might be interesting to walk through the Anointed One’s speech last night, and see what there was to see. [What’s that? Didn’t I hang in rapt attention to every word spoken by the gaseous windbag modern Messiah? No, I did not.] The text is, on the whole, pretty generic liberal pap. You know, the standard recipe for increasing the welfare state - more government spending on caring for its subjects citizens. More money for education, health care, job training, yawn, housing, “our crumbling infrastructure,” (whenever you hear a Democrat speak about the infrastructure, it is always preceded by the adjective “crumbling.” If it weren’t “crumbling,” we wouldn’t need to raise taxes), and etc., and etc. He discovered another “birthright of every American” – the chance to get a College Education. (How did the founders miss that one? “…that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness and the change to get a College Education…”) Oh, and, of course, Hope and Change.

But beyond that, there are a couple of things that warrant comment. The first is this lovely nugget, dropped into the middle of the speech.
Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again.

That first sentence is contradicted in the last paragraph, which I’ll get to. The second is, again, revealing. Barack Obama, and the people that surround Barack Obama, do not think of America as a great country. They are not Patriots, they are not people who love their country as it is and has been. They think of America as being the problem in the World. They believe that America can be made great, if only they can run it and do things their way. Am I impugning Barack Obama’s patriotism?

Yes. Yes, I am.

This isn’t something said lightly. But there have been numerous incidents, from the refusal to wear the flag, to the refusal to salute the flag during the National Anthem, to the Trinity Church membership and the sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to Michelle Obama’s comments that she’s never been proud of her country. It all reveals a mindset.

One does not have to blindly support everything that the country and its government does to be a proud American. There have been any number of things that have happened in this country that I did not approve of (Obama can disapprove of our being in Iraq all he wants, but I guarantee that he does not despise the American government’s conduct there any more than I despised Janet Reno’s jackbooted thug raid on a house in Miami to return a young boy as the property of a communist state) and there has never been a moment in my life when I wasn’t proud to be an American, and a believer that America is the greatest country and the greatest national force for good in the history of the world. Obama’s love of America apparently depends upon Obama’s election to do the things that he perceives as good.

The other thing that needs to be discussed is the final paragraph. I suspect that most people would find little to quarrel with – it’s almost boilerplate, and most of what I say here will, I suspect, be considered to be nit-picking. I disagree. I think that there are serious issues.

The journey will be difficult. The road will be long. I face this challenge with profound humility, and knowledge of my own limitations.

Claiming humility is an effectively self-refuting statement. Clearly, he recognizes humility as an appropriate virtue for a President. But if one is truly humble, one does not claim for oneself a “profound humility.” It is yet one more example of how Barack-centered his worldview is. It would be entirely appropriate to note that “the support I have received is humbling.” But that is not what he does. He does not attribute any characteristics to the circumstances other than “long” and “difficult” (which are standard boilerplate and essentially meaningless in this context). No, it is all about him, about his characteristics and his feelings. The natural humility which should be felt by one in his situation he attributes to himself as a virtue, and emphasizes the virtue by noting its profundity. The pro forma “knowledge of my own limitations” is, again, self-praise, calling attention to his self-awareness. There are no ego-less Presidential Candidates – one has to have an enormous opinion of one’s abilities and opinions to think that he should be the most powerful man in the world – but Obama is so convinced of his superiority that he cannot even do the obligatory self-effacement appropriately.
But I also face it with limitless faith in the capacity of the American people.

Because now they are willing to vote for him.

Because if we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick

Pre-Obama America, you see, never cared for the sick. Voting for Obama is an indicator that you are a good and virtuous and caring individual. (Of course, that says bad things about the 94% of Americans who have not, yet, voted for Barack Obama, but…)

(Just as an aside, The Jimmy Fund was started in 1948. It has raised over $400 million dollars in the fight against childhood cancer. From 1950 through 2005, the rate of cancer deaths in children 0-4 years old has fallen by 80%. In children 5-14, it’s fallen by 62.8%. In 15-24 year olds, it has fallen by 52.7%. Barack Obama was President of the United States for zero (0) of the years between 1950 and 2005. Maybe yesterday was not the day that “we began to provide care for the sick.”)

He concludes:
and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth. This was the moment – this was the time – when we came together to remake this great nation so that it may always reflect our very best selves, and our highest ideals. Thank you, God Bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Politicians always claim that they will do great things. It’s understood. It is fluff and nonsense, and it’s silly to read too much into it. But, other than the pro forma closing, he is revealing something different than the typical politician does. Anyone running for office is going to claim that he will make America better. Barack Obama is not going to do that. No, the mere fact of his nomination “remakes” America. Patriots do not, as a general rule, feel the need to remake the country. They may want to repair the country, or improve the country, to “move the country forward,” but they don’t want to “remake” the country.

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Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Bonds and Red Sox Nation

Re: David Ortiz, Barry Bonds

Bonds name has now come up in various forums. The attitude of many people is as follows:

I'd rather lose than sign the cheater.

I know that some people feel that way. I'm not one of them. I don't feel the loathing for Bonds that many do, and have never really understood it. Did he use substances which were technically illegal to help him play better? I'm pretty sure that he did. Was he the only one doing so? I'm pretty sure that he wasn't. When he was doing it, did Major League Baseball have a testing program in place or specified punishments for using those substances? Not that I'm aware of. As near as I can tell, that stigma attaches to Bonds because a) he doesn't like the media and the media doesn't like him1 and b) he is the best hitter in the game since Ted Williams. Yankee fans seems to be surviving with Jason Giambi and Andy Pettitte on the roster. Cleveland fans managed to cheer for Rafael Betancourt on the mound last October. But we can't bring in a great hitter to DH, a guy who's been tested frequently for the past four years and never failed a test, because he took some substances 6-9 years ago in his quest to be a better player?

I really don't agree...



1 - Bonds, unlike most players, grew up in a Major League clubhouse. He was exposed at an early age to media behavior, and saw, at an early age, biased, skewed, vicious and unfair commentary aimed at people that he personally knew and loved. He came to the game with no illusions about the "ink-stained wretches" and no patience with them, and the coverage of him has been negative since day 1. Some of it has probably been deserved - there are reasons to believe that he's been, at times, a jerk. A lot of it, I suspect, has been overdone, petty, vindictive and inaccurate. I don't know this - that's just my gut feel from 3000 miles away.

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Perspective

Obama's Sacrifice
Obama tells us what a sacrifice he made taking the starting salary of a paid Chicago radical, working his way up from the bottom rung of a powerful leftist political machine. But his salary was almost exactly the same as the starting salary of a college degreed officer in the U.S. military, an officer likely to have a degree in an actual marketable subject (unlike Obama's PoliSci degree), and likely to have had the benefit of four years of job training in the ROTC or one of the military academies...Obama's "sacrifice" gave him the contacts -- and the story line -- upon which he built a powerful multi-million dollar political career. The sacrifice of military personnel enlisting in the late 1980s' was sometimes their health and sometimes their very lives. The Obama's, it's worth pointing out again, became millionaires.

And yet Barack and Michelle whine and preen about their "burdensome" sacrifices for the collective ..

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Wrist. Tendon. Sheath. Ortiz. Bad.

I wrote yesterday that "I expect that Boston will have to make due without David Ortiz for a while. The fact that he couldn't finish his at-bat, and the rumors that he felt a "pop" inside the wrist make me think that surgery is likely in the offing." I did not get a chance to post Will Carroll's assessment at Baseball Prospectus, but it ("Papi is said to have a mild sprain...it's more about giving him a couple of days off and expecting that the rest is all that will really be necessary to have him back out there") made me feel much better. Will's tied in to the medical people on the team's, and he's the best source for injury info. That said, in this case, my expectation was right and Will was wrong. The Red Sox put Ortiz on the DL with a "partial tear of the extensor carpi ulnaris tendon sheath in his left wrist."

If anyone's feeling a chill sense of deja vu, there's a reason. Here's a reminder from the New York Times, 4/3/2001:
Nomar Garciaparra had wrist surgery yesterday at UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester, an opening day operation that could deprive the Boston Red Sox of their All-Star shortstop and a two-time American League batting champion for half the season.

And there is no assurance that his right wrist -- which had a split tendon surrounded by an inflamed sheath -- will ever be as strong as it was before the injury.

"The repair went quite well," the Red Sox team physician, Bill Morgan, said. "It's obvious that he's more vulnerable than prior to ever being injured. He had a fair amount of injury and a fair amount of surgery."

The injuries are not the same. But it's a bad thing. Nomar ended up playing in 21 games in 2001. Ortiz is going into a cast for the next month in hopes that the injury will heal. If it does not, that foul ball on Saturday night was the last swing we'll see from Ortiz in 2008.


There is, of course, a DH available on the open market. Whether they've got the guts/brain/nerve/common sense/chutzpah/arrogance/what-have-you to go get Barry Bonds or not is something that I don't even have a guess on. Bonds has been Sports Villain Number One with the loudest and most vocal part of the Red Sox fan base for the past ten years, egged on and encouraged by the bomb-tossers at WEEI, so that would be a story. On the other hand, it is a perfect fit. You get a hitter who is probably still as good as, or better than, Ortiz, you bring him in and let him DH five games out of seven, while giving Manny a couple of days a week at DH. He costs nothing but money, and probably only reasonable amounts of it at this point. And, while the hue and cry would, I suspect, be loud and ferocious (and tedious and tiresome), the tickets are sold. People aren't going to boycott the team, they aren't going to stop watching or listening.

I would love to see it. I don't expect to, but I would love to see it...


UPDATE: I need to clarify one point. Art Martone has pointed out that
The blog LyfLines lays out the case for Bonds ("a perfect fit"), but wonders if the Sox have the "guts/brain/nerve/common sense/chutzpah/arrogance/what-have-you" to sign him. Lyford, I'd say that the attributes you lay out are mutually exclusive. Do they have the guts, the chutzpah, the arrogance? Sure. You'd need all that, and more, to sign Barry Bonds. But brains and common sense? Those gifts tell you to avoid Barry Bonds at all costs, at least for now.

Art is right, of course. Yes, some of those attributes are mutually exclusive. That was the point of the list - some people think that signing Bonds would represent "common sense and brains" while others think "arrogance and chutzpah." So I obviously could have put that better...

Art also discusses some recent Bill James comments on Bonds, indicating that he (James) thinks that he (Bonds) is likely to collapse - "[when] a player reaches the point where ALL that he does is hit, he is normally very near to the end ... if you look at old players who have a very high OPS and essentially no other skills, what happens to them is that they suddenly collapse. They go from 'valuable' to 'out of the game' or 'still in the game, but worthless' in one year."

So there are reasons not to. And we need to see what ends up happening with Ortiz - if he heals and is back to normal at the beginning of September, then Bonds is unnecessary.

But frankly, I'd still love to see, if only to watch the media reaction...

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Monday, June 02, 2008

Monday Pythagorean 6/2/2008

A 4-2 week that felt much worse than it actually was.

  • Congratulations are due to Manny Ramirez on finally getting HR number 500, the 24th MLB player to hit that many (and the third to hit his 500th in a Boston uniform after Jimmy Foxx and Ted Williams).


  • After starting the week by losing 2 out of 3 to the pitiful Mariners, with both losses by one run, the Sox salvaged their week by taking three over the weekend from the Orioles. In the process, they finished up with a very good week from a Pythagorean point of view. The ineptitude of the Baltimore and Seattle offenses helped.


  • It wasn't enough for Boston to catch up with the red hot Tampa Bay Rays. the teams with the top two records in the AL will face off this week with first place in the balance, as they're starting to separate from the rest of the division.


  • One interesting note on the Tampa Bay-Boston standings is the home-road discrepancy. Currently, the Rays are one game ahead of the Red Sox in the East. But both teams have played significantly better at home than on the road, and Tampa Bay's played 34 at home vs. only 23 on the road. The Red Sox have played only 26 at home and 33 on the road. Based on their current winning percentages, the Rays are on pace to finish with 99 wins, the Red Sox 96. But looking at their relative records on the home and the road, and extrapolating those records, Boston's on a pace to win 100 games, and Tampa Bay's on pace for 96.


  • Having read absolutely nothing, I expect that Boston will have to make due without David Ortiz for a while. The fact that he couldn't finish his at-bat, and the rumors that he felt a "pop" inside the wrist make me think that surgery is likely in the offing. That would, of course, be damaging to the team's chances of repeating, but if he's healthy in early September, than it shouldn't be fatal.


  • The other injury news is Daisuke Matsuzaka's trip to the DL with a "strained" rotator cuff. The reports sound as if it is not as scary as it might be. The general tenor of the reporting is that he'll get a few weeks off and come back just fine.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 6/2/2008
ProjectedActual

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

Boston5.07(2)4.32(7)0.572(1)342535241

Chicago4.28(8)3.67(2)0.57(2)32243026-2

Oakland4.46(7)3.82(3)0.569(3)32253027-2

Toronto4.03(13)3.56(1)0.557(4)33263128-2

Tampa Bay4.51(5)4(5)0.555(5)322535223

Cleveland4.04(12)3.86(4)0.521(6)29272531-4

Los Angeles4.22(9)4.14(6)0.509(7)302834244

New York4.46(6)4.59(10)0.487(8)272928281

Minnesota4.66(4)4.8(11)0.486(9)272929272

Texas5.31(1)5.53(14)0.481(10)283029291

Detroit4.79(3)5.07(12)0.473(11)27292432-3

Baltimore4.05(10)4.43(8)0.46(12)253026291

Seattle4.05(11)5.09(13)0.397(13)23342136-2

Kansas City3.63(14)4.56(9)0.397(14)233423340




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay9963

Boston9666

Los Angeles9567

Chicago8775

Oakland8577




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Boston9468

Tampa Bay9369

Chicago9072

Oakland9072

Toronto8874




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Toronto5.29(3)2.43(1)0.806(1)6143-2

Boston4.67(4)2.83(2)0.714(2)42420

Minnesota5.67(2)4.33(8)0.62(3)42420

Detroit3.67(10)3.33(3)0.543(4)33330

Texas6.17(1)6(14)0.513(5)33330

Seattle3.67(10)3.67(5)0.5(6)33330

Tampa Bay3.86(9)3.86(7)0.5(6)43521

Chicago3.29(13)3.57(4)0.462(8)34340

Cleveland4(7)4.67(9)0.43(9)3324-1

Kansas City4(7)4.71(10)0.425(10)3425-1

New York4.67(4)5.67(11)0.412(11)24331

Baltimore4.5(6)5.67(11)0.396(12)24240

Los Angeles2.83(14)3.83(6)0.365(13)24422

Oakland3.67(10)5.67(11)0.311(14)24240

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