Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time for a serious conversation

Wesley M., speaking for many of us, is willing to engage President Obama's nominal desire for a serious conversation on the issues:
Let's stop pretending that asking your cabinet to find $100 million in spending cuts is "tightening our belts." A serious conversation would call this what it really is: A joke. And a bad one at that.

Let's stop pretending that we're going to lower health care costs, thus saving money and Medicare, not to mention reducing the deficits, by spending an additional $646 billion of money we don't have...

Let's stop pretending that we can save Social Security without cutting benefits for future retirees or raising the retirement age...

Let's stop touting that $400 tax cut you keep talking about, considering that the members of your own party in Congress just voted to end it after next year...

Mocking those "folks waving tea bags around" might make for a good laugh line, Mr. President...But those folks are voters, Mr. President. And not only do they understand everything discussed in this post, they're waiting for some indication that you do as well.

They're also waiting for that serious conversation, Mr. President, just as soon as you decide to get serious.

Read it all. Well done...

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mixed blessings

I'm not sure which of the enumerated powers of the Federal Government justifies this:
The political football that is the Bowl Championship Series lands in Congress this week as lawmakers examine whether the system for awarding a national championship is fair...

Several lawmakers are pushing bills on the BCS. Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, for example, has sponsored legislation that would prevent the NCAA from calling a college football game a "national championship" unless it results from a playoff system...President Barack Obama has said he would prefer an eight-team playoff system.

Because, you know, they don't have anything more important1 to be working on...





1 - This is almost a prototypical mixed emotions situation. On the one hand, this is an outrageous usurpation of authority to which Congress has no legitimate claim, there's no philosophical justification for Federal intervention in this issue, and the country certainly faces issues which ought be higher on the priority lists of our elected representatives than the BCS. On the other hand, they're doing less damage when they're grandstanding on issues like this rather than economic issues.

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Who's going to tell the voters?

Legal Insurrection says to "relax, the Dems will screw up." Professor Reynolds says that it would be "rather unwise to count on that, though..."

I think that they will screw up. I think you can count on it.

But, with the media having abandoned any pretense of objectivity, there is one pressing question - who's going to tell the voters?



(It's certainly much harder for the Republicans to play the "culture of corruption" card, as the media so frequently "forgets" to mention the corrupt politician's party when there's a Democrat involved.)

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Monday, April 27, 2009

Context. Is. King.

So President Obama has been - very rightfully - mocked over his mandate that the Cabinet, over the next few months, find $100 million to cut from the Federal budget. Obviously, I'm all in favor of cutting the Federal budget. So why do I say that the mockery is well deserved?

This video explains it. Brilliantly.

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Monday Pythagorean, 4/27/2009

Well that's a dandy week. And a nice homestand. If you'd told me before the season started that the Sox would be 12-6 after three weeks, I'd have thought it pretty likely - they're a very good team. If you'd told me that they'd be 12-6 after starting 2-6, I'd have thought it pretty unlikely. 10-game winning streaks don't come along every day, or even every year.

But that's what can happen when a very good team has a very good stretch. They can win games in which they're down 6-0 and 7-0, and games in which they only score 2 or 4. All of which they've done during the current winning streak. For the week, they scored 9 runs per game while allowing only 3 1/2.

  • Organizational depth was, once again, on display. After the bullpen, which has been a strength, was ground down by the Yankees over two games, they went to the minors for an additional arm. Hunter Jones and Michael Bowden combined to give them 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. The bullpen, which was run ragged during the first two games of the Yankee series, has all hands on deck again.


  • Speaking of depth, they lost their number three starter to injury, and have seen no decrease in performance either in the rotation, or in the bullpen. And they've not yet called up Daniel Bard or Clay Buccholz or John Smoltz, and Michael Bowden's only been up to pitch two innings in one game. They're deep. They've got more pitching depth than any other team. We knew this, of course, before the season started, but there's a difference between knowing and seeing, and now we're seeing.


  • How good has the bullpen been? Ramon Ramirez, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Papelbon, Hunter Jones, Michael Bowden, Manny Delcarmen and Javier Lopez combined to throw 17 1/3 innings over 16 appearances. They allowed 18 baserunners and 2 runs total, 0 earned.


  • I've said, several times, that I think Justin Masterson would be one of the best two or three starters on half the teams in Major League Baseball. I'll say it again now. In two starts this week, all he did was throw 10 2/3 innings and give up two runs. In 11 Major League starts, he's 6-3 with a 3.34 ERA. Since the start of the 2008 season, there are 26 pitchers, fewer than 1 per team, that have started 11+ games with an ERA better than 3.34. (Two of them are Masterson and Chamberlain, who have compiled lower ERAs by working primarily out of the bullpen.)


  • A big part of the reason for the prolific run-scoring was the awakening at the top of the lineup. Ellsbury and Pedroia combined to hit .408/.474/.571/1.045 for the week. When your table setters are on-base 47% of the time, there's a lot of opportunity for the guys in the middle of the lineup to do damage. And Youkilis, Drew, Bay and Lowell continue to be productive.


  • Ortiz still hasn't gone deep, but has shown signs of productivity anyway, hitting .320/.321/.600/.921 for the week.


  • I do not know if there has ever been a double-header in which both games were completed early due to weather, but when they called the first game on Wednesday after 7 innings, I thought it possible.


  • The Blue Jays are off to a terrific start. I remain unconcerned. They aren't that good - they've put together their best three-week stretch of the year at the beginning. They won't lead the league in runs scored when it's all said and done, and their pitching won't be as good as it's been, either. They've played well AND matched up against weaker competition at times when that competition's been struggling. Good for them, but they aren't as good as Boston or New York or Tampa, and won't be in first place in another month.


  • Red Sox Player of the Week: Youkilis continues to be the best hitter, but the big hit this week came off the bat of Jason Bay, who had an outstanding week, too. As exciting as Youkilis' walk-off was, we're not looking at a 10-game winning streak and a three-game lead over the Yankees without Bay beating Rivera.


  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week: Not quite a no-brainer, but close. In his first two starts of the season, after pitching in relief for the first two weeks, Justin Masterson goes 10 2/3 innings and allows two runs, as the Red Sox win the first and last games of the week.







AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/27/2009
ProjectedActual

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

Toronto6.2(1)4.25(3)0.666(1)1371461

Boston6.06(3)4.39(4)0.643(2)1261260

Detroit5.67(4)4.67(6)0.588(3)117108-1

Kansas City3.89(14)3.56(1)0.541(4)10899-1

Seattle4.21(11)3.95(2)0.529(5)1091272

Chicago4.89(9)4.72(7)0.516(6)99990

Texas6.11(2)6.39(12)0.48(7)99810-1

Oakland4.18(13)4.41(5)0.475(8)89710-1

Tampa Bay4.42(10)4.74(8)0.468(9)910712-2

Los Angeles5.06(8)5.5(10)0.462(10)810711-1

Cleveland5.37(7)5.89(11)0.457(11)910712-2

Baltimore5.53(6)6.74(13)0.41(12)8119101

New York5.56(5)6.78(14)0.41(13)711992

Minnesota4.21(11)5.42(9)0.386(14)7129102




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Toronto11349

Boston10854

Seattle10260

Detroit9072

Kansas City8181




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Toronto10953

Boston10557

Detroit9567

Seattle8874

Kansas City8775




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Boston9(1)3.5(1)0.849(1)51601

Toronto6.17(3)4.5(5)0.64(2)42420

Los Angeles7.17(2)6.17(12)0.568(3)33330

Tampa Bay3.67(11)3.67(2)0.5(4)3324-1

Detroit5.5(5)5.5(9)0.5(4)33330

Oakland4.8(8)5(7)0.481(6)23230

Texas5(7)5.67(10)0.443(7)33330

Baltimore5.14(6)5.86(11)0.441(8)34340

New York6(4)7(14)0.43(9)23230

Seattle4.17(10)5(7)0.417(10)33421

Minnesota3.6(12)4.6(6)0.39(11)23230

Kansas City3.33(13)4.33(4)0.382(12)24240

Cleveland3.17(14)4.17(3)0.377(13)24331

Chicago4.33(9)6.33(13)0.333(14)24240

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Managerial follies and criticism thereof

"Dumb*** Francona - When he stinks as Beckett does today, he turns his head and leaves him in and in and still in..."

"Big old brain [cramp] by Francona bringing Beckett back in after 104 pitches and a rested bullpen. Could see the 2 run rally coming a mile away. "

I've seen this criticism in a couple of places, and it surprises me, for the following reasons:
  1. Beckett seemed to have settled down. He'd retired the last four batters he'd faced, including the side in order in the fifth, and it seemed reasonable to try to get another inning from him. They don't want him throwing 125 pitches very often, but once in a while is not a problem, so he had a few more pitches left.


  2. The bullpen wasn't all that "rested." They went 11 innings on Friday night, and everyone pitched. Okajima threw 21 pitches, Saito 19, Lopez 23, Papelbon 17, Ramirez 14 and Delcarmen 8. It didn't mean anyone (other than Saito) wasn't available, but it did mean that anyone pitching Saturday was possibly, if not probably, unavailable Sunday. If you run through everyone starting in the sixth, you're going to be short in the 'pen on Sunday1.


  3. I love me some Justin Masterson, but you have to think that you'll be happy with six innings from him, meaning that you're very likely to need three innings of relief again on Sunday night.


Obviously, in hindsight, all Beckett did in the 6th was allow a walk and homer to tie it up, so the move didn't work. But I didn't have a problem with it, and can see the logic of it. I don't think it qualifies as a tactical error, just a move that didn't work.



1 - Yes, that's what ended up happening anyway. It's a safe bet that the Sox go into tonight's game without Papelbon, Delcarmen and Okajima (at least) available...

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pictures? Why not!

Apparently, we've killed all of Al Qaeda's propaganda ministers, so the Obama administration feels that we have a moral obligation to provide propaganda and moral support for Al Qaeda to make up for it.

Jennifer Rubin:
John Kerry provides insight into what is going on. He concedes the release of the photos will hand our enemies a propaganda victory, but hastens to add that this is fine because it was on Bush’s watch. Are they so infantile as to believe it was not their country before 2009? Do they really believe that our enemies make any distinction based on who occupies the White House? If so, Americans have put in leadership individuals who are so egotistical and misguided as to believe their personal auras are more important than their country’s reputation.

Sad but true. And very well put.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Patriots Day

The third Monday in April is Patriot's Day, celebrated in the state of Massachusetts. It commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord, and the shots "heard 'round the world." This year, for the first time, I attended the festivities in Lexington, as two of my children were playing in a fife and drum corps in the parades.

So, after rising at three, we found a spot on the ropes at the Lexington battle green at about 4:15 in the morning. (Cold and dark? Very and very.) It was a foggy morning, and quite eerie, as there were literally thousands of people quietly ringing the green in the dark and mist.

At around 5:30, the event begins with the "reading of the script." That is, the events leading up to, and including, the clash between the colonial militias and the British regulars are read out, so that people understand what they are watching. Everyone remembers that Paul Revere rode out from Charlestown on the night of April 18th. He arrived in Lexington at about 11:00 at night. He was, in the words of Longfellow, "spread[ing] the alarm, to every Middlesex village and farm." There were more specific chores, as well. John Hancock and Samuel Adams were in Lexington, and Revere's warning prompted them to flee north to Woburn.

Riding west towards Lincoln, Revere (now riding with Dawes and Prescott) was stopped by a British patrol. Two of the riders managed to escape into the woods, but Revere was captured, and his horse confiscated. He was led back to Lexington, but released, horseless, before arrival. Returning to the Buckman tavern, he found the militia milling about on the green, awaiting the arrival of the regulars.

Very shortly thereafter, Hancock's personal secretary, John Lowell, appeared, and told Revere that Hancock had left a trunk of papers in an upstairs room at the tavern, and that the papers contained much information that must not fall into British hands. Revere and Lowell went to the tavern, removed the trunk, and carried it out across the green, through the assembled militia, just as the British were coming into view. And that is about where the re-enactment begins...

Revere and Lowell carrying Hancock's trunk

The militia on the green

The British column arrives

"The shot heard 'round the world"

The British advance, the militia retreats

Musket smoke obscures the battlefield

The re-formed British column continues on to Concord

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fife and drums on parade

The William Diamond Junior Fife and Drum Corps



Performing at the Bedford (MA) Pole Capping, 4/11/09


Group photo, Bedford, MA, 4/11/2009

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Monday Pythagorean, 4/20/2009

Well, that's a little better. Things looked pretty bleak on Tuesday night (ok, Wednesday morning) but the bats have started to awaken, they've gotten a couple of well-pitched games, and the bullpen's been every bit as good as advertised. 4-2 is a good week. You win two out of three consistently, and you're playing post-season baseball. I remain convinced that this is a very good baseball team.

  • There was concern in some quarters about Jon Lester after his second consecutive "bad" outing on Monday night. From my point of view, however, it wasn't a bad outing - it was an unlucky outing. With two outs in a 1-1 games, he gave up a dinky pop-up to Orlando Cabrera which fell in no man's land between Pedroia and Drew. Instead of being out of the inning tied at 1, it was 2-1 Oakland. Then Giambi hit a ball that most left fielders catch, but Bay didn't quite get to. Instead of being out of the inning at 2-1 Oakland, it was 3-1. They'd go on to score 5, and the Sox offense never did much, and they lost, and looked bad doing it. But that was the only inning out of the six that Lester pitched in which the A's scored. Lester said afterwards that he didn't think he was pitching as badly as the line score would indicate, which prompted some snickering. I agreed with him. Sunday's 7 scoreless innings against Baltimore would seem to support that point of view. From my point of view, there's no pitcher on the staff that makes me more comfortable when he's pitching than Lester.


  • After failing to score more than five runs in any game while getting off to a 2-6 start, the bats came alive, scoring 8, 8 and 10 to kick off a four game winning streak. They're still getting little to nothing from the top of the order, however. On the week, Ellsbury, Pedroia and Ortiz hit .238/.271/.275/.546. Throw in Varitek and Green, and you've got five consecutive batters in the lineup hitting .225/.281/.279/.560. When you consider that they actually scored 5 1/2 runs per game on the week, you know that the Youk-Drew-Bay-Lowell stretch was firing on all cylinders.


  • Tough opening series for the new Yankee Stadium, as the Indians pounded New York pitching a couple of times. The big question at this point is Wang. It is not unusual for a good pitcher to have a bad start or two - it happens to everyone. Even three straight. But these haven't been bad starts that he's made. They've been disaster starts, starts that you fear you might get from a non-prospect in AA called up for an emergency. In three starts, he's thrown only 6 innings while allowing 23 earned runs. To put that in perspective, if he throws complete game shutouts in his next four starts (and I'll bet cash money that he doesn't), his ERA still won't be down to the 4.85 that is the current AL average.


  • Whether or not his shoulder strain is related to the World Baseball Classic, Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to miss a few weeks. There's no team in baseball better equipped to deal with his absence than the Boston Red Sox. Even with Smoltz not ready and Buccholz hurt, they've got Justin Masterson, who would almost certainly be one of the top three starters on half the teams in baseball.


  • Red Sox Player of the week: Kevin Youkilis (with honorable mention to J.D. Drew) - Each player went deep twice, reached base well over 40% of the time while slugging over .700.


  • Red Sox Pitcher of the week: While Tim Wakefield is a strong contender with his outstanding performance in Oakland on Wednesday afternoon, the pick here is ... the Bullpen. As a group, the Red Sox bullpen allowed only 4 runs in 23 2/3 innings, compiling a 1.56 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while striking out more than a batter per inning with a 3.125:1 strikeout to walk ratio. On the downside, they took the loss in Oakland on Tuesday night. Offsetting that, of course, is that there may not be another game in the majors this year where a relief staff throws 11 innings while allowing only one run.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/20/2009
ProjectedActual

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

Toronto6.21(3)4.14(4)0.677(1)951041

Detroit5.75(4)4.25(6)0.635(2)8475-1

Chicago5.17(7)3.92(3)0.624(3)75750

Kansas City4.17(12)3.17(1)0.623(4)75750

Seattle4.23(11)3.46(2)0.591(5)85850

Texas6.67(1)6.75(13)0.494(6)6657-1

Cleveland6.38(2)6.69(11)0.478(7)6749-2

Boston4.58(9)4.83(7)0.476(8)66660

Oakland3.92(14)4.17(5)0.472(9)6657-1

Tampa Bay4.77(8)5.23(9)0.458(10)6758-1

New York5.38(6)6.69(11)0.402(11)58762

Baltimore5.75(4)7.25(14)0.396(12)57661

Minnesota4.43(10)5.71(10)0.385(13)59772

Los Angeles4(13)5.17(8)0.385(14)5748-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Toronto11646

Seattle10062

Detroit9567

Chicago9567

Kansas City9567




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Toronto11052

Detroit10260

Chicago10161

Kansas City10062

Seattle9666




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Kansas City6(4)3.17(1)0.763(1)5142-1

Toronto5.86(6)3.29(2)0.742(2)52520

Detroit5.6(7)3.6(3)0.692(3)32320

Cleveland7.14(1)5.14(8)0.646(4)5234-2

Chicago6.33(3)4.67(6)0.636(5)42420

Boston5.5(8)4.83(7)0.559(6)33421

Oakland4.33(12)4.17(5)0.518(7)33330

Seattle3.83(13)3.83(4)0.5(8)33330

Texas7(2)7(12)0.5(8)3324-1

Minnesota5.14(9)6.14(9)0.419(10)34431

Tampa Bay4.71(11)6.29(10)0.371(11)3425-1

Baltimore6(4)8.5(13)0.346(12)24240

New York5(10)8.57(14)0.272(13)25432

Los Angeles3.67(14)6.33(11)0.269(14)2415-1

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Idle thought

Has mankind ever come closer to perfection in creation than the Oreo cookie?

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Patriots Day weekend

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year...

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Quote of the day

They that are on their guard and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure and negligent.
- Benjamin Franklin

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Why don't we have coverage this good?

Well, we will, if Obama and the Democrats get their way. Hey, at least the services were provided free of charge...
A woman died in labour in a hospital lavatory after her induction was delayed because of a lack of specialist staff, an inquest was told yesterday.

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Red Sox - a lot of bad luck so far

Hey, kudos to Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, who has produced a statistically literate, relevant and useful article on the Red Sox early season troubles:
On both halves of the BABIP - batting average of balls in play - the Sox have been on the wrong side of the tracks.

BABIP, the newfangled metric, is a gauge on what happens to a ball when contact is made that results in a plate appearance. Home runs are taken out of the equation, so what a defender does, or does not do, with a ball hit to him is taken into account. With a typical BABIP of .290, the higher it is, the luckier the batter is and unluckier the pitcher is.

BABiP is something that I invented1 several years ago, in order to look at defense. It has now been around enough for people to recognize it and understand what it is and how it works. But I wouldn't have expected to see it in the mainstream press yet. So that's a good job by Silverman.



1 - OK, I probably didn't invent it. And Silverman certainly didn't get it from me. I probably had seen someone do that, or something like that, at some time previously. But I don't remember having seen it before I first derived it.

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The "torture" memos

I'd like to go on the record as having no objection whatsoever to the CIA using any of these techniques in interrogating high level Al Qaeda operatives.

I've got a big problem, though, with the publication of these memos by the Obama administration. The act of publication seems to me spiteful, petty, and totally counter-productive. "Here, terrorists - come read up on what the worst we could do you in captivity was. And understand that we won't even do that much anymore..."

I remain profoundly unimpressed with this administration.

Oh, and when these are described as torture memos, the word torture should be in quotations. Because the memos describe the legal definitions and reasons why the acts in question do not qualify as torture...

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It takes two to tango...

The Baseball Crank, in talking about Wakefield's near no-hitter this afternoon, made the comment that "these things usually take some help from the opposing team....take a look at that Oakland lineup." He then offers up the Seattle Mariners in Clemens' first 20 strikeout performance as a famous example.

But there was one more blatant that I remembered, and I tracked it down. On September 11, 1999, Eric Milton of the Twins no-hit the CaLAnaheim Angels, and I clearly recall thinking that, with that lineup, it wasn't much of an accomplishment. Of course, it's always an accomplishment when a pitcher throws a no-hitter, but looking at the boxscore reveals an almost unimaginably bad set of "hitters" playing for the Angels.

That was not a good offensive team. A team that scored fewer than 5 runs in 23 of its last 31 games, including 12 games in which they failed to score 3.

But this day was even worse than usual. Mo Vaughn, Jim Edmonds, Tim Salmon - all of the Angels good hitters - had the day off. The 9 "hitters" that Eric Milton faced combined, in September and October of 1999, to hit .183/.277/.306/.583.

1) Jeff Davanon (RF) - 25 year old in his first September call-up, finished with a .259 career batting average.
2) Orlando Palmeiro (CF) - journeyman outfielder, finished with a .274 career batting average.
3) Todd Greene (LF) - .254 career hitter.
4) Troy Glaus(3B) - While he did go on to hit .256 in his career, in 1999 he was a 22 year-old 2nd year player who hit .240 for the year.
5) Steve Decker (DH) - (Who? Right.) A .221 career hitter, playing out the last few weeks of his ML career at age 33.
6) Matt Luke (1B) - Another mediocre in the last weeks of his time in the show, Luke hit .300 in a few at-bats in 1999, but only .242 for his career.
7) Bret Hemphill (C) - hit .143 in his 12 game ML career, all of which came in September of 1999.
8) Trent Durrington (2B) - career .196 hitter in his first season.
9) Andy Sheets (SS) - Down in the 9th spot, we have a 27 year old at his peak. But it's Andy Sheets, who hit .216 in 356 Major League games, so it isn't worth much.

It might have been more surprising if he'd failed to no-hit them...

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rules to die for

From the Boston Globe, Rules to die for:
In the spring of 2001, Wellesley College freshman Molly Thompson attempted suicide for the first time. Neither she nor the college informed her parents in Rhode Island, nor did they say that Molly had spent the Mother's Day weekend in a psychiatric ward...What stands between the parent and the child's well-being are two vast thickets of legal undergrowth: FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and the better-known HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

A sobering read for those of us with college age, or approaching college age, kids.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Pythagorean, 4/13/2009

One of the things that I like to do during the baseball season is compile a weekly report of the AL standings, looking at runs scored and allowed, to see who's better than their records and who's worse.

For those unfamiliar, the Pythagorean report is based on a Bill James discovery regarding the relationship between runs scored, runs allowed and winning percentage. It intuitively makes sense that a teams record will be related to how many runs they score and how many they allow. What James discovered was that, for almost all teams, the winning percentage is very close to a ratio of the square of the runs scored to the sum of the squares of the runs scored and runs allowed. Which was dubbed the "Pythagorean" theorum of baseball.

The report consists of, for each team, their runs/game, runs allowed/game and Pythagorean project winning percentage, along with their rank among the teams in the league for each of those categories. The Pythagorean winning percentage is calculated as (r ^ 1.83) / ( (r ^ 1.83) + (ra ^ 1.83) ). (1.83 has been determined to be a slightly more accurate exponent with the current offensive levels than 2.) Using the Pythagorean winning percentage, the expected wins total is calculated and compared to the actual win total. Finally, any difference is expressed as "luck", with negative numbers representing underperforming teams.

Finally, there's a linear projection of final records, based on current winning percentage, and based on Pythagorean winning percentage.



I'm honestly not certain whether the stupidest conversation I heard this week came on Friday morning and dealt with whether or not the Texas Rangers "are for real because of that awesome offense,"1 or Saturday morning and dealt with the need to re-tool the Red Sox offense. I understand that the oxygen of talk radio is the short-term situation of the world, but this is just insane.

That said, obviously the Red Sox had a poor week. The starting pitching, which should be a strength, was aggressively mediocre, with a good start from Beckett on opening day and a lot of "eh," or worse, afterwards. Nobody got totally bombed, but nobody put up a stellar game, either. Lester and Matsuzaka were each disappointing in their opening efforts, Wakefield was Wakefield, and Penny was decent.

The big problem, though, was the bats. The high point of the week was five runs, and they did it just twice (not coincidentally, in their two wins.) While the starters were mediocre, they'd have to be outstanding to put together a record much better than their 2-4, given what the offense was doing. More than two thirds of the offense was putrid, as Lowrie, Drew, Lowell, Pedroia, Ellsbury, Varitek and Ortiz combined to hit 0.175/.252/.329/.581. Youkilis was outstanding and Bay pretty good, but there was pretty much no one on base for either of them2.

But it's one week. Anyone can hit anything for a month, so what can happen during a week? Anything. The fact that it's the first week seriously skews perception, because anything before last month has receded from people's memories into the mists of time. We know - not think, know - that this Boston team is filled with good hitters. We know - not think, know - that Dustin Pedroia is not going to hit .167/.259/.375/.634 for the year. We know - not think, know - that, absent absurd injury issues, this Boston team is not going to be limited to 3.67 runs per game. Given all of that, the idea that one rotten week requires panic and retooling is idiotic, or worse.

I know that it's a limited group reacting this way. And some might even call this a straw man argument, but it's not - it's a real response to real comments and discussion that I heard. I know this - I predicted this team to win 97 games in 2009, and nothing that happened last week changes that opinion.

Star of the Week: - Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis was the one member of the offense that started the year on fire, hitting .522/.577/.739/1.316, and almost single-handedly responsible for creating 8 of the team's 22 runs.

Goat of the Week: - So many possible choices, but we have to go with Jed Lowrie, who not only had seven more strikeouts than hits on the week (8 vs. 1), he struck out with the bases loaded in the 8th inning of close losses on consecutive days, killing potential game-tying or game-winning rallies.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/13/2009
ProjectedActual

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

Seattle4.57(8)3.14(1)0.665(1)52520

Toronto6.57(1)5(10)0.622(2)43521

New York5.83(4)4.5(7)0.617(3)4233-1

Chicago4(10)3.17(2)0.605(4)4233-1

Detroit5.86(3)4.71(8)0.598(5)43430

Tampa Bay4.83(7)4(4)0.586(6)4233-1

Los Angeles4.33(9)4(4)0.537(7)33330

Texas6.33(2)6.5(13)0.488(8)33330

Baltimore5.5(5)6(12)0.46(9)33421

Oakland3.5(13)4.17(6)0.421(10)3324-1

Boston3.67(12)4.83(9)0.376(11)24240

Kansas City2.33(14)3.17(2)0.364(12)24331

Minnesota3.71(11)5.29(11)0.344(13)25341

Cleveland5.5(5)8.5(14)0.311(14)2415-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Seattle11646

Toronto11646

Baltimore10854

Detroit9369

New York8181




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Seattle10854

Toronto10161

New York9963

Chicago9765

Detroit9765




1 - The Rangers proceeded to score 9 runs in getting swept in three games in Detroit. I suspect that there's less of the "are the Rangers for real" discussion taking place today.

2 - Youkilis and Bay combined to hit .425/.540/.775/1.315 and (using Bill James Runs Created model) create 15 runs. The rest of the team combined to hit .196/.269/.335/.604 and create 12 runs. You're not going to win many games that way.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is risen

Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas.

Et ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris.

Et interum venturus est cum gloria,

judicare vivos et mortuos,

cujus regni non erit finis.

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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Of course it's a moral issue...

Ramesh Ponnuru has an op-ed in the New York Times addressing the issue of universal health care. In response, he recieved a note from a Ph. D. who has "been in health care service and policy for forty years" and disagrees with Ponnuru's take ("the goal should not be universal coverage"). In the course of that disagreement, he says that:
Health care is, firstly, an issue of principle. Firstly, health care is a moral not a financial issue. That is were you on the right miss the soul train every time. A fully (and free of personal cost) healthy populace; a fully (and free of personal cost) education system is the only way to assure the base platform for a vibrant democracy.

Dear sir,

I fear that this comment indicates your failure to understand the conservative position on this issue. Of course health care is a moral issue. There may be some conservatives opposed to universal health care on "financial" grounds - that is, they oppose it on the grounds that it would cost the government too much money, but would support it they believed it would cost less. But I don't believe that represents anything like a majority position. I know that I oppose it, not because it would cost too much money, but because it would require an immoral transfer of the fruits of labor from one group to another.

Health care is provided by some people, who have invested their time, energy and financial resources into becoming doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical researchers, phlebotomists, paramedics, or one of dozens of other specialized occupations. Those people then provide the fruits of their labors to others. Those others have the right to buy medical services, but they have no right whatsoever to have those services provided "free of personal cost." It is immoral to say that any person or group of persons has a right to have those goods and services provided to them.

So it is a moral issue. As is everything that a government does. Every line in a government budget is a moral statement. Whenever the government spends a cent on any activity, product or service, it is saying that it has the moral authority to take, by force if necessary, from its citizens in order to provide that activity, product or service. Whether that means buying guns, planes, food, dams, roads, housing or health care, it is a moral statement about the legitimate authority of the government.

Obviously, reasonable people can reasonably differ about what the correct moral take on the health care issue is. But to state that conservatives do not recognize that this is a moral issue is to reveal a lack of understanding of the conservative position.

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Raising US prestige

President Obama: Winning new respect for the United States in Europe...
Watch out, France and Co, there is a new surrender monkey on the block and, over the next four years, he will spectacularly sell out the interests of the West with every kind of liberal-delusionist initiative on nuclear disarmament and sitting down to negotiate with any power freak who wants to buy time to get a good ICBM fix on San Francisco, or wherever. If you thought the world was a tad unsafe with Dubya around, just wait until President Pantywaist gets into his stride.

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

MLB. DUI.

A connected set of stories, offered without comment.

One:
Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain was arrested early Saturday morning in Nebraska for driving under the influence of alcohol, the state patrol said.


Two:
Angels rookie Nick Adenhart scattered seven hits over six scoreless innings and escaped a pair of bases-loaded jams. He struck out five and walked three in his fourth major league start..."I battled early and it felt good to get out of some jams," Adenhart said. "The first time I came in on Suzuki with a fastball and jammed him pretty good. The second time it was just a fastball down and away that I got him to roll over on."


Three:
Nick Adenhart was a passenger in a silver Mitsubishi Eclipse that was broadsided in an intersection about 12:30 a.m. by a minivan that apparently ran a red light, police said...The minivan driver fled the crash on foot and was captured about 30 minutes later. Police identified him ...and said he had a suspended license because of a previous drunken driving conviction. Preliminary results indicated Gallo's blood-alcohol level was "substantially over the legal limit" of .08 percent, police Lt. Kevin Hamilton said.


Four:

N.Y. Yankees
Kansas City
NYY: Chamberlain (0-0, 0.00)
KC: Meche (0-0, 1.29)


OK. One comment.

It's pretty easy to imagine that Major League Baseball will honor Adenhart, maybe with some patch which his name or number that everyone will wear. And if they do that, Joba Chamberlain will take the mound with it on.

And that is sickening.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

20 years later

In 1989, the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Time Magazine and Newsweek (and, I'm sure, others) all reported that Vice President Dan Quayle, on returning from an international diplomatic mission, had stated that he regretted that he hadn't studied Latin in high school, so as to be able to communicate better with people in the Latin American countries he had visited. Quayle, of course, had said no such thing. It started as a joke told by a Republican Congresswoman, and made it into the media because it was "too good to check," and it fit the media template. Now, 20 years later, a google search of "quayle" and "latin" produces hundreds of links to lists of Quayle quotes, all presenting the joke as evidence of Quayle's intellectual inferiority.

In 2009, President Barack Obama, speaking to reporters in press conference in Strasbourg, France, said:
It was also interesting to see that political interaction in Europe is not that different from the United States Senate. There's a lot of -- I don't know what the term is in Austrian -- wheeling and dealing -- and, you know, people are pursuing their interests, and everybody has their own particular issues and their own particular politics.

There is, of course, no "Austrian" language. In Austria, they speak German. Or French. Or Italian or English.

I suspect that the Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Time Magazine and Newsweek will all manage to cover Obama's European trip without mentioning that. Just as they made it through the campaign without noticing his visits to all 57 states. Or when he noted that 10,000 people were killed during Kansas tornadoes (actual death toll: 12). Or when he claimed that the Afghanistan war effort was being hampered because all of the arabic translators were in Iraq. And more than a few other gaffes. Because the media storyline is that Obama is cool, calm, collected and brilliant.

The media has a storyline. The media has chosen sides. The evidence is overwhelming, undeniable, and piling up higher every day. It's boring to keep talking about it, but sometimes there seem to be compelling reasons. The 20 year gap, the fact that the "gaffe" is related to a language name, the "joke" being covered while the "gaffe" gets ignored - this one just screams out to be noted.

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MLB predictions - the "wisdom of crowds" approach

For easy reference, a gather list of MLB predictions from various baseball pundits..



Gathered list of pundit predictions
SourcePunditAL EastAL CentralAL WestAL Wild CardNL EastNL CentralNL WestNL WC

ESPNKeith LawBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesSt. Louis

MLB NetworkAl LeiterNY YankeesMinnesotaLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

MLB NetworkDan PlesacBostonKansas CityLAnaheimNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoArizonaNY Mets

MLB NetworkMitch WilliamsNY YankeesDetroitLAnaheimBostonPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

MLB NetworkJoe MagraneTampaClevelandLAnaheimBostonPhiladelphiaChicagoArizonaAtlanta

MLB NetworkTom VerducciNY YankeesMinnesotaLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

MLB NetworkJohn HartBostonClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesSan Francisco

MLB NetworkHarold ReynoldsNY YankeesChicagoLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesArizona

MLB NetworkSean CaseyBostonClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesSt. Louis

MLB NetworkBarry LarkinNY YankeesClevelandLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Sports IllustratedStaffNY YankeesMinnesotaLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comTom VerducciNY YankeesMinnesotaLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comJon HeymanBostonMinnesotaLAnaheimNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoArizonaNY Mets

CNNSI.comTed KeithNY YankeesClevelandLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comJoe Posnanski TampaClevelandLAnaheimBostonNY MetsSt. LouisLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comGennaro Filice BostonMinnesotaLAnaheimNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoArizonaNY Mets

CNNSI.comCliff Corcoran BostonChicagoLAnaheimNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoArizonaNY Mets

CNNSI.comBen Reiter BostonMinnesotaLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comDavid Sabino TampaMinnesotaLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comJoe Lemire BostonChicagoLAnaheimNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

CNNSI.comAlbert Chen BostonDetroitOaklandTampaNY MetsChicagoArizonaLos Angeles

CNNSI.comLee Jenkins NY YankeesMinnesotaLAnaheimClevelandNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comMelissa Segura NY YankeesChicagoLAnaheimTampaNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CNNSI.comJonah Freedman TampaClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

CBS Sportsline.comScott MillerBostonClevelandLAnaheimTampaPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

CBS Sportsline.comDanny KnoblerBostonDetroitLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoArizonaLos Angeles

CBS Sportsline.comEric MackBostonClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoArizonaNY Mets

CBS Sportsline.comAdriane RosenBostonClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoArizonaPhiladelphia

Baseball ProspectusWilliam BurkeNY YankeesClevelandTexasBostonNY MetsSt. LouisLos AngelesChicago

Baseball ProspectusWill CarrollBostonChicagoOaklandNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoArizonaMilwaukee

Baseball ProspectusClay DavenportBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Baseball ProspectusSteve GoldmanBostonClevelandOaklandTampaNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Baseball ProspectusKevin GoldsteinNY YankeesClevelandLAnaheimBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Baseball ProspectusGary HuckabayBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Baseball ProspectusJay JaffeTampaClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Baseball ProspectusChristina KahrlBostonChicagoLAnaheimTampaNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Baseball ProspectusDavid LaurilaTampaClevelandTexasBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Baseball ProspectusMarc NormandinBostonClevelandLAnaheimTampaNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Baseball ProspectusJohn PerrottoBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

Baseball ProspectusJoe SheehanBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

LyfLinesLyford BeverageBostonMinnesotaOaklandNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Hardball TimesStaff picksBostonClevelandLAnaheimNY YankeesNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Beyond the Box ScoreR.J. AndersonBostonClevelandOaklandTampaNY MetsChicagoArizonaAtlanta

Beyond the Box ScoreGraham GoldbeckBostonMinnesotaOaklandTampaNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Beyond the Box ScoreSky KalkmanBostonClevelandOaklandTampaNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesAtlanta

Beyond the Box ScoreErik ManningBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

Beyond the Box ScoreHarry PavlidisNY YankeesClevelandOaklandBostonNY MetsChicagoLos AngelesPhiladelphia

Beyond the Box ScoreDan TurkenkopfBostonClevelandOaklandNY YankeesPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

Baseball MusingsDavid PintoNY YankeesClevelandLAnaheimBostonPhiladelphiaChicagoLos AngelesNY Mets

CNNSI.comPeter KingNY YankeesClevelandLAnaheimTampaPhiladelphiaSt. LouisLos AngelesArizona





"Consensus"
AL EastAL CentralAL WestNL WCNL EastNL CentralNL WestNL WC

Boston (29)Cleveland (28)LAnaheim (32)NY Yankees (23)NY Mets (36)Chicago (47)Los Angeles (38)Philadelphia (19)

NY Yankees (14)Minnesota (11)Oakland (15)Boston (16)Philadelphia (13)St. Louis (2)Arizona (11)NY Mets (12)

Tampa (6)Chicago (6)Texas (2)Tampa (9)Florida (0)Milwaukee (0)Colorado (0)Atlanta (10)

Baltimore (0)Detroit (3)Seattle (0)Cleveland (1)Washington (0)Houston (0)San Diego (0)St. Louis (2)

Toronto (0)Kansas City (1) Atlanta (0)Pittsburgh (0)San Francisco (0)Los Angeles (2)

Cincinnati (0)Arizona (1)

San Francisco (1)

Milwaukee (1)

Chicago (1)


Most picked to win division: Chicago Cubs
Most predicted division winners: AL Central, where all five teams are being picked by someone.
Teams that no one picks to make the playoffs: Ten (Baltimore, Toronto, Seattle, Florida, Washington, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Colorado, San Diego)
Division most picked to win Wild Card: AL East - 48 of 49 expected the AL Wild Card to come out of the East.

UPDATE: (4/7 - Added Peter King, now up to 50)

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Sunday, April 05, 2009

MLB predictions

OK, so I'm 49 minutes late with this, as Atlanta are now (presumably) in the 3rd inning. But I have finished compiling my super-secret formula, super-scientific recipe (hint - there's a lot of hand-waving and regression to the mean involved), and here are my predictions for the upcoming MLB season.



Lyford's MLB Preseason Projections
AL EASTRRA%WL

Boston853666.6119963

NY Yankees813676.5839468

Tampa Bay797684.5699270

Toronto721671.5338676

Baltimore798826.4847785

AL CENTRAL

Minnesota821745.5448874

Chicago Sox803736.5408775

Cleveland845776.5398775

Detroit846823.5138379

Kansas City719773.4677686

AL WEST

Oakland685656.5208478

LA Angels734711.5158379

Texas874957.4587488

Seattle664811.4106696


NL EAST

NY Mets815694.5739369

Philadelphia791680.5699270

Atlanta753747.5048280

Florida755790.4797686

Washington628850.36560102

NL CENTRAL

Chicago Cubs812684.5789468

St. Louis771732.5248577

Milwaukee713717.4978181

Houston698758.4627587

Pittsburgh750875.4307092

Cincinnati676792.4286993

NL WEST

LA Dodgers728680.5318676

Arizona698727.4827884

Colorado740814.4567488

San Francisco646736.4417191

San Diego637764.4186894


AL East - Boston
AL Central - Minnesota
AL West - Oakland
AL Wild Card - NY Yankees

NL East - NY Mets
NL Central - Cubs
NL West - LA Dodgers
NL Wild Card - Philadelphia

Best Division: AL East. Without a doubt. Three of the best five or six teams in the game are battling it out here, and one of them won't make the playoffs.

Closest Division: AL Central. Any one of the five teams could finish first, any one of the five teams could finish last.



Play Ball!

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Give it a rest, already

One of Chris Lynch's pet peeves is also one of mine. Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is doing the obligatory "as good liberals, we yearn for a color-blind society, and we'll get there by obsessing over race whenever possible" yearly MLB African-American count. (Because there's nothing condescending or humiliating about going out to count them, like environmentalists keeping track of the endangered Siberian tiger or Northern Spotted Owl.)
By our count, there will be 73 African-American major leaguers on Opening Day - about 9 percent of rosters. The breakdown:

Seven - Los Angeles Dodgers...

Five - Los Angeles Angels...

Four - [6 teams]

Three - [4 teams]

Two - [8 teams]

One - [9 teams]

None: Boston.

Ramon Ramirez
None: Boston
Manny Delcarmen
None: Boston
David Ortiz

I've said this before (more than once) - I'll say it again. There is no useful definition of the term "African-American" which does not include David Ortiz. Or Ramon Ramirez. Or Manny Delcarmen.

Remember, the ostensible purpose for counts like this is that in the past, there were problems with racial discrimination, which prevented players with dark skin from being allowed to play in the game. Remember that "African-American" is used to refer to Americans of African ancestry with dark skin, because the terms "black" and "negro" are now considered offensive. So in order for that "None: Boston" to be true, you can't talk about "African-Americans" - you need to talk about "African-Americans whose African ancestors didn't arrive in the Carribean or Latin America, African-Americans who were born in the continental United States AND don't have some variant of Spanish as their first language."

Does that sound particularly enlightening or important or interesting to anyone? Because it sure doesn't to me. Does anyone want make the case that African-Americans trying to play Major League Baseball in 2009 face any kind of inherent racism or prejudice that hampers their ability to get a level playing field? Seriously, are there any teams anywhere choosing "white players" because they're white, or rejecting "black players" because they're black? Of course not - teams are looking for the best players whenever and wherever they can. This is pointless and offensive, racial profiling simply for the sake of racial profiling.

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

"waited for about an hour..."

If this is accurate, then what, exactly, is the point of calling 911?
The attack came just after 10 a.m. at the American Civic Association, an organization that helps immigrants settle in this country...One receptionist was killed, while the other, shot in the abdomen, pretended to be dead and then crawled under a desk and called 911, he said.

Police said they arrived within two minutes.

...

Police heard no gunfire after they arrived but waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They then spent two hours searching the building.

Seriously. That can't be right, can it?

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Whining one's way out of town...

So Jay Cutler managed to whine (or sulk) his way out of Denver.
Cutler was ticked when the Broncos tried and failed to acquire Matt Cassel Feb. 26, and for some reason -- ego, pride, immaturity, or maybe all of the above -- he couldn't get over it.

Yeah, well, Jay Cutler is far more impressed with Jay Cutler than I am. Maybe he'll be a great QB some day, but I'd be hesitant to hang my franchise's fortunes on him.


Q: What do all NFL playoff teams in history have in common?
A: A starting Quarterback whose name is not Jay Cutler.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009

A comment on the tragedy in Oakland

If you had intentionally set out to destroy the black community, you couldn't have done it any more efficiently and effectively than the liberal social policies of the last 40 years have done it...
(Sadly, but predictably, there wasn’t a father anywhere to be seen.) If you stood in front of the home where this occurred and proceeded to walk in any direction, you wouldn’t get two blocks before you reached a spot where one young black man had been shot by another in the last year; yet all these women could do was rail about how the police harass their sons.

It may be a cliche to say that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," but where has the road paved with support for unwed mothers, unpunished juvenile crimes, non-demanding schools and "second chances" led, if not to hell on earth?

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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Global warming post of the day

Cato Institute: Mr. President, your characterization of the scientific facts
regarding climate change and the degree of certainty informing the scientific debate is simply incorrect.

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The “Great Recession” as the Institutional and Ideological Residue of the Great Depression

Economist Steven Horwitz gave a talk on The “Great Recession” as the Institutional and Ideological Residue of the Great Depression at Georgia State last month, and it is excellent. I recommend reading all of it. There are a couple of quick excerpts that give a flavor:
Let me say a quick word about what didn’t cause this mess. Those who wish to blame greed for the crisis need to explain how and why it is that greed seems to causes crises only at specific times, despite the fact that it is omnipresent as a feature of human nature and market economies. As the economist Larry White has noted, if we saw a bunch of planes crash all on the same day, we wouldn’t blame gravity. It’s always there. Something else must be at work. I would argue that the key is the set of institutions through which greed or self-interest is channeled. That is, good institutions can cause self-interest to generate desirable unintended consequences, and bad ones can cause undesirable ones. So perhaps we should be looking at institutions and policy.

Those who wish to blame deregulation or the supposed “laissez-faire” philosophy of the Bush Administration are going to have to identify the deregulation in question, which will be a challenge given that the last deregulatory legislation in the financial industry was in 1999 under Clinton. These folks will also have to explain how the enormous growth in the Federal Register and domestic spending over Bush’s two terms reconciles with his supposed belief in laissez-faire. Answer: it doesn’t.
...
The response by both the Bush and Obama Administrations over the last six months or so has been a series of government programs, few of which seem to have been very helpful. Let me start this discussion with a challenge laid down by economist Bryan Caplan: “Suppose for the last six months both administrations had responded to the crisis by adopting a strong laissez-faire position. On 9/3/08, the Dow stood at 11,533. Monday it was around 7300. Unemployment has gone up by 2 percentage points. Does anyone think that laissez-faire as a policy would not have been absolutely savaged by the media and others given the economy’s performance since then? If not, then why haven’t we rejected the activism as vigorously, given that performance?”
...
What we are living through today is a recession whose causes are significantly the unintended result of institutional changes made during the Great Depression and whose proposed solutions reflect the same failed understanding of the causes that motivated Great Depression “solutions” that largely ended up doing more harm than good. History is indeed repeating itself, and not in a good way.

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Gift Exchange II

When reading this from Jonah Goldberg, keep the date in mind. And go read the whole thing...
Diplomatic jaws dropped across the continent yesterday when it was revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama had, once again, fumbled a routine protocal of international statecraft: finding the right gift for a foreign leader or head of state...Mr. Obama rather unceremoniously handed the Queen a shopping bag from the Duty Free shop at Heathrow airport. It contained a signed paperback copy of Dreams of My Father, purchased at the WH Smith shop at the airport, a bottle of Johnny Walker Scotch (black label), a CD of the Swedish band ABBA's greatest hits (still in shrink wrap with a 2-for-1 sticker on it) and ten bags of M&Ms with the presidential seal on them.

Almost believable...

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The Death of England and the Abolition of Man

It's been said that "when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." I'd like not to think that C.S. Lewis is a hammer that I need to go to for any discussion of public policy. But he was a brilliant writer and moral philosopher, and there is much of what he had to say that was relevant, sometimes in startling ways, to the world in which we live.

Over in the Corner, Jay Nordlinger and Mark Steyn are lamenting, again, the death of England. This time, the context is a fire in the town of Doncaster in which a family perished, plausibly because the police on the scene felt that their duty was to prevent neighbors from trying to help, rather than to help themselves. The inimitable Steyn went on to decry the way that
the emergency responders who are supposed to save you (or at least make an attempt) instead wind up killing you - because a rote prostration before rule enforcement trumps their basic humanity. In recent years, the British police have evolved from being merely useless (at least when it comes to traditional activities such as solving crime) into what John O'Sullivan calls "the paramilitary wing of The Guardian" - the blundering enforcers of the nanny state.

And finishes by noting that
New Hampshire's great motto, "Live free or die", is not just a bit of bloodcurdling stemwinding but a real choice that Britons, Canadians and, alas, Americans ought to ponder: You can live as free men, with all the rights and responsibilities and vicissitudes of fate that that entails. Or you can watch your society decay and die before your eyes - as England, once the crucible of freedom, dies a little with every day.


In 1942, Alec King and Martin Ketley published "The Control of Language: A Critical Approach to Reading and Writing." This was a text book, "intended for 'boys and girls in the upper forms of schools'." One of the people to whom publishers sent a copy was C.S. Lewis. Lewis took issue with the book. "I owe them, or their publisher, good language for sending me a complimentary copy. At the same time I shall have nothing good to say of them." He used the contents of the book as the jumping-off point for a series of three lectures, the Riddell Memorial Lectures, which he delivered at the University of Durham in February of 1943. The content was later published as The Abolition of Man.

In the lectures, Lewis addresses the ways in which the textbook, which he refers to as "The Green Book," teaches not so much literary analysis as moral philosophy. He gives the authors the benefit of the doubt on their intentions ("I doubt whether Gaius and Titius have really planned, under cover of teaching English, to propagate their philosophy") but not on the impact:
I am not concerned with what they desired but with the effect their book will certainly have on the schoolboy's mind. In the same way, they have not said that judgements of value are unimportant. Their words are that we 'appear to be saying something very important' when in reality we are 'only saying something about our own feelings'. No schoolboy will be able to resist the suggestion brought to bear upon him by that word only. I do not mean, of course, that he will make any conscious inference from what he reads to a general philosophical theory that all values are subjective and trivial. The very power of Gaius and Titius depends on the fact that they are dealing with a boy: a boy who thinks he is 'doing' his 'English prep' and has no notion that ethics, theology, and politics are all at stake. It is not a theory they put into his mind, but an assumption, which ten years hence, its origin forgotten and its presence unconscious, will condition him to take one side in a controversy which he has never recognized as a controversy at all. The authors themselves, I suspect, hardly know what they are doing to the boy, and he cannot know what is being done to him.
...
They may be perfectly ready to admit that a good education should build some sentiments while destroying others. They may endeavour to do so. But it is impossible that they should succeed. Do what they will, it is the 'debunking' side of their work, and this side alone, which will really tell.


The lectures then move into moral philosophy, and a discussion of whether or not there are objective truths, objective values in the universe. The authors of the book, whether intentionally or not, are in the business of "debunking" traditional values. But "their scepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people's values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly sceptical enough." They are "found to hold, with complete uncritical dogmatism, the whole system of values which happened to be in vogue among moderately educated young men of the professional classes during the period between the two wars."1 He sums up their values in the notes by saying that
It will be seen that comfort and security, as known to a suburban street in peace-time, are the ultimate values: those things which can alone produce or spiritualize comfort and security are mocked. Man lives by bread alone, and the ultimate source of bread is the baker's van: peace matters more than honour and can be preserved by jeering at colonels and reading newspapers.

With that as background, I can now get back to where I started. When Steyn and Nordlinger (and others) lament the "death of England," they aren't talking in geographical terms, or even (yet) in political or National terms. They are speaking in spiritual terms. They are speaking of a society that has reached a point where the attributes which made it a great society have withered or been bred away. Is this England the one upon which the sun never set? Is this the society that produced Shakespeare or Wellington or Shackleton? Which colonized the new world and Australia and India? The answer, obviously, is "no." A society may last for a while even if unwilling to respond to all assaults upon it; it cannot survive if unwilling to respond to any assaults upon it. And if "peace" is the highest moral value, one must accommodate rather than respond.

And now, to quote C.S. Lewis, from the first line of the second of the Riddell Lectures that make up The Abolition of Man, demonstrating prescience and foresight of the highest order:
The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.

Is there any question that facts have proven Lewis correct?

And, unfortunately, I see the same things happening around me in the United States. And that train is rolling a lot faster than I'd dreamed possible two years ago...

1 - If that sounds familiar, consider all of the people who look upon traditional marriage as a bigoted or outdated institution, but have no conception or understanding of any reason that one might oppose government recognition of homosexual marriages. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

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