Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Should the NFL do away with its blackout rules?

I want to address something that's printed in Peter King's mail bag this week. A reader writes to comment about the blackout in Detrot, how most Lions fans didn't see the game, and there's been no media comment on this.

There's one problem with your case, which I agree is compelling and I have much empathy with: Once you let the genie out of the bottle, how are you going to put it back in?

Don't. Just don't.

If unemployment in Detroit is 29 percent this year and you show the games locally, there are two problems. If it's still 29 percent next year, how do you black out the games again, and how do you sell tickets to a struggling fan base when the fans know the games are going to be on local TV?

How do you sell them when the fans know the games aren't going to be on local TV? How do you sell tickets to an NFL game, period? You sell the experience. Watching a football game from the comfort of your den is a substantially different experience from sitting in the crowd, sitting within earshot of the action of the field. They are different enough experiences as to hardly qualify, from an economic standpoint, as substitute products.

And let's look at it one different way. Let's say you're an NFL fan in Detroit, but you can't justify spending money on tickets. If the NFL is blacking out home games, you're going to see eight Lions games, tops. You might see ten or eleven games of the Vikings or the Giants or the Cowboys. Why wouldn't you be a fan of one of those teams instead of the Lions? A significant percentage of a fan-base develops affection for a team because that's the team they get to see. Don't the blackout rules result in a "lost generation" for a team that needs support?

According to the box score, there were 40,896 fans in attendance at the Lions game in week 3. How many fewer would have had to attend for the loss in game-day revenue to exceed the loss from a decline in long-term fan interest resulting from inability to consistently see the games? More importantly, how many fewer would have attended if the game were available on local television? Again, while the product - a Detroit Lions National Football League game - is the same, the experiences are completely different.

I don't know what the ticket prices are in Detroit, but it seems to me that one of two things must be true - either they're low enough so that the impact on revenues of a local broadcast of a non-sold out game wouldn't be a significant percentage of revenues, or they're high enough so that relatively few would opt to spend the money just because of the absence of a local broadcast. People who feel that the game experience justify the cost are going to go, whether it's on locally or not. And people who don't feel that way but want to watch the NFL will stay home and watch the game that's on instead of ponying up for the tickets, parking, concessions, etc.

I'm sure that the NFL has analyses on this issue that justify their position. And I can understand the owner's fear of broadcasts killing the live gate (though Major League Baseball, the NFL and NBA all seem to survive without sellout-blackout rules). But I'm skeptical that the blackout rules are actually benefitting the teams.

And then what do you do in Jacksonville if unemployment continues to creep up? How does Wayne Weaver feel -- or understand -- when the league is allowing one franchise to show the games locally when you can't? It's a tremendously difficult problem with no easy solution.

Sure there is - get rid of the blackout rule. Take the long-term view and sell the product rather than preventing those most interested in seeing it from being able to.

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Red Sox Clinch! (was Red Sox Magic Number)

UPDATED and BUMPED

9/29 - 0 - The Red Sox lose again, giving up four runs in the first again, a late comeback falling short again, their fifth consecutive loss and seventh in nine games. None of which really matters as the Rangers fall 5-2 in LAnaheim, eliminating them from the post-season.

I've never been a fan of the expression "backing in to the playoffs" and that's not what Boston did. They won enough games early that the games late were less important, and they've been playing in "get everyone appropriate rest and lined up for the playoffs" more for a week. But it would have been nice if they'd earned themselves a celebration with a win rather than having their fans find out the next morning after another west coast Texas loss. In the last nine days, the magic number dropped from 7 to 0. It dropped by 2 on Red Sox wins and by 5 on Rangers losses.

Again, none of that matters anymore. The Red Sox will open in LAnaheim on Wednesday or Thursday of next week, hoping to earn a match-up with the winner of the New York-AL Central series. And congratulations are due to Theo Epstein, Terry Francona and the rest of the organization as they make their third consecutive trip to the post-season and sixth in seven years.


Older Entries

9/28 - 1 - The Red Sox are dormie. They're six up with six to play, guaranteed to get at least a 163rd game this season. One win, or Texas loss, and they clinch the AL Wild Card. This happened when Boston and Texas both lost on Monday. The Red Sox threw an emergency starter in place of a stiff-backed Josh Beckett, and it didn't go well, then the rains washed away their comeback attempt. The Rangers got blown out in LAnaheim.
Tuesday's games:
Toronto (Romero) at Boston (Buchholz)
Texas (Feldman) at LAnaheim (Kazmir)

9/27 - 2 - The Red Sox continue failing to score in New York, being swept by the Yankees while scoring only 7 runs in the three games. But they get a huge assist from the Rays, who score 3 runs in the 8th and 4 in the 9th to beat Texas 7-6. This keeps the Wild Card lead at 6 and drops the magic number to 2. One more win or Ranger loss guarantees the Red Sox at least a 163rd game - two has them starting a playoff series in LAnaheim in a week and a half.

The Yankees have clinched the AL East. The only relevant games remaining involve Boston and Texas. (Well, and Detroit and Minnesota, but those are really relevant to the Red Sox.)

Monday's games:
Toronto (Richmond) at Boston (Beckett)
Texas (Hunter) at LAnaheim (Santana)

Boston could clinch well after midnight eastern time, hours after finishing their game with Toronto, if they win and Texas loses in LAnaheim. If they're going to have a post-game champagne celebration, it'll have to be Tuesday, after a Boston loss or Texas win on Monday.

9/26 - 3 - For the second consecutive day, the Rangers win and the Red Sox lose. The Wild Card lead drops to 6, and the magic number remains at 3. This means that Boston's celebration for clinching a playoff berth will take place at home, as they play their last road game on Sunday.
Sunday's games:
Boston (Byrd) at New York (Pettitte)
Tampa Bay (Price) at Texas (McCarthy)

9/25 - 3 - Texas wins at home vs. Tampa, Boston loses in NY. The lead in the Wild Card drops to 7, the magic number stays at 3. But given where we are in the schedule, the only relevant information from Friday is that Jon Lester was hurt, and the only real impact will be felt if that prevents him from pitching, or being effective, going forward.
Saturday's games:
Boston (Matsuzaka) at New York (Sabathia)
Tampa Bay (Garza) at Texas (Millwood)

9/24 - 3 - Texas gets blown out in their last game in Oakland. The Wild Card lead bumps up to 7 1/2, the magic number drops to 4. Boston beats Kansas City 10-3 behind Clay Buchholz, and the lead goes to 8. The magic number drops to 3 with 10 games left. If the Rangers go 10-0 (they won't), the Red Sox need only go 3-7 to clinch. The Red Sox could clinch no worse than a tie (in golfing terminology, they'd be dormie) as early as Friday with a win in NY and a Texas loss.
Friday's games:
Boston (Lester) at NY Yankees (Chamberlain)
Tampa Bay (Shields) at Texas (Holland)

9/23 - 5 - Boston beats Kansas City. Texas beats Oakland. NY beats LAnaheim. The Red Sox lead in the Wild Card remains at 7 games with 11 to play, the magic number drops to 5. The Yankees lead in the East remains at 6 (5 in the loss column) and their magic number for clinching the East drops to 5.
Thursday:
Boston (Buchholz) at Kansas City (Davies)
Texas (Feldman) at Oakland (Anderson)
New York - off

9/22 - 6 - The Red Sox are shut down by Zach Greinke and lose their second straight in Kansas City. The Rangers fall to Oakland, so the Red Sox keep their 7 game lead, reducing the magic number by one to clinch. The dream of going into NY this weekend and tying the East is over, as the Yankees won in LAnaheim. This ensures that the NY lead entering the weekend will be at least 4 games in the loss column. That Monday night squander for the Sox in KC is going to sting for a couple of days.

9/21 - 7 - Opportunity squandered. The Rangers win in Oakland, so the Wild Card magic number doesn't drop. The Yankees lost in LAnaheim, so all the Red Sox had to do to control their own destiny for the division was hold on to the 9-2 lead they built up in Kansas over the first 4 1/2 innings. This they signally failed to do, losing 12-9 when the stellar bullpen collapsed upon itself. So the Yankees keep their 4-game LC lead in the East, and the Rangers get back to within 7 in the Wild Card race. And the magic numbers don't change.

9/20 - 7 - The Angels beat the Rangers 10-5, taking 2-of-3 in Texas and effectively finalizing three of the four AL playoff spots. Boston finishes off their three game sweep of the Orioles with a 9-3 win in Baltimore. The magic number for Boston to finish ahead of Texas drops by two to seven. Any combination of Red Sox wins and Ranger losses totaling seven guarantees that Boston finishes ahead of Texas.

The very interesting question right now is whether the Red Sox, who now go to Kansas City for four, and trail New York by five in the loss column, will have control of their own destiny when it comes to the AL East by the time they arrive in New York on Friday. While Boston plays four in KC, the Yankees will be playing four (one in Seattle which is underway as I write this and three in LAnaheim) on the west coast. If the Red Sox were to make up two games over the next four, they'd go in to NY down three in the loss column for a three game series. It's still unlikely that they win the division, but it isn't necessarily completely out of the realm of possibility as it looked just a couple of weeks ago.

9/19 - 9 - Texas comes back to beat LAnaheim, holding steady at 66 losses while giving the Angels their 60th. Boston beats Baltimore, clinging to an 11-5 lead, running their record to 88-59. With 15 games remaining, 9-6 is sufficient to guarantee a playoff spot.

As the Angels and Rangers have five remaining head-to-head, they are guaranteed to finish with at least 131 total losses. The best record that they can simultaneously get to is 96-66. Since the Rangers already have 66 losses, their magic number tonight is the same as their magic number vs. Texas.

9/18 - 10 - Boston beats Baltimore 3-1, dropping their magic number vs. the Rangers to 11 as their lead bumps back up to 7 in the loss column. Texas loses to LAnaheim 2-0, and the lead is 7. 10-6 gets Boston into the playoffs no matter what anyone else does, and they've got 13 left with Baltimore, Kansas City, Toronto and Cleveland. It's hard to look on this as anything but a formality at this point.

9/17 - 12 - Texas has the day off. Boston loses 4-3 to Anaheim. The magic number remains at 12, 11-6 becomes the record that guarantees a playoff berth.

9/16 - 12 - Texas' 4-0 loss to Oakland drops the Boston magic number vs. Texas to 13. Boston's 9-8, come-from-behind, little-bit-of-help-from-the-umps (not as much as the Angels think, because Green did check his swing, but ball four should have been strike 3) win over LAnaheim drops the magic number to 12. Any combination of Red Sox wins and Rangers losses totaling 12 eliminates Texas from the Wild Card.

But the magic number for Boston is actually a little bit lower. Texas could still win the west, finishing ahead of LAnaheim. In which case the competition for the Wild Card would be with the Angels. Boston's magic number vs. LAnaheim is 18.

Texas and LAnaheim have seven games left head-to-head. Given that they currently have 125 losses, and are guaranteed at least seven more, the best record that they can each reach simultaneously is 96-66. If Boston goes 11-7 in their last 18, they will finish at 97-65 and be guaranteed a playoff spot.

9/15 - 14 - Boston's 4-1 win over the LAnaheim Angels drops the magic number to 15. Texas' 6-1 loss to Oakland increases Boston's lead to 5 1/2 games, 6 in the loss column, and drops the magic number to 14. Any combination of Red Sox wins and Rangers losses totaling 14 eliminates Texas from the Wild Card.

9/14 - 16 - Boston has the day off. Texas loses to Oakland 9-0, increasing Boston's Wild Card lead to 4 1/2 games, 5 in the loss column. Boston's magic number is 16. Any combination of Boston wins and Texas losses totaling 16 results in Boston finishing ahead of Texas.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place"

The Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir, with the Park Street Strings and the Park Street Brass
September 20, 2009

How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place
Johannes Brahms
The German Requiem




How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
For my soul, it longeth, yea fainteth,
For the courts of the Lord.
My soul and body crieth out, yea for the living God.
How lovely is thy dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts!
Blest are they that dwell within thy house,
They praise thy name evermore.
How lovely is thy dwelling place!



From Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
O LORD Almighty!

2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.

3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
O LORD Almighty, my King and my God.

4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
Selah

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.

6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools. [b]

7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

8 Hear my prayer, O LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, O God of Jacob.
Selah

9 Look upon our shield, [c] O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

12 O LORD Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you.

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NFL Week 3 wrapup

Week 3 in the NFL...

  • The Patriots are not clicking yet, but they beat a pretty good Atlanta team by 16. They allowed the Falcons only 19 plays and less than 7 minutes of possession time in the second half. They've been extremely inefficient in the red zone, settling for field goals far too often. And certainly the defense has done nothing to create a feeling of dominance. But they've had massive time-of-possession advantages in two of their three games, and a small one in the third. I maintain my optimism for what they're going to be when it's all said and done, and my uncertainty as to when they're really going to present.


  • Congratulations to the Detroit Lions. It was a long, long time coming. Here's a prediction - the next one will come a lot quicker than this one did.


  • Note to NBC executives: The presence of Keith Olbermann drives many who would be interested in Football Night in America away from that program. Some of us don't make it back for the game. Whatever your ratings are, it is difficult for me to imagine that they wouldn't be higher without him.


  • In trouble:
    • Miami, 0-3. Their reign at the top of the AFC East was a short one.
    • Tennessee, 0-3. They lost three games out of 16 last year, matched that in 3 games this year. Already three games behind the Colts.
    • Washington, 1-2. They're already two games out in a division with three better teams, and there probably isn't a coach in football with a hotter seat than Jim Zorn's after they became the first team to fall to the Lions in nearly two calendar years.


  • Should have been in trouble: Denver. OK, their schedule has been, well, "weak" (to be charitable) thus far, but 3-0 is 3-0. 3-13 wouldn't have shocked me from this Bronco team. One suspects that Josh McDaniel has bought himself some credibility in that lockerroom.


  • I proclaimed the Ravens "scary" last week after their win in San Diego. I may rescind that. Yes, they've won three, two of them easily. But the Browns may be the worst team in football, and the Chiefs aren't much better. With the way that the Chargers have struggled against Oakland and Miami, that Baltimore win in week 2 may not have been what it looked like at the time.


  • Obvious pick: Giants over Tampa Bay, Packers over Rams


  • Obvious Pick which was dead wrong: Pittburgh over Cincinnati


  • Somewhere in this world, there's a man that picked Denver to start the season 3-0. I'd like to have him managing my stock portfolio.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and there's LOTS of it this week):

    Washington at Detroit - "This is it. The week that the Lions break the streak, upsetting the favored but inconsistent Redskins."

    NY Giants at Tampa Bay - "Yeah, whatever. I hate the Giants. I hated them long before 2007, but that certainly didn't help. Hate 'em or not, they're an order of magnitude better than the Buccaneers right now. This one is not competitive."

    San Francisco at Minnesota - "If Minnesota is what the consensus suggests they are, then I'm wrong here. Even if I'm right about the Vikings, it's asking a lot of the 49ers to go into the Metrodome and win. I suspect that they aren't quite good enough to do that. But I expect them to be in every game, to be tough and disciplined and hard to beat. So the Viking escape with this one by a field goal."

    Cleveland at Baltimore - "OK, the Ravens are officially scary. (So are the Browns, but pretty much only for Cleveland fans.)"


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Jacksonville at Houston - "The cards and letters continue to pour in from the Jaguar faithful1 that I'm underrating them. Here's your chance, Jaguars - I've called you bullies, weaklings, a faux NFL team (and it's only week 3!) - go ahead and prove me wrong."

    Tennessee at NY Jets - "The Jets, pretty full of themselves after almost living up to their week of lip-flapping by beating the Patriots (who played about as badly as they can, certainly worse than they will the next two times they meet), run into a Tennessee team that's already desperate and looking for a little revenge on last year's loss to NY. And the Titans get that revenge."


  • For the week:
    Winners: 12-4
    ATS: 12-4-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 32-16
    ATS: 26-22-0



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Idle thought

I wonder if the Red Sox are showcasing Clay Buchholz for the Blue Jays tonight...

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Are you a well-adjusted American? Take this quiz to find out!

Quiz - How well-adjusted are you to life in 21st century America?


Question 1: The democratically-elected President of a United States ally attempts, with the support of various Latin American Marxists dictators, to violate his country's Constitution and set himself up as a dictator. The Constitutional Authorities in that country legally remove him from office, and replace him. Everything is done according to the rule of law, in preparation for new elections. The United States should:

A) Support the people of Honduras and condemn the removed President for attempting to set up another Marxist dictatorship.

B) Join with the enemies of America in condemning the Supreme Court and the people of Honduras for following their laws and Constitution in attempting to maintain their constitutional Democratic Republic.



Question 2: The President of the United States gives a speech before a joint session of Congress during which he makes several false statements in an attempt to convince people to allow increased government intervention in the health care system. After one particularly blatant falsehood, a Congressman yells out, "You lie!" The correct reaction is:

A) It is particularly unhelpful and concerning that the President feels that he can repeatedly lie about situations, conditions and plans in order to increase the government's power.

B) How rude of that Congressman! Completely unacceptable!



Question 3: A group which has long been associated with the President of the United States, a group which is extremely partisan in nature yet collecting millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, is found, in a hidden camera investigation, to be giving tax advice to a "prostitute" in order to help her set up a brothel with underage girls smuggled illegally into the United States from Guatemala. The proper coverage in the media would consist of:

A) How is it that this group is getting taxpayer funding? What kind of training programs do they have for workers that interact with the public? If this is a case of a "few bad apples," how is that the undercover cameras found the same kind of advice in at least five different offices? Isn't this an example of a seriously corrupt organization?

B) Shouldn't we be concerned that the undercover journalist's father is a minister at a conservative Christian church, and a partisan opposed to the President?



Question 4: The United States has plans to put missile defense systems in former Soviet bloc countries which are now allies, and these countries want the systems. The Russians do not want the systems in place. The President of the United States should:

A) Maintain that the systems are defensive only, continue with their installations, and negotiate with the Russians in order to determine whether there are reasonable changes which could be made to the plan in return for reasonable Russian concessions.

B) Unilaterally stop the installations because the Russians don't want them, and maybe they'll help us out with something later.



Question 5: Some of your neighbors need to be at work before the bus arrives to pick up their children in the morning, but the woman who lives directly in front of the bus stop does not. She is happy to have two or three of the children wait in her house for 15-45 minutes before the bus comes. Your reaction:

A) What a good and helpful friend - it's refreshing to see that kind of neighborhood cooperation as people help one another out.

B) The state should step in and shut down this unauthorized, unregistered, non-tax-revenue-generating day care.



All finished? Good.

If you answered "B" to every question, congratulations! You are a perfectly adjusted subject of the United States of Obama American, circa 2009.

If you answered "A" to any question, you have problems. You are dangerously maladjusted to the current world, as you believe that the United States should promote the interests of the United States, or that residents should be able to help one another without government involvement, or that the President shouldn't be lying to the people, or that the media should be covering the important issues of the day. It may be necessary for re-education.

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Monday Pythagorean, 9/28/2009

Not a good week. 2-5 is never a good week. For all the talk a week ago about the Red Sox "peaking at the right time," well, they sure weren't "peaking" this week...

  • The magic number has continued to come down, and they could clinch as early as very, very early tomorrow morning, eastern time. The Rangers aren't going to win their last seven, nor are the Red Sox going to lose their last seven, so they'll be playing post-season ball, but one has to hope that they'll be playing better than they played this week.


  • Did they do a little bit of starting to rest players? Sure. If they were going all out to maximize their record, Wakefield and Byrd wouldn't both be in the rotation while Beckett, Lester and Buchholz were starting on five days rest. And I'll cut them a little bit of slack for Tuesday - Greinke is outstanding. Of course, he only went six innings, and they didn't do anything against the bullpen, either.


  • I hate to be feeling about them the way that I do right as they head into the post-season. And nothing that happens this week can change it, because a) they're playing bad teams b) at home. I have zero confidence in their ability to score runs against a good pitcher in a road game. They're averaging 5.9 runs per game at home and only 4.8 on the road. In 41% of their road games (33) they've scored three runs or fewer. In 53% of their road games (43) they've scored four runs or fewer. And the games in Baltimore are no longer relevant.


  • In their last seven games in NY, all losses, they've been shut out three times. In the other four, they've scored a total of 15 runs, fewer than four per game. They've didn't have a full lineup for any of those seven games, but it's a disturbing trend. And that's very likely where the season results are going to be determined.


  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Nothing very special going on this week. Probably the best performance was J.D. Drew who hit .429/.529/.500/1.029 while playing in five of the seven games.


  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Not Manny Delcarmen. Daisuke Matsuzaka gave up one run in seven, Clay Buchholz gave up no runs in 6 2/3. In the absence of a special bullpen performance, they'll share it.









AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/28/2009
ProjectedActual

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

New York5.66(1)4.64(6)0.59(1)9264100568

Boston5.34(3)4.45(2)0.583(2)906591641

Los Angeles5.49(2)4.81(11)0.56(3)876891644

Texas4.97(4)4.61(4)0.534(4)837285702

Tampa Bay4.94(5)4.67(7)0.526(5)81747976-2

Minnesota4.94(6)4.69(9)0.523(6)817481740

Toronto4.83(8)4.71(10)0.511(7)80767284-8

Oakland4.78(9)4.68(8)0.51(8)80767581-5

Detroit4.61(10)4.55(3)0.506(9)787783725

Chicago4.49(12)4.62(5)0.487(10)76807581-1

Cleveland4.88(7)5.36(13)0.458(11)71846491-7

Seattle3.95(14)4.35(1)0.456(12)718580769

Baltimore4.54(11)5.45(14)0.417(13)65906095-5

Kansas City4.27(13)5.15(12)0.415(14)65916492-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York10458

Boston9567

Los Angeles9567

Texas8973

Detroit8775




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York10458

Boston9567

Los Angeles9567

Texas8973

Detroit8775




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Toronto5.86(5)3.29(2)0.742(1)52611

Minnesota7.33(3)4.33(4)0.724(2)42511

Detroit6(4)4(3)0.677(3)42420

New York4.5(10)3.17(1)0.655(4)42511

Oakland7.71(1)5.71(9)0.634(5)43430

Texas7.43(2)6.43(10)0.566(6)43430

Cleveland5.17(6)5(6)0.515(7)33330

Boston5.14(7)5.43(7)0.475(8)3425-1

Los Angeles4.83(9)5.5(8)0.441(9)3324-1

Seattle3.5(13)4.5(5)0.387(10)24240

Kansas City5.14(7)7.14(12)0.354(11)25341

Chicago4.5(10)6.5(11)0.338(12)24240

Tampa Bay4.2(12)7.4(14)0.262(13)14231

Baltimore3.33(14)7.33(13)0.191(14)1506-1

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Our Bizarro President

This would explain so much!
Our active enemies and those countries that are merely passively hostile to us (North Korea, Iran, Castro, Venezuela, etc.) are the ones to whom we pay homage. Our cooling planet is a warming planet. The UN, one of the most corrupt organizations in the world, is the world’s only hope for peace. The way to cure the nation’s vast deficit is to incur more debt. Disarmament protects us. The only democratic nation in the Middle East is a Nazi country. Putting women in hijabs frees them. These are the values Bizarro World Superman/Obama has brought to us.

In other words, the world according to this alien being is a Bizarro World in which all principles, values and common sense are reversed. And just so you know this is absolutely true, I have it on good authority that the President’s real name, his Bizarro World name, is Amabo Niessuh Kcarab.

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"...the narcissism of a leader..."

Michael Gerson nails President Narcissistic Gasbag Obama:
Obama’s rhetorical method in international contexts -- given supreme expression at the United Nations this week -- is a moral dialectic. The thesis: pre-Obama America is a nation of many flaws and failures. The antithesis: The world responds with understandable but misguided prejudice. The synthesis: Me. Me, at all costs; me, in spite of all terrors; me, however long and hard the road may be. How great a world we all should see, if only all were more like…me.

Excellent analysis - read it all.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Death panels by proxy"

Some fascinating news from a Washington Times editorial:
on Pages 80-81 of the unamended Baucus bill, hidden amid a lot of similar legislative mumbo-jumbo about Medicare payments to doctors. The key sentence: "Beginning in 2015, payment would be reduced by five percent if an aggregation of the physician's resource use is at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization." Translated into plain English, it means that in any year in which a particular doctor's average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the feds will cut the doctor's payments by 5 percent.

What was it I was saying yesterday about details? Oh yeah, the devil is in the details. Well, that seems like a pretty significant detail. As the Times correctly notes,
The incentive, therefore, is for the doctor always to provide less care for his patients for fear of having his payments docked. And because no doctor will know who falls in the top 10 percent until year's end, or what total average costs will break the 10 percent threshold, the pressure will be intense to withhold care, and withhold care again, and then withhold it some more. Or at least to prescribe cheaper care, no matter how much less effective, in order to avoid the penalties.

Anyone want to guess as to whether that might make care better or worse?

Anyone want to argue that a committee or panel that decided on that policy doesn't qualify as a "death panel?"

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I like this..

My new all-time favorite Fox Sports graphic...



(That's the big one down in the bottom-middle, not the little one in the top-left...)

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Situational awareness

Instapundit with the LOL line of the week...
“Word on the street is that the Left, the ‘equal pay, pro-women’ left, is desperately searching for lewd photos of Hannah Giles.”

Of course they are. And if they found them that would totally discredit her . . . prostitute impersonation.

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Lester OK, apparently

Last night's Red Sox-Yankee game was a disaster, but the biggest concern wasn't Lester getting lit up - that happens, even to the best. It was Lester getting knocked down.

Apparently, according to all reports, he's going to be OK.

Which is good news. Because without Lester, the Red Sox' chances of winning the World Series, or any post-season series, drops precipitously.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Utilitarian opposition to Obamacare

Many of us are opposed to the prospect of the government taking over the Health Care system on philosophical grounds. But even those philosophically in favor have got to feel some skepticism on simple utilitarian grounds, don't they? It does not take long to accumulate a wealth of stories like this:
The U.S. government failed to send promised college tuition checks to tens of thousands of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars before they returned to school this fall, even after being warned that it was inadequately staffed for the job.

The Veterans Affairs Department blamed a backlog of claims filed for GI Bill education benefits that has left veterans who counted on the money for tuition and books scrambling to make ends meet.

Seriously - does the government do anything well enough to make you want them running your health care? Or even involved?

H/T Instapundit

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An appropriate Kennedy memorial - more screwing of the taxpayers

One of the memorable moments during the 2004 Presidential Campaign was Zell Miller's brilliant speech at the Republican Convention, as he eviscerated John Kerry's opposition to virtually every recent weapon system or military platorm, culminating in that unforgettable line, "US Forces armed with what? Spitballs?" (starts about 30 seconds into this video):


Well, John Kerry has found some "defense spending" of which he approves:
A large military spending bill moving through Congress contains a little-noticed outlay for Boston that has nothing to do with national defense: $20 million for an educational institute honoring late Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts.

The earmark, tucked into the defense bill at the request of Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, requires US taxpayers to help the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate realize its goal of building a repository for Kennedy’s papers and an accompanying civic learning center on the University of Massachusetts at Boston campus in Dorchester, next to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

...

Kerry strongly defended the insertion of the $20 million earmark yesterday. He requested that it be included in the $360 billion defense budget, he said, to recognize Kennedy’s long tenure on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

It seems like a hanging curve ball, but I confess that it leaves me speechless. How do you actually deconstruct or mock a statement as full of self-mocking arrogance and irony as that one? Ted Kennedy may have sat on the Armed Services Committee for years, but he did so while fighting against every expansion, improvement and use of the US military over that same period of time. There is no segment of the federal government for which Kennedy did not fight for increased funding except the military. The idea that US taxpayers should allocate defense funds1 to provide a "repository for Kennedy’s papers" is so outrageous that I honestly can not find anything appropriate to say about it.



1 - Realistically, it doesn't matter whether the money is allocated in a defense bill or a department of Education funding bill or HUD or anything else. Money is fungible, and if the government decides it's going to spend money on this, well, the taxpayers foot the bill. It's just impossible to conceive of a less appropriate bill in which to include this particular waste of taxpayer dollars.

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"I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help..."

Why, yes, I'd love to turn my health care over to such a hyper-competent group as this:
A proposal by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that would have required the Senate Finance Committee to post the final language of the $900 billion health care reform bill, as well as a Congressional Budget Office cost analysis, on the committee’s website for 72 hours prior to a vote was rejected 12-11.

...

Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., himself admitted that “This probably sounds a little crazy to some people that we are voting on something before we have seen legislative language.” Indeed.

Baucus’ excuse - that it would take his committee staff two weeks to post the bill online – sounds a little crazy too. Finance Committee members are the only ones who vote based on the “plain English” version of a bill, not the legally-binding language.

So they can put together a bill that's going to a) add 15 (or 30 or 47, depending on the President's mood, apparently) million people to the insurance rolls b) while providing improved care c) at lower cost for everyone d) and allowing everyone to keep the coverage they've already got if they want to e) and not increasing the budget deficit f) or increasing taxes1, but they can't post that freakin' bill on the internet? What the hell are they voting on? If there's something to actually debate and vote on2, isn't it in some sort of document form? How low does it take to post a Word document or a .pdf online?

To paraphrase Lord Kelvin, "When you can [write down] what you are speaking about, and express it in [words], you know something about it; but when you cannot [write it down], when you cannot express it in [words], your knowledge of it is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your [committee], advanced it to the stage of [a votable bill]." And obviously, if you can write it down, you can post it on the internet.

It boggles my mind that anyone can watch any part of this process and think, "yes, this is how we're going to make the health care system better for everyone! What could possibly go wrong?"




1 - Every time I write that out, I vacillate between giggling and rage. I giggle that the preposterousness of the suggestion, that there's somehow, some way that increased government intervention is going to lead to any one of those things happening, never mind all six simultaneously, and rage that the President of the United States actually thinks that the US citizens are stupid enough to buy it. He doesn't even have enough respect for the people of this country to try a plausible argument.

2And if the Finance Committee isn't voting on the "legally-binding language" of the bill than they're not voting on the bill at all - they're voting on someone's description of what the bill might be. Everyone knows that the devil's in the details, and they're voting on something that doesn't have those details.

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The death of Britain continues apace...

The practical result of education in the spirit of The Green Book must be the destruction of the society which accepts it.
- C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Evidence of his prescience continues to mount. The only questions which remain are, is it possible to arrest the decay? Or has British society already been destroyed? These may just be the death throes of a historical remnant...

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I believe...

Goldfarb goes through the Looking Glass with the White Queen, who "sometimes ... believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast":
Gitmo is going to close real soon -- and at no risk to national security -- just after Obama brings peace to the Middle East, adds 40 million uninsured to the system for not a penny more than you're paying today, talks the North Koreans and Iranians into abandoning the pursuit of nuclear weapons, and wins the war in Afghanistan after tying General McChrystal's hands behind his back.

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NFL picks, Week 3

Picks for week 3 of the 2009 NFL season...


Green Bay (-7) at St. Louis - I thought, going in, that the Packers were overrated. I did not think that they could lose to the Bengals at home. If they could do that, could they lose to the Rams in St. Louis? I guess it's conceivable, but it sure doesn't seem like the kind of bet that's going to make you money.

Kansas City at Philadelphia (-7) - Is there anyone that could start at quarterback for the Eagles behind whom they would not beat the Chiefs by a touchdown?

Atlanta at New England (-4) - The Falcons are a pretty good team. The Patriots are showing the effects of rust, primarily because their All-Time great QB has played 7 minutes of football in 19 months. The offense is going to get it together, but it may not be this week. The defense is going to grow and synch up and get on the same page and end up being pretty good, but it probably won't be this week. I'm not picking the Falcons, because I just don't ever pick against the Patriots - there's no satisfaction in that for me whatsoever, and I won't do it. And I'm not saying that I'm picking the Patriots despite the fact that I think the Falcons will win, because I don't think the Falcons will win. I think that the Patriots defense will play well enough, and the Patriots offense will play well enough to outscore Atlanta and win the game. It's not inconceivable that I'm wrong, but that's what, as near as I can tell, I truly believe.

Cleveland at Baltimore (-13) - OK, the Ravens are officially scary. (So are the Browns, but pretty much only for Cleveland fans.)

Washington at Detroit (+6) - This is it. The week that the Lions break the streak, upsetting the favored but inconsistent Redskins. Do I really believe this? OK, I'm not sure about that. But they'll do it one of these weeks, and I will have picked them.

Jacksonville at Houston (-3.5) - The cards and letters continue to pour in from the Jaguar faithful1 that I'm underrating them. Here's your chance, Jaguars - I've called you bullies, weaklings, a faux NFL team (and it's only week 3!) - go ahead and prove me wrong.

San Francisco (+7) at Minnesota - If Minnesota is what the consensus suggests they are, then I'm wrong here. Even if I'm right about the Vikings, it's asking a lot of the 49ers to go into the Metrodome and win. I suspect that they aren't quite good enough to do that. But I expect them to be in every game, to be tough and disciplined and hard to beat. So the Viking escape with this one by a field goal.

N.Y. Giants (-7) at Tampa Bay - Yeah, whatever. I hate the Giants. I hated them long before 2007, but that certainly didn't help. Hate 'em or not, they're an order of magnitude better than the Buccaneers right now. This one is not competitive.

Tennessee (+3) at N.Y. Jets - The Jets, pretty full of themselves after almost living up to their week of lip-flapping by beating the Patriots (who played about as badly as they can, certainly worse than they will the next two times they meet), run into a Tennessee team that's already desperate and looking for a little revenge on last year's loss to NY. And the Titans get that revenge.

Chicago (-2.5) at Seattle - As we go through this little exercise every week, you may notice that I'm a lot firmer about my opinions of teams that are lacking or overrated than the converse. And here's another example, as I'm not picking based on the Bears being better than the Seahawks, but on the Seahawks being worse than the Bears.

New Orleans (-6) at Buffalo - I'm undecided, at this point, on the Bills. But I'm not undecided about the Saints. They're going to win for a while, until they run up against a great offensive team. And Buffalo's not it.

Pittsburgh (-4.5) at Cincinnati - If the Bengals play their best game, and the Steelers play their worst, I could see a Cincinnati win. But, as I assume that neither of those conditions will be true, I assume that the Steelers win comfortably.

Denver at Oakland (+2) - Yes, Oakland stinks. But here's the fundamental question driving this pick - is it rational to supposed that the Denver Broncos start the season 3-0? Having asked that, and answered, "No," I have no choice but to take the Raiders.

Miami at San Diego (-6) - It was a long way from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 and the playoffs in 2008. I don't think that the Dolphins are going back to 1 win, but I'm pretty sure that they're not going back to the playoffs.

Indianapolis (+2.5) at Arizona - This could go either way. Which Cardinals team shows up? If the Colts defense couldn't get the Dolphins off the field on Monday night, what are they going to do with Arizona's? Whatever the case, my mental conception of the league is still such that the Colts are a powerhouse, the Cardinals aren't, and the very good AFC team beats the good NFC pretty much every week.

Carolina at Dallas (-8.5) - I don't know why this isn't 18.5. It's really hard for me to imagine that this game is going to be competitive.



1 - Well, they might, if any Jaguar faithful actually read any of my postings and cared.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

The chicken tax and van destruction

From the Wall Street Journal, the tale of one of the greatest hits from the people who think that they're smart enough to manage the health care of 300 million people without introducing perverse incentives or unintended consequences.
Several times a month, Transit Connect vans from a Ford Motor Co. factory in Turkey roll off a ship here shiny and new, rear side windows gleaming, back seats firmly bolted to the floor.

Their first stop in America is a low-slung, brick warehouse where those same windows, never squeegeed at a gas station, and seats, never touched by human backsides, are promptly ripped out.

The fabric is shredded, the steel parts are broken down, and everything is sent off along with the glass to be recycled.

Why all the fuss and feathers? Blame the "chicken tax."

The seats and windows are but dressing to help Ford navigate the wreckage of a 46-year-old trade spat. In the early 1960s, Europe put high tariffs on imported chicken, taking aim at rising U.S. sales to West Germany. President Johnson retaliated in 1963, in part by targeting German-made Volkswagens with a tax on imports of foreign-made trucks and commercial vans.

The 1960s went the way of love beads and sitar records, but the chicken tax never died. Europe still has a tariff on imports of U.S. chicken, and the U.S. still hits delivery vans imported from overseas with a 25% tariff. American companies have to pay, too, which puts Ford in the weird position of circumventing U.S. trade rules that for years have protected U.S. auto makers' market for trucks.

The company's wiggle room comes from the process of defining a delivery van. Customs officials check a bunch of features to determine whether a vehicle's primary purpose might be to move people instead. Since cargo doesn't need seats with seat belts or to look out the window, those items are on the list. So Ford ships all its Transit Connects with both, calls them "wagons" instead of "commercial vans." Installing and removing unneeded seats and windows costs the company hundreds of dollars per van, but the import tax falls dramatically, to 2.5 percent, saving thousands.


H/T - Greg Mankiw

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Another entry from the "duh" files

The Baseball Crank notes a couple more recent "duh" moments.

Albany Times Union:
Now, early revenue figures suggest that taxing the wealthy more under this year's state budget may have driven away richer New Yorkers. That could make the economic comeback for the state even harder.

"You heard the mantra, 'Tax the rich, tax the rich,' " Gov. David Paterson said Wednesday at a gathering of newspaper editors at an Associated Press event in Syracuse. "We've done that. We've probably lost jobs and driven people out of the state."

Does this mean that the Governor is educable? Will anyone on the left remember this the next time the "tax the rich" mantra starts? I wouldn't count on it.


And, from the Wall Street Journal:
Around $90 billion of the $787 billion stimulus package was dedicated to state Medicaid programs. The money, which goes out quarterly to the states and is known as FMAP funds, has moved faster than stimulus dollars allocated to many other spending categories.

The GAO, the congressional watchdog charged with monitoring how states are handling their share of the stimulus package, found that most states it studied were using the Medicaid funds to cover increased caseloads and to maintain their current services and eligibility criteria. Some states were also using the funds to avoid cutting payments to hospitals and doctors.

State officials "expressed concern about the longer-term sustainability of their Medicaid programs after the increased FMAP funds are no longer available, beginning in January 2011," the report said.

The report also found some states were using the money to free up other parts of their state budget that would otherwise have been used for Medicaid. Several states reported the funds were helping finance general state budget needs.

fungible, a. and n. ({sm}f{revv}nd{zh}{shti}b({schwa})l)

A. adj. (See quot. 1832.)
1818 H. T. COLEBROOKE Oblig. & Contracts I. 64 In the instance of money and other fungible articles. 1832 AUSTIN Jurispr. (1879) II. xlvi. 807 When a thing which is the subject of an obligation..must be delivered in specie, the thing is not fungible, i.e. that very thing, and not another thing of the same or another class in lieu of it must be delivered. Where the subject of the obligation is a thing of a given class, the thing is said to be fungible, i.e. the delivery of any object which answers to the generic description will satisfy the terms of the obligation.

The GOP Governors were, of course, racists when they suggested at the time that this might happen...

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"The President of the United States is impatient..."

This seems the kind of thing that one might write as a joke, goofing on Obama's apparent narcissism:
President Obama's central message to the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in New York today was simple, a U.S. official said: He's running out of patience.

"The President of the United States is impatient," said the senior U.S. official. "That's what he told them."

"There’s a limited window of opportunity here, and he's determined, but he’s also impatient and we need to get going," the official said.

The Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting for how many thousands of years? There's been active tension since the partition of Israel what, 60 years ago now? And he's "impatient" that they haven't acquiesced to whatever he's demanded in the five minutes he's spent working on this issue over the past 8 months?

I know that "narcissistic gasbag" sounds harsh, but how else would you describe him?

The thing I'm wondering about right now is this - do you suppose that there are any world leaders that deal with this guy who are not laughing at him behind his back?

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AL Cy Young thoughts

Sometimes, listening to "experts" can be very instructive as to the limits of "expertise." I rarely watch any of NESN's pregame programming, but I saw just a bit last night of a discussion between Tom Caron, Jim Rice and Dave Roberts about the American League Cy Young contest. They had identified three legitimate candidates, they thought, and were giving reasons as to why each deserved the award.



AL Cy Young contenders
PlayerGSCGW L WPctSvShoIPRBBKERAK9K/BBWHIPK/BB

Pitcher A3061480.63603210 1/359442242.149.585.09.818.75

Pitcher B3121650.76201216 1/372641962.458.153.06.856.67

Pitcher C3221870.7201220 1/387601863.317.63.101.342.10

Pitcher D3021470.66700194 2/375602153.339.943.581.242.40


I added Pitcher D here, because he seems so similar to Pitcher C. Pitcher C has thrown more innings with fewer walks per inning and far fewer strikeouts. The ERAs are virtually identical. Pitcher C's had a couple more starts and, from the records, it seems like that he's had more run support. Pitcher D has been more dominant, and actually has better peripherals that speak to a better pitching performance.

And neither of them belongs in a discussion of the AL Cy Young award. Pitchers A and B have been so much better at doing what a pitcher is supposed to do, prevent the opposition from scoring, that there's no point in mentioning pitchers C and D (or even pitchers B1, B2, etc., who were not as good as pitchers A and B but better than pitcher C and D.) The don't belong in the discussion. They had fine seasons but don't warrant consideration for the Cy Young award this year because of the presence of clearly superior candidates.

If you heard a bunch of movie critics having a serious discussion about which of "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," and "Ishtar" was the best movie ever made, you'd know that you could safely ignore the one who was supporting "Ishtar." He's either trying to stir up trouble or he's a very bad movie critic, one who does not understand the difference between good movies and bad movies. Well, when Jim Rice and Dave Roberts support Pitcher C (CC Sabathia) as the AL Cy Young winner this year, you know that, whatever their skill at playing the game, it does not extend to analysis. Sabathia's been marginally better, because he's thrown more innings, than pitcher D (Jon Lester.) Neither of them comes close to the season that Pitcher B (Felix Hernandez) has had, and even Hernandez, as dominant as he's been, has fallen well short of the season that Pitcher A (Zack Greinke) has put up.

Obviously Greinke's been the best pitcher in the AL by a fairly wide margin, and should be a unanimous choice for the AL Cy Young award. If you've got to discuss more than one, then you add King Felix to the discussion, and the compare and contrast exercise emphasizes Greinke's worthiness. If you seriously consider Sabathia, you don't understand the difference between pitching and offense. The only thing that Sabathia's done better than Greinke is "win games," which has absolutely nothing to do with the way that they've pitched and absolutely everything to do with the fact that Sabathia's team has outscored Greinke's by over 220 runs. And anyone who votes for Sabathia based on that should have his voting privileges revoked.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

NFL Week 2 wrapup

Week 2 in the NFL...

  • Tom Brady looked rusty in week 1 against the Bills. He looked worse in week 2 against the Jets. Obviously, some of that credit goes to New York. I'm not ready, however, to give them as much credit as they're getting. I honestly believe that Sunday was far more about the Patriots offense not being in synch yet than it was about the Jets just shutting them down. The offense will come back together - there's too much talent not to. But it may take a month or a month and a half until Brady's right. Lets remember that, before last week's game, he'd play 7 minutes of football in 19 months. And the defense is going to improve as the year goes on as well. The start has been a little shakier than I expected, and it may last for a while. But this is going to be a very good or great team come playoff time, and no one's going to want them in the post-season. Including the NY Jets.


  • Note to NBC executives: The presence of Keith Olbermann drives many who would be interested in Football Night in America away from that program. Some of us don't make it back for the game. Whatever your ratings are, it is difficult for me to imagine that they wouldn't be higher without him.


  • As I dislike both the Giants and Cowboys, there was really nothing I wanted to see in that game. And I didn't. So I have nothing to say about what was probably the biggest game of the weekend, because I didn't see a single snap. If I were getting paid for this gig, I'd have had to watch it. But I'm not, and I didn't.


  • The Stat of the week comes from the Monday Night game. Indianapolis scored 27 points despite running only 35 plays over 14:53 of possession time.


  • Obvious pick: New Orleans blowing out Philadelphia.


  • Obvious Pick which was dead wrong: Tennessee over Houston.


  • Somewhere in this world, there's a man that picked Denver to start the season 2-0. I'd like to have him managing my stock portfolio.


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    New Orleans at Philadelphia - "Don't know how good New Orleans defense is. But I know that the McNabb and Vick-less Eagles aren't going to score enough to match the Saints."

    Arizona at Jacksonville - "The Cardinals are the epitome of the talented but inconsistent team, a team capable of getting blown out by a non-playoff team and starting a run to the Super Bowl two weeks later. Jacksonville is a faux NFL team, a bully team that isn't anywhere near as tough, physical, smart or effective as it thinks it is, or is reputed to be. Could the Jaguars win this at home? Sure. And they could win big, as the Cardinals can go way, way South when they go. But I expect Arizona to bounce back with their offense, and win by a touchdown."

    Tampa Bay at Buffalo - "The Bills did some good things on Monday night, but not as many, and not as well, as the score seemed to indicate. Their defense gave up tons and tons of yardage, and while they made a couple of 4th down stops, it seemed more a case of New England failing to execute than Buffalo stopping them. And, of course, when the game situation got critical, the Patriots scored 14 unanswered in less than five minutes. Lucky for them, they come out of it with their confidence up, and Tampa Bay is not New England."


  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite [and there're a plethora of comments to choose from this week]):

    Houston at Tennessee - "Let's see. The Titans lost, on the road, in overtime, to the defending Super Bowl champs. The Texans got blown out at home to the defending 3rd place in the AFC East Jets. Hmm... Ponder, ponder. What should I do? Who should I take? Man, some of these decisions are so hard..."

    Cincinnati at Green Bay - "I think it's pretty clear that I think less of the Green Bay Packers than many of the pundits do. But we're talking about a Bengals team that lost at home to Denver last week. I'd have to think a whole lot less of the Packers than I do to take Cincinnati."

    New England at NY Jets - "The Jets aren't just going to beat the Patriots this week, they're going to embarrass them. Or not. I suspect not. The Jets may put 28 on the board. The Patriots will match them, score for score, plus score a couple more times. (And I'm still waiting for the commissioner to take away the Jets 2010 first round draft pick. After all, isn't that the established penalty for "cheating?")"


  • For the week:
    Winners: 8-8
    ATS: 6-10-0


  • For the season:
    Winners: 20-12
    ATS: 14-18-0


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Monday, September 21, 2009

And again, duh.

President Barack Obama is beginning to look out of his depth

It's not like this wasn't obvious right from the start. It isn't like no one ever said
Clearly, he has nowhere near the track record or experience that one would like to see in the President of the United States. He's been in the US Senate for less than one full term and he's never held any kind of executive position. Any arguments that he's too inexperienced and callow to be elected are legitimate.

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Duh.

The verdict is in, and Cash for Clunkers was a disaster. Obvious that it would be, of course - "the program is so straightforward, so simple, and so obviously a bad idea." The Obama administration "turned window smashing into the only part of their economic stimulus package which seems to be stimulating anything."

But they mean well, and that makes them better and smarter than us racists in flyover country. I'm sure we can trust that they'll get the health-care takeover right, with absolutely no perverse incentives or unintended consequences...

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Monday Pythagorean, 9/21/2009

Despite the fact that they haven't poured champagne yet, this goes into the books as the week the Red Sox all but wrapped up their post-season berth.

  • Yes, yes, the magic number is still seven, and a statement like that above seems to be filled with hubris and begging the baseball Gods to play the part of Nemesis. But this week saw their lead in the Wild Card grow from 4 games with 20 left to play all the way to 8 games with 14 left to play, as Boston went 5-1 and Texas went 1-5. They have not yet mathematically clinched a playoff spot. But they only need to go 7-7, regardless of what anyone else does, even if the Rangers win out (which they won't) and the Sox got 11 left with Kansas City, Toronto and Cleveland. Realistically, it's over, and it's very likely that the champagne will have been poured when I post this report next week.


  • Not only have they opened up an almost certainly insurmountable lead in the Wild Card race, they've re-awakened the possibility of taking the East. With New York losing 2-of-3 to Seattle over the weekend, the Yankee lead is down to 4 in the loss column. The Yankees spend the next three days in LAnaheim, while Boston has four in Kansas City. It is certainly conceivable that the Yankee lead could be down to three when the Sox start a series in Yankee Stadium next Friday. If that's the case, the Red Sox actually have control of their own destiny with regards to the division. If the Red Sox were to sweep that series in New York, they'd leave tied in the loss column. Boston's seven games after that series are at home against Toronto and Cleveland. New York has three at home against the Royals and three in Tampa against the Rays. And, again, assuming a Boston sweep, the Red Sox would be division champions in the event of a tie. OK, it remains very unlikely. But it looked impossible a couple of weeks ago, and that is no longer the case.


  • Let's at least be clear about this much - the Red Sox are a lot closer to the Yankees than the Rangers are to the Red Sox.


  • There's no reason to think that anyone else is significantly more likely to win the World Series than the Red Sox.


  • Daisuke Matsuzaka appears to be back. This is a good thing. This is a guy who has been a good-to-very good Major League pitcher. Yes, it's been a wasted season for him. But if his four or five regular season starts get him ready to perform in the post-season, well, it's not a totally wasted season.


  • I think that the whole "the Red Sox are in the Angels heads" thing is vastly overrated. (Tell me that one team was ever more "in someone's head" than the NY Yankees were in the Red Sox' heads on the morning of October 17, 2004.) But it had to drive the Angels crazy that they lost 2-of-3 to a team whose beaten them in the post-season three times in the last decade, a team they expect to see in the post-season yet again in a couple of weeks, playing without their two best hitters.


  • The Red Sox held on to Clay Buchholz despite numerous attempts, some serious, by others to pry him away. We're starting to see why. In his last 9 starts, he's 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA and more than 6 innings pitched per start. And one of those was a 4 1/3 inning, 7 run bomb, so that tells you how good the other 8 have been.


  • All of the starters have been at least good. In September, the starters have an ERA of 3.21. In their last 12 games, they haven't had a starter go less than five or allow more than three runs, putting up an ERA of 1.98 over that span.


  • Red Sox Player of the Week: - Jacoby Ellsbury had another great week, hitting .423/.483/.692/1.175. I like the three walks more than the HR, frankly, because what he needs to do is reach base. But the player of the week is Jason Bay who fought off the flu and opposing pitching to the tune of .471/.550/1.000/1.550 with 3 HR.


  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week: - While the staff as a whole pitched effectively for most of the week, and it seems unfair to keep going with the guy who got two starts, in this case it's appropriate. Daisuke Matsuzaka came off the DL to win twice in 6 days, going 11 2/3 innings and allowing 3 runs.





AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 9/21/2009
ProjectedActual

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

Boston5.35(3)4.41(2)0.588(1)876189592

New York5.71(1)4.7(8)0.588(2)886295557

Los Angeles5.51(2)4.78(11)0.565(3)846589605

Tampa Bay4.97(4)4.58(6)0.537(4)81697773-4

Texas4.85(6)4.53(3)0.531(5)796981672

Minnesota4.84(7)4.7(9)0.513(6)767376730

Oakland4.64(9)4.63(7)0.501(7)75747178-4

Toronto4.78(8)4.78(10)0.5(8)75746683-9

Detroit4.55(11)4.57(5)0.498(9)747579705

Chicago4.49(12)4.54(4)0.495(10)74767377-1

Seattle3.97(14)4.35(1)0.459(11)698178729

Cleveland4.87(5)5.37(13)0.455(12)68816188-7

Baltimore4.59(10)5.38(14)0.428(13)64856089-4

Kansas City4.23(13)5.06(12)0.419(14)62876188-1




Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York10359

Boston9765

Los Angeles9765

Texas8973

Detroit8676




Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York10260

Boston9765

Los Angeles9666

Texas8874

Detroit8577




Standings for the week
ProjectedActual

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

Oakland6.43(3)1.71(1)0.918(1)61701

Kansas City6.5(1)3.5(4)0.756(2)5142-1

Boston6.5(1)3.67(5)0.74(3)42511

Minnesota4.83(5)3(2)0.705(4)42511

Tampa Bay5.14(4)3.29(3)0.694(5)52520

Los Angeles4.29(7)4.14(7)0.516(6)4334-1

New York4.5(6)4.67(9)0.483(7)33330

Seattle3.67(11)3.83(6)0.48(8)33421

Chicago4(8)4.5(8)0.446(9)3324-1

Toronto4(8)5.5(10)0.358(10)2415-1

Baltimore3.86(10)5.86(13)0.318(11)25250

Detroit3(12)5.57(12)0.244(12)25341

Cleveland3(12)6.29(14)0.205(13)1607-1

Texas1.5(14)5.5(10)0.085(14)15150

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Mark Levin. Stephen A. Smith. Virulent racists. Or not...

According to the likes of Jimmy Carter and Maureen Dowd, this is the new face of racism in America:



H/T - Ace of Spades

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Instapundit on Carter

Professor Reynolds doesn't think much of former President Carter: "He’s a foul old man, and a disgrace to the office he once held."

Of course, he was a disgrace to the office while he held it, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he's a disgrace to it now...

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"Biggest bunch of crybabies..."

Chris Wallace: The Obama administration is "the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington."



"...working the umps all the time..."

And, of course, the umps, at least the vast majority of them, are already on the team...

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Hitchens on Carter

Christopher Hitchens is a man of the left; I am not. The number of subjects on which we would disagree is large, and ranges from the existence of God to the proper role of the Government in education, and most things in between. That said, Hitchens, unlike so many on the left, is not a cultural relativist. And he seems to be an honest man. He recognized that East and West are in conflict, and is willing to side with the West, even when George W. Bush was President.

And he's got some comments on Jimmy Carter that are well worth reading:
I once had quite an argument with the late Sen. Eugene McCarthy, who maintained adamantly that it had been right for him to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980 for no other reason. "Mr. Carter," he said, "quite simply abdicated the whole responsibility of the presidency while in office. He left the nation at the mercy of its enemies at home and abroad. He was the worst president we ever had."

...

The mistake of Israel, he tells us (and tells us that he told the Israeli leadership) is to have moved away from God and the prophets and toward secularism. If you ever feel like a good laugh, just tell yourself that things would improve if only the Israeli government would be more Orthodox.

...

In the Carter years, the United States was an international laughingstock...It's hardly an exaggeration to say that every administration since has had to deal with the chaotic legacy of Carter's mind-boggling cowardice and incompetence.

Is there a word there that isn't self-evidently true?

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Jason Varitek - worst regular in MLB?

I almost titled this "Dissing the captain" but that's not my intent, so I didn't. I just want to note that
  1. Jason Varitek has had an excellent career with the Red Sox

  2. I don't know any Red Sox fan who has not also been a Varitek fan

  3. I can't believe that he can make it through security at the airport with as many forks as there must be sticking out of him.

At the end of April, I noted that
Biggest upside surprise: Jason Varitek, who has been very productive thus far. Far more productive than they had any right to reasonably expect. And far more productive than he can be expected to continue.

Was I right? Uh, yeah.



Jason Varitek splits (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS)
May 1-May 31 .231/.311/.513/.824

June 1-June 31 .234/.359/.391/.750

July 1-July 31 .231/.367/.369/.736

August 1-August 31 .135/.233/.250/.483

September 1-September 17 .115/.179/.154/.332

Varitek, post-All Star Game .161/.258/.250/.508



Since June 1, a period of well over half a season, he's hit .193/.310/.319/.629. Over the last two calendar months, he's hitting .159/.244/.248/.492 with just 18 hits, only one of which is a HR, in 113 at-bats.

Additionally, there's no evidence that he's any more than a mediocre catcher at this point. In each of the last two games, the tying run has scored late when a third strike on a third out has gone through his legs to the backstop. For his career, he's thrown out approximately 24% of attempted base-stealers - this year, he's 15 for 100, about 13%. (UPDATE: It has been pointed out that 15 for 100 isn't "about 13%" which, of course, is true. The actual stat is 15 caught and 100 successful, or 15 out of 115, which is 13.4%.)

In short, if he brings anything whatsoever to the team, it's something that is entirely invisible, something that cannot be measured. And it's very difficult for me to imagine that he's bringing some intangible which comes close to offsetting the very tangible downsides.

Has he been the worst player in baseball since the All-Star break? He has to be pretty close. There are 68 guys with at least 100 plate appearances since the All Star game with an OBP below .300. Of that group, he is 4th from the bottom in Runs Created (6.19) and 3rd from the bottom in RC/25 outs (1.54). One of the reasons that the Victor Martinez trade was essential for the Red Sox is that Varitek's a black hole in the lineup. And it's not a fluke - let's remember that Jason Varitek hit .219/.332/.361/.693 after the All Star break last year, and .183/.286/.300/.586 after September 1. If there's some compelling reason to believe that he still has value on a Major League roster, I'm not seeing it, neither with my eyes nor in the numbers.

There are only two things that I can find which suggest that he should still be catching more than once per week. The first is that Josh Beckett's one start with Victor Martinez was a disaster. The second is this - if we look at the team's pythagorean record with Varitek at catcher vs. Martinez at catcher since August 1st, here's what you get:



Red Sox record by starting catcher - 8/1-9/17
Starting CatcherRRAWLR/GRA/GPyth

Martinez1251051376.255.250.579

Varitek1189612115.134.170.593


About the first item, I'd note the following - Beckett was just as bad in the following three starts, each of which came with Varitek behind the plate. It appears to be a Beckett slump, not a "Beckett can't pitch when Martinez catches" situation.

About the second I'd add this - there have been two disaster games since August 1st thrown by pitchers who are no longer here. In John Smoltz' last appearance in a Red Sox uniform, the team allowed 13 runs to the Yankees. In Brad Penny's last appearance in a Red Sox uniform, the team allowed 20 runs to the Yankees. Victor Martinez started both of those games. If you think that those runs were his fault, well, that last chart shows the results. If you take those out, however, and look at games since August 1st limited to pitchers who are still on the roster, the results are a little bit different.



Red Sox record by starting catcher - 8/1-9/17 (last Smoltz and Penny starts omitted)
Starting CatcherRRAWLR/GRA/GPyth

Martinez10872135640.677

Varitek1189612115.134.170.593


I think that the latter is more informative, and a more accurate representation of what's going on, than the former. Your mileage may vary. But I don't like the fact that Varitek's catching Beckett every time out - there are enough off-days in the playoffs that the Red Sox should not have to catch Varitek at all. I know that Martinez can't catch every day in the regular season, but Varitek is still catching too much for my liking, and I really don't want to see him in the lineup in a post-season game at all. He may not be the worst player in baseball right now, but he may well be the worst player getting regular at-bats for a playoff team, and I've seen enough of him.


(As always, when I do something like this, I need a big tip o' the cap to David Pinto, whose Baseball Musings site is a daily must-read for baseball fans, and whose Day by day database is an invaluable resource.)

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NFL picks, Week 2

Predictions for Week 2 in the 2009 NFL season:


Arizona (+4.5) at Jacksonville - The Cardinals are the epitome of the talented but inconsistent team, a team capable of getting blown out by a non-playoff team and starting a run to the Super Bowl two weeks later. Jacksonville is a faux NFL team, a bully team that isn't anywhere near as tough, physical, smart or effective as it thinks it is, or is reputed to be. Could the Jaguars win this at home? Sure. And they could win big, as the Cardinals can go way, way South when they go. But I expect Arizona to bounce back with their offense, and win by a touchdown.

Baltimore at San Diego (-3.5) - If the Ravens go out to San Diego and win this week, I'll re-shuffle my mental rankings and raise the Ravens to "scary." Right now, I still need to be convinced, and have them classified as "pretty good."

Carolina at Atlanta (-7) - There are two real questions here. The first is, "how many touchdowns does Jake Delhomme throw this week?" The second, and more important, is, "are any of them to guys wearing Carolina Panthers uniforms?"

Cincinnati at Green Bay (-9) - I think it's pretty clear that I think less of the Green Bay Packers than many of the pundits do. But we're talking about a Bengals team that lost at home to Denver last week. I'd have to think a whole lot less of the Packers than I do to take Cincinnati.

Cleveland (-3.5) at Denver - Remember Peppermint Patty taking a true/false test? "That makes three trues in a row, so this must be false..." Silly, of course. And here I am, taking Cleveland, apparently on the theory that I can't just take all of the home teams.

Houston at Tennessee (-8) - Let's see. The Titans lost, on the road, in overtime, to the defending Super Bowl champs. The Texans got blown out at home to the defending 3rd place in the AFC East Jets. Hmm... Ponder, ponder. What should I do? Who should I take? Man, some of these decisions are so hard...

Minnesota at Detroit (+10.5) - I know what you're thinking - Lyford has gone crazy. He's lost it. Well...I can't necessarily disagree. Here are the things that are driving this - I think Minnesota's overrated. I think Detroit is going to make strides. The Lions are at home. The Vikings are unlikely to bring their 'A' game, just because it's Detroit. At some point, Brett Favre's going to have to throw the ball. Put it all together and ... OK, Lyford's crazy. (I do think that the Vikings win, they just don't cover.)

N.Y. Giants at Dallas (-2.5) - Match these two teams up in December, and it's Coughlin over Phillips every time. Match 'em up in Texas in September, it's a coin toss. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Heads. Hmm - I think I've got Rosencrantz' quarter here...

New England (-4) at N.Y. Jets - The Jets aren't just going to beat the Patriots this week, they're going to embarrass them. Or not. I suspect not. The Jets may put 28 on the board. The Patriots will match them, score for score, plus score a couple more times. (And I'm still waiting for the commissioner to take away the Jets 2010 first round draft pick. After all, isn't that the established penalty for "cheating?")

New Orleans (+0) at Philadelphia - Don't know how good New Orleans defense is. But I know that the McNabb and Vick-less Eagles aren't going to score enough to match the Saints.

Oakland at Kansas City (-3.5) - Really? Picking the Chiefs to cover more than a field goal against anyone? And didn't the Raiders almost beat the Chargers on Monday night? Yes. Yes. And Yes.

Pittsburgh (-3) at Chicago - So are the Bears wearing white and the Steelers black, or the other way around? Either way, will Jay Cutler be able to differentiate between Chicago receivers and Pittsburgh defensive backs? Not quite enough, I suspect.

Seattle at San Francisco (+0) - As of today, September 18, 2009, I'm picking the San Francisco 49ers to win the NFC West.

St. Louis at Washington (-10.5) - That St. Louis team that played in Seattle last week didn't look as if it could stay within 2 touchdowns of any real NFL team. And they were only playing the Seahawks.

Tampa Bay at Buffalo (-4.5) - The Bills did some good things on Monday night, but not as many, and not as well, as the score seemed to indicate. Their defense gave up tons and tons of yardage, and while they made a couple of 4th down stops, it seemed more a case of New England failing to execute than Buffalo stopping them. And, of course, when the game situation got critical, the Patriots scored 14 unanswered in less than five minutes. Lucky for them, they come out of it with their confidence up, and Tampa Bay is not New England.

Indianapolis (-2) at Miami - Yes, Dungy's gone. Does this make this Colts team appreciably weaker than its immediate predecessors? I don't see it. I instead see a Miami team that's all alone in last place in the AFC East on Tuesday morning.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

May I be allowed one "I told you so?

Me, September 14, 2007, on the Patriots being stripped of a first-round draft pick for violating an NFL rule on camera position and usage:
There are a lot of people who are thrilled to have an opportunity to play whack-a-mole with [Bill Belichick]. So we are treated to the "Beli-cheat" headlines, and all of the people that he's beaten over the years revelling in the "well, of course he beat us - he was cheating!" after-the-fact rationalizations. This story is very different if it's the Houston Texans or Minnesota Vikings. And the punishment is, too. Why is the punishment different? Because you don't have the punishment issued by the commissioner after a week of every media member hammering on how tough the commissioner is, and how hard he's going to be on this transgression. The media spent the week ensuring that Goodell had to either hammer the Patriots or get hammered himself.


CNNSI.com, yesterday, after the Jets were fined for violating a rule on information disclosure:
The NFL assessed $125,000 in fines to the New York Jets and former coach Eric Mangini on Wednesday for violating the league's rules on injury reporting with former quarterback Brett Favre last season.

The Jets failed to place Favre, now with the Minnesota Vikings, on the injury report during the final month of last season even though he had a torn biceps tendon.

The league announced it had fined the Jets $75,000, and Mangini and Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum $25,000 apiece. Mangini now coaches the Cleveland Browns.

I now allow myself one "I told you so!" Roger Goodell screwed up. What he did to New England was massively unfair, and it was clearly massively unfair. As I noted at the time, Denver's violation of the salary cap rules to keep John Elway cost them only a second round pick. Does anyone want to argue that New England's "crime" was somehow worse? Anyone?

I didn't think so.

There were those who said that the Patriots got no significant unfair advantage from their rule violation. To which the responses were, "well, it was against the rules anyway" and "if there was no advantage, why did they do it?" So to any who might say that the Jets got no significant unfair advantage from their rule violation, "well, it was against the rules anyway" and "if there was no advantage, why did they do it?" If there's a compelling case to be made that what New England did was somehow worse for the game, or competitive balance, or fairness, or anything else, I'd love to see that case. I don't buy it.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Race arsonists at it again

Former President Jimmy Carter:
I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American. I live in the South, and I've seen the South come a long way, and I've seen the rest of the country that shares the South's attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.

That racism inclination still exists, and I think it's bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people -- not just in the South but around the country -- that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It's an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply.

Here is what's actually abominable, Mr. Carter. The casual slurring of millions of sincere, concerned Americans, with no evidence whatsoever, by the single most inept, ineffective and sanctimonious chief executive of the last 60 years. It isn't just you, of course. This slur is being perpetrated by many members of the leftist and pundit class in this country, and again, there's not a shred of supporting evidence.

Let's be brutally frank for just a moment. This President is President of the United States primarily because he's a black man. Otherwise, the tea parties would still be going on and the likes of Jimmy Carter would be talking about the animosity towards President Hillary Clinton being based on the fact that she's a woman. And Maureen Dowd would be writing about how the unspoken word after "you lie" was b--ch instead of boy. If Barack Obama weren't black, he'd be John Edwards. Without the resume. And the hair. A white man with Barack Obama's particular skills and background isn't even an interesting story in the primary. No, he's President because the press fell in love with the idea of electing a black man, and it superseded their love for the idea of electing a woman.

The opposition, though, is based on his policies. Does Jimmy Carter have any recollection of what happened when Bill Clinton attempted to "reform" the health care system? Does he remember what happened to the Democrats after two years of the most liberal Presidency since Carter's own? And does he have any conception of how much more radical Obama's administration has been than Clinton's?

Jimmy Carter, Maureen Dowd, Eddie Bernice Johnson and all of the others throwing out the "racist" label are setting back the cause of "racial equality" in this country by a generation or more. And it's going to be a long time before another black man is elected to the office. Why would anyone want to support the candidacy of a President who cannot be criticized? The people of the United States are citizens, not subjects, and a President with whom one cannot honestly disagree without being accused of racism is a President that doesn't belong in office.

Obama's election was hailed, even by many of us who thought he'd be an awful President, as a good sign, a major step forward in the story of race relations in America. It looks right now as if we were very wrong. It was a horrible mistake, and it's entirely the fault of the race-arsonists on the left who plead for race-blindness while clinging to racism as primary prism through which they view the world.

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