Friday, December 31, 2010

Road trip...

Great story...
When Frau Bertha Ringer Benz of Mannheim, Germany loaded her two teenage boys on the family automobile that day in August of 1888 and set off for her mother's house in Pforzheim, it was in fact the first time anyone, anywhere on the planet, had used an automobile for personal travel. That would make the trip one for the history books all by itself, but there's even more to the story. Frau Benz would accomplish quite a few more automotive "firsts" in the course of her 65 mile adventure.
Check it out - very interesting...

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Look for...the union label..."

Yet another example of why government employees ought not be allowed to join unions.

Assuming that this is true, what kind of liability should the givers of those instructions face?
Selfish Sanitation Department bosses from the snow-slammed outer boroughs ordered their drivers to snarl the blizzard cleanup to protest budget cuts -- a disastrous move that turned streets into a minefield for emergency-services vehicles, The Post has learned.
...
"They sent a message to the rest of the city that these particular labor issues are more important," said City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Queens), who was visited yesterday by a group of guilt-ridden sanitation workers who confessed the shameless plot. Halloran said he met with three plow workers from the Sanitation Department -- and two Department of Transportation supervisors who were on loan -- at his office after he was flooded with irate calls from constituents. The snitches "didn't want to be identified because they were afraid of retaliation," Halloran said. "They were told [by supervisors] to take off routes [and] not do the plowing of some of the major arteries in a timely manner. They were told to make the mayor pay for the layoffs, the reductions in rank for the supervisors, shrinking the rolls of the rank-and-file."
...
The workers said the work slowdown was the result of growing hostility between the mayor and the workers responsible for clearing the snow...The result was an absolute collapse of New York's once-vaunted systems of clearing the streets and keeping mass transit moving under the weight of 20 inches of snow.
...
Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said only: "We would hope this is not the case." But multiple Sanitation Department sources told The Post yesterday that angry plow drivers have only been clearing streets assigned to them even if that means they have to drive through snowed-in roads with their plows raised. And they are keeping their plow blades unusually high, making it necessary for them to have to run extra passes, adding time and extra pay. One mechanic said some drivers are purposely smashing plows and salt spreaders to further stall the cleanup effort.
Obviously, they're causing untold millions of man-hours of lost wages and productivity, never mind the simple inconvenience. But, in case you missed this story, it's even worse.
A blizzard baby delivered inside the lobby of a snowbound Brooklyn building died after an emergency call of a woman in labor brought no help for nine excruciating hours.

The baby's mother, a 22-year-old college senior, was recovering Tuesday night at Interfaith Medical Center, where her newborn was pronounced dead at 6:34 p.m. on Monday. That was 10 hours after the first 911 call from the bloody vestibule on Brooklyn Ave. in Crown Heights.

"No one could get to her. Crown Heights was not plowed, and no medical aid came for hours," said the student's mother.
Did someone give the orders to slowdown the work? And if so, is that person criminally liable for the death of that child? I'm thinking that, if they could prove the former, there's certainly a plaintiff's lawyer somewhere who'd be happy to go to court over the latter...


(H/T: Instapundit)

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

PolitiFiction

You may have seen the story, earlier in the week, that self-proclaimed watchdog group Politifact had declared, as its "Lie of the Year," the phrase "a government takeover of health care."
By selecting "government takeover' as Lie of the Year, PolitiFact is not making a judgment on whether the health care law is good policy.

The phrase is simply not true.

Said Jonathan Oberlander, a professor of health policy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill: "The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.' "
Politifact is, of course, a leftist media creation, a project of the St. Petersburg Times. Their primary conceit is that they are providing unbiased, objective evaluation of political claims made by, well, anyone who makes political claims. Which is fine, if you constrain yourselves to actually talking about facts. But there are many terms of art in the political realm which are factual or not depending on your underlying fundamental precepts and beliefs. The question of what, exactly, would constitute a "government takeover" is one on which people can legitimately disagree. If the government performs an eminent domain taking of a property and physically removes the owners, that's clearly a government takeover. If the government steps in and tells a landowner he can't cut down any trees within 100 feet of a shoreline, does that constitute a "government takeover" or doesn't it? Reasonable people can reasonably disagree.

Clearly, Politifact is interpreting the phrase "government takeover" in the strictest possible sense, in order to claim that those using the phrase are lying. The Wall Street Journal has called them on it:
In fact—if we may use that term without PolitiFact's seal of approval—at the heart of ObamaCare is a vast expansion of federal control over how U.S. health care is financed, and thus delivered. The regulations that PolitiFact waves off are designed to convert insurers into government contractors in the business of fulfilling political demands, with enormous implications for the future of U.S. medicine. All citizens will be required to pay into this system, regardless of their individual needs or preferences. Sounds like a government takeover to us.
Obviously, I agree.


And while we're here, I want to look at that quote from the professor in North Carolina:
The label 'government takeover" has no basis in reality, but instead reflects a political dynamic where conservatives label any increase in government authority in health care as a 'takeover.'
If there is an "increase in government authority," hasn't there, by definition, been a "takeover" of authority that was previously held by the private sector? Surely, that's a "basis in reality" for the label "government takeover"...

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bert Blyleven, one more time

SI's John Heyman is not voting for Bert Blyleven for the Hall of Fame. Again.
Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame case continues to be the most controversial and interesting one ever, certainly among those not tainted by the steroid issue. His candidacy has stirred more debate and arguments than any other player's, and it isn't even close.

This was the 14th straight year that I did not vote for Blyleven, and as a "no'' voter, I feel compelled to explain my decision...
But he's willing to talk about it, which is a good thing. He did this last year, and I addressed it, making the case that Heyman's argument essentially boils down to "Blyleven's teammates didn't score enough runs when he pitched." (He wouldn't express his argument that way - I would.)

I'm not going to go through all of the numbers, again. I want to look at it from a little bit different perspective.

Over a five year period from 1998 through 2002, Curt Schilling started 158 games for Philadelphia and Arizona. In that span, he pitched 1175 1/3 innings, allowing 1054 hits, and striking out 1229 while walking 222. He allowed 446 runs of which 435 were earned, for an ERA of 1.35. I think we can see that he was a very valuable pitcher during that stretch. There were only three pitchers in baseball for that period with 1000 innings pitched and a better ERA than Schilling. It's an excellent pitching performance.

And it's less than the difference between the career's of Bert Blyleven, whose HoF candidacy Heyman does not support, and Jack Morris, whose he does. To get to Blyleven's career numbers, you have to add 158 starts to Morris'. You've got to add 1146 innings and 1223 strikeouts. You've got to add 67 complete games, of which 32 are shutouts. You've got to add 214, of which 173 are earned, for an ERA of 1.36. And you still can't actually get there, because, despite the innings difference, Blyleven walked 68 fewer batters.

Blyleven perspective
GSCGShoIPHRERHRBBKHBPBKWP ERAK9BB9HR9
Curt Schilling '98-'021584271175.3310544464351412221229160303.339.411.71.08
Blyleven - Morris15867321146106521417341-68122397-8-911.369.6-0.880.32

So essentially, Bert Blyleven had Jack Morris' career, plus five peak years of Curt Schilling's career. It's difficult to see how one could rationally think that Morris is a worthy candidate and Blyleven isn't.

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Why I oppose START

Honesty compels me to admit that I've not followed the details of the START treaty closely. But when John Kerry, a man who has been wrong on virtually every public policy issue in his lifetime, pushes for approval on the grounds that "this Congress has a chance to do something historic," well, that's all the grounds I need for opposition.

(Never mind the fact that it's going to pass after cutting off debate with the votes of seven or eight Senators who were voted out of office nearly two months ago...)

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We can only hope...

Will Massachusetts lose some of its national clout?
The state’s political clout faces another serious test today when the US Census Bureau releases official population figures for the nation, revealing whether Massachusetts will lose one of its 10 congressional seats and thus lose further influence in Washington and in presidential elections.
As a resident, let me say that the only thing better than losing one of our congressional seats to a more conservative state would be losing two of our seats...

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In defense of children's books...

A nice piece in the Wall Street Journal this morning about C.S. Lewis (and his place on Sarah Palin's reading list...
Lewis would likely have appreciated making Mrs. Palin's reading list. But he probably would have appreciated the questions about it even more. For Lewis, one of the best ways to know a person was to know what they read. He was convinced that books defined us and shaped our character. He realized that books did more than prepare people for interesting conversations with journalists—they prepare us to respond to the crises we encounter in our own lives.
Read it all...

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Because if someone reports it, it has to be true...

Brian Cashman: New York Yankees acquiring pitcher now unlikely
For some definitions of "unlikely"...
Having finished second, or maybe third, in the Cliff Lee sweepstakes, the Yankees are prepared to go into the 2011 season with a pitching rotation of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes , with the remaining spots filled out by youngsters, many of whom have never pitched above the Triple-A level.
Right. They're "prepared" to go into the season with 2/5 (if that) of a Major League rotation, running the realistic risk of being 10 games out on Memorial day, despite having the largest payroll in the game. Totally believable. Who could think otherwise?
So for now, the Yankees are standing pat.
Key phrase: "for now." Pardon me for thinking that the rotation might look a little bit different when the season starts than this article projects...

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Sunday football

Odds and ends...

  • When DeSean Jackson (finally) crossed the goal line in the Meadowlands, I turned to my son and said, "I really feel bad for all of those NY fans." But I didn't manage to keep a straight face all the way through it.
  • Matt Dodge, Joe Pisarcik. Joe Pisarcik, Matt Dodge.
  • Did Coughlin cut Dodge before he made it off the field?
  • Of course, the Giants defense gave up three touchdown drives for over 200 yards on 15 plays in about four minutes of time in the fourth quarter.
  • For those saying, "I've never seen that before," you're right. That's apparently the first game-ending punt return touchdown in NFL history. Because why would you kick it to a returner instead of out of bounds when a return would lose the game for you and there are under 15 seconds left?
  • I don't know if Tim Tebow is going to succeed in the NFL or not. I think he probably will, and I'm rooting for him, but just a little of the Oakland-Denver game gave me some sympathy for the legion of detractors. The coverage is apparently going to be as sycophantic and unrelenting as the coverage which has made many of us so sick of Brett Favre over the years. He played OK, guys, but he made mistakes, his team lost, and it's one freakin' game!
  • I'll admit it - I didn't think that there was any way that the Jets would go into Pittsburgh and win. But it doesn't really make me think that the Jets are better, just that the Patriots win in Pittsburgh is less impressive that I thought at the time.
  • You can't successfully rush three and cover in the red zone against the Patriots. Someone will come free, and Brady won't miss him.
  • That was actually a good outcome for the Patriots last night. They had a moment of clarity which should go a long way in curing any growing delusions of grandeur, and they got it without paying the price they paid in Cleveland for the last one.
  • Tom Brady has his name in the record books again, as he's now passed Bernie Kosar for the longest single-season interception-less pass attempt streak. He's certainly thrown several over that stretch that could have been picked, but that's the way the game works - I'd bet that you went through Kosar's streak, the defenders had their hands on some of those, too. Joe Montana is praised for his Super Bowl performances, 4-0 with no picks, but on the comeback vs. the Bengals, he actually hit one of the Cincinnati linebackers in the hands and had it dropped. That's the way the ball bounces.
  • Something else that no one had ever seen before yesterday was an offensive lineman return a kick-off for 71 yards. It's a shame that Dan Connolly didn't get those last four yards.
  • The Patriots are probably the best team in football. But the kind of defensive performance that they put up last night is going to get them beaten, somewhere down the road.

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Clay Buchholz

In reply to a comment that someone "expect[s] Lester and Buccholz to be as good or better" in 2011 as they were in 2010:

I wouldn't. Not Buchholz. Lester is Lester - he's established, in my mind, a consistent performance level, and I expect him to be a top starter again next year, in Cy Young contention if he can avoid the slow starts that have hampered him the past couple of years.

But I wouldn't be at all surprised if we've already seen Clay Buchholz' best season. Not that I expect him to be bad, because I don't, but I don't expect him to put up another 187 ERA+ (tied for the 73rd best season in Major League history1.) I don't think his peripherals support it.

FWIW, Baseball Prospectus has continued working on the concepts which Voros McCracken first identified in DIPs, that pitchers have very little control over what happens to balls in play, and that pitching skills primarily manifest themselves in walks, strikeout and home runs allowed. While that's overly broad and not absolutely true, it does provide what has proved to be, over the years, a useful framework for projecting pitchers. The newest manifestation is SIERA, which is Skill-Interactive ERA. Last year, Buchholz put up a 2.33 ERA with a SIERA of 4.29. Of the 318 ML pitchers who threw at least 50 innings last year, only 7 had a better ERA relative to their SIERA than Buchholz. He could very easily pitch better in 2011 than he did in 2010 and still see his ERA go up by a run.

That's not to say that SIERA is the be-all and end-all, or that it's perfect in all cases, or that Buchholz doesn't do something which causes his SIERA to skew higher than his real run-prevention ability (though in 2009, he put up an ERA of 4.21 on a SIERA of 4.16) or that he won't continue improving or anything like that. But in my opinion, it's very unrealistic to look for an ERA+ over 140 from Buchholz this year.

2010 ERA vs. SIERA - Red Sox Starters
ERASIERA

Jon Lester3.253.2

Daisuke Matsuzaka4.694.36

John Lackey4.44.27

Josh Beckett5.783.84

Clay Buchholz2.334.29


1 - Here's the list of pitchers that have put up multiple season at 187 or better ERA+:

Pedro Martinez
Walter Johnson+
Randy Johnson
Greg Maddux
Roger Clemens
Christy Mathewson+
Cy Young+
Dazzy Vance+
Hal Newhouser+
Lefty Grove+
Mordecai Brown+
Sandy Koufax+

Everyone on the list who is eligible is already in the Hall-of-Fame, everyone else is headed there (depending on how the voters eventually deal with Clemens.) There are a bunch of pitchers that managed to do it once (including Hall-of-Famers Tom Seaver, Bob Gibson, Warren Spahn and Lefty Gomez), but only all-time greats have done it more than once. I think it's unlikely that Buchholz is going to be an all-time great, and people need to be realistic about what they're going to get. It's easy to imagine him pitching as well or better in 2011, and people being disappointed with his 3.45 ERA...

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

If they can make ketchup and clam flavored chips...

...is anything off limits?
Scotland's national delicacy, haggis, will soon be available to American snack hounds in potato chip form, a North Carolina importer said.

Great Scot International announced this week it would have Mackie's Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper chips on display at its booth at the annual Fancy Food Show in New York next month.
...
Haggis is the legendary blend of various sheep organs and parts traditionally simmered in a casing made of sheep stomach and served with great ceremony at holiday banquets and other festive Highland and Lowland occasions.
I'll confess to a morbid curiosity...



Bonus content - the haggis/bagpipe joke!
Q: What's the difference between the bagpipes and the haggis?
A: You can tune the haggis...

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How revealing is this?

From an article about how the House Democrats are now just trying to save face in the tax cut fight comes the following:
“The die is cast now,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who last week circulated a letter signed by 54 Democrats urging opposition to the bill. “Once the president entered into that agreement with the Senate Republicans even while talks with the House were supposedly under way, that set the tone for the weekend, and now you got Americans excited about a trillion dollars that is going to be, in effect, given away.
Let's remember what we're talking about here. Currently income tax rates are at the same level they've been at since 2002. In three weeks, if Congress does not pass an extension of those rates, there will be a massive tax hike, hitting Americans of all income ranges who actually pay income taxes. The "compromise" worked out between the President and Congressional Republicans extends those rates, forgoing the massive tax hike.

According to a Democratic Congressman, this is "about a trillion dollars that is going to be, in effect, given away."

Ponder that, if you will.


Congressman Welch, words have meanings. The money that you're characterizing as being "given away" is not the government's money. The government has nothing but what it takes in the first place. Someone whose tax rate does not rise from 38% to 41% isn't being given a damned thing, simply having less taken. Using this logic, we could praise as generous a bank robber who only emptied three of the four teller drawers...

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Separated at birth - Harry Reid and Miracle Max...

Senate spending bill contains thousands of earmarks
The $1.2 trillion bill, released on Tuesday, includes more than 6,000 earmarks totaling $8 billion, an amount that many lawmakers decried as an irresponsible binge following a midterm election in which many voters demanded that the government cut spending.

"The American people said just 42 days ago, 'Enough!' . . . Are we tone deaf? Are we stricken with amnesia?" Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a leading earmark critic, said on the Senate floor, flipping through the 1,924-page bill as he pounded his desk.
Miracle Max didn't like it when his wife said the name "Humperdinck." He stuck his fingers in his ears, and ran around the room, humming and singing, "I can't hear you!"


That's how Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (who, interestingly enough, resemble Miracle Max and his wife) are responding to the American people and the message that they sent last month...

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One more Cliff Lee thought...

There's one more thing about Lee signing that makes it even better from a Red Sox fan point-of-view. Better than it would have been if he'd signed with the Rangers.

  1. Mets fans, like most everyone else, hate the Yankees.
  2. Mets fans love to see the Yankees lose, at games and free agent pursuits.
  3. The Mets are in a division with, and a rivalry with, the Phillies.
  4. Mets fans hate the Phillies, too.
  5. Therefore, the signing of Lee with the Phillies makes both Yankee and Mets fans miserable!

Ah... It just doesn't get any better than this!

;-)

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Notes from no one...

Prominent left-wing blogger/moron Josh Marshall, yesterday:
A year ago, no one took seriously the idea that a federal health care mandate was unconstitutional.

Me, a year ago:
It's a wildly unpopular bill, that has never been fully printed for people to read, that will force people to purchase specific services from specific [previously] private sector entities without any kind of constitutional justification

Me, a little less than a year ago:
there's no discussion amongst our representatives whatsoever about whether their proposals are constitutional. Which they are almost certainly not...Of course, there's a lot of legislation passed in Washington which wouldn't pass if our elected representatives actuall followed the Constitution. This is just one more piece...

Obviously, there were a lot of people who took the idea of an individual mandate being unconstitutional seriously a year ago. I'm just one of them.

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Lee to Yankees: "Thanks, but no thanks..."

Cliff Lee to rejoin Philadelphia Phillies
The most intriguing negotiation of the hot stove season came to a stunning conclusion late Monday when Lee, 32, spurned bigger offers from the Yankees and Rangers and agreed to a five-year, guaranteed $120 million contract with the Phillies, sources said. The deal includes an "easily reachable" vesting option for a sixth year, a source said, and most likely will ensure that Lee finishes his career in a Philadelphia uniform.

Odds and ends...
  • As of December 14, the Boston Red Sox are the favorites to win the AL East.
  • As of December 14, the Philadelphia Phillies are the favorites to win the NL East.
  • The Yankees' plan was to go into the season with Sabathia and Lee at the top of their rotation. They knew - they didn't think, they knew - that they'd sign Lee. Now it's on to plan B. (Actually, plan B was apparently Crawford, so I guess they're on to plan C, now.)
  • This is, obviously, great news for Yankee haters all right-thinking people, at least in the short term.
  • The people at the players union can't be thrilled about this, as Lee reportedly left a lot of money on the table. It makes it harder for some other pitcher to get more than five years and $100 million.
  • The next question is, who do the Yankees go get, and what does he cost? As mediocre (or worse) as Javier Vazquez was, he gave them 26 starts and 157 innings that need to be replaced. There's, at this time, no guarantee that Pettitte will be back. Sabathia, Burnett and Hughes is not enough of a rotation to strike fear into the hearts of anyone. So where do they go? Greinke's apparently available but no one thinks he can pitch in New York. It's hard to believe that Felix Hernandez would be available, no matter what they offered. Cris Carpenter's headed into free agency, but why would St. Louis part with him now? Where's the good starter on a bad team that they might be able to pry away who could make the difference? I don't know, off the top of my head, but I'd bet that they'll do something major (not just re-signing Pettitte) between now and the beginning of April. They'll at least try to do something major, because they don't have the starting pitching to win the East, and they know it.

Thank you, Cliff. You've given millions of people a wonderful Christmas present...

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Our long national nightmare is finally over...

Brett Favre is inactive for tonight's game against the Giants, ending a streak of 297 consecutive regular season starts, and 10,000 times that many media mentions...

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Obamacare unconstitutional

A Federal Judge has ruled that the Obamacare individual mandate is unconstitutional. This is not done yet, because it's clearly going to go to the Supreme Court.

But many of us made this argument before they passed it, before he signed it, and were mocked for making it. It doesn't look like quite as outlandish a contention today, does it?

Two points:
  • The bill, as passed, did NOT include a non-severability clause. Which means that, if one part goes out, the whole of it goes out.
  • Regardless of the presence or absence of a severability clause, none of the bill works, even in the "the world will behave the way we decree it will" mindset of the leftists, without an individual mandate.

Where do we go from here? To the next court, obviously. But this is a good thing, and a judge has made a correct decision.

Update:
Let’s remember that these mandates are the central tenets of Obamacare. Gut them and the law falls apart.
- Sen. Orrin Hatch
Exactly right.

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"The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader"

"The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader" is the fourth book in C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, and the third of the books recently filmed1. And it's a beautiful film. While it doesn't contain everything from the book, and has added a thing or two, and changed the sequence of some events, it has been faithful to both the story and the ideas behind it.

I'm not going to do a full review, but there is one thing that I wanted to mention, and praise the filmmakers2 for. Lewis wrote the Chronicles of Narnia in order to, in his words, "smuggle in theology" to children. There are many places in the stories where this is clear, and the ending of "Dawn Treader" is one of them, with some of the most explicit symbolic christology in the whole series.

As the Pevensies, Eustace and Reepicheep reach the shore at the end of the world, a lamb greets them. There is fish cooking over an open fire. And the lamb then turns into Aslan. Reepicheep goes on to Aslan's country, while the others are returned to earth. But there is a conversation between them in which Lucy laments that she won't return to Narnia, not for Narnia itself, but because she won't see Aslan again. And he explains to her that he will always be with her in her own world. "In your world," he tells her, "you must learn to know me by a different name."

And they filmed it. Not all of it, not exactly the way it's written, but the important parts, they included. They didn't include the lamb. Caspian was with them. There was sand instead of grass. But the key, the important idea of the scene was there. They made a big, mainstream film, and Aslan told Lucy, "in your world, you must learn to know me by a different name."

There must have been pressure from someone, somewhere, not to include it. But they included it anyway. Even if the rest of the film had been terrible (it wasn't), I'd have forgiven them almost anything for including it.






1 - Which makes it sound like they've skipped something, but what they've done makes sense. The second book, "The Horse And His Boy," actually fits, chronologically, within the boundaries of the first book, and the only major characters from elsewhere in the Chronicles (with the obvious exception of Aslan) are the adult versions of the Pevensies, High Kings and Queens over Narnia. So there's no urgency to film it before the actors "age out" of the parts...

2 - A large part of the reason that the movies have been true to the spirit of Lewis' books is the presence of Executive Producer Douglas Gresham, Lewis' step-son, who, I believe, holds the rights at this point, and is determined that the films be faithful to Lewis' beliefs.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Home from drill

Sunday, December 12, 2010...

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Cliff Lee can greatly increase the net sum of human happiness.

How often does one many get to make millions of people happy by signing a contract for millions of dollars? And during the holiday season? You can do it, Cliff Lee. Spurn the Yankees filthy lucre, sign with the Rangers, and give the vast majority of baseball fans1 a wonderful present...


1 - Yeah, the Yankee fans won't be happy, but that just adds to the pleasure for everyone else...

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More Carl Crawford

At Fangraphs, Dave Cameron discusses the Crawford signing.
In general, reaction to the deal among people I talked to in Orlando was mostly negative, as $142 million for Carl Crawford is a big number. As a guy who gets a lot of value from his speed and defense, he isn’t the type of player to land a contract of this size. As Ken Rosenthal mentioned on Twitter, this is $50 million more than the next highest contract in baseball history for a guy who had never hit 20 or more home runs in a season- Ichiro’s previous record of $90 million for five years just got blown out of the water.

Just because it is unique, however, doesn’t mean it is automatically bad...

For the record (and I'll expound on some of this when I get a chance), my position on the signing is that
  1. Crawford is not worth that much money per year
  2. The contract is too long
  3. Too expensive for too long = bad contract
  4. I like (possibly even love) the signing anyway

Illogical? Irrational? Possibly. As I say, I'll expound at some point...

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Orphan Drug Discounts Ended for Children’s Hospitals

They passed it, so we can find out what's in it...
In an unintended consequence of the new health care law, drug companies have begun notifying children’s hospitals around the country that they no longer qualify for large discounts on drugs used to treat rare medical conditions.

As a result, prices are going up for these specialized “orphan drugs,” some of which are also used to treat more common conditions.

Over the last 18 years, Congress has required drug manufacturers to provide discounts to a variety of health care providers, including community health centers, AIDS clinics and hospitals that care for large numbers of low-income people.

Several years ago, Congress broadened the program to include children’s hospitals. But this year Congress, in revising the drug discount program as part of the new health care law, blocked these hospitals from continuing to receive price cuts on orphan drugs intended for treatment of diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the United States.
So my question for all of the Obamacare supporters out there is this - why were you so eager to cut off drugs for sick children? That's seems pretty heartless and greedy to me, cutting off drugs for sick kids to satisfy your own desires...

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Merry Christmas, Red Sox fans!

So not only do we find Adrian Gonzalez in our Christmas stockings, when we pull him out we find that there was room for Carl Crawford in there, too! Santa says, "Theo Epstein, you've been a very good boy this year."

A lineup of
Ellsbury
Pedroia
Gonzalez
Youkilis
Crawford
Ortiz
Drew
Saltalamacchia/Varitek
Scutaro/Lowrie
is a lineup that will score a lot of runs. It will hit for average, it will produce a ton of baserunners, it will produce a lot of home runs, a plethora of doubles and a slew of stolen bases.

I'll a fuller analysis when we get closer to the start of the season, when we know a little bit more about what the bullpen is going to look like, what the bench is going to look like. But even if the Yankees sign Cliff Lee, as everyone expects, the Red Sox are going to go into the 2011 season as at least co-favorites to be the best team in baseball. Again.



(Now, does Tony Massarotti spend the day claiming that "hey, they took my advice"?)

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Ted Turner, hypocrite

Ed Driscoll - "I wonder if the Ted’s kids — or his ex-wives — ever ask him which child he regrets the most?"

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Thirty years ago today

Thirty years ago today, the Patriots played in Miami on Monday Night Football. And I was watching, and I remember this.



I wasn't a Beatles fan, at that point. (I am now. I don't know that I can really appreciate the impact they had, but they were talented, and much of their music was wonderful.) They broke up when I was seven, so I was too young to have been a fan, and really didn't know anything about them. But I certainly remember hearing Cosell announce this. (Probably just before I filled the woodstove to burn through the rest of the night...)

And my high school band played a Lennon tribute medley at our Christmas concert, which was sometime in the next week or so. (And I conducted part of it in a Santa suit, but that's another story. Which I can't really tell you, because, beyond the bare fact that I did it, I don't remember much about it...)

I don't think much of Lennon, but he was certainly a talented musician, who had a tremendous impact (not all of it good, by any stretch) on many people.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

When all else fails...

In a panic, with everything that he's tried failing dismally, President Obama decides to take one last desperate gamble and actually do something that makes sense...
President Obama spoke because he had come to an agreement on extending current tax rates for two more years, rather than impose a job-killing tax hike, falling short of a permanent extension needed for economic certainty. The President defended this compromise by finally stating the obvious: ”Make no mistake: Allowing taxes to go up on all Americans would have raised taxes by $3,000 for a typical American family. And that could cost our economy well over a million jobs.”

Maybe he is educable...

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Out of the mouths of babes...

Brilliant. Just brilliant.


I'm not embarrassed to take that position...

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Happy Birthday...

...Larry Bird. The former Celtic great turns 55 today...

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Checking President Obama

John J. Pitney Jr. makes an excellent point...

In other words, the separation of powers, bicamerialism, and federalism are all kicking in to check the Obama administration. The system is working in comformance to the owner’s manual, otherwise known as
The Federalist Papers.

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Barack Spock

An oldie but goodie from the brilliant Michael Ramirez...


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New England Patriots 45, New York Jets 3

To be honest, I'm having a little trouble digesting this one...
  • If the Patriots defense had been better this year, that would have been comfortable at the end of the first quarter. As it was, it wasn't until the Patriots scored on the first play of the fourth that it really felt over.
  • There were a lot of indicators that the Patriots would win last night, but many of them are ambiguous, at best.
    • Comments from Tom Brady that he didn't understand the Jets defense before but was confident that he did now.
    • The swagger of the Jets, combined with how quickly and severely their attitude reportedly changed when Leonhard was hurt.
    • The reports of comments from New England players, none made publicly, that they knew that they were going to win.
    • The lack of a single Jet victory over a good team, save for the week 2 win against New England, in a game where Tom Brady kept trying to force the ball to Randy Moss.
    • New England's offensive efficiency since adjusting to the Moss and Branch trades.
    I thought that the Patriots would win, but certainly didn't expect that final score.
  • I didn't think of it as being that big a blowout (42 points!) until hearing commentary late in the game and post-game. There are two reasons for this:
    1. 2007 changed the mental conditioning for many of us as to what, exactly, a football game looks like. I know that teams don't march up and down the field, and win by four+ touchdowns on a regular basis. But while I "know" it, I've seen it happen - I've seen this show before, and it doesn't come as a surprise. And it doesn't feel "historic" or, in some ways, even noteworthy. The Patriots have had long stretches of offensive efficiency so productive that I'm somewhat jaded by it, still.
    2. There have been so many games, in the past couple of years, that looked just like that one, half-way through the third quarter. This team, since Brady's return from the knee injury, has on several occasions gone up on teams, way up on teams, only to see the defense give it back late. Think Indianapolis last year. Or Indianapolis this year. Or Pittsburgh this year. If you don't trust your defense, then there's no lead that you're really comfortable with. If Sanchez throws touchdowns instead of picks on those two red zone drives in the second half, it's a very different game.
  • Tom Brady's last four games: 91 for 124, 1203 yards, 13 TD, 0 INT, 138.6 rating. He may actually be playing better than he did in 2007, and is the clear favorite right now to win his 2nd NFL MVP award. And I hope that Patriots fans understand and appreciate what they're watching, because what we're watching right now is special - it won't last forever, and we're not likely to see it again...

  • One of the reasons that Belichick is a great coach, according to his former players, is that he is able to tell them what's going to happen in a game. "If you do x, y will happen." There's a tremendous amount of trust, and that makes people very coachable. They believe what he tells them. Well, the defensive performance last night was very good, and that young, fast, athletic defense is starting to learn and to trust. A lot of what happened is a result of Sanchez not being very good, but some of it is the defense really starting to come to grips with what they've been taught. There are going to be more bumps along the way, but they're getting better. I expected them to be better in December than in September - I think we're seeing that.

  • There's been a lot of talk, chatter, speculation that the Patriots defense was just not a "championship-caliber" defense, that they couldn't win a Championship this year. With four games to go, which NFL team is better positioned than New England? Who looks more impressive? Who's got a better record, against better competition? They've beaten every other top AFC team already, with the exception of the Chiefs. Is Kansas City a better team? I don't think so. Are the Falcons? We may well find out. I don't see any AFC team more likely to go to the Super Bowl than the Patriots.

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Monday, December 06, 2010

When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail...

Tony Massarotti celebrates the Adrian Gonzalez acquisition with possibly the dumbest column ever posted at the Globe website. Obviously, there's a tremendous amount of strong competition, but Tony's got the right stuff to battle for the title.
Don’t people see? The Red Sox have not overachieved in the last eight years so much as they underachieved for the better part of the 20th Century.
Really. He wrote that. Do you need more?

Let's think about that last eight years for a minute. Over that span, the Red Sox have won 749 games, an average of 94 per season. They've been to the playoffs six times, and won two World Series. (The list of other ML teams with multiple WS titles in that stretch:       .)

Seriously, Tony? They've underachieved?

Of course, what would a Massarotti baseball piece be without a reference to Mark Teixeira, the Moby Dick to Tony's Ahab?
In many ways, of course, this all goes back to Mark Teixeira, whom the Red Sox failed to sign two winters ago because they drew the line at $170 million over eight years. Teixeira subsequently ended up in New York for $180 million and the Red Sox haven’t won a playoff game since. The Yankees have won a World Series.
Is there anyone else, anyone anywhere, who thinks that John Henry could have drawn the line at $180 million instead of $170 million, or at $190 million or $210 million, and the Yankees wouldn't have walked right over it? No. And Texeira made it clear afterwards that New York was where he and his wife wanted to be. Given that, is there any reasonable or realistic way that Boston could have signed him, Tony's fevered imaginings notwithstanding? It's tough to imagine how, given that the player preferred a specific location, which wasn't Boston, but was home to a team both willing and capable to match any amount that Boston put on the table.

Tony - Teixeira was NOT. COMING. TO. BOSTON.
Remember, the Teixeira talks were not the first time the Sox failed. In 2003, the Sox tried to acquire Alex Rodriguez, only to have things fall apart by insisting on reconstruction of the player’s contract...In retrospect, the fact that Rodriguez landed with the Yankees was a blessing. But that’s not the point.
No, obviously not. The point is beating up on an organization that's been the most successful in baseball for being cheap, because they've only outspent 28 of the other 29 teams. Great point there, Tony. Way to focus on the big picture.

With regard to Theo Epstein, his history reflects a similar (or better) return when the Red Sox have extended themselves and embraced a concept that the current Sox administration treats like a four-letter word: risk.
Right. John Henry, a man who has made a billion dollars running a hedge fund, needs advice from a Globe sportswriter on the concept of risk.

I lack the vocabulary to heap upon that statement the full level of scorn, contempt and mockery which it deserves.

In 2003, Epstein gave up prospects for Curt Schilling, who had just turned 37; the Sox won a World Series. In 2007, the Sox spent nearly a quarter-billion to secure Daisuke Matsuzaka, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo; again, the result was a World Series title. Whether those specific deals paid out individually is certainly open to debate, but the point is that the Red Sox were rewarded for their aggressiveness in one way, shape or form.
Excuse me? Are you suggesting that this underachieving organization that's unwilling to spend and doesn't understand risk has actually made big aggressive moves that resulted in championships? Doesn't that paragraph invalidate everything that preceded it? [Also note the weaseling in there, as Tony leaves himself free to both criticize the management for not making moves like that, as he does here, and to criticize them at other times and places for making those particular moves. I've heard him, several times, list the Drew, Lugo and Matsuzaka contracts as among the worst mistakes that the team has made: here, he's listing them as moves that they haven't made enough of.]

Back to the quest for the white whale...
When you sign big contracts, there is always the chance the deal will be a bust. Such is the cost of doing business. No risks, no rewards. The Red Sox failed in the Teixeira negotiations because they were afraid of, what, paying him $23 million a year instead of $21.25 million?
How about, they failed in the Teixeira negotiations because it takes two to tango and the party of the 2nd part had an option that he liked better than coming to Boston, and there wasn't a single damned thing that they could do about it?

Seriously. Is there really any doubt that, if they'd have offered him $300 million, Boras would have had an offer of $305 million from the Yankees ten minutes later?
Beginning in 2003, the Red Sox have had as many draft picks (28) prior to the third round -- that is, those rounds affected by free agency compensation -- as any team in baseball.
That sounds like a good thing to me, but I'm not Tony.

As much as that is a good thing, it also suggests that team officials have been running the Red Sox as if they were the Oakland A’s, Arizona Diamondbacks or Toronto Blue Jays -- all small-to-mid-market teams who truly cannot compete with the big boys on the open market.
Beginning in 2003, the Red Sox have spent $1.03 Billion on player salaries. The A's, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays have spent $468 million, $524 million and $541 million, respectively. They've outspent the big-market, 3rd biggest spenders in baseball, the New York Mets, by over 8% over that period. (They also spent $51 million on a posting fee to get Daisuke Matsuzaka, blowing away everyone else in baseball.) That suggests that Tony Massarotti either doesn't know what he's talking about. Or he's just making stuff up. Or he's an idiot. Your call...

And I've already mentioned the unhealthy Teixeira obsession, but just in case that seems a stretch, you just need to read to the end (if you can get there - I don't blame you if you can't):
Gonzalez fills the most glaring need in the Boston organization, in the short term and long, by giving the Red Sox the kind of middle-of-the-order presence that sent them chasing after Teixeira in the first place.

Just sign him, John.

At this point, you’ve already paid way too much.
Boston sports fans are regularly treated to some of the best bad sportswriting anywhere. (And there's some speculation that Herman Melville, a native of Massachusetts, actually had a Boston sportswriter in mind when he was writing the chaaracter of Ahab.) This is a classic of the genre...

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Adrian Gonzalez

The Red Sox have made a trade. They've acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres in exchange for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo and Reymond Fuentes. Kelly and Rizzo were generally acclaimed as the top two prospects in the Red Sox system, and Fuentes, while young, is thought to have a very high ceiling. So the cost in prospects is high.

The cost in dollars is going to be high, too. While they have not submitted a contract extension to Major League Baseball, it is being reported that the deal has been agreed upon. The Red Sox will pay Gonzalez $167 million over the next eight years1.

Is he worth it? He's obviously a very good hitter, but is he a great hitter? Let's look at him against his peers, over a period of time. Over the last three years, the 20 best hitters in MLB by Runs Created:
20 highest RC - MLB - 2008-2010
PlayerGamesGSABRuns Hits 2B3BHRRBIBBIBBHBPKSBCSSFGDPBAOBASPctOPSRCRC/25
Albert Pujols 467458167933955612821263693221161819437112262.331.439.6351.074427.88.78
Miguel Cabrera 4704681775292558115310935621352113281051855.314.388.567.954361.56.98
Prince Fielder 48248217572834909051123263085742410652038.279.395.527.922360.66.78
Mark Teixeira 471469178431850912031053512712832329411745.285.386.533.918357.36.68
Matt Holliday 4534491716296541122677300215242629851141135.315.397.528.925351.47.11
Ryan Braun 4664591865306565123149432315562535548131037.303.363.535.898349.86.43
Hanley Ramirez 4464361708318537104778249217352431694301428.314.396.520.917349.47.02
Adrian Gonzalez 48247217592805019231073192867514365111162.285.387.523.910335.96.29
Joey Votto 432412154225748410668628122027133332711626.314.403.558.960332.77.55
Ryan Howard 4654581776297477861312439521536175421031536.269.350.541.892326.26.03
Chase Utley 430427160330045589108026221520692775041718.284.388.502.890325.86.86
Adam Dunn 47546416212454138821163083153920540231125.255.380.526.906324.46.50
David Wright 461458174829051911787229923722941961252943.297.378.497.875323.26.09
Ichiro Suzuki 4704692005265652811423131128401222211122612.325.368.414.782319.05.69
Nick Markakis 478475186627955713865024822816730423111640.298.374.459.833317.25.76
Joe Mauer 4214011569280534104646256225366166662253.340.420.502.922314.77.04
Kevin Youkilis 3833761391267429105107527119716383001481824.308.404.560.964306.27.56
Jayson Werth 44940515432774318868725123015194225371824.279.376.513.889304.36.55
Dan Uggla 46345916842814449529628724712174701171230.264.361.493.855299.05.79
Alex Rodriguez 39939414762564227939532820417253123681936.286.378.537.914294.56.59

Without digging at all, he's one of the best 10-12 hitters in baseball. But he's also playing in about the worst park for hitters in baseball. What happens when he gets out on the road, away from spacious Petco? Here's the same list, only for just RC in road games.
20 highest Road RC - MLB - 2008-2010
PlayerGamesGSABRuns Hits 2B3BHRRBIBBIBBHBPKSBCSSFGDPBAOBASPctOPSRCRC/25
Albert Pujols 2332298691802765826818715460101151361033.318.422.6241.046207.78.09
Adrian Gonzalez 2422379271682875617019211935817711726.310.390.599.989199.87.40
Ryan Braun 2342309781583096774317172113177289220.316.370.531.901183.56.55
Joey Votto 21920979513826266340140117176173192414.330.418.571.989182.68.26
Prince Fielder 24024090514025246253163152312820521725.278.396.509.905178.76.51
Hanley Ramirez 2222178781482775633210594171314153131012.315.386.495.881170.56.70
Miguel Cabrera 2322319051322745625417499225185341031.303.371.548.919169.66.27
Adam Dunn 2322227881252095125614615314102752269.265.389.548.937167.77.04
Nick Markakis 2412409321402836952312613283153147822.304.389.462.851166.36.06
Chase Utley 2152148201472295373412710893914027178.279.386.485.871162.96.71
Matt Holliday 2212188541402645813311897910148314716.309.383.495.879162.96.60
Ryan Howard 234230914146241446652051012010263411020.264.340.538.878162.05.75
Ichiro Suzuki 236235101912732343613616519610854942.317.360.409.769159.45.59
Dan Uggla 2292278611382415524614510751022062914.280.363.509.871157.76.11
Joe Mauer 212203820130268573221251122019721919.327.404.484.889156.76.74
Mark Teixeira 232231897145234581431521351615168411025.261.363.472.835152.95.47
David Wright 232230915137262662341541047322927151522.286.356.474.830150.65.34
Evan Longoria 214209811131228704381509710121851321324.281.361.518.879147.95.94
Kevin Youkilis 19018670812520948736118101718151102615.295.394.535.929146.97.03
Justin Morneau 185183714111219511411379518111801614.307.386.553.939145.57.05

This guy is a great hitter. By all accounts, he's an excellent defensive first baseman. He 28, and should be in his peak performance years for the next 2-3 years, and excellent for several years more. This is exactly the kind of guy in whom you make the kind of investment that they're making. He makes them better now, and he's the kind of fixture in the middle of your lineup that you look to build around. 

So yes, he's worth it. 

He also gives them the best offensive third baseman in baseball, as Youkilis moves across the diamond, back to his original position.  I have some concern about his defensive capabilities over there, but assume he'll be competent, and hit sufficiently well to offset any defensive deficiencies.  Add in Pedroia at 2nd, and it's going to be one of the best infields in baseball, whoever ends up playing SS.  We don't know yet what the final roster will look like, but we know this much - the Red Sox will, again, be one of the best teams in baseball when the season starts...





1 - As no one's seen the contract, it's not clear (at least not to me) at this time whether that includes this coming season, for which he's already under contract, or not.  Is it an eight-year contract that renegotiates the first year?  An eight-year extension?  A seven-year extension to the current deal?  My guess is the last of those choices, but I don't know for sure.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

The Emerging Consensus

I hope that Yuval Levin is right about The Emerging Consensus
Between the Simpson-Bowles proposal, the Rivlin-Ryan proposal, the Domenici-Rivlin proposal (which came from outside the commission), and a number of other ideas thrown around in recent weeks, people in the center and on the right (helped no doubt by the election results) appear to be moving closer together on the question of what our highest domestic priority must now be. There is growing agreement in American politics that the challenge of our time is cleaning up the horrible mess created by the Great Society—the mess that is our approach to domestic discretionary spending but above all the mess that is our health-care entitlement system. That is the essence of our debt and deficit problems.
This is what the people in the Tea Parties understand, and what those criticizing the Tea Partiers don't, yet...

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Mississippi Supreme Court Grants Cory Maye a New Trial

This is fantastic news.
The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Cory Maye a new trial today (PDF), though on different grounds than the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which granted the trial based on a change of venue issue. The state's supreme court instead ruled that Maye's trial judge should have let the jury consider a "defense of others" defense, and that the judge's refusal to include that in the jury instructions amounted to reversible error.
If you haven't followed the story at all, Maye is in jail - on death row - because he shot and killed a man violently breaking into his house in the middle of the night. The man happened to be a police officer, but the police hadn't knocked or announced, and there's an excellent chance that the police were operating on an illegal warrant. Maye shouldn't have been charged, let alone convicted. He shot at an unidentified man breaking into his house in the night.

Much more here...

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

The funniest line I expect to read today...

Debt-Busting Issue May Force Obama Off Fence
The body of Mr. Obama’s writing and experiences before he became a presidential candidate would suggest that he is instinctively pragmatic, typical of an emerging generation that sees all political dogma — be it ’60s liberalism or ’80s conservatism — as anachronistic. Privately, Mr. Obama has described himself, at times, as essentially a Blue Dog Democrat, referring to the shrinking caucus of fiscally conservative members of the party.

As Tom Elia said, "he describes himself this way in private is because if he said it publicly, people would laugh at him..."

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Right now, gridlock is our friend...

GOP threatens to stall Senate action
Senate Republicans are vowing to block all legislative business until Democrats hold votes on bills to extend the Bush-era tax cuts and keep the government funded through the new year.

In a letter signed by all 42 Republicans, Republicans warn they will filibuster any attempt to bring forward any bill besides those two measures.
Can they sustain this unified front? Will everyone stay on board?

Regardless, it's exactly the right attitude, and one they should be encouraged to maintain...

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Heraldry - Massachusetts Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters

TIOH - Heraldry - Massachusetts Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters



Shoulder Sleeve Insignia


Description

On a red pentagonal background 2 1/2 inches (6.35 cm) in diameter with one side up a yellow and blue wreath supporting a right arm bent at the elbow, clothed and ruffled, the hand grasping a broad sword, all yellow.

Symbolism

The design is that of the crest of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts which was adopted 13 December 1780.  The right arm, bent at the elbow, is an ancient European heraldic symbol which is thought to symbolize the arm of God.

Background

The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Massachusetts National Guard on 5 June 1950.  It was redesignated for Headquarters, State Area Command, Massachusetts Army National Guard on 30 December 1983.  It was redesignated retroactive to 1 October 2003 for the Massachusetts Army National Guard Element, Joint Force Headquarters and amended to update the description and add a symbolism. (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-163)

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"This is why the American people have thrown you out of power"

An interesting exchange on the floor of the house between Reps. Steve Buyer and Laura Richardson...

Buyer: "This is why the American people have thrown you out of power"

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