Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Pythagorean - 4/30/2012

We live in a post-modern, relativistic age, where certainty and judgementalism are frowned upon. I'm going to buck the spirit of the age and state, unequivocally, that 6-1 is better than 0-5.

  • Obviously, Minnesota and Chicago are not Tampa and Detroit and Texas and New York. Doesn't matter. You've got to beat the teams on the schedule. Last week, they didn't do that. This week, they did.
  • Big hits: Kevin Youkilis' Grand Slam on Thursday night. Darnell McDonald's three-run double on Friday night.
  • Philip Humber followed up his perfect game with the worst start of his ML career, as the Red Sox put up nine runs against him in less than five innings of work.
  • One of the things that was different between this week and last was the timeliness (i.e., "luck" or "clutchness" [depending on your worldview]) of their offensive production. Last week they created 22 runs and scored 17. This week, they created 37 and scored 46. (Using Bill James' Runs Created formula, the second one, I think...)
  • The Red Sox are up to second in the league in runs scored. They are up to 13th in the league in runs allowed.
  • Again, they're exactly where they were a year ago after 21 games - 10-11. Like last year, they are 3 1/2 games out in the East after 21 games, albeit in 5th rather than 3rd.
  • Unlike last year, they reached .500 for the first time after game 20. Last year, it took them until game 40.
  • After five days (six if you go back to last week) of beating up opposition pitchers, they've now scored only one run in consecutive games. Thanks to Lester, that was good enough to come out of those two games with a split.
  • Scoring one run per game is not a good long-term strategy.
  • Quote of the week: "Are you trying to give me a heart attack?"
    - Bobby Valentine to Alfredo Aceves, after Aceves gave up a long fly ball with one man on and a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth in the first game in Minnesota
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - There were some good performances from the offense, but nothing overpowering. What happened instead was they had very good individual games by players scattered throughout the lineups, and not much in the way of offensive sinkholes. The best performance on a per-out basis (for a player with more than 8 at-bats) was David Ortiz, but from a counting stats perspective, it was Mike Aviles. Given the positional difference, I'm going with Aviles this week.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - A lot of candidates here. Alfredo Aceves saved three games with three scoreless performances. Five different relievers pitched multiple innings without allowing a run. Daniel Bard had an effective relief performance and a very good start. But, despite the fact that his first of two wins on the week was a mediocre performance, I'm going to go with Jon Lester, whose stellar performance on Saturday resulted in a win in a game in which they scored only one run.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/30/2012
New York5.62(1)4.81(11)0.571(2)1291290
Tampa Bay4.68(5)4.36(8)0.532(5)12101482
Los Angeles3.45(13)4.14(5)0.418(11)913715-2
Kansas City3.95(11)4.86(12)0.407(13)912615-3

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay10359
New York9369

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9270
Tampa Bay8973

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay4.5(5)3(2)0.677(3)42511
Kansas City4.5(5)4.17(8)0.535(6)33330
New York4.67(4)4.67(11)0.5(8)33330
Los Angeles1.5(14)3.33(6)0.188(14)15150

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

News, And Not News

Tom Maguire has been all over the coverage of the Trayvon Martin story, and has an excellent piece this morning on News, And Not News
Let me help with the puzzle of what makes news. J-school grads don't dream of covering the local weather; every journalism school graduate longs to participate in any or all of three of the great stories of our nation's past. These earnest scriveners all hope to:

(a) be Woodward and/or Bernstein, breaking the web of deceit and unraveling the cover-up protecting the powerful. (In the current environment they don't want to end up working for Murdoch, so only Republicans get the full treatment; contrast Edwards and McCain in 2008).

(b) report from the bridge at Selma, standing with Martin Luther King against Bull Connor. Oh, to be young and a Freedom Rider, inveighing against White Oppression and Black Injustice!

or, (c) aid Daniel Ellsberg and publish the Truth that ends the Unjust War.

It really is that simple - any story that has the potential to be mashed into one of those templates will have the actual facts trimmed to size. The Duke Lacrosse debacle was such a great parable of White Oppression and Black Helplessness that actual facts didn't intrude on Times reporting for months.


And as a caveat, obviously certain political triggers can boost a story's importance - if the Times can find a gun control angle, boost the gay agenda, or promote abortion rights then a story is "news".
Yup. Which is why so much of the country holds them in contempt.

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"Democrats Have Nothing To Offer Voters This Election But Fear"
Asked why the Senate hasn't produced a budget in three years, the head of the Democratic Party instead stoked fear about the "Romney-Ryan budget that ends Medicare as we know it." FDR, call your office.

'The Romney/Ryan budget is painful for Americans," head Debbie Wasserman Schultz said on that same Fox News program.

Her comments are tame compared with what other Democrats have said, including President Obama, who called Rep. Paul Ryan's budget "thinly veiled social Darwinism" that would "impose a radical vision on our country" and that is "antithetical to our entire history."

So what do Democrats have to offer instead? Nothing.

The Senate hasn't produced a budget since 2009 and refuses to this year, which means that once again the red-ink hemorrhaging federal government will be operating without any spending guidelines. Obama's budget plan was so ludicrous that not one House Democrat would vote for it.

The Democrats' refusal to govern hardly ends here.

The country faces monumental problems — a national debt crisis, an entitlement crisis, an energy crisis, to say nothing of the lingering economic crisis.

But on issue after issue, Democrats have absolutely nothing constructive to offer — no entitlement-reform ideas, no budget-reform proposals, no debt-reduction plans, no credible energy policies.
Read it all...

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mitt Romney victory speech

Let me just say this - there's a lot to like here...

Mitt Romney victory speech 4/24/2012 Manchester, New Hampshire

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Monday Pythagorean - 4/23/2012

I know things look a bit gloomy right now, but lets look at the bright side. Remember how painful that collapse was last September? Well, the Red Sox are sympathetic and determined not to put their fans through that again...

  • The best day of the week was Sunday, as they got rained out. The second best day of the week was Thursday, because they had a scheduled off-day.
  • It's not like there's just one part of the team struggling. They lost a game this week in which they allowed one run. They lost a game this week in which they scored nine.
  • I'm tempted to say that the offense was particularly bad this week, scoring three runs or fewer in four consecutive games. But that would not be giving fair credit to the pitching, as they allowed 18, six, six and 15 in four consecutive games, too.
  • So they are now in a flat-footed tie with the 2011 Red Sox for worst start in the 2010s by a Red Sox team, at 4-10.
  • Noteworthy - the two "end-of-the-game" pitchers faced 17 batters this week and retired zero (0) of them, allowing 6 walks, 11 hits and 11 runs. I'm willing to cut Aceves a smidge of slack as he hadn't pitched in a week, because they hadn't had a lead after the 2nd inning in a week. Melancon's now going to see if he can get AAA hitters out.
  • So, who's responsible for this putrid start? Everyone.

    • The starting pitchers - In 14 games, they've got six quality starts. They've also got six starts in which the starter gave up at least five runs (and three of those were seven run performances). They've been behind in almost every game.
    • The bullpen - See that note about the two "end-of-the-game" pitcher just above? Well, they've been representational rather than aberrational.
    • The position players - Pedroia's been mediocre. Adrian Gonzalez (.281/.317/.439/.756) and Kevin Youkilis (.190/.271/.310/.580) are the middle of the lineup, and they've been bad and worse. My "favorite" line so far is probably Jason Repko's, who has been up 11 times and made 11 outs, as his one hit was a single and he was thrown out at 2nd trying to stretch it into a double. That's right, he hasn't reached base by any means yet.
    • The Manager - Keeps putting Jason Repko on the field. And I'm going to complain about a game I didn't even see - with two runners on base in the seventh inning on Monday, I was watching the gamecast on my phone, and knew it was time to get Bard out of the game. As we were waiting for the parade to step off in Lexington, my son asked my whether there was any score yet, and I told him, "no, but there will be in a minute." Ball four, bases loaded. And Bard stays in the game. Ball four, 1-0 Tampa, now Bard comes out.
    • The General Manager - Why the hell is Jason Repko employed by the Red Sox in the first place? Why would you even consider adding a player like that? Yes, if people aren't hurt, he's not playing. But even if people are hurt, you don't want him playing. His presence in the organization is an unforced error by the GM. There have been 504 Major Leaguers with 775+ plate appearances since Repko debuted in 2005. He's the 475th best of them offensively. He's not a valid Major League hitter. A team with the budget of the Red Sox has got to have six outfielders in its organization more worthy of at-bats than Jason Repko, or the GM's not doing his job.
  • But things are looking up, because they always play well in Minnesota, right?
  • Red Sox Player of the week - There were some who thought he was done two years ago, but apparently not, as David Ortiz (.421/.476/.684/1.160) had another excellent week and is off to a great start.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the week - The two "questionable" components to the starting rotation had very good starts this week. It's tough to reward a pitcher who walks in the go-ahead run in a tie game in the 7th inning, but in terms of doing his job - retire the most oppenent batters while allowing the fewer opponent runs - Daniel Bard was the most successful starter they had, followed closely by Felix Doubront, who gave up one in six innings, and handed an eight-run lead off to the bullpen.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/23/2012
New York6(1)4.87(9)0.595(3)96960
Tampa Bay4.75(6)4.88(10)0.488(7)88971
Los Angeles4.19(10)4.44(6)0.473(9)88610-2
Kansas City3.73(11)5.13(11)0.358(13)510312-2

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9765

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9666

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay5.57(3)3(1)0.756(2)52520
New York7.33(2)5.5(12)0.629(4)42420
Los Angeles3.57(9)3.43(4)0.519(6)4334-1
Kansas City2.83(14)4.67(9)0.286(13)2406-2

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"If you don’t want to talk about dogs, why did you bring up dogs?"

Jim Treacher:
A day will come when I stop enjoying this. Today is not that day.
I haven’t had this much fun ridiculing a dog-eating president since the last dog-eating president, who was… Hmm. Let me get back to you on that one. I guess everything Obama does is historic!

As for our moral, ethical, and intellectual superiors in the Democratic Party who don’t appreciate this one bit, here’s a question:

If you don’t want to talk about dogs, why did you bring up dogs?

Now: Add up the number of days you’ve yammered about Romney’s dog. Take that sum and add 1. Find a calendar, count out that number of days from today, and mark the date. That’s the day I’ll consider not hurting your feelings anymore by bringing up the fact that Obama eats dogs.

Or November 7, 2012. Whichever comes first.
If the idea of mocking the President for having eaten dog meat when he was younger and bragging about it in his (alleged auto)-biography bothers you, by all means do not click the link and enjoy the humor...

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Motes and beams and Presidential dogs...

Rules of politics, 2012 edition. It might not be a good idea to make a big deal about your opponents' method of transporting his family dog on vacation (rather than leaving it in a kennel), if your candidate is on record as having eaten dog meat...

The jokes write themselves.

#ObamaDogRecipes: Yorkshire terrier pudding, mutt chop, Pekingese duck, bichon frisee salad, beagle with cream cheese, pure bread.

"So, Mr. President, where shall we go to eat?" "I know a great Spot."

If you want a friend in Washington, don't eat him (credit to Jim Geraghty).

Happiness is a warm puppy, with a side of fries.

Obama's favorite fast-food joint? Checkers (Patrick Daly).

I wouldn't vote for that guy for dogcatcher.

Did you hear about the insomniac polyphagiac president? He lies awake at night wondering if there is a dog.

Romney aide Erich Fehrnstrom got into the act last night, retweeting Axelrod's Obama-Bo snapshot from January with the comment: "In retrospect, a chilling photo." That may be the wrong adjective, since it doesn't appear to have been taken in a refrigerated truck. Obama really spoils that dog.
So "Dogs against Romney" now has a counterpart - "Dogs against Obama."

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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And another thing...

Is there anything more annoying than when a big government leftist, someone who believes the government should do everything except prohibit abortion or allow prayer in schools, uses Jesus as a club to beat on someone with whom they disagree?
"You want prayer in schools? Haven't you ever heard of separation of church and state?"

"You want to ban abortion? No, that's a fundamental right!"

"The marriage laws in this country are just government-enforced religious bigotry."

"What do you mean the government shouldn't force health care plans to provide contraception? Are you trying to impose your religion on everyone else?"

"You're opposed to government health care? I thought you were a Christian!"

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The pro-government mindset

Perfectly illustrated in a facebook discussion:
I'm happy to pay taxes so that my fellow citizens who are "non-earners" can enjoy good health and food on their table. Does that make me a better human being than somebody who couldn't give a s***? Why yes, yes, I think it does.
(For the record, it's my position that provides the negative half of this comparison, though I wouldn't have expressed it [and didn't] in exactly those terms...)

I've said for years and years and years (and I'm not the only one) that "conservatives think liberals are wrong, and liberals think conservatives are bad." Yup...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Media response to Obama gaffe?

"Wow, that Bush sure was stupid..."
Barack Obama made an uncharacteristic error, more akin to those of his predecessor George W Bush, by referring to the Falkland Islands as the Maldives.
Ok, it's the UK Telegraph, not the US media. But still. This is a gaffe-squared, an idiotic misstatement that obscures the fundamentally incorrect position being expressed. Even if he'd gotten the name (Malvinas, not Maldives) right, he'd have been wrong. The United States, as a British ally, should not be referring to those islands as anything other than the Falklands.

And it's not at all uncharacteristic of this President, who has said as many stupid things in public as anyone who frequently speaks in public.

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Patriots Day Weekend

With some hints as to why the Pythagorean post was late yesterday...

The Spirit of '76 leading the Patriots Day parade down the battle road through Lexington and past the battle green...

And the William Diamond Junior Fife and Drum Corps...

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Monday Pythagorean - 4/16/2012

Well. Week 2 was a bit more successful than week 1. Or, as Dorothy Gale would put it, "there's no place like home. There's no place like home..."

  • The good news included the very successful rotation debut of Felix Doubront, another good start from Jon Lester and, perhaps most importantly on the starting front, the dominant performance from Josh Beckett in the home opener.
  • It was also good to see Buchholz respond to a bad first performance and a bad 1st inning in the second to put up six excellent innings.
  • Can we take a deep breath and relax, at least a little, about the bullpen? As I said last week, Alfredo Aceves is a very good pitcher and there's no reason whatsover to think that he won't be able to successfully pitch 9th innings.
  • Obviously, it was a week of silver linings that was not without its dark cloud. The biggest and darkest of which was the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury for some yet-to-be-determined (and, no doubt, much-to-be-argued-about) time with a separated shoulder in a bit of a fluke play at 2nd base in the home opener. The good news is that it didn't have much effect on their performance in the Tampa series. But he's not a fungible talent; the likes of Cody Ross and Jason Repko and Che-Hsuan Lin won't replace him.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - The Red Sox offense came alive in the presence of home cooking, and nobody more than David Ortiz, who hit .692/.714/1.231/1.945 over the weekend to put up a .458/.519/.750/1.269 week with 1 HR, which tied the Sunday game, 4 doubles and 3 walks.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Jon Lester was very good again. They got good work from Scott Atchison and Franklin Morales out of the 'pen. Alfredo Aceves' performances at the end of three games was enough to significantly calm the initial "oh my God, our closer's hurt!" panic. But the performance of the week, all things considered - his September, his first start, his thumb, the 1-5 record, the division opponent - was Josh Beckett's domination of Tampa in the home opener.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/16/2012
New York5.11(5)4.44(7)0.564(5)54540
Los Angeles4.67(6)5.22(9)0.449(10)4536-1
Kansas City4.33(9)5.44(11)0.397(12)4536-1
Tampa Bay4.11(10)6.33(14)0.312(13)36451

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9072

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9171

Standings for the week
New York5.67(3)3.67(5)0.689(4)42511
Los Angeles5.17(5)5.67(10)0.458(8)3324-1
Kansas City4.33(8)6.33(12)0.333(13)2415-1
Tampa Bay3.17(12)7.5(14)0.171(14)15150

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Friday, April 13, 2012


I'll confess that I don't get pieces like this one (The Obama of 2012 seems like a totally different character from 2008) from Andrew Malcolm.
Has anyone seen Barack Obama recently?

You know, the optimistic hopeful fellow with the charming smile who promised so many positive things four and five years ago, how he was going to change the harsh, partisan tone of our nation's capital and bring the country together as its first African American president.

Even allowing for political hyperbole, his empty resume and the invisible witnesses from the past, Obama was such a Real Good Talker that even some who didn't vote for him still had hope that he could change some things for the better in what seemed a sadly-splintered society.

WTH did that Obama go? Have you listened recently to this Chicago Doppelganger who's replaced him? This 2012 Obama is strident and mean, even deceitful, divisive, telling half-truths after half-truths.
Did he not watch the 2008 campaign? I don't see any difference. This is the same Obama that's been on display since day 1. The only difference I see is that the pile of "strident and mean" and "divisive" has now reached critical mass with the fawning media, and some of the "harsh, partisan tone" is leaking through. But I see no qualitative difference in the man himself, or in his rhetoric, or his honesty...

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What shall I do this afternoon?



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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Michael Ramirez - The Distraction

Michael Ramirez

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

"The Obama Rule"

I'm working, sort of, on some commentary related to the proposed "Buffet Rule" which will raise taxes in the name of "fairness," but until (and unless) I finish, here's some good (and relevant) stuff from the Wall Street Journal...
The century-long history of the federal income tax teaches us one lesson over and over: The higher the tax rates, the more loopholes Congress inserts as a way around those rates. This is why the government collected roughly as much tax revenue as a share of GDP when the top tax rate was 70% in the 1970s as it did when the rate fell to 28% in 1986.

The Buffett rule is really nothing more than a sneaky way for Mr. Obama to justify doubling the capital gains and dividend tax rate to 30% from 15% today. That's the real spread-the-wealth target. The problem is that this is a tax on capital that is needed for firms to grow and hire more workers. Mr. Obama says he wants an investment-led recovery, not one led by consumption, but how will investment be spurred by doubling the tax on it?

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Boston 4, Toronto 2

It's always nice to get 0-162 off the table...

  • Nice, encouraging performance from Doubront.
  • Nice, encouraging performance from Aceves. Though I was not worried - he's a good pitcher, he's always been a good pitcher, and there's no reason whatsoever to think he won't be as good a pitcher in the 9th inning as he has been in the 6th and 7th.
  • They have not yet been great, or even particularly good, offensively, but they've now come from behind to tie or take a lead in three of their four games, including twice in the 9th inning.
  • Outstanding performance from Scott Atchison - if the Blue Jays get another run or two in that 6-7-8 stretch, it's a different game in the 9th. In his three innings of work, he only gave up one hit and no walks, while striking out three. Excellent, and important, performance.
So tonight, in an event many of us have been waiting for, Daniel Bard makes the first start of his Major League career. I suspect that they'd be pretty happy to get what they got from Doubront last night - five innings and two runs.


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Monday, April 09, 2012

Monday Pythagorean, 4/9/2012

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

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

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

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

So, on to week 1.

Well, that was a brilliant bloody start, wasn't it?

  • As anyone who has read my baseball commentary over the years knows, I tend not to overreact to a short stretch of bad (or good) play. One of the truisms of the game is that anything can happen in a short series, so the fact that the Red Sox have - again - started 0-3 doesn't mean much. And, in fact, it really doesn't mean much.
  • In fact, there's much from last year's first report that's relevant and appropriate.

    That all said, this was three games, and three games means...well, not nothing, but in the scope of the baseball season, not much. There were no "fatal flaws" revealed, anyone who says that "they can't beat TexasDetroit" is a moron, and it's just three games. Awful games, true. Disappointing. And magnified in our perception because a) they're the last three we've seen and b) for the 20112012 Red Sox, they're the only three games we've seen. It doesn't matter, it's still a three-game series.

    Obviously, all sensible people of proper moral framework loathe the Yankees, but it's worth noting, in this context, that the 1998 Yankees lost their first three games (while being outscored 21-6) and four of their first five. They finished with a record of 114-48, which is not too bad. That doesn't mean that this Red Sox team will win 114 games, of course. It just means that losing the first three isn't always indicative of a disastrous season...
  • The problem is that there are enough significant differences (specifically, the manager and the closer) between this team and the team that we know is really good, the team that played the middle of the 2011 season, to erode confidence, and enough similarities to what happened in September to make this a much worse start - or, at least, to make this feel like a much worse start - than it otherwise would be.
  • For those [this may be a strawman, as I haven't had the radio on or been on the bulletin boards, but I suspect there are many who take this position] who think that the absence of Bard and Papelbon from the bullpen cost the team badly this weekend, I'd note that both were in Texas for the 0-3 last start, both pitched badly and that Bard, in particular, was a key component to the 0-3 start of the 2011 team. This bullpen may turn out to be bad, Aceves and Melancon may turn out not to be able to pitch in late innings. But it's far too early to make that judgement right now. All we can say now is, "well, that was not a good performance."
  • You can win a game with poor starting pitching. You can win a game with poor relief pitching. You can win a game with poor offense. It's tough to win a game if two of the three are bad, though. And that's what they did in Detroit. Bad offense and relief pitching in game one. Bad offense and starting pitching in game two. Bad starting pitching and relief pitching in game three. That's an excellent recipe for an 0-3 start.
  • To repeat what I said after week 1 of the 2011 season, "there will be no Player of the Week awards this week, given the minimal length and maximal putrescence of what we witnessed over the weekend."

    But Jon Lester pitched very well.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/9/2012
Tampa Bay6(2)4(6)0.677(4)21301
Kansas City4.33(7)3.67(3)0.576(7)21210
Los Angeles3.67(11)4.33(8)0.424(8)12120
New York4(8)6(13)0.323(11)1203-1

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Tampa Bay1620

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
Tampa Bay11151

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4/7/2012, at the Bedford Pole-Capping with some of my favorite people...

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Easter Music

Easter Music - Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir, 4/8/2012

Introit - From Haydn's Lord Nelson Mass, the Et Resurrexit
Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum Scripturas,
et ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris.
Et iterum venturus est cum gloria, iudicare vivos et mortuos,
cuius regni non erit finis;
Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem,
qui ex Patre Filioque procedit.
Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur:
qui locutus est per prophetas.
Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.
Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum,
et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.

Anthem - Handel, "Worthy Is The Lamb" from The Messiah.

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Friday, April 06, 2012

Yes. Next question?

The Fiscal Times:
 ...the Justice Department is investigating whether billions of dollars worth of federal highway and transportation programs are rife with fraud and abuse. 
Honestly, is there a question there?

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Idle question

Why would anyone who really believes that Republicans want to prevent insurance companies from covering contraception think that it's a good idea for the government to get to decide what insurance companies must or must not cover?

Possible answers:
  1. "Obviously, there's no real Republican "war on women" - it's all just political kabuki theatre."
  2. "The Republicans have lost power FOREVER! It doesn't matter that we'll give the government the power to control those things - the scary Republicans will never again wield that power!"
  3. "I don't get it. What's the connection between those two things?"
Is there a good reason that I've missed? I'm not seeing one...

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Thursday, April 05, 2012

Michael Ramirez weighs in (humorously) on the Constitutional Law Professor In Chief...

Michael Ramirez Political Cartoons 04/04/2012 -

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Opening day, 2012

On April 15, 2011, Americans filed their taxes and the Red Sox lost to the Toronto Blue Jays to fall to 3-10. On September 6, 2011, nearly five months later, they beat the Toronto Blue Jays to run their record to 85-56. So, for 5/6 of the 2011 season, they went 82-46, a tremendous .640 winning percentage which, if it had lasted for the entire season, would have resulted in 104 wins. They clearly weren't ready for the regular season when it arrived, and they had a catastrophic collapse down the stretch. But that 2011 Red Sox team was extremely talented, and most of that talent is still here...

I've spent less time following the offseason and pre-season moves of the Red Sox, and everyone else, than at any time in the last 30 years. I have not got a set of projections ready to go. So bear that in mind when reading the following predictions.

  • The 2011 Red Sox led the AL in runs scored. They may or may not repeat that performance, but the bulk of the offensive talent is still here. They'll finish in the top three in runs scored.
  • The top three starters - Lester, Buchholz and Beckett - will see their ERA (3.23 in 2011) go up, but not a lot. But they'll also start more games (than 75) and pitch more innings (than 467).
  • Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront will be more effective in the 4-5 starter roles than Lackey, Miller, Wakefield and Matsuzaka were last year (5.49 ERA).
  • They'll miss Papelbon. Occasionally. But not nearly as much as some people are currently expecting them to.
  • They'll work harder at stopping opposing running games. This will appear to be effective, as they allow fewer stolen bases. Whether it will actually be more effective, as the pitchers give up more hits through concentrating on base runners, will be impossible to know with any certainty.

The big prediction is this - the people (and they appear to be legion) writing this team off are wrong to do so. They will finish either first or second in the AL East, and be one of the AL's playoff teams again.

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"Same Tired Rhetoric"

The attack that President Obama made last year against the Republican budget proposals must have been really effective...

... because he decided to give it again this year.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

It's all over but the counting...

Over in The Corner, they're talking about the Republican primaries, and many of them have caught up to where I was back in January...
While I don't agree that [Romneycare] "disqualifies" him, I've made clear on several occasions that I believed it would prevent Romney from winning the Republican nomination. What that position assumed, of course, was that someone else would show up who could win it.
That's clearly not happened. That's clearly not going to happen. So, since I haven't commented recently on this, let's get this out there now.
The race for the Republican nomination for the Presidency is over. Mitt Romney is going to be the candidate. Huntsman, who was never a viable candidate, is gone. Ron Paul is not a viable candidate. Newt Gingrich is not a viable candidate. Rick Santorum is not a viable candidate. And Rick Perry, who looked like a viable candidate when he entered the race, has been a dreadful candidate. Yes, they still have to have primaries, and count votes, and add up delegates. But it's all mechanical now. The race is over; Mitt's won.

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Around the web

A few pieces of collected commentary on the President's constitutional commentary of the other day, from people who know more than I...

Thom Lambert:
Imagine if you picked up your morning paper to read that one of your astronomy professors had publicly questioned whether the earth, in fact, revolves around the sun. Or suppose that one of your economics professors was quoted as saying that consumers would purchase more gasoline if the price would simply rise. Or maybe your high school math teacher was publicly insisting that 2 + 2 = 5. You’d be a little embarrassed, right? You’d worry that your colleagues and friends might begin to question your astronomical, economic, or mathematical literacy.
Now you know how I felt this morning when I read in the Wall Street Journal that my own constitutional law professor had stated that it would be “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” for the Supreme Court to “overturn[] a law [i.e., the Affordable Care Act] that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” Putting aside the “strong majority” nonsense (the deeply unpopular Affordable Care Act got through the Senate with the minimum number of votes needed to survive a filibuster and passed 219-212 in the House), saying that it would be “unprecedented” and “extraordinary” for the Supreme Court to strike down a law that violates the Constitution is like saying that Kansas City is the capital of Kansas.
Steven Hayward
I’ve been growing weary of hearing people mention that he’s a “constitutional scholar,” since he never published a single thing on the subject either as editor of the Harvard Law Review or as a member of the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School.  But hey—he taught constitutional law, didn’t he?
Not really.
John Hinderaker
Yesterday Barack Obama launched an attack on the Supreme Court that bordered on the bizarre…
Putting aside the fact that Obamacare passed with anything but a “strong majority” of Congress, the concept of judicial review has been established for over 200 years; for a president not to understand this displays shocking ignorance. Not to mention the fact that most of the liberals’ favorite Supreme Court decisions involved overturning laws that were enacted by democratically elected Congresses or legislatures, e.g., Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas and many more.
Aaron Worthing
The point is that it is fundamentally dishonest for a liberal to complain about judicial activism.  That’s not to say that true judicial activism isn't a problem.  After all, suppose that secretly behind closed doors the outcome of Bush v. Gore was really about which candidate they preferred?  Then that is a problem, isn’t it?  I mean every justice, as an American citizen, has a right to vote for President, but this would give their vote infinitely more power than any ordinary citizen, if they choose election law cases based on who they want to win.  So much for one person, one vote, right?  I don’t think that is what they did, but I would be the first to denounce it if that is what I believed.
And put aside the reality behind Bush v. Gore, the case also shows how inherently dangerous it is to have a large portion of the population believe that the Supreme Court is more or less corrupt.  I mean that is what activism is, really: corruption.  It is justices disregarding their oaths of office and exercising power not granted to them.  And the problem is that when many people believe that the Supreme Court is corrupt, that they let their politics rather than the law guide their decisions, then it means that we have no neutral umpire in our government.  There is no neutral party that the other branches can go to for fair arbitration. 
James Taranto
We were half-joking yesterday when we asked if Barack Obama slept through his Harvard Law class on Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court first asserted its power to strike down unconstitutional laws. It turns out it's no joke: The president is stunningly ignorant about constitutional law.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Sow wind. Reap whirlwind...

The order, by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, appears to be in direct response to the president's comments yesterday about the Supreme Court's review of the health care law. Mr. Obama all but threw down the gauntlet with the justices, saying he was "confident" the Court would not "take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

Overturning a law of course would not be unprecedented...


The issue arose when a lawyer for the Justice Department began arguing before the judges. Appeals Court Judge Jerry Smith immediately interrupted, asking if DOJ agreed that the judiciary could strike down an unconstitutional law.

The DOJ lawyer, Dana Lydia Kaersvang, answered yes -- and mentioned Marbury v. Madison, the landmark case that firmly established the principle of judicial review more than 200 years ago, according to the lawyer in the courtroom.

Smith then became "very stern," the source said, telling the lawyers arguing the case it was not clear to "many of us" whether the president believes such a right exists.
Actions have consequences. So do words.

For a "brilliant" guy, this President is prone to, if I might coin a phrase, "behave stupidly"...

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Quite a performance...

Yesterday, at a Joint Press Conference with the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada, President Obama was asked about the arguments at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of Obamacare. While acknowledging that politicians make political statements, there's a lot to dislike in this one...
Thank you, Mr. President. After last week’s arguments at the Supreme Court, many experts believe that there could be a majority, a five-member majority, to strike down the individual mandate. And if that were to happen, if it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who've become insured as a result of the law?
It's hardly worth mentioning the unstated assumptions of the question, that it's the responsibility of the President to "guarantee health care to the uninsured."

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to health care, I’m actually -- continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there,
There is no precedent. Congress has never before passed a law requiring any citizen to purchase a specific product, or to specifically engage in any specific economic activity. There is certainly no Supreme Court precedent establishing that as a Federal power.
it’s constitutional. That's not just my opinion, by the way; that's the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.
Logical fallacy - Argument from authority. And ignores the appellate court justices who have already ruled that it is unconstitutional. When the authorities are split, the argument from authority is a particularly weak fallacy.
I think it’s important -- because I watched some of the commentary last week -- to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."

The law that's already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
Parents don't have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can't be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
That's part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
So that’s just the part that's already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented,
False statement. There are many precedents for the Supreme Court to declare laws unconstitutional.
That's what the Supreme Court does, and has ever since Marbury v. Madison. It would, therefore, be very ordinary.
step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority
I’d contest that description – it took a byzantine process of extraordinary compulsion to pass the Senate with 0 Republican votes and no margin, and a byzantine process of extraordinary compulsion to pass the House by 6 votes.
of a democratically elected Congress.
Irrelevant. Congress is always "democratically elected." That does nothing to forward the case that this law is constitutional. All unconstitutional laws are enacted by "democratically elected Congresses."
And I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint -- that an unelected group of people
Ad hominem attack on their legitimacy. The Supreme Courts that passed Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade were also unelected. Does anyone think that this President considers those decisions illegitimate?

This is extremely inappropriate. He was elected President, not emperor, not king. He doesn't get his way just because he wants it. This is how the system works - the Congress enacts laws, the President, if he chooses, signs them, and the Court, as the third co-equal branch of government, may decide that they aren't constitutional.
would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law
Which is their job to do, and they’ve done many times over the past 200 years. And every law that they've overturned, every one of them, was "duly constituted and passed" - if it weren't, it wouldn't get to the Supreme Court.
Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident
If he were really that confident, would he be pre-emptively attacking the credibility and legitimacy of the Court?
that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.

Q You say it's not an abstract conversation. Do you have contingency plans?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm sorry. As I said, we are confident that this will be over -- that this will be upheld. I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. And, again, that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law,
Logical fallacy - Argument from authority. Which fails even on its own terms, because there are also "a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers" who think that it's not constitutional.
even if they're not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.

I know - it's a political statement, not an argument. But does he have to be that disingenuous, that dishonest, all the time?

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Monday, April 02, 2012

Google Rules the first of April...

Google went WAY beyond the call of duty is this absolutely perfect classic April 1st video...


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"This never-ending road to Calvary..."

This coming Saturday will be the 22nd anniversary of the first time that I saw Les Miserables on stage, at the Schubert Theatre in Boston. This past Saturday was the 4th or 5th time, at the Boston Opera House. The first time, we were engaged but not yet married. This time, we had three of our four kids with us.

Now, how do I know the date of that first trip? Because the one time that I've been to Fenway Park for the Red Sox opening day game was in 1990. Bill Buckner's return got the largest standing ovation, and the National Anthem was done by the actor who I'd seen play Jean Valjean two days earlier, on Saturday night. I've forgotten his name, over the years, but he was an excellent Valjean, and did a wonderful National Anthem.

And actually, it would be more appropriate to say that I had forgotten his name. Because I now know what it was. When we sat down and opened our Playbills on Saturday night, there was a little slip of paper telling us that we were getting the Valjean understudy. But the regular Valjean was being played by J. Mark McVey. Who has done it over 2900 times. Including the first time that we saw the show, 22 years ago...

They've changed some of the staging for this 25th anniversary production. Some of it works a little better, some is a little less effective. (The Javert suicide was always good - it's spectacular now.) There's no new music (though apparently Boubil and Schonberg have written a new piece for the film version coming in December) but there's nothing big cut, either. There have been a few verses trimmed, and the pace seems a little quicker - I remember a 3:10-3:15 show that's now coming in at about 3:00.

And I'm surprised by how surprised I was to realize, again, how effective it is on stage. Just a magnificent show, in almost all respects...

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