What are the five greatest fighter aircraft of all time? Like the same question asked of tanks, cars, or rock and roll guitarists, the answer invariably depends on parameters. For example, there are few sets of consistent parameters that would include both the T-34 and the King Tiger among the greatest of all tanks. I know which one I’d like to be driving in a fight, but I also appreciate that this isn’t the most appropriate way to approach the question. Similarly, while I’d love to drive a Porsche 959 to work every morning, I’d be hesitant to list it ahead of the Toyota Corolla on a “best of” compilation.
Nations buy fighter aircraft to resolve national strategic problems, and the aircraft should accordingly be evaluated on their ability to solve or ameliorate these problems. Thus, the motivating question is this: how well did this aircraft help solve the strategic problems of the nations that built or bought it?
On the signing of Jacoby Ellsbury, Neyer wrote that “[i]f you’re a fan of any other American League East team, you should be exceptionally happy.” While I’m not a fan of another AL East team I am an honorary one as a Yankee hater, and…I dunno. The way I’d look at is that the Yankees were 1)outscored by 21 runs last year and weren’t even that good, and 2)gave regular playing time to one position player who will be under 30 this year, and that was Eduardo Nunez, who isn’t a major league hitter and isn’t even a AAA shortstop. Even accounting for their injuries this is, in other words, an old and not-very-impressive team almost entirely bereft of young talent. If the current structure of the game in which most under-30 elite players don’t hit the free agent market continues, it’s very likely that by 2017 the possibility of overpaying Ellsbury will be the least of the Yankee’s problems. Unless they start showing an ability to identify and develop young talent they haven’t shown in a long time, they’re probably looking at Stump Merrill II: Electric Boogaloo later in the decade anyway. So the way I see it is the only question is whether the crash is preceded by mediocrity or whether the Yankees can patch together some postseason teams before things fall apart.
In terms of the Ellsbury contract, it’s not terrible given what should be the short-term goals of the franchise. He’s hard to evaluate because of his injury issues and his performance swings. Leaving aside the partial seasons, he’s had one great season (2011), one very good one (last year), and two OK ones (2008/9). He is, in other words, a high-upside, high-risk gamble: if he can stay healthy and his performs at a level between 2011 and 2013, the contract will work for the period when the Yankees need it to work. But that’s not a given, and I’d like the move more if the Yankees didn’t already have a plus centerfielder.
So I saw it the was that NoMaas sees it: given that the Yankees are putting off rebuilding, they need to make an all-out push for 2014 and 2015. Ellsbury is certainly a much better gamble than Granderson, but if they lost Cano they’d really just be treading water.
Of course, they were then blown out of the water by Seattle on Cano. Although the contract would make more sense for the Yankees than it did for Seattle — we’ll get back to that — I can’t blame the Yankees for not matching the offer in isolation. But, nonetheless, Cano is a better player than Ellsbury, and even if we assume that McCann (a huge upgrade over the nothing the Yankees got out of the position last year) and a full year from Teixeira make up for that gap plus the losses of Pettite and Rivera, that still really just leaves them as another .500ish team trying to get lucky, with a team age that makes counting on luck pretty dicey.
Cashman immediately reacted by signing Beltran. How much does this help the Yankees? It’s unclear to me. I love Beltran, as most readers know, and since I’m rooting for him to go to Cooperstown I like what going to the bandbox in the Bronx will do for his raw stats. He makes the team better. But it doesn’t really address the loss of Cano since it adds to a pileup at the left end of the defensive spectrum, giving the Yankees now two old guys who still have life in their bats (Beltran much more so than Soriano, of course) but can’t actually play the outfield. I’m not sure what the Yankees will do about this. One alternative would be to move Gardner to left and flip Beltran and Soriano between RF and DH, properly making Ichiro! a 5th outfielder and properly releasing the absolutely useless Wells. That’s not a bad situation, although it does choke off the DH position that the Yankees could use to give one of their other fading old guys a day or three quasi-off. Alternatively, they could move Garnder (one of their few players with any trade value) to try to patch up the gaping wound in the middle infield and live with gruesome defense in both OF corners most nights. It’s therefore hard to evaluate the singing until we see what happens, but it strikes me now as not unreasonable but sort of beside the point.
And the same goes for the decision to sign Ellsbury rather than Cano, I suppose. If they get Tanaka, if they sign Infante to play second and he has a good year, if they can stay relatively healthy despite being an old team…they could be a playoff team. But it seems to me that a lot has to go right, and if they don’t get Tanaka it seems unlikely that they will have done enough.
Let’s turn to the Mariners. As I said yesterday, it’s not a good contract. Cano is a truly great player — an excellent hitter and a good defender at a talent-scarce position, he’s been one of the best 3 players in the league two years running, he’s unusually durable and consistent, and he’s still in the suburbs of his prime. He’s already accomplished more than several Hall of Fame second basemen by age 30. Players that good don’t the free agent market that much anymore. And in the right context I can live with the “overpaying” involved in dead years at the end of the contract — baseball doesn’t have a hard cap and flags fly forever. The problem for the Mariners, though, is that they aren’t the right context. Cano is a major addition, but the team is still a complete mess. The outfield remains dubious offensively and a train wreck defensively, and Seager is the only other decent infielder although Smoak did take a step forward last year and could be at least decent. King Felix and Iwakuma make an outstanding front-end but there’s very little behind it. The Mariners were 100 runs from .500 last year — even if some of the young “talent” finally steps forward and they continue to push by trading for Price and find some major league outfielders — it’s very hard to see this turning around while Cano is still a top-quality second baseman. There are situations where I could live with “overpaying” for Cano, but this isn’t one of them. His contract will almost certainly be an albatross before the Mariners can contend.
This morning’s employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the economy added 203,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate dropped to 7.0 percent. While this is welcome news, it’s important to keep in mind that we still need nearly 8 million jobs to return to pre-recession health in the labor market.
What’s more, while the overall unemployment rate declined, long term unemployment is on the rise. The share of unemployed workers who have been out of work for more than six months increased in November from 36.1 percent to 37.3 percent. Today, the long term unemployment rate is more than double the average rate in 2007. Federal unemployment insurance benefit extensions are set to expire at the end of this month. It would be unprecedented for unemployment insurance benefits to expire at a time when the long term unemployment rate remains so elevated. Further, it is bad policy. If the extensions are allowed to expire, it will immediately cause more than 1.3 million people to lose their unemployment benefits, and millions more will lose their benefits throughout 2014. Not only will this hurt workers, but unemployment insurance is one of the best economic stimulators.
The plans for a Union monument at the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park — about 46 miles west of Jacksonville, Fla. — began several years ago. The idea was to commemorate the Union regiments that fought at Olustee (pronounced oh-lusty), and to recognize the African American regiments that made up one third of the Union forces. The group members also hoped to correct a perceived imbalance — they say three Confederate monuments currently exist on the site — and to get the monument built in time for the battle’s sesquicentennial in February 2014. The Florida chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War intended to fully pay for the project, and to offer it as a gift to the people of Florida.
What they didn’t count on was a counter-offensive. Modern-day Confederate groups rallied opposition to the project and urged members to contact lawmakers in Florida to stop it.
“In anticipation of the 150th anniversary of the battle that protected Florida’s capital from falling, the Sons of Union Veterans has obtained approval from the State of Florida Parks Department for a special monument to invading Federal forces,” Michael Givens, commander-in-chief of the national Sons of Confederate Veterans, wrote in an message to his group’s members in October. “The plan calls for a large black Darth Vadar-esque shaft that will disrupt the hallowed grown [sic] where Southern blood was spilled in defense of Florida, protecting Tallahassee from capture. … Confederate Forces won the Battle in 1864 – but will we win the 2nd Battle of Olustee and prevent this menacing monument from disrupting this hallowed Southern soil?”
The issue came to a head on Monday, at a public hearing in Lake City to discuss the location of the monument. Dozens of opponents to the project turned out, compared to a handful of supporters, and the meeting at one point devolved into a rendition of “Dixie” led by H.K. Edgerton, a black “Confederate activist” who works to “reveal the truth of the War for Southern Independence.”
“The whole audience, with the exception of the six of us who were the Union, got up — because here if you’re singing ‘Dixie’ that’s kind of like ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ — and everybody got up and sang along, and they yelled and waved, and gave rebel yells, and all that,” Custer said. “I mean, it was real. It was a sight to see.”
Were these people to take up armed rebellion to defend white supremacy or low capital gains taxes or miscegenation with goats or whatever appeals to these people, it would suck mostly except for the joy of reviving the tactics of one W.T. Sherman.
It was with this endearing treatise on names I hate that I dethroned Sandra Bullock to become the new, better, sweeter, more American America’s Sweetheart. You all remember the entry. I know you do. I really, erm, let loose. And got what some people might call a bit of pushback.
If you don’t remember, here’s a quick refresher: I said I hated the name “Madison.” Guess what–I still hate it. I think it’s really stupid non-name that people started giving their daughters after watching “Splash.” I know some of you disagree with me and think I’m a big old meanie for saying so. Fine. I don’t really care. But here’s the thing: joke’s on me.
See, my son has recently started playing with some of the young kids who live on our street. Usually it’s a group of 3 to five kids, ranging in age from 2 to 6. Two of those kids are named “Madison.” Yes, there are not one, but two Madisons living on my cul de sac. Life is trolling me.
But, wait, there’s more. Here’s a funny story about a cute little tween who just wants to bootstrap her way to getting braces by selling mistletoe. The tale’s told by someone even sweeter than I am, and by that I mean by someone who is even more short-tempered and foul-mouthed than I am. But let me tell you the best part of the story right now. The name of our scrappy young heroine is…Madison.
The ignorant hayseeds at White American History Month — currently working their way through a bout of masturbatory frenzy over Nelson Mandela’s death — spent some time yesterday celebrating the work of the noted non-white supremacist Norman Rockwell. Since I have a tangential family connection to Rockwell, and since nostalgia is a suitable affliction for racists, I decided to have a bit of a piss at their expense.
I’m wondering which other artists’ fabricated versions of the national past have been systematically wrecked by Democrats and the progressive left. Which America do you want back?