Subscribe via RSS Feed

Archive for October, 2009

Well, This Doesn’t Help Turnout

[ 0 ] October 30, 2009 |

but at least it will SAVE SAVE SAVE £65 million. Because, when the public debt is at some obscene number, and when the annual deficit is approaching 12% of GDP, £65 million will get the UK back on sound financial footing.

Of course, if they’re really concerned with turnout, they just might take a peek at an electoral system that affords a strong ruling majority in Parliament based on 35% of the vote.
I’m just sayin’ . . .

UPDATE: well, that didn’t last long.


Homeopathy is Crap, vol. MMCVIV

[ 0 ] October 30, 2009 |

This video has been making lots of people laugh and/or seccuss their heads against the wall on the science and med blogs this week. It’s almost too painful to watch — the jaw-dropping butchery of physics is only the beginning — but there’s so much great dope in here, you really have to endure at least through the 6:32 mark — at which point she finishes explaining that homeopathy works more or less like a bomb you toss at your neighbor’s house after he lets his dog shit on your lawn. No, really.

Life imitating art irritating life imitating art.

[ 0 ] October 30, 2009 |

The premise of Curb Your Enthusiasm, according to James Kaplan’s 2004 profile of Larrry David in The New Yorker, is that:

David’s character is a semi-retired sitcom mogul who ambles through his inordinately comfortable life, routinely managing to annoy or infuriate everyone around him. This season, some of those people will include the blind, the physically handicapped, and the mentally challenged … David has a sardonic, slightly depressive presence onscreen, and is quite natural playing his worst self. Some of his finest moments are when he gets into arguments—arguments that he always loses—with children.

In this week’s episode, David accidentally urinates on a picture of Jesus, the urine is mistaken for a tear, and in the end, he manages to annoy and infuriate everyone around him. So it goes … or would have, had he not also managed to annoy and infuriate conservatives who don’t watch the show. The Anchoress wants to know:

Would he piss on an image of Obama?

Absolutely. Next question.

Would he piss on an image of Obama?

Absolutely. Crying guy, would you like to say something?

Good people hurt innocent people every day.

Larry David’s not good people.

Eventually, their better nature takes over.

He doesn’t have one.

They think about how such a cruel and disrespectful act might hurt those they know.

Are you sure you’re talking about Larry David here? Because I’m not. Anyone else?

I’ve never seen this show, does anyone know if the assistant is recognizably ethnic? Is this “brave” comedian also taking a swipe at Hispanic (or for that matter Italian or Irish) piety?

First, when you assume that a housekeeper’s Hispanic, that makes you the racist. Second, if you want people to respect what you say, don’t tell people that your speculation is based on unadulterated ignorance. Third, if you think anyone other than Larry David would be the punchline of an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’ve proven the validity of my previous sentence.

Moreover, if you’ve been horrified and offended by what Larry David did then congratulations, he just suckered you into participating in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. You’re no longer the audience: you are, in effect, on the show.

Dear People Playing the Yankees

[ 0 ] October 30, 2009 |

Could you please stop with the idiotic baserunning?


No, Seriously; Tom Zarek was Frakking Right

[ 0 ] October 29, 2009 |

And here we are. I’m sitting in a cave with sixteen other people, because our “all terrain portable shelter” blew away in the last windstorm. Who could have guessed that this planet would have areas that had both pleasant summers AND cold, nasty winters? It’s not even really winter yet, and I don’t want to think about how cold it’s going to get in a couple of months. Fortunately, our cave is nice and roomy; we located it back when there were still thirty-five survivors in our group. This’ll have to be short, because I’m scribbling it out with the nub of our last pencil. It turns out that you can’t actually recharge a laptop in a bonfire.

Like Steve, our “community organizer” said, it was going be a great adventure! I’m guessing Steve thought it was one hell of a great adventure when we were sawing off his foot without anesthetic because we ran out of antibiotics. On the upside, though, we now know that the cliche “you don’t have to be faster than the bear; you just have to be faster than Steve,” is actually true.

Oh yes, and these “native humans” that we’re apparently supposed to be living and breeding with? Problem #1: The smell. Problem #2: The tendency towards anger, violence, and cannibalism. I’ll concede, though that I was kind of cheering for the subhuman cannibals when Leoben, our “Human-Cylon Friendship Liason” decided to go and make “friends” with the local tribe. Although I don’t have first hand experience, I’m guessing that “taste of raw flesh” is another area in which humans and cylons are indistinguishable.

How do I know that it wouldn’t have been this bad if we’d followed Tom Zarek? Because it’s literally impossible for it to have been any worse than this. That’s a scientific and mathematical truth; I proved it on this cave wall, which I can’t show you because the fire is just as effective at recharging my camera phone as it is with my laptop. But really, who needs the mathematical proof? Is there anyone who still believes we’re better off for following Roslin-Adama? For one, Tom Zarek didn’t take hallucinogenic medications. For another, he didn’t take important policy advice from what was apparently a collective figment of the senior leadership’s imagination. Tom Zarek wouldn’t have decided to just land on a random planet and call it “Earth,” and he sure as hell wouldn’t have decided to disperse the entire population, sans microwave, to the furthest ends of said planet. And Tom Zarek would not have given the most advanced ship in our fleet to the Cylons. Who’s to say that they won’t change their mind and come back here and kill us all? We drove our entire fleet into the Sun because somebody was afraid we’d change our minds, and then we just let the Centurions take their ship away?

And so, I want to hear from all my critics: Are you happy with this outcome? Are you pleased with the decisions of the Adama-Roslin clique? What, precisely, did you think that your crazy, hallucinating, Cylon appeasing leadership was planning to do with us? I may not have long to live; I’m number six in the “lottery”, and I’m betting that we’ll get to at least ten this winter, but I’d at least like the satisfaction of hearing that I was right about Roslin-Adama.

Colonial Citizen Concerned that He’s Not Going to Get Enough of What the Bear Left of Steve

Death Penalty blogging

[ 0 ] October 29, 2009 |

At the horror show that is death penalty jurisprudence in the state of Texas has been getting some attention around here, I remember that I have been remiss in not giving a plug to a unique and excellent blog on the death penalty, Executed Today. Every day, the anniversary of a historical execution (or occasionally near execution) is noted and detailed. (Their post on Willingham predated The New Yorker piece by 18 months). They’ve been working away at this project for two years this halloween, and managed to put together detailed posts just about every day.

The More Things Change…

[ 0 ] October 29, 2009 |

Via Chet, this is kind of eery/scary.


[ 0 ] October 29, 2009 |

Tim Marhcman has an excellent piece noting that the superficially numbers-savvy Joe Girardi is actually a much worse percentage manager than the folksy-seeming Charlie Manuel:

The quintessential Girardi ploy came last Friday, in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. The Yankees were down one run with two outs in the top of the ninth inning when the Angels walked Alex Rodriguez.


This is no nitpick or isolated incident. Throughout the playoffs, Girardi has been allowing moderately decent starter A.J. Burnett to pitch to his own personal catcher—exiling starter Jorge Posada—because of the “rhythm” that Burnett enjoys with scrub Jose Molina. (Burnett walked five and hit two in his first start. Some rhythm!)

The curious thing about these inane moves is that they don’t—at all—match up with Girardi’s reputation as a forward thinker steeped in statistical nuance. There’s nothing more old school than pinch running on a hunch or citing the chemistry between a pitcher and catcher as a reason to bench one of your best hitters. The Yankee manager’s overarching philosophy, then, seems to have less to do with statistics than with the notion that a manager needs to make slick maneuvers to win ballgames.


Manuel’s general understanding that baseball is about players throwing and hitting and catching a ball is in perfect accord with the most sophisticated study of the sport. So is his simple insistence that players should be judged by more information rather than less. The Yankees have the better team, and would probably win the World Series if they were managed by a bag of sunflower seeds. The bag of seeds, at least, wouldn’t pinch run for Alex Rodriguez, bench Jorge Posada, or swap relievers because of some minute difference that doesn’t really matter. Girardi isn’t wholly useless—he’s refreshingly willing to use his closer outside of ninth-inning save chances, and he’s dismissed calls to tinker with his batting order to aid slumping Nick Swisher. Still, if the World Series comes down to who has the smarter manager, the Phillies will win a second straight championship.

Admittedly, it’s important not to exaggerate the importance of this stuff — as Bill James pointed out in his book on the subject, many great managers have indulged in suboptimal percentage moves to give them more control over the action, and if you do the big things well it doesn’t matter that much. But, still, I’m pretty happy to see that Girardi has a utility infielder with good tiny-sample-size numbers against Pedro and Jose Molina in the lineup for Game 2. Although I’m not terribly optimistic about him with his current stuff against this particular lineup, every dead spot Pedro gets helps. Hopefully Petey has another seven good innings in him…

"This verdict is written on a cocktail napkin. And it still says guilty. And guilty is spelled wrong."

[ 0 ] October 29, 2009 |

“With Me As Your Law…Talkin’ Guy, Your Railroad to the Death Chamber is Ready!”

It’s bad enough that various state officials conspired to murder Cameron Todd Willingham based on worthless junk science and the implausible testimony of a mentally ill jailhouse snitch. But apparently one reason that they were able to get away with it is that Willingham’s attorney seems inept and slaveringly authoritarian even by the standards of Texas death penalty attorneys:

Now, via Ta-Nehisi Coates, I see that Willingham’s defense attorney, David Martin, has been interviewed by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and his belligerent insistence on Willingham’s guilt is, if anything, more shocking than Jackson’s blase acceptance of having sent a man to death on the basis of faulty evidence.

Martin, who is in no way a trained arson investigator–let alone a fire scientist–explains that he bought some carpet, poured lighter fluid on it, and set it aflame and it looked “just exactly like the carpet in Todd Willingham’s house.” On this basis, he concluded, “There was no question whatsoever he was guilty,” adding, “That’s why they found him guilty, I think, in under 30 minutes.” (The quality of his defense obviously couldn’t have played a role.)

As Orr says, “see how many times you have to remind yourself that this man was Willingham’s defense attorney:”

Can something be unsurprising and still shocking?

Did the NBA quash the publication of a Random House book?

[ 0 ] October 28, 2009 |

According to this story, that’s what happened.

The most disturbing aspect of Deadspin’s account is that apparently the NBA didn’t claim that particular statements in the book were inaccurate. (Indeed it’s not clear that anyone in the league office has even seen a copy of the book). The league’s lawyers simply told Random House that if it went ahead with the book’s publication the league would file a libel suit. Obviously Random House shouldn’t be publishing libelous material, but a book like this doesn’t get to within a month of publication at a major publisher without everything in it being vetted by the publisher’s legal department.

I’ve always been puzzled by how little of a hit the NBA took from the Tim Donaghy scandal. In theory this should have been one of the worst PR nightmares a professional sports league could suffer: to have one of its officials exposed as a compulsive gambler who was betting on games that he himself was officiating. In practice the league seems to have suffered no measurable damage.

That might change if Donaghy’s allegations, made in court filings by his lawyer and elaborated on in the quashed book, that the sixth game of the 2002 Western Conference Finals was fixed, turn out to be plausible.

Now on the one hand, as NBA commissioner David Stern points out, Donaghy’s credibility is low. On the other hand, the officiating in that game could have turned Dick Cheney into a 9/11 Truther.

But first Donaghy has to find a publisher who doesn’t take orders from David Stern’s lawyers.

Laedit te quaedam mala fabula, qua tibi fertur valle sub alarum trux habitare caper.*

[ 0 ] October 28, 2009 |

Because the world needs more parodies of Victor Davis Hanson:

Morituri te salutant

The Victory Column and vero possumus megalomania of 2008 have now led to the deification of Obama as our new Caesar, man of letters (who, in the ancient tradition, enslaved a million in Gaul), and to his communications czar’s praising the embattled Mao (her favorite “political philosopher”) for leading China’s Communist legions to glorious victory over those running-dog Nationalists. Add in the classical-column props at the convention and the Moses-like talk about the seas’ receding and the planet’s cooling, and I think this administration assumes we have a Holy Man in the White House. And when you consider the depiction of Fox News as heresy, Rush as the anti-Christ, and the NEA as the medieval church, it all gets, well, sort of creepy.

The above, of course, is renowned military historian and classical scholar Victor Davis Hanson obliging the world. He leads with a Latin quotation so esoteric only people who have studied classical Latin oratory for decades seen Gladiator can recognize the import of its implied “Ave Obama.” Or not. Trotting out some of the only Latin his readers know means he needs a shoehorn to make his metaphor relevant: who are the “saluting” folks “about to die”? They are saluting Obama and are about to die for his entertainment, so they can’t be Joe Lieberman and the rest of the Democratic Party, as that wouldn’t entertain the President. They could be Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich, but Victor Davis Hanson doesn’t belong to the group of people currently enjoying that particular spectacle (that would be us).

See, this is the problem with trotting out random bits of Latin in the service of a hopelessly muddled metaphor: you think you’re impressing people who know more than you, when in truth you’re only impressing people who don’t know Latin. [Edited to remove an unintentional insult.]

*cf lines 5 and 6

World Serious

[ 0 ] October 28, 2009 |

I think whatever of my colleagues characterized this article on Twitter as “World Series that don’t include the Yankees invariably suck” was actually being unfair (although it would be an accurate summary of this one.) Rather, Kepner was saying that recent world Series have sucked because they’ve sucked, and about that he’s certainly been correct. Most people seem to think that this one, featuring the best team in baseball against the defending World Champion, will be different.

Maybe. Certainly, in the abstract, the Phillies are a much more serious threat than the Angels. On paper, they can fight the Yankee rotation to a draw. Unlike the Twins, they have more than one premium hitter; unlike the Angels, their middle-of-the-order hitters have real power and don’t see taking pitches as a slur on their masculinity or something. So why I do I see this Series as more likely to be another dud than a classic? I don’t like the matchup for Philadelphia at all. For at least 4 and as many as 5 of the games (plus many game situations in all the games), the Phillies will have Willie Bloomquist playing first base and hitting cleanup, along with many other lefties with less extreme career splits. It’s true that the Phillies handled lefties OK this year, but I suspect that’s a function of facing a lot of marginal southpaws, which isn’t an issue here (and, despite their success, they’ve had huge platoon shifts against higher-quality postseason pitchers so far.) So while against a normal staff the Phillies wouldn’t have a dramatically worse offense than the Yankees, in this Series they might, and they also mean that Giradi’s Larussian wankery might be a net positive — unlike Tracy, Howard will be facing a lefty or the lefty-killing Rivera in most late-inning ABs. And then there’s the bullpens, which doomed the Twins and Angels. I know we’re expected to believe that the Phillies closer with the 59+ ERA this year has turned it around, and he certainly has the ability to be a very good closer. Between him and by far the greatest closer in history I know who I’m betting on.

So while I believe there will be a lot of close games, my bet is that the Yankees win most of them quickly. Aside from Lidge, the key players if the Phillies are to thwart this appalling outcome: Pedro, Werth, and Rollins (who needs to snap out of it.) YANKEES IN 5.

Page 2 of 1412345...10...Last »