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Challenge Results, Round 1

[ 0 ] March 18, 2006 |

The Bearded Ducks are ready to make their move. Ordinarily, I’ve already been eliminated by this point, what with my special ability to identify high seeded first round upset victims and pick them to win the tournament. If Albany had pulled it out against UConn, I’d be sitting pretty; I have unwisely selected Kentucky to upset the Huskies, and an Albany victory would have let me off the hook.

[ 0 ] March 17, 2006 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Starbuck and Nelson

WBC Semis

[ 0 ] March 17, 2006 |

Well, that was surprising.

I don’t think that anyone could have predicted that the US would simply fail to hit in the WBC. In five games against teams other than South Africa, the US scored 16 runs. That’s with an exceptional offensive lineup against pitching which doesn’t compare favorably with that of an average Major League team.

I’m glad that the umpiring travesty in the US-Japan game didn’t end up mattering. I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Japan will win its third game of the tourney against Korea, then will defeat the Dominican Republic in the finals. But really, with four teams as evenly matched as these in a single-elimination tournament, anything could happen.

And Just When You Thought Judy Miller Couldn’t Get More Pathetic

[ 0 ] March 16, 2006 |

Who knew bloggers had such power?

Judith Miller has a new alibi—the blogs done her in!

Writer Marie Brenner presents Miller’s latest defense in an April Vanity Fair feature story about the fallout from the Valerie Plame investigation. Brenner, acknowledging she’s a friend of the former New York Times reporter, writes that while still in Iraq in May 2003, Miller became a “major target in the intense public anger directed at Bush’s war, owing to her reports that Saddam Hussein was producing weapons of mass destruction.”

The ones tossing the fire were those dastardly—but unnamed—bloggers, according to Miller. Upon returning to New York later in May, Miller met with the Times’ two top editors, Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd, who were then battling a staff revolt triggered by the Jayson Blair scandal. They acknowledged the “flak” her stories had gotten and told her foreign editor Roger Cohen did not want her to go back to Iraq. Cohen opposed her return because, as he tells Brenner, “There were concerns about her sources and her sourcing.” Still, Miller managed a quick trip to Iraq.

Wow. And I thought that it was her extraordinarily bad reporting. Certainly the blogosphere has provided a venue in which hackish work like Miller’s can be exposed. But, it’s not as if this is some small potatoes event that some enterprising blogger stumbled upon and then publicized. Judy repeatedly relied on sources who claimed that Iraq possessed large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. Iraq did not, in fact, possess even small stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. I think somebody was going to notice this problem even if Josh Marshall and Bob Somerby hadn’t pointed it out…

Tourney Challenge

[ 0 ] March 15, 2006 |

Last reminder; we already have 19 entrants.

ESPN NCAA Tournament Challenge
League Name: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

Early Steroid Use?

[ 0 ] March 15, 2006 |

This is genius.

With the DVD release of “Looney Tunes Golden Collection” it is at last possible for us to examine one of the most famous baseball games ever in detail, and see what lessons the contest holds for the analytical community.


[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

It may have been the right decision to favor Sherrod Brown over Paul Hackett, but Hackett certainly deserves a recurring spot on the Daily Show…


[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

I don’t have anything very insightful to say about Barry Bonds and steroids. I suppose that, for a long time, I was hoping that I could continue to believe that he had not used steroids seriously, or that the steroids had not meaningfully impacted his performance. The former, obviously, is no longer plausible (subscription required). Of the latter we’ll never know for sure, but it’s hard for me to believe that the beginnings of a steroid regimen coincided only accidentally with the transformation of a first circle Hall of Famer into the Greatest Player Who Ever Lived, all at the age of 36.

At the same time, I suppose that my disappointment in Bonds is mildly ameliorated by the fact that my favorite player, Ken Griffey Jr., has never been accused of using steroids. Indeed, Griffey’s record looks much more impressive in light of the general steroid scandal. He is now the active leader in home runs hit by a player untainted by accusations of steroid use. The fact that Alex Rodriguez has similarly never been accused of steroid use should undermine whatever confidence anyone had left in sports journalism; if Bonds isn’t the Greatest Player Anyone Has Ever Seen, then A-Rod comes pretty damn close, and the media still, unaccountably, hates him. That he seems to be the nicest guy in the world only makes it more odd; he may have been indecisive regarding his choice of countries in the WBC, but that seems to me to be a factor in his favor, especially given the number of elite players who have chosen not to participate at all.

Things I Didn’t Know…

[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

but am genuinely appalled by.

Less well-known is that the AFL also worked with the CIA to overthrow the elected Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954, helped set up drug smuggling routes in Europe, and in 1962, established the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) which helped lay the groundwork for U.S.-backed military coups in Brazil in 1964, the Dominican Republic in 1965, and Chile in 1975, among others. Under the aegis of “business unionism,” the AFL-CIO supported military dictatorships around the world against leftist and progressive unions. Among other things, it supported the Reagan administration’s refusal to conduct a review of labor rights under the military regime in El Salvador for most of the 1980s, because, as Human Rights Watch noted, those being repressed were mostly left-wing unionists.

I suppose that it doesn’t really surprise me that the AFL-CIO has such aa reactionary foreign policy history. Most of the actions noted above actually had wide, bipartisan support in elite policy circles, and it stands to reason that the labor movement would operate within that Cold War consensus. Still, it’s disappointing that the AFL-CIO would find itself involved in the worst excesses of the Cold War (and the various interventions on behalf of murderous Latin American meat packing glitterati would certainly qualify as such), and more disappointing that the AFL-CIO would continue to kowtow to many of the worst impulses in US foreign policy.

One and Done

[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

Interesting enough article at Slate by Seth Stevenson about the WBC and small sample sizes:

It’s true that baseball feels somewhat unsuited to the win-or-go-home format. The very best MLB teams—those that win 100 games—still end up losing 38 percent of the time. Compare this to an NFL team that goes 12-4 (a good but by no means great record), losing just 25 percent of its games. Even those record-setting 2001 Mariners lost a whopping 46 times, while the NFL-best 1972 Dolphins went undefeated.

This makes it seem like baseball is far less suited to a one-and-done format than is a sport like football—in other words, the better baseball team quite often loses. But is this difference inherent in the nature of baseball? Or is it a product of the way we’ve constructed things?

Here’s a thought experiment: What if baseball, like football, played one game a week for a 16-week season? The team’s ace pitcher could now start every game. The best positional players would never get a day off. The intensity and focus would never wane (as they necessarily do in the midst of six games in six days in two cities).

In these circumstances, the best baseball teams might well go 12-4. Or even 14-2. And we might be less apt to consider baseball a game of chancy vicissitudes and random luck.

Why do the best baseball teams win less often than the best football or basketball teams? The guys at Baseball Prospectus probably have a firmer grasp on this, but surely the structure of baseball, which prevents a team from using its most important single player (and the pitcher, in any given game, has more of an impact on the outcome of a particular game than any other player) in every game is an important cause of the moderate winning percentage. I wonder if it’s the only reason, or if something else about the structure of the game itself makes it more likely that weaker teams will win on any given day.

BSG Finale

[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

I have deeply ambivalent feelings about Television Without Pity. I think that too much of their criticism comes off as too-clever-by-half fanboy posturing (Worst. Episode. Ever). Nevertheless, I rather enjoy some of their summaries, and I think that Jacob did a very good job with the second season finale of BSG.

Also check out this analysis by piny. I can’t say that I agree with piny, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Fun with Headlines

[ 0 ] March 14, 2006 |

From todays NYT:

Bush Expresses Confidence in Iraq’s Future

He highlighted improvements in the Iraqi security forces and repeated his promise that U.S. troops will stand down as Iraqi forces are able to defend the country.

”As more capable Iraqi police and soldiers come on line, they will assume responsibility for more territory — with the goal of having the Iraqis control more territory than the coalition by the end of 2006,” the president said.

Police have found dozens of bodies in Baghdad, including those of men bound and shot in an abandoned minibus, in a 24-hour period after car bomb and mortar attacks in the Shiite slum of Sadr City in east Baghdad on Sunday.

Reprisal Killings Leave 68 Dead Throughout Baghdad

The police reported finding 68 bodies today scattered around the city, as the wave of reprisal killings for Sunday’s attack on Shiite civilians appeared to gain steam.

The victims, all male, were shot or strangled after being bound and blindfolded. Many of the bodies were found in Sadr City, the Shiite-controlled area where Sunday’s bombings took place, although 15 bodies were found in a minibus on a road west of Baghdad, according to the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

The wave of killings followed a graphic display of street violence on Monday, in which Shiite vigilantes seized four men suspected of terrorist attacks, interrogated them, beat them, killed them and left their bodies dangling from lampposts on Monday morning, witnesses and government officials said.

The sense of growing lawlessness deepened Monday night with a mortar strike against a well-known Sunni mosque in Baghdad, killing three people.

This is a parody of a President. It is a parody of an administration.