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England…

[ 106 ] July 2, 2015 |
Soccer ball.svg

“Soccer ball”. Licensed under GFDL via Wikipedia.

The end of last night’s England-Japan WWC match was about as devastating as anything I can imagine. I’m thinking through the classic catastrophic sports moments; Chris Webber’s timeout is the only thing that seems comparably decisive on such a large stage. I hope that the next thing is better for Laura Bassett; watching the team comfort her in the aftermath was the only thing that partially redeemed the moment.

[SL] A commenter beat me to it, but although its effectively one country big stage is a smaller one than Webber, an otherwise even better comparison is Steve Smith, the rookie defenseman who celebrated his birthday by eliminating his own team, the greatest regular season version of the Gretzky/Messier/Kurri/Coffey/Fuhr Oilers:

Was this moment of sheer misery one of the best days of my life? Well, yes. But Laura Bassett take note, and heart: the also-UK born Smith played 14 more years in the NHL and is now an assistant coach in Carolina.

On the Search for the Clubhouse Guy

[ 60 ] June 30, 2015 |
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Roy Thomas. Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia.

Some interesting thoughts from Russ Carleton on how you would go about searching for clubhouse “chemistry”: (subscription)

I have a feeling that if I surveyed even the most hardcore sabermetricians out there, they would all acknowledge that ideas of chemistry and clubhouse presence aren’t silly. They’d probably push back against the common narrative that Team X won the World Series based on the shining light of justice that came from Smith’s locker. (After all, there were probably veteran guys on all the other 29 teams who did not win the World Series.) They’d probably say that it’s hard to measure. (It is.) But if Smith sits down with Jones, shows him a trick he’s learned over the years on how to hit a curveball and Jones turns from a one-win player to a three-win player, don’t we have to give some of that credit to Smith?

I’m going to start with the assumption that chemistry and clubhouse presence exist and that they can have real, tangible effects on players, making them either better or worse. We don’t know how it works. We don’t know who’s who. We don’t know what the effects are. But what if we could at least make some reasonable assumptions about what those effects might be? Actual data-driven ones. For example, we know that some managers seem to have a special talent for keeping their players from burning out over the course of a year, and that the effect might be as big as 30 runs from the best to the worst.

So, how much could these soft factors actually be worth?

I’d be interested in coming up with a list of things that we assumed-away-because-we-couldn’t-measure, then realized-had-an-impact-when-we-developed-better-tools. I’m guessing that the list would be longer in football and basketball than in baseball, but of course it would also be interesting to track down some examples from politics.

Thoughts?

On Saved Games and Best Practices

[ 65 ] June 29, 2015 |

Operation Iraqi FreedomSome conjecture…

Every player of the popular video game Civilization knows to hit the save button before engaging in the risky, stupid invasion of foreign country. In the case of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, it became apparent after the first few months that the war was not working out as its framers had envisioned.  The failure to find weapons of mass destruction was only the icing, so to speak, on the disaster of failed reconciliation, state collapse, and executive incompetence.

What if we had “saved game” before we invaded Iraq? What would America’s strategic options look like today?

RAND!

[ 22 ] June 27, 2015 |

7818077_f496The latest in my Kentucky-in-the-APAC series takes a look at RAND!

Paul’s association with offshore balancing stems, in large part, from his father’s embrace of the concept. Ron Paul ran for President in 2008 on a non-interventionist platform, distinguishing himself from the rest of the GOP field. The elder Paul has made a career of arguing the quasi-isolationist (to borrow the term of his critics) position on foreign affairs.

But what does offshore balancing mean for the Asia-Pacific? We can imagine that a Paul presidency would resist the temptation and risk of commitment to Japan or any of the South China Sea claimants with respect to potential conflict with China. If offshore balancing can’t avoid war over a few rocks in the East China Sea, or a few piles of sand in the South China Sea, then it’s not worth very much as a strategic perspective.

Corporations, Not Activists

[ 109 ] June 25, 2015 |
Third Reich box cover.jpg

“Third Reich box cover”. Via Wikipedia.

This is an example of reacting to a controversy without really understanding what the controversy is about:

Today, Apple decided to start yanking games that use the Confederate flag in any way (viaTouchArcade). For example, you can now no longer buy the strategy iOS games Civil War: 1862, Civil War: 1863, Civil War: 1864, and Civil War: Gettysburg, which, as you might guess, use the Confederate flag because they’re video games about the Civil War.

With any luck, this will work itself out in a couple of days, and the games will be restored. Right wingers are going apeshit, of course, but as far as I know there are no anti-flag activists of any standing who have decried the use of the Confederate flag in Civil War video games.  Apple’s action stems from a misunderstanding of the arguments of activists, accompanied by a apparently complete disinterest in what they’re actually calling for. And to go out on a bit of a limb, this is a good example of why technology companies, and the corporate world more generally, should have an interest in supporting some degree of liberal arts education; it shouldn’t be difficult to sort through the differences between flying the Confederate flag from the South Carolina statehouse, and depicting it in a video game about the Battle of Gettysburg.

Blogging is About Trust

[ 296 ] June 25, 2015 |

6amfI, for one, will never trust Lemieux again.

The Supreme Court cemented President Barack Obama’s signature achievement on Thursday by affirming that the Affordable Care Act intended to help all Americans who need help paying for their insurance.
In their 6-3 majority in King v. Burwell, the justices ruled that Americans are eligible for subsidies regardless of whether their state set up its own exchange. The result preserves premium assistance for 6.4 million customers in the 34 states that rely on the federal marketplace. On a practical level, it also preserves the mandate, at the center of the law and of its controversy, that every American buy health insurance.

[SL] …hey, my prediction could have been worse:

More soon, of course. I’m not shocked that Roberts voted for the government, but I am pretty shocked by how unambiguous the win was.

Explains World War II…

[ 76 ] June 24, 2015 |

Hanging on in quiet desperation is, quite literally, the English way:

The education minister, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, quickly rejected the students’ pleas, saying: “In truth, I was quite surprised by the petition. Because ‘to cope with’ is part of the things one learns — and I am not fluent.”

But the students have their defenders. “This word ‘to cope’ is unusually hard to translate into French,” wrote Carol Just, a teacher of English in France, on the change.org website, “and the English notion is difficult to understand even for experienced adult learners because there is no real equivalent in the French language and in the French mind.”

The Cloudy Kristol Ball

[ 121 ] June 24, 2015 |

133439_1211663_300x283It’s fun to watch Bill Kristol badly misread conservative opinion on the Confederate flag:


This puts him well behind Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney, Jennifer Rubin, Mitch McConnell, and Rick fucking Perry. Who could have guessed that the man who helped bring Sarah Palin to national prominence could make such an egregiously awful judgment call?

Mitch: Jeff Davis Out of the Kentucky State Capitol

[ 18 ] June 24, 2015 |
Muhammad Ali NYWTS.jpg

“Muhammad Ali NYWTS” by Ira Rosenberg – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Now we’re cooking with gas:

But at a press conference on Tuesday, in the midst of a national debate over the propriety of Confederate images, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell identified one place where Davis shouldn’t be: the Capitol building in his home state of Kentucky. A statue of Davis stands alongside former President Abraham Lincoln—his Civil War adversary—and other Kentucky-born leaders.

After last week’s deadly shooting at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, images emerged of the suspected gunman’s affinity for the Confederate flag, spurring debate over whether the Confederate symbol should be represented on state property. According to reporters at the news conference, McConnell said that a “more appropriate” location for the Davis statue would be a state museum. This week, McConnell expressed support for South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call to remove the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in Columbia.

This isn’t the first time that Davis’s place of honor in the Kentucky Capitol has been questioned. Earlier Tuesday, a Kentucky gubernatorial candidate called for its removal, and last year, a former state treasurer started an online petition to replace Davis’s statue with a memorial to boxer Muhammed Ali, who was born in Louisville.

That Ali was originally the namesake of Cassius Marcellus Clay makes him an even more appropriate replacement for Davis. Ali apparently doesn’t want a statue, but there’s probably room for both a two-dimensional representation of the Greatest, an a statue of the abolitionist leader Clay

More Mitch!

[ 0 ] June 24, 2015 |

U.S. Senator McConnell talks to reporters after meeting Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi in YangonThe latest in my series at the Diplomat on Kentucky and the APAC takes a look at Mitch:

Kentucky is blessed (or cursed) with a very interesting pair of Senators. Rand Paul, with his outspoken foreign policy views and willingness to filibuster, grabs many of the headlines. His senior colleague, however, has much more influence over the course of U.S. foreign policy. Mitch McConnell has served as Kentucky’s Senator since 1985. He has acted as the Senate Majority Leader since January, moving up from the Minority Leader position in the wake of the GOP’s victories in the 2014 midterms. No one has ever accused Mitch McConnell of having “flash,” but he’s widely regarded as one of the most powerful men in Washington.

A Trip Down Heritage Lane…

[ 142 ] June 22, 2015 |

12052014-tnr-thumb-300xauto-81459
I’m old enough to remember when Jason Zengerle of Even-the-Liberal-New-Republic thought the Confederate flag was all about the heritage:

I actually have a fair amount of sympathy for some Southerners who love the Confederate flag. I even once wrote a piece about them. For these people, the flag really is a representation of their heritage; perhaps more importantly, it may be the only thing in their lives that actually transcends their daily existence. Put it this way: if you’re a guy whiling away your days in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, the fact that your great-great-grandfather fought at Gettysburg–the only thing connected to your life that you ever actually read about in a history book–is a real source of pride. Therefore, it’s perfectly understandable that you’d express that pride by flying a Confederate flag, or putting a sticker of it on your car. And there’s nothing more unfair than being branded a racist for doing so.

Truly a loss to civilization that the archives of the Plank are so difficult to dig up these days…

Horses!

[ 11 ] June 22, 2015 |

American PharoahThe third in my series discussing the relationship between Kentucky and the Asia Pacific is up:

Where does East Asia stand in the globalization of horse racing?  Few Americans know much about East Asian racing, except for the very few Kentuckians who study the subject intensely.  Racing in Japan, South Korea, and especially Hong Kong is taking an ever-larger role in a sport traditionally associated with Kentucky and the Middle East.

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