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This Is Why Fred Hiatt Guarantees Everyone Two Fainting Couches

[ 50 ] April 10, 2014 |

Shorter Ruth Marcus: I guess I support the Paycheck Fairness Protection Act, but I’m much more upset about how Democrats aren’t supporting it in the right way.

It’s

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also worth nothing that the oft-cited 77% figure is only misleading if you assume that women have an equal opportunity to get the same jobs on the same terms as men, an assumption which is (to put it mildly) implausible.

Much more from Monica Potts.

Is Henry Aaron the Real HR King?

[ 101 ] April 9, 2014 |

I join the opinion of Justice Marchman. I also love this comment:

Bonds’ 762

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should have an asterisk beside it, and that asterisk should reference a note at the very bottom of the list, and that note should read “762 is greater than 755″.

…and as commenters note, Craggs and Posnanski are also excellent.

The Leafs Collapse And Hockey Analytics

[ 84 ] April 9, 2014 |

Happy Leafs Elimination Day! This year’s edition is especially entertaining, and of interest beyond NHL fans, because it represents another disaster for old-school media troofers who, as part of their identity, feel it necessary to attack even the most obvious insights derived from analytic methods.

Sean McIndoe’s Grantland piece at the beginning of the season did an excellent job laying it out. The core of the contemporary analytic view of hockey is an insight similar to Voros McCracken’s transformative insight about pitching. McCracken, and those that applied his findings, found that a pitcher’s strikeout rates and HR rates were better predictors of his ERA going forward than ERA itself, because what happens to balls in play is mostly beyond a pitcher’s control (essentially, it’s a combination of luck and defense.) Similarly, in hockey analysts found that a teams ability to maintain the possession of the puck predicts goal differential better than goal differential itself. In part, this is because shooting percentage isn’t really a skill, but is a combination of luck and goaltending. If you keep getting outshot when the game is on the line, unless you have Dominik Hasek in his prime or something you’re likely to lose in the long run.

One thing worth emphasizing is that the statistics that analysts use as a proxy for possession aren’t complicated or esoteric. Fenwick looks at unblocked shots for and against; Corsi includes blocked shots. The differentials, however, are most meaningful even strength when the games are close. When you see someone discuss a team’s Fenwick or Corsi close” this reflects the fact that the stats are only meaningful if you eliminate the garbage time. because when the game isn’t close it affects the shot patterns. (Just as, when analyzing football, you can’t put a lot of weight on yards gained by an offense in the fourth quarter of a blowout; it’s in the interest of the defense to trade yardage for time, so accumulating yards doesn’t prove much about your ability.)

The Leafs were a key test case because they made the playoffs last year (and made it to Game 7 of the first round) but were a terrible possession team. (I’ll present it ordered by Fenwick close because it was developed by a Flames fan, but as you can see the difference between the two are marginal.) The verdict of the analysts was clear: if the Leafs didn’t make actual improvements they were going to regress substantially. Adding to fuel to the controversy is that 1)the Leafs organization is as notably hostile to analytics as their media sycophants, and 2)this was reflected in their widely-mocked offseason moves.

For much of the year, there was a lot of crowing from the Murray Chass equivalents in hockey, since the Leafs seemed safely in a playoff spot. And this wasn’t because they actually improved. Their Fenwick close is 29th in the league: Worse than the disastrously rebuilding Oilers, substantially worse than the Flames, a poor organization in year one of a rebuild. Worse than everyone but a Sabres team with a historically bad offense. Their Corsi is also 29th. Did this prove analytics wrong? Nope — the Leafs’ success, such as it was, was built on exceptional goaltending and luck in the skills competition that the NHL idiotically uses to award points in regular season games. Their massive collapse at the end of the year, taking them all the way out of the playoffs, is what happens when the luck runs out.

So remember this when you hear that the Avalanche – a young team in the playoffs ahead of schedule despite terrible possession numbers — are defying the NERDS because of Patrick Roy’s coaching wizardry or whatever. Either they’ll actually improve, or the odds are overwhelming that they’ll be picking in the lottery again. But I, for one, hope the Leafs never change…

Brendan Eich Contributed to a Disgraceful Campaign

[ 176 ] April 9, 2014 |

A valuable reminder:

It’s proper to revisit that campaign, which established a new standard for odious political advertising. That’s a real achievement, given the deceitful nature of most of the TV campaigns for and against California ballot propositions.

Over at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern has compiled a remembrance, with videos, of the Proposition 8 campaign to which Eich donated $1,000. As Stern observes, the focus of the campaign was on the effect of gay marriage on children. (Recall that Prop 8 overturned a California court ruling legalizing gay marriage and wrote a

gay marriage prohibition into the state constitution, so a “yes” vote was anti-gay marriage.)

More contemptably, several of the commercials suggested that legal gay marriage would “confuse” children who would have to be taught about it in school. One depicts a schoolteacher fretting to his principal about the mandate that he’ll have to introduce the concept in the classroom: “Just don’t call it marriage, and confuse a kid with a social dynamic that they can’t possibly understand.”

That ad, by the way, spelled out another theme of the campaign, that the failure of Proposition 8 would introduce a new level of government coercion. The teacher ad came complete with ominous music as the principal explained that “our hands are tied here.”

Another ad featured a little girl interrogating her gay fathers about where babies come from if not from a mommy and a daddy, as they shift uncomfortably in their seats trying to conjure up an answer. A third ad featured Pepperdine University law professor Richard Peterson warning that “second graders” would have to be taught that “boys could marry boys.” (Pepperdine objected to being named in the ad, but the sponsors refused to remove the identification.)

As Stern observes, “The campaign’s strategy was to debase gay families as deviant and unhealthy while insinuating that gay people are engaged in a full-scale campaign to convert children to their cause.”

It’s nearly impossible to overstate just how odious that campaign was. No argument that opposing same-sex marriage isn’t bigotry could survive an examination of the rhetoric of Prop 8 supporters.

“…awesome in its evilness.”

[ 100 ] April 8, 2014 |

A very good discussion between Harold Pollock and Jonathan Gruber on the Supreme Court decision that will kill some of society’s most vulnerable citizens:

Jon: I think, Harold, the single thing we probably need to keep the most focus on is the tragedy of the lack of Medicaid expansions. I know you’ve written about this. You know about this, but I think we cannot talk enough about the absolute tragedy that’s taken place. Really, a life-costing tragedy has taken place in America as a result of that Supreme Court decision. You know, half the states in America are denying their poorest citizens health insurance paid for by the federal government.

So to my mind, I’m offended on two levels here. I’m offended because I believe we can help poor people get health insurance, but I’m almost more offended there’s a principle of political economy that basically, if you’d told me, when the Supreme Court decision came down, I said, “It’s not a big deal. What state would turn down free money from the federal government to cover their poorest citizens?” The fact that half the states are is such a massive rejection of any sensible model of political economy, it’s sort of offensive to me as an academic. And I think it’s nothing short of political malpractice that we are seeing in these states and we’ve got to emphasize that.

Harold: One of the things that’s really striking to me is there’s a politics of impunity towards poor people, particularly non-white poor people that is almost a feature rather than a bug in the internal politics in some of these states, not to cover people under Medicaid, even if it’s financially very advantageous to do so. I think there’s a really important principle to defeat this politically, not just because Medicaid is important for people, but because it’s such a toxic political perspective that has to be … It has to be shown that that approach to politics doesn’t work because otherwise, we will really be stuck with some very unjust policies that will be pursued with complete impunity in some of these places.

Jon: That’s a great way to put it. There’s larger principles at stake here. When these states are turning – not just turning down covering the poor people – but turning down the federal stimulus that would come with that.

Harold: Yeah.

Jon: So the price they are willing … They are not just not interested in covering poor people, they are willing to sacrifice billions of dollars of injections into their economy in order to punish poor people. It really is just almost awesome in its evilness.

Again, it would be unfair to blame the Supreme Court for this if there was a clear constitutional command that the ACA’s funding mechanism plausibly violated, but there isn’t. The relevant precedent overwhelmingly suggested that the mechanism was constitutional, and applying the logic of the decision leads to transparently absurd results. But while the Supreme Court handed them the tools, it’s the Republican statehouses that are standing between medical facilities and the working poor, declaring “unnecessary suffering and death now, unnecessary suffering and death tomorrow, unecessary suffering and death forever!”

…Lithwick on the evil in Virginia.

Excessive Force on the Border

[ 9 ] April 8, 2014 |

Terrific reporting from Dara Lind here.

A Failed (Actual) Attack on Religious Freedom

[ 93 ] April 8, 2014 |

While Quebec secessionist has some progressive elements, it also has a seemingly ineluctable background of ethnic nationalism.  After the narrow defeat of the last secession referendum, the secessionist premier of Quebec, Jacques Parizeau, offered a succinct explanation for the defeat: “C’est vrai, c’est vrai qu’on a été battus, au fond, par quoi? Par l’argent puis des votes ethniques, essentiellement.”  (Americans will be familiar with this logic from the classic assumption that Democratic majorities are too diverse and hence lacking in real voters to really count.) When Parizeau says “nous,” he doesn’t include “people of color or recent immigrants who are citizens of Quebec living in Montreal.”

The Parizeau element of the Parti Quebecois reappeared with a vengeance with the odious proposal of Bill 60.  Despite the cynical use of specious “religious freedom” arguments — featuring “burdens” on religious practice so trivial that the major litigant literally didn’t notice them until the Republican Party invented its latest ad hoc legal challenge to the ACA — to advance independent Republican policy goals, we shouldn’t forget that real threats to religious freedom exist.  Some elements of the bill (such as a proposed amendment affirming that religious freedom cannot trump gender equality) are potentially salutary depending on the execution, but here’s where I get off the bus:

The legislation, introduced by Bernard Drainville, the Minister for Democratic Institutions and Active Citizenship [my Orwellian discourse alarm is going off! --ed.], seeks to affirm the religious neutrality of the state, in particular by prohibiting public sector employees, including those working in hospitals, schools, daycares, and universities, from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols”.

I believe that neutral laws regulating conduct should not be subject to individual exemptions based on religious belief. Forcing secularism on individuals, however, is another matter entirely that goes beyond state neutrality to actually attack religious practice. And it’s not a coincidence that the heaviest burden will be borne by religious minorities who the Quebec nationalists tend to implicitly (and in some cases explicitly) exclude from the Quebecois political community.

So it’s gratifying to the party responsible for this demagoguery go down to an ignoble defeat, with Premier Marois unable to even hold her own seat. It reaffirms democratic values when an electoral majority is better than the political leadership it previously elected.

Finally, Someone Gets It

[ 154 ] April 7, 2014 |

Credit where credit is due — Glenn Reynolds has repented and finally has a reasonable take on the Brendan Eich resignation:

Meanwhile some people are muttering darkly of “blacklists” because of anger at Brandon Eich’s bigotry. Hey — it’s not a blacklist when you piss off your customers and users. Calling it that just serves to underscore the combination of overentitlement and moral unseriousness that marks conservertarian corporate executives today. As Yvonne Zipp writes:

A boycott is not the same as a blacklist. No one is hauling Brendon Eich in front of committees and threatening him with prison. Nor is he being told he can never work again if they don’t “name names.”

Wealthy reactionaries are free to use their immense wealth to promote their political views, and those people who don’t want to support that company anymore are free to say they won’t use the products produced by their companies.

It’s called the free market.

Heh. Indeed! Oh, wait, sorry, I had a couple transcription errors in there. OK, here’s the post:

STRIKE TWO for the Dixie Chicks — posing for a PETA anti-fur ad? What were they thinking?

[...]

Meanwhile some people are muttering darkly of “blacklists” because of anger at antiwar celebrities. Hey — it’s not a blacklist when you piss off your fans. Calling it that just serves to underscore the combination of overentitlement and moral unseriousness that marks entertainers today. As Yvonne Zipp writes:

A boycott is not the same as a blacklist. No one is hauling celebrities in front of committees and threatening them with prison. Nor are they being told they can never work again if they don’t “name names.”

Entertainers are free to use their fame to promote their political views, and those people who don’t find them entertaining anymore are free to change the channel.

It’s called the free market.

Hacktacular! Admittedly, there are some differences between the cases; it may not be entirely fair to compare the pressure than can some from a massive corporate titan like OK Cupid to a minor mom-and-pop operation like Clear Channel.

Bonus witless hackery from another reader email that goes beyond a heh-indeed to get an “I love it”:

“Somehow, I think those ‘rifle-toting, Bambi-shooting types’ will be buying CDs by some other artists from now on.”

In that case, I’ve got the perfect headline for you: “Pro-Blix Dixie Chicks nix pix for stix!”

Yeah, that Hans Blix sure does look foolish now, questioning the Bush administration’s airtight intelligence with such crazy techniques as “inspecting the sites where the Bush administration said there would be weapons.” What a weird and awful time that was.

If You Haven’t Spotted the Sucker By December 2000, You Are The Sucker

[ 78 ] April 7, 2014 |

Ralph Nader has a new analysis of American politics forthcoming.  And it is, he assures is, persuasive:

Ralph Nader has fought for over fifty [sic] years on behalf of American citizens against the reckless influence of corporations and their government patrons on our society. Now he ramps up the fight and makes a persuasive case that Americans are not powerless. In Unstoppable, he explores the emerging political alignment of the Left and the Right against converging corporate-government tyranny.

Large segments from the progressive, conservative, and libertarian political camps find themselves aligned in opposition to the destruction of civil liberties, the economically draining corporate welfare state, the relentless perpetuation of America’s wars, sovereignty-shredding trade agreements, and the unpunished crimes of Wall Street against Main Street.

Sure – keep waiting!

Evidently, nominally progressive people who consider themselves too good for mere politics generally end up being excessively charitable to the worst elements in American politics.  Fortunately, very few such people end up in a position to act out this nutty belief in a way that leads to hundreds of thousands of dead people all over the world in exchange for nothing.  (And, in fairness, Nader has shown an ability work with virtually all actually existing American conservatives and libertarians to work towards a common goal, namely putting pro-insane-wars, pro-corporate-welfare state, anti-welfare state, anti-civil liberties, anti-Wall Street regulation Republicans into office.)

 

Everything is Like the Gulag, Except Sending People To Remote Locations To Be Tortured

[ 369 ] April 7, 2014 |

Since the resignation of Brendan Eich has already been compared to McCarthyism, fascism, and Jacobinism, I suppose calling it the new Gulag was inevitable. This article was tabbed by Reynolds, which will be particularly amusing to those of you who remember the intense outrage at Instapundit over an Amnesty International report describing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as “the gulag of our times, entrenching the practice of arbitrary and indefinite detention in violation of international law.” Whether the term “gulag” is more plausibly applied to CEO who resigns in the wake of a very mild campaign of opposition to his discriminatory political actions or to a site where people are sent to be arbitrarily detained and sometimes tortured, I leave to the reader’s judgment.

Leaving aside the world-class levels of hypocrisy, Williamson’s argument is expectedly awful, constructing a fantasy of liberal CommieNazism out of a variety of random anecdotes, many of  fail to even bear relevance to the Eich case, which itself bears no resemblance to McCartyhism (let alone fascism or Stalinism.) In addition to the Eich case’s violation of ad hoc norms nobody really believes in, you have a legitimately dumb “provocative” argument about imprisoning climate change troofers, which would be relevant if Gawker bloggers spoke for anyone else. You have someone not permitted to attend a private meeting, assertions that anyone who interprets the First Amendment the way the Supreme Court did until last week with respect to aggregate political donations is opposed to the concept of free speech and therefore a fascist, and assertions that anyone who thinks that neutral rules should be applied uniformly rather than be subject to exemptions based on trivial burdens on religious practice is a fascist. (It’s not clear what disagreement with the Republican platform circa 2012 isn’t fascism.) But this is my favorite:

Charles Murray, one of the most important social scientists of his generation, was denounced as a “known white supremacist” by Texas Democrats for holding heterodox views about education policy…

First of all, note the classic Sarah Palin definition of free speech — free speech, apparently, means that it’s illegitimate to even criticize the political views of conservatives. (Oddly, calling liberals Stalinists and fascists for the crime of disagreeing with recent Republican innovations in campaign finance law and the freedom of secular, for-profit corporations to deny statutory rights to their employees based on trivial burdens on religious practices of extremely dubious sincerity is entirely consistent with free speech. You might say that Williamson’s thought process is muddled and self-refuting even by NRO standards.) And in addition, I’m going to guess that Murray was called a “white supremacist” not because of his “heterodox views about education policy” but because he wrote a whole book about how African-Americans are genetically inferior. I can’t wait to find out whether accurately describing Murray’s political views makes me more like Hitler, Robespierre, or Pol Pot.

UPDATE: I would have to agree that Williamson has pretty much achieved peak hack.

Again, On What Free Speech Means And What It Doesn’t

[ 239 ] April 7, 2014 |

We seem to have to go through this every year or two, and based on some of the commentary surrounding Brendan Eich apparently we have to again. (Incidentally, what I said about Althouse back then applies to Glenn Reynolds as well — he thought that Shirley Sherrod being fired based on an unquestionably inaccurate presentation of her views was awesome, ending the question of whether he’s arguing in bad faith here. And he’s still calling her a “racist” and “asshole” years later.) Anyway, to reiterate what should be obvious:

  • Free speech rights go beyond what is protected by the First Amendment. The free speech rights of employees should ideally be accorded more respect than the law requires.
  • It is equally clear that these rights cannot be absolute, starting with speech that is relevant to someone’s ability to do their job.
  • Power, supervisory authority, and the extent to which one’s views represent an organization to the public all matter. It would obviously be unreasonable to fire someone charged with cleaning the restrooms solely because they gave financial support to Prop 8. It would be perfectly reasonable to fire someone for such support if they want a job writing for The Advocate. Between the obvious cases there’s a grey area, but not every case of someone being fired for expressing particular views is exhuming McCarthy.
  • Eich is obviously much more comparable here to the Advocate writer than to the custodian. A CEO views inherently represent the organization he’s
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    working for, and he has supervisory authority that makes him having bigoted views legitimately worrisome.

  • To state the obvious, if Eich had donated to an initiative campaign dedicated to the re-criminalization of interracial marriage, or to an anti-Semitic group, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, because virtually nobody would be defending him. Nobody really thinks that CEOs have some kind of unlimited right to free political speech, and the arguments being made in defense of Eich generally tend to minimize the importance of gay and lesbian rights.
  • There is a reasonable response to the previous point, which is that in 2008 opposition to same-sex marriage was regrettably a majority position; not everyone who held a bigoted position then can have it held it against them permanently. Fair enough, but also irrelevant to Eich, who has never repudiated his donation to the odious Prop 8 campaign (which, as djw says, goes way beyond just nominal opposition to same-sex marriage.) Eich still holds these views in 2014; had he simply said he was wrong you’d almost certainly still have no idea who he is.
  • And, finally, once again Eich wasn’t fired. He resigned. If he doesn’t feel that he can stay on and continue to defend his bigoted views without reflecting badly on Mozilla, who am I to disagree? And the questions being asked of him were perfectly fair, not some kind of McCarthyite smear campaign.

…First link fixed! Thanks to Roy in comments. He has the usual excellent discussion of the wingnut meltdown over this at the Voice.

The Case of Brendan Eich

[ 237 ] April 6, 2014 |

James Taranto believes that the briefly tenured CEO of Firefox has an unspecified right to continue to be a CEO, and that political donations should remain private:

But California’s disclosure law turns out to have been a grievous violation of Eich’s rights and the rights of others.

Prominent intarwebs hack Glenn Reynolds, whose interest in gay and lesbian rights begins and ends with opportunities to play various forms of poetic-justice-as-fairness with liberals, inevitably invokes fascism:

GLEICHSCHALTUNG! Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich forced to resign for supporting traditional marriage laws. To be clear, for holding, in 2009, the view of gay marriage that Barack Obama held, instead of the view that Dick Cheney held.

As someone who was publicly supporting gay marriage even before Dick Cheney, I find this degree of bullying and blacklisting repellent. I’m beginning to think that the only thing the left found wrong with the 1950s blacklists was that they were aimed at . . . the left.

Let’s try apply some actual thought to this question:

  • As an aside, Eich didn’t hold the “same view” of gay marriage that Barack Obama did in 2009.  Obama opposed Prop 8 at the time, and also supported constitutional efforts to have it overturned.  Dick Cheney, conversely, refused to oppose the George W. Bush-supported Federal Marriage Amendment, although he was willing to be open about his Miss America conservatism when it was no longer politically consequential.
  • The rather obvious difference between Eich resigning and the blacklist of the 50s is that the blacklist was generally directed at ordinary employees, not top-decision makers.  If an ordinary employee was fired for supporting Prop 8, I would actually be inclined to agree with Taranto and Reynolds.   But a CEO, or anyone else who publicly represents an organization and has discretion over employment decisions — that’s a different question.  A single past donation to an anti-LBGT cause is not necessarily disqualifying in itself, but it’s fair to ask questions about whether someone’s bias on these questions might affect their decisions or reflect badly on the company.
  • The fact that has was CEO is relevant for another reason as well: he wasn’t fired, he resigned.  Nobody was in the position to “demand”  that he do anything.   He decided that he didn’t want to say and defend his various odious reactionary political views as head of a progressive non-profit rather than make his commitment to equality clear.   This isn’t much of a “blacklist.”
  • I must have missed Reynolds, Taranto et al. foaming at the mouth over, say World Vision pledging to maintain a refusal to hire employees in same-sex relationships after facing pressure from evangelical groups far more intense than anything Mozilla faced.  Again, if you actually cared about outside pressure restricting the free speech rights of employees, this is a much more pressing concern.  But obviously Reynolds and Taranto don’t care in the slightest about the pressure faced by ordinary employees; they care about saying nyah-nyah to liberals.

…As runsinbackground (following up on ChrisTS) notes in comments about the specious comparison to the 50s blacklist: “in this retelling there’s no McCarthy, and no HUAC either, unless you want to count a popular free dating website.”  Another commenter notes this from Josh Marshall, which is indeed excellent on the crucial difference between a CEO and an ordinary employee.