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James and the Red Sox

[ 0 ] October 30, 2007 |

Since I’ve been a fan since I purchased the 1985 Baseball Abstract on a whim and among other great stuff saw that he published a hilarious attack on bane-of-my-youthful-Expos-fan-existence Bill Virdon, I enjoyed this take on James and the success of the Red Sox:

One of the first things Epstein did was to hire James, as a senior consultant to the Red Sox organization. In the four years since, the Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series in 85 years, have reached baseball’s pinnacle twice.

Some of the central themes of James’ work apply particularly well to his own story. For example: An expert is someone who knows what he’s talking about, whether he has any credentials or not. Past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Talent is not in short supply. The qualities that impress people are not necessarily the same qualities that correlate with success. Powerful, wealthy institutions can be run for decades by people who don’t know what they’re doing. And the conventional wisdom is often wrong.

These ideas, obviously, can be applied far beyond the subject of baseball. They’re the sorts of ideas that never fail to annoy and infuriate authority figures, which is why it takes a special kind of person to hurl himself into the face of the solid rock wall of stupidity that defends many a comfortable social institution.

I’ve written this with respect to Billy Beane, but I think the work of James and the success of the A’s and Red Sox is often portrayed as being about “statistics” when it’s much more about not accepting received wisdom when it conflicts with evidence, making evaluations based on performance rather than images, etc. Michael Lewis actually conveyed this every well. Alas, MLB seems to be making more progress than our political class.

One unfortunate thing about James working for the Red Sox, though, is that if he could make his new research public he’d be a blogging natural…

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Speaking of Sicko & Healthcare

[ 44 ] October 30, 2007 |

Among the many, many disturbing moments in Sicko (and there were many), of the most enraging for me was among the least graphic: the moment when Moore indicates, with thought bubble-like images, how much money each of several elected officials has taken from the healthcare industry. The very same industry that profits from keeping people as far away from adequate health care as possible. The bottom line is that a lot of people have taken a lot of money, not the least of which is Hilary Clinton.

Which is why I was not at all surprised (though again, disappointed), to see in yesterday’s Times that Hilary is certainly not the only one in the Democratic presidential field to be taking money from the insurers and pharmaceutical companies with one hand while holding sick babies and promising universal single payer healthcare with the other, though she has amassed the most.

According to the Times article (source of this graphic):

Mrs. Clinton received $2.7 million through the end of September, far more than Mitt Romney, the Republican who raised the most from the health care industry, with $1.6 million. The industry’s drift in contributions toward Democratic candidates mirrors wider trends among donors, but the donations from this sector are particularly notable because of the party’s focus on overhauling the health care system.

Among all the candidates in both political parties, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is the No. 2 recipient of donations from the health care industry, having raised about $2.2 million, according to campaign finance records.

I want to choose a democratic candidate and wholeheartedly throw my support behind her or him. But with figures like this, whose campaign promises of a healthier America can I take to the bank?

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"Columbia’s Gone!"

[ 5 ] October 29, 2007 |

Although I have yet to overcome my bitterness over the bulk of BSG season 3, I must admit that I’m looking forward to Razor, and that the flashbacks (especially #3) are pretty cool.

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Hey, My Wife Can Get An Abortion, So Screw Roe!

[ 22 ] October 29, 2007 |

Shorter abortion centrists: Me me me me me me me me me me!

Longtime readers will know that this has been one of my pet peeves for a long time, but Dana is of course exactly correct. The idea that California women should be indifferent about abortion rights as long as they have theirs is useful only as a window into the solipsism some pundits project onto others. It’s like saying that African Americans in northern states in the 1950s should have been indifferent to federal civil rights because, after all, they didn’t have to live under apartheid! And the analogy should make clear, again, that the “moral federalism” position is just evading the issue; it’s another way of saying that you don’t consider the right in question to be important. If that’s your position, you should defend it on the merits rather than hiding behind “states’ rights” principles virtually nobody applies consistently.

…Cara has more.

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New Fields of Concern Trolldom

[ 4 ] October 29, 2007 |

When I read about the sure-to-be-atrocious series by Melinda Henneberger trying to infer something meaningful about candidates for president by using tarot cards horoscopes random anecdotes about their marriages, the name sounded familiar. So I looked, and sure enough I first heard about Henneberger because she’s a classic “Democratic” abortion concern troll, arguing that the Democrats have to embrace her own support for arbitrary regulations forcing young women to carry their pregnancies to term, without bothering to make either an argument for her positions on the merits or to even to articulate her actual positions (let alone providing any non-anecdotal evidence that her strategy will have significant political benefits.) Goody.

So, anyway, If we were selecting a national marriage counselor rather than a president, this might be useful. I think it’s safe to assume that we’ll learn from her pop-psych analysis that the candidates Henneberger likes are good and the ones she doesn’t like are bad. I’m sure it will be fascinating.

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Confessions of an Opium-Eater

[ 15 ] October 29, 2007 |

If you’re like me, Conservapedia had you at “Kangaroo.” Now, though, you can’t stop reading the site’s ongoing debate about the merits of colonialism, you appreciate its warnings about how teh gays might kill you, and — most of all — you’re grateful for their helpful one-line summaries of Adam Sandler films like Big Daddy.

Sadly, though, the world’s premier online encyclopedia now leaves you strangely unsatisfied by day’s end. Even the site’s entry on Barack Obama — though steeped in God’s own bongwater — can only bring a smirk to the lips (e.g., “Senator Barack Obama’s political views have been a matter of controversy even before he put himself forward as a Presidential Candidate. Former House Majority leader Tom DeLay has described Obama’s record in the Illinois Senate as that of a “Marxist leftist.”)

Fortunately, a number of renowned citizen journamalists — including Lorie Byrd, Bob Owens, and Kim Priestap — have stepped in to fill the void with Circle Jerk 2.0 Media Mythbusters, a wiki site with modest aims:

To be the Internet source [sic] of comprehensive facts and links chronicling major journalism’s treatment of certain stories in which questions have arisen regarding facts or methods of reporting. These treatments of news events by major media have direct and significant impact upon public opinion and upon policymakers. Careful consideration of the way these stories were handled by the media is essential to both a well informed public and policy, and are [sic] intended to contribute to a more reliable and responsible major media desired and needed by all. The goal of this site is to be a reliable resource, accessible to all, to provide news consumers with a tool and information to allow them to determine how best to process information they receive through major media outlets.

The group’s “mission statement” is also rich with insight:

It’s difficult enough to prove medical malpractice, given the infinite variety of humans and their reactions to varying treatments, the range of acceptable medical practices, and the difficulties of gathering evidence. It’s even more difficult with respect to the media. The added difficulty is because [sic] journalism is much less a well-defined and regulated profession than medicine. So, the standards and their application is [sic] less precise and the enforcement of standards lacks an authoritative body. Nonetheless, journalism and its major practitioners have developed and propounded standards that, for the most part, are fairly comprehensive and tried. It is against those standards, journalism’s own, that we measure [sic]. It is also usually more important that we pay more attention than we have to media malpractice. While medical malpractice may affect just one, or thousands, media malpractice affects many millions of media users, and many millions – if not billions – more of earth’s inhabitants whose governance, security, economic advancement, and freedoms (or opportunities for those) is [sic] affected.

I, too, have always believed the accumulated sins of Matt Lauer and Stephen Glass to be of significantly greater public interest than medical malpractice, which my president has told me is really not a problem to begin with. A trip to the hospital might leave you with a deadly staph infection, or your doctor might amputate the wrong leg, but — unlike our media — America’s health care professionals will never stab the nation in the back.

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It’s Girardi

[ 0 ] October 29, 2007 |

On balance, I think this is bad news for the Yankee-hater. As a correspondent noted, Mattingly’s candidacy can be summed up in two words: Alan Trammell. Hiring a guy whose primary credential is being a beloved star pretty much never works. He could have won anyway — Torre had pretty poor credentials when he took over too, so you never know — but it would have said something bad about the organization. (Reading/listening to Mattingly’s media defenders in print and radio, what was striking was that nobody was making the case that he was the best man to manage the Yankees so much as that the Yankees couldn’t afford to lose Beloved If Very Overrated Star Don Mattingly. Hiring managers on that basis would be egregiously stupid; it’s a bad sign that the Yankees have proven that non-stupid people are in charge.)

The ray of light is that while Girardi shows every sign of being a very talented manager, I would look at what happened to the Marlins’ pitching staff after he left, as well as the fact that he got fired after a surprisingly successful season because he couldn’t get along with anybody. I can live with the Yankees winning 100 games next year if it means plenty of 120+ pitch games and post-hour-long-rain-delay comebacks for Hughes and Joba, and an organization in chaos in 3 years. It also makes Slappy less likely to re-sign; he hated Showalter and Girardi is a similar hardass. If the Yankees can stop his Dallas Green-esque handling of the pitching staff, though, I’m afraid that he’ll be an excellent manager.

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Shocks the Conscience

[ 0 ] October 29, 2007 |

Jamie Mayerfeld contributes to the anti-Mukasey chorus:

Mukasey’s evasions prove his unfitness for the job. If the Senate confirms him, it will share responsibility for torture, because it will have knowingly installed an attorney general who refuses to state that methods actually constituting torture violate the law.

The vote on Mukasey will reveal whether our elected representatives want to stop torture. Their decision will constitute an enduring statement of the values of the American people.

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Concerns About the Future of the Carrier

[ 12 ] October 29, 2007 |

Norman Polmar has a nice post up at Defense Tech about the future of the aircraft carrier. The big deck carrier remains an extremely powerful platform, but is also remarkably expensive, especially considering the extended task force needed to support and defend a carrier. I’m a little less skeptical than many about the carrier; people have been predicting the imminent demise of the capital ship for a hundred years, with the culprit variously being the aircraft, the submarine, the mine, and now the ballistic missile, yet the ships continue to have their uses.

Polmar is right, I think, to suggest a future in which the USN concentrates less of its power in big deck platforms (some reduction from the current eleven ship force, perhaps), and relies more on its LHA/LHD vessels, which will, assuming that the F-35B goes forward, be capable within a decade of flying an advanced air superiority aircraft. As I discussed here, the quite sensible direction that the Navy is headed for seems to be a combination of high intensity capability with the capacity for facilitating maritime cooperation amongst the “1000 Ship Navy”, a project that eases the demands on Navy hulls.

Cross-posted to TAPPED.

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Total Insanity

[ 0 ] October 29, 2007 |

I lost track of the laterals after about a dozen. It goes without saying that nearly everyone who watches this video thinks he/she could have done a better job of tackling. Not me, though. After about 45 seconds, I’d have said the hell with it. Not worth the effort, really.

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Opt-Out

[ 24 ] October 29, 2007 |

Sweet, although I continue to believe that the Yankees aren’t serious about staying out of the subsequent negotiations for his servies.

Unlikely as it is, I like the Slappy-at-Shea idea…

Mini-Steinbrenner:

“It’s clear he didn’t want to be a Yankee,” Hank Steinbrenner told the Daily News last night. “He doesn’t understand the privilege of being a Yankee on a team where the owners are willing to pay $200 million to put a winning product on the field.

“I don’t want anybody on my team that doesn’t want to be a Yankee.”

“We’re not going to back down,” Steinbrenner said. “It’s goodbye.” [via]

Again, if you want to bluff you need to bet more than quarter of the pot. The idea that they were going to get him to give up the leverage of an opt-out with $150 million in this market…please. And I don’t think anyone takes the idea that the Yankees are now out seriously.

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Apologies for the Lack of Series Blogging…

[ 0 ] October 29, 2007 |

Tales of the Sea and Deposed Monarch series, that is. This has been a crazy, crazy month; hopefully I’ll get back on track in November.

As for that other Series, barring unexpected developments I think we can fairly say that this has been one of the crappiest baseball post-seasons in recent memory. Five sweeps (assuming the Red Sox finish tonight) out of seven series, and only one genuinely good contest.

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