Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Oh yeah, that

From today:
Third baseman Aaron Boone was a major disappointment, except for one moment at the end of the American League Championship Series.
Yeah, just that one thing, but what else has he done?
Monday, October 20, 2003
The dangers of snark

Here's the entirety of an Oxblog item from David Adesnik:
IN GOLF WE TRUST: Reihan points to this ESPN column on anti-Asian prejudice in the world of golf. I'm going to have to agree that there is a double standard when it comes to tackling racism in public life. But with Howell Raines gone, who is going to make sure the prejudice in the world of golf is front page news?

I quite sincerely don't know what he's saying. I know about Howell Raines and Augusta; I know that the Oxbloggers are on righthand side of the blogosphere; I admit I don't know who Reihan is, there being no link in the posting. I guess the last sentence is ridiculing Raines' anti-Augusta crusade, so I guess we're supposed to infer that racism in golf really isn't that important, because otherwise it would be a big story even after Raines. But he's given us a link to someone in sports journalism who thinks it is, at least, notable. So maybe he's making fun of "Reihan" for linking to the ESPN piece and thinking that the issue is worth writing about. But that's just a guess.

My moral here: sarcasm has its place, but so does telling me what the hell you're saying.

Sunday, October 19, 2003
Another point of view on the Cubs' Game 6

Here's a rare blogging event, I think, a link to a Plastic posting:
Moises Alou did a terrible thing, something had did not have to do, and never should have done. He threw his glove to the ground, and pointed at the fan. All of a sudden, you could just feel the vibe in the park turn ugly and negative. It was as if Alou had said, "You did it — you ruined it." And the fans believed it. For the rest of the inning, the entire park was screaming, "Asshole! Asshole!" People around me started talking about "the curse." People were furious. The blaming had begun. The crowd started to act as if they had been cheated. Robbed.

What happened on the field completely mirrored what was happening in the stands. For the first time all season, the Cubs started to suddenly play like victims. Poor execution. Poor fielding choices. By the end of the inning, the game was hopelessly out of hand, and the Cubs were completely helpless and adrift.

I can only imagine what would have happened if instead of creating a huge scene and inciting a near riot against the fan, Alou had simply turned around and returned to the outfield without a look or a word. I'll bet that within seconds, the players would have put the incident out of their minds, and would have gotten back to the business at hand — getting out of the 8th inning. But that wasn't to happen. What Alou did turned what could have been a minor incident into a huge deal that clearly distracted the team and probably resulted in their loss. Alou had turned on an uncontrollable fountain of hatred and anger that swamped the ballpark, the Cubs were clearly distracted and rattled by the incident and the crowd energy through the entire inning, and they lost.

In a very real sense, they deserved to lose.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

(I wanted to call it Donnybrook, but you've got to have the "subject" in the first part of the made-up funnyname, not the second part, especially with "Easter" being more recognizable than "Brook".)

First: I'm guessing that this means that my amusing email to TMQ won't make it into the now-nonexistent column?

Second: Gregg Easterbrook seems to have been running his non-football writings under David Brooks' theory from Bobos in Paradise, that the way to make a splash is not to be right, but to be wrong and yet so provocatively wrong that the rest of the pundit class rushes into print with attacks on your view, all of them featuring your name prominently.

Third: It has become the received wisdom (in the last 12 hours!) that Michael Eisner personally ordered every trace of Easterbrook removed from the ESPN archives. Comments in this Calpundit posting debate whether that was justified, and/or if Easterbrook should have expected any differently -- but we don't know yet if that's exactly what happened. It's really easy to pretend to have an idea of what happens inside companies, but if you know the name of only a few people there, you probably don't have a good handle on how the decisions are made. So maybe a little less jumping to conclusions?

Fourth: Easterbrook's apology founders on a couple of points. Working backwards in it, he's got to know that however sincere, pushing his admiration of Judaism as a Christian is going to hit an exposed nerve that's not too far away from the one that his original piece hit. It may not be fair, but that's the state of play. Further, as had been amply said, his problem is not "poor wording", which is itself a piece of poor wording; his description of how he came to write what he did seems plausible to me, but it's poor thinking -- he says that originally he expected to criticize the executives of the companies involved as bad Christians, but on finding out they are Jewish, he applied the same criticism with a different spin. But once he discovered that the premise of his point was false, perhaps he should have rethought the whole thing -- since if it makes no difference, what's the point of bringing it up?

Plus, if they had turned out not be Jewish, it would still be appallingly presumptuous to criticize them as Christians, especially since he'd probably have no idea if they were at all religious as opposed to Christian-by-default. Conflating it with what he wrote earlier about Mel Gibson -- whose brand of Christianity is the entire point of his movie -- is ridiculous.

Fifth: Easterbrook's exact choice of words sets off alarm bells that I didn't catch until I thought about it for a while: it's that phrase "worship money above all else". That strikes me as a rather specifically antisemitic turn of phrase, and although he says that he first thought of the point about Christian executives, I wonder if those words came with that thought before he realized he was talking about Jews.

Sixth: I'm an American Jew, which puts me on one side of the line in this discussion; but I'm also a white American, which puts me on the other side of the line when the topic is race. The hardest thing for a "good" white American to learn is that no matter how anti-racist you are, you've got crap in your head that's been put there by years of living in a culture with a history. Sometimes that crap pops up. Your job is not to deny that it's there, but to recognize it and slap it down hard. Gregg Easterbrook's crap detector didn't go off. I don't think he's got more, or worse, crap than the rest of the non-Jewish, non-antisemitic public. But you've got to keep that detector tuned up.
Friday, October 17, 2003
Ladies and Gentlemen, Your New Red Sox Catchphrase:

Aaron Fucking Boone.

UPDATE: Dan Drezner has a rare (although mild) defense of Grady Little.
Monday, October 13, 2003
Accident-prone in Jacksonville

Clearly I'm missing a lot by not following the Jacksonville Jaguars:
[Y]ou've got to wonder how Jacksonville rookie coach Jack Del Rio got away with having an ax in his locker room. Yeah, the same ax that Chris Hanson clumsily wielded on Thursday morning, producing a gash that likely will end the season for the Jaguars punter.

That's not even the good part. The good part is this throwaway:
There is even some question now as to whether Hanson, a Pro Bowl performer who has experienced more than his share of dubious incidents (he was one of the Jaguars players burned in a fondue accident last year), could sue the team or the league.

The words "bizarre gardening accident" come to mind.
Thursday, October 09, 2003
Continuing the numbers game

I posted the following in the comments thread of the previous entry; I'm repeating it here in case anyone comes in fresh:

...the two exit polls I pointed to had different breakdowns of what I was looking for, and they were confusing enough that I'm going to retract the 13% from the Fox News results. I was looking at the bottom of (unnumbered!) page 5, and it's 13% of those who voted no-on-recall AND disapproved of Davis. But you have to factor in the ones from the line above, who "approved" of Davis, and I guess we're supposed to understand that they all voted no-on-recall. Their % for AS was 9%, so it would be somewhere in between that and 13%.

The CNN number is much clearer, and is in the 6th block from the end of their poll. It's 8%, and since it's the least impressive number I feel safer in standing by it.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003
I decided how I feel...worse

With 99% of the vote in, it looks like what I called a looming travesty is an actual travesty. Davis has 3,513,472 (no-on-recall). AS has 3,637,614, so at first glance he got the most, outright. But if we go to CNN's exit polling, we see that 8% of the AS vote also voted no-on-recall, so Davis was their first choice. Eight percent of Davis' number is 281,078, so if we subtract that from AS's total he got less than the guy he beat. Congratulations, California!

UPDATE 2:19PM ET: Fox's exit polling (PDF) has that 8% at 13%, making the story even worse.

UPDATE 2:47PM ET: I notice that the questions asked by the two organizations above are identical, so I presume this is some VNS-like consortium, but then why are the results different? Further, it's interesting that they ask the AS-Cruz head-to-head, but not the AS-Davis head-to-head.
Tuesday, October 07, 2003
How do you feel?

AS seems to be a done deal. Interestingly, at this moment, it looks like he numerically beat no-on-recall, so he won a legitimate plurality, as opposed to the impending farce of winning an election where more people voted for another specific candidate.

Now here's the question: are you a) even more pissed off because there are even more morons voting than you thought, or b) kind of relieved, because at least it's not the total travesty that was looming?

I'm a b). I'd like to think this is because I'm highly civic-minded, but I think it's more that I dislike the level of anger that would come with AS having won with fewer votes than Davis.

UPDATE: At 1:40 ET, the no-on-recall and AS totals are much closer: only 4 thousand out of over 3 million combined separate the two. I've also realized that the numbers I really want will never be directly available. I want to know how many had Davis as their first choice, and how many had AS; no-on-recall is the same as Davis, but we need to subtract the yes-on-recall votes from each of the other candidates' totals. Since the two questions are counted separately, we'll have to deduce it from exit polling.

UPDATE 2: 2:03 AM -- no-on-recall now ahead of AS.
How not to take your mind off the recall

I was watching sitcoms while waiting to get the official bad news at 11 (here in the east), and saw tonight's episode of I'm With Her. It's about a schoolteacher who gets involved with a big movie star -- based on the writer's real-life relationship and marriage to Brooke Shields -- and has been sort-of-almost-good. (I did notice this week that the actress's bitter, possessive sister, who lives in the same house with her, plays more like a jealous lesbian lover.)

The show's sense of normality is a little odd in the first place -- the movie star lives in a house whose rooms are unexpectedly-small sitcom-set-sized rooms, which reinforces the "movie stars are just people" concept that's needed to make the show work at all -- but tonight it flipped over into upsidedown land. Alex (the woman) meets her boyfriend's intellectual ex-girlfriend, who didn't even know who megastar Alex was, and then delivered condescending dialogue in a condescending manner for a few minutes. This gives poor Alex an inferiority complex, and the whole show turns into the message about how unfair it is that eggheads think that those poor movie stars are dumb...I mean, how snobbish of them! Don't you hate it when smart people, the ruling bastards of the world, lord it over us jes-plain-folks hugely rich movie stars and belittle our minds and gubernatorial aspirations ---

I think I thought of the recall just there for a second. Damn.

OK, what's going on in the second act of I'm With Her? Well, the ex-girlfriend's written a book on the French Revolution, and Alex and teacher-guy are invited to a party honoring the author, so Alex bones up on history by sitting down in front the History Channel (or non-name-brand equivalent), which is of course showing a 12-hour documentary on Hitler. The next day, full of Fun Hitler Facts, Alex answers every small-talk question with some inappropriate Hitler anecdote. ("That music it Wagner? Cause you know, Wagner was Hitler's favorite composer.")

So I spent a few minutes watching a movie star, complaining that the ruling elites look down on her intellectual qualifications, start answering random questions with "Hitler!" And, granted, none of the questions were "Who do you admire", but you know I think I thought about the recall there again for a second.

Sometimes I just hate TV.
Oh, nowhe tells us?

Digby weighs in, now that it's all but too late, with this point:
One thing people may not realize about Arnold is that he is peculiarly unqualified for office even by Hollywood standards. He does not produce or direct films, he doesn't run his own production company and he never risks his own money. Even Sandra Bullock and Demi Moore are more involved in the creative direction of their careers and have developed and produced their own vehicles.

(Ok, my heading is unfair to Digby.)
Saturday, October 04, 2003
Story Time: How Margaret Thatcher Accidentally Triggered Regime Change at the American School in London, 1971

The American School in London (ASL) has served American (and some other) residents of London since the 1950s, with a curriculum designed to feed back into other American high schools and colleges. I was there, in 1970-3, for 7th through 9th grades; by all standards except numerically these years are the late 1960s. When my family arrived there, the school was moving all of its facilities from a smaller facility elsewhere to its new location, in the northwest London neighborhood called St. John's Wood, two blocks from the famous Abbey Road studios, where it remains to this day. As a sign of the times, the new school was built around an open classroom plan, using hexagon "pods", where each sixth of the hexagon was a classroom space, and the teachers' offices were in a central core of the pod. Like I say, it was the sixties.

By the fall of 1971, the new building was complete. There was to be a dedication ceremony, and the school invited the current Minster of Education, one Mrs. Margaret Thatcher. Mrs. Thatcher had recently made a controversial decision to drop the free milk program for young children in state schools (that is, public schools). Her tabloid name at that time was "Margaret Thatcher, Milk Snatcher". A small faction of students -- I think 4 at most -- decided they were going to protest this cold-hearted financial decision at the dedication. The Director of the Upper School -- which at that time was ASL-speak for "Principal of the High School" -- was a man named Zan Smith. He was, despite the general Midwest-conservative tenor of the Board that oversaw the school, a relatively hip guy, popular with the students. The protest faction approached hip ol' Zan and laid it out for him: they were going to get up and make their protest when Mrs. Thatcher rose to speak at the ceremony, and then walk out. I can't say whether they were warning him out of respect, asking what would happen to them, or both. In any case, they were told that if they got up to speak, they would be suspended for three days.

"Sounds like a plan", they probably did not say, for it would have been an anachronism; but that was their take on it.

And so the day came, and the Milk Snatcher rose to speak, and the protestors did likewise; their leader made their statement in a not-very-loud voice, and they walked out in protest, and they were suspended for three days, as promised. But Zan had made a strategic error: the Board felt that Smith had allowed their guest, who was after all a cabinet Minister of their host country, to be embarrassed by this protest, and looking back I can't say they were wrong to feel that way. They overruled the old deal, and announced a new deal: the protesters were to be suspended not for three days, but indefinitely, and they furthermore were to be required to write letters of apology to Mrs. Thatcher. Smith refused to enforce this new deal, as he felt he made a bargain with the protestors, and would not go back on it. The Board, of course, was of the opinion that he had had no authority to make such a deal in the first place. And once all these positions were established, the inevitable end was the announcement that Zan Smith had been fired.

To the barricades! The students were up in arms, but to no avail. There was a closed-door meeting of the entire High School, which I, one year too young, was unable to infiltrate -- ok, honestly, that would have been beyond me, because I've never skulked well. Anyway, whatever happened, it wasn't enough, and Zan Smith was gone. He was succeeded by his second-in-command, William J. Moloney, who became a unfairly maligned symbol of evil. The next year, when I proudly made it into the Upper School, I joined the ranks of those who made it their business to have contempt for him. I do not say this with pride; I obviously had no real idea what was going on, and Mr. Moloney bore the vaguest resemblance to Richard Nixon, and it was by now 1972, so...well...that's how we acted. Moloney eventually became Commissioner of Education of the State of Colorado; his bio on that website gives the impression that he might indeed be a little on the Bill-Bennetty side, seeing as how he's written a book called The Content of America's Character, but since I just got done talking about how I jumped to conclusions about him 30 years ago, maybe I should suspend judgement now.

That Mrs. Thatcher, she did pretty well for herself later on, too. She's written books and everything.

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