Monday, December 30, 2013

Political Correctness Running Amok

The suspension of the "Duck Dynasty" star for discussing his religious beliefs to a GQ reporter was a despicable act of cowardice on the part of the A&E network. What made A&E's sin more egregious  than other comparable situations is that the whole character the guy portrays on "Duck Dynasty" is of a plain-speaking, Christian conservative redneck. His comments to GQ were simply an expression of his character which has made A&E ten of millions of dollars. A&E knows good and well what brand of Christianity this guy subscribes to, and then the network pretends to be outraged when he expresses his views!

The political correctness crowd needs to develop some sense of nuance about these things. When Michael Richards addresses two Black hecklers during a stand-up act by calling them the N-word seven times in two minutes, that is something that deserves to be a career-killer, because it reflects the racial hatred that is inside of him. When Mel Gibson goes on an anti-Semitic rant after being arrested, that is something that deserves attention, because it reflects the hate that lives inside of him. The political correctness crowd needs to be talking about these two instances, and others like them, rather than about the relatively innocuous comments of the "Duck Dynasty" star.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

What is full employment?

When I took Economics 101, back in 1964, the prof said that economists considered 3% to be "full employment". This is because there is always a certain portion of the population in a state of flux, transitioning between jobs.

In this day and age, with all the changes that have taken place since 1964, what would full employment look like today? We have to consider that the population is much more mobile than 50 years ago. It is much more normal today to change jobs, even change careers, change places of residence, and not work for the same company one's whole  life, compared to 50 years ago. I say this would mean that the 3% then would be equivalent to about 5% today, at least.

Then there is the fact that the work place consists of a much greater portion of the adult population than 50 years ago. Most women did not have outside jobs then, but they do now. Many old people work instead of completely retiring. This would add at least another percent to the figure.

My conclusion, then, is that full employment would mean an unemployment rate in the neighborhood of 6-7%. Why this is significant is that we see graphs of unemployment comparing recent rates to years ago. This is as bogus as charts which compare financial figures from different eras in terms of actual dollars, instead of using real (inflation-adjusted) dollars.

What this means is that the current unemployment rate of 7.0% is basically full employment, and is not likely to fall any further. Politicians should stop dwelling on this like it is some sort of national crisis, and deal with the real crises, which, unfortunately, are numerous.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Indian Diplomat Arrested

Just when we thought the U.S. could not be more arrogant and bully-like, it goes and pulls a damn fool stunt like arresting an Indian diplomat for not paying her nanny enough. This is beyond the pale, and wholly contradicts the way we expect our diplomats abroad to be treated.

Our supposed diplomats do things like gun down two Pakistanis on the street in cold blood, and get to come home unscathed. An Indian woman tries to rescue her nanny from a life of subjugation, which she would face in India, and gets arrested, handcuffed, and strip-searched! Absolutely ridiculous!

Many years ago I read a book called "The Ugly American". It looks like the status of the U.S. remains unchanged from that era.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Prospective MLB Rules Changes for 2014

Three areas seem ripe for offseason rules changes. Certainly expanded instant replay will be in effect. When this was proposed during the middle of last season, a Baseball Tonight panel discussed this. Manny Acta, in one of the most moronic things I've ever heard, kept saying "How will a manager know when to challenge", referring to the proposal that a manager have only one challenge during the first six innings.

Uh, Manny, isn't that a manger's job, to make judgment calls? When a manager makes out his lineup card, what is that but a series of judgment calls on who to start and what order to bat his starters in. When a manager takes out a starting pitcher, what is that but a judgment call? When a manager sends up a pinch-hitter, or puts on the hit-and-run, what are those but judgment calls? Making judgment calls is what a manager gets paid for.

Manny's fellow panelists tried to dissuade him from his idiocy, but he stuck to his guns and kept insisting it would be a bad rule. One can only hope this idiot will not be back on ESPN next year, and that no ballclub will be foolish enough to hire him for another managing stint.

The obstruction rule will be looked at, as promised after the odd play during this past postseason. What we kept hearing after that odd play was that there is no intent to obstruct the runner required on the part of the fielder, and that "a runner creates his own baseline". Here is where the puzzling part comes into play for me. In the play in question, the third baseman was lying on the ground between 3rd and 2nd, and the runner was going from 3rd to home on the overthrow. The runner tripped over the fielder only because the runner got up (after his slide into 3rd) on the 2nd-base side of 3rd. The fielder was not in any way in the baseline between 3rd and home. I don't know what new wording can be added, but I think the umps have to be given some latitude to use their judgment in oddball situations like this.

The collisions at home are the third thing to be considered. To me, these collisions have no part in the game of baseball. They belong in football, where a fullback can try to run over a linebacker if he wishes, but a runner should not be allowed to make like a fullback and try to run over a catcher. By the same token, a catcher should not be allowed to block the plate unless he has the ball. This has always been the written rule, but an unwritten rule among the umps has allowed this for many years. Hopefully a sensible rules change can be enacted and enforced.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Jonathan Martin and NFL Bullying

What is, at first blush, puzzling about the whole Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito "bullying" issue is that, if there was really bullying going on, why do almost all  the Miami Dolphin players support Incognito? And most say the two were actually best friends. This is confirmed by the friendly text message Martin sent to Incognito after his decision to leave the team.

Some careful thought reveals the most likely scenario about how this whole mess came about. Consider this scenario: Martin reveals to his agent that he is thinking about leaving the Dolphins, because he  is fed up with the NFL football scene. His agent says, "Wait a minute, Jonathan; if you leave you will have to repay a good portion of your signing bonus." (Just like Barry Sanders had to return a pro-rated portion of his signing bonus when he left the Detroit Lions in the middle of his long-term contract.)

So, the two of them hatched a scheme whereby Martin would claim he was forced to leave by incessant "bullying". If he was forced to leave by a hostile workplace, then, the agent's theory goes, Martin would not have to repay the signing bonus because he was not leaving of his own volition.

The fact that the NFL investigator is planning to meet a second time with Martin indicates that there are serious discrepancies between the version of events related by Martin and by his teammates. The investigator has interviewed every single Dolphins player, and I am confident that the truth will come out, and Martin will be revealed for the charlatan he obviously is.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Jerry Sandusky's Victim Number 9

Victim number 9 has rejected the settlement offer from Penn State University and filed suit against the university. While the details of the individual settlements with the other victims have not been made public, the overall figures which have been made public show the average settlement is in excess of two million dollars. Since victim #9's abuse made up 6 of the 45 charges on which Sandusky was convicted, it is safe to say that his offer was in excess of the average.

Rejecting such a settlement offer is one of the big blunders plaintiffs often make. I have seen figures showing that as much as 60% of torts cases which go to trial result in verdicts for the defendants. In this case, there is no assurance that Penn State will be found liable. The alleged abuse took place at Sandusky's home, years after his employment with the university had been terminated. While the plaintiff clearly has damages, any effort to collect punitive damages will probably fail, and he will be stuck with at most his compensatory damages, after a long and arduous process to get the matter to trial and then to go through the expense and emotional stress and strain of a trial.

Victim number 9 is either getting some horrible advice, or he is rejecting his attorney's advice. He should accept the university's offer and get on with his healing process, rather than remaining bogged down in the past.

The Michael Skakel Case

Lay people often imagine that there are different standards of justice for the rich and the poor. I think this is true, but not in the sense people usually think. Often, the rich are singled out for especially harsh treatment, usually due to overly aggressive prosecutors who are trying to make a name for themselves.

The Michael Skakel case is an example. The judge's 136-page opinion documents in great detail how Skakel's representation was totally inadequate. For example, five eyewitnesses placed the defendant 11 miles away at the time of the murder, but his lawyer called none of them. Many other examples abound showing the inadequate representation by celebrity lawyer Mickey Sherman. The fact Sherman was even involved shows how people tend to hire high-profile attorneys instead of competent ones. In Wichita I talked to many people who had hired lawyers who advertise extensively, and they would then come to me with their tales of woe at the lack of adequate representation these phonies provided.

The news media buys into this rich/poor delusion. They repeatedly refer to Skakel as a "Kennedy cousin", even though this is blatantly false. He is not a Kennedy cousin, he is a cousin of Ethel Kennedy's family.

Now that Skakel has adequate representation, it remains to be seen whether the authorities will bother to try him again, or decide to let the witch hunt cease.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 2013 World Series in Historical Perspective

The 2013 World Series promised to be an exciting one, given that in the Cardinals and the Red Sox we had two of the most storied and beloved franchises in major league history doing battle.

And it wasn't just that their respective histories were noteworthy, but the 2013 versions of each team were noteworthy as well. The Cards were noteworthy for having 20 of the 25 players on their post-season roster being home-grown talent. This is unheard of in this day and age of free agency, with its frequent player movement from team to team. But it was appropriate for the Cards, as it was the Cardinals, under the leadership of Branch Rickey, who pioneered the concept of the farm system staarting in 1921.

The Red Sox were noteworthy for finishing first after having finished last in 2012. They got rid of the mercurial Bobby Valentine and brought in the steady John Farrell as manager. They also got rid of a bunch of over-priced malcontents, via a big trade with the Dodgers during the 2012 season. With the money thus saved, the Sox brought in some veterans who were good team players, and their clubhouse this year was improved dramatically with the addition of the likes of Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes. (It used to be said that when the Red Sox went back to their hotel from the ballpark, they went in 25 different cabs, so bad was their team chemistry.)

This "addition by subtraction" has occurred with many teams during the past 20 years or so. One thinks most famously of the Mariners, who set an MLB record for wins after getting rid of Randy Johnson, Alex Rodriguez, and Ken Griffey, Jr., 3 mega-stars.

The "Curse of the Bambino" now seems a distant memory. After going 86 years without a championship, the Sox have now won 3 in the last 10 years. With all the talk for so many years about the long drought, it is easy to forget that the Sox have been one of the most successful franchises in MLB history. They now rank 4th with 8 championships. They won 5 of the first 15 World Series between 1903 and 1918, then the 86-year drought, and now 3 in 10 years.

And they made it to 4 World Series during the drought, losing each in exciting 7-game struggles. And 3 of these were among the most memorable Series ever: 1946, with the famous Pesky "held ball", allowing Enos Slaughter's "mad dash" around the bases to score the Series-winning run; 1975, with the famous Carlton Fisk homer which ended game 6, still felt by many to be the greatest game ever played; and then of course 1986, when the Mets came back after being within one out of losing in game 6.

This year's version of the World Series was noteworthy for the interesting fielding plays, especially the odd obstruction call which ended game 3. (MLB has already announced that the obstruction rule will be reviewed in the offseason.) Although it went "only" 6 games, this was one of the the better World Series in recent times. Since 2002, there has been only one 7-game series, in 2011 between the Cards and the Rangers. There have been four 4-0 sweeps, with only two others, before this year, going to 6 games.

The Sox turnaround in the past 10 years can be traced to the hiring of sabermetrician Theo Epstein in the early 2000's. The movie "Moneyball" depicts the new Sox owner John Henry making a huge offer of $12,500,00 to try to lure Billy Beane away from Oakland, but Beane decided to stay with the Athletics. Epstein was ultimately hired for the job at the tender age of 28. Also hired was Bill James, the father of sabermetrics. It is safe to say that the way the Sox have embraced the sabermetric  world has contributed greatly to their success in the past 10 years.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dana Bash, Incompetent Phony

For many years TV news organizations have preferred young, attractive women for their on-camera reporting. I have no problem with this, as long as the women in question are competent. The problem with CNN correspondent Dana Bash is that she is neither young, nor attractive, nor competent.

An exampe of her incompetence is that way she handled herself during a recent press conference with Harry Reid. She asked why he didn't piecemeal fund the NIH. When Reid, in his answer, referred to "the problem with what you are suggesting", she interrupted by saying she wasn't suggesting anything, because she was just "asking a question".

This is so bogus as to be beyond belief. First of all, we should note that very few "why" questions are honest requests for information. Rather, almost all of them are disguised statements. But beyond that, Dana Bash's "question" was not just a simple "why" question. Rather, in the body of her question she invoked the image of a little girl being allowed to die of cancer because Reid and his fellow Democrats would not piecemeal fund the NIH.

This just confirmed what an incompetent boob she is. Dana Bash is as phony as the day is long, from her fake blond hair to the fake way she insists on pronouncing her first name, to what are, I'm sure, numerous other fake things about her. CNN should get her off the air ASAP.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Letter about Lucente

To The Lima News:

Thomas Lucente shows his ignorance of history when he calls Obama " the most partisan president in U.S. history". Is Lucente not aware of John Adams, who used the Sedition Act to imprison dozens of newspaper editors for the "crime" of criticizing his administration? Is Lucente not aware of Grover Cleveland and FDR, both of whom vetoed in the neighborhood of 600 bills passed by Congress? And how about Richard Nixon, who used the IRS, the FBI, and the CIA to target and persecute people on his "enemies list"?
The real culprit for the mess in Washington is the Tea party faction in the House. This is a group who came to Washington not to govern, but to do their best to prevent the government from governing. Under the Tea Party influence, the Republican Party has been transformed into a radical right party in which great Republicans of the past like Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan would not even be welcome. And house leader John Boehner daily shows his lack of backbone by not standing up to this minority faction and providing the leadership which his position requires.
The Tea Party group would rather shut down the government and prevent the government from paying its lawful debts just to score political points with their base. This is where the despicable partisanship in Washington exists, not with Obama.

Monday, September 30, 2013

"You can't be half zeugma"

One of the joys of parenthood is not just that each of my three kids has a different set of interests, but that I can share with enthusiasm each of those three different sets of interests. For my daughter that set consists of poetry, literature, movies, and religion.

Recently my daughter told me "You can't be half-zeugma", a comment so seemingly enigmatic as to require explanation. It started with a line from a Jeff Foxworthy show, in which he said that he did a show at casino in Mississippi which was "the only place in America where you can shoot craps and doves within ten feet of each other."

I said this was an example of zeugma, which is where where a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence but must be understood differently in relation to each. I first learned of zeugma years ago in one of Will Shortz's Sunday Morning puzzle segments on NPR's "Weekend Edition". Will used the example that his uncle went fishing and caught "five bass and a cold".

This brought to my daughter's mind a line she wrote in one of her stories, where a character was "wearing long, black gloves and a concerned expression." I opined that this was only "half-zeugma", my idea being that the verb "wearing" was used in somewhat the same sense for each object. This triggered my daughter's comment that "you can't be half zeugma".

The idea that something is one or the other, and cannot be some of each, is quite common in English in what are called "absolute adjectives". For example, something is either unique or not, it can't be a little unique, or very unique. One is either pregnant or not, you can't be a little of each.

This brought to my daughter's mind an exchange with a friend of hers, who had said he was "a little sorry". She told him, "Being a little sorry is like being mostly dead. You just can't do it."

Monday, September 23, 2013

On the Use (and frequent misuse) of "Community"

In an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm", Larry David laments that a bald sex offender has moved into the neighborhood, saying it reflects badly on "the bald community". Now this may sound a bit odd, but when you think about it, the word "community" is used in a similar sense all the time these days. Hence we hear about how things affect "the African-American community", as if there is any such thing. In dealing with the Syrian situation, I have heard politicians and commentators refer to "the world community", as if there is any such thing.

And why is this important? It is the premise of this post, and of others like it to come, that the way we use words is important, because the way we use words shapes our ideas, and our ideas shape our public policy.  Consider how the Justice Department in the U.S. has proceeded under the Voting Rights Act. This law was enacted to remedy the problem of suppression of voting by Blacks in the South. In states which met the threshold test of voter suppression, the Justice Dept. has to approve any changes in voting laws.

What the Justice Dept. has done is to look at whether "communities" are represented, which sounds like an admirable goal but is fatally flawed in the execution. Take the Arizona situation in which Arizona sought to add two judges in each of two counties which needed them. The Justice Dept. sought to require the counties to discontinue county-wide voting, and break into judicial districts, so as to facilitate Native-American representation on the bench. Native-Americans opposed this, and there is no evidence there were even any Native-American members of the bar who could qualify to run. Many other problems existed with this hair-brained scheme. There was no indication that individual Native-Americans were being denied any voting rights, but because of a faulty interpretation of what a "community" is, the Justice Dept. decided to take action in a situation requiring none.

Similar Justice Dept. misinterpretations of the law have resulted in racially gerrymandered congressional districts, designed to ensure the election of Blacks, like the one which snaked for 160 miles along Interstate 85 in North Carolina. All such districts rest on the assumption that people of a particular race should think and act alike; i.e., that people of a particular race constitute a "community", regardless of whether any other aspects of community are present.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Alex Wagner vs. Ron Paul

Alex Wagner is the host of the noon show on MSNBC called "NOW". She usually does a great job, interviewing four guests at at time and intelligently and articulately discussing issues of current interest.

A word of background here. When I first got cable TV in the late '90's, it was common for cable news channels to have four guests at a time, two on each side of an issue. The four would all be put up on the screen, one quadrant for each, and inevitably they would all start talking at the same time. This was horrendous, ridiculous TV, and eventually the news channels realized this and started having hosts interview guests one-on-one, with the hosts taking the opposing view from the guest for the sake of balance.

Well, yesterday Alex Wagner tried this with Ron Pual. The problem was, she kept interrupting him and not letting him answer her questions. Now, it is OK for a host to interrupt if the guest is not answering the question. Chris Matthew is especiialy adept at this. But what Alex was doing was interrupting Paul even when he was trying to answer the question. This is rude and inconsiderate; if a public servant is kind enough to come on your show, the least you can do is show a modicum of graciousness and courtesy toward that public servant.

Slamming Paul because he had an upcoming speech before a group which Alex didn't like was especially unbecoming. Should we not talk with those with whom we disagree? Alex, you are better than this!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chaos vs. Anarchy

The protests in Egypt reached a new level of violence yesterday, as 525 demonstrators were killed by government forces. The usually articulate Joe Scarborough erred this morning by calling the situation "complete anarchy", using "anarchy" when he meant "chaos".

Anarchy is "the absence of government". A state of anarchy can be chaotic as well, but it doesn't have to be. Chaos is defined as "complete disorder and confusion".

The irony of the reporter's misuse of the term is that the demonstrations have been basically peaceful up to now. It is only the *presence* of governmental forces which has led to the current bloodshed. In the absence of government, i.e., in a state of true anarchy, the situation would be much less chaotic.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CBS vs. Time-Warner

CBS is trying to be the big bully on the block by demanding outrageous fees from Time-Warner for the dubious privilege of carrying the lame programming of CBS. CBS broadcasts its signal for free to anyone who can pick up a signal, yet somehow thinks it has the right to blackmail Time-Warner into agreeing to pay huge bucks for the same privilege that costs others nothing.

I watch no CBS shows anyhow, and I would be just as happy if my own Time-Warner company dropped the network from its lineup of stations. Unfortunately, my company, located in Ohio, is not one of those which have dropped CBS for the past few days.

"Big three" network shows are on the decline anyhow, as Netflix is the vehicle of choice for more and more of us to watch the weekly shows. The major netwoks have gone full-force into this reality TV garbage, making them more and more irrelevant. My own shows, watched almost exclusively on Netflix DVD's, include "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Homeland", "Mad Men", "Criminal Minds", and "Bates Motel". Although "Criminal Minds" was originally a CBS show, I never watched it during its CBS run. I watch reruns on A&E, supplemented by an occasional Netflix disk.

Many years ago CBS News was the preferred network for news, but it jumped the shark long ago when it hired Dan Rather as Cronkite's replacement. Rather was, to me, impossible to watch; watching and listening to him was like fingers on a blackboard to me. He is the perfect example of the Peter Principle, a good reporter promoted to a position for which he was very poorly suited.

CBS is operating with the arrogance we often see when people or institutions get an inflated opinion of themselves. CBS needs a serious reality check.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Thoughts on the Zimmerman Verdict

The national media continues to whine like a stuck pig over the jury's verdict. We hear nonsense like "the jury wasn't given a chance to get to know Trayvon". The reason, of course, is that had the state made Trayvon's character an issue, then the defense would have been entitled to respond with all the evidence of his bad character--his assaults, his school suspensions, his drug use, and on and on.

We hear speculation about possible federal charges, which is completely ludicrous. The federal investigation was to determine whether the Sanford PD was proceeding properly. There would be no basis for any federal charges against Zimmerman, who is not a government employee.

There are many injustices in the Zimmerman case, but they are not the ones the mainstream media will talk about. Here are some: It is an injustice that George Zimmerman was arrested and subjected to the ordeal of a trial, when the evidence of his guilt was absent. It is unjust that a good and honorable man, the Sanford Police Chief, lost his job because he chose to uphold his oath to defend the constitution, which requires probable case for arrests, rather than bow to the pressure of the politicians. It is unjust that George Zimmerman will probably have to live his life in hiding, due to the outcry and resulting hatred fomented by the media. It is unjust that the media keeps harping on the fact that Trayvon Martin had every right to be on the public streets to buy his junk food from the local convenience store, while never once mentioning that George Zimmerman also had that same right.

It is unjust that Jesse Jackson, a man I’ve long admired up until a week ago, made the ludicrous statement that Trayvon Martin will go down in history as a martyr alongside Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. Really?? How dare Jackson tarnish the memory of these great heroes and martyrs of the civil rights movement by putting them in the same breath as this kid who caused his own death by his reckless behavior.

Thank God we live in a country which is set up as a republic, meaning that there is a check on executive power, and not a democracy or a dictatorship, both of which are subject to the ruling government persecuting minorities who happen to disagree with the government. The government here (i.e., the politicians) decided Zimmerman had to be arrested and charged. In many other countries, this would have been the end of the story. Thank God for our system, which protects folks who the government deems undesirable.

The one positive thing I see in the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial is that attention is being drawn to the Florida case of Marissa Alexander, who got 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her abusive husband. A huge miscarriage of justice. This was a case prosecuted by Angela Corey, the same over-aggressive prosecutor who decided to file the bogus 2nd-degree murder charges against George Zimmerman. A prosecutor is sworn to do justice, not convict at any cost, and it wouldn't bother me in the slightest if this disgrace of a prosecutor were to be disbarred for violating her oath.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The George Zimmerman Trial: Defense Scores Big after a Rocky Start

The prosecution got off to a great start with a strong opening statement. The defense then trotted out an old, bald, ugly James Carville lookalike, but without Carville's winning personality.This guy told a horrible knock-knock joke, which fell completely flat, and he compounded his blunder by castigating the jurors for not laughing at it. He then droned on for hours, giving a dry recitation of facts, and failed completely to connect with the jury.

But then the parade of prosecution witnesses started, and the defense has seemed to score big with every one of them. It is hard to understand why the state of Florida even bothered to file such a weak case.

What is fascinating is to go back and compare the actual facts that have come out with how the media portrayed them in the media frenzy that led up to the filing of the criminal murder case. The media made a big deal about race; the facts are that race has nothing to do with this case.

The media also made a big deal about the Florida "stand your ground" law; the facts are that this law has nothing to do with this case, and in fact was not even raised by the defense. The fact is that self-defense is a legitimate defense in every single jurisdiction in the United States, and that is the only reality at issue here. The fact also is that, unlike in Britain, in U.S. jurisdictions generally there is no "duty to retreat". What this leaves us is with the fact that, as far as I can tell, the so-called "stand your ground" law adds nothing of substance to the case; the only difference I can see is the procedural one that a defendant can get a pre-trial hearing on the stand your ground question and avoid a jury trial, if the judge determines that the defense is valid.

The third aspect of the media frenzy is that Zimmerman was portrayed as an adult male, bigger in size than the teenage defendant. The fact, according to one of the prosecution's own witnesses, is that Zimmerman was clinically obese. He was taking martial arts to lose weight, and, according to a statement made in the opening statements, was considered by his instructor to be too "soft" to actually be allowed to engage in any martial arts competition. Trayvon Martin, by contrast, was a high school linebacker, and therefore considerably tougher than the defendant.

The charge of second-degree murder is completely bogus, as any murder charge requires malice, and there is no evidence of malice here. There seems little doubt that a complete acquittal is in store, and the only suspense is how quickly the jury will render this inevitable verdict.

It needs to be noted that the testimony of Trayvon's girlfriend was a complete disaster. She was the worst prosecution witness I have ever seen; she was sullen, insolent, combative, inarticulate, and in all other ways a disaster. How is the jury ever going to dispute the defendant's version of the fight, if this pathetic testimony is all the prosecution has to dispute it?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

CNN Blows Its Boston Bombing Coverage

I have always thought that breaking news was best covered by CNN, since it supposedly had the largest group of reporters all around the globe. But that view was radically altered this week by CNN's inept coverage of the Boston marathon bombing.

What happened was that Friday morning I got up and turned on CNN, and watched it for the better part of an hour. CNN showed the grainy pictures of the two bombing suspects, but had little info beyond that, and I finally turned it to MSNBC.

The difference was like night and day! MSNBC had all kinds of info CNN never presented: they said the two were brothers, that they lived in Cambridge, and that they were from Chechnya. They even had the name of the younger brother.

But beyond this difference in basic info, MSNBC provided important context which CNN neglected to share. For example, CNN kept mentioning the town of Watertown, without saying anything more about it. For all the viewer knew, Watertown could have been a town on the other side of the state from Boston.  But MSNBC, by contrast, provided great context, saying that Watertown was a bedroom community of about 32,000, located just west of Boston.

Part of CNN's problem, I think, is its silly insistence on having its anchors standing in a Boston street, instead of in a studio. News networks like to have reporters on the scene, because I guess they suppose it gives an air of immediacy to the reporting. But to have continuous, hour after hour, coverage being anchored by anchors on the scene makes no sense, and MSNBC's coverage was vastly superior as a result. Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist were superb, anchoring non-stop on Friday morning without a hitch. And let's not forget Pete Williams, the NBC reporter whose coverage was so insightful and clear as to outshine the whole CNN network all by himself.

CNN made specific factual errors, the most outrageous being John King's erroneous report that an arrest had been made, but in this post I wanted to highlight the coverage on the particular morning in which CNN's ineptitude was so clearly brought home to me.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

2013 MLB Predictions

NL East -- Nationals, Braves, Phillies, Mets, Marlins

AL East -- Blue Jays, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles

Blue Jays acquired high-priced talent in the off-season. This usually leads to achieving below expectations, but with the Sox & Yankees in obvious decline, I have to pick the Jays. The Rays have been  hurt by new rules on drafting, but they should hang on for a year or two before thre inevitable decline sets in.

NL Central -- Reds, Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates, Cubs.

First and last are easy, and the quality of the Cards' organization gives them second. A toss-up for 3rd & 4th.

AL Central -- Tigers, White Sox, Indians, Royals, Twins.

As with the NL Central, a toss-up here for 3rd & 4th.

NL West -- Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, Rockies.

Dodgers spent big but still might lose out to Giants. A toss-up for 1st & 2nd.

AL West -- Angels, Rangers, A's, Mariners, Astros.

Same as NL West, Angels went all-in but toss-up for 1st & 2nd.

So there you have it. Let the games begin!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Memoir or Memoirs?

If you're like me, you have trouble deciding which of these is the right word to use in a particular situaion. I will offer some thoughts on this issue.

Memoir comes to us from "memoire", the French word for memory. Thus, memoir means one's memory of a particular event. The writer is not claiming to be presenting historical facts, but rather is relating the event as he or she remembers it at the time of writing about it.

"Memoirs", in the plural, would therefore make more sense when referring to an entire book, which presumably consists of a collection of many such remembrances.

It should be noted that memoirs is to be distinguished from autobiography in that an autobiography undertakes to tell about one's entire life, not just a particular group of experiences from that life, as one's memoirs would be. There is also the understanding that in an autobiography the writer has done research and fact-checking to ensure accuracy as much as humanly possible. With one's memoirs the writer is not expected to engage in this sort of research.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Vote

It is heartwarming that the three steroid cheaters on the ballot for the first time--Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa--all fell far short of the 75% needed for induction into the Hall in this year's voting. And it's not just that they were cheaters; more than that, they all fell short of the character requirements for induction into the Hall. Clemens is a known jerk, ever since he cursed out an umpire in the 1988 playoffs and then denied it afterwards. Sosa is a known cheater, who had the audacity to claim he only "made a mistake" when caught using a corked bat in a game. Bonds is a known anti-social personality, in a game which thrives on conversation.

But the most fundamental way these three losers cheated the game is that they reduced it to something akin to a slow-pitch softball game, where batters tried to hit a home run every time up. No true baseball fan wants to see this malarkey. (Nor do we want to see this ridiculous home run derby which MLB serves up to us the night before the All-Star game.) MLB shares the guilt here in promoting homers as the be-all and end-all of the game, to the great detrment of a game many of us think is beautiful when played as it was meant to be.

The tragedy of this year's voting is that the one guy who is clearly deserving fell short, that being Craig Biggio. Biggio represents all that is right about the game, and all the skills we look for in a superstar--defense, speed, and batting skills. And he was a "team first" guy, playing three different positions as his team needed. Spending his whole career with the same team is a definite plus here. Not that I begrudge any player the right to change teams if he gets to the point where he earns free agency. But showing loyalty to the team which drafted and developed you is an admirable trait, one in short supply in this "me first"' day and age. The good news is that Biggio's percent of the vote was high enough that he will probably make it in next year.