Monday, August 31, 2009

The astonishing Mr. Brooks

I was wrong.

I was certain that David Brooks could never equal the performance he turned in during the 2008 campaign. Flush with Obama-love he lost all restraint. Brooks put his arrogant knowingness, his ignorant fatuity, and his whining neediness on display for all the world to see.

Even besotted old fools eventually regain their senses and cringe when they look back on what they said and did.

But not our Mr. Brooks. His passion has not run its course and he remains willing to be Barak’s clown. He will even brag about it to interviewers.

The New Republic had an extraordinary story on the Brooks-Obama relationship:

The Courtship

The story behind the Obama-Brooks bromance.
It is a target rich environment for conservative bloggers who want to do a little Brooks bashing. I thought R. S. McCain might stroke out when he read it, but I see that I underestimated his ability to spot an entrepreneurial opportunity.

A good man has to know his limitations so i'm not going to deal with Brooks as he should be dealt with. Two quotes, though, demand consideration.

Here is the still passion-addled Brooks describing his first meeting with The One:

"I remember distinctly an image of--we were sitting on his couches, and I was looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant,” Brooks says, “and I’m thinking, a) he’s going to be president and b) he’ll be a very good president.”

Is this a sign that Mr. Brooks knows he is on thin ice as the Times's resident resercon?

He is known for attracting liberal readers who normally can’t stand conservative pundits. “I get a lot of people who say, ‘I’m a liberal and you’re the only one I read,’ ” Brooks says. “Sometimes, it can be a little condescending. . . . But you take the readers where you can get them. I do wish more people walked up to me and said, ‘I’m a conservative and I love you.’ But, mostly, they don’t read the Times.”

If Brooks is as smart as he thinks he is, then he knows that conservatives know that Brooks is no conservative.

The odd thing is, TNR apparently pulled the article. Back now.


Michelle Malkin weighs in:

Emetic of the day: The David Brooks-Barack Obama love story

The indispensable Ace:

David Brooks Reveals Not-So-Secret Reason for Mancrush on Obama: "I divide people into people who talk like us and who don’t talk like us"

McCain wants another swing at the pinata:

Open Season on David Brooks

Robert Belvedere takes a couple as well:


Does scale matter?

Nicholas Carr:

the advantages of data scale seem to go away pretty quickly - and at that point what determines competitive advantage is smarter algorithms (ie, better ideas), not more data.

See also:

Diseconomies of scale

Who In His Right Mind Will Pay To See The Pirates Play The Reds, Even Once?

By The Last Hollywood Star

Today, the Pirates play a rare double header in Cincinnati against the Reds.

Officially, it’s called a day-night double header with the first game starting at 1:05 and the second, 7:05.

Unofficially, I refer to it as a separate-admission double header: pay in the afternoon and pay again to see the second game.

I don’t believe any sane Cincinnati fan would pay twice in the same day to watch the fifth place Reds play the sixth place Pirates.

And I suspect painfully few will pay to watch either game individually.

Except for Opening Day, Cincinnati has (with good reason) shown as little interest in the Reds as we have in our Pirates. The Reds average attendance is about 17,000, slightly lower than PNC Park.

With kids back in school, who is the projected audience for the Reds-Pirates afternoon game? The night game competes with ESPN’s preseason NFL Minnesota Viking at Houston game. Watch Bret Favre---free!

Monday’s double header represents a great chance for Cincinnati ownership to make a meaningful gesture to its fans (those who remain, that is) to atone for five months of mostly rotten baseball.

My suggestion: the first 42, 059 people that show up at Great American Ball Park get in free.

Think of the positive affect capacity stands might have on the Reds. Imagine the revenue from 42,059 odd hot dog eaters, Coke drinkers and T-shirt buyers!

Gestures like opening up the gates for citizens, some of whom can’t afford tickets, is called “good will”---a notion that is beyond many baseball owners.

Years ago, when baseball first captivated me, double headers were part of every summer Sunday. Living in California, I followed the scores on the radio as they dribbled in from the East. Listening for score updates from a host of double headers took pretty much all day.

On some special Sundays, my parents took me to watch the old Hollywood Stars’ double headers (one admission only) at Gilmore Field. To make sure the families who went to the games still got home in time for Sunday supper, Pacific Coast League owners scheduled the second game for seven innings.

That was a better time in baseball when considerations for the fans were an important part of the game.


Originally posted 31 August 2003

On this day in 1980 the Polish communist government agreed to the demands of the striking workers in the Gdansk shipyard. Workers would have the right to organize freely and independently

The strike marked the beginning of the end of communist rule in Eastern Europe. Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher are, rightly, given the greatest share of credit for winning the Cold War. But Lech Walesa and John Paul II played indispensable roles.

In the 70s many experts believed that continuing the Cold War was pointless-- the Communists weren't so bad, not every society valued Western style freedom, cowed populations accepted what they could not change. Solidarity and the Poles put the lie to such talk.

In the long twilight struggle against Stalinism, the workers of Poland were the first light of sunrise.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Football is back

More than a gimmick:

The 'Terrible Towel' that changes lives

In 1975, Myron Cope introduced the towel that united the Steeler Nation and now supports care at Allegheny Valley School

Mark your calenders: The NFL Network will premier the Superbowl XLIII edition of America's Game on 9 September.

I'm sure everyone will want to watch the story of the six-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers. (Did you know they are the only team to win six Superbowls?)

First Posted 18 April 2008

America’s Game

I feel sorry for people who don’t get the NFL network. How do they handle the football off-season? All they have is ESPN with its yapping about the Sawks and Yankees, college softball, the NBA, and poker.

The NFL network has its share of fluff (although it is football fluff). They also have the best sports series ever created: America’s Game, a history of the teams that have won the Super Bowl.

Each episode mixes game footage with interviews from three or four people from the team. These interviews are a nice blend of superstars and role-players. We hear from Starr, Namath, and Staubach, but we also hear from Randy Grossman and Chuck Mercin.
There is poignancy to many of these interviews, especially those for the first dozen or so Super Bowls. The players, superstar and role-player alike, are old men and have had decades to reflect on their shining moment. Dwight White reminds us that when Time magazine put the original Steel Curtain on its cover it was putting four black faces on real estate that was a white preserve at that time. My favorite Cowboy--Bob Lilly--hearkens back to another era when he confesses his embarrassment at throwing his helmet when Dallas lost upper Bowl V.

The film highlights and interviews recover history from the tyranny of the stats tables. When commentators talk about great running backs, they rarely mention Franco Harris anymore. His numbers look unimpressive today. But in America’s Game the viewers can see the Franco who was a marvel: a 235 pound bull going up the middle and, then, past the line of scrimmage, breaking into that long, gliding stride that made him a fullback with something extra.

In volume 10 we see the essential Franco. On a frozen field covered by icy artificial turf, Harris takes the ball against Oakland. The play is designed to go inside but there is no hole. He reverses field and breaks outside. Al Davis still whines that the Steelers iced the field that day to negate the Raiders’s team speed. Yet, there goes Franco down the sideline for a 25-yard touchdown.

The greatest Steeler, Joe Greene, give props to his old teammate. The Steelers, he notes, never won anything before Franco. But with Franco, "all we did was win."
Winning, obviously, is the common theme to all the episodes. Despite all the changes in the game, the keys to winning remain constant. One week we see Bill Belichick in 2004 exhorting the Patriots to play "fundamentally sound football." The next week Randy Grossman admits that Steelers football was not flashy; Chuck Noll just stressed the fundamentals, each day, every day, for years. Of course, there is Lombardi and the Sweep, refining fundamentals down to the elemental in the blast furnace of his personality and the practice field.

The two volumes on the Dolphins are notable for their insight into the alchemy of victory. The players are, rightfully, proud of their group achievements, especially the perfect 17-0 season of 1972. Yet they emphasize selflessness as the key ingredient for their success.

Larry Csonka marvels at Bob Griese play-calling in a victory over the Vikings. With the game on the line and the Dolphins driving on Minnesota’s 3 yardline, Miami used a play-action pass to score the go-ahead touchdown. Csonka, the greatest power back of the Super Bowl era, shows as much satisfaction with this play as he does for any of the times when his number was called to seal the victory. He is happy to be the decoy while Jim Mandich catches the winning score. All that mattered is that the Dolphins walked away winners.

America’s Game makes an interesting counter-point to the ESPN’s documentary "Third and a Mile." Two of the stars of the ESPN production played on the Dolphins and Steelers. To William C. Rhoden and the WWL, Joe Gilliam and Marlin Briscoe were victims. They are, simply, black quarterbacks who were denied a chance to play that position because of their race. With America’s Game, we get context. Larry Csonka avers that that he would not have traded Bob Griese for Joe Namath. Griese’s field generalship was the key piece of the Miami machine. It was not skin color that kept Briscoe at wide receiver with Dolphins; it was Shula’s masterful orchestration of his available talent. Griese was the man who could keep the machine running without a hiccup.

When Joe Greene is asked about the quarterback controversy in 1974, he is forthright about his belief at that time that Bradshaw, not Gilliam, was the man who could best help the Steelers win.

Rhoden told his story looking only through the prism of race. He ignored the complex alchemy of winning and created a fake history. America’s Game, thankfully, rescues "the ultimate team sport" from the tyranny of the highlight clip and the falsity of ideology. It shows us what football success is all about.

Does Ryan Doumit Have a Charlie Silvera Problem?

By The Last Hollywood Star

From 1948 through 1956, Charlie Silvera backed up Yogi Berra as the New York Yankees second string catcher.

Silvera, during 10 major league seasons, appeared in only 227games and racked up a paltry 482 at-bats, less than a typical season’s worth for Berra. In 1950, Silvera didn’t bat until June 17, two months into the season. And though his lifetime batting average was .282, the San Francisco native hit only one home run.

Most years, however, Silvera cashed Yankee World Series checks.

Opposing players ribbed Silvera mercilessly, calling him, among other names, “Jesse James, the payroll bandit.” They asked if his paychecks came gift-wrapped.

To Silvera, all the ribbing was wonderful. Looking back on it, Silvera laughed. “They’d say, ‘Do you use anything on the bench to keep your fanny from getting sore?’ I had a lot of fun with it.”

He jokes about his career because perhaps no bench warmer in baseball history enjoyed a more interesting 10-year run than Silvera who played for Yankee teams that won a record five consecutive World Series championships from 1949 to ‘53.

The Yankees reached the World Series in seven of Silvera’s eight full seasons in New York, winning six times.

Silvera’s history prefaces what might explain Pirate catcher Ryan Doumit’s listless play Friday night that led John Russell to yank him mid-game and keep him on the bench Friday.

The question that Doumit may be asking himself is whether he would be better off as a second string catcher on a winning team or continuing as the Pirates starter? Even if another team signs him as a back-up, injuries happen and Doumit could slip into the starting job.

During the last two seasons, Doumit has seen his teammates shipped off to the Yankees, the Braves, the Red Sox, the Giants, the Cubs---all contenders. Wouldn’t the 28-year-old Doumit like to be in the hunt at least once before his career ends? Isn’t playing in the post-season every player’s goal?

That’s not like to happen with the Pirates during what remains of Doumit’s productive years. Even if the Pirates finally break the .500 mark, the team is unlikely to seriously contend for five years.

Since Doumit’s 2005 rookie season, the Pirates finished sixth, fifth, sixth and sixth.
Another sixth place looms this year. The constant losing, with years of more defeats on the horizon, weighs heavily on players and adversely affects their performance.

A part-time role on a winning team may be good for Doumit’s soul. Think of it this way: if you were a commissioned salesman but management never provided you with a product good enough to make any sales, wouldn’t you consider changing employers?

Silvera didn’t mind his secondary status. Now 83 and scouting for the Chicago Cubs, the only other team he played for, Silvera looked back and said: “I had a wonderful career. I couldn’t have scripted it any better.”

Saving journalism

Jack Shafer makes a very interesting point:

Advocates of participatory democracy and government accountability might be smarter to invest their time directly in reforming government. For instance, wouldn't the passage of tough sunshine laws that required Web publication of all nonclassified government information and proceedings do more for accountability than preserving the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Detroit News?

Web-enabled transperency will help newspapers cover govenrment more efficiently. It also makes it easier for amateurs (i.e. bloggers) to do reporting.

In the Duke lacrosse case, bloggers did more than just opine and bloviate. KC Johnson and others provided original reporting and and incisive analysis that put the NY Times to shamel. Johnson, in his book, explains why:

A steady diet of meaty new factual content-- which kept the blogs engaged and interesting-- was publicly available and accessible to an unusual degree. North Carolina's open discovery law gave defense attorneys physical possession of the state's files (such as the photo lineup transcript script and statements of Magnum, her 'driver,' and Kim Roberts) much earlier in the process than in most states. When defense attorneys released key documents , usually as attachments to motions, anyone with Internet access had the tools to provide informed commentary.

UPDATE: This is an innovative example:

A lot of these policy groups, known for their wonkiness (wonkishness? wonkability?) in the past, have initiated government transparency projects and also hired their own investigative reporters (until recently I was one for the John Locke Foundation's Carolina Journal), often from the ranks of the recently unemployed traditional journalists. ...

What's great about this story is that NPRI did not seek all the glory for itself, but instead sought to get maximum exposure, so it worked with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to release the documents and findings. NPRI did reports on its analysis of the documents and LVRJ did interviews and wrote stories, which then led to attention from broadcast media also

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The kind your mother warned you about

The latest R. S. McCain round-up of linky love is up. Matt Cooper might want to skip this one.

Finally, Mary Jo's Recompense Arrives

Bring Back the High, Hard One!

By The Last Hollywood Star

Last night, the Milwaukee Brewers took only one inning to end all the Pirates happy talk after Thursday’s win over the Philadelphia Phillies about how the Bucco team is coming together and the how the players are proving that they really deserve to be in the Major Leagues.

As previously noted, the only Pirate position player that is truly deserving of the label "Major Leaguer" is Andrew McCutcheon, 3 for 5 with a home run and four RBIs.

Curiously, another worthy player, pitcher Zack Duke, had the worst outing of his career: 3IP, 11H, 7ER including a titanic home run by Prince Fielder.

I listened to the first inning where Duke gave up five runs. Pirate announcer and former Buc pitcher Bob Walk (105-81) must have said it a dozen times: "Duke has to pitch inside."

Then the next Brewer would come to the plate, single and Walk observed again that Duke’s pitch was on the outside.

What happened to pitching inside? Controlling the inside part of the plate is not brushing back, no matter what the batter thinks.

Throughout baseball history, dominant pitchers like Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Bob Gibson and Sal Maglie took command of the game by pitching inside.

Maglie didn’t earn his nickname "The Barber" for nothing.

As for Gibson, known for pitching inside to batters Dusty Baker received the following advice from Hank Aaron:
Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer.

The Los Angeles Dodger one-two combination of Koufax and Drysdale struck fear into batters by going inside.

There have been many one-two pitching tandems that led their team to the pennant and World Championship, but few, if any, had greater seasons together than Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in 1965.

Koufax started 41 games, completed 27, won 26 while losing 8, and pitched 8 shutouts. He led the league with a 2.04 ERA and struck out 382 hitters in 335-2/3 innings.

Drysdale was almost as good, starting 42 games and completing 20. His 1965 record was 23-12, pitching 308-1/3 innings with a 2.77 ERA and 210 strikeouts.
Koufax, Drysdale, Gibson and Maglie agree that pitching inside was the key to their success.

As Koufax said, "Show me a guy who can’t pitch inside and I’ll show you a loser."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Conquest's Law

First posted 18 August 2004

Historian Robert Conquest observed that "everyone is conservative about what he knows best." There is a lot of truth in that statement.

From this it must follow that revolutionaries don't know what they are talking about.

In a business context Conquest's Law suggests that those who promote the Next New Thing-- be they consultants, IT salesmen, journalists, or would-be gurus-- fall into one of two categories:

1. Ignorant, naive amateurs whose knowledge of the subject is superficial but whose enthusiasm is genuine.

2. Cynical hucksters who know better but hope their audience does not.

As for the executives who fall prey to the charlatans and enthusiasts, this passage by Andre Maurois often fits:

Like all intelligent men who are not in any way creative, Sir Robert Peel was dangerously sympathetic towards the creations of others. Incapable of formulating a system, he threw himself voraciously on those he came across, and applied them more vigorously than would their inventors.

See also:
Fad-surfing and corralled rebellion

Doctrine and Fad Surfing

John Smoltz Takes A Clue From Cy Young---Refuses Demotion!

by The Last Hollywood Star

Two weeks ago when John Smoltz refused a Boston Red Sox demotion to the minor leagues, he took a page from one of baseball’s greatest all-time pitchers, Cy Young.

In 1911, the Cleveland Indians wanted to demote Young. Although he still had something left in his arm, Young had grown so obese that he could no longer field his position.

As a result, dribblers back to the hill turned into easy base hits.

Young still thought he could pitch so he refused a minor league assignment. Three weeks after the Indians cut him, on August 11 almost ninety-eight years ago to the date of Smoltz’s release, Young signed with the last place Boston Rustlers, previously known as the Beaneaters, the Red Caps and the Doves before evolving into the Bees and finally the Braves.

Pitching for a bad team, over the seven remaining weeks in the season Young went 4-5 and posted a 3.71 ERA before finally giving baseball up.

Along the way, Young matched up with some of baseball’s greatest Hall of Fame pitchers.

Young faced Grover Alexander on September 7 but although he pitched his fourth complete game in 13 days, he lost 1-0.

On September 12, Young was shelled by the New York Giants and lasted only 2 2/3 innings. The Giants’ Christy Mathewson coasted to an easy 11-2 win.

Then on September 22 Young came to Pittsburgh for the first time since he pitched for the Boston Americans (and won two games) in 1903 World Series.

On his return to Pittsburgh, Young met Pirate future Hall of Famer, Babe Adams (more about him soon). Young bested Adams, 1-0.

By the time Young quit baseball after 22 seasons, he had won 511 games with a 2. 63 ERA. Said Young: “My arm will no longer do the work that was so easy.

Smoltz makes his first home start tonight against the Washington Nationals following his spectacular debut Sunday against San Diego. The 42-year-old right-hander worked five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts, including seven in a row.

Smoltz wants to pitch one more year, then retire in 2011---a century after Young hung them up.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pirate’s Dirge

by The Last Hollywood Star

Here’s a song that a weary fan played outside PNC Park on Friday, the first night of the week end celebration of the 1979 Pirate World Series Champions.

Listen to it here on The Jim and Randy Show, WDVE, Pittsburgh.

50 Ways to Leave the Pirates” (with apologies to Simon and Garfunkel)

The problem’s all because of one guy named Nutting
Who blames his problems on collective bargaining.
The players know it even early in the spring

There must be 50 ways to leave the Pirates,
50 ways to leave the Pirates.

They say it grieves them to see us in such pain,
But Pirate fan if you hold on, we’ll be great once again.
But in the meantime, we’re gonna dump every player you can name.

There must be 50 ways to leave the Pirates,
50 ways to leave the Pirates.

Just slip out the back, Jack (Wilson)
Trade away Jason Bay,
Sign Nate for trade bait, then set his ass free.

Fly Fred to San Fran,
We’re on an important five-year plan,
Adam, say good-bye to Andy and join the major league.

Put Nyjer in a Nat’s hat,
Put him on a jet next to Sean Burnette,
Make Gonzales an A-Brave; he’s on a major league team,
Watch Jason Schmidt split
McCutchen don’t sign a long lease, at the PNC.

Slip out the back, Jack (Wilson)
Pack your bobblehead, Fred (Sanchez)
You’re headed down south, McClouth, to join a major league team.

Losing season number seventeen is a guarantee

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


What We Are Not Embarrassed by

I don’t know if cigarettes or Marxism have killed more people, but it’s pretty clear cigarettes are more actively stigmatized. Marxists, neo-Marxists, crypto-Marxists, post-Marxists, etc. have an enduring influence on intellectual fashion. So it is not only possible proudly to confess Marx’s influence on one’s thought, but it remains possible in some quarters to impress by doing so. It ought to be embarrassing, but it isn’t.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, RIP

de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est

Why gun control is a bad idea

A vote for gun control is a vote for thunderdome

Some gun control fans will say that everyone going armed will mean that the criminals will just pack bigger guns and shoot first every time, but they’re missing the point. When you know your potential marks aren’t allowed to pack heat, you have a low-risk work environment. You can pick the weakest-looking victim, and set all the parameters for the impending confrontation the way you want them. When people aren’t prevented from carrying weapons, you never know which one of them has the means to even out the odds, and every mugging or convenience store register grab becomes a potential lethal confrontation or murder conviction. It makes the job of the violent criminal a much riskier vocation, and serves to discourage rather than encourage the use of physical force.


Charlie Hustle

by The Last Hollywood Star

In an ironic scheduling twist, the Cincinnati Reds left Pittsburgh just as the Philadelphia Phillies arrived.

The Pirate day off in between the two series was the twentieth anniversary of the day Pete Rose was officially banished from baseball.

Rose on the Reds: .307 with 3,358 hits; on the Phillies: .291 with 826 hits.

During his 24-year career, Rose was named to the National League All-Star game 17 times at five different positions: 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, RF.

Most remarkably, Rose played in 1,791 winning games. In case the magnitude of that escapes you, what it means is that if a rookie this year plays seventeen consecutive seasons on teams that win 100 games a year, Rose would still hold the record.

I’m not going to get into a lengthy rehashing of the whys and wherefores of whether Rose should be in the Hall of Fame. I’ll simply state that I think he should be. I’ll write a more detailed analysis defending my position during the Hot Stove League.

Today, I’ll comment on what strikes me as an unpleasant and hypocritical oddity among the baseball talking heads at ESPN.

Peter Gammons, Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian have been much harsher on Rose than they have been on all the steroid abusers who exposed in recent months.

Gammons is the most adamant about his feelings against Rose.

Yet the three analysts all put Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and the rest into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, no questions asked.

To them, steroids were “part of the era” in which Rodriquez, Ramirez, et al. played so all is forgiven.

Granted, Rose is not a likable character. Baseball begs Rose to tell the truth; he lies. The commissioner suggests Rose stay away from gambling; he moves to Las Vegas. His friends urge him to show contrition; he hawks his autographs in Cooperstown during the Hall induction ceremonies.

But the steroid guys are no charmers either. If Rose is kept out of the Hall because he’s a shady guy, then ditto for Ramirez who threw the Boston Red Sox traveling secretary and senior citizen to the floor in a dispute about how many free tickets he should get.

Rose’s peers including Hank Aaron, Mike Schmit and Joe Morgan want him in. Their opinions carry more weight than Gammons, Olney and Kurkjian.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pirates Put Fans To Sleep

by The Last Hollywood Star

Sometimes the old ball yard is not the place you want to be.

Take Sunday at PNC Park where an agonizingly endless three and a half hours dragged by before the Cincinnati Reds recaptured fifth place in the National League Central Division by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1.

Here’s a notation from my scorecard: two innings= one hour! Another one: hang on until perogie races begin!

Baseball romantics point to the fact that the game isn’t played against the clock as one of the reasons that its the best of all the sports.

But no one will cite Sunday as an example of baseball at its finest. The game was one that the Pirates were never in (five hits) but were at the same time never out of, losing by only three runs.

Homer Bailey (7.53 ERA and zero wins in his last four starts) started for the Reds against the recently acquired Kevin Hart.

Highly touted, as all the recent Pirate acquisitions are when they arrive in Pittsburgh, Hart has two losses, one no-decision and one victory in four Pirates starts while allowing a total of 15 runs. In other words, Hart has bombed since coming over from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.

Since the fans had so much time on their hands, we couldn’t help but speculate whether the Hart trade would be one more major disappointment. Hart’s early returns are disappointing.

Another thorn in fans’ side: realizing that in the Reds-Pirates match-up, the only player on the field worth watching is center fielder Andrew McCutchen.

One thing the tedious game allowed for was scoreboard watching.

The Phillies-Mets in New York provided some distraction for me because I had predicted earlier this month that Pedro Martinez would not be productive.

After Martinez’s first three starts, I can’t decide if I’m right or wrong.

Martinez hasn’t pitched well. Yesterday he gave up seven hits and four earned runs in six innings. His season ERA is 5. 14.

But Martinez’s record is 2-0 with one no-decision. I’ll bet if I asked Phillie manager Charlie Manuel if he would rather have Martinez at 2-0 with a high ERA or 0-2 with a 1.50 ERA, he wouldn’t take long to answer.

Does David Brooks know his employer is telling lies?

The New York Times reports that the Obama administration is slow in filling its top sports.

Obama’s Team Is Lacking Most of Its Top Players

I know they are lying because David Brooks assured us that the inexperienced Obama had a genius for surrounding himself with the best people.

He's phenomenally good at surrounding himself with a team," Brooks said. "I disagree with them on most issues, but I am given a lot of comfort by the fact that the people he's chosen are exactly the people I think most of us would want to choose if we were in his shoes. So again, I have doubts about him just because he was such a mediocre senator, but his capacity to pick staff is impressive.

Patterico comments on the original NY Times story:

Obama appointees: Plenty of empty seats, Plenty of thrones

Monday, August 24, 2009

Another reason to love Sarah Palin

See updates below.

She makes Howard Kurtz feel small and sad:

For once, mainstream journalists did not retreat to the studied neutrality of quoting dueling antagonists.

They tried to perform last rites on the ludicrous claim about President Obama's death panels, telling Sarah Palin, in effect, you've got to quit making things up.

But it didn't matter. The story refused to die.

The crackling, often angry debate over health-care reform has severely tested the media's ability to untangle a story of immense complexity. In many ways, news organizations have risen to the occasion; in others they have become agents of distortion. But even when they report the facts, they have had trouble influencing public opinion. …

Perhaps journalists are no more trusted than politicians these days, or many folks never saw the knockdown stories. But this was a stunning illustration of the traditional media's impotence

Palin and the health care debate should shame the Obamacons. On one hand, we have pundits of the ilk of Frum, Parker, and Brooks who counsel compromise and surrender. They insist that conservatives must be careful when opposing Obama. He is so brilliant, so successful, and so popular that too much opposition will lead only to more defeats.

Then there is the former governor of Alaskaa political figure derided by the MSM (most especially the Obamacons.) Palin, takes on the health care “plan” as the Democrats try to rush it through congress. She posts on Facebook.

Can’t you just hear Kathleen Parker when she heard that?

Facebook! Not the New York Times. Not the Washington Post (like me!) Facebook! She’s a rube just like David said. This will fix her. Obama will make short work of that little piece of white trash.

Just a little post on the Internet.

But what a post. No op-ed weasel words here. No desire to be exquisitely nuanced like a good little Republican that the MSM likes. A conservative critique of a liberal proposal.

A design for disaster if you believe the resercons.

Yeah. Disaster, but not for the former governor of Alaska. That little post on Facebook derailed the finely tuned message machine of Obama the Magnificent. David Frum’s political wet dream lost control of the message.

He has not recovered yet.

No wonder he needs a vacation.

Like I said, the Obamacons should be ashamed, but we know they are a shameless bunch.

As Kurtz recognizes, Palin shows that the MSM has lost the power to impose their narrative on the news. The corollary to that is that conservatives no longer need to kowtow and curry favor with the journalists who despise them.

As for the particulars of Palin’s critique, I cannot take Kurtz seriously. I have a long memory. I remember the Kennedy speech against Robert Bork and the media reaction.

Be sure to check out Ace's take on Kurtz.


Kurtz set off quite the firesorm.

He provides a nice laugh for anyone who is familiar with his MO:

There's plenty to criticize in the media's performance -- hey, I make a living at it. But some -- I emphasize some -- of the commenters seem heavily influenced by their own ideology and view the press through that prism.

Kurtz also wants us to understand that Sarah Palin (and 45% of the public) are completely, totally wrong and the MSM is doing a great service in saying so:

My point was basic: When something is clearly and factually inaccurate, journalists should say so.

Politics, you see, had nothing to do with the rapid and vehement response.

I'm not buying it. Kurtz could prove me wrong by showing examples of the MSM debunking fact-challenged screeds by pundits and politicians on the left.

I'll even help him out with the headline:

Leo Strauss and the Federalsts Society's fundamentalist, neo-confederate neocons.

If that is too much to ask, maybe Kurtz could list the MSM stories that pointed out that Dan Quayle never actually ordered the slaughter of infants.

Jay Nordlinger:

Remember when Jesse Jackson likened Vice President Quayle to Herod, before a roaring Democratic convention? America can stoop pretty low, as we all know.

Chris Stirewalt definitely gets it:

When the leader of the free world is complaining about a posting on the former governor of Alaska’s Facebook page, he’s got problems.

So does Fred Barnes:

consider Sarah Palin's controversial statement that Mr. Obama's health-care plan would establish "death panels" capable of denying care to seniors. Like Mr. Cheney, she was denounced as a know-nothing. But Mrs. Palin accomplished what no one else had. She put a national spotlight on the dubious end-of-life policies in the ObamaCare legislation. Columnists disputed her claim, then realized she had a point. The death panels are dead, for now.

James Bowman on the secret of Quentin Tarantino's success

because it is deliberately vulgar and tasteless, the movie must somehow be supposed to have disarmed criticism. Sophisticated critics are allowed only to animadvert upon inadvertent tastelessness.

This is the ticket that Mr. Tarantino has used to ride to the very heights of auteurish movie-making in America, though admittedly these are not very high heights. His band of Inglorious Bastards, like him, glory in their ingloriousness -- as well as in their illiteracy, ignorance and brutality. That is the point of the movie which, like Pulp Fiction, is named for what Mr. Tarantino takes to be at once its happy vulgarity and its immunity from criticism

This is also priceless:

It's all fake and contrived, a comic book that glories in its untruth to life. That the premiere in Nashville of this phony movie should have been hosted by Al Gore, the world's biggest phony, is no more than appropriate.

More here:

Tarantino's Band of Bastards

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Suddenly, the Pittsburgh Pirates are the New York Yankees

By the Last Hollywood Star

Last night’s 14-2 drubbing of the Cincinnati Reds was a wonderful gift to the great 1979 World Champion Pirates who gathered at PNC Park to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of their victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

But forgive me for confessing that the Pirates’ recent five game winning streak hasn’t impressed me much.

The Reds’ are in greater disarray, hard to believe as it may be, than the Pirates.

On Friday, the Reds’ starting line up fielded six rookies, most of them recent call ups from the minor leagues. Those are some of the “prospects” that Reds’ management promise the fans will soon be “big league” stars.

In the meantime, Reds’ ownership is pleading with its loyal fan base to remain “patient” because the team has “a long term plan” in place.

The fans have grown restless because the Reds haven’t had a winner since 2000. They obviously don’t know how lucky they are!

It’s all numbingly familiar.

Of all the arguments offered by the Pirates and the Reds for their failures, the most offensive is the “We’re a small market” baloney.

Here’s the population profile of two major league cities, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

According to 2006 Census data, Pittsburgh’s population is approximately 320,000 in a greater metropolitan area totaling 2.4 million people. The same figures for St. Louis are 354,000 in an urban area of 2.8 million residents.

I argue that for baseball franchise ownership purposes, St. Louis and Pittsburgh have identical markets.

And that’s what we’re talking about---baseball ownership. Obviously, the Pirates and the Cards are smaller markets than the Dodgers or the Yankees.

But the point is that if St. Louis can consistently produce winning baseball teams in a small market, why can’t the Pirates?

I suggest Pirate management pick up the phone to call St. Louis to get an answer.

As for the Pirates, the All-Star loaded Philadelphia Phillies come to town on Tuesday for a three game series. The Phillies through Saturday have won eight of their last nine.

Unlike the Reds, the Phillies are playing at peak levels and are likely to keep it up. Adding to the Pirates’ Phillie problem is that the probable pitching rotation will include Joe Blanton, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee.

Let’s withhold judgment about the Pirates’ surge until the Phillies leave town.

Jason Whitlock won't drink the Kool-aid

Think about it. A 39-year-old quarterback hopped off a couch in Mississippi, flew to Minneapolis, practiced two or three times and started an NFL game. Why?

It’s a remarkable sign of disrespect for the game and the difficulty of playing quarterback at any level. We know Favre’s ego is out of control. Years of listening to John Madden compare him to Jesus Christ have justifiably warped Favre’s perception of himself. Favre believes he can complete passes with both hands tied behind his back


What's new with the "Mistress of Disaster"?

Jamie Gorelick is still doing fine, thanks for asking.

Jamie Gorelick At It Again

It's an acquired taste

The latest McCainiac roundup:

Few More Jerry Raids Await

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pirates Win Fourth in a Row

Humble Blogger Who Predicted Team Could Not Win Three Straight!

by The Last Hollywood Star

The Buccos roll on! To think that earlier this week I scoffed at the idea of the Pirates winning three in a row. Now here the team is all the way to four straight victories with their win over the Cincinnati Reds, 5-2

I was down at PNC Park last night, one of about 23,000 fans enjoying the perfect summer evening and celebrating the Thirtieth Anniversary of the 1979 World Series Championship victory.

Say what you will about the Pirates, you can’t top PNC Park as a place to watch baseball. The stadium that comes closest is the San Francisco Giants’ ATT Park.

Not only did we have great weather but Friday was dollar hot dog night and, adding to the 1970s atmosphere, was disco music by Blondie and the Village People.

Fans got hand outs at the gate---the yellow pill box hat with the black stripes worn by the Pirates in the 1970s and by last night’s team in honor of the old champs. (More about the hat later; mine was immediately designated for re-gifting.)

Pirate pitcher Charlie Morton, shelled for ten runs in one inning during his last outing in Chicago, redeemed himself with six strong innings, Garrett Jones hit his fourteenth home run and Lastings Millege, his second.’s hard not to get the sense that the Reds and the Pirates are two struggling teams playing out the stretch in totally meaningless games unless you count battling for fifth place in a six team National League Central division race as important.

As of today, the Red hold a half-game lead over the Bucs for that dubious distinction.

What does it say about a team when everyone agrees that a fifth place finish would be an achievement even though seventeenth straight losing season is unavoidable?

The reality is that the Pirates are good at home against bad teams and bad on the road (18-31) against any team.

The Reds are a bad team. As a painful reminder of how bad, last night the scoreboard juxtaposed images of the 1979 Reds against the current players as they came to bat.

As Reds’ center fielder Drew Stubbs (.154); shortstop Paul Janish (.202), second baseman Drew Sutton (.167) and third baseman Adam Rosales (.209) came to bat, we saw George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Ray Knight and Joe Morgan on the Jumbotron.

Of their 42 remaining games, the Pirates play eleven of them against the Reds. Ouch! Even the most dedicated fan will have a hard time watching that match up in late September.

Back to the hat...from 1977 to 1979, the Pirates wore various combinations of yellow and black uniforms with the hat to match.
I mean, it was ugly and comical at the same time.

But the Cleveland Indians had uglier one, the fire engine red uniform worn from 1975-1977.

Poor Harvey Haddix. After his active playing career ended, Haddix became one of baseball’s most productive pitching coaches tutoring among others a young Nolan Ryan with the New York Mets.

But it was his extreme misfortune to have coached the Pirates and the Indians at the exact time they wore the hideous uniforms.

Haddix the only pitcher to famously throw 12 perfect innings but also to wear both the Pirates’ yellow and the Indians’ red uniforms.

Tonight the Bucs hope to tie a season-high five consecutive wins. Whether they do or not, K.C. and the Sunshine Band will party on after the game.

The Pirate players may never have heard of them, however, since none of last night’s starting nine were born by 1

Friday, August 21, 2009

Remembered: A Trade More Shocking Than Any Made by the Pirates!

by The Last Hollywood Star

As the Cincinnati Reds come to town and with the debate among Pittsburgh Pirate fans about the team’s recent trades of its best and most popular players, I am reminded about swap that made the din surrounding Freddie, Jack et al. seem like nothing.

I’m talking about the infamous June 15, 1977 day that the New York Mets traded its star pitcher, Tom Seaver, to the Reds for four prospects: pitcher Pat Zachry, second baseman Doug Flynn and outfielders Steve Henderson and Dan Norman. (Sound familiar: stars for prospects?)

Leading up to the trade that shocked Mets fans was a long simmering salary dispute between Seaver and Mets owner M. Donald Grant.

Seaver had also been pleading with the penurious Grant to spend the necessary money on available players to help lift the Mets into contention.

Specifically, Seaver was angered that the Mets, who had finished third in 1976, 15 games out of first place, made no effort to sign any of the new free agents.

Noting that that despite a glaring need for offense and a significant financial advantage over their competitors, Grant and general manager Joe McDonald failed to make an offer for center fielder Gary Matthews, who looked like a perfect fit for the Mets but wound up signing a five-year, $1.2 million deal with the rival Atlanta Braves.

Besides dumping Seaver and his salary off to the Reds, Grant made two other trades at the deadline involving key Met players.

Grant ordered General Manager Joe McDonald to deal the Mets' top hitter, Dave Kingman, who had also been involved in rancorous contract negotiations, to the San Diego Padres for Bobby Valentine. In a third trade, McDonald acquired outfielder Joel Youngblood from the Montreal Expos for utilityman Mike Phillips.

The "Midnight Massacre" (as the trades became known) plunged the Mets into their darkest era. The team finished last in 1977 and lost 95 or more games in each of the next three seasons under manager Joe Torre, who would be fired after a 41-62 record in the strike-shortened 1981 season.

Attendance at Shea plummeted and the Mets would not have another winning season until 1984.

Seaver, however, flourished in his new Cincinnati environment. Over the balance of the 1977 season, he went 14-2. During five seasons and part of a sixth as a Red, Seaver was 75-46 including a no-hitter against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1978.

By the time his career ended, Seaver had a 311-205 record with an ERA of 2.86 and 3,640 strike outs. Elected into the Hall of Fame in 1992 with the highest-ever percentage of first place votes for a pitcher, Seaver is the only Met in the Hall.

Seaver eventually returned to the Mets in 1983 to pitch effectively. By then though, his best years were behind him though.

After his career ended, the Mets retired Seaver’s number 41. In 2008, the Mets invited him to Shea Stadium to throw out the final pitch before the team moved to Citi-Field where he threw out the Opening Day, 2009 first pitch.

In an ESPN poll among his peers, Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven and Don Sutton all voted Seaver “the best” of their generation of pitchers.

During the “Midnight Massacre,” I lived in New York. I was not a Met fan but like all New Yorkers, I followed every movement, allegation and counter-allegation made by the Grant, Seaver and pro-management tout, New York Daily News columnist Dick Young.

You’ll have to trust me on this: the noise from the Mets’ fan base was ten times the level compared to the fall out from Freddie and Jack.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ian Snell Surprises Everyone, Even The Las Vegas Wise Guys!

By The Last Hollywood Star

Last night’s baseball news included two interesting items about Major League pitchers with ERA’s over 8.00

They are Hall of Fame bound John Smoltz and Pittsburgh Pirate cast off Ian Snell.

Smoltz, 8.33 during his few appearances with the Boston Red Sox, signed on with the St. Louis Cardinals, apparently destined not for mop up assignments as his ERA would indicate, but to be the team’s fifth starter. He’s penciled in to make his first Cardinal appearance on Sunday against the San Diego Padres.

What so amazing about Smoltz’s rebirth is that the Cards are in the midst of close pennant race. As of Thursday, the team is four games up on Chicago.

Boston went 2-6 in the games Smoltz started. If Smoltz performs the same for the Cards, that would erase their current lead. Smoltz represents a big gamble for the Cards.

But the Seattle Mariners took an even bigger gamble by sending the enigmatic former Pirate Ian Snell with his 8.48 ERA to the mound in Detroit against the league leading Tigers. Snell faced one of the American League’s best pitchers and its strike out leader Justin Verlander.

In his last two starts, Snell had given up 11 runs in 7-1/3 innings.

The result when one of baseball’s worst pitchers faced off on the road against one of the best? Seattle 3, Detroit 1. Although Snell lasted a mere 5- 1/3 innings, he gave up only one run and lowered his ERA to 6.63

Las Vegas bookmakers, who really know about gambling, may have been the most surprised. The odds going into last night’s Mariner-Tiger game were prohibitive, an astronomical 240-280.

In other words if you thought the Tigers would win (as most people did), you had to put your money where you mouth is and lay $280 to win $50.

If, however, you thought Snell could pull it off (and who among Pirates fans would have staked money on that?), then your $50 wager would have returned you a handsome $240

As any major league manager will tell you, in baseball you never know.

Howie the Weasel never disappoints

Robert Novak is dead, but Howard Kurtz just cannot help himself. He slams the columnist in his WaPo column:

Novak, who died Tuesday, was a far more public, and controversial, figure, and not just because of the Valerie Plame case. What he did in cultivating sources is what many journalists (and "60 Minutes" staffers) do -- promise people anonymity in exchange for information. But as a conservative commentator, Novak not only picked sides, he made, in my view, an implicit agreement to go easier on those who were feeding him the tidbits that he needed to churn out his column and pepper his TV appearances. If you were outside his circle of helpful contacts, you could feel his wrath. That, to me, is a very slippery slope.

Kurtz makes two dubious claims here. (OK, maybe they are just sly suggestions, but that is why he’s “The Weasel”).

First, Novak pushed the “source or target” method farther than was acceptable.

Second, Novak’s bad behavior was tied to his conservative politics.

Let’s take the first point. Was Novak worse than the The New York Times in the summer of 1973 when they needed John Dean’s cooperation on the Watergate beat? Here is David Halberstam:

[Dean] was very good with the Washington Post. He cut out the New York Times for quite a while because the Times seemed to him to be reflecting the Chuck Colson anti-Dean line. Finally there was a breakfast between Scotty Reston and Bob McCandless [Dean's lawyer]. Reston wanted to know how the Times could get back in on the John Dean industry and it was decided that if the Times did not actually call for immunity for Dean, it would nonetheless say that people should start listening to him. Shortly after that, Seymour Hersh was assigned Dean by the Times and soon after that, the Times's coverage was right up there with that of the Post.

Speaking of Hersh, here is how he operated at the Times:

In those years, much attention was focused on Hersh's personality and reporting techniques. One of his editors at the Washington bureau, Robert Phelps, recently recalled, with wry disbelief, the kinds of messages that Hersh would leave. "He would call people and he'd say 'I'm Seymour Hersh, I'm doing a story on this . . . If he doesn't call me, I will get his ass.' They'd call back."

Here’s The Mudville Gazette on how Hersh “broke” the Abu Ghraib story:

Seymour Hersh has had an amazing story dropped into his lap. A group of American GIs, caught on camera, abusing and humiliating Iraqi prisoners. Heinous acts. The wheels of justice were certainly turning, but nailing the abusive guards is not enough for the intrepid reporter. Indeed, since evidence indicates that one of those guard's attorneys most likely provided that information to Hersh, it follows that getting the higher ups was likely part of the deal.

Edward Jay Epstein makes the point that every reporter has to play the game if they are going to break exclusive stories:
Indeed, given the voluntary nature of the relationship between a reporter and his source, a continued flow of information can only be assured if the journalist's stories promise to serve the interests of the witness.

Despite the heroic public claims of the news media, daily journalism is largely concerned with finding and retaining profitable sources of pre-packaged stories

As far as political bias goes, Jack Shafer of Slate acknowledged and celebrated the fact that almost all “investigative journalism” is fueled by reporters filled with paranoid, leftwing world views.

Evidence of the reviewers' cluelessness comes when the panel assesses the CBS journalists for political bias and discovers none. I don't know that I've met more than four or five investigative journalists in my life who didn't wear their political biases on their flapping tongues. Almost to a one, they're suspicious (paranoid?) about corporate power, dubious about the intentions of governments, and convinced that at this very moment a secret meeting is being held somewhere in which a hateful conspiracy against the masses is being hatched. I won't provoke the investigative-journalist union by alleging that most of its members are Democrats or lefties, but aside from a few right-wing reporters sucking conservative teats inside the government, how many Republican investigative aces can you name?

Kurtz also let David Corn attack Novak and muddy the waters around the Plame/Wilson “scandal”:
I was, however, saddened that Novak, who had admirably been a skeptic of the Bush-Cheney administration's decision to invade Iraq, had now become an apologist for the Bush White House (and Rove) on the CIA leak story."

Novak recounts his role in the Plame case in his memoirs. Corn accuses him of being an apologist for Rove because he simply told the truth. While most of the MSM happily followed Corn in his speculation that Rove leaked the Valerie Plame’s name to “punish” Joe Wilson, Novak knew that his source was the anti-war Richard Armitage and the leak was an inadvertent indiscretion caused by Armitage’s love of gossip and Novak’s curiosity.

Kurtz provides no context and by presenting Corn’s screed without comment he seems to endorse that dishonest smear.

Are you ready for some football?

Don't knock the Rock

Here's the story of Rocky Blier. Many payers come back from injury, but what about coming back from rifle and grenade wounds?

40 Years Ago Today in Steelers History: Rocky Bleier Fights Back

A profile of a consumate professional-- Hines Ward:

Added bonus: check out the picture of the last two Super Bowl rings.

The guys at Cold Hard Football Facts explain why the Vikings must be smoking crack:

The Vikings, in case you haven't heard, signed mercenary Brett Favre to a two-year, $25-million deal on Tuesday. It's the second team that Favre has signed with since he issued a teary-eyed farewell to football and to his beloved Packers 17 months ago.

Apparently, the Vikings suffer under the illusion that the only thing between them and their first Super Bowl title is an ineffective, mistake-prone quarterback with a 79.5 passer rating over the past four years who turns 40 in October, who hasn't led a team to a Super Bowl since back around the time when Bill Clinton was not having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, and who hijacked the hopes of one team after another along the way

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pedro Martinez: The Jury Is Still Out

by The Last Hollywood Star

I give myself a "no-decision" on my prediction yesterday that I didn’t expect Pedro Martinez to do well in his home debut for the Philadelphia Phillies against the Arizona Diamondbacks. But I’ll stick with my forecast that in the long run, Martinez will not be a factor in the Phillies pennant chase.

After giving up a home run to lead off batter Stephen Drew, Martinez pitched three solid innings before a rain delay took him out of the game.

In sweet irony, Jamie Moyer finished the Diamondbacks off with a strong six innings. Martinez took Moyers place in the rotation.

Over at PNC Park, Ross Ohlendorf is a breath of fresh air for the Pirates. After beating the Brewers 5-1, Ohlendorf improved to 11-8.

The win was a step in the right direction for the Pirates in their unannounced goal to avoid losing 100 games. The Pirates are 48-70 with 42 games remaining.

Twenty-four will be at home, some against equally weak teams like the San Diego Padres and the Cincinnati Reds. But other opponents will be in the final days of the pennant race and will be playing hard: the Phillies, the Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Last night’s Pirate win coupled with a loss by the Washington Nationals (Nyjer Morgan, 2 for 5; .310) helps the Pirates avoid ending the season with baseball’s worst record.

Hope, change and politics

Two excellent assessments

Jay Cost, Obama misread his mandate

Michael Barone, When liberal leaders confront a centrist nation
Barone makes a key point that underlines the stupidity of Obamacons like Frum, Brooks, and Parker.

There are more conservatives than Republicans and more Democrats than liberals. That's one of the asymmetries between the parties that helps to explain the particular political spot we're in. The numbers are fairly clear. In the 2008 exit poll, 34 percent of voters described themselves as conservatives and 32 percent as Republicans; 39 percent described themselves as Democrats but only 22 percent as liberals.


The result is that the two parties have offsetting political advantages. Democrats tend to win on party identification. Republicans tend to win on ideology. Democrats don't have to appeal to as many independents as Republicans do. Republicans don't have to appeal to as many moderates as Democrats do.
Thus, Frum's idea that the GOP should jettison the conservative base to appeal to moderates is a fool's errand. More importantly, the Obamacons's continued demonization of regular conservatives helps the Democrats, not Republicans.

Makes you wonder if they really care about conservatives or Republicans....

Another nagging question. The Obamacons like to claim that Limbaugh, Levin, Coulter, Palin, et. al. are making the GOP seem crazy, irresponsible, and irrelevant. Yet, here we are. Levin leads the best-seller list, Limbaugh dominates radio, and Palin dominates the news cycle via a Facebook message. This should mean that the Obama administration is soaring as moderates flee the right. That's what Frum says will happen.

Yet, instead, the political tides are running in the opposite direction. Is it possible that David Frum is not infallible?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Robert Novak, R.I.P.

Reactions from:

Timothy Carney

R. S. McCain

Novak's own memoirs are remarkable: honest, blunt, and fearless. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Washington D. C. in the post-war era.

Who Loves Pedro Martinez? ESPN, That’s Who!

by: The Last Hollywood Star

Pennsylvania’s other baseball team---the one that won the World Series last year and not three decades ago--- made a big splash recently when it signed Pedro Martinez to a one-year, $1 million contract.

The Phillies sent Martinez to the mound last Wednesday in Chicago against the Cubs. He hung on to qualify for the win in the Phillies 12-5 romp.

But as Martinez’s post-game rave reviews came pouring in, I wondered if the talking heads watched the same game I did.

Two ESPN analysts, Eric Young and Rick Sutcliffe, were surprisingly effusive. Young rated Martinez’s performance as a “B” while Sutcliffe evoked Sandy Koufax’s name during his paean.

What gives? Martinez’s pitching line was awful: 5IP, 7H, 3ER for an ERA of 5.40

In the fifth inning, Martinez gave up three hits and two long, long outs that pinned the Phillies’ outfielders to the wall. Had any of them fallen in or if Martinez didn’t need to complete the inning to qualify for his cheap win, he would have been yanked. With an eleven run lead, Charlie Manuel had a lot of leeway.

As for Martinez throwing 64 of his 99 pitches for strikes, which the analysts made a big deal of, what else would an experienced pitcher milking a comfortable lead do?

Martinez makes his next start Tuesday night at home against the Arizona Diamondbacks, a less threatening team offensively than the Cubs. But Martinez will have trouble in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

I don’t expect Martinez to fare well against the Diamondbacks. But even if he should, I can’t imagine him playing a meaningful role in the Phillies’ World Series quest.

If you’re weighing the good versus the bad personnel decisions that the Pittsburgh Pirates made this year, put down passing on Martinez on the ledger’s plus side. Of course, management’s decision may not have been based exclusively on what Martinez might have contributed.

There is the matter of money and how much of it the Pirates would have been willing to part with. Post-Freddy, Jack, Adam, Nate et al, we now know how little the team would have been willing to gamble financially on Martinez.

Monday, August 17, 2009

When will ESPN catch on?

Cold Hard Football Facts is loaded with good stuff.

The freaky Goth chicks of the gridiron

Contrary to popular belief, Ben Roethlisberger ranks pretty high all-time among QBs. He is seventh in passer rating and eight in post-season passer rating.

In the play-offs Big Ben is just behind Troy Aikman and Tom Brady and ranks higher than Steve Young and Brett Favre.

Only five QBs make both lists. Young is interesting because of the dramatic drop-off between regular season and play-offs. He is the anti-Montana on that score: #16 actually did better in the post-season than in regular season games. (Montana joins Bart Starr, Kurt Warner, Terry Bradshaw and Troy Aikman in that elite club).

As CHFF notes, the QB rating is highly correlated with winning. When Big Ben has a rating above 100, the Steelers are 29-1. It is a far better predictor of victory than the sexy fantasy stats.

The Steelers are 3-5 when Ben passes for more than 300 yards.

They are 6-4 when he has three or more TD passes.

Another overlooked statistic. Hines Ward is tied for 4th all time in post-season receptions. It is quite possible that he will pass Thurman Thomas,, Andre Reed and Michael Irvin this year if the Steelers make another playoff run.

The press critic as flack

I’ve commented before on the way Howard Kurtz turns his show into a PR organ for journalists in trouble.

Even when he tackles a serious issue, he is as relentless as a Teacup Chihuahua.

An egregious example happened two weeks ago when he had Linda Douglass in his crosshairs:

KURTZ: OK. I've got a half a minute.

Thirteen journalists by one count have now joined the Obama administration. Jill Zuckman, formerly of "The Chicago Tribune," was one of them. She was a guest on this program.

So, some people are saying, well, you were all a bunch of closet liberals just waiting for a Democratic administration so you could cross over.

DOUGLASS: Well, as you know, Howie, because we've known each other a long time, I retired from ABC News back at the end of '05, and I joined the Obama campaign last year because I wanted to be an advocate for his candidacy. And as I say, I'm privileged to be able to help with this effort in his presidency. And it's a different stage in life, it's a different career, but I'm really gratified to be able to do it.

KURTZ: And we're gratified to be able to have you.

Linda Douglass, thanks very much for stopping by this morning

How typical of Kurtz to introduce a serious question when there was little time to explore it. What is even worse is that he let Douglass mislead his audience about her career and the activities prior to joining the Obama campaign:

Douglass may have retired from ABC News in 2005, but she did not retire from journalism:

Most recently, Douglass had been writing about the presidential campaign for National Journal magazine (an influential inside-the-Beltway publication) and hosting the weekly "National Journal On Air" program on XM Satellite Radio's all-politics channel.

Douglass was working as a journalist right up to the time she joined the Obama campaign. Kurtz knew this because she was a frequent guest on his program after she left ABC News:

KURTZ: You were a journalist for three decades. You worked for ABC, you worked for CBS, "National Journal." You were a guest on this program many times.

Yet he let’s Douglass muddy the isse with her misleading timeline. It makes you wonder if Kurtz was really interested in exploring the issue.

One other thing stands out about Douglass and her response: is was an artful, if deceitful, answer. Is she merely a fast learner or did she hone her skills at obfuscation while she was a journalist?

Facts are stubborn things

What's Scary About Health Care Reform?

It's true that the United States spends more on health care than anyone else, and it's true that we rank below a lot of other advanced countries in life expectancy. The juxtaposition of the two facts, however, doesn't prove we are wasting our money or doing the wrong things.

It only proves that lots of things affect mortality besides medical treatment. Heath Ledger didn't die at age 28 because the American health care system failed him.

One big reason our life expectancy lags is that Americans have an unusual tendency to perish in homicides or accidents. We are 12 times more likely than the Japanese to be murdered and nearly twice as likely to be killed in auto wrecks


Reader's Digest: How to kill a successful brand

R.S. McCain comments on the magazine's bankruptcy:

Reader's Digest: Death by Consultants

McCain is exactly right. The Reader's Digest did not need consultants. It just needed a great editor who did not have contempt for the core market.

The greatest praise ever given to the RD came from an enemy:

Imagine, if you will, someone who read only Reader's Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of Communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?

Susan Sontag

The Pittsburgh Pirates: History Proves That Trading Experience For Youth Doesn’t Work

by: The Last Hollywood Star

I'm pleased to welcome a guest blogger to Lead and Gold. This blog needed more baseball blogging and our new blogger brings an unparalleled perspective to the sport. How many other bloggers saw Bill Mazeroski play IN THE MINORS?

The Last Hollywood Star was born in Los Angeles in the mid-1940s, when the Dodgers and the Giants were still in Brooklyn and New York. He grew up rooting for the Pacific Coast League Hollywood Stars, a Pirate affiliate that produced among others Bill Mazeroski and Dale Long.

In his youth, the Last Hollywood Star lived in Puerto Rico and watched Clemente play winter baseball for the Santurce Cangrejeros. During the early 1960s, when he attended the University of Pittsburgh, he spent many more days and nights at Forbes Field than he did at the library. He has recently returned to Pittsburgh after living in California for over twenty years

Former Pittsburgh Pirates Freddy Sanchez, Jack Wilson, Adam LaRoche, John Grabow, Tom Gorzelanny and Nate McClouth have to feel an enormous sense of relief. The endless speculation about whether they will remain Pirates is over. The trades were made. The players are now continuing their new careers as productive hitters and pitchers with pennant contenders.

In the wild card race, the Giants, Braves and Cubs, the new homes for Sanchez, LaRoche, McClouth, Gorzelanny and Grabow, are within one, three and three and a half games respectively.

Even Wilson’s American League Seattle Mariners are still in the hunt. As of Sunday, the team is only 6.5 behind the Boston Red Sox. With six long weeks left in the season, that’s plenty of time for the Mariners to get hot and the struggling Red Sox to further cool off and drop out of contention.

As for Nyjer Morgan and Sean Burnett, they’ve achieved more as Washington Nationals than they did as Pirates. They may yet have the supreme satisfaction of playing on a Nationals team that will end the season with a higher winning percentage than the Bucs.

Morgan and Burnett were also important cogs in the Nationals’ recent eight-game winning streak! Can Bucco fans even imagine winning three in a row?

Pirate management explained the trades in straightforward and logical terms. The thirty-ish ex-Pirates were all playing at their career peaks and would never have higher value on the trade market. The philosophy: strike now while the iron is hot!

On its face, adding youth seems indisputable. But historically, it does not stand up to analysis.

I studied the lineups of four major league World Series success stories, three from our Buccos and one from the New York Yankees.

Here’s what I found.

The 1960 World Series champion Pittsburgh Pirates used the following players in their seventh game victory over the Yankees. Their ages are in parentheses.

Bill Virdon, CF, (29);Dick Groat, SS, (30); Bob Skinner, LF, (30); Rocky Nelson, 1B, (36); Roberto Clemente, RF, (26), Smokey Burgess, C, (33), Joe Christopher, PR (25); Hal Smith, C, (29); Don Hoak, 3B, (32), Bill Mazeroski, 2B (24); Vern Law, SP, (30); Elroy Face, RP, (32); Gino Cimoli, PH, (31); Bob Friend, RP, (30), Harvey Haddix, RP, (35). Average age: 30

In 1971, the champion Pirates were slightly younger.

Here’s the seventh game World Series line up: Dave Cash, 2B, (23); Gene Clines, CF, (25); Roberto Clemente, RF, (37); Bob Robertson, 1B, (25); Manny Sanguillen, C, (27), Willie Stargell, LF, (31); Jose Pagan, 3B, (36), Jackie Hernandez, SS, (31); Steve Blass, P, (30) Average age: 29.5

The 1979 Pirates, also World Series winners, were the oldest---or should I say most experienced?

Omar Moreno, CF, (27); Tim Foli, SS, (29); Dave Parker, RF, (28); Bill Robinson, LF, (36); Willie Stargell, 1B, (39); Bill Madlock, 3B, (28); Steve Nicosia, C, (24); Phil Garner, 2B, (32), Jim Bibby, P, (35); Don Robinson, (32); Manny Sanguillen, (35); Grant Jackson, RP, (37); Kent Tekulve, P, (32) Average: 31.6

Even more compelling is an analysis of the New York Yankees’ World Championship teams that had a never-to-be-matched five consecutive titles from 1949 to 1953.

Twelve players from those Yankees were on all five World Series rosters. Their ages in 1953, the last year of the Yankee string, follow their names.

Hank Bauer, RF, (31); Yogi Berra, C, (30); Bobby Brown, 3B, (30); Jerry Coleman, 2B, (30); Joe Collins, (31); Eddie Lopat, P, (35); Johnny Mize, 1B, (40); Vic Raschi, P, (34); Allie Reynolds, P, (38); Phil Rizzuto, SS, (36); Charlie Silvera, C, (30); Gene Woodling, RF, (31) Average: 33

An important footnote to the Yankees is that the most touted, can’t miss bonus-baby player the team signed during their championship reign was 18-year-old first baseman Frank Leja who was supposed to make fans forget about Lou Gehrig. In parts of three seasons, Leja came to bat sixteen times and got one hit.

The Leja experiment abruptly ended the Yankees’ youth movement!

As the examples listed above prove, the key to winning baseball is not the players’ ages but their talent. When teams trade away their best players without equally skilled replacements ready to call up, as the Pirates continue to do, they’re left to hope for the best.

As of today, hope is the only thing on the Pirates’ horizon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The view from New York

Crying poverty, some MLB owners are laughing all the way to the bank

Unfortunately for Pirates fans and now Indians fans, ownership is not willing to spend what it takes to be competitive. Instead, they pocket all that revenue-sharing and central fund dough and claim they're losing money, meaning they must trade away their best players to "secure the future." What future?

Hard as this might be to believe, baseball has managed to turn back the clock 60 years, resurrecting the spirit of the St. Louis Browns and Philadelphia A's, teams that routinely sold off their best players to the Yankees and Red Sox to stay in business. The only difference is that those teams really were broke. The disgraceful Dolans in Cleveland and Bob Nutting and Frank Coonelly in Pittsburgh are crying poverty and cheating their fans all the way to the bank

Saturday, August 15, 2009

In a nutshell

But in thinking about Obama and the amputation remarks, there’s a great deal more that’s troubling in what he said. His statement was part of a tendency of his to speak out authoritatively on matters about which he knows nothing or almost nothing.

More here.

Words worth repeating

The boycott reminds us also that we should not confuse large corporations with free markets or free enterprise or freedom.

RTWT at Legal Insurrection.

Only for the stout-hearted

The latest FMJRA is up:

Fearlessly, Myers Jumped Reflexively Away

The Miracle On The Vistula

First posted on 15 August 2003

On 15 August 1920, the Polish Army launched a counter-attack against the Red Army which stood at the gates of Warsaw. They succeeded to such a degree that the Soviets were rolled back and Poland gained twenty years of independence.

The Polish victory was even more important to the West. A Russian victory at Warsaw would have brought the Red Army into Germany. The Cold War would have begun in 1920 with the Iron Curtain starting at the Rhine. Despite the importance of the battle, the Poles fought it alone-- the French and British were hamstrung by domestic politics and did next to nothing to aid the defense.

In fact, British unions were defiantly pro-Soviet. During the Russo-Polish War they sometimes refused to load ships with military goods bound for Poland.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mary Jo Kopechne had no comment

Does this mean that the NFL has higher standards than the US Senate and the Democratic party in Massachusetts?

Goodell lays down the law

WR Stallworth suspended for '09

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell decided Donte’ Stallworth’s football punishment should last much longer than his 24 days in jail.

The Cleveland Browns receiver, who pleaded guilty to killing a pedestrian while driving drunk, was suspended without pay yesterday for the season. He is barred from team activities until he is reinstated after the Super Bowl

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Anthrax: One year later and still many questions

A shocking mockery

With the anniversary of Bruce Ivins' death and subsequent character assassination by the FBI and Department of Justice, comes "new" information supporting what many suspected at the outset of the events leading to his apparent suicide: Ivins was a suspect of convenience, a vulnerable, despairing man who couldn't absorb the psychological blows dealt by a heavy-fisted FBI who sought to "beat" him into confession.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Much good sense here

Wall Street is Part of the Economic Problem

Fraud is not capitalism. Paper is not productivity.

It's time for a wide, deep rethink in America, coupled with quick action to address the seeds of the next crash. Which have already being planted, and could well bear fruit before 2012

Soothing the MSM's fears about the birthers

because we're good like that.

Poor Amanda Ripley is ALARMED!

Watching a single woman-in-red denounce President Barack Obama as a noncitizen is not particularly scary. We can imagine any number of complicated life narratives for this woman’s shotgun rage. We may even muster compassion. The more alarming question is, Why are all those other people cheering her on?

Ms. Ripley can rest easy. To put it in terms she understands, think of the woman in red as a transgressive performance artists. Sort of like the painters who smear dung on pictures of the Virgin Mary. The crowd that cheers her on is energized to see stale pieties challenged.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


The NFL doesn't need trickery to outdraw baseball. Any game will do, as Sunday's Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, between the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills showed. The exhibition opener — and the NBC debut of the Al Michaels-Cris Collinsworth team — attracted 61% more viewers opposite a contest that counted: The New York Yankees completing a four-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox. Of course, the NFL had the significant broadcast-vs.-cable edge.

Story and numbers here.

Not to be missed

CSI Myths: The Shaky Science Behind Forensics

Forensic science was not developed by scientists. It was mostly created by cops, who were guided by little more than common sense. And as hundreds of criminal cases begin to unravel, many established forensic practices are coming under fire. PM takes an in-depth look at the shaky science that has put innocent people behind bars.

(HT: Dr. Helen)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Take a walk on the wild side

The latest McCain-o-sphere linkfest is up:

Fortnightly Mama Jamma Rinky-dinky-linky hAmma

When quarterbacks earn their money

Pro Football Reference has the skinny on fourth quarter comebacks and game winning drives:

Quarterbacks and fourth quarter comebacks, Part II

A couple of tidbits for the yakkers at ESPN:

Brett Favre is supposed to stay retired, so hopefully that will spare us any chance of the media claiming he is chasing the comeback record. He is credited with 42, but only has 27 comebacks, and is not exactly known for any real famous ones. Maybe the long game-winning TD pass to Sterling Sharpe against the Lions in the playoffs would be worth mentioning. Just not a situation Favre thrived in. The opportunities were certainly there for him to have more than anyone, but he did not come through with the record amount. A propensity for turnovers via forced throws is not what you look for in a QB in this situation.


Ben Roethlisberger already having 15 legit comebacks in five seasons is pretty impressive. If he can stay healthy and the Steelers continue their winning ways, he could be a threat to challenge the record holder (which is Elway, should be Marino, probably will be Peyton) some day. .

Friday, August 07, 2009

JFK: The Castro connection

Gus Russo updates his research:

The Dallas-Cuba Connection - 2009 Update

Documents released last week under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIPA) detail a secret CIA-National Archives (NARA)-State Department investigation of Cuban intelligence officer Fabian Escalante and reveal, among other things, that Escalante had an indirect connection to accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, and that my revealing conversation with former Assassinations Record Review Board (ARRB) Executive Director Jeremy Gunn about the Escalante files was accurately reported in my 2008 book, Brothers in Arms.

His book is well worth a look. It is solidly researched and not at all like the usual conspiracy-theorists fodder.