Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trade Deadline Gone...And Other Thoughts...

Photo from Philly.com
The Phillies pulled the trigger and brought Captain Underpants Hunter Pence to Philadelphia to play right field for them.  I didn't like the trade then, and I still don't like it now.  The reasons for disliking such a trade, I explained last Saturday.  I still haven't changed my mind that the trade made will ultimately do more harm to the Phillies* than good.  However, it's over and done with and now the team has to keep on with its goal of winning another World F*cking Championship.

*This has nothing to do with Pence himself.  I am not pissed off at Hunter Pence, but with Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the Phillies braintrust for overvaluing him and allowing the Astros to cart off a king's ranson, as opposed to the one they got for trading Michael Bourn this morning to Atlanta.  Pence is a nice player, but he is NOT a difference-maker or a superstar in any meaningful sense.  And I absolute loathe the people who talk about how much Pence...Plays the Game the Right Way™.  I will make fun of those people until the day I die. Yes, I include you, Chris Wheeler.

The "Save Domonic Brown" movement worked, although in a halfway sense: he was optioned down to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room for Pence.  However, there is a silver lining in this move: Brown will be playing left field for the rest of the season for the IronPigs.  So the organization is looking at an outfield in 2012 of Brown (left), Victorino (center), and Pence (right).  Not a terrible way to look.

Raul Ibañez certainly took notice at that possibility and played like a man possessed.  He got the scoring going with an absolute bomb to center field in the second inning and then when it looked like the Phillies would be on their way to not sweeping yet another series in the eighth inning, Raul hit a two-run shot to left-center field and tied the game.  But he wasn't finished - in the bottom of the tenth inning he drove in Hunter Pence, who had doubled before him with a double of his own to win the game.  The Phillies finished the homestand 7-3 and with the Atlanta Braves' 10,000th loss in their history, they have a six game lead going into August 1st.  More after the jump...

Friday, July 29, 2011

Just Say No, Ruben!


Please do not trade for Hunter Pence Captain Underpants, Mr. Amaro...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The McDonald's Happy Meal...

...is one of the most fun aspects of being a kid, but it's becoming a little less of a fun thing for a kid to get...
McDonald's on Tuesday said that it would add apple slices and reduce the portion of French fries in its children's meal boxes beginning this fall, effectively taking away consumers' current choice between either having apples with caramel dip or fries as a Happy Meal side.
When I was a kid, McDonald's (or Burger King, Roy Rogers, and Wendy's) was precisely the kind of place to which I was taken when we didn't eat in a healthy manner.  At home, if I wanted a snack, I would eat fruit.  I didn't go to a fast food place to get...APPLE SLICES!

Ostensibly, this goes into the ridiculous idea that somehow restaurants are responsible for making people fat and thus should 'contribute' to the 'slimming down' of society.  No, it's actually the responsibility of individuals to look after themselves (as I said in 12 Degrees of Suing McDonald's) and in the case of children, their parents and/or guardians...
But apparently, customers aren't making those choices in practice. Indeed, only about 11 percent of customers were ordering apples with their Happy Meals, even though 88 percent were aware they had the option, the restaurant said.
No kidding!  Again, I ask what the wannabe nannies/moral superiors of the world are actually expecting?  McDonald's is supposed to be fun!  It's supposed to be a getaway that happens on occasion when mom or dad doesn't want to cook and is looking for a family outing of some sort.  No, I don't advocate eating fast food every single day, but seriously, let's remember that it should be a treat, not yet another occasion for Big Brother to stick his nose into your business.

Blown Calls Are A Blight Upon Baseball...

I stayed up to watch the Pirates-Braves game last night. It went 19 innings.  It could have possibly gone a little bit longer, if not for an egregiously blown call (H/T to the folks at HBT) by home plate umpire Jerry Meals (hyperbolically called the 'new worst call ever' on Sweet Spot).

Setup: The Braves have men on second and third with one out and pitcher Scott Proctor up at the plate.  Pirates pitcher Daniel McCutchen gets ahead 0-2 on Proctor, and on the next pitch Proctor hits a chopper to third base and the throw beat Julio Lugo home.  The catcher, Michael McKenry, applied the tag about three feet up the line from home plate and Meals called Lugo safe, giving the Braves the winning run and the victory in the 19th inning.

Reaction: I was half-asleep when I saw it, and I couldn't believe he was called safe.  I am not in favor of instant replay, but as I have written in the past, obviously blown calls like this make it harder for me to keep my opposition to instant replay.  This is one of those plays in which replay would have overturned the call.  Would the Pirates have won the game?  I don't know - the Braves would have had men on first and third with two outs.  Maybe there is a wild pitch, or a balk, or base hit, or error - but those outcomes would have been determined by the players on the field.  And that is the key difference.

Rob Neyer has an alternative look at all this.  I respect Neyer immensely, but I think he is completely wrong here, at least about the play.  The circumstances, on the other hand, Neyer got completely right.  McCutchen should NOT have been pitching there with the Pirates' best reliever (Joel Hanrahan) still in the bullpen.  Clint Hurdle does deserve some blame for adhering slavishly to The Book™, but it doesn't take away from the blown call.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

NFL Moratorium Over...Full Report

Earlier today, I wrote a quick-hit initial reaction to the ending of the NFL lockout.  For the most part, I was disgusted with the media coverage and the memes that just kept creeping to the surface in the reports and interviews with interested parties and the like.  If, just in case you don't remember why I instituted the moratorium in the first place, I recommend that you read my little tongue-in-cheek 'statement' from right after the Super Bowl.  With that said, let's get into this with a little more depth...

1) I sincerely regret not starting a specific BWS blog.  I had been encouraged to do so by some friends, but I made the decision early on that it wasn't going to be worth the headache and indigestion.  A lot of the BWS truly pisses me off - and it would have easily made me more unhinged than I need to be; over something that just isn't ultimately worth it.  However...it would have made for an interesting niche blog to chronicle all the crying in the media over the course of the lockout.  It would have only gone on for four months, but maybe that could have been parlayed into something more.  Who knows?  Ah, an opportunity lost...

2) As I said in the post below, I honestly thought the lockout would keep moving, and the debt negotiations between Congress and President Obama would conclude first.  There was a lot of interest in keeping the lockout on, especially for veteran players who were under contract and those who don't have a lot riding on training camp.  So long as there was a regular season, any player under contract was going to be paid his salary.  It was the free agents and the drafted players who wanted a quick resolution, because the longer it dragged out, the less money there would be for this season's salary cap and thus less money to be used on free agents and draftees.  

3) Nick reminds us that nothing can officially move forward until the NFLPA actually re-certifies as a union, since only a union can collectively bargain.  If they do not re-certify, all of this talk of a settlement will go up in flames, since part of the understanding is that the players re-form their union by August 4th.  There is a vocal minority who is against doing such a thing, preferring to take their chances with a large-scale antitrust lawsuit in the courts. My guess is that they will be told to shut up and go along with the agreement.  Media sycophants like Florio will pressure those holdouts as well, since as he has said so many times that even a bad deal is better than no deal at all, because God forbid there not be football.  And now you know why I get  aggravated with the BWS so much.

4) The salary cap for the 2011 season will be $120 million, which is less than what it would have been if the previous CBA had been extended.  In 2009, for example, it was $128 million; and although 2010 was uncapped, it would have had a $140-145 million level or so, and a 2011 cap would have been around $150 million (or more), so $120 million is a precipitous drop, and the results are already being seen - players are being cut to get the team's number under the cap.

5) Related to the salary cap is the asinine provision that requires each team to spend something like 99% of the cap amount on payroll.  If this is true, then why bother having a cap at all?  Just institute a floor and be done with it.  I am not a fan of the concept of a salary cap, but would rather the NFL move to a similar structure that MLB has - luxury tax thresholds and the like.  As it stands, though, since the NFL is so beholden to national television contracts and money, that will never happen.

6) The free agent period is going to be hectic, but I do wonder if it will be as hectic as some are making it out to be.  Considering the last couple of points, between the cap space and such, quite a few players may be on the outside looking in.  I wouldn't be completely shocked to see a handful of teams write this season off and come back looking to reload for the 2012 season. Also of importance is the fact that training camp rosters are going to be around 90-strong this season, so many teams will be on the lookout for cheap spots this season.

7) The eighteen-game season idea is dead for the time being.  It was never a good idea to begin with and considering that they get full prices for exhibition games (I hate the word 'pre-season') anyway, it just looked like a cover to make the fans think they were getting a little more for the exorbitant prices they were paying to begin with.  Sixteen games is so perfectly symmetrical and to screw with that was just a rank power play that was purely about revenue, or at least laundering their revenue further.  Only a union vote in 2013 can allow a potential expansion of the season to go further.

8) This new CBA is for ten years; I guarantee by 2013 there will be some massive complaining about the agreement by one side or another.  I say?  Too bad.  No one had the will to push this to the end where one side or the other completely broke.  The owners didn't really want to break the players and the players needed to feed their ridiculous lifestyles which, in some cases, required taking out loans from usurers.  Steve Czaban advocated that the NFL players take a stand similar to what the baseball players did in 1994 and effectively bring the owners to their knees.  That was never going to happen in any circumstance, although it would have been a very interesting story to follow.  And just imagine if Florio had to return to his law practice, or Peter King, John Clayton, and Chris Mortensen had to report on real news stories.  The horror!

9) I have to admit, I am a little disappointed that all of this was settled with a bit of a whimper. I made no secret of the fact that I wanted as long-drawn of a lockout as possible.  The NFL is like a drug to a lot of people and even though it was 'just' the offseason, that alone drove people to the precipice of the cliff, so just multiply that by at least a hundred had actual games been lost.  And then people wonder why the NFL costs so damn much - whether it is the price of the ticket, or DirecTV's Sunday Ticket television package, or the cost of parking and concessions.  The fans are responsible!  I could make a crude joke about bending over, but needless to say, if you keep handing your wallet over to a thief, don't act so shocked when it is returned to you completely empty.

10) With the moratorium officially over, I go back to what I would have normally done during an offseason - ignored the NFL, save for some timely free agent signings and trade talk.  The idea of the offseason is exactly as the word implies, but the NFL doesn't want it that way, so the suggestion I make is to rename it something that lets everyone know that the league is a twelve-month enterprise.  However, with the CBA mandating less OTA's (organized team activities) and padded practices, it got just a little more difficult to rationalize it.  What a pity.

NFL Moratorium Over...Initial Reaction...

I have been out of town for the past thirty-six hours to attend a family funeral and thus have been away from my computer once all the fun began yesterday concerning the potential ratification of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by the NFL Players - but I wanted to give a couple of quick thoughts now before I trot out the full thought process that I had concerning the lockout over the past four months.

1) I honestly thought that the debt-ceiling deal would be done in Congress before the CBA would be ratified by the players.  Of course, I also assumed that none of this would be done until August, but I guess that was a faint hope.

2) The media storm that has accompanied all this, beginning with the owners ratifying their own CBA (what a ballsy move THAT was!) on Thursday has been thoroughly disgusting.  Our esteemed sports media doesn't even care that they have to clean up their own drool off the NFL's crotch.  You'd swear that the second coming of Christ was imminent the way they all swooped down on this story.  

3) The only ones who truly won this were the owners.  The players didn't win, no matter what media and fan meme is currently in vogue, and the fans certainly didn't win.  The players had to crash and burn the system in order to win, and they didn't do so; there was no will to do so and instead they are pretty much stuck with the same system (or worse) than they began with. Don't be surprised to hear the bitching and moaning begin sooner rather than later.

That is all for now.  Later this evening I will give the full thought process and a few other random things concerning the upcoming season as well as the moratorium itself.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

MLB Trade Rumblings...

It's getting to the end of July, and that means the following things...

1) Hot as hell temperatures
2) MLB Trade Deadline approaches

As of this writing, the Phillies are 62-36 and have a four game lead in the National League East, along with a ten game cushion to make the postseason (Atlanta has a six game Wild Card lead). The odds of the Phillies making the postseason sit at 98.8%; it would take an utter collapse to miss the postseason altogether, which I am not too worried about at this point. What I am worried about is Ruben Amaro, Jr. pulling the trigger on a trade that could help this year, but will hurt the team down the road.

With a ten game cushion for the postseason, the Phillies don't have to make a deal.  They could stand pat and keep moving as they are.  Unfortunately, many fans don't see it that way and have fallen prone to what is called the Politician's Fallacy, which is as follows:

1) What have to do something (i.e. make a trade)
2) This (Hunter Pence/Carlos Beltran/Melky Cabrera) is something.
3) Therefore, we must do this (make that trade for x-y-z)

The names being bandied about are Domonic Brown, Vance Worley, and a series of high prospects in the farm system.  These are all potential future stalwarts with the team that would be given up for an aging two-month rental (Beltran), a slightly above average player with questionable splits (Pence), or a guy with a career OPS+ of 90 (Cabrera - and if you don't include 2011, it's 85).  The postseason is such a random draw of the card; it just doesn't make sense for a team who is already that far ahead of the field to trade away pieces that could help in 2012, 2013, or 2014.  These aren't the Pirates or Indians, who are in a fight for the postseason and that one player could be a difference maker.  

I urge my fellow Phillie fans to take a step back and look at what we have and remember that while yes, they are trying to win a championship this year, we don't really want them to further mortgage the future for temporary gain.  Last night's game (wearing the 1984 throwbacks) was in a way a reminder of what happened when the team sacrificed the future to win now.  Ryne Sandberg and Julio Franco were traded away for Ivan Dejesus and Von Hayes - they won the '83 Pennant, but then went through 20+ years of futility (save for 1993) until the current era.  

I don't want that again.  One time through that was enough.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Character Assassination...

You remember when the phrase 'politics of personal destruction' was in vogue?  Probably during the Clinton Administration, I'm sure.  Anyway, nothing can top the complete work of art demonstrated in Yes, Prime Minister with such gusto.  Take it away, Sir Humphrey...

Emissions Test...

Yesterday, I had to go for the biennial emissions test that the State of Maryland so graciously requires for my vehicle (or is that veeee-hicle, Sergeant Rizzo?).  They didn't put anything in my tailpipe or in my gas cap area; they just plugged in something under my steering wheel. How in the world is that going to tell whether my automobile is 'up to snuff' on its emissions?  

It just got me to thinking that the test is just another money grab in the state.  They aren't really interested in knowing whether or not my car emits...whatever into the air.  Obviously, they don't have a problem with diesel fueled trucks bringing various commodities and items into our fair state or just passing through it to deliver them to other locations.  If the state (and any other entity, for that matter) wants to get serious about 'cutting emissions', here are two things they need to eliminate...

Speed Bumps

It's actually pretty obvious - especially since all speed bumps humps Traffic Calming Devices necessitate the repeated slowing down and speeding up, driving down the efficiency of gasoline and causing more crap to come out of a car's tailpipe.  I guess for all the local officials, it really comes down to which is more important...Gaia - who doesn't have a vote; or local residents, who do have a vote and don't want hot-rods driving down residential streets at seventy miles per hour.  No-brainer for the mayors and council members of the various towns.  

Toll Booths

Let's see....hundreds of idling cars in one place at any given time.  I can only imagine the carbon monoxide risk the collectors have.  Yes, Josh, but jobs!  Indeed, they provide jobs, but high-speed EZ-Pass may be putting that in danger.  I wonder what the toll-collector union has to say about that?  I suppose the state will try get the best of both worlds = charge exorbitant amounts of money to use the roads and eliminate people stopping to pay.  

I do wonder if a state will get sued one day if they go to an all-electronic tolling system without an alternative route.  Bank on that happening sooner rather than later, especially over the fact that many people don't travel some of these roads enough to justify a transponder and would rather just pay cash. So long as we are still America, currency still has to be accepted.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Back Tomorrow...

I have been on vacation for the past few days down the Jersey Shore.  No, I didn't see Snooki or JWoww, but rather, a huge statue of Caesar and Donald Trump's name everywhere.  Anyway, we will be back on a regular schedule tomorrow here at Lattanzi Land.  

Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mini-Mart Homers??

I saw Michael Martinez hit his first career home run at Citi Field today, and I have proof of it (Click to Embiggen)...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Second Half Of The Baseball Season...

What a difference a year makes.

About a year ago, the Phillies were down by six games in the National League East to Atlanta and three games behind the Cincinnati Reds for the National League Wild Card.  Now, they are 3.5 games up on Atlanta (who is having a nice season unto themselves) and have an eight games cushion with the Wild Card spot (Atlanta holds the Wild Card lead over Arizona by five games).

Tonight will be their 92nd game of the season, and should they win, they will be 58-34, which would be their best start ever in the Charlie Manuel era and puts them in driver's seat for the rest of the season. 

The Phillies have been a great second half team in Charlie's tenure as manager...to wit:

2005: Started 47-45, finished 88-74 - 41-29 (.586)
2006: Started 42-50, finished 85-77 - 43-27 (.614)
2007: Started 46-46, finished 89-73 - 43-27 (.614)
2008: Started 49-43, finished 92-70 - 43-27 (.614)
2009: Started 53-39, finished 93-69 - 40-30 (.571)
2010: Started 48-44, finished 97-65 - 49-21 (.700)

That's 259-161 (.617) over the final seventy games for each of the past six seasons combined.  I realize that 92 is a somewhat arbitrary number, but with seventy to go, it provides a large enough sample to rule out any incredibly long streaks to skew the numbers one way or another. 

Put it another way - if the Phillies maintain their average pace for the rest of the season based on the trends of the Manuel era (43 wins in the final 70 games), they would finish with 100-101 wins, which would tie the franchise record set in 1976 and 1977.  If they can repeat last year's total, that would give them around 107 wins!  The 'average' over the remaining 70 games is actually remarkably similar to how they have done in the first 92 games.  If you want to know how to accumulate a one-hundred win season...that is how.

Of course, certain things have to fall into place.  The pitching needs to continue their stellar performance, especially with the top three (Halladay, Lee, and Hamels).  The bullpen and the remaining starters need to get healthy again.  Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino need to get healthy.  Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez need to maintain a good level of hitting.  Jimmy Rollins needs to continue setting the table.  Domonic Brown needs to continue improving, and the role players (Mayberry, Martinez, Francisco, Schneider, and Gload) need to play their role in spelling an ever aging team.  

Get ready for another fun summer in Philadelphia.  Standing to reason, this should make the team's fifth straight division title and potentially the favorites to reach the World Series.  But as always - one day at a time, and I like to remind myself that this is why they play the games. 

Fasten your seatbelts.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

100 Worst Baseball Players Of All Time

On this, one of the worst days of the sports year, Deadspin picked me up from the depths of my emptiness with this little countdown (Part II can be found here).  It's an unusual and humorous look at the hundred worst players in MLB's long and storied history.  I really enjoyed it because it isn't just using statistics to figure it out, it goes a little deeper than that.  As Eric Nusbaum, the author, explains:
[B]y worst 100 baseball players I don't just mean the objective worst, the statistical worst, the most physically discomforting to watch. I mean the players whose failure was enduring, endearing, perplexing,and spectacular. It's easy to identify bad players—sabermetrics has made a truly effective science of it—and it's easy to name cup-of-coffee guys who never had the ability, physical or mental, to stick in the major leagues. But a list like that might mean leaving out guys like Jose Lima, Ray Oyler, or the Rev. Aloysius Stanislaus Travers. In other words, while Rafael Belliard does appear below, nobody wants to read about 100 versions of him.
Some surprises are here - such as Michael Jordan at #6, Rabbit Maranville (a Hall of Famer, no less) at #46, John Rocker at #54, and Sidney Ponson at #80.  But I suppose with the criteria just listed, then total eff-ups in the game of life (like the latter three named) should be included.  Enjoy the explanations and the different categories, which in themselves are interesting to see.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Allowed To Keep"...

President Obama had a press conference yesterday and instead of railing constantly on 'corporate jet owners', he added to them by railing on 'best-selling authors', which apparently, includes himself*.  Aside from the tired worn class-warfare speak, there was something else that bothered me about what he said about all the 'extra money' that he 'didn't need' that he would be 'allowed to keep'.

'Allowed to keep'.

The last time I checked, it was not the business of government to determine how much money we are to make. Unfortunately, President Obama and his ideological chums seem to think that's the role of the state. Government's role is to collect taxes so that it can function, not be a overbearing nanny who tell us how much we can and can't have, financially speaking.  Of course, President Obama also came off as a stern mother warning Congress to 'eat [their] peas'.  

Not very presidential, I have to say.

*If he wants to pay more taxes, i.e., his 'fair share' (whatever THAT means), he can go here and make a donation to the U.S. Treasury.  Funny how I never see anyone who agitates for higher taxes mention this particular method of giving even more money to the United States Government. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Not A Done Deal...

Oh, you thought I was going to talk about the debt negotiations, or perhaps the NFL lockout?  No, I am referring to the dramatic victory for the US Women's National Soccer Team against Brazil yesterday.  Left for dead after allowing a goal early on in overtime, they got a goal in stoppage time to force a tie and then went on to win in penalty kicks.  It was chill-inducing and thrilling, to be sure.  Now for the but....

Call me a party-pooper, but please, PLEASE let's not overreact to this.  Great victory, sure.  But it absolutely means nothing unless they win the whole thing. Yes, I do remember the Brandi Chastain moment from twelve years ago, but that was in the championship game, not a quarterfinal match.  If they lose on Wednesday against...*shudder* France, then this will all be forgotten, unless people try to whitewash history and make it seem like a championship match.  Don't think it won't be done - most people assume the 'Miracle On Ice' victory against the Soviet Union at Lake Placid in 1980 was the Gold Medal game; it wasn't - it was one of the semi-finals.  That hockey team had to win one more game to get Gold.  This soccer teams needs to win two more games to be world champions.  Let's not forget that.  

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Congratulations To Derek Jeter

I am not a fan of Derek Jeter, but I will say this honestly and wholeheartedly: congratulations on getting your 3,000th career hit.  It is quite the accomplishment; only twenty-seven other men have ever gotten this far, and he is the first New York Yankee to ever accomplish this feat.  

3,000 hits is one of those milestones (300 wins for a pitcher being the other) that I believe is, more or less, a ticket puncher for the Baseball Hall of Fame.  There is no doubt that Jeter will go in as a first ballot member.  He has had a great career, and now he can put this as another notch on the belt.  

To have hit a home run as number three-thousand is also very cool; being only the second to have done so (Wade Boggs was the first).  It is very cool to have the game stop like that and allow for this sort of homage done to one of the greats.  The fan who caught the ball should be praised for returning the ball even though he probably could have fetched a quarter-million dollars for it (at least).  People who criticize him are missing the point and not looking at the big picture - this is a rare event and the player ought to have the memento of the occasion.  

So I say: well done, Derek Jeter.  While I'll never be a fanboy, I recognize greatness when I see it.  He can now take his place among the greats.  Enjoy it, and be reminded of the beauty and greatness of baseball through events like these.  They are few and far between, but when they do happen, stop and treasure them, for no other sport is able to deliver such indelible moments as these.  

None other, indeed.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

From The "That's Rich" Department...

Unsurprisingly, some liberal U.S. Senators are refusing to go along with any kind of cuts to Social Security and are angered that President Obama is entertaining this idea in the ongoing discussions regarding the budget and the debt ceiling.  Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in particular was vocal about this...
Sanders quoted Obama as saying during the 2008 campaign that he would not change the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security.

“You have a gentleman who ran for president who made a promise to the American people, and it is important he keep it,” Sanders said.
He made a lot of promises, but hasn't kept those either - especially things like closing Guantanamo Bay's detention facility, withdrawing from wars, and keeping unemployment below eight percent.  Why should this be any different, Senator Sanders?  Why are you singling out this particular promise?
The senators were joined on a press call by a coalition of liberal groups that said Obama would be punished at the polls if he touches the third rail of Social Security.

Sarah Lane of MoveOn.org warned that 76 percent of her members have said they would be less likely to donate to or volunteer for Obama if he cuts Social Security.
I have said a few times that if serious liberals are upset over the job that President Obama has done, then they need to run a primary challenger. However, I also know that I have a better chance of becoming a billionaire than that happening; the latter quote from the MoveOn lady is potentially a real threat though, especially since the one thing that can seriously damage Obama's re-election chances (aside from the economy) is people simply staying home on election day.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bad Arguments And Drugs

I enjoy reading Cracked.com, especially with its various lists of whatever.  One came out today was "5 Pro-Marijuana Arguments That Aren't Helping" (Mildly NSFW - lots of profanity).  The premise is pretty much built upon the notion that overzealous people tend to make irrational arguments and end up sounding either like a door-to-door missionary or a crooked salesman.

Now, I am not much in favor of decriminalizing and definitely not in favor of legalizing marijuana, but at least to the former, I am willing to entertain arguments in its favor. However, the author of the piece is dealing with the latter and he rightly points out some of the massive holes in the logic.  While sympathetic to the notion of legalization (at least in a non-interventionist way), he nevertheless reminds advocates that they do more harm than good by co-opting legitimate things such things as cancer patients, balanced budgets and health in the pursuit of their own selfish desire to get high as often as they can.

Worth the read, and it's good for a few laughs.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Homework is....


I always enjoy the little .gif, but seriously, in Los Angeles, they are going to require that homework count for no more than ten percent of a student's grade due to "varying degrees of access to academic support at home" and "to account for the myriad urban problems facing the district's mostly low-income, minority population" (LA Times).  

All I know is, that the less homework give, the less the students will do.  I believe that this lowers expectations and as the story points out, telling them that they can skip out on all homework and get a 90% is precisely the wrong way to go about it.
"Homework is not supposed to be used as a weapon," she [Judy Elliot, chief academic officer for LAUSD] says, "It's supposed to be used as practice."

This, of course, relies on the idealistic hope that kids want to go home and "practice" dorky vocab instead of farting around with their skate buddies outside the local 7-11. Given the opportunity to pull a B+ without doing any homework, we bet our high-school diplomas that they'll go ahead and do just that.
Precisely. They are kids! Telling them they have to do less of something is a recipe for getting just that!

Final thought - I find that lowering standards for various groups (whether ethnic or financial) is an exercise of horrendous paternalism that needs to be eliminated. How is anything learned if we just say "oh, you don't have to do that because you are part of group X", or worse, "we don't expect you to do that because you are part of group X". It is condescending as hell, but I wonder why people continue to accept it. I guess only God knows the answer.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Take A Deep Breath...

Many of you, no doubt, know by now that Casey Anthony was found not guilty on several charges of capital murder, manslaughter, and assault by a jury of seven women and five men in the Orlando area.  The outcry on Twitter and Facebook has been nothing short of an elongated overreaction to it.  People are proclaiming that Anthony was completely guilty and that justice has been miscarried, and the like.

First of all, before anything else - let us remember these words from Benjamin Franklin:
"It is better that one hundred guilty Persons should escape than that one innocent Person should suffer"
Whether Casey Anthony committed murder or not, one fact remains - a child, made in the image and likeness of God, is dead and that is the tragedy to all this.  Our legal system is as such that there is a presumption of innocence, and the prosecution has to prove guilt 'beyond a reasonable doubt'.  This is a good thing - think of what would be if we had an authoritarian court system, with a presumption of guilt instead.  

What has bugged me about the reaction I have seen is the absolute metaphysical certain with which people are declaring that Anthony is guilty.  No one knows that, other than the victim, the perpetrator, and God.  Yes, I realize that the verdict angers people, but such anger clouds reason and judgment in ways that are detrimental to one's own self.

Too many people are focusing on the wrong thing; that is, 'getting away with murder'.  Instead, focus on why it only took eleven hours of jury deliberation to come up with multiple not-guilty verdicts when there had been a seven week trial.  Something doesn't quite add up. Some have compared this to the O.J. Simpson trial of the mid-90's - if they are right, and Casey Anthony did in fact 'get away with it', then that falls on the shoulders of the prosecution, just as it did with the Simpson trial.  It could have very well been that the prosecution butchered the case.  Whichever way it happened, the case is not completely closed yet.

However, for now, let's take a deep breath and collect ourselves.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day...

(Below this post is a series of songs good on this particular day -- J.L.)

I hate it when people say 'Happy Fourth of July', because that is just a date - we might as well just say 'Happy (fill in the date)' every single day, and cheapen the meaning of this particular day.  That aside, I wanted to share a bit about what this day means.

I see a country out of that day which, for the first time, didn't make the rights of its citizens dependent on the part of men or a state, but on God above.  It was quite a radical shift - look at governmental structures previously: empires, absolute monarchs, democracies, feudal kingdoms, and the like.  Every single one of those previously made the rights of their citizens at the pleasure of the rulers, or in the case of a democracy, at the pleasure of 51% of their fellow citizens.

I see a country that allows unparalleled opportunity.  Much fun is made of the cliche 'you can grow up to be anything you want', but there is a certain truth to it - can you say that about many other countries?  Absolutely not.  Class is not part of our existence, and this is something that pains me when I hear politicians and commentators foment class warfare, because people can rise up.  People can control their own destiny; it's not controlled by some notion of 'station' that is so prevalent in other cultures.  I am glad for that.  Very glad.

I see a country that has been a force for good in its history.  No, I do not intend on whitewashing the negative aspects of American history, but on the whole the United States has been an exceptional place.  Sacrifices have been made for our own citizens as well as the citizens of so many other countries, and that is still going on even today, so that others may also be free.

Finally, I see a country that enables freedom.  We can speak freely without fear of reprisal.  We can practice the religion of our choice.  We can assemble, and again, we can control our own destiny.  There are those who desire to take those things away, for reasons known only to them, but the American spirit is much stronger than that, and the desire to keep control of our own destiny should be able to defeat any attempt to take away our freedom.  God bless America.

Happy Independence Day, everyone.

Getting Into the Spirit of Independence Day

Can't have a good Independence Day without some music....









Sunday, July 3, 2011

Irony Is A Cruel Mistress...

I am not sure why this made Yahoo! News, but I guess the irony of it all was too much to pass up.  To wit:
A motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws went over his handlebars, hit his head on the pavement and was killed, police said Sunday.

The motorcyclist, 55-year-old Philip A. Contos, likely would have survived the accident if he'd been wearing a helmet, state troopers said.
I advocate wearing helmets when riding motorcycles, but I do not advocate compulsory wearing of them by the state.  It's a bit of a paradox, I will admit - but I will also say that do not bitch and moan to me if something bad happens that could have been avoided if you had just worn a helmet.  The rider alone assumes the risk of not wearing it when he gets on that bike.  

Friday, July 1, 2011

Environmentalist Religious Thought

This has got to be one of the most moronic pieces I have ever read, entitled "Fire Up the Grill, Not the Atmosphere" by a guy named Brian Palmer, and it just screams to be fisked...
FOOD is responsible for 10 to 30 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. By many estimates, cooking represents more of a meal’s carbon footprint than transport. For certain vegetables, it accounts for more emissions than agriculture, transport and disposal combined.
Good, let's just stop eating. Or go back to the stone ages and eat everything raw, because we are just KILLING Mother Earth every time we turn on our stove, oven, or microwave.
Fourth of July, the national celebration of combustion, presents an opportunity for atonement.
Ah, the crux of the issue - atonement. We humans have been so guilty of raping the earth that we have to make up for our sins! Everything from here on out has to be viewed through this prism that is such a part of the hardcore environmentalist movement.
I’m not advising you to forsake grilling this holiday and join the ranks of raw-foodists. Nor do I believe that we can reverse climate change by eating burgers rare instead of well done. But a little creative thinking can reduce this year’s Fourth of July carbon emissions without gustatory sacrifice. And maybe that awareness will carry into other days and other parts of our lives.
Then why the hell did you complain above about how much people are spewing carbon into the air by cooking? I am convinced that many 'representatives' of such an extreme view of environmentalism are living examples of cognitive dissonance and even outright doublethink. The 'awareness' line is interesting. At least he didn't put 'raising' in front of it, lest he out himself completely as a White Person.
Consider potato salad: a pale mixture of boiled potatoes and mayonnaise that is sometimes appetizing but always wasteful. An overwhelming majority of the energy in boiling goes into heating the water rather than cooking the potatoes.
Consider that my mother, who probably agrees with Palmer on about eighty percent of the issues, would be offended by this paragraph alone (although probably the whole piece also). Her potato salad is the best in the world, and she isn't going to stop making it because a weirdo in the New York Times thinks she should due to alleged environmental massacres.
Direct-heat methods are more efficient and usually tastier. Cubed and pan-fried potatoes take just 10 minutes to cook and require less than one-third the energy of boiling. (According to my math, microwaving potatoes is about 40 percent more efficient than pan-frying them on an electric stove, but when I do it the potatoes come out rubbery, and that is too much sacrifice for a holiday.)
Thanks for killing your own argument. Those of us who will continue to grill and enjoy grilled food do not do so to eat pan-fried potatoes. There is a reason we grill. We can eat the pan-fried crap the other 364 days of the year. Just a quick question, though: who the hell would try to microwave potatoes to make potato salad?
If you insist on boiling, lower the heat once bubbles appear. Keeping the burner on high only speeds evaporation; it doesn’t make the water any hotter or shorten cooking time. And cut the pieces small, because cooking time decreases as surface area increases.
Thanks for the tips, Rachael. You have a future on the Food Network: Green Cooking With Brian Palmer, or whatever cute, artsfy fartsy name you can come up with.
Now for the burgers and dogs. First, a green disclaimer. Beef is an environmental disaster, no matter how you cook it. However, if you can’t resist grilled cow, your big decision is between charcoal and propane.
I love the smell of sanctimony in the morning! Brian Palmer is better than all of us who enjoy beef, and don't you ever forget that! Enjoying beef is for peons! I am not sure what he thinks is supposed to happen - cows living and continuously fart methane (a 'greenhouse' gas much more potent than carbon dioxide, by the way) without people eating them, or people doing what they are supposed to do: eat the animals. The sneering in this paragraph is something to behold and then immediately forget. Only Bright People™ like Brian Palmer avoid killing the Earth by not eating beef, and if we just can't control ourselves (as unBrights are wont to do), he will at least try to explain the finer points of how we should minimize our murderous rage on Mother Gaia.

Palmer goes on and on about charcoal and propane for a while and then he comes to this...
Charcoal briquettes, however, are a different story. The compressed round briquettes are made from scrap wood that would otherwise go to waste. The better manufacturers build their plants near construction centers and use recycled heat from those centers to power their briquette kilns. If you take that into account, charcoal briquettes are ahead of lump charcoal and propane as the best option in terms of climate change. (Any kind of charcoal, however, releases more particulate matter than propane, which makes charcoal a greater contributor to air pollution. There are few easy choices in environmental analysis.)
I want to know how many serious New York Times readers grill anyway? If they are anything like this guy, I seriously doubt it. Why do I feel like I am reading an attempt to sociologically analyze a foreign society? Us bumpkins in the sticks don't know nothin' about stuff like pollutin' the air, so thank God we have Brian Palmer to show us the way and just not be grillin' and eatin' any beef.
And finally we come to dessert. Skip the pie. Baking is so energy profligate that the government hasn't yet figured out a way to reward any residential ovens with the Energy Star label.
Oh no, it doesn't fit the government's Energy Star rating! Can't do it! Seriously, go away - you make even the nuts in the communes look sane. Look, if I want pie, I am going to make and eat pie. And also, is that the only objection you can come up with against people eating pie - that it doesn't satisfy some completely made up standard of efficiency? Energy Star reminds me of CAFE Standards - it's a psychological attempt to make people feel good about themselves without having any sort of real tangible benefit.
Here’s where you can really make use of your briquettes. One problem with charcoal is that you can’t turn it off when the burgers are done. In most backyards that means lots of heat — and carbon dioxide — goes to waste. Not in your yard, though.

Use that leftover charcoal glow to grill up dessert. Apples, pears, peaches and nectarines grill beautifully, and are even better à la mode. Or you can prepare a cobbler in a foil pan and grill it on the dying coals. From an environmental perspective, that’s free energy.
There is a problem here. See, there is no temperature control with 'dying charcoals' - and most people make desserts with specific directions. You have a pie on a grill with charcoal, and there is absolutely no sense of time with 'dying charcoal'. Did he think of this idiocy himself, or did he have help?
Maybe an Independence Day meal of pan-fried potatoes and grilled peaches seems un-American. But the tradition of backyard grilling isn’t exactly Jeffersonian in pedigree....Backyard grilling didn’t become popular until the interwar period at the earliest, and accelerated with the baby boom and suburbanization that followed World War II.
The idea behind it being a special day is that you eat food that is above and beyond. I don't do the grill on a normal basis, so this is something out of the ordinary. Like I said above, I can do pan-friend potatoes any other day. And who eats grilled peaches? Anyway, so what if backyard grilling didn't become popular until eighty or ninety years ago. Cars and television became popular then too. Should we ditch those as well?
In other words, there’s nothing so very sacred about the Fourth of July cookout. So this year, why not experiment?
Did anyone claim that it was sacred? Actually, the only thing that has taken on a religious significance here is the piety of the environmentalist movement. He actually sounds like a preacher on the corner - REPENT, THE END IS NEAR!! This piece is an exercise in projection. It is the author who is being overtly religious, and thus he seeks to cast that which he criticizes as having the same qualities.

As for the experimentation - whatever floats your boat. However...stop trying to put it in terms of a religious cleansing or penance. This is what that movement has become - not about conservation, but about punishing people and making them think about their 'sins' in the name of defending an inanimate object. I don't normally put this level of snark into a blogpost, but I get sick and tired of crap like this. It's time to push back.

Enjoy the grilling, and pass me a burger...or two.

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