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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

43 vs. 44

There has been an awful lot of talk about or 44th President recently.  Here's the thing though, that President hasn't been elected yet, and won't be until 2012 or 2016. Barack Obama is the 43rd President.  Technically, the Obama administration is the 44th administration, but there have been 43 different men to hold the office, not 44.  

Confused? Let's explore history a little bit...

In 1884 New York Governor Grover Cleavland was elected the twenty second President of the United States.  Mr. Cleavland, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War, did so with a broad coalition of bipartisan support on a platform of reform and change.  The second youngest man to hold the office was elected despite his detractors citing his lack of political experience.  Cleavland claimed the office was about judgment, and in his sweeping rhetoric pledged to do what was right and what was hard to defeat corruption, regardless of the political consequences.  Sound familiar?

In December 1887 President Cleavland called on Congress to reduce protective tariffs, due to a budget surplus. This despite advice that he would be giving Republicans an effective issue for the 1888 campaign, he famously replied, "What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?" But Cleveland was defeated in 1888; although he won a larger percentage of the popular vote, Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, received more electoral votes. 

The inherited surplus was used to grow the federal government, renewing rail, steamship and farm subsidies etc.  The Harrison budgets became the first to surpass a billion dollars during peace time.  Even with the surplus intact, Harrison opted to raise tariffs to a level higher than before Cleavland's cuts.  As a direct result, the cost of everything went up, strangled the economy and forced a deep depression. 

In 1892, Cleveland was back.  A series of retooled regulations and policies with a boot strap emphasis restored the economy.  Though they were largely unpopular.

The parallels of this time to our own are rather striking, but that's not why I tell this story.  Rather, my point is that due to President Harrison splitting the Cleavland terms,  Grover Cleavland is consistently cited as both our 22nd and 24th president, which means that only 43 different people have held the office.  Ergo, the 44th person to hold the office, will be the next administration.  

I have been told that this distinction is akin to the silly 2000 vs 2001 as the true millennium.  Maybe it is, but I don't think so, changing from 19 to 20 was the cool part, not the history of the date.  In this case we are being asked to miscount.  And with much smaller numbers.  I know I'm not the only member of the media with the ability to count to 43 accurately, so let's get it right.  Barack Hussein Obama, our forty third president. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Dr. Steven Levitt, of Freakanomics fame thinks it's time we allow people to buy and sell organs.  I think he may be onto something...

Joe Posnanski discusses the baseball Hall of Fame and it's members.  He notes that Bert Blyleven threw more shutouts in 1973 than Johan Santana has in his entire career.  It's worth noting that Blyleven threw 25 complete games that year (including 9 shutouts that year ) as part of 325 IP with a 158 ERA+ and finished 7th for the Cy Young (only one out of forty voters put him on their list).  It's easy to scratch our heads and wonder how the voters could be so remiss, and Patrick Sullivan argues that HOF voters ought to look beyond the awards.

John Hodgman has a new book out.  Everyone should read it.  Including you.

Linzette Alvarez reports that military recruiting is up.  If you're thinking of joining, talk to me before you talk to a recruiter

Is there life on Mars? KC Jones says maybe.

I've written that Governor Deval Patrick is a phenomenal politician and will be president if chooses to be.  He reminded me why at the state of the state on Thursday.

If this was in Europe, the international community would have had a solution yesterday.

Friday, January 9, 2009

No Room For Mistakes

The following was written by AskHodder contributer Andres Lorenzo Garcia

Police officers put their life on the line everyday. Underpaid, understaffed, overworked. They perform a duty most of us hardly ever think of. It's a hard job, full of stresses, I can only pretend to know, and dangers I can only imagine. Excellence demands that we hold our law enforcement officials to the HIGHEST standards. What happened on New Years Day, not but a week ago, in Oakland California was egregious if not unbelievable, and most certainly unacceptable

In our social contract we give the government, the state, the leviathan almost complete dominion over the use of force. We encharge upon it our defense from those who threaten us externally, and from those who covet our goods internally. We deny ourselves the satiating pleasure of inflicting murderous and righteous pain on those who have erred us. We do this out of a sense of justice, consistency, impartiality, and truth. We tell the gods that sit on high, in there marble temples, to adjudicate fairly, and we entrust upon them the will to use force to enact their countenance. 

We give up soooo much to the government, some argue, with much reason, too much. But we do so out of the hope, as blind as it is, that together we as a people will build a better place, than a place of chaos. Lawlessness is not an option. It is through this agreement that our property is not only protected but enhanced. We can trade goods, develop skills, establish meaningful lasting relationships, and THRIVE instead of just surviving. We give up our natural right to inflict pain on our neighbor in exchange for the GOOD LIFE. 

Such is a heavy burden that officers of the LAW and of THE PEACE, must bear with them. They're not mere referees of detached and random laws, but the sentinels of a contract, a belief. The understanding that together we can achieve SO much more than as individuals. We're not wandering in the woods fearful of bears and whatever else may hasten our extinction, but flying through space and splitting the atom. There's is the task of exemplary citizenship. Not just existing in our society, but actively working to maintain and improve it. 

It may be true, and often is, that we do not appreciate those who protect our liberty, adequately. There are soldiers who die without mention, and officers who deter crime without reward. But there's is not a glamorous life. There's is a life of duty, a life of service. They are one of the many pillars of our society, and must act accordingly. 

To murder in cold blood. To exert power without restraint. To act without reason. That is the behavior of animals, and animals we are not. 

Our grief must be tempered with purpose. Our rage must be quenched with justice. Our actions must speak louder than words. We believe in a thing called society. And to those entrusted in the protection of it, there are no room for mistakes. 

Monday, December 29, 2008

My 2008 Hall of Fame Ballot

In the interest of full disclosure and transparency, I am disclosing to you the readers my 2008 ballot for the baseball Hall of Fame. The BBWAA does not require this disclosure (in fact I think they discourage it) but screw that, I've got nothing to hide!

Just so we're clear on the rules:

1. There are 23 players on the ballot, each voter is allowed to vote for 10

2. Any player named on 75% of all ballots cast is elected to the HOF

3. Any player failing to reach a minimum of 5% of the vote is off the ballot forever

4. Everyone with more than 5% and less than 75%, better luck next year

5. If after 15 years on the ballot a player fails to reach the 75% threshold he is removed forever.

The Ballot

Rickey Henderson *
Jim Rice
Andre Dawson
Bert Blyleven
Lee Smith
Jack Morris
Tommy John
Tim Raines
Mark McGwire
Alan Trammell
Don Mattingly
Dave Parker
Mark Grace *
Dale Murphy
David Cone *
Harold Baines
Mo Vaughn *
Matt Williams *
Jesse Orosco *
Greg Vaughn *
Ron Gant *
Jay Bell *
Dan Plesac *

* indicates a players first year of eligibility

My votes
1. Rickey Henderson - anyone leaving him off of their ballot has no business voting. The greatest lead off hitter of all time and a member of the all century team is baseball's all time leader in runs and steals, and is second only to Barry Bonds in walks. If you really need more convincing read what Joe Posnanski wrote over at Joe's blog.

2. Bert Blyleven - easily the best pitcher eligible for the HOF but not in, and better than many that are. Guys like Rob Neyer and The Baseball Beat have been all over this for years.

3. Tommy John - His numbers are actually pretty good, and had he not been plagued by injuries he would have easily managed the magic counting stats that have kept him out.

4. Tim Raines - If he had not been relegated to Henderson's shadow he would have been a no brainier last year. I won't regurgitate the arguments, but if you have doubts you should read for yourself.

5. Mark McGwire - I wasn't a big fan of his while he was playing, I always thought he got too much credit because he was so one dimensional, and I never thought he was in the same league as his fellow Bash Brother, Sosa or Jr. and that's because he wasn't. But anyone not willing to vote for him because he embarrassed himself in front of Congress, or because he "cheated" needs to take both hands and get a hold of themselves. Lot's of "cheaters" are in the HOF, the BBWAA is not the moral police, so stop acting like it.

6. Alan Trammell - I go back and fourth on this one, but let's let the debate continue.

7. David Cone - Honestly, right now I'm not convinced that he belongs. However, he was a phenomenal pitcher who retired earlier than he could have and a class act who deserves the respect of not going vote-less, but also, I think maybe the right stat package hasn't been put together and new math may show him more hall worthy down the road.

8. Mo Vaughn - (see Williams)

9. Matt Williams - Neither of these guys have any kind of shot at induction, and really, they don't deserve it. I expect that they will both fail to hit 5% and fall off of the ballot, but they were two of my favorite players and I enjoyed watching them and want to be sure they at least get a couple votes.

10. My tenth spot will go unused, I'm only voting for nine guys.

Yes that's right, I am not voting for Jack Morris, and I am not voting for Jim Rice. Why? because they just weren't good enough. Get over it.

The two biggest points for Morris are that he won more games than anyone in the 80's and he was a big game pitcher. Winning the most games in a decade is trivial, arbitrary and down right meaningless. He had a post season ERA of 3.81, including a hefty 4.87 in LCS, not to mention the 6.57 and 8.44 he had in two rounds with Toronto. Everyone chooses to forget about those series and instead remember the one game he was brilliant. If he gives up a run, or comes out after 9, or even if his line remained the same except it took the Twins another inning or two to score and the bullpen got the win, he's not in this discussion. One game is not enough.

As for Rice, oh boy. We are supposed to ignore the fact that he was one of, if not the, worst fielder in the league. We are supposed to ignore the fact that he is one of the most horrific base runners the game has ever seen. His poor eyesight cut his career short and sped up his decline, so we have to overlook his counting stats not measuring up. We are supposed to believe that he was the most prolific hitter of double play balls, relative to his number of at-bats because of his greatness, because the runners were afraid to steal and cost him an rbi (I've never understood that point). We are also supposed to overlook the fact that he almost never walked and was a bellow average hitter on the road because "those aren't standards that were used at the time". Oh, and only look at his good years, he played 16 seasons (including his 1974 cup of coffee) and was downright awful in 5 of them, so forget those 5 stinkers.

Here's the thing, even if you do all that, he's still not good enough. If you look at stats like ops, which is just about the best of the widely accepted measures of a hitter, Fred Lynn, Dwight Evans and Yaz were all about even with him. What does that mean? It means that without even bringing defense into the equation (and they were all defensive phenoms) Rice was about the fourth best hitting outfielder on his team. Not in baseball, not in the AL or even the AL East, there were three better outfielders, on his team.

Yes OPS was not a common stat when Rice played, and yes that does matter, just not how you might think. What it stands to prove is that Lynn and Evans were a lot better than people think, much better than Rice. If the pitchers were so afraid of Jim Rice, they shouldn't have been, it was the other guys in that lineup they should have been worried about.

That's my ballot. I think Henderson sails and Rice eeks it out and we start all over again next year. That's all on baseball for now

Monday, November 3, 2008

Georgia on my Mind

Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia is locked in a tight battle with former state rep Jim Martin, for reelection. Georgians have been voting since last week, new voter turnout is sky-high, and there is an increase of 30% in African American turnout from four years ago. While doing some last minute campaigning and likely feeling nervous about this trend, Mr. Chambliss attended a rally along side Governor Palin where the crowd was chanting “Vote McCain, not Hussein!”, he encouraged his supporters to get to the polls because, wait for it, “the other folks are voting.”

It is said that a true display of intelligence is being able to separate the argument from the arguer, being able to see that reasonable people can disagree and still be friends. I agree with that, I try to subscribe to it and as the possessor of many minority opinions I greatly appreciate when others do the same. That said, the comments of Mr. Chambliss over the weekend were reflective beyond his opinions and would seem to give insight into his judgment and character, making it difficult, and frankly improper, to separate man from the disposition.

Let me put it another way and address the Senator directly: Senator Chambliss, you sir are a douche bag. I hope the people of Georgia repudiate you for using the politics race and fear and Jim Martin whoops your bitter bigoted ass.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

You asked for it, you got it

The askhodder community has been asking for my election night predictions, well here you go:

Obama 401
McCain 137

Based on polling I've seen coupled with my own intellectual masturbation I say that Senator Obama takes all of the Kerry states plus: Ohio, West Virginia, Virgina, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina, North Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado, you can see the map I made on paint here.

Most polls have Senator McCain winning Montana, North Dakota, Georgia and West Virgina, but like I said, this is me guessing, but I think they will surprise some people next week.

If you notice on my map I left Kentucky and Mississippi in grey (but put their votes in the McCain column) these are my super sleepers, the polling has them trending McCain, which they probably will, but don't be surprised if they run blue, or if they aren't decided until after next Tuesday night. In other words, I'm calling them this years Ohio and Florida, and while they won't matter in the presidential race, the air tight senate races could spice things up....

ps, look for Alaska to be closer than expected