Friday, February 27, 2004

This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse

I just found out that this show is one of the "classics" that they show on Nick at Nite.

Even worse, I think watched just about every episode when the show was in first-run. Please, don't think too bad of me.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The Sierra Club seems to be dealing with bizarro in-fighting over whether immigration is bad for the environment and whether animal rights is important in the environmental movement.

As a child of immigrants and a devoted eater of steak, I'm going to say no on both counts.

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Monday, February 23, 2004

if you are at all interested in the Catholic Church, you should read at least some of this article about Vatican II.
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Saturday, February 21, 2004

Those who can't, teach, as the saying goes. So here are the hitting and pitching coaches of Major League Baseball as teams go to spring training. There are a few interesting names: Rich Schu was the highly-vaunted prospect who actually moved Mike Schmidt to 1b for a season; Dave Duncan is the pitching coach who wasn't a pitcher; Gerald Perry once stole 42 bases as a first baseman; Dave Madagan is one of those wierd guys with an on-base percentage higher than his slugging percentage; Mitchell Page had an excellent rookie season before fading away; Bud Black, Metl Stottlemyre, and Orel Hershiser have all led the league in losses; Gary Matthews, Chris Chambliss, Eddie Murray, and Dave Righetti are all rookies of the year; Don Mattingly and Terry Pendleton are the only hitting coaches with batting titles or MVP awards.

So, here they are:

Anaheim Angels--Mickey Hatcher (.280/.313/.377, 89 OPS+ in 1130 G, 3377 AB, and 12 seasons as a OF/1B/3B), Bud Black(121-166, 3.84 ERA, 104 ERA+ in 398 G, 2053 1/3 IP, and 15 seasons, 1984 AL leader in WHIP, 1991 NL leader in losses, 1992 NL leader in HR allowed)

Arizona Diamondbacks--Rick Schu(.246/.310/.384, 92 OPS+ in 580 G, 1568 AB, and 9 seasons as a 3B), Chuck Kniffin

Atlanta Braves--Terry Pendleton(.270/.316/.391, 91 OPS+ in 1893 G, 7032 AB, and 15 seasons as a 3B, 1991 NL MVP, 1991 batting champion, 1991-92 NL leader in hits, 1987/1989/1992 Gold Glove at 3B), Leo Mazzone

Baltimore Orioles--Terry Crowley(.250/.345/.375, 104 OPS+ in 865 G, 1518 AB, and 15 seasons as an OF/1B), Mark Wiley (2-3, 6.06 ERA, 62 ERA+ in 21 G, 49 IP, and 2 seasons)

Boston Red Sox--Ron Jackson(.259/.314/.385, 94 OPS+ in 926 G, 2986 AB, and 10 seasons as a 1B/3B),Dave Wallace(0-1, 7.84 ERA, 49 ERA+ in 13 G and 20.7 IP in 3 seasons)

Chicago Cubs--Gary Matthews(.281/.364/.439, 118 OPS+, 234 HR, 183 SB in 2033 G, 7147 AB, and 16 seasons, 1973 NL Rookie of the Year, 1984 NL leader in OBP and BB), Larry Rothschild(0-0, 5.40 ERA, 72 ERA+ in 7 G and 8.3 IP in 2 seasons)

Chicago White Sox--Greg Walker(.260/.326/.449, 108 OPS+ in 855 G, 2864 AB, and 9 seasons), Don Cooper(1-6, 5.27 ERA, 7 6ERA+ in 44 G and 85 1/3 IP in 4 seasons)

Cincinnati Reds--Chris Chambliss (.279.334/.415, 190 OPS+, 185 HR in 2175 G, 7571 AB, and 17 seasons, 1971 AL Rookie of the Year, 1978 AL Gold Glove at 1B), Don Gullett (109-50, 3.11 ERA, 113 ERA+ in 266 G, 1390 IP, and 9 seasons)

Cleveland Indians--Eddie Murray (.287/.359/.476, 129 OPS+, 3255 hits, 504 HR, 1917 RBI in 3026 G, 11336 AB, and 21 seasons, 1977 Rookie of the Year, 1984 AL leader in OBP and BB, 1981 leader in HR and RBI, 1982-84 Gold Glove at 1B), Mike Brown (12-20, 5.75 ERA in 253 2/3 IP in 61 G and 253 2/3 IP in 6 seasons)

Colorado Rockies--Duane Espy, Bob Apodaca (16-25, 2.84 ERA, 124 ERA+ in 184 G and 361 1/3 IP in 5 seasons

Detroit Tigers--Bruce Fields(.274/.300/.318, 86 OPS+ in 58 games, 113 AB, and 3 seasons as an OF), Bob Cluck

Florida Marlins--Bill Robinson (.258/.300/.438, 104 OPS+ in 1472 G, 4364 AB, and 16 seasons as an OF). Wayne Rosenthal(1-4, 5.25 ERA, 77 ERA+ in 42 G and 75 IP in 2 seasons)

Houston Astros--Harry Spilman(.237/.306/.348, OPS+84 in 563 G, 810 AB, and 12 seasons as 1B) , Burt Hooten(151-136, 3.38 ERA, 108 ERA+ in 480 G and 2652 IP in 15 seasons, 1981 NLCS MVP)

Kansas City Royals--Jeff Pentland, John Cumberland (15-16, 3.82 ERA, 90 ERA+ in 334 1/3 IP in 110 G and 334 1/3 IP in 6 seasons)

Los Angeles Dodgers--Tim Wallach (.257/.316/.416, 102 OPS+ , 260 HR in 2122 G, 8099 AB, and 17 seasons as 3B, 1985/1988/1990 NL Gold Glove at 3B, 1987/1989 NL leader in 2B), Jim ColbornM (83-88, 3.80 ERA, 98 ERA+ in 301 G and 1597 1/3 IP in 10 seasons, 1977 AL leader in hit batsmen)

Milwaukee Brewers--Butch Wynegar(.255/.348/.347, 93 OPS+ in 1301 G, 4330 AB, and 13 seasons as a C), Mike Maddux (39-37, 4.05 ERA, 101 ERA+ in 472 G, 861 2/3 IP, and 15 seasons)

Minnesota Twins--Scott Ullger (.190/.247/.241, 33 OPS+ in 35 G, 79 AB, and 1 season as a 1B), Rick Anderson (4-4, 385 ERA, 81 ERA+ in 28 games in 3 seasons)

Montreal Expos--Tom McCraw (.249/.309/.362, 94 ERA+ in
1468 G 3956 AB, and 13 seasons as a 1B/OF), Randy St. Claire(12-6, 3.80 ERA, 92 ERA+ in 162 G, 252 IP and 9 seasons)

New York Mets--Denny Walling(.271/.339/.390, 107 OPS+ in 1271 G, 2945 AB, and 16 seasons as a 3B/OF/1B), none

New York Yankees--Don Mattingly (.307/.358/.471, 127 OPS+ in 14 seasons as 1B, 1985 AL MVP, 1984 AL leader in batting average, 1986 Al leader in slugging percentage, 1984 and 1986 AL leader in hits, 1985 AL leader in RBI, 1984-1986 AL leader in 2B, 1985-1989, 1991-1994 AL Gold Glove at 1B), Mel Stottlemyre Sr.(164-139, 2.97 ERA, 112 ERA+ in 350 G and 2661 1/3 IP in 11 seasons, 1966/1972 AL leader in losses, 19665/1969 AL leader in CG, 1968 AL leader in hits allowed)

Oakland Athletics--Dave Hudgens (.143/.143/.143 in 6 G, 7 AB, and 1 season as a 1B), Curt Young (69-53, 431 ERA, 90 ERA+ in 251 G and 1107 IP in 11 seasons)

Philadelphia Phillies--Greg Gross (.287, 372, 351, 103 OPS+ in 1809 G, 3745 AB, and 17 seasons as an OF), Vern Ruhle (67-88, 3.73 ERA, 98 ERA+ in 327 G and 1411 1/3 IP in 13 seasons)

Pittsburgh Pirates--Gerald Perry (.265/.333/.376 95 OPS+ in 1193 G, 3144 AB, and 13 seasons as a 1B), Spin Williams

San Diego Padres--Dave Magadan (.288/.390/.377, 112 OPS+ in 1582 G, 4159 AB, and 16 seasons as a 3B/1B), Greg Booker (5-7, 389 ERA, 94 ERA+ in 161 G, 264 IP, and 8 seasons)

San Francisco Giants--Joe Lefebvre (.258/.344/.414, 114 OPS+ in 447 G, 1091 AB, and 6 seasons as an OF), Dave Righetti (82-79, 252 saves, 346 ERA, 114 ERA+ in 718 G and 1403 2/3 IP in 15 seasons, 1981 AL Rookie of the Year, 1982 AL leader in BB allowed and K/9IP, 1986 AL leader in saves)

Seattle Mariners--Paul Molitor (.306/.369/.448, 122 OPS+, 3319 hits, 605 2B, 234 HR, 1782 runs, 504 SB in 2683 G, 10835 AB, and 21 seasons seasons as a DH/3B/2B/1B, 1993 World Series MVP, 1991/1993/1996 AL leader in hits, 1982/1987/1991 AL leader in runs, 1987 AL leader in 2B, 1991 AL leader in 3B), Bryan Pryce

St. Louis Cardinals--Mitchell Page (.266/.346/.429, 117 OPS+ in 673 G, 2104 AB, and 8 seasons as a DH/OF) , Dave Duncan (.214/.279/.357, 85 OPS+ in 929 G, 2885 AB, and 11 seasons a a C)

Tampa Bay Devil Rays--Lee Elia (.202/.262/.288, 63 OPS+ in 95 G, 212 AB, and 2 seasons as a SS), Chuck Hernandez

Texas Rangers--Rudy Jaramillo, Orel Hershiser (204-150, 3.48 ERA, 112 ERA+ in 510 G and 3130 1/3 IP in 18 seasons, 1998 NL Cy Young Award, 1988 NLCS and World Series MVP, 1995 ALCS MVP, 1998 AL leader in wins, 1989/1992 NL leader in losses)
Toronto Blue Jays--Mike Barnett, Gil Patterson (1-2, 5.40 ERA, 73 ERA+ in 10 G, 33 1.3 IP, and 1 season)
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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

This news has had me bummed out for the last couple of days.
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Sunday, February 15, 2004

This might have some of the seeds for a useful Wikipedia article. (It wouldn't be the first one I've written.)

Who is Winton Malcolm "Red" Blount, Jr.?

Winton Malcolm Blount II (1921-2002) was a businessman who served the United States government during several administrations.

During World War II, Blount served as a B-29 pilot, but the war ended before he saw any action. Post-bellum, Blout founded the construction company Blount International with his brother, Houston, that eventually built Launch Pad 39A at Cape Canaveral and the Louisiana Superdome. Blout's government posts include President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce under LBJ and under Richard Nixon was postmaster general, serving through the demotion of the post from Cabinet level and the creation of the U.S. Postal service as a government corporation.

In 1972 Blount ran for Senator, losing by a margin of 62.3% to 33.1% in Alabama against the incumbent, John Sparkman. In the era of George Wallace, Sparkman was a New Deal Democrat and Blount's big money campaign failed to tar him with attempted links to George McGovern. Sparkman had previously been a sop to Southern Democrats when he was named number two to Adlai Stevenson's failed 1952 presidential bid. His previous election, in 1966, had seen him win with 60.1% of the vote. Upon his retirement in 1978, the seat went to former State Supreme Court chief justice Howell Heflin.

It is that Senate race which has become news in recent months, and from where the name Winton "Red" Blount may sound familiar, as it is that campaign which a young George W. Bush worked on during his alleged shirking of National Guard duties.

Blount's son, the third of that name, also made a foray into politics, when he forced a bitter Alabama Republican gubernatorial primary run-off filled with race-baiting but lost 48%-41% to religiousconservative and incumbent "Fob" James (who ended up losing to Lieutenant Governor Don Siegelman), while Blount IV has started up a construction firm in post-Saddam Iraq.

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Friday, February 13, 2004

My old high school is in the news.
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Thursday, February 12, 2004

I've read most of Robert Heinlein, but I found one early novel I hadn't read before, Beyond This Horizon

And, well, I still haven't read it, at last not all the way to the end. I used to like Heinlein when I was a kid. Now I find him pretty blah. Mostly, I dislike his politics. In reading this book, I realize why I liked him; his characters share a certain trait with me: this tendency to go off-topic on mini-rants about society. On the other hand, Heinlein always wrote horrible female characters. His fascination with incest rivals Piers Anthony's fascination with "buxom" young women. And Heinlein is annoyingly obsessed with eugenics, as his heroes and heroines are always the product of a genetic convergence of traits, whether by natural or artificial means.

But his short stories are still fun.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2004

I just read Our Culture of Pandering by the late, great, bow-tied and bespectacled former Senator from Illinois, Paul Simon, who endorsed Howard Dean by phone the week before he died following heart surgery. It's a thin political book written at a relatively simple level; it's not some high-minded theoretical discussion but a very quick read. Smion's main point is that leaders no longer lead but, instead, pander to a) the masses and b) the people with money.

Simon notes that most of the great progressive strides were done against the tide of public opinion and goes on to list many steps he participated in, while noting how most leaders pander in "politics," "the media," "religion," and "education."

Simon cites foreign policy as the one place where political leaders definitely need to lead rather than pander. Another is Social Security, where Simon claims that both Republicans and Democrats have pandered by taking increased taxes and reduced benefits off the table.

The media is also a segment of leadership that panders in search of market share and money, focusing on titillating and rumor-mongering "trivia." Increasing already-high profit margins becomes more important than substantive reporting. An Editorial page which should be a bully pulpit become a center for the avoidance of controversy. In campaign coverage, media organizations that have coincidentally ivested heavily in creating polls rely on easily-gathered poll numbers and sound bites. Violence, especially war, is depicted too often in a glorious rather than realistic manner. This unwise wielding of influence hurts the nation and ultimately hearts the media business by removing any soul in abandoning the notion of public service.

Simon also has thoughts on religion, which he finds a potential source of both good and evil, citing wars of religion and anti-slavery activists. Here, the fault is with religious communities that find it easier to raise money for a new house of worship than for a social cause. As Simon puts it, the question is whether religions are "social clubs" or "agents of change." Many pastors, he notes, are unwilling to cause discomfort in those who regularly attend services. Simon identifies as a major problem the inability to work together across different faiths. Some ignorant leaders use incendiary language. Others promote interfaith dialogue, but practice it in a way that is "pleasant but superficial." Politicians who make use of religion tend to exploit it rather than use it as a unifying force. For example, see George W. Bush's use of the word "crusade" after Sepetmber 11. Simon punctuates this need for leadership by citing the Founding Fathers as an exceedingly tolerant group on the issue of religion.

Finally, Simon singles out the field of education as an area of pandering. For Simon, the fundamental weakness of American education is the relative shortness of the school calendar, compared to other nations, though he cautions that more school days need to work in conjunction with a strong home and high-quality teachers. The failure in instituting what is such an obviously easy improvement (according to Simon's statistics) stems from a lack of will in confronting parents, teachers, and taxpayers who might object. Prekindergarten education, adult literacy, and foreign language instruction are other areas that Simon finds a need for more active education.

Interwoven are mini-profiles in courage. Arthur Vandenberg led a Republican-controlled Congress to join with a Democratic president in supporting an unpopular Marshall Plan. Senator Henry Bellmon, a Republican from Oklahoma, voted for the Panama Canal Treaty and paid the price; he was called a traitor despite his World War II service and announced he would not seek re-election. Brian Lamb at C-SPAN, Jim Lehrer and Charlie Rose on PBS, Sixty Minutes are among the oases on a vast TV news wasteland. Carol Marin quit a Chicago TV station which was going to include a commentary by Jerry Springer in its newscasts. Bread for the World tackles world hunger from a Christian perspective. A minority of schools across the country have shifted to a year-round calendar. Over various opposition, the G.I. Bill was passed to include educational benefits rather than a cash bonus.

These are contrasted with profiles in dis-courage. The Superme Court caving to FDR and the public in the Korematsu case. Congressmen voting for harsh prison sentencing because they fear being labeled "soft on crime." The media frenzy over the Monica Lewinsky scandal. The media creating the inaccurate Voter News Service on the cheap. A newspaper making an endorsement because the editor wanted a good working relationship with the likely winner. Hitler rising to power because Lutheran and Catholic leaders chose to "stay out of politics." In higher education, the "publish or perish" phenomenon leads to an explosion of academic jargon.

How should leaders lead? Simon has several ideas. He admits that politicians are not wholly independent of public opinion or of campaign contributions. At the same time, he notes that those sources are not necessarily the most informed. Simon says that he generally went with the public on matters of "limited importance," while relying on the knowledge of fellow legislators in more obscure, technical matters. But on meaningful matters, the public is too ill-informed to be the source of decision-making. Simon also wants increased public financing of campaigns. In his own life, he claims not to be directly influenced by contributors, but admits that those people have easier access to him and every other legislator. In the media, we should promote increased access to a variety of news and opinions. This includes the media itself concentrating a quality product and the government resisting the trend toward conglomeration which ultimately leads to a few panderers dominating the industry. Religious leaders need to challenge the members of their congregations to live better lives. Religion needs to be part of public life, but not in a self-righteous manner. Education funding needs to be viewed as a long-term investment that will pay dividends.

In the end, Simon's goal is not for the public to no longer clamor to be pandered to but for leaders in all walks of life to show some self-restraint. For the Senator, all problems have the same basic solution: "Leadership with courage."

Simon's book falls in with the elite theory of leadership. Leaders lead. A society without leaders who lead is a flawed society. Simon accepts that the masses are not sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to handle direct democracy, but he refuses to disrespect the public and he refuses to give in to misanthropy fueled by the stupidity of man. This, I think is a key point in modern liberalism; with good leadership, society can be pushed in the right direction. This is as opposed to communism, which in theory favors the masses over the elites, opposed to conservatism which seeks to control the masses to prevent harm, opposed to libertarianism which throws its hands up in the air at everyone else and seeks to carve out an inviolate kingdom of the individual.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Best contest ever.
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The International Herald Tribune includes a piece by the perhaps titilatingly named Guy Coq in defense of French secularism and the ban on Muslim headscarves and other religious symbols.

Coq's main thrust is that "laicity," as he puts it, is a necessary sanitary defense against fundamentalist religion. He cites the danger of Islam, then points to France's history with the Catholic Church. In between, he takes a shot at America, criticizing the individualism that he blames for the need for the possible ban on religious symbols.

It is amusing that Coq finds fundamentalism to be a danger because of individualism. He feels that it threatens the commonality that he finds necessary to hold together the republic.

Social commentators since time immemorial have been anticipating the withering away of religion, even though sociologists since Durkheim have continually pointed out that religion is unlikely to ever go away. Coq falls into this tradition of hoping that religion will become irrelevant, ascribing religious expression to superstitious irrationality that remains ignorant of obviously universal ethical values.

I remain opposed to this idealistic belief that one can easily create the perfect state. I oppose the woefully wrong Bushie belief that such a creation is possible in Iraq and I oppose anyone who thinks that a hyper-rational secular humanist republic is possible.

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With Mel Gibson and his movie in the news, here's a story on some traditionalist Catholics. For those who don't know, they oppose the reforms of Vatican II, especially the abandonment of the Latin Mass and the movement towards ecumenism.

For what it's worth, I have always opposed supporters of ex-Archbishop Lefebvre and the Fraternity of St. Pius X.
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