November 8, 2007

The Past, Repeated

Posted in politics at 10:19 pm by berzerkeleyan

In the coming years, there will be many books written about our escapades in Iraq. But why wait? Go get yourself a copy of “The Perfect War” by James William Gibson. Although the book was originally published in 1986, and is about the Vietnam War, I suspect many of the events that happened then are being repeated right now — the vast corruption by the government installed by us there, the thriving black markets, civilian deaths, the clandestine interrogation programs, what demographics comprise of our fighting forces there, and our unbelievable arrogance that U.S. technological superiority would prevail quickly.

The book is dense; a real academic snoozefest. But it was a worthwhile read, if only to show how difficult it can sometimes be to not repeat a mistake.

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October 24, 2006

Myopic Vision

Posted in baseball, politics at 6:02 am by berzerkeleyan

Kenny Rogers’ Hand

Have you ever seen those polls they have periodically on espn.com? I love those things, mostly b/c it shows what a bunch of homers the majority of sports fans are. The latest one made me laugh outright. It asked if folks thought Kenny Rogers was cheating last night.

For those not in the know, Kenny Rogers pitched a fantastic game Sunday night for the Detroit Tigers to even the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals 1-1. However, his victory has been, uh, tainted a bit by the Fox cameras capturing what looked like a suspicious substance at the base of the thumb of his pitching hand during the first inning. Curiously, images from previous games in the playoffs also show the same smudge at the base of his thumb during the games he pitched. Now, Kenny Rogers has always been considered a good pitcher. But this month he has been nearly unhittable, leading some to now wonder if he’s been helping himself out by putting something on the ball that makes it do weird things as it approaches home plate.

The manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, the ponderous Tony La Russa, directed the umps attention to it. The umps approached Rogers after the first inning and discreetly asked him to wash his hands. If he was cheating before, it didn’t matter. With spotless hands, he still went out and pitched magnificently. I always like great pitching performances, so good for him.

Back to the poll. espn.com asked the following: Did Kenny Rogers cheat last night? The results were fascinating to me. The National results were as follows:

National Poll Results: 41% No; 59% Yes

Fair enough. However, if you break down the results by state:

Michigan Poll Results: 78% No; 22% Yes
Missouri Poll Results: 19% No; 81% Yes
New York Poll Results: 32% No; 68% Yes

(The NY results are important b/c Kenny Rogers schooled the Yankees during the Division Series. Unfortunately, I didn’t take note of the poll results from CA, where Oakland A’s fans, I’m sure, had similarly strong opinions.)

So clearly, folks tend to look rather subjectively at the stars on their sports teams. No way do their guys use steroids (Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols, Mark MacGwire, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Eric Gagne, Roger Clemens, …, this is getting depressing), or take cheap shots against other players (Karl Malone, the entire offensive line of the 1990s SF 49ers), or cheat on their wives (insert famous player here). But I’m sure the guys on your team do!

You could clearly also project this to other, more important issues. Like say, about some of the moves our current Administration has made over the years…?

I know I’m stating the obvious here. But I find it disappointing, nonetheless. Because if we can’t make clear, unbiased observations about something as trivial as a sporting event, how can we possibly make them for stuff that really matters?