Why losing VMart hurts

Tony Massaroti nails it:

Over the last eight years, the New York Yankees have had 19 selections before the third round – an average of roughly one draft pick per year fewer than the Red Sox. During that same time, the Yankees have signed Mark Teixeira and C.C. Sabathia, among others, while their farm system has produced Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes. The San Francisco Giants, who won the World Series this year, have had 20 draft picks. Ditto for the Los Angeles Angels, a perennial playoff team that won the 2002 World Series and slipped this past year only after losing John Lackey, Chone Figgins, and Vladimir Guerrero to free agency. (Try replacing all of those guys with draft picks.) The Tampa Bay Rays have had only 19 selections before the third round in the last eight years and their farm system is as productive as anyone’s. The Philadelphia Phillies have had 16 picks in the first, second and sandwich rounds.

Given that the Red Sox have almost routinely spent roughly $140-$170 million during the Epstein Era, here are the questions worth discussing:

Do they really need all those draft picks?

Are the draft picks really what produce the championships?

“We test, make judgments and write about things we understand.”

Rush Limbaugh attacks and questions the credibility of Motor Trend for giving the Chevy Volt its Car of the Year award. Todd Lassa, in what looks like a classic takedown, answers El Rushbo decisively:

[O]ur credibility, Mr. Limbaugh, comes from actually driving and testing the car, and understanding its advanced technology. It comes from driving and testing virtually every new car sold, and from doing this once a year with all the all-new or significantly improved models all at the same time. We test, make judgments and write about things we understand.

Lassa goes on to wonder why Big R never questions the Volt’s competitor, the Nissan Leaf:

The Obama tax credit extends to the new Nissan Leaf, too, but if you or Will slammed that car, I’ve not heard or read it. I’d be surprised if you did, though, as Nissan is building the Leaf in a non-union factory in a right-to-work state represented by two Republican senators. A factory located there because Tennessee offered Nissan big tax credits. Maybe you’re worried that if the $7,500 tax credit works, too many people will buy the Volt, and that could reduce the need for oil drilling tax credits?

Reading this gave me palpitations of joy.  Not just because Rush Limbaugh was savagely attacked, but because something which is missing from a lot of blogs come out in full force: expertise.  Motor Trend not only knows its cars but also how the law and business of cars.  It becomes a hoot when someone like Limbaugh who one could imagine enjoys driving his V-12, pedal-to-the-metal, a fellow who would seem to eat, sleep, and shit cars, really doesn’t know jack about them.

Rushie Boy doesn’t know cars, the law, or the business behind them.  All he knows is talking points for Southern Republicans, one of which is that Global warming is a hoax and anything we do to try to slow down its effects are poison.  Rush knows how to thrash and point his nasty words at people.  But anyone who thinks he has any solution to any problem should heed the advice Lassa gives to El Rushbo in his closing sentence:

Just remember: driving and Oxycontin don’t mix.

It’s not about the radiation, it’s about the mission’s utter futility

Jim Fallows lays out the case against full-body scanning:

But anyone who’s ever thought about terrorist movements realizes that the real damage is indirect — it’s the fear they induce, the (over) reaction they provoke, the costs they impose as a society tries to guard against repetition. That’s what Osama bin Laden noted in a tape after 9/11 — that on the cheap, his attackers had not simply killed 3,000 people but induced a response that will cost the U.S. trillions of dollars over a decade or more (if the costs of war in Iraq are included, as they should be).

Extend the Public Records Law!

As a reminder, here is a summary of the Ware report, which detailed legal violations within the Probation Dept.

In the wake of the Ware report and the disgusting patronage in which our State Legislature and Judiciary have partaken, Scott Lehigh has a marvelous idea

So what could be done to tame the political world’s ever-present patronage instinct?

The first step is obvious. Both the Legislature and the judiciary are currently exempt from the state’s Public Records Law, a highly effective tool for watchdogs trying to sniff out dubious hirings. It was that law that let the Globe reveal the gap between rhetoric and reality when it came to the Patrick administration’s attempt to install state Senator Marian Walsh in a highly paid sinecure.

But the exemptions for the judiciary and the Legislature make it difficult even for determined reporters to ferret out the truth about employment decisions involving those branches. Although the Legislature has long waged a covert campaign to make the Probation Department its own patronage fiefdom, the Ware report detailing the abuse came only after the Supreme Judicial Court appointed an independent counsel, armed with subpoena power, to pierce through the murk. The SJC’s action, in turn, followed a painstaking and time-consuming Globe Spotlight Team report that revealed a dysfunctional department chockablock with patronage hires. Extending the Public Records Law would make it much easier for reporters and citizens to probe problematic hiring decisions.

Lehigh suggests putting this to a ballot question for next year.  I agree.  If it is to be a ballot question, then we should do it in an election off-year.  My theory of why Massachusetts remains a one-party dictatorship is because nobody cares about the State Legislature elections.  They happen every two years and are overshadowed either by Governor’s races or the Presidential election.

In an off-year, however, nothing doing.  Voters are likely not paying much attention to anything.  Perhaps only the most committed voter is paying attention to municipal issues.  But if there is enough of a push, beginning with the sheer disgust as to how our Commonwealth uses a system of patronage as feedback to keep entrenched incumbents in power.

As an illustration, check out the Globe’s exposure of Rep. Thomas Petrolati [D-Ludlow] and his system of patronage within the Probation Dept.  In fact, the Globe found 732 donations totalling more than $100,000 to Petrolati from employees of the courts, probation and the sheriff’s department since 2002.  This, until yesterday, was the third-highest ranking lawmaker in the State House.  As this report notes, many donations came shortly before or after an employee was hired or promoted.

The Public Records Law needs extension because, as Lehigh points out, it is very difficult for news organizations to get details like this when, for instance, it comes to light that, say, the Probation Dept. hired a woman as a Probation Officer who leaked information to her drug-dealer friends.  [To make the story even sweeter, this stepdaughter of a judge got a raise after the fact.]

In any case, I will be looking into what it takes to get such a ballot question out to voters next year.  Again, I think it must be posed in an off-year because when we are electing Governors, Congressmen, and Presidents, we are too distracted to look around and see what really counts.

Why Derek Jeter will never go to the Red Sox

…or any other non-Yankee team, for that matter. As Nate Silver so ably demonstrates, the answer is simple: his value as a ballplayer is far higher as a Yankee because he is Derek Jeter.

Jeter’s problem, however, is that this is not a competitive bidding situation. The $15 or $25 million “bonus” that he provides to the Yankees in off-the-field value is for the most part expressly contingent on the fact that he remains a Yankee, the franchise that he is identified with. Fans in Pittsburgh or San Francisco or Boston feel no particular loyalty to Jeter, and while he would surely still be a good ambassador for those clubs, he might not generate many more season ticket sales for them above and beyond what any other decent shortstop would. (The New York Mets might represent something of a middle ground, but they already have an All-Star shortstop in Jose Reyes.)

The Yankees’ general manager, Brian Cashman, has challenged Jeter to test the market, knowing that he is unlikely to receive another offer as generous as the one the Yankees made. Mr. Cashman is probably right about that; so much of Jeter’s value is tied up in being a New York Yankee that he does not have very much flexibility in exploring the market.

Remember further, as demonstrated by his letting Victor Martinez walk, that Theo Epstein [the Red Sox’ GM] is unemotional when it comes to these transactions.  Which means that an ancillary value in signing Jeter just to piss off Yankees’ fans is zero.  If we were desperate for a shortstop and Jeter provided impressive projected Wins Above Replacement [WAR] over the next few years, then I am sure that Theo would have already made a bid.  But it is no secret that this is not the case, and Jeter will continue to be a Yankee.  As Silver shows, they have him by the balls.

Why Gov. Rick Perry represents the Mental Ward of the GOP, Part DCCXVI

He is apparently trying to maximize the number of uninsured Texans.

Consider the case of Texas, which with 25 percent uninsured, leads the nation in not providing for its residents. If the state pulls out of Medicaid, as Gov. Rick Perry (R) is suggesting, that would put it at 40 percent uninsured, as Medicaid covers 15 percent of the state. Texas might try some other form of coverage, but it will have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding. You can occasionally do less with more, but when you have a lot less, you generally just do less. Whatever the state tried next would cover fewer people with less-comprehensive insurance, and it’s a safe bet that the rate of uninsured would ultimately settle above 30 percent. Some legacy.

Conversely, if Perry does nothing, the federal government is going to come in and pick up most of the cost of a massive coverage expansion. Texas, in fact, will be one of the biggest winners from health-care reform, as its huge pool of uninsured residents means the state will get an uncommonly large amount of subsidies to bring that down to manageable levels. Texas “can expect to see Medicaid enrollment rise by 46 percent while state spending on Medicaid rises by about 3 percent.” Pretty good deal.

Find the function

Problem:

Given real functions \(f\), \(g\), and \(h\) which satisfy the following:

\(f’=2 f^{2} g h +\displaystyle\frac{1}{g h}\),

\(g’=f g^{2} h +\displaystyle\frac{4}{f h}\),

\(h’=3 f g h^{2} +\displaystyle\frac{1}{f g}\),

with \(f(0)=1\), \(g(0)=1\), and \(h(0)=1\), find the function \(f(x)\).

Solution:

Clearly, one can divide each equation above by the functions \(f\), \(g\), and \(h\), respectively.  Adding the equations together produces a single equation for the function \(u=f g h\):

\(\displaystyle\frac{u’}{u}=6 \left (u+\displaystyle\frac{1}{u}\right )\),

from which a solution for \(u\) is produced:

\(6 x+C=\displaystyle\int^{u}\displaystyle\frac{du’}{1+u’^{2}}=\tan^{-1}u\)

Because \(u(0)=1\), \(u(x)=\tan \left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right )\).

This result is plugged back into the first equation, which may be written as follows:

\(\displaystyle\frac{f’}{f}=2 u+\displaystyle\frac{1}{u}=2 \tan \left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right )+\cot \left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right )\).

Integrating both sides, we can solve for the unknown function \(f\):

\(f(x)=-\displaystyle\frac{2}{6}\log \left [\cos \left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right) \right ] + \frac{1}{6}\log \left [\sin\left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right) \right ] + C’\).

Using \(f(0)=1\), the solution takes the form:

\(f(x)=2^{-\frac{1}{12}} \left [ \displaystyle\frac{\sin\left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right)}{\cos^{2}\left (6 x+\displaystyle\frac{\pi}{4}\right)} \right ]^{\frac{1}{6}}\)

Here is a plot of the solution.

Is anti-Semitism no longer a problem in the US?

Not according to the FBI:

According to the findings, of the 1,575 victims of anti-religious hate-crime in 2009:

  • 71.9 percent were victims because of an offender’s anti-Jewish bias.
  • 8.4 percent were victims because of an anti-Islamic bias.
  • [A]ccording to the lowest possible population estimates, Jews are four times more likely than Muslims to be victims of hate crimes in the United States; according to the highest possible estimates, Jews are around ten times more likely to be attacked.

    Despite all this, we are still told by agitators on both sides of the Atlantic that ‘Islamophobia’ has replaced anti-Semitism, and that Muslims now face a situation similar to European Jews during the run up to the Holocaust.

    I do not make light of the bigotry shown Muslims lately, especially through some of the media. But still, and I don’t wish to propagate a permanent victim mentality, but I find the whole phenomenon of anti-Semitism insanely perplexing. I will have more to say after I finish The Finkler Question, with which I am almost done.

    What do Tom Finneran and Sarah Palin have in common?

    “Speaker Finneran was there at the creation,’’ Ware said. “I had hoped to elicit the truth from Speaker Finneran, and instead I was stonewalled.’’

    But Finneran regained his voice the day after the release of Ware’s report. He defended himself on his morning radio show on WRKO-AM.

    Criminals like Finneran only talk when in their own cocoon.  No nasty questions about a system of patronage that costs Massachusetts residents so much more than just money.  Because in the end, as Billy Bulger’s son Chris stated, hey, this is the way things work on Beacon Hill.  Not to visit a father’s sins upon his son, but if anyone, he should know.  So shut up, get on with your miserable lives, and every other year, remember to vote in the “D” column no matter what.

    Speaking of cocoons: does an over-reliance on a cocoon imply that Sarah Palin is a criminal?  [Now I sound like an anchor from Fox news.]  Who knows.  But she surely has something to hide.  Even Jennifer Rubin, whom I have raked over the coals in these pages for her fangirl support of an obviously unqualified candidate, believes that Palin needs to get out of her cocoon.  But just remember one thing: a candidate that gets elected from within his or her own coocon will truly give us the government we deserve.