All About Josh

Saturday, September 07, 2002

WHINING ABOUT BASEBALL PLAYERS: Jayson Stark of ESPN, who has been on a roll lately with his columns, reminds us that baseball players are not lazy and overpaid, like many commentators and bloggers like to reflexively claim. (Some of my favorite columnists -- Charles Krauthammer and George Will -- and my favorite bloggers -- VodkaPundit, Sgt. Stryker and Matt Welch come to mind -- continually propagate this "players are lazy" myth.)

Please, no more talk about how players today don't care the way they did when you were a kid.

Most players today understand exactly how lucky they are to get paid what they do to play a game they love. That's one reason they're not on strike right now.

If fans had any clue how many players get to the ballpark five hours before game time, they'd be stunned.

The game today includes some not just some of the best players ever to play, but some of the best people playing any major sport. There's no reason men like Cliff Floyd, Tom Glavine, Todd Helton, Jeff Bagwell, Scott Rolen, Carlos Delgado, Nomar Garciaparra, Mariano Rivera, Omar Vizquel, Trevor Hoffman, etc., etc. shouldn't be on every kid's Most Admired Athletes list -- except that baseball has done such a great job of keeping them so top-secret.

Let's compare the number of felony charges filed against baseball players with the rap sheets on those NBA and NFL icons. That's a stat that tells you more about baseball players today than OPS.

This article is about as good as it gets, insofar as sports Fiskings. I highly recommend all sports fans out there give it a read.

TODAY'S MANDATORY READING: column comes from Yossi Klein HaLevi in Saturday's New York Times.

And to all my Jewish readers out there, Shana Tova u'metuka. ("May you have a good and sweet new year!")

Friday, September 06, 2002

TEXT OF ISRAELI SUPREME COURT DECISION: ...which upheld the right of the IDF to expel collaborating relatives was published on In Context. It's worth reading, and I'm posting the meat of the decision below:

The State of Israel is undergoing a difficult period. Terror is hurting its residents. Human life is trampled upon. Hundred have been killed. Thousands have been injured. The Arab population in Judaea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip is also suffering unbearably. All of this is because of acts or murder, killing and destruction perpetrated by terrorists. The State is doing all that it can in order to protect its citizens and ensure the security of the region. These measures are limited. The restrictions are, first and foremost, military-operational ones. It is difficult to fight against persons who are prepared to turn themselves into living bombs. These restrictions are also normative. The State of Israel is a freedom-seeking democracy. It is a defensive democracy acting within the framework of its right to self-defence - a right recognized by the charter of the United Nations. not every effective measure is also a lawful measure. Indeed, the position of the State of Israel is a difficult one. Also our role as judges is not easy. We are doing all we can to balance properly between human rights and the security of the area. In this balance, human rights cannot receive complete protection, as if there were no terror, and State security cannot receive complete protection, as if there were no human rights. A delicate and sensitive balance is required. This is the price of democracy. It is expensive, but worthwhile. It strengthens the State. It provides a reason for its struggle.

Thursday, September 05, 2002

THE TALE OF TWO TOMS: Tom Boswell and Tom Friedman both write op-ed pieces for two of the leading newspapers in the country. Boswell is a sportswriter, Friedman usually comments on international relations. Both occasionally have their moments of brilliance, and occasionally come up with innovative ideas. Boswell came up with an efficiency statistic, Total Average that was more useful than the oft-cited batting average. Friedman has a plethora of contacts in the Middle East, and often makes very cogent observations about the region. He also wrote the widely-read text on globalization, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization, shaping students' and teachers' opinions on that hotly debated topic.

Both also have a highly annoying habit of making great points in part of their columns, and then totally missing the boat paragraphs later. And yesterday, they both penned columns on the same day with those same annoying attributes.

Here's Friedman, making some dead-on observations about democracy in the Middle East:

Who are we? We Americans are not better than any other people, but the Western democratic system we live by is the best system on earth. Unfortunately, in the Arab-Muslim world, there is no democracy, too few women's rights and too little religious tolerance. It is the values and traditions of freedom embraced by Western civilization, and the absence of those values and traditions in the Arab-Muslim world, that explain the main differences between us.

Unfortunately, three paragraphs down, he writes:

while we have the best system of governance, we are not always at our best in how we act toward the world. Because we want to drive big cars, we support repressive Arab dictators so they will sell us cheap oil. Because our presidents want to get votes, they readily tell the Palestinians how foolishly they are behaving, but they hesitate to tell Israelis how destructive their West Bank settlements are for the future of the Jewish state. Because we want to consume as much energy as we please, we tell the world's people they have to be with us in the war on terrorism but we don't have to be with them in the struggle against global warming and for a greener planet.

Okay, quickly here. The Jewish vote is merely 2 percent of the electorate. The reason the Bush administration (and prior ones) have fully supported Israel is because it's a democratic state that shares the same values as America, and the PLO is a dictatorial regime that uses terrorism to achieve its goals. As for settlements, Israel controls the West Bank and Gaza because it was attacked during the 1967 Six-Day War. What Friedman calls settlements are Jewish neighborhoods where many lower-income Israelis live -- essentially Israeli suburbs. Even Don Rumsfeld refers to the area as disputed -- not occupied. If a genuine peace was realistic between the Palestinians and Israelis, would it be prudent to cede that land? Sure. But that isn't, and has never been, the case.

As for the oil issue, it's a bit oversimplified. We use oil for a lot of other industries, such as electrictity and chemicals. Furthermore, the Bush administration has been looking for alternative oil sources -- such as in ANWAR, and also in Russia. Friedman's right -- we've coddled the Saudis for far too long. But this Bush II administration is showing signs of changing that pattern.

And global warming -- please. The Kyoto Protocol, which I'm sure Friedman's referring to, was voted down 98-0 by the Senate during the Clinton administration. It would hurt the American economy, while not realistically reducing pollution -- because the environment is a global issue, and a lot of the mass polluting countries, like China, have no intention of following through on any pollution-reduction measures. The Bush administration wisely has proposed alternative solutions, yet it is still labeled as unilateral and anti-environment. For a reality check on the issue, check out the post below.

As for Boswell, he wrote an excellent column about the A's and baseball economics, and comes to the conclusion that:

While baseball's "haves" still hold a big edge, it's less than many think. In baseball, the ability to judge talent, then value it and weigh it, is enormous. Several good players are often worth more than one $10 million star. Teams like the last-place Mets ($95 million) and losing Indians ($79 million) have marquee names. But they didn't get value for their money.

For example, extra millions spent on scouting and signing young players, then developing them, is almost always better than a similar amount spent on an aging or injured star like Mo Vaughn. The A's prove it with their home-grown pitching. Mark Mulder (25) and Tim Hudson (27) have had 20-win seasons. Zito (24) should soon join them. Their combined pay: only $1.97 million.

Sounds like he understands baseball economics from the column, but in his column before that, he writes:

One sign of change is that Marvin Miller, the original union boss, barely contained his bitterness toward this deal. He said the union had taken "a bite out of the poison apple" of a luxury tax. Miller did great work. But the days for righteous indignation are past. Now, an era of compromise needs to begin.

Baseball has lived the whole dialectic swing from an average salary of $15,500 in '76, which amounted to theft, to $2.38 million now, which prices fans out of the park and may bankrupt some teams. Now, the game hopes to achieve an economic synthesis of interests. There's time. This deal will actually run for five years, not four, because of a clause that allows either side to roll it over.

Not as egregious as Friedman's mistakes, but you'd think based upon his column on the A's, he'd firmly come down on the players' side. Instead, he opts for the mushy middle "era of compromise" rhetoric. As for the average salary pricing fans out of the park, Boswell should know that players' salaries have nothing to do with ticket prices; prices are set by fan demand.

AN OLDIE BUT A GOODIE: This report written months ago by Gregg Easterbook of Brookings Institution, the respected liberal think tank, refutes the commonly held notion that Bush's policies are anti-environment.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: The FBI finally got around to referring to the murder of two Jews at the LAX El Al ticket counter as terrorism.

IT'S A REAL SHAME: ...when American Secretary of State Colin Powell gets booed and heckled by delegates at the United Nations World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Meanwhile, Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe, who has been displacing thousands of farmers and starving all his population, gets a standing ovation.

As an aside, Mugabe and his political henchmen are also responsible for kidnapping young girls from pro-democracy villages and raping them. And, I repeat: this murderous dictator got a standing ovation at the UN environmental summit.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan reports on coverage of Mugabe in today's NY Times. Sullivan calls it a puff-piece; I think he's being too kind. It's a total distortion of facts.

Here's the excerpt from the Times:

Mr. Mugabe is criticized in the West for encouraging blacks to invade white-owned farms, for hounding journalists and judges, and for jailing opposition party leaders. But to some leaders, particularly in Africa, he is a hero. To them, he is the guerrilla who ended white rule here in 1980, the statesman who expanded access to education and health care and the revolutionary who is returning land stolen from blacks during the British colonial era.

For all the editorializing that goes on in the Times, you'd think the so-called paper of record would call Mugabe for what he is: a vicious tyrant.

THINK YOUR COLLEGE HAS WACKY PROFESSORS? Don't fear -- there's always the Ivy League bastion of left-wing historical thought, Columbia University. Here's a look at some of their worst professors, many of whom hold prominent roles in the history department.

REQUIRED READING OF THE DAY: Today's feature comes from Mark Steyn, who pens yet another gem with his Spectator column "The Triumph of American Values."

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

CRITICISM OF BUSH'S ECONOMIC TEAM: New Yorker economics writer James Surowiecki criticizes many of Bush's economic proposals and his economic team, arguing he's played politics over prudent policy on his energy plan, steel tariffs, and farm subsidies.

ON TURNING 21: I'm three months away from my 21st birthday, and I felt that this column by Erin Meister in the Boston Globe, who just turned 21, was worth reprinting. (It's not available on the Globe's website, anyways.)

Friends and readers take note: this Saturday is my 21st birthday, and I'm really not all that excited.

What's the big deal about this particular birthday? I don't like to drink, I don't shop in adult book stores, I don't gamble, and admission to Man Ray in Central Square isn't that much cheaper.

Everyone else, however, seems to think this birthday is a big deal, a milestone of real adulthood - it's exchanging "Dawson's Creek" for "Law & Order," ordering an entree with a salad instead of a salad as an entree, and getting a neon orange bracelet instead of a big permanent-marker X on my hands that rubs off on my face when I sleep. (I assure you, I won't miss washing those off the next day). On Saturday, socially speaking, I become a woman. The fact is, so much emphasis is put on turning 21 that it seems like some exotic foreign country - the scene and the laws are very different. Drinking is a big deal because it's always a big deal to be granted permission to do something reserved for "adults." Mom and dad can't tell you not to anymore, and neither can anyone else.

Once you've crossed this Rubicon, you have finally been granted almost every right an American citizen has. At 18, you can drive, get into R-rated movies, vote, get married, buy lottery tickets, and apply for gun ownership, and at 21, you'll be able to tip 'em back. What's left? Running for president, but you have to wait to turn 35 for that.

What is there to do on my 21st if I'm not drinking? There are dozens of popular and lively clubs whose doors will open like the gates of the Emerald City. The Milky Way, for one - an eclectic Jamaica Plain spot with regular karaoke nights, a bowling alley, salsa lessons, and the occasional independent film festival. Also in JP is the famed Thursday Dyke Nights at the Midway Cafe, a hopping weekly standard for queer and queer-friendly folks. Patrons are free to hang out at the bar, catch a drag king show, or
dance the night away, but most important it's a landmark of the rare woman-dominated gay club experience that isn't always available at the 19+ clubs. Of course, there's always Boston Billiards on Friday or Saturday nights, when the crowd tends to be more sophisticated (read: older, wiser, and much better at pool than the usual college night crowd).

Being 21 will automatically grant you the "open-sesame" ability to get into any number of local clubs, hangouts, bars, and venues, no matter what you're into.

As for me, I'll be happy spending the evening with my girlfriend and my mom, eating cannolis in the North End until I'm up to my ears in powdered sugar. No booze, no adult book stores, no gambling, and no Man Ray. I guess you can say I'm fairly low-key when it comes to birthdays, but at least I'll remember it in the morning.

Food for thought, though you can probably count on me imbibing some liquor on my 21st birthday, Dec. 1, 2002.

WHY I SUPPORT ISRAEL: Josh Chafetz of OxBlog comments about the difference between Israeli and Palestinian society. As Andrew Sullivan mentioned in his reference of the article, when the Israelis mistakenly kill civilians in a botched military operation, they immediately call investigations into what went on. When Israeli civilians are intentionally targeted by Palestinian terrorists, the streets of Gaza and the West Bank erupt in joy.

Anyways, here's the money quote:

Whatever Israel's flaws, it is a liberal democracy, one that tolerates its minority population better than most countries on earth, and certainly better than every other country in the region. Like the US, like the European democracies, it is a country that sometimes does bad things, but it is also a country in which those bad things are publicly debated and criticized, a country in which the people are actively outraged by the persecution of minorities, a country in which the leaders ultimately must answer to those people. It is -- and this fact must be endlessly repeated, because it is so unusual, so shocking -- a country with Arab members of its Parliament.

Much of the Palestinian population, on the other hand, has simply gone off the deep end. It has become a culture that celebrates death -- a culture in which young people are encouraged to grow up to be suicide bombers, a culture in which people celebrated in the streets on September 11, 2001.

(Link via, who's back with some excellent posts.)

SPORTS COPY EDITOR WANTED: In today's USA Today sports page, several glaring factual errors appear. So as a public service, "All About Josh" will pre-emptively run a corrections list for their benefit.

In the story "At 19, A's are young, brash, red-hot," Rod Beaton writes:

Because of Seattle's recent success, the A's do not even have a division title to show for all their efforts.

Bzzt. The A's won the AL West on the final day of the 2000 season, finishing a half-game ahead of the Mariners.

And, Hal Bodley errs in "The buzz, Talkin' baseball again" when he claims:

The stepchild Expos, owned by MLB, draw the smallest crowds in the National League

Nice try, but that honor goes to the Florida Marlins, who rank last in baseball with 10,078 fans per game. The Expos fare slightly better with 10,259 fans again -- not horrible considering they've been operating under threat of contraction for the last year.

Monday, September 02, 2002

THE JEWISH TYSON: The Washington Post on Sunday profiled Dmitriy Salita, a world-class boxer, from Flatbush by way of Ukraine, and is also a religiously observant Jew. An unlikely combination? Indeed.

His promoter wants to create a "Foreman-like grill" product for Salita (maybe a Salita yarmulke?) which will be launched with informercials. His first nationally televised bout will be on ESPN2 on Sept. 13.

It's an interesting article that deserves a quick read. But if you read it too quickly, you may miss this strange anecdote about the annual Chabad-Lubavitch conference, which Salita attended.

Last Sunday Chabad flew Salita out to Los Angeles to appear on the annual Chabad Telethon, alongside such improbable Chabad supporters as Jon Voight and Shaquille O'Neal. Dressed in a dark suit, black T-shirt and black yarmulke, Salita offered a brief testimonial.

Shaquille O'Neal rapping to the tune of Chabad-Lubavitch? Only in America.

Sunday, September 01, 2002

REALITY CHECK: NAACP president and American University professor Julian Bond actually writes a pretty good column in today's Washington Post, arguing that it's ridiculous to charge an African-American candidate of "not being black enough." He provides examples of African-American leaders who have attended Ivy League schools and speak in grammatically proper sentences.

But, he also makes a factually incorrect statement in the conclusion of his column, where he says he won't endorse a candidate in the DC mayoral race.

My NAACP position requires nonpartisanship.

He has a short memory. Remember his comments at the NAACP convention a little over a month ago?

-- "We have a president who owes his election more to a dynasty than to democracy."

-- "When he spoke to our convention in Baltimore in 2000, he promised to enforce the civil rights laws. We know he was in the oil business. We just didn't know it was snake oil."

-- "We have an attorney general who is a cross between J. Edgar Hoover and Jerry Falwell. And too often, one political party is shameless and the other is spineless."