Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to the great Barry Lamar Bonds, 49. Probably still would be a league-average hitter, if they hadn't blackballed him. Certainly as great a player as any of us has seen. And was just good at so many things on the field, beyond his too-good-for-the-game hitting during the late career surge.

Some good stuff:

1. Huh. Chris Cillizza is now willing to write that House Republicans are primarily responsible for the lack of compromise in Congress. Interesting (via...sorry, someone caught this and put it on twitter, but I didn't save it).

2. A new paper by Anthony Johnstone on campaign finance disclosure, with the abstract at Election Law Blog.

3. Another abstract: Melissa Miller and Jeffrey Peak on gender and press coverage of Sarah Palin's VP campaign.

4. Of course I agree with Matt Yglesias about revolving doors and corruption. Except I mostly don't worry about it at all, not just in the circumstance he discusses. Excellent post.

5. And I have mentioned that I think Ta-Nehisi Coates is the best blogger out there, haven't I? Yet another good one.


  1. Alright, I'll go first, using an analogy. We have a neighbor with a wee bit of a drinking problem, that led to a DUI and a license suspension that recently ended. We talked about this, gently, with our small children, explaining that this particular neighbor's driving habits are not, perhaps, up to the level of the rest of the neighbors', and the kids should thus be a little bit extra watchful when the DUI neighbor's car is driving down the street.

    To the liberals who share Ta-Nehisi's offense at a similar reaction to statistically different outcomes by visible characteristics of you find my wife and I to be prejudiced against those with a drinking problem? Are we "drunkardists"?

    Most importantly, if you were in our shoes, would you not have had that conversation with your own small children, for, while a particular car on the street does represent more danger for your children than the others, that's just not nice to the driver of said car?

    1. Here's the better analogy. You can explain to your kids "Be careful driving in those Polish neighborhoods, because they're all drunks." Or, you can teach your kids how to drive better around drunk drivers. Teach them about where the bars are and what hours of the night folks are going to be out driving. Teach them about how to leave enough space between them and other cars, and so forth.

      One of those options is stupid. The other leads to safety.

      As TN said, the other problem with your analogy is that you're reacting to a specific neighbor who you know for a fact has a history of drunk driving. That isn't the same thing as presuming all people who drive the same kind of car as your neighbor are drunks.

    2. There's a white guy who posts really feeble-minded articles on the National Review website. As a result, I am forced to warn my teenage son that white men are feeble-minded.

    3. Exactly. CSH's situation doesn't relate to what TNC is talking about at all.

      Let's say your neighbor is black. If your black neighbor gets a DUI, you may tell your kid to stay away from his car. If your black neighbor commits any crime, you are justified in telling your kid to be mindful of him. Heck, even if your black neighbor committed no crime but you just happen to think he's a jerk, you are justified in telling your kid to be mindful of him.

      But what you can't do is tell your kid to be mindful of all black people, just based on your neighbor's experience alone. That's all TNC is saying. I don't understand what's so difficult about this. He laid it out as demeaningly simple as possible.

  2. So you think telling your kids to be wary of all groups of black people is analogous to telling kids to be wary of someone that you already know has committed a crime? Apparently, "being black" and "having a drinking problem that led to a DUI" are of similar concern in your mind.

  3. Yeah, I'm going to have to join the pile on, CSH. Equating warnings about a known offender with warnings about an entire class of people is logically suspect, to say the least. I have a relative who has been in legal trouble for rather nasty habits he has concerning children. Naturally, my great niece has been warned about said relative, and rather elaborate safeguards have been instituted to prevent his predilections from harming her. However, warning her to regard all white males as abusive predators would be ... extreme, and almost certainly harmful in any number of ways.

  4. Barry Bonds is a cheater and deserves to end up in the same circle of hell as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez.

    You know it, I know it, the American people know it.

    That is all.

    1. Can't tell if this is sarcasm, but count me among those who think Barry Bonds was a solid, but not particularly spectacular sure fire hall of famer (1 of the 10 best of his era) UNTIL his head grew at the ripe age of 37.

      He is what I hate most about pro sports. The whole idea that we shouldn't care if people are cheating is horrendous. Why have rules in the first place? Why not make it Calvinball where you can change the rules on the fly? The one thing I think Bonds actually deserves credit for (aside from his little league home runs) is being so hateable that sports journalists actually had to cover the PED scandal. So Kudos to Barry, the Ted Cruz of baseball.

    2. Um, the only "changing rules on the fly" was done by banning steroids after Bonds (presumably) used them.

      (Yes, presumably. Just as he presumably didn't use them earlier in his career. We know less than we think, folks).

      At any rate: if Bonds is a "cheater", then, as I've said many times before, so are Mays, Aaron, Mantle, Maris, and virtually everyone from 1960 until a couple of years ago, with the probable exception of Dale Murphy.

    3. You don't strike me as rose colored lens guy, but this defense of Bonds seems very convenient. I'd rather Maris and Mantle were out though the difference between greenies and steroids are vast in my opinion. All performance enhancers are not created equal. A friend recently met with a very high level "outside the lines" personality who said everyone is still using and it made me hate baseball all over again. That's Bonds' legacy for me.

    4. Having already unraveled this thread once, I should know better, but this argument

      if Bonds is a "cheater", then, as I've said many times before, so are Mays, Aaron, Mantle, Maris, and virtually everyone from 1960

      is simply awful on its own, and from a sabermetrics guy...well...

      As we've discussed. Many times. Bonds' late 30s OPS+ numbers are not only incomprehensibly inflated vs. the rest of his own spectacular career, they are unlike any results, from any player, at any time, in any career.

      I'm not smart like Nate Silver. Or Bill James. But the reason we have statistics, and sabermetrics, is precisely so we don't have to look at inexplicable stats - most glaringly, Bonds' late 30s results - and say, "Well, you know, other dudes too, maybe Bonds was no different than all these other guys..." He was unmistakably different. Why bother with stats if you can't see that?

      Seriously, and I'll try to be gentle, but if you look at Bonds' late 30s OPS+ numbers, and you see a guy basically indistinguishable from other Hall of Famers, then why bother with all this numbers stuff? Shouldn't we just conclude Billy Beane has a "good baseball body" and leave it at that?

    5. Well, we've gone back and forth on this (and the "gentle" dig was very nice)...but I'll toss in one more thing.

      I've said before that one reason we rarely see Bonds-type improvement among other players is that most players wash out before their late 30s, and those who don't are presumably more likely than most to have maxed out in their younger years. It's worth noting, however, that the Giants right now have a player who has improved dramatically beginning at age 33. Granted it's still July, but if he hangs on his best OPS+ years will be ages 37, 35, 33, 36, 30, 34. Maybe Scutero began steroids a few years ago. Maybe...who knows? But the idea that late-career peaks are impossible just isn't true.

      (And note: if Scutero hadn't been such a good fielder, he would have washed out before age 33, and we would have never known that he had a late-career peak in him.

    6. So, in the interest of fairness, I looked it up...and your point is legit about Scutaro. I just copied Bonds and Scutaro's stats from baseball-reference into a spreadsheet, this method no doubt misses weightings, but the following seems to be the case:

      Bonds, pre-36 yo year: 166 OPS+
      Bonds, 36-39 yo: 255 OPS+
      Post 35 yo index: 154

      Scutaro, pre-36 yo year: 88 OPS+
      Scutaro, 36-37 yo: 132 OPS+
      Post 35 yo index: 150

      The absolute numbers are obviously very different, but from an index standpoint, the comps are comparable. My sense is that the absolute numbers matter a lot here (i.e. Bonds was indexing off best-guy-ever levels), but I could be wrong about that.

      At a minimum, credit where its due: Scutaro may throw a wrench in the "Bonds' late career is inherently peculiar" story.

  5. Some whites are racist. CSH is white. Therefore, if he has any black co-workers, they should suspect him of being racist until he proves otherwise. In seeking to prove otherwise, CSH has the additional burden that all his actions will be viewed in the worst light possible; even positive efforts might be viewed as efforts to hide his racism, rather than as evidence that he's not racist.

    And did you hear what that Anglo Steve King said about Hispanic kids muling drugs across the border? That means that CSH has to worry that his Hispanic co-workers will also view him as racist.

    This is unfair to CSH, who, based on his postings here, does not seem to be a racist. It would be more fair if all the people he meets, regardless of their color or ethnicity, view him as they themselves wish to be viewed, as a decent person who does not bear particular animosity toward anyone he doesn't know based only on some external characteristics.

  6. Having touched a nerve with my first, here's an expansion of the idea, going for another one: the consensus reply above (I think) is that races are not classes like, say, those with a DUI conviction, and so one can not draw conclusions about races like those with DUI convictions. I haven't tried, but I'm guessing it would be as exceedingly simple to find online demographic info (e.g. crimes et al) for races as DUI recipients.

    In mounting his defense, Ta-Nehisi pointed to the ridiculousness of picking an Asian to do your taxes (because Asians are smart) or a Jewish woman to marry (because Jews are successful). I suspect that most of us who have had a decent-sized wedding immediately saw the difference between inferring from class for a wedding and for a trip to the beach: the wedding, like the tax preparer, is a one-off event, for which class-based inference matters far less than an activity pursued many, many times.

    So suppose the following: you and your young family like to visit a beach where there are two types of groups of youth, those who wear red hats and those who wear blue. As it happens, any close interaction with the kids in the red hats has a 2% probability of leading to an assault/other undesirable circumstance, while a similar interaction with a blue hat group presents essentially no risk.

    From the standpoint of your child's safety, does it matter (in terms of warning your child) whether you visit the beach in question once a summer vs. several times a week? Of course it does. This is, I think, almost intuitively obvious. In the case of my neighbor, my wife and I obviously don't care about her personal habits, and we wouldn't even worry that much about her driving habits, but for the obvious problem that she might drive past my children several hundred more times.

    But liberals, if you think that ritual visitation to public places, where certain of your peers present more danger than others (even if the absolute difference is not that large in any given circumstance), is not worth acting on, well, more power to you.

    Over time, I think the net result of that is going to be more power to us.

    1. You haven't touched a nerve. You've just said something incredibly stupid, and are pretending you've touched a nerve, because you don't want to admit you said something incredibly stupid.

    2. THe point is none of the things you cited. The point is your analogy was not a very good one. You said you knew person A was a criminal, so your child should be wary of Person A because he's a criminal. No one is arguing that if you know Person A is a criminal not to warn your child. That seems like good parenting. Continue to do that. But not a part of this actual discussion.

      The correct analogy is you know Person A is a criminal therefore everyone who has the same hair style or skin color or eye color or last name or religious view is probably a criminal. That's what is offensive and racist.

    3. Over time, I think the net result of that is going to be more power to us.

      In other words, racism is empowering for white folk! Very nice.

    4. Here's where the stupid comes in. The numbers are bogus. 2% per interaction is f***ing absurdly high. Per 100k people, there are about 430 violent crimes per year, according to the FBI. 0.43% per year, which contains likely thousands of interactions. 460 in MSAs, 400 in non-MSA cities, 200 in non-metropolitan areas.

      So we're dealing with incredibly slim chances to begin with, and "twice as likely" really doesn't matter doodly squat with rare events. It isn't quite as bad as buying two lottery tickets to improve your odds, but it's closer to that than actual safety advice.

      To quote TNC:
      "Those of who have spent much of our lives living in relatively high crime neighborhoods grasp this particular stupidity immediately. We have a great many strategies which we employ to try to protect ourselves and our children. We tell them to watch who they are walking with, to not go to neighborhoods where they don't know anyone, that when a crowd runs toward a fight they should go the other way, to avoid blocks with busted street-lights, to keep their heads up while walking, to not daydream and to be aware of their surroundings."

      Good advice. Significantly less stupid than "Look out for black folks."

    5. I have to agree with Jamie C. The point is that the analogy does not hold. Just because one person of a given set of characteristics is a drunk does not make all persons with said characteristics a drunk, or likely to be a drunk. The same with sexual predators, etc.

      BitterFig has some good insight as well concerning the situation we are talking about, or at least implying: a middle-class white person being the victim of violent crime. Such a person becoming involved in violence to the point of serious threat or injury is a statistical rarity to begin with, and (as with all other demographic groups) when it occurs it is most likely to be inflicted by relatives, neighbors, co-workers, or schoolmates, in other words by other middle class whites. A middle class white person being violently confronted by a stranger, which is really what we are talking about, is a very unlikely occurrence, although in a very large and very populous country rare events may yield absolute numbers that appear impressive, and frightening, on first glance. I certainly sympathize with anyone who has had such an experience, and I know it is traumatic and terrifying. But individual experiences do not necessarily make for good analysis.

      So, I guess I come back to a question I often find myself asking conservatives: just what, exactly, are you so afraid of? Life is filled with dangers, that is true. Terrible things can happen, that is true. But worrying about violent crime, worrying to the point of assessing social interactions with strangers on the basis of whether they might lead to violence, is for most middle-class people simply a waste of energy. Your example, CSH, actually points to a much more reasonable worry, since your children are far, far more likely to be injured by a drunk driver than by a violent criminal.

      I will readily acknowledge that liberals are every bit as silly, just about different things. There was a very good article recently, I think in the New Republic, where the author recounted the inanity of liberal adults at a child's birthday party, worrying to the point of panic about everything from the fat in the cupcakes to the sugar in the juice boxes to the lack of an approved handwash at the petting zoo. But the petting zoo owners and the cupcake bakers have broad shoulders, and it has to be said that fear of their products does far less social damage than fear of violent crime aimed at demographic classes.

    6. 1. I think CSH is dead wrong on this, but regulars will know that he's arguing in good faith. Be gentle, everyone.

      2. Red hat/Blue hat. Closer, but no cigar.

      Look, TNC is saying that it's smart to say: avoid the group on this corner, don't worry about the group on that corner. I strongly suspect that in normal conversation, he'd have no problem with, in a particular instance, using ethnicity as a descriptor of a particular group.

      When we get stupid, he's saying, is when we generalize stupidly. I think your red hat/blue hat example would probably fit, in real life. A smart parent is going to say to watch out for certain types (a generalization), but I'm pretty sure that parent is going to narrow it beyond hats, even if hats (in this particular context, not in the rest of the world!) are going to be part of the description. That parent would be doing a bad job if he stops at the hats; that parent would also be doing a bad job if he encourages his kids to fear people wearing red hats everywhere, but to assume all with blue hats are safe everywhere.

      3. Keep in mind: we're preprogrammed to generalize stupidly, and we're going to be strongly inclined to generalize stupidly based on culturally salient groupings and stereotypes, even if we're almost certainly not preprogrammed to generalize based on ethnicity in particular. Given that, our smart strategy is to fight against our stupid preprogramming in general, and *especially* when it leads us into ugly generalizations that the smarter part of our brains rejects.

  7. I love a good pile on, but this seems like some pretty low hanging fruit, peeps. CSH has learned his lesson.

  8. Oops didn't realize he hadn't learned his lesson... please continue.

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  10. CHS -- in the case of your neighbor you are not judging a "class"; you are judging an individual for what he's done. Your neighbor has a pattern of behavior that makes him a potential danger to your children (although I'm sure you've taught them to be careful about traffic all the time, not just when the neighbor is driving, right?).

    As for your red hat-blue hat analogy, I'd say it doesn't fit real-world experience. There are variations within all groups. It is foolish to assume that a person wearing a blue hat could never possibly cause harm, because there's always a first time. In the real world, anyone could possibly cause harm. But you can't run away from everyone. So you judge people by their behavior, not by "class." And when you go to the beach, tell your children not to wander off by themselves but to stay where you can keep an eye on them. That's all you can do.

  11. I don't doubt Palin got negative coverage because of her sex (not sure why they use the term gender). But without having read the paper it seems it would be difficult to separate out whether she was getting negative coverage because she is a woman or because she was a terrible candidate. I would think they need to compare her coverage to someone like Hillary Clinton or a similarly bad male candidate in order to flesh that out.

    And just let Bonds and the rest in the Hall. There's no reliable way to differentiate between who "cheated" and who didn't. I love Ken Griffey Jr and don't suspect that he "cheated". But am I sure? No. Did Bonds? It seems very likely. But I'm not totally sure.

  12. @CSH, in the real world, avoidance and suspicion of other ethnic groups because of low probability of bad incidents has some very high costs. Yes, you might be able to avoid some crime that way, just as you would if you never interacted with anyone.

    If you were a woman, you could decide that you'll avoid rape by never interacting with men. That might be a successful strategy on one measure, and quite hopeless and ridiculous on others.

    Such broad generalizations may appear to "work" but probably not in logical ways and at terrible cost.

    1. This is far and away the best analogy on this post so far. But let's not stop at rape--men are far, far more likely to commit violent crimes than women. I think it would be best if all of us, men and women alike, just stay away from men.

    2. I would certainly tell any woman that if a man approached her on a deserted street that she should act differently than if a woman did.

      I would certainly tell any man that if a group of 17 year old black males approached him that he should act differently than if a group of 17 year old Japanese males did.

    3. @backyard, so it's safe if it's a woman? (Not always). So it could dangerous if it's a group of black youths, safe if they're japanese (not something I see often), and indeterminate if it's Cambodians, whites, latinos, or others? That's pretty useless advice, which is the point a lot of people are making.

    4. There's no safe/unsafe. Everything is probabilistic. This is something that adults should learn to accept. There is no "safe."

      Rape prevention groups recommend that women respond differently to men than women. Sure, an approaching women may have a broom handle and bad intentions, but almost all forced penetration is done by men. The odds are generally low that an approaching stranger intends to rape a woman, but it would make a lot more sense to rush into a car, grab pepper spray, or move to a different spot if the approacher were male. Sure, even if the approacher is male, it's probably no issue, but a lifetime of approaches and the cost of being raped will outweigh the cost of increased vigilance toward men. You could recommend that women treat all approaching women the same as all approaching men, but that would be a lot of wasted energy because men and women behave so differently.

      If the murder rates of Asian and black 17 year olds were 1/10, would you treat approaching groups differently? How about 1/50, 1/200, 1/1000, or 1/1000000? Are you saying that there is no difference in the murder or violent crime stats of different races that would lead you to behave differently toward them?

    5. What would I do? I'd be generally cautious and would be alert to specific behavioral and situation factors, which would be much more helpful than general statistics. These factors are so much more helpful than ethnicity, which is what you keep pushing above all others. Is your concern how to handle yourself safely, or to score points in a political argument?

    6. ModeratePoli,

      You didn't answer my question. The question is: if you know about these statistical differences between different ethnicities, is there a point where you consider the information useful enough to behave differently knowing only that?

      So if two different ethnic groups approach you over the course of the day with murder rates at 1000000/1, I would think that even the proggiest person would factor it in as of primary importance. We can agree that that difference is so stark that a person would have to be retarded to not consider it and alter behavior accordingly, right?

      If that's agreed, then what proportion of murder rates is on the edge of usefulness: 1/1000? 1/10?

  13. Having unleashed something of a shitstorm back here, I wanted to quickly clarify that I completely agree with Jonathan's last comment above. (Except for the part about treating me with kid gloves, of course.)

    YMMV, but I never said "black" (writ large) anywhere in this discussion, and fwiw, I never meant it. I would have no issue with meeting Ta-Nehisi and his family on a public conveyance; in such a situation the irritation would certainly be his family's, as I would no doubt make a damn fool of myself. I don't want to descend into the patronizing "good v. bad" tripe about members of a tribe, suffice it to say that - as a public opponent of eugenics, at least - I'm no believer in such a thing as "good" or "bad" tribes.

    A last thought: if we can be just a little bit charitable with the Victor Davis Hanson and John Derbyshire types, it is possible that their rhetoric means something similar to what Jonathan is arguing above (ethnicity as a descriptor for a particular subgroup) and it comes across stupidly because they generalize lazily. It may be that they're also employing thinly-veiled race-baiting; I don't read either often enough to have a sense. Not knowing more, it does seem possible that they're simply using too-broad racial categorizations too loosely.

  14. When Yglesias was assaulted on the streets of DC, he didn't initially mention the race of his assailants. Steve Sailer sussed it out immediately because he doesn't have prog-mind.

    I wonder how many of the DC prog journos have been hate-crimed by young black males on the street. We know of a couple cases and there are documented examples of prog journos hiding the race of their assailants. With progs so freaked about stereotyping blacks, they are probably hate-crimed more than reasonable people.

    It reaches the point where Sailer and Derbyshire seem more attached to reality than Yglesias and Coates.

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  15. I loved watching Barry Bonds play, in Pittsburgh and in San Francisco. So happy birthday. I try to hold onto that as I become ever more disenchanted with the ever increasing inflation--in every possible way: money, drugs, ego, bullshit--of professional sports.


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